Deal Me In – Week 39 Wrap Up


We’re at the three quarter post of the Deal Me In 2014 track and thus now in the home stretch. Below are links to new posts this week.

Dale read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown”

Randall read Ray Bradbury’s “Junior”

Katherine read Joyce Carol Oates’ “The Hand Puppet”

I read Leo Tolstoy’s “God See’s the Truth But Waits” but may not post about it. I did post about a remarkable non-DMI story, “Axolotl” by Julio Cortazar if you want to read something 🙂

Candiss checked in with an update ( ) and I for one am glad to hear she is still reading her short stories, even if there haven’t been any posts lately. 🙂

This is a non-DMI post of James’ but it does deal with short stories if you’d like to read

I missed Bellezza’s post last week about the Edgar Allen Poe classic, “The Black Cat”


“Axolotl” a remarkable short story by Julio Cortazar


“I (visited) the aquarium, looked askance at banal fish until, unexpectedly, I came face to face with the Axolotl. I gazed at them for an hour and left, unable to think of anything else…”

This story reminded me of that famous quotation that I’ve heard attributed to Confucius: “I dreamed I was a butterfly, flitting around in the sky; then I awoke. Now I wonder: Am I a man who dreamt of being a butterfly, or am I a butterfly dreaming that I am a man?”

What’s the longest period of time you’ve ever spent looking at an animal? Even if you’ve been to a zoo, you probably don’t always spend THAT long looking at one particular animal do you? As a birdwatching enthusiast, I’ve spent a lot of time walking through the woods with binoculars, and I’ve often observed individual birds for several minutes, but they have almost never “held still” for me, and rarely were they looking back at me. I guess the closest I’ve come to this story is looking into the eyes of a pet dog or something along those lines. Then, in literature, I can only remember a passage from Samuel Butler’s “The Way of All Flesh” where going to the zoo and watching the elephants is prescribed as a restorative therapy for young Ernest Pontifex. In none of these instances did any kind of transmigration or “communication” take place like it does in this surreal story by Julio Cortazar.

The protagonist of this story – I don’t believe he’s ever named, which is somewhat fitting – becomes obsessed with observing the Axolotls (also known as Mexican Salamanders or Mexican Walking Fish) at the aquarium in a Paris zoo. He is fascinated with them and begins to think quite deeply about their existence. As is often the case, thinking too long about something can lead to “trouble.”

The narrator writes “I think it was the Axolotl’s head, that triangular pink shape with the tiny eyes of gold. That gazed and knew. That claimed. They were no animals.” And later “I imagined them aware, slaves to their bodies, forever condemned to an abyssal silence, to a hopeless meditation.”

He also says “…in some obscure way I understood their secret will, to abolish space and time with their indifferent immobility.”

’This guy is losing it!’ I remember thinking as I read the story. His grip on his own identity loosens and becomes almost indistinguishable from the identity of the creatures he observes. What will happen here? The reader can likely guess… I found the the final lines of the story quite haunting, and I have to admit that when I looked up Axolotls online and saw what they look like, I found that that knowledge added to my appreciation of the story. This story was also one of my thirteen stories that I’m reading for the R.I.P. Challenge.


(Below Robert Duvall became obsessed in a vaguely similar way by gazing into an exhibit in the classic Twilight Zone episode “Miniature.”)


Want to learn a little about this remarkable creature? Check out but, please, don’t become obsessed with them… 🙂

I found an online translated copy of this story at but it is a different translation from the one in The Weird compendium. A brief look makes me think it is an inferior translation but maybe it is still worth reading.

(Below: the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, where the aquarium in this story may be found)


Deal Me In – Week 38 Wrap Up


What did we read this week? Check out the links below…

James read two “island stories” – James Hersey’s “To The End of the American Dream” and Haruki Murakami’s “Man Eating Cats”

Randall read Oliver Wendell Holmes’ “A Visit to the Asylum for Aged and Decayed Punsters

Dale read G.K. Chesterton’s “The Red Moon of Meru

Katherine read “Just a Little Bug” by P.D. Cacek

I read “The Business of Madame Jahn” by Vincent O’Sullivan

“The Business of Madame Jahn” by Vincent O’Sullivan


(Above: I’ve tried a lot of different beers in my life, but have never heard of this one. The search begins…)

For week 38 of Deal Me In 2014, I drew the seven of diamonds which I had assigned to this story of a murder for greed – and a haunting…

I had not heard of the author Vincent O’Sullivan until I read about him at Paula Cappa’s blog (actually, I think I have a growing list of authors I can say that about). O’Sullivan lived from 1868-1940 and was an American writer of supernatural fiction and friend of the great Oscar Wilde. This short tale is from his first collection of stories, “A Book of Bargains.” His latter life was a tragic one as his formerly well-to-do family was struck down by financial ruin. Wikipedia reports that “in latish middle age found himself ruined, wrote his last book (Opinions) under terrible conditions, and, dying in Paris, ended anonymously in the common pit for the cadavers of paupers.” How sad.


