A Voyage Against War (May Wright Sewell and the Ford Peace Ship) by Ray Boomhower – selection 3 of #DealMeIn2020

 

The Card: ♥Nine♥ of Hearts.

The Suit: For Deal Me In 2020, ♥♥♥Hearts♥♥♥ is my Suit for Books I picked up at the 2019 Holiday Author Fair a the Indiana History Center. This suit is also the only suit where I have  some short non-fiction pieces (4 of them). This is one of them.

The Author: Ray Boomhower – a prolific author of books about all things Indiana, particularly history and biographies. I’ve read several of his books in the past, biographies of Gus Grissom, General Lew Wallace, and Ernie Pyle.

The Story: “A Voyage Against War (May Wright Sewall and the Ford Peace Ship)” from Boomhower’s book “Indiana Originals,” which contains essays about 40 luminaries of the Hoosier state. For Deal Me In 2020, I picked four of the stories that were about famous Indiana Women.

What is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details may be found here  but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants try to read one short story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for the list I’ll be reading in 2020.

A Voyage Against War (May Wright Sewall and the Ford Peace Ship)

 “I was particularly interested in the university students,” she said, “who, although it was their holiday week, called in great numbers. I was amazed by both the intelligence,and by the lively interest in serious subjects of these young people, whom I was mentally comparing with my young countrymen and countrywomen of student age to the distinct advantage of the latter.”

I like it when my Deal Me In reading leads me to learning new things. Last week, it was the discovery of Russian Mathematician, Sophia Kovalevsky. This week, I learned about the “Ford Peace Ship” (I don’t recall knowing about it before, unless it was one of those cases of hearing about something in passing and not remembering). Organized by automaker Henry Ford and including roughly 60 delegates he invited, the Peace Ship (the Scandinavian-American Line’s “S.S. Oscar II” pictured at left) was an effort to strengthen the dialogue for peace and help move Europe – embroiled in war between the Allied powers and the Central powers – toward ending World War I (which the U.S. hadn’t even entered by the time the voyage took place). When reading about this event, I admit my first thought was, “Well, that’s certainly a naive enterprise!” and you can imagine that many of their contemporaries saw the voyage as a waste of time (see also, for example, the political cartoons at the bottom of this post).

The voyage first stopped in Oslo, but spent considerable time in Stockholm, where they had apparently a busy schedule, and later the Netherlands.  I’m not sure if the voyage can be counted a success in tangible measures, but Wright Sewall and others disagreed, saying “To have advanced its (peace’s) arrival by one hour is adequate compensation for the the cost in money, time and sacrifices of the the Expedition if multiplied a thousandfold.” I think their best success probably was in “initiating dialog” and so forth, which regrettably often moves change forward more slowly than other factors.

What about you? Had you heard of this episode of early 20th Century U.S. History? If YOU could dispatch a ship on a Peace Voyage today, for what destination would you set its course? It just occurred to me that perhaps young climate activist Greta Thunberg’s recent voyage is a kind of a modern day Peace Voyage. What do you think?

Deal Me In Coincidence of the Week? This week marked my home state of Indiana’s 100th Anniversary of Women (finally!) gaining the right to vote – another cause which May Wright Sewall was deeply involved in.

Next week for Deal Me In 2020 – Larry Sweazy’s “The Prairie Fire”

Below: The subject of this essay also helped found the Indianapolis Propylaeum, about a 30-minute walk from Deal Me In Headquarters. (I was going to walk over there today and take a picture, but with sub-zero wind chills this morning, I found a google image instead 🙂 )

During my internet ‘research’ for this post, I also stumbled upon this puzzle, which I now want. 🙂 (Suffrage puzzle sold by Uncommon Goods.) 

Below: Henry Ford. Unfortunately, poor health led him to turn around and come home just after the peace ship reached Europe. 

If I investigate this event in history further, it may be via reading the book below:

Political cartoonists had a field day with the voyage, seeing what they believed to be an easy target for ridicule.

 

 

 

Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro – Selection 2 of #DealMeIn2020

The Card: ♦King♦ of Diamonds. (image from Pinterest)

The Suit: For Deal Me In 2020, ♦♦♦Diamonds♦♦♦ is my Suit for “Favorite Female Authors,” and I’m reading from three collections – Margaret Atwood’s “Dancing Girls,” Daphne Du Maurier’s “The Birds and Other Stories,” and Alice Munro’s “Too Much Happiness”

The Author: Alice Munro (one of the world’s most acclaimed short story writers). I’ve blogged about a few stories of hers before, some as part of prior years’ Deal Me In: “Amundsen“, “Some Women“, “Axis“, and “Menesetung.” I liked all of them but Axis may have been my favorite. Picture from nobelprize.org. Yeah, she won one of those for literature. 🙂

The Story: “Too Much Happiness” from her short story collection of the same name. I own a kindle version, er, “license” of this book. I had originally intended to read 4 novella-length “short stories” for Deal Me In this year, assigning them to the nines in my short story deck (‘it’s “Nine for Novella” this week at Deal Me In’ blah blah blah) , but in the end I only included two.

What is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details may be found here  but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants try to read one short story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for the list I’ll be reading in 2020.

Too Much Happiness

“Always remember that when a man goes out of the room, he leaves everything in it behind,” her friend Marie Mendelson has told her. “When a woman goes out she carries everything that happened in the room along with her.”

