My 2nd “Annual” Experiment in Bibliomancy is…tomorrow!


A couple years ago, after re-reading one of my favorite M.R. James stories, “The Ash Tree,” I was reminded of the “lost art” of bibliomancy and wrote the blog post found here.  Re-reading it this week, I realized that I had threatened to make my “Experiment in Bibliomancy” an annual November 1st event and – promptly forgot about it. So, I’m bringing it back tomorrow!

What exactly is Bibliomancy? In the simplest terms, Google reveals that it is “foretelling the future by interpreting a randomly chosen passage from a book, especially the Bible.” The protagonist of M.R. James’s “The Ash Tree” uses the Bible, but for my purposes last time I just looked for “the biggest book I could find,” which happened to be a multi-thousand page ebook of the complete works of Jack London.

This year, it will be the “Song of Ice and Fire Edition,” as I will use the text of the first three books in that series as my source for “random access” quotations. I’ll first start each randomization in book 1 randomly picking a page and looking at the length of the first word on the page 1-letter word sends me to the first book, 2-letter word to the second, 3-letters to the third, 4-letters back to the 1st book, 5-letters to the second and so on. I’ll be asking three questions. And no, I haven’t decided what they will be yet. Mine probably will be personal, but maybe just one could be an at-large question someone suggests here in the comments, or a political question like who will the next president be, or some other one related to current events. Any ideas to help me out? Have YOU ever tried Bibliomancy? What book or books did you use? Last time, I mentioned I might use Bartlett’s Quotations the next time around, but I fear that makes things to easy for the “bibliomancer” to interpret…
Image below found here

“Between the Lines” – a short story by Ben Winters

Read for:  Week 40 of the 2015 Deal Me In Challenge

Card Drawn: Ace of Diamonds

My Source for the story:  The “Indy Writes Books” anthology

My other experience with this author:  His short story “Man on the Monon” and his book “The Last Policeman

This story is the lead-off hitter in the Indy Writes Books anthology that was published late last year. It’s a kind of Gift of the Magi meets a Steve Jobs Product Launch meets the Twilight Zone. Well, Gift of the Magi may not be totally appropriate, although like that story the twist of this one is the result of only the best intentions. Experienced readers know, however, that good intentions are not necessarily an effective vaccine against protagonist woe…

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We’ve become an increasingly a gadget-addicted society in the past decade or two. Things are speeding up too, as new products are coming at a fast and furious pace. Winters highlights this trend with the very first sentence of the story: “When the company announced that they would be making an announcement, everybody flipped out.” Sound familiar? Speculation follows about what the new gadget might be this time. When the announcement finally comes we learn that the new device is one “that allowed human beings to enter into works of fiction.” The name of the device appropriately gives this story its title.
Of course, for consumers, buying a “Between the Lines” device is not where it ends. To use the device, you also need to buy an “OpenBook” to insert into the device. Neither are cheap in the imagined (probably not too distant) future of the story. In spite of the expense, the Sutters – a simple wage-earning couple (not poor, but one that can’t often afford luxuries) have a daughter Caitlin who has always loved to read and who is also approaching her twelfth birthday so they decide to buy her one… Let the scrimping and saving begin! Mr. Sutter begins walking to work instead of buying a “transit card” meals are skipped at the office, purchases of new clothes are put on hold and finally the day comes when he arrives at the “Wolcott & Lombe” bookstore armed with more than enough to buy a Between the Lines and an OpenBook to go with it (he had over-saved in fear of an unexpected price increase). The OpenBook they’ve decided to purchase for Caitlyn is none other than “Alice in Wonderland.” How sweet.

Like any good parent, Mr. Sutter is concerned whether or not there are safety issues with such a device. “Is there any danger?” he asks. The salesperson gives him a well-rehearsed reply that he’s likely given thousands of time since the product came out. “There is no danger in any of these books, sir. That’s the whole point. You go into the book and you experience the book, but you can’t change the story, and the story can’t change you. But the memories? The memories last a lifetime.”

The last sentence there provides a bit of foreshadowing for the direction the story goes. Mr. Sutter decides to use his excess of saved cash to buy a second OpenBook for him and his wife to enjoy and excitedly heads home with his purchases. I’m afraid I have to stop here since I don’t want to have to write “MAJOR spoiler alert” preceding this post.

I liked the story a lot, particularly how effectively Winters captures the essence of our gadget obsessed culture. There’s also a section where he discusses the early days of Between the Lines’ release – which OpenBooks are most popular and with what demographics, and also about how, for a time anyway, the Between the Lines phenomenon leads to a resurgence in the bookstore business. He even notes that some authors “righteously opted out of the licensing deals” noting that there would be no OpenBook edition of “The Corrections” at Jonathan Franzen’s “irritated insistence.” (heh heh. Well played, Mr. Winters)
If you’d like to read this story – and the others in this fine anthology – you may purchase a copy at Indy Reads Books bookstore in downtown Indianapolis. Proceeds from its sales go to support local literacy initiatives, so it’s a win-win purchase for you.:-) You can also find info at http://www.indyreads.org/indy-writes-books/

I’ve posted about several of the other stories from this book as part of my annual Deal Me In Short Story Reading Challenge. Links to some of my favorites are below.

Your Book: A Novel in Stories – Cathy Day

Small Planes, Flying Low – Victoria Barrett

El Estocada – John David Anderson

Finding Eudora – Amy Sorrells

Anna’s Wings – Angela Jackson- Brown

(“Picture if you will… a hard-working young couple saves their money to buy their daughter a new OpenBook device that allows her to step into a beloved novel – or perhaps maybe… intoThe Twilight Zone…”)

Ace of Diamonds image used for this post found here

R.I.P. X – Peril of the Short Story – Updates

R.I.P. Meets Deal Me In!

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I’ve completed a bunch of additional stories from my R.I.P. list and only have two to go. Here is my original post and list. Here is my last update. Some brief thoughts on the new ones I’ve finished:

♠7♠ “The Open Window” by Saki (from link at Paula Cappa’s blog) – 5 stars. Easily my favorite so far. Saki manages to pull off an amazing prank with his protagonist – and maybe even us, the reader – as the victim. Read it online at http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/OpeWin.shtml

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Above: Hector Hugh Munro – a.k.a. “Saki” (I always thought he looked like Peter Lorre)

♠K♠ “The Hell Screen” by Ryunosuke Akutagawa (from “The Weird” anthology) – 3 stars. I expected a lot more from this one, as it is so highly acclaimed, but in the end I was disappointed. A half-(or more!) mad artist can only paint things that he has seen with his own eyes is commissioned by the prince to paint a vision of hell.

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Above: Not exactly the hell screen described in this story, but still quite infernal

♠J♠ “Act of Contrition” by Craig Clevenger (from The New Black anthology) – 4 stars. I didn’t like this one immediately, but I kept thinking about it and it keeps growing on me. Clevenger makes you think about just what is it that causes one to become a prophet. The New Black anthology strikes again!

♠A♠ “The Very Strange House Next Door” by Shirley Jackson (from the “Just an Ordinary Day” collection” – 4 stars. Shirley Jackson hasn’t failed me yet. This was a humorous rather than creepy story, though there are supernatural elements, narrated by a woman who claims she “can’t stand gossip” but then goes on to tell the entire story in the most gossip-y way you could imagine.

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♠3♠ “Do You Want That in Blonde, Brunette, or Auburn” by Glenn Lewis Gillette (from the Dark Futures anthology) – 3 stars. This one kind of reminded me of that twilight zone episode where a convicted man sentenced to solitary confinement on an asteroid or uninhabited planet (they must have had quite a surplus of those in that universe if they’re using them for jail cells!) and is delivered a robotic “mate” since the powers that be have decided that his solitude is “cruel and unusual.” In this story, the protagonist is The Last Man on Earth and is visited by extra-terrestrial “salesmen.”

Above: Jack Warden takes on robotic Jean Marsh in the Twilight Zone episode “The Lonely” – a classic!

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♠8♠ “The Grave of the Famous Poet” by Margaret Atwood (from “Dancing Girls and Other Stories) – 4.5 stars. A pretty strong story from one of my favorite writers. Not really a horror story but so “dark” it made me want to turn on all the lights in the house. Atwood relates the tale of what, to most, would seem to be a couple’s rather mundane existence. What lies beneath the exterior, however, are the kinds of things you might suspect of some but hope aren’t true.

How’s R.I.P. X going for you this year?

Top Ten Tuesday – Ten Favorite Ghost Stories


It’s a “Hallowe’en Freebie” at Top Ten Tuesday, and one of the options was “Ghost” Stories, but I’m going to tweak it a little further and share my top ten favorite ghost – or just plain scary – stories from my five years of the Deal Me In short story reading challenge.

Top Ten Tuesday is sponsored by our blogging friends over at The Broke and the Bookish.

Here we go! (Years refer to the year I read the story as part of Deal Me In; links are to my post about the story)

10. The Slype House” by A.C. Benson (2011)

9. Is Anybody There?” by Kim Newman (2012)

8. The Two Sams” by Glen Hirshberg (2014)

7. City of Dreams” by Richard Christian Matheson (2012)

6. The Howling Man” by Charles Beaumont (2013)

5.Beyond the Wall” by Ambrose Bierce (2014)

4. Don’t Look Now” by Daphne DuMaurier (2015)

3. Phantoms” by Steven Millhauser (2013)

2. The Willows” by Algernon Blackwood (2013)

1. Smee” by A.M. Burrage (2011) Still my favorite. I got goosebumps just remembering it as I typed this up(!)

Honorable Mentions? There were more than I dare list, but here are five:

“The Ash Tree” M.R. James (2011); “A Tree of Night” by Truman Capote (2012); “William Wilson” by Edgar Allan Poe (2012); “The Autopsy” by Michael Shea (2014); “Dial Tone” by Benjamin Percy (2015)

What about you?  Do we share any favorite ‘ghost’ stories?  How many of my ten have YOU read? Inquiring minds want to know… 🙂

Deal Me In – Week 42 & 43 Wrap Up

Below are links to new Deal Me In posts since the last update:

“o” from Behold the Stars wrote about the essay “The Plays of William Shakespeare” by Samuel Johnson http://beholdthestars.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/the-plays-of-william-shakespeare-by.html
and also Prosper Merimee’s “Carmen” (and other stories) http://beholdthestars.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/carmen-and-other-stories-by-prosper.html

Katherine at The Writerly Reader posts about “The Fix” by Thomas Cook https://katenread.wordpress.com/2015/10/25/deal-me-in-week-34-the-fix/

Dale at a Mirror With Clouds shared his thoughts on Mary Haloock Foote’s “A Cloud on the Mountain” https://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/mary-hallock-foote-a-cloud-on-the-mountain/

Also his week 43 post is the classic Richard Wright story “The Man Who Was Almost a Manhttps://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2015/10/22/richard-wright-the-man-who-was-almost-a-man/
And don’t forget to check out his Bradbury of the month too, as he posted about the story “The Golden Kite, The Silver Wind” https://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2015/10/15/bradbury-of-the-month-october-the-golden-kite-the-silver-wind/

Jason at Literature Frenzy checks in with his nine of diamonds, Edith Wharton’s “Souls Belated” http://literaturefrenzy.blogspot.com/2015/10/deal-me-in-challenge-souls-belated-by.html

I’ve read a bunch of stories lately, nearly completing my R.I.P. X “Peril of the Short story” list, a few more Robert Howard Conan tales (which I’ve generally been pleasantly surprised with) and, for Deal Me In, Steven Millhauser’s “A Voice in the Night” and Ben Winters’ excellent “Between the Lines” – sadly I haven’t had time to write many posts lately, as I’ve been in the clutches of an unrelated project that will finally be over on 11/8, after which I hope to get back to blogging more regularly. Maybe I can throw together a multi-story post soon to keep some sort of pulse going. 🙂

That’s it for now. Until next time – happy reading!

Deal Me In – Weeks 39-41 Wrap Up

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Sorry it’s been awhile since the last update. A combination of “Mission Fatigue” and having a lot going on right now had squeezed my blogging time out of the schedule for awhile. Anyway, below are links to the many new posts since the last update.

Dale’s (Mirror With Clouds) posts: Kate Chopin’s “The Storm” https://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2015/09/23/kate-chopin-the-storm/

John Cheever’s “The Country Husband” https://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2015/09/30/john-cheever-the-country-husband/
Amy Hempel’s “Today Will be a Quiet Day” https://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/amy-hempel-today-will-be-a-quiet-day/

Dale also featured a series of Kurt Vonnegut short stories from “Bagombo Snuff Box” in ’celebration’ of Banned Books Week. His last post has a link to his favorites. https://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2015/10/04/celebrating-banned-book-week-with-kurt-vonnegut-hal-irwins-magic-lamp/

Katherine’s (The Writerley Reader) posts: “Goodbye to All That” by Harlan Ellison https://katenread.wordpress.com/2015/10/11/deal-me-in-week-41-goodbye-to-all-that/

Laurie King’s “Weaving the Dark” https://katenread.wordpress.com/2015/10/04/deal-me-in-week-40-weaving-the-dark/

Lunar Extra: “The Little Maid at the Door” by Mary Wilkins Freeman https://katenread.wordpress.com/2015/09/27/deal-me-in-lunar-extra-the-little-maid-at-the-door/
“Dream Street” by Mike Lupica https://katenread.wordpress.com/2015/09/26/deal-me-in-week-39-dream-street/

o’s (Behold the Stars) posts:

“Women of Trachis” by Sophocles http://beholdthestars.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/women-of-trachis-by-sophocles.html

“Othello” by William Shakespeare http://beholdthestars.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/othello-by-william-shakespeare.html

“The Girl Who Loves Me” by Emile Zola http://beholdthestars.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/the-girl-who-loves-me-by-emile-zola.html

I (Bibliophilopolis – duh! 🙂 ) read “Dollhouse” by Craig Wallwork https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2015/09/28/dollhouse-a-short-story-by-craig-wallwork/ and a couple others that I haven’t posted about yet. 🙂

That’s all until next time. Happy reading!

Go read “Go Set a Watchman”

Bibliophilopolis is pleased to welcome a guest reviewer for this post!

Adrienne is a high school French and English teacher in Central Indiana, and a single mom. With the enormous amount of free time she has, she loves to read, wait for the next season of BBC’s “Sherlock” to be released, and cheers on her favorite soccer teams.

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Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

When I first heard that Harper Lee was releasing a new novel, fifty years after To Kill a Mockingbird was published, I was one (of the many) who was ecstatic. So when reviews came out painting Go Set a Watchman in a negative light, I was disappointed and worried it might damage my love for To Kill a Mockingbird.  Because you can’t always believe what you read on social media or on blogs (gasp!), I decided bad reviews wouldn’t deter me from reading the new novel.

When the book was finally released, I’ll admit I started reading cautiously.  With a lot of the reviews screaming “Atticus is a racist”, I almost expected the novel to open with Atticus bursting into the first scene donning a white sheet and carrying a burning cross. Instead, the novel opens with Scout, going now by her given name, Jean Louise, as an adult traveling from New York City back home to Maycomb for a visit.  I was immediately drawn into the novel with a few comical mishaps that prove to the reader that although she has grown up, Scout is still Scout, after all of these years.  While a lot in Maycomb has changed, one thing that has not is the way Jean Louise views her father: at 26 years old, Jean Louise still holds her father up on a very high pedestal. Herein lies the problem: all idols must eventually fall, and Atticus is no exception.  During her visit, Jean Louise begins to discover her father isn’t as perfect as she always imagined him to be.  For her, this discovery is devastating. Yet as I continued to read, I didn’t become angry as many others have. I actually understood the why: when you’ve placed your idol up so high that nothing can touch it, it takes something colossal to knock said idol down. What I discovered is that this book isn’t about Atticus Finch being a racist. It’s really about that moment when kids realize that their parents aren’t perfect; they’re human, with their own flaws and scars.  This process is something that we all must go through with our own parents, and for Jean Louise, it takes a massive shock to open her eyes to this life lesson.

In examining the negative reactions that have come from so many reviews, I’ve found it to be a great example of life imitating art. We (the readers), just like Jean Louise, have held Atticus Finch up on a literary pedestal since he first appeared in literature. He has been adored and loved for so long, and just as it was for Scout, it would take a massive flaw in order to knock him off our pedestals too. In a sense, WE are Jean Louise.  The difference is that it only took her 20 years to figure it out, instead of the 50 years it took us, as readers.

One thing the reader should keep in mind before casting the proverbial first stone at Atticus, is that we are, in part, a product of the time period in which we are born and raised. Atticus, for example, grew up in a time and place where segregation was the status quo. So although he had evolved enough to raise Scout to see and believe things very differently from how he was raised, it was also very hard for him to completely leave old, antiquated ways of life behind. He did the best that he could, and one redeeming quality is that in this novel he still tries to keep an open mind in every situation, even if he doesn’t always make the best decisions.

Overall, the novel is a very good read. I thought Harper Lee did a great job in representing both sides of the race issue (and what better timing than right now to release a book that can open further dialogue about race and race relations?). There are definitely some choppy spots where the novel would have benefited from a good, healthy edit, but there are also moments of absolutely gorgeous writing that remind you why Harper Lee is so highly revered.  Even in the rough spots, her talent still shines brightly.  It is also important to remember that this novel was never meant to be published. It was used simply as a springboard for the writing of To Kill a Mockingbird, and was never actually meant to be seen. With that in mind, if you are a huge fan of To Kill a Mockingbird, then you should definitely read Go Set a Watchman. The best novels are the ones that make you question and think through your own beliefs and ideals. Go Set a Watchman is capable of doing just that.

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above: a recent photo of Harper Lee (found at http://pixel.nymag.com/imgs/daily/vulture/2015/02/03/03-harper-lee-2.w750.h560.2x.jpg)

Want to read more? Here are a couple other great blog posts by “friends of Bibliophilopolis” Dale and Melissa about Go Set a Watchman:

https://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2015/08/20/harper-lees-go-set-a-watchman/

http://avidreader25.blogspot.com/2015/07/go-set-watchman.html