The story begins with us learning that its protagonist, Gustave Herbout, has committed suicide shortly after inheriting the estate of his deceased aunt. There is speculation about why – now of all times, when he has finally come into some manner of wealth – Gustave would choose to end his life.

So what is Gustave’s problem? Like many people (maybe you know some yourself), Gustave craves a life that is beyond his means. A life of a boulevardier, frequenting chic cafes and sharing stories of wealthy and titled relations with “obsequious” friends – stories that he knows cannot be verified or found to be his own mere fabrications. He also knows that he stands to inherit a sum of money from his aged aunt, Madame Jahn – an amount that could support him in this ideal lifestyle that he has not earned through his own efforts. He begins to ponder, though, how much longer she might live and realizes she might “hold on” for many years yet…

A nice story, though not among my favorites of DMI2014. Read the story yourself online at

Had you heard of, or read anything by this author?

(Below: Monet’s painting of the Boulevard des Capucines, where the morally bankrupt Gustave liked to roam and feed his self-delusions…)


A Hoosier-Flavored R.I.P. Challenge


I’ve decided to follow the lead of my Deal Me In 2014 comrade, Randall, and participate in the ninth annual R.I.P. (“Readers Imbibing Peril”) Challenge (R.I.P. IX – hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings) this year, in a short story, mini-Deal Me In format. Randall’s initial post for his participation in the challenge may be found here.  I’ve selected thirteen short stories to read before the end of October. At this point, I don’t know if I’ll blog about them individually or in a couple summarized posts. I’ve picked three stories from known or classic authors, but the theme for the remainder of my selections is “authors with an Indiana connection.”


Here’s my list of stories for the RIP challenge. As with Deal Me In, I’ll read them in random order via the luck of the draw. Naturally, I’ll be using the spades suit to draw my cards.:-)


A. Feeders and Eaters – Neil Gaiman (“The Weird” anthology)
2. The Summer People – Shirley Jackson (“The Weird” anthology) -read 9/19
3. Axolotl – Julio Cortozar (“The Weird” anthology) – read 9/23
4. Strunke City DeRail – Murphy Edwards (Terror Train anthology )
5. Venus Rising from the Foam – James Owens (Indiana Horror 2011 anthology)
6. Crimes in Southern Indiana – Frank Bill (“Crimes in Southern Indiana” story collection) -read 9/22
7. Because You Watched – Paula Ashe (Indiana Science Fiction/Horror 2012 anthology)
8. The Hunt – Bret Nye – (Midwestern Gothic magazine volume 6)
9. The Rose Garden – James Ward Kirk (Indiana Science Fiction/Horror 2012 anthology)
10. The Hike – Brian Rosenberger (Indiana Science Fiction/Horror 2012 anthology)
J. The Old Crone and the Scarecrow – Allen Griffin (Indiana Science Fiction/Horror 2012 anthology) – read 9/20
Q. The Shadow Man of Moonspine Bridge – Matt Cowan (Indiana Science Fiction/Horror 2012 anthology) -read 9/21
K. The Boy That Created Monsters – Paul DeThroe (Indiana Horror 2011 anthology)

I’ve seen – and even met and talked to few of these writers – at various book events around town in the past year or so, and reading some more of their work should prove interesting.  Are you participating in the R.I.P. Challenge this year??

Deal Me In – Week 37 Wrap Up


Sorry for not getting this post up yesterday. I’ll blame the National Football League. 🙂 Below are links to new posts this week. If I’ve missed someone, please don’t hesitate to put a link in the comments. If a participant has been inactive for a while, I may not check his/her blog every week to look for activity to link to.

Dale read Graham Greene’s “Dream of a Strange Land”

Randall read George William Curtiss’s “Titbottom’s Spectacles”

Katherine read Janet Berliner’s “Indigo Moon”

I read Mark Helprin’s “Perfection” This story was another DMI2014 “twin” as Dale posted about it also this year. If you want to revisit his take on it, it may be found at

I wanted to mention also that Randall is using the “Deal Me In machinery” to help him participate in the Ninth Annual R.I.P. Challenge. See his post at for the details.

That’s it for this week. Until next time, happy reading!


“Perfection” by Mark Helprin

“Perfection” by Mark Helprin


For week 37 of Deal Me In 2014 (click here for details on the “Deal Me In challenge”), I drew the five of diamonds, which corresponded to the longest “short story” on my roster. At 62 pages in my copy, I think it’s in that limbo world between short story and novella. But no matter. I enjoyed the story, which was also my first introduction to Helprin’s writing.

Perfection is the tale of Roger Reveszhe, a young boy in post- World War II New York City being raised and educated by the Rabbis of his community. He is a Hasidic Jew and a holocaust survivor, with particularly terrible (even in the backdrop of those events) memories. He is clearly a special boy who thinks deeply about things and is beginning to chafe against the rigor and routines of an “orthodox education.” For me, the theme that intellectual curiosity cannot be contained – it will ’find a way’ to gain expression – made the story quite enjoyable. Having led a hitherto sheltered life, when Roger learns from friends that a radio is a window to the outside world. Naturally, he seeks and finds a radio, not getting what he wanted or expected, but finding something he likes nonetheless. In this way, he first discovers that, “Evidently, the rabbis kept certain things from their students. Wonderful things. Exciting things.”

Roger finds the radio at the shop of a butcher, Mr. Schnaiper, who listens “religiously” to broadcasts of New York Yankee baseball games. The Butcher’s understanding of the game, however – gleaned solely from the audio – is incomplete and at times his misinterpretations are hilarious. He calls them the “Yenkiss” and believes they are led by a superstar named, “Mickey Mental.


(Yankee great, Mickey Mental, er… “Mantle”)

When Roger hears Yankee Stadium referred to as “The House that Ruth Built” he immediately thinks of the Ruth of the bible, leading to more humorous situations. Roger has a young friend Luba who, not wishing to appear ignorant, bluffs about knowing what the house that Ruth built looks like, conjuring up fantastical images. When Roger sees it finally, he realizes it’s different, but “it’s close.”


In the latter part of the story, Roger learns that the Yankees are going through a difficult seasons and, upon hearing that “Kansas City is going to kill them,” he decides to go on a sort of pilgrimage to help “Mickey Mental” save them. The story does drift into grounds a little too philosophical and supernatural for my tastes, but it was still an enjoyable ride – even if it was my first story this year that I wasn’t able to finish “in one sitting” (which is one of my favorite definitions of a short story).

I own this story as part of the collection, “The Pacific and Other Stories.”

What about you? Have you read anything by this author? What do you think of him? I have had his novel “Winter’s Tale” on my TBR list for quite a while now. Will this story finally stir me to action and make me pick it up…?


Deal Me In – Week 36 Wrap Up



New Deal Me In Posts This Week:

Randall shares a funny(!) tale from Edgar Allan Poe, “The Angel of the Odd”

James reads Haruki Murakami’s “The Year of Spaghetti” and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “The Arrangers of Marriage”

Dale tries on Junot Diaz for the first time, with that author’s story, “Edison, New Jersey

Katherine read Raymond Feitz’s “Geroldo’s Incredible Trick”

I read Nikolai Gogol’s signature story, “The Cloak

Other Short Story-related links:

Are short stories “annoying buzzing insects set upon this world” to distract writers from longer works? Interesting article.

Nice interview with Margaret Atwood (I love her) and her new short story collection.

I particularly liked the following quote from her:

“I talk about money and artistic excellence and there’s only four forms: There’s a good book that makes money, there’s a bad book that makes money, there’s a good book that doesn’t make money, and there’s a bad book that doesn’t make money. So of those four, the first three I can live with.” 🙂

Margaret Atwood


Another review of the upcoming Atwood release is at

I’m a big fan of this series and it has contributed many stories to my Deal Me In short story decks. The 2014 edition comes out next month.

The Cloak by Nikolai Gogol


(A Russian card for a Russian story)

I may have pulled a muscle in my arm this weekend from patting myself on the back for my decision, when putting together my roster for Deal Me In 2014, to dedicate the clubs suit to “stories by Russian authors.” 🙂 After drawing the Ace of Clubs this week, I’m now 9 out of 9 in picking great stories from that suit!

This was only the second work by Nikolai Gogol (below) that I’ve read. (I tackled his story, “St. John’s Eve” back in May.


