The Suit: For 2016, Hearts is my suit for “stories from Indiana-related literary magazines and literary journals”
The Selection: “Siddhartha” from the Autumn 2014 issue of The Gettysburg Review. I know, not an Indiana journal, but the story is written by a Hoosier. 🙂
The Author: Abe Aamidor, who lives in Indianapolis and has worked stints at The St. Louis Globe-Democrat, The (Champaign-Urbana) News Gazette, and The Indianapolis Star.
What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/storyroster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is now also officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.
For most of the years that I’ve done the Deal Me In challenge, I’ve left the “deuces wild” in each suit to allow at least a little room for ad hoc short story reading that presents itself during the year. Back in March, I went to a book club discussion at Indy’s “Bookmama’s Bookstore” for the book, “Monastery of Writers,” by Abe Aamidor. I found that discussion interesting for two reasons: one was that this was an established nonfiction author who has now ventured into writing fiction as well, the other was that he was remarkably candid about the things he probably still needed to fine tune in his fiction work, a few of which were questioned by the members attendance – e.g., I don’t think any of us liked the main character in Monastery of Writers, something he said editors had cautioned him about as well.
So, anyway, Aamidor mentioned that he now had had several short stories published so naturally asked him which was his favorite if he had to recommend just one. He said “Siddhartha, in the Gettysburg Review” So after I got home I did a little searching online and found the issue and ordered a copy.
“Don’t do it. Don’t take him back,” Mrs. McCarver said. “Men are no good.”
“I know,” Chastity said. “Daddy left you because men are no good. And Oliver’s daddy left him because he wasn’t no good, either. But Jeremy will have a daddy.”
I suppose borrowing the title of a famous novel for a short story is a tricky business. Will you be considered pretentious? Will readers understand what the connection is? Will they have even read the novel? If they have (and liked it) will they be offended by a story appropriating its title? For my part, I have read the Herman Hesse classic a couple of times, once fairly recently on an audio re-read that I listed to over several days while doing my walking (actually quite appropriate if you’ve read that book!) and could feel the connection right away. Aamidor’s short story follows Oliver, a modern-day young man in Bloomington, Indiana, who sets out on his own Siddhartha-like journey, maybe not so much to seek enlightenment, but rather to escape the circumstances of his life, by which, frankly, he seems overmatched. Oliver’s a little slow-witted, and has had trouble keeping a job. He has a wife and young child that he clearly cares for, he just doesn’t know how to cope with the responsibilities of adulthood and feels they may be better off without him.
He’s at least planned out his escape to some degree, first parking his car at the Abe Martin Lodge in Brown County State Park, and removing the plates to make identification take longer, then by taking off on foot and hiking south through the Hoosier National Forest. He’s on his way to Kentucky, which is where he’s been told “his people” come from.
The reader finds himself sympathizing with Oliver, who seems to have a good heart, just not the intelligence or training to make his way on his own. He has interactions along his journey with a convenience store clerk, a couple motorists who give him lifts, personnel at a military base, and the managers of a homeless shelter. Each in their own way help to illuminate Oliver’s shortcomings. And, unlike Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha, who had his friend Govinda, poor Oliver has no one to accompany him on his journey, and he eventually runs out of steam and meekly returns home to what fate might await him at the hands of his wife and mother-in-law…
I have enjoyed reading a sampling of works from various literary journals this year. There’s a lot of good work being done and published there. I do wonder how big a reading audience they garner, however. Anyone have any inside info on that? And what about you? Have you read the Herman Hesse novel? Do you subscribe to any literary journals? Any you want to recommend?
Oh, and maybe you can have a laugh at my expense when I mention that, before hearing about the Gettysburg Review, I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t even know Gettysburg College was an actual place, I had assumed it was only “made up” from its appearance in the great movie, Remember the Titans. 🙂