“By the Time You Read This” by Yannick Murphy – selection#1 of Deal Me In 2017

The Card: ♥4♥ Four of Hearts

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, the suit of Hearts is the domain of Atropos, one of the Fates from Greek Mythology who, according to Plato’s sings of things that are to be.

The Selection: “By the Time You Read This” from my copy of the 2015 Pushcart Prize Best of the Small Presses anthology (# 39)

The Author: Yannick Murphy, an award-winning author currently living in Vermont. For more about her, check out her website at http://www.yannickmurphy.com (where the pic at left is found)


What is the Deal Me in Challenge? Full details maybe found here, but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants read one story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for a list of the stories/essays I’ll be reading in 2017.

“By the Time You Read This”

“I killed myself because I couldn’t imagine those memories living alongside the more recent memories of you cheating on me.”

You can tell already this will be a cheery story, right? I guess it isn’t, although there are a few quite humorous moments in it as well. I didn’t know anything about the story when I chose to add it to my Deal Me In roster, I was only attracted by the title, which included the word “time.” I didn’t know it was about a suicide note. Or was it?

The writer of the note includes sections addressed to several people, predominantly her husband and daughter, but also a couple former teachers, her UPS man, and – of course – the other woman, who is the source of some of the humor. All other sections of the “suicide note” begin “Dear xxxx” (insert husband’s or daughter’s name, etc.) but the writer feels “Dear Slut” is too ridiculous. Check out the following:

“Dear whatever your name is, of course, in my eyes, you are Dear Slut, but I should really take the ‘dear’ out anyway because ‘dear’ and ‘slut’ are probably too incongruous to appear one right after the other and there is probably some rule my sixth-grade English teacher, Mr. Sun, could tell me about placing two incongruous words right next to each other. So, Slut, I am writing this to let you know…”

I liked how she solved the incongruity problem there, didn’t you? I also chuckled when future passages came around and began simply with, “Slut,”. Good stuff.

Toward the end of the story, the writer of the note seems to start having doubts about completing her suicidal act, noting certain things that she will miss out on if she follows through. I, for one, was glad these rays of hope entered this story with a dismal subject matter. Perhaps Atropos’s scissors will not yet snip the thread of her life after all.

The story also felt a little gimmicky (though writing a lengthy suicide note such as this one is a challenging exercise – and one which I think Murphy succeeds quite well at). I suppose “Write a suicide note from a jilted woman” would also make a good writing prompt for students, wouldn’t it?

This story originally appeared in issue 60 of Conjunctions Magazine (above; I like that cover art, too!), a biannual literary journal published by Bard College in New York, pictured below. (Man, that’s a lot of ivy…)

Deal Me In Coincidence: In doing the Deal Me In Challenge over the years, I’ve always enjoyed spotting coincidences of timing that may be found in the randomized order of the stories. This week’s story included a passage that is quite topical about now: “At times he takes things very seriously, and once, while watching election returns, he threw our television out the window when a certain president was elected that  he didn’t like.”

What about you? Have you read any stories or other worksof literature that focused on suicide? How effectively do you think they were done?

On deck for week 2 of Deal Me In 2017:  “Mr. Voice” by Jess Walter


  1. Dale said,

    January 6, 2017 at 8:35 pm

    Hadn’t heard of this author before but the story sounds good. I’ve read novels that were based on letters and they seemed very gimmicky. Like who documents lengthy conversations with people using quotation marks in an incredibly long letter? Using a letter probably works better in a short story. Sounds like it worked in this one.


    • Jay said,

      January 7, 2017 at 10:46 am

      My week 4 story is also in ‘epistolary’ format (I think that’s the word; I’m trying to work ahead this year and have posts scheduled in advance so that I don’t have so much ‘dead space’ between posting sometimes. We’ll see how that goes.)

      I think most if not all of my stories that came from the Pushcart Prize anthology will be new to me, and Murphy is no exception.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. hkatz said,

    January 7, 2017 at 11:22 pm

    The story’s concept is interesting, but I can see how it could come across as gimmicky.

    As for other works of literature about suicide… there first one I thought of is Dorothy Parker’s funny and dark poem, Resumé: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/44835

    I mean, she’s right 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jay said,

      January 9, 2017 at 9:27 am

      Thanks for the link to the poem! My favorite (that can’t be the right word) “suicide story” is The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe. (Or is it “The Sufferings of Young Werther”?)


  3. Gubbinal said,

    January 8, 2017 at 8:38 pm

    I can only think of a couple of really well-known novels that deal with suicide: Anna Karenina by Tolstoy and then there’s a character in Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs Dalloway” who kills himself (almost certainly because he is suffering from PTSD from WWI and had inadequate doctors). One that I read but that I found more of a “stunt” than a compelling study was “The Virgin Suicides” by Eugenides. It seemed so flippant and casual—as if five sisters had consecutively gone out and purchased a pair of blue jeans.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jay said,

      January 9, 2017 at 9:29 am

      I haven’t read the Eugenides book (and likely won’t). Didn’t Woolf herself commit suicide? Anna Karenina is a good example. As I noted above Goethe’s “The Sorrows of Young Werther” is a very good novel featuring that topic.


      • Gubbinal said,

        January 12, 2017 at 4:29 pm

        Yes, Woolf did kill herself at age 58 I think. She said it was because she could not go through another war (England was on the brink of WWII and she had had a very difficult WWI).

        Liked by 1 person

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