Deal Me In – Week 4 Wrap Up


Another bountiful crop of stories, essays, and fairy tales this week. We even have Deal Me In’s first play, and who else but Shakespeare could have been afforded that honor? Links are below. (If I’ve missed anybody, feel free to add a link in the comments here and I’ll try not to let it happen again.) :-). Happy reading!

Juliana at Cedar Station posts about Dorothy Parker’s “A Telephone Call”

James read H.L. Mencken’s and Jessica Mitford’s essays, “The Critiscism of Criticism of Criticism” and “Proceed with Caution” respectively:

Dale at Mirror With Clouds read his second Katherine Anne Porter story, “Theft”

Becky at Beckys Book Reviews has a nice summary post of the four stories she’s read in January: “The Spot of Art” by P.G. Wodehouse, “Face Value” by Karen Joy Fowler, “Mr. Lismore and the Widow” by Wilkie Collins, and “Aunt Susannah’s Birthday Celebration” by L.M. Montgomery

“o” at Behold the Stars posts about Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew”

John Paul at The Reader Regards Himself wrote about Steve Oney’s “Casualties of War”

Katherine of The a Writerly Reader shares with us “Private Grave #9” by Karen Joy Fowler

It’s the ace of hearts for Jen at Military History, leading her to the Katie Schultz story “Flashes of War”

Randall at Time a Enough at Last read Donald Barthelmes’s “Basil from her Garden”

Cleo at the Classical Carousel read “The Forgotten Daughter” by Caroline Dale Snedecker

Shelf Love has a post summarizing the four essays she’s read this month: “Nicolini and the Lions” by Joseph Addison, Ou-Yang Hiu’s “Pleasure Boat Studio”, “On Greatness” by Abraham Crowley, and “The Knife” by Richard Selzer

Marian at Tanglewood drew the eight of diamonds and read “Ashputtle” (think Cinderella) by The Brothers Grimm

Last but not least, your humble host read “Citizen Conn” by Michael Chabon

2015/01/img_5358.jpgSpeaking of Shakespeare, here’s an easy trivia question for you: what 1999 feature film is a loose adaptation of “The Taming of the Shrew?” (Hint: the cast included actor Heath Ledger)  You do NOT have to answer in the form of a question.

On a personal note, I learned last week that – after passing an online test last year – I’ve been selected for an in-person audition for the show Jeopardy! so I’m off to Chicago in a couple months to try my luck again. (I’ve made it to the contestant pool twice before, but have never been called to appear on the show 😦 )


Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar


“Estamos Bien en el Refugio – Los 33”

You probably remember the story in the news from the summer of 2010 – a mine collapse in Chile left 33 miners trapped and, by many, presumed lost. What then unfolded was a dramatic news story that much of the world followed for the next two and a half months. That story is retold expertly by Pulitzer Prize winning writer, Hector Tobar, in his excellent book Deep Down Dark.

It’s remarkable how some dramatic re-tellings of known historical events are able to hold you enthralled despite the fact that you know how the story ends. (One example in cinema is the great film, Apollo 13. Moviegoers already knew the story of the unlucky mission, yet who among them was not still breathlessly waiting for that radio signal near the end of the film when the capsule – with deployed parachutes – appears on the screen.) I had a similar feeling while reading this book. I knew the story, yet in spite of that I was anxious for the trapped miners and kept “forgetting” that “everything would be all right” in the end. An impressive feat for a writer to pull off, I’d say. (at right below: near the end of “Apollo 13”)


The book is logically divided into three parts, 1) the events leading up to the collapse, and the collapse itself, and the agonizing 17 days when the miners waited and hoped, not knowing if a rescue was even possible or, at first, being attempted; 2) the time from after the rescuers’ first (very small) drill hole reached them and offered renewed hope until their rescue; and 3) what happened to “the 33” after they rejoin the world above. Tobar also takes ample time early in the book introducing us on a more personal level to many of the miners who were to become the major players in the ordeal. The early pages of the book also includes something akin to a kind of “class photo” of the 33 miners, with their facial portraits in an array of rows and columns. I found myself frequently turning back to these photos to place faces with the names as events were described. In addition to the miners themselves, Tobar also relates the roles of their families and loved ones on the surface. (Pictures of some of the wives, girlfriends, and sisters of the miners would also have been a welcome addition for this reader) Many of the stories of their efforts are hardly less heroic than those of the men trapped below.

