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 http://www.indyreads.org/indy-writes-books/ for details.



  1. tracybham said,

    January 4, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    Hi Jay, that was a great idea to read the intro to that book. I am originally from Alabama (now for many many years in Calif.) and I should set a goal to read some Alabama fiction over the next year or two.

    I was unsuccessful all day yesterday at leaving a comment at the Deal Me In sign up page, so I hope it is alright for me to leave my link for my short story list here?


    • Jay said,

      January 4, 2015 at 6:02 pm

      Thanks, Tracy. Sorry you had trouble leaving a comment. I’ll add your link to my list to share with my first wrap-up post.

      Reading more “local” is an idea I should have tried long ago. 🙂


  2. tracybham said,

    January 4, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    Jay, I have been trying to post my link for the Deal Me In challenge … here it is:



  3. Saari said,

    January 4, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    Oh, I got myself The Robe sometime last year. I began reading it because I was still hungover from Ben-Hur and was looking for something like it to sink my teeth into. Unfortunately, Wallace is rather wordy and tends to use too many adjectives that seem so unnecessary. I’m hoping to look past it when I pick the book up again next time because I really loved the movie!

    Anyway, it looks like your pick turned out to be a good beginning for your challenge after all! 😀

    I’ve picked my card already, but have yet to read its designated story. Should hopefully have done so by the end of the week.


    • Jay said,

      January 4, 2015 at 6:04 pm

      I remember the film version of The Robe, but never knew who wrote the book it was based upon.

      Good luck with your story! 🙂


  4. Becky said,

    January 4, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    It looks like I’ll be reading some Wodehouse. I drew the 6 of spades. I only hope my story isn’t a continuation of what came earlier in the book! You never can tell with Wodehouse’s stories 🙂


    • Jay said,

      January 4, 2015 at 1:48 pm

      I have “The Best of Wodehouse” on my shelf but have only read a little of it. One of my best friends just loves him! I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you. 🙂


      • Becky said,

        January 4, 2015 at 5:24 pm

        I just finished reading it, and, it was LOVELY. You should give Wodehouse a try!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jay said,

          January 4, 2015 at 5:49 pm

          Maybe I’ll make him one of my other wildcards. 🙂


  5. Nancy said,

    January 4, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    Another Indiana writer is Ross Lockridge author of Raintree County


    • Jay said,

      January 4, 2015 at 6:06 pm

      He was mentioned by Wakefield as well and is on my longer list. I honestly did learn a lot in reading this piece.


  6. Dale said,

    January 4, 2015 at 4:05 pm

    I’ve seen a filmed version of “Girl of the Limberlost.” “An Abundance of Katherines” is a very funny book, also.

    I will eventually order Indy Writes Books. Based on your posts and involvement with various literary organizations, I would agree with Wakefield that Indiana still is a very literary state.


    • Jay said,

      January 4, 2015 at 6:10 pm

      I’ve kind of had “An Abundance of Katherines” on my radar for awhile, but Wakefield’s essay reminded me I still need to read it.

      There was some “book event” here in town this year related to Gene Stratton Porter, but it was one I failed to attend; this will be my penance. 🙂


  7. Randall said,

    January 4, 2015 at 4:36 pm

    Great solution to your wild card dilemma! I for one was not aware of the heritage of Indiana writers. More additions to my TBR list!!! 🙂


    • Jay said,

      January 4, 2015 at 8:57 pm

      Thanks! Yeah, afterward I decided that the hand of fate knew what it was doing and I should be more trusting. 😊


  8. Marian said,

    January 4, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    That is interesting that Ben-Hur and The Robe were both written by authors from Indiana. I should read Ben-Hur again – I love the movie but found the book somewhat heavy, at least at the time.


    • Jay said,

      January 4, 2015 at 8:58 pm

      I’m a little intimidated by it (Ben-Hur, the book). Maybe I should read it around Easter. Isn’t that usually when they run the movie on tv?


  9. John-Paul said,

    January 5, 2015 at 4:25 am

    So I drew the nine of spades and read a Village Voice piece from 1972 called A Ride on the Subway. It was a cracking good start, and made me look up more by the author: Vivian Gornick. I’m very under-prepared for this challenge. I found a course reading list somewhere for a long-form journalism course and assigned cards. It’s safe to say that every week will be a surprise. Surprise is good right? Right.


    • Jay said,

      January 5, 2015 at 1:57 pm

      Just read your entry and really enjoyed it. Yes, surprise is good. 🙂 The ‘draw a card’ element of this challenge feels gimmick-y at first, but I do enjoy the random element and the many ‘coincidences’ that seem to occur in the drawing order.


  10. Alex said,

    January 5, 2015 at 6:13 am

    I’ve read “Everything must go” by Jim Gilbert, part of the “Stories from the Blue Moon Cafe: Anthology of Southern Writers” that I’ve had on the TBR for ages. I’ve also already listened to the Week 2 story: “The Cord” by Charles Baudelaire, part of the “The Best French Short Stories” audiobook.

    Thanks for challenging me to do this – loving it so far 🙂


    • Jay said,

      January 5, 2015 at 1:58 pm

      I have a Best French Short Stories anthology. Wonder if it’s the same one.

      Glad you’re taking part. I’ve come to really enjoy my weekly short story read. 🙂


  11. Jason M. said,

    January 5, 2015 at 10:31 am

    What an interesting start to your literary year! Reading the introduction, in lieu of a short story, is a nice thematic start to “introducing” your year of fiction reading. For my part, as an NYC native & dweller, reading locally is something that’s kind of hard to avoid… I think 95% of all fiction authors these days maintain a residence in Brooklyn.

    Meanwhile, I’m 4 chapters in to my Ian Fleming/James Bond reread. His disdain for women & Jews is already well in evidence, but I wasn’t quite expecting the lengthy diatribe about… Bulgarians. Goodness me. I never imagined the Bulgarians were so controversial.


    • Jay said,

      January 5, 2015 at 2:01 pm

      Ha ha! Bulgarians?!? What did they ever do to anybody? All I know about them is from chess grandmaster Veselin Topalov’s fame – and also the great, though brief, scene in Casablanca, where Rick helps the young Bulgarian couple win at roulette so that the wife doesn’t have to sleep with Captain Renault. I recall Bogart doesn’t want to be bothered with them at first telling her, “You want my advice? Go back to Bulgaria!”

      Regarding my reading the introduction, it seems Deal Me In knew what it was doing with me all along. I just need to learn to trust its hand of fate. 🙂


  12. Melissa said,

    January 5, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    So many fantastic books on your list! We’ll have to compare notes on the Indy authors.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Candiss said,

    January 5, 2015 at 8:20 pm

    I really like your idea of “reading local’. I’ll have to look into that for next year, myself!

    Really, I think you made the only logical choice when you chose to read that Introduction. “Begin at the beginning”, as they say!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jay said,

      January 5, 2015 at 9:03 pm

      I’ve been meaning to do the “read local” focus for awhile now. Hopefully “making it public” here will keep me honest and on target. 🙂


  14. January 14, 2015 at 10:33 am

    Dan Wakefield moved from Mass Ave to a duplex in Broad Ripple in 2014. He probably spends more time at the Red Key Tavern than at IndyReads.


    • Jay said,

      January 14, 2015 at 10:47 am

      Ha! Thanks for the update, I’ll amend the post. Shocking that no one informed me of the move… 🙂

      Of course, both the Red Key and Indy Reads are worthy destinations…


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