I knew of this story, The Cloak, by reputation but knew nothing of the plot. It reminded me a little of Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener” in that its protagonist, Akakiy Akakievitch Bashmatchkin, is a minor official/apparatchik in the Russian government, whose primary duty is to copy letters and other official documents. Already rendered vulnerable by fate’s having allotted him a timid nature and now a low-paying job, he seems primed to be toppled by the next blow that the great forces of the world decide to deal him…

Gogol writes: “There exists in St. Petersburg a foe of all who receive a salary of four-hundred rubles a year, or there-abouts. This foe is no other than the Northern cold, although it is said to be very healthy.”

You see, Akakiy’s old and humble cloak has become threadbare and his daily journeys to and from his office are taking their toll on his nearly exposed back and shoulders. A tailor refuses to mend it “there’s nothing to sew a patch to…” and a new coat is beyond his means. The story takes many twists and turns as Akakiy tries to resolve his situation. I’m afraid it is a sad story, but it has its share of surprises and is thick with quotable lines and dialogue. If you’d like to read it yourself, it’s available online at

(The story’s title is often translated as The Overcoat. This title makes more sense to me)


Have you read any of Gogol’s stories? Which are your favorites?

Top Ten Tuesday – Who’s at Your Lunch Table?


Top Ten Tuesday is a popular meme hosted by the readers blog, “The Broke and the Bookish.” This week’s theme, in honor of it being ‘back to school season’ in most parts, is “Top ten book characters that would be sitting at my lunch table.” It’s an interesting list to ponder – who would be in your clique? For economy’s sake, I limited my choices to books I’ve read the past couple years. I’ve also kept it evenly distributed, gender-wise, and have a “boy-girl-boy-girl” format. I’ve also skewed my list to the relative outcasts, yet outcasts with great potential or of great inner strength. I’ve also imagined these characters as high-school aged, even if they weren’t so in the books where I met them. Here goes.


1. Diggory Venn (of Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy)
Bonus points if you recognize this name, one of the great underrated characters of classic literature. He would be a loyal table-mate and the rest of us could help him through his pining over some other girl in school that is unattainable (like he did for Thomasin Yeobright in Return of the Native)

(below: actor Steven Mackintosh as Diggory Venn (aka “The Reddleman”)  in the Hallmark Channel’s adaptation of “Return of the Native”)


2. Dellarobia Turnbow (from Barbara Kingsolver’s “Flight Behavior”)
Dellarobia would add an edginess to our table, and I also suspect I would secretly like her but be afraid to tell her. She would also be a bridge between our table and cool kids’ tables. Some the cool boys would chase after her, but she would likely not give the the time of day.
3. John Eames (from Anthony Trollope’s “The Small House at Allington”
Bonus points again if you’ve heard of this character. A quintessential, good-hearted nerd (or “hobbledehoy” as Trollope describes him), we’d welcome him to our group.
4. Nao (from Ruth Ozeki’s “A Tale for the a Time Being)
Nao and John would be a standard-bearers for the tables nerd quotient. I think Nao might occasionally bring cookies or some other treat from her Grandmother that she would share with the table. I hope she would, anyway.
5. Henry Tilney (from Jane Auaten’s Northanger Abbey”) We’ve got to have some popular kid representation at our table too. And he’s very well-read, so we’d have great discussions,
6. Cinder (from Marissa Myers’ “Lunar Chronicles”
Hey, our table is an equal opportunity table. Cyborgs are welcome too! (Although you quickly forget that she’s a cyborg when you get to know her)
7. Tyrion Lannister (from George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series)
Duh! Tyrion would make an awesome table-mate, and would I’m sure add a healthy component of mischief to our group’s activities. Plus he would keep us in stitches with his sense of humor, and I suspect he would also know how to get us alcohol on the weekends. He’s a reader too!


8. Lettie Hempstock (from Neil Gaiman’s “Ocean at the End of the Lane”)
With so many “outcasts” at our table we’re sure to encounter an occasional “attempted bullying” or two. They’d be no match for Lettie and her “powers.”
9. Tertius Lydgate (from George Eliot’s “Middlemarch” which I’m currently reading)
“Mr. Lydgate” (I suspect even in high school we might call him this) would be the one in our group thinking about the future and helping us to keep our “eyes on the prize.”
10. Juliette (from Hugh Howey’s “Wool”)
I’m sure our cell-phones and other gadgets would occasionally go on the fritz. Thankfully, Juliette could probably fix any technical problems during the space of a forty-minute lunch period. 🙂

That’s my table. What about yours? Is it all the way on the other side of the cafeteria? Do any of table-mates share some of their time at your table? Who do we have in common?