(Below: the message received from the miners when the first drill that broke through to their level was extracted. The miners sprayed red paint on the drill and attached the pictured note, wrapped in plastic and wound around the drill. Disaster procedure dictates that the initial communication should be brief but contain the location, the status, and how many survivors there are.  “The 33” accomplished this in just 7 words…)


The book of the miners’ story left me thinking a lot about human nature. How, for example, when extraneous factors are removed from the equation leaving simply survival as the only goal, the men came together in a brotherhood that likely only those who have suffered together through great hardship can understand. Then how, after contact was re-established with the “civilized” world above, parts of this brotherhood began to break down. How, as the trapped men became celebrities, many began to think how money could be made off of them. How politicians began to want to be associated with them, and how jealousy also began to eat away and the bonds of brotherhood. One pact that the 33 made and kept, however, was that they would tell their story to one, and just one, writer and share equally any financial benefits of their story being told in writing or in film. I am thankful for this as it led to this wonderful book.

This story also recalled to my mind one of my favorite Haruki Murakami’s short stories, “New York Mining Disaster.”

I first learned of this book via My “NPR Addict” app on my iPad. I was scrolling through and listening to recent book-related segments and came upon one discussing a new “NPR Morning Edition Book Club.” The description of this, the club’s first selection, was intriguing and with a scheduled broadcast of 1/20/15 I thought I should be able to read it in time. I did, but I was unable to listen in “live” to the show since I was working. When I listened to the recording later, it was a great disappointment. The segment was less than eight minutes long, with a couple minutes just being a replay of the original announcement. Questions from listeners (via Twitter, FaceBook, or traditional phone message) were aggressively encouraged prior to the broadcast date, but they only shared five or six. The hashtag touted for the project (#morningreads) also appears to have been at least partially hijacked to be used for mundane Morning Edition news items, not just the book club related ones. For information (and a link to the broadcast) about the NPR Morning Edition book club follow this link.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA(Above: from a tour inside a coal mine in Beckley, West Virginia. On a personal note, I actually have mining in my family history. My mom is literally a “coal miner’s daughter” from the mountains of West Virginia – although my granddad did “get out” of the mines in his later years, he still worked for the company that owned the mines as an machinist and a kind of engineering factotum. Others on her side of the family have also worked in the mines. I’m claustrophobic myself, and I can’t imagine spending a eight-hour workday underground day after day after day….)

(Below: the “Fenix” capsule via which the trapped men were extricated from the mine.  The trips to the surface took about 30 minutes each. Talk about claustrophobia!)



“Citizen Conn” by Michael Chabon


(Above image from the New Yorker)

For week four of the 2015 Deal Me In challenge, I drew the eight of clubs, leading me to Michael Chabon’s story, “Citizen Conn.” Clubs are my suit for “stories from The New Yorker” this year, and this one was first published in the February 13, 2012 issue. An explanation of the Deal Me In Challenge may be found here. The complete list of stories I will be reading is here. For links to other participants’ story rosters, see the week 1 post here. If you’d like to explore other blogs that are participating in the Deal Me In challenge, see the participant links on my sidebar.

2015/01/img_5365.jpgJanuary must be “superheroes month” here at Bibliophilopolis. This story is the third superhero-related reading I’ve done in just a couple weeks: My week two story for Deal Me In (John David Anderson’s “El Estocada”) featured a middle aged superhero in a bookstore then, one of the bookclubs I participate in had selected the Graphic novel “Watchmen” for their January read, and now I encounter my first Michael Chabon story, which is the tale of a pair of estranged comic authors, Mort Feather and Artie Conn, the former holding a grudge the origins of which the latter misunderstands.

In their younger years, they were at the forefront of a revival – perhaps even a revolution – of superhero comics:

They started with the old Black Diamond, Nova’s biggest star during the war years. Today you can buy a tattered, yellowed copy of the first issue of The New Adventures of the Black Diamond, dated January, 1960, for about twenty thousand dollars. The Elf and a few other revivals followed, then Feather and Conn began to create new characters, drawn from world mythology and the principles of physics and chemistry. The canvas grew broad, encompassing other galaxies and planes of reality; the characters, cranky and pixilated and neurotic in a hip, late-fifties style, approached, for the first time in the history of comic books, three dimensions.”

But when we meet them – via a female rabbi narrator – they are much older, and Feather is a dying man living out his final days in the Zion Pointe nursing home. The rabbi first meets Feather when he is refusing to answer the door to his room, a door which Conn stands outside pleading that he’s ” …driven three hours, you can can at least give me five goddamn minutes!”

What is the source of this acrimony? The rabbi, in an effort to help the two reconcile before Feather “kicks off” learns more about the two men’s history, but will she – or we – ever really know or understand the reason for the rift? You can read the story yourself and find out. As of this time, it may be read for free on line at

This may not have been one of my favorite stories, but I really did appreciate the writing of Chabon (below). Some favorite quotations:


(Mort) had “a forehead with a series of deep old scars like a line of cuneiform.”

“I had already learned to expect very little from the rooms of old people. There were some, most of them women, who transported into the last two hundred square feet of their lives, if not the entire composition, at least a kind of abstract of their abandoned houses and histories”

“He shrugged again. Aged Jews tend to shrug with practiced eloquence, expressing subtle fluctuations in the nature of their doubt.”

I also found the very cool 8 of clubs image below on line: check out the following from project Gutenberg


Deal Me in 2015 – Week 3 Wrap Up


A nice new crop of stories, poems, etc. this week. Below are links to new posts I found since the last update. If I’ve missed you, leave a note in the comments and I’ll update the post.

I’m also working on a new page that is an index of the stories read by last year’s Deal Me In participants. It’s the 2014 Deal Me In posts index by author page on my sidebar. Pretty much a bare bones list at this point (without links) but it does indicate the week the story was included in the wrap up post so one who is truly ambitious could get to the story by searching for the wrap up post. Maybe I’ll add links at the bottom to the weekly wrap up posts at some point, but – that’s a lot of links. :-). The list is kind of fun to peruse – seeing which authors were read the most, which stories were picked by two participants, etc. The group posted on over 300 stories last year.

Tracy at Bitter Tea and Mystery wrote about Roald Dahl’s “Lamb to the Slaughter”

Cleo at Classical Carousel read Jean Fritz’s “The Cabin Faced West”

Jen at Military History read “With a Burqa” by Katey Schultz

Dale at Mirror with Clouds wrote about E.B. White’s story “The Second Tree from the Corner

Jim at Science a fiction Times has two posts, one on Isaac Asimov’s “The Callistan Menace” and another on Harlan Ellison’s “Shattered Like a Glass Goblin” I, for one, am loving this classic sci-fi!

John Paul at The Reader Regards Himself writes about the Peter Hessler article “China’s Instant Cities”

Somehow I previously missed a new participant, Elsie at The Book Drum. Check out her roster at Her “twist” on Deal Me In is that she’s reading 52 Wordsworth poems. Her entries so far are: “The Solitary Reaper Reverie of Poor Susan and “Simplon Pass

Marian at Tanglewood read Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid”

Katherine at The Readerly Writer tackles Ambrose Bierce’s “The Damned Thing”

Randall at Time Enough at Last posted about Mark Richard’s “Strays”

I read Annie Proulx’s “Rough Deeds”

“o” at Behold the Stars covers “Arnita and Arcite” by Geoffrey Chaucer

That’s it for this week. How is YOUR short story reading going in 2015?

(Below: Jupiter’s moon Callisto – one of the Galilean Satellites. It does look a little “menacing” doesn’t it?)


“Rough Deeds” by Annie Proulx

2015/01/img_5341.jpgFor week 3 of Deal Me In 2015, I drew the three of clubs, which I had assigned to Annie Proulx’s story “Rough Deeds.” An explanation of the Deal Me In Challenge may be found here. The complete list of stories I will be reading is here. For links to other participants’ story rosters, see the week 1 post here.

This story is only my second encounter with Annie Proulx. Last year, I read her odd story, “The Half-Skinned Steer,” which didn’t immediately grab me, but lingered in my subconscious for several days after. “Rough Deeds” is a more conventional story – one of revenge and one that also provides a tantalizing glimpse at what the unspoiled landscape of North America must’ve been like before the Europeans arrived and began their… coloniz… er, exploitation. The protagonist of this story is a Monsieur Duquet, who at the story’s beginning is living in the province of “Kebeck” (Quebec)

***some minor spoilers follow***

Duquet had sprung from horrid beginnings that were beyond humble. As Proulx relates, he had “escaped a cramped childhood spent pulling rabbit fur from half-rotten skins, pinching out guard hairs, plucking the soft fur for quilt stuffing. As a boy, he had coughed incessantly, bringing up phlegm clotted with rabbit hair. The fine hairs had settled on every surface, matted on his family’s heads and shoulders. Finally, in this clinging miasma of stinking hair and dust, his mother, choking blood, had lain on the floor, as his father’s black legs scissored away into the night, and Duquet began his struggle to get away from France, to become another person.

Fueled by ambition to “erase” that history, Duquet becomes a new world entrepreneur, primarily in the business of supplying timber for great, voracious shipyards across the Atlantic. He is particularly adept at snapping up tracts of virgin forest in Maine when they become available for purchase. As with many nouveau riche, he becomes paranoid about losing his possessions and when, inspecting some land he purchased near the Penobscott River, he comes upon poachers stealing HIS timber. He and his right hand man react violently, driving off the poachers save one, an injured teenaged boy.

The events of the next couple days, where Duquet’s obsession with learning the identity of his competitors lead to a gruesome interrogation of the boy, set the course for the rest of the story and Duquet’s life. The only surviving “witness” to Duquet’s deeds is a grey owl, which perhaps haunts him thereafter. 2015/01/img_5343.jpgDuring their encounter, it becomes clear that Duquet has unresolved “issues” and they are brought to the surface when the boy cries for help:

Inside Duquet, something like a tightly closed pinecone, licked by fire, opened abruptly, and he exploded with insensate and uncontrollable fury, a lifetime’s pent-up rage. ‘J’en ai rien à foutre. No one helped me!’ he shrieked. ’I did everything myself! I endured! I contended with powerful men. I suffered in the wilderness. I accepted the risk that I might die! No one helped me!’”

What did I enjoy about this story? I absolutely loved the detailed description of what the pristine forest must’ve been like in the northeastern U.S. Sadly, for the most part, we can today only imagine, but Proulx does quite an admirable job of this. (There are so few tracts of “old growth” forest left east of the Mississippi River, but, on a personal note, there’s a small one in Indiana – the Donaldson Woods in Spring Mill State Park, which I’ve visited several times. Beautiful.)

The story also made me think about how laws and “civilized behavior” are often suspended on the frontier or in the wilderness. Perhaps the early colonists of North America often had little choice but to perform “rough deeds”…

(below: The Donaldson Woods)


Oh, and it turns out, too, that Proulx is a supporter of Deal Me In. Okay, I’m only joking, but with dialogue like the following I suspect she would be if she knew about it: “He hesitated, as though he wished not to speak his news. When he did speak, he threw his words down like playing cards.” 🙂

This story may be read online (at least for now) at

A short interview with Proulx about this story – and the novel it borrows its main character from – may be found at

This story also made the 2014 edition of BASS (Best American Short Stories) – I don’t own that volume, though. Yet.

Have you read any Annie Proulx? She also famous for being the author of “Brokeback Mountain.”

(below an ‘antique’ postcard of the Penobscot River from





Deal Me In 2015 – Week 2 Wrap Up


Below are links to new Deal Me In challenge posts since the last update. Happy reading!

Candiss introduces us (well, me at least) to Mikhail Zoschenko via his short work, “Electrification

“o” at Behold the Stars posted about the Virginia Wolff essay “I am Christina Rossetti

Read about G.K. Chesterton’s “A Piece of Chalk” at Julianna’s Cedar Station

Cleo at Classical Carousel read the Robert Burns poem, “A Red, Red Rose”

Risa at Mangoes and Cherry Blossoms read Daniel Orozco’s story “Orientation”

Jen at Military History wrote about Katey Schultz’s “Getting Perspective.”

Dale at Mirror with a clouds wrote about Martha Wellhorn’s “Miami-New York”

Marian at Tanglewood read Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder

John Paul at The Writer Regards Himself read Clive Thompson’s “The Dream Factory

Katherine at The Writerly Reader read F.X. Tooles’s “Midnight Emissions

Randall at Time Enough at Last read Frieda Arkin’s “The Broomsrick on the Porch”

I read John David Anderson’s “El Estocada” just scroll down or click here for my post

Those are the new posts I noted since the last update. If I’ve missed you and you are posting about your stories, please help me out and let me know in the comments. It also helps if you link back to the sign up/intro post as I will see the pingback and know to include your post In the wrap up. Deal Me In may be outgrowing the “manual updates” format.

Please take time to check out some of your fellow participants posts. You might learn something (I sure did this week!). I also found it interesting that we had two stories this week whose titles included the words “Perspective” and “Orientation” and that two readers both drew the queen of hearts. That’s two weeks in a row where two participants have drawn the same card.

Also, please note that “Late-joining” the Deal Me In challenge is allowed and encouraged. Below are a few new joiners. One of the advantages of this challenge is that it doesn’t take long to catch up if you fall behind or start late, 🙂 See you next week!

Darcie at Reading Derby has also just joined the challenge her list is at

Elaine at Series-ously addicted has also signed on

Mannomoi (who actually designed our Deal Me In logo last year) at Dilettante Artiste has also come up with a list for 2015

“El Estocada” by John David Anderson

For week 2 of The 2015 Deal Me In short story reading challenge, I drew the five of diamonds. (An explanation of the challenge may be found here. You can also check out my complete list of stories I’ll be reading in 2015 if you’re interested.) 2015/01/img_39191.jpg

El Estocada

We see it all the time in sports. The relentless questions posed to aging superstars on ’the wrong side of thirty’ – “Have you lost a step?” “Do you still have enough arm strength to make ’all the throws?’”, etc. Having these reporters nipping at one’s heels must be incredibly exasperating, and if sports superstars fall victim to them surely superHEROES would face the same challenge. Such is the case for The Sentinel, a past his prime superhero guardian of the city where this story is set.

2015/01/img_5336.pngWe meet him in a bookstore, where he is enjoying some quiet moments just “perusing” – an activity in stark contrast to his normal, superheroic duties. Though enjoying some down time, he is troubled by a recent encounter with a reporter who suggests that The Sentinel ‘allowed’ an old couple to die during an attack of an arch-villain. When The Sentinel points out that he had saved a school bus full of children instead of the elder victims, and that he had to make a choice, the reporter suggests that, in his younger days, The Sentinel was fast enough to have saved both of them. This earned the reporter a broken and bloody nose, something The Sentinel regrets. Just a little, though.

The action in this story takes place mainly in the bookstore when The Sentinel spots a young woman sitting in the store reading the newspaper. He is immediately attracted to her: “She wore a magenta dress with gold swirls embroidered into the hem, the straps revealing sharp shoulders and toned arms. Her hair reminded him of tree bark, with its layers and undulations, its palpable topography. He wondered what it smelled like.” Not exactly a conventional description – tree bark(!) – but who am I to guess what a superhero’s thoughts would be like. The Sentinel’s encounter – and its aftermath – with the woman completes the story in a way I found quite satisfying.

I was also curious about the meaning of the title so I had to ’research’ it before reading. I’m no expert on bullfighting (what little I know is from Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” and from following the big annual international chess tournament that used to be held in Linares, Spain) but the term “estocada” refers to the final thrust of the sword of a matador which kills the bull. This title is quite appropriate for the story in multiple ways, including a bit of a surprise ending…

(below: the legendary bullfighter, Manolete)


I recommend this story and the antholology “Indy Writes Books” that includes it. If you are interested in obtaining a copy, it may be purchased at Indy Reads Books bookstore in downtown Indianapolis or online. Worth noting is that all proceeds from the sale of the anthology go to support adult literacy programs in Central Indiana. (Oh, and “full objectivity disclosure”: Bibliophilopolis is also a “First Edition Sponsor” of this book 🙂 )




Deal Me In – Week 1 Wrap Up


Here we go! Links to new posts I found so far this year are below. For Deal Me In newcomers, my weekly wrap-up post attempts to link to any new DMI postings since the last update. I usually post the wrap up Sunday night or Monday morning. This first one for 2015 is kind of a half week, and I acknowledge maybe not everyone has even started yet (I just wanted to maintain the Sunday/Monday routine). I also realize not everyone doing the challenge plans to post about all – or even any – of their stories. If you don’t write a dedicated post on your week’s story, feel free to leave an (optional) brief comment here telling everyone what you read and if you recommend it etc. Enough with the boring administrative stuff! Here are some links:

Dale read the Kurt Vonnegut classic, Harrison Bergeron

Jen read Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

Juliana read William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech

Katherine read Joyce Carol Oates’ “The Man Who Fought Roland LaStarza

Katherine is also doing the “Full Moon” add-on to Deal Me In and this cycle she read “The Specialist’s Hat” by Kelly Link

Candiss read “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” by E. Lily Yu

Randall posted about Sherman Alexie’s story “What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona”

I read an essay By Dan Wakefield “Corn, Limestone, Horseweed and Writers

“o” at Behold the Stars wrote about Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem “The Day-Dream”

Jim at Science Fiction Times posted about Robert Silverberg’s “Gorgon Planet”

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Golden Fleece” was featured at Marian’s  Tanglewood blog

John Paul read Vivian Gornick’s “A Ride on a Subway”

Please take a moment to check out some or all of these great posts from the first week of Deal Me In 2015. I think we’re off to a great start!

I’m listing below all the sign-ups I could find that progressed as far as creating a list of stories (This link is to the post with the story roster, which I really had a blast perusing over the weekend). I may have missed a few, so please let me now in the comments if your blog should be on this list. I also understand not everyone participating will be posting about his or her stories, which is fine. I have also created a category in Bibliophilopolis’s links section where I linked to participants blogs’ home pages. Please also let me know if I missed you here.

2015 Participants list (alphabetical order):

Becky at Becky’s Book Reviews:

Candiss at Read the Gamut:

Christine at the Moonlight Reader:

Cleo at Classical Carousel:

Dale at Mirror With Clouds:

James at James Reads Books:

Jay (that’s me!) at Bibliophilopolis:

Jen at Military History:

Jim at Science Fiction Times:

John-Paul at The Reader Regards Himself:

Julianna at Cedar Station:

Julie at Books are Portable Magic:

Katherine at The Writerly Reader:

Kay at Dead Book Darling:

LuAnn at Back Porchervations:

Marian at Tanglewood:

“o” at Behold the Stars:

Randall at Time Enough at Last:

Risa at Mangoes and Cherry Blossoms:

Teresa at Shelf Love:

Tracy at Bitter Tea and Mystery:

Week 1 of Deal Me In 2015


(I drew the two of diamonds. I love this card (from the Bicycle “Club Tattoo” deck) – kind of a Chinese-flavored, one-headed Cerberus(!) with one paw on a “basketball” – like any good Hoosier mythological creature!)

For me, this year’s annual Deal Me In project has been my most anticipated yet. Throughout 2014, I would often think, “I need to put that (author or story) in my 2015 DMI roster,” or “That would be a great idea for a suit for my next DMI,” etc. The reason for my heightened anticipation seems clear: the interaction with the other bloggers who participated in DMI 2014 opened many doors to new authors and new stories AND new ideas for DMI. For this I am thankful.

It was with this irresistible anticipation, then, that I thought, “Hey, I should draw my first card for 2015 at the stroke of midnight On New Year’s Eve!” I even had a new deck of cards (the way cool “club tattoo” deck from Bicycle) that I was going use for the project. So I settled in to do a little reading about ten p.m. on Wednesday (I celebrate New Year’s Eve in the afternoon – much safer)… Of course, the next thing I remember is waking up about 1:45 a.m. 🙂

So, I drew my card on Thursday morning and was crestfallen when it turned out to be the two of diamonds – a wild card. All this planning of titles and authors I had done in advance, and here right off the bat I had to come up with a wild card story!? I hate drawing a wild card so early. It’s like hitting the daily double on Jeopardy! with your first selection. Serenity now! What was “worse” was that it was the two of diamonds. Diamonds is the suit I’d assigned to stories from the Indy Writes Books anthology and, traditionally, I try to keep my wild cards in the theme of the suit. Problem was, there are twelve – and only twelve – short stories included In that book. Sure, there are other pieces of non-fiction and poetry included, but was that really how I wanted to start my “short story” year? (Drawing a different card, of course, was out of the question. Fate had already spoken.)

Then, scanning the other pieces in the anthology, a logical choice soon became clear. I should read Dan Wakefield’s introduction in the book – an introduction focusing on the great tradition and literary history of Indiana writers. So my wild card is Wakefield’s essay/introduction “Corn, Limestone, Horseweed and Writers”


I’m familiar with Wakefield from his novel “Going All the Way” and his being a sometimes visitor to the Vonnegut Library book club weetings, where at one of which we discussed his recently published volume of of Vonnegut’s letters. He has also been referred to as the “patron saint” of the Indy Reads Books bookstore in downtown Indy, having – until recently – lived just a few blocks down the street. (In 2014, I also began participating in a book club that meets at that location.)

Shortly into reading the introduction, which tells of a ‘golden age’ of Indiana literature, I encountered the following pronouncement:

“Here is my hot news: ‘The Golden Age of indiana Literature’ never ended, and is still in full swing.” – Dan Wakefield

This sentence is certainly welcome news to me, with my intent to “read local” as much as possible in 2015. My initial, knee-jerk skepticism, however, made me think, “well, I’m sure many other states or locales think they’re in a golden age too,” but Wakefield presents rather convincing evidence of Indiana’s ’literary might’ and by the end had me convinced how lucky I am to be living and reading (and blogging?) in such a literary state.

He mentions the Lew Wallace novel, “Ben-Hur” (perhaps you’ve seen the movie, but did you know that – after The Bible and Uncle Tom’s Cabin – it outsold every other book from 1880 to 1936? ’36 was, not coincidentally, the year Gone With the Wind was published) which I already had on my 2015 reading list, but I also gleaned a few other titles to add to my ‘read local’ books for the coming year:

An American Tragedy (Theodore Dreiser)
Ernie Pyle in England (Ernie Pyle)
Magnificent Obsession (Lloyd C. Douglas) or The Robe (same author)
Girl of the Limberlost (Gene Stratton Porter)
An Abundance of Katherines (John Green)
Alice Adams (Booth Tarkington)

So… an unexpectedly “educational” start for my 2015 Deal Me In project. What short story or stories did YOU read this week?

If you’d like to read this introduction – and the rest of the book of course! – it’s available for purchase at Indy Reads Books in downtown Indianapolis, or you can order online if you’re one of the unfortunates who doesn’t live in central Indiana. 🙂 See for details.


A Blogoversary, and Reading Plans for the Month and Year

Bibliophilopolis turns five years old tomorrow, January 2nd.

Thanks to all readers and followers/ subscribers and to everyone who has commented over the years. It’s been an enriching experience for me, and I’ll try to stumble through and complete a sixth year… 🙂

January Reading: The Month Ahead

I’ve resolved to cut back on some of my book club involvement in 2015; I just had too many reading commitments last year, many of which resulted in re-reads, which I’ve also resolved to cut down on this year. That said, I have a few existing commitments that I’ll need to honor in January.

I’ll be reading my first graphic novel (if I don’t count all those Classics Illustrated comics I read when I was growing up, that is), the acclaimed “Watchmen” by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. This is for a book club I’ve been attending that meets at the Rathskeller Restaurant/Bar in downtown Indianapolis. It’s the club’s first graphic novel as well.


For the Vonnegut Library book club, we’re reading Nelson Algren’s “The Man With the Golden Arm.” (pictured below – of course I picked a picture of an edition that has a spade on the cover – Deal Me In, baby! 🙂 )


And for my Great Books Foundation discussion group, we’re reading Willa Cather‘s excellent novella, “Tom Outland’s Story.” This is technically a re-read for me, as the novella is also encapsulated in her novel, “The Professor’s House,” which I read a couple years ago.


Then, just yesterday, I learned that NPR’s “Morning Edition” program has a book club(!) and they’re now reading Hector Tobar’s “Deep Down Dark” – the story of those 33 Chilean miners who were trapped for so many days a few years back. It sounded so interesting I bought an e-copy (before midnight last night, so I won’t be violating the TBR Double Dog Dare!). The reading is in conjunction with the author’s appearance on their program on 1/20/2015. More info may be found at:

I’ll admit part of my interest in this book is due to my fondness for the ending (or beginning?) of the Murakami story, “New York Mining Disaster 1941.”


That’s four books already, so my January is pretty much spoken for. Oh, I am also about four hundred pages into George R.R. Martin’s “Feast for Crows” which I can hopefully continue to read in the background during the month and finish by month end.

There are also five Saturday’s in January, and Saturday mornings are when I draw my weekly card to determine which story I read for my Deal Me In Short Story Reading Challenge. I have a great line-up of stories to read – in random order – this year. View it here and feel free to suggest a story for my four wild cards. 🙂

2015 Reading: The Year Ahead

The “unofficial” focus of my blog in 2015 is going to be on reading more local authors. There is no shortage of material here both contemporary and classic. One thing I plan to do in the first quarter is read Lew Wallace’s classic “Ben-Hur” which has been on my shelf forever. Of course I’ve seen the movie, but never read the book, even though I lived in the same town as a Lew Wallace Museum for four years of my life(!). There are also books by Booth Tarkington (in addition to The Magnificent Ambersons) that I’d like to explore. James Whitcomb Riley is another classic Indiana author I’ve targeted. Then there’s always Kurt Vonnegut, but I’ve read everything by him already. Seriously.

(below: I own an 1887 copy of this same edition of Ben-Hur – (I think) the oldest book in my personal library)


For contemporaries, there’s the great Indy Writes Books anthology, the short stories in which I’ve assigned to my Deal Me In project, but there is other material besides fiction in that volume. I also want to read some of the local authors in the Midwestern Gothic literary magazine.


I also may revisit my old “Project: Shakespeare” from 2008, which I ended the year without finishing, with roughly 12 more plays to read. That’s one a month. Hmmm….

In general, I also want to read a little more non-fiction this year than I did last year, when I managed only about 25% non fiction reading. I’d prefer something closer to a 60-40 split, or at least 65-35. We’ll see how I do on that one…

But enough about me, What are YOUR reading plans for January and for 2015?

(did you see that Jeopardy! had a contestant this year named “Ben-Hur?” He was pretty good too, winning a game or two I think. Judging by the scores below, this was not one of them)