Witty quotations like the above point out that there may be, of course, differences between men and women in the way they view the world or think or act. But, where there shouldn’t be differences is in regards to the amount of opportunity available to either sex. This nearly novella length story led me down a rabbit hole of discovery, learning about “the most famous woman scientist before the 20th century,” Sophia Kovalevskaya (pictured below), who struggled against the prejudices of her time, yet achieved much in her too-short life.

I’ve been a fan of Alice Munro for a long time and haven’t read a bad story by her yet. I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t heard of Sophia Kovalevsky before this year (See the Wikipedia page about Kovalevskaya at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sofya_Kovalevskaya). I also wish I had known the historical background for story before I started reading, since by hopping around and using flashbacks I was left a little confused. What still shone through, however,  was the story of an exceptional woman who, through her determination, began to blaze a trail that many others would follow – and are still following today (Even now, I am often reading or hearing about the under-representation of women in the STEM fields). Her resolve in the face of the obstacles of her time should be inspiring to all, women and men.

Another quotation from the story which I found interesting was the following (and my kindle tells me it has been highlighted by a great many of the book’s readers):

“She was learning, quite late, what many people around her appeared to have known since childhood – that life can be perfectly satisfying without major achievements. It could be brimful of occupations which did not weary you to the bone. Acquiring what you needed for a comfortably furnished life, and then to take on a social and public life of entertainment, would keep you from even being bored or idle, and would make you feel at the end of the day that you had done exactly what pleased everybody. There need be no agonizing.

For my part, however, I almost feel that those born with a special talent cannot find solace in this approach, since that very talent almost demands of them that they “see it through.” I think that Sophia is driven in this way.

Here’s a copy of Munro’s acknowledgements page about this story, screenshotted from my kindle app. I always enjoy reading about the genesis of stories…

munro

I couldn’t find this story available online anywhere, but if you’re a Munro fan, the book is worth picking up. I was also inspired by this reading to update my donation via amazon.smile for 2020 to the Association of Women in Mathematics. Why not do the same? See this link to point you where to go https://awm-math.org/

What about you? Had you heard of this woman before? (Be honest)  This week’s “Deal Me In Coincidence?” (almost) – Kovalevsky’s birthday is January 15th. Just missed it by a few days. 🙂

Next up for Deal Me In 2020: Ray Boomhower’s “A Voyage Against War (May Wright Sweall and the Ford Peace Ship)”

You know when you’ve made it onto a Soviet stamp, you’re a pretty big deal in the C.C.C.P!

Below: A serene final resting place for a brilliant mind…

The Actress by Agatha Christie – Selection 1 of #DealMeIn2020

The Card: ♠Five♠ of Spades (image found on Pinterest) 

The Suit: For Deal Me In 2020, ♠♠♠Spades♠♠♠ is my Suit for “darker” stories.  Loosely defined this year as Science Fiction, Mysteries, and those from an Alfred Hitchcock anthology.

The Author: Agatha Christie (you may have heard of her 🙂). I actually haven’t read THAT much by her. One of my book clubs read her classic mystery “And Then There Were None” (a.k.a. Ten Little Indians, which was how a paperback version I read when I was a school kid was titled), and I also blogged about a good short story of hers titled “The Red Signal.” I also remember once Christie was an answer to a “trivia night” question at a local pub I frequent. Something about ‘the English language author who has sold the most books of all time” (I didn’t fact check afterward, but I guess that wouldn’t surprise me.) Photo of a young Agatha found at Wikipedia)

The Story: “The Actress” from her short story collection “The Harlequin Tea Set and other Stories” which I own a kindle version of.

What is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details may be found here  but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants try to read one short story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for the list I’ll be reading in 2020.

The Actress

“Her faint, derisive smile was answer enough. Beneath her self-control, though he did not guess it, was the impatience of the keen brain watching a slower brain laboriously cover the ground it had already traversed in a flash.”

I am not necessarily a believer in “luck” or coincidences, but I freely admit to being an entertained observer of their seeming manifestations. Part of the appeal to me of the Deal Me In challenge is the luck of the draw – i.e., why did I draw this particular card for this particular week? (I know the true answer is random chance, but I like to speculate otherwise). Though I thoroughly enjoyed this week’s story, it’s certainly not as deep or thought-provoking as many on my 2020 roster will hopefully be. Yet, I thought it was a perfect story to get me “warmed up” for a new year of Deal Me In. It has the qualities which I’ve admired in other Agatha Christie stories – a tidy, compact rendering with nothing superfluous and everything in its place. I suppose an acclaimed writer of mysteries would find such a style helpful.

This story was first published under a different title – “A Trap for the Unwary” in The Novel Magazine in 1923. I’m not sure when or why its name was changed – perhaps before its inclusion in other collections. Whatever the reason, though, I applaud the change, as the protagonist gets the main billing, which she richly deserves…

Olga Stormer is a stage actress in the process of making a name for herself. We join her in this story as she is “adding yet another triumph to her list of successes as “Cora,” in The Avenging Angel.” Not much of a story yet, though, right? What if I told you Olga Stormer is not her real name (that name would be the plain-sounding “Nancy Taylor”), but that’s still not quite a story, right? I mean many performers take stage names, and one must admit that “Olga Stormer” fires the imagination a little more than “Nancy Taylor.” BUT this character didn’t change her name for her career, she changed it when she went on the run after an incident in her past. A pretty serious incident, actually. When she was a “half-starved little gutter waif,” