Deal Me In 2015 – Week 30 Wrap Up

Deal Me In art from

Greetings, fellow short story readers! Below are links to new Deal Me In posts since the last update. Why not check them out? 🙂

“o” at Behold the Stars has written about the Aristophanes play, “The Poet and the Woman

Dale at Mirror With Clouds read his first short story by David Foster Wallace, tackling  “Good People” – see his impressions at

Katherine at The Writerly Reader posted about “The Monster” by Lidiya Zinovyeva-Annibal – Read her post at

Randall at Time Enough at Last is back from summer vacation and wrote about the Arthur Robinson story, “The Boy on the Train”

I read my second story in DMI 2015 from Jason Sizemore, “Yellow Warblers” – see my post by scrolling down or clicking

James at James Reads Books shares two works this week, Ursula K. LeGuin’s “The Finder” and Jessica Mitford’s “You-All and Not You-All: A Southern Potpourri”

See you next week!

“Yellow Warblers” by Jason Sizemore

For week 30 of Deal Me In 2015, I drew the nine of spades, which I had assigned to the Story, “Yellow Warblers” from Jason Sizemore’s collection “Irredeemable.” Deal Me In is an annual short story reading challenge (explained here). My list of stories I’m reading this year, with links to those I’ve posted about, may be found here. If the name sounds familiar, maybe it’s because I posted about another story (“Sleeping Quartet“) by this author a couple months back.

Yellow Warblers”

He’d lived long enough to know the way of the spirits, to listen when they shouted across the heavens to warn the other side of danger.”

When I picked a couple stories from this collection for Deal Me In, I confess I based my selection on titles only, and, as an amateur birdwatcher for twenty years, this title appealed to me. I also knew the collection included stories that “are dark, powerful and unsettling,” so I was curious as the title’s meaning. I’m not sure I ever found out, which is okay.

Few conquests in the history of humanity have been absolute or “complete.” There are always pockets of resistance or remote areas that maybe the conquerors “just don’t care enough about” to fully bring under their rule. Think about the Kurds in modern day Iraq, or how hard Afghanistan has been to manage for its sundry invaders/conquerors. Maybe this phenomenon would hold true in the case of an extra-terrestrial conquest as well. Such appears to be the case in this story. It starts peacefully enough with a commonplace scene of rustic Appalachia. An old man, Jeremiah, is sitting on a church pew praying. Outside a Kentucky Warbler sings “joyfully.” But maybe not all is right. A visitor has arrived…

“The alien moved with a grace befitting its slender build and smooth, alabaster skin. The old man had seen one of these before. A Shadow , they’d called it. It had been… what… twenty-three years since last he’d seen one? But there it was, no mistaking. Those large almond eyes in an oval, slightly humanoid face.”

As you might guess, the way the peaceful Jeremiah wants to welcome the visitor is more than slightly different from that of his neighbors.

I found the following interesting observation in one online review of the “Irredeemable” collection. It rang true to me, and is especially apropos to this particular story, which actually included the line, “Xeno-what?” in its dialogue. 🙂

Appalachian cultural history shows a tendency toward xenophobia.’” People from outside this region will know the opposite is true as well: aliens (literal or figurative) to this region tend to fear it, and the stories in Irredeemable both capitalize on and castigate that fear.”

This story may be read on line here

Have you read any good short stories set in Appalachia? Care to recommend any? 🙂

(above: the yellow warbler I know from my birdwatching (I see these all the time); below: a Kentucky Warbler from the story – I almost never spot one around these parts…)

Deal Me In 2015 – Week 29 Wrap Up

Kind of slim pickings this week on the Deal Me In front – maybe everyone is enjoying a summer vacation? Either way, below are links to the posts that I found since our last update:

Dale at Mirror With Clouds posted about Bernard Malamud’s “The German Refugee”

“o” at Behold the Stars posted about the Virginia Woolf essay, “Jane Eyre and a withering Heights”

Jay at Bibliophilopolis (that’s me!) read a lesser-known Shirley Jackson short story, “Mrs. Melville Makes a Purchase”

That’s it for this week. Until next time… Happy Reading!

“Mrs. Melville Makes a Purchase” – Shirley Jackson

A couple years ago I purchased an e-copy (nook version) of “Just an Ordinary Day” a (posthumous) book of Shirley Jackson short stories, “previously unpublished and uncollected.” I made the purchase after reading one of the stories in The New Yorker (“Paranoia” – see my prior post about that story here). I also had assigned another story from this collection to my Deal Me In challenge deck of cards as the King of Hearts, which I drew this morning for week 29 of Deal Me In 2015.

I’m one of those people who tries to always follow the golden rule when dealing with others. Treating them as I would hope to be treated myself. I’m betting most of you reading this are the same type of people (thankfully, most people in general are too). Mrs. Melville, the title character of this Shirley Jackson story, is NOT one of those type of people. Jackson makes us dislike Mrs. Melville immediately as, while shopping for a blouse in a department store, Melville sighs “How long do I have to wait for service here?” to a salesgirl who is helping another customer. I was happy to see the salesgirl eventually start “giving it back” to Mrs. Melville though, when she notes that she doesn’t have Mrs. Melville’s desired purchase in pink or chartreuse, but that “I have the black. Most large figures prefer the black.” (Heh heh)

Eventually Mrs. Melville completes a purchase and with barely muted indignation seeks out the store’s Complaint Department, which the salesgirl helpfully informs her is on the ninth floor. This is just the beginning of Mrs. Melville’s retail adventures, though, as she stops for lunch on the fifth floor (as you might guess, she’s dissatisfied with her server and food there too – we are seeing a pattern here) and, after seeing a mysterious woman, realizes she’s lost the package with her purchase…

This was a good story, and I enjoyed it (who doesn’t like to see snobs getting their comeuppance?), but I don’t think it’s up to the high standards of Jackson’s other work. I’m sure I’ll still read the other stories in this book eventually as well, but I’ll probably be rationing them out over several years, as has become my habit with Short story collections. Oh, and this week’s Deal Me In coincidence? I discovered that the book blogosphere has a “Shirley Jackson Reading Week” currently in progress. How cool is that? One of the host blogs may be seen at

What have you read by Shirley Jackson and what did you think of it? In addition to her story, “Paranoia,” I’ve blogged about her creepy story “The Summer People” as well.

Deal Me In 2015 – Week 28 Wrap Up

Below are links to new posts since the last update. Please take a moment to visit (or comment or “like”) these posts and support your fellow DMI participants! 🙂

James at James Reads Books wrote about H.L. Mencken’s essay “On Being an American” and Ursula K. LeGuin’s story “Darkrose and Diamond” from her Earthsea world. Did he find a connection?

Dale at Mirror with Clouds tackles Donald Barthelme’s “A City of Churches”

Katherine at The Writerly Reader posted about Dan Chaon’s “The Bees”

Tracy at Bitter Tea and Mystery shares with us the Stephen Murray story “Positive Vetting

I read my fifth story from the “In the Meantime” anthology (stories set in Brussels), “The Commissioner and the Pig” by Nick Jacobs. I learned of this collection a few years back at Alex’s excellent blog “The Sleepless Reader.” I haven’t written a post yet as I’m recovering from the weekend’s “24in48” readathon (and yes, of course I read short stories for that!)

“o” at Behold the Stars brings us another Miguel Cervantes story “The a Little Gypsy Girl”

That’s it for now. happy reading until next week!

24in48 Final Update

I don’t exactly how many hours of the weekend I spent reading, but I did complete my goal of reading 24 short stories in the 48 hours. Barely. I finished at about 10 p.m. last night. My stories ranged from a short 8 pages to a longish 44 pages. If I had to guess, I’d say I got between 450 and 500 pages read – a very good total for a slow reader like me.

I have to admit that even this “lighter” version of 24in48 was much more challenging than I expected. I mean, I don’t care if they’re only short stories. Twenty-four is a LOT of them to read. I liked the randomized order of reading though, as I have come to enjoy in the years I’ve been doing the Deal Me In challenge. Sometimes a story was a neat “complement” to the last one I read (and sometimes not, of course). I ’discovered’ some great new literature (Stevenson’s “The Suicide Club” Poe’s “The Imp of the Perverse”), met some authors for the first time (Clive Barker, Octavia Butler, Ramsey Campbell, and Hugh Walpole), and reinforced my favorable opinion of some others (Poe, Atwood, Oates, Irving, Munro, etc.). All in all a great reading weekend.

If you saw my prior posts, you know I’m applying the Deal Me In method to this challenge, having picked in advance the 24 stories to read and assigning them to the cards in a euchre deck. I draw one at a time and re-shuffle afterward, randomizing my order. (& I guess if you didn’t see my prior posts, you know now.) 🙂

Below are brief comments on stories 13 thru 24: (I’m rating the stories according to the trump suit in a game of euchre Highest = Jack of the suit [right bower], followed by Jack of same color [left bower], then Ace, King, Queen, Ten, Nine)

#13 “The Freeze-Dried Groom” by Margaret Atwood: What would you do if you were the winning bidder on the contents of an “abandoned” storage unit and discovered a body within? I guess it depends on the kind of person you are to begin with, doesn’t it? 🙂 My rating: King

#14 “The Brood” by Ramsey Campbell: My first reading of this well-known horror author. Pretty decent creepiness factor, especially the ending, but I was hoping for more with this one. My rating: King

#15 “Casting the Runes” by M.R. James: This was my only re-read of the weekend and it was worth it (heck, I confess I remembered almost nothing about it since the first time I read it was so long ago). An alchemist, rejected by the scientific community, has a unique method of dealing with rejections. This story led me to do a little on-line research into the Runic alphabet. Of course there’s a website that will translate English characters into Runic. Did you expect there wouldn’t be? My rating: Ace

#16 “Free Radicals” by Alice Munro: Kind of ‘a Joyce Carol Oates story meets The Misfit from Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is a Hard to Find”‘ but with a happier outcome. Very well done and a tidy ending. My rating: Ace

#17 “The Imp of the Perverse” by Edgar Allen Poe: How I had missed this story in my previous Poe reading I don’t know. This is another first person account of how things went wrong in the life of an unfortunate protagonist. Poe is the master of this, and I love the idea of their being an” Imp of the Perverse.” Explains a lot. 🙂 My rating: Left Bower

#18 “The Angel of the Odd” by Edgar Allen Poe. I didn’t like this one as much as the previous and suspect it was one that Poe wrote leaning heavily on his personal experience with being heavily intoxicated. My rating: King

#19 “Family” by Joyce Carol Oates: No one does dark like JCO. She doesn’t waste any time in this one explaining a back story. The reader just finds himself in a post-civilization collapse world where the horrors just keep piling up. This was even more disturbing than Atwood’s “Torching the Dusties” that I read on day one of 24in48. My rating: Ace

#20 “The Enchanted Island” by Washington Irving: actually this ’story’ is an introduction to another Irving story, but was still charming and thought provoking. This one would also be a good companion piece to Poe’s The Domain of Arnheim, which I read on Saturday. My rating: King

#21 “I Dream of Zenia with the Bright Red Teeth” by Margaret Atwood: the characters from Atwood’s novel,”The Robber Bride” reunite many years later and recall their misadventures with Zenia from that novel. This was my most anticipated story of the 24, but as so often happens my high expectations left me disappointed. My rating: King

#22 “The Tarn” by Hugh Walpole: My first reading of this author. If you liked Poe’s “A Cask of Amontillado” you’ll like The Tarn. Walpole’s Foster and Fenwick could be compared to Poe’s Fortunato and Montressor. What’s a Tarn? A deep mountain lake..  My rating: Ace

#23 “Tale of the Ragged Mountains” by Edgar Allen Poe: The Ragged Mountains really exist here in the United States. I doubt if you hiked into them you would encounter similar sights to those that Poe’s character did, however. My Rating: Ace

#24 “Ligeia” by Edgar Allen Poe: interesting that my random selection brought me my six Poe stories in pairs. What are the odds? Anyway, I’d heard of this story when I read Ackroyd’s excellent Poe biography a couple years ago. This story also makes a good companion piece to Chekhov’s “The Beauties” as much of its text is a paean to the lovely Ligeia. My rating: King

How did YOU do with the 24in48 Readathon? What were your favorite reads?

#24in48 Update 2

I’m already into day two of the 24in48 Readathon so it’s probably time to post another update. 🙂  

I finished another 7 stories since my first update yesterday, bringing my total to 12 – half of 24 and half of my planned reading. Half in the NUMBER of stories anyway! I don’t know about page count. I had two quite long “short” stories yesterday that took me about an hour each, which is more than I had budgeted. Maybe I’ll get some shorter ones today, which I’m starting out with Ramsey Campbell’s “The Brood” and the M.R. James classic “Casting the Runes.” This latter is the only story of my 24 that I’ve read before, but it’s been so long I hardly remember anything but the atmosphere. 

If you saw my prior posts, you know I’m applying the Deal Me In method to this challenge, picking 24 stories in advance to read and assigning them to the cards in a euchre deck. I draw one at a time and re-shuffle afterward, randomizing my order. (& I guess if you didn’t see my prior posts, you know now.) 🙂 

Here are some brief thoughts on stories six through 12 (I’m rating the stories according to the trump suit in a game of euchre Highest = Jack of the suit [right bower], Jack of same color [left bower], then Ace, King, Queen, Ten, Nine):

Story #6 was my first encounter with author Clive Barker (he of “Hellraiser” fame), reading his story “In the Hills, the Cities” from The Weird Compendium. Two clueless English tourists blunder upon a ritual of colossal magnitude while touring the countryside of the former Yugoslavia. I liked how the early part of the narrative included the time of day, like some kind of a log book, which gave the reader the feeling the story was counting down to something stupendous, and, boy, was it ever! Kind of long for a short story but it wowed me nonetheless.

My rating: Ace

Story #7 continued my first reading of an author with Octavia Butler’s acclaimed story, “Bloodchild.” The reader’s thrown right into the thick of an unknown world, but, near as I could make out, humans on this alien world have become the hosts for the young of insect-like natives. The narrator is a young boy/man who is slated to be ’impreganted’ by his family’s insect keeper.

My rating: King

Story #8 was Margaret Atwood’s chilling “Torching the Dusties” from her latest collection, Stone Mattress. The stories in this collection have aging as a theme, and this story explored a dystopian (at least for the elderly!) future where a grass-roots movement “Our Turn” creates upheaval by deciding the world no longer need waste resources on the elderly. The action takes place in the nursing home, Ambrosia Manor. Quite a disturbing tale, but representative of Atwood’s mastery.

My rating: Left Bower

Story #9 was Katherine Vaz’s “Math Bending Unto Angels” and was my first disappointment of the day. I’d read four other stories from her collection “Fado, and Other Stories” and all were home runs. This one may have been thrown out at first base. A tale of obsessive love, it did show signs of Vaz’s bewitchingly poetic prose, but it never latched on to me. The title sounded so promising too.

My rating: Queen

Story #10 was the oldest story of my group, Voltaire’s “Micromegas” which was written in 1752. It’s kind of an early version of sci-fi, as Voltaire uses a pair of visitors, one from a planet orbiting the star Sirius and the other a SaturnianTo share the story. The catch is that these creatures are of gigantic size. Even the Saturnian, large beyond human’s comprehension is considerd a dwarf by the other. The Story reminded me a little of Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, where the perspective of the very large and the very small are explored, but this story is more a commentary on the state of humanity and its apparent folly when one tries to explain it to outsiders. Very interesting tale, especially considering the time period when it was written.

My rating: King

Story #11 was my favorite of day one, and it’ll be tough to beat today. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a trilogy of short stories collectively known as The Suicide Club stories. This one, “Story of the Man with the Cream Tarts” was the first of these. I was unaware of their existence and only noticed them when searching for some more classic authors to populate my euchre deck for #24in48. This story also was special to me because the dealing of cards is a important component of the story (Deal Me In, baby!). Very dramatic and well written.

My rating: Right Bower

Story #12 was the title story of Margaret Atwood’s “Stone Mattress” collection and yet another solid entry (I expect no less from her). It’s the story of Verna, kind of a lite version of an aging black widow. She’s a lite version at least until she encounters someone from her past on an arctic tour ship. She carefully and flawlessly plots her revenge for “Bob’s” criminal act of decades ago. 

My rating: Left Bower

That’s it for me as of the end of day one. I’ve really been enjoying taking the short story reading approach to this challenge. I’ve taken a break after each story and tried to finish each one in one sitting, which I thus far have managed to do (if you don’t count falling asleep at my post last night against me)

How is your readathon going? Is there anyone else of our roughly 200 participants thatisfocusing on short stories? What are your favorite reads of the weekend thus far?

#24in48 Update #1:

If you read my last post, you know I’m participating in the “24in48” challenge this weekend, the goal being to spend 24 of the 48 hours (between midnight Friday to midnight Sunday) reading. I’m spicing up my challenge by playing a mini-game of Deal Me In, with 24 short stories each assigned to a card in a euchre deck of paying cards. My list of stories I’ll be reading is in my previous post.

I got up extra early today and have read five stories so far. I’m also going to rate the stories using the rank of cards in the trump suit in euchre, from “Right Bower” (the best, i.e. “five star” rating) proceeding downward from Left Bower, Ace, King, Queen, Ten to a “nine” as being my equivalent of a one star rating. (I doubt any stories of this poor quality made it past my screening process, but we’ll see.) A quick recap of the first five:

Story #1 “The Dead Hand Loves You” – Margaret Atwood: the first card I draw is a forty-two page story?! Wow. Probably the longest of my deck. This was a great story, though. A “starving writer” makes a deal with his three college roommates, who he owes 3+ months rent to, that he’ll split any proceeds of the novel he’s working on with them if they forgive his debt and extend his residency another month. No one expects his work to have any market value but, lo, he writes a cult horror classic!

My rating: Ace

Story #2 “Lusus Naturae” – Margaret Atwood

I learned a lot of vocabulary with two Atwood stories right out of the gate! I didn’t know or had forgotten that lusus naturae is a term for freakof nature, which describes the (unreliable?) narrator of this shorter Atwood story. The family of a child who would be more at home in a circus side show is Embarrassed by her and fakes her death so that the rest of them, including a sister hopeful of making a good marriage, may have a chance at a normal life. Things are going okay until the neighbors find out…

My rating: Left Bower

Story #3 “The Power of Words” by Edgar Allen Poe

The deck of cards I’m using for this project features “animals” and the one I drew for this story has a butterfly on it. Appropriate, since this Poe “story” is really more like a dialog from the Greek Philosophers, the subject of which would today be called “The Butterfly Effect”

My rating: Queen

Story #4 “The Domain of Arnheim” by Edgar Allen Poe

It’s true that it was “in Xanadu did Kublai Khan a stately pleasure dome decree” but Poe’s insanely rich character, Ellis, searches the world for a suitable place to create a work of art from nature, which by the end of the story we learn is the titular “domain.” I was unaware of this Poe story before today, but it is one that made quite an impression on me.

My rating: Left Bower

Story #5 “The Beauties” by Anton Chekhov

Shout out to my blogging colleague at Short Story Magic Tricks for piquing my interest in this one last week. There’s not much a “plot” here, it’s almost more of an essay on the effect the beauty (feminine beauty, in this case) can have on a man. You know when Chekhov writes something like “I saw the bewitching features of the most beautiful face I have ever met in real life or in my dreams,” that you’re in for a treat of a story.

My rating: Ace

That’s where I stand now at about 730am. How is YOUR 24in48 Readathon proceeding? Have you read any of these five stories? Okay, enough time wasted… I’m “going back in!” See you after five more stories. Maybe. 🙂

A “Challenging” Weekend Ahead!

I learned via Katherine’s blog (The Writerly Reader) of a new to me challenge coming up this weekend. It’s called the 24in48 Readathon (see It’s kind of a less hard-core version of Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon. In this one, participants are given 48 hours on the clock to get their 24 hours of reading done. Ah, SLEEP is possible! 🙂

My plan, though, is not necessarily to log 24 hours of reading, but to complete twenty-four selected short stories. AND, as host of the Annual Deal Me In short story reading challenge, I feel I should assign the stories to the 24 playing cards (drawing them one at a time to randomize my reading order) in a euchre deck. (Euchre is a very popular card game in the U.S. Midwest and Canada, but if you’re not familiar with the rules and are interested, look here)

I plan to write a few posts with very brief summaries of the stories and how I rate them. I think I will count my post-writing time toward my 24 hours too (although this may be bending the rules!) Maybe I’ll write one post for each “hand” of five cards that I deal and one for “the widow” (the remaining four “unused” cards in a hand of euchre)

Here are the stories I’ve chosen for #24in48

Spades – stories by Edgar Allan Poe

J – The Angel of the Odd

A – The Domain of Arnheim

K – The Imp of the Perverse

Q – Tale of the Ragged Mountains

10 – The Power of Words

9 -Ligeia

Clubs – Margaret Atwood (the remaining six stories I haven’t read from Stone Mattress)

J – Lupus Naturae

A – The Freeze-Dried Groom

K – I Dream of Zenia with the Bright Red Teeth

Q – The dead Hand loves You

10 – Stone Mattress

9 – Torching the Dusties

Hearts – A miscellany of stories I want to read

J – The Beauties (Anton Chekhov)

A – the Enchanted Island (Washington Irving)

K – The Story of the Young Man with the Cream Tarts (Robert Louis Stevenson)

Q – Math Bending Unto Angels (Katherine Vaz)

10 – Micromegas (Voltaire)

9 – Free Radicals (Alice Munro)


Diamonds – Stories from The Weird compendium:

J – Casting the Runes (M.R. James)

A – The Tarn  (Hugh Walpole)

K – The Brood (Ramsey Campbell)

Q – Blood Child (Octavia Butler)

10 – In the Hills, the Cities (Clive Barker)

9 – Family (Joyce Carol Oates)

What do you think of my plan and my story selections? I should mention as well that you are completely free to join me in this challenge. 🙂 Wish Me luck!

Deal Me In 2015 – Week 27 Wrap Up

I think several of us took the week off due to the holiday, but below are links to those posts I found that are new since our last wrap-up. Happy reading! 

Image above from includes a summary of the legend of Oriza (relevant to one of this week’s stories)

Katherine at The Writerly Reader read Stephen King’s “The Tale of Gray Dick” and also shares her DMI “Luna Extra” story, Eugie Foster’s “When it Ends, He Cacthes her.”

Dale at Mirror With Clouds revisits Steven Millhauser and his short story “Phantoms

“o” at Behold the Stars tackles Franz Kafka’s “Investigations of a Dog”

Jay at Bibliophilopolis (that’s me!) read Victoria Barrett’s “Small Planes Flying Low”

See you next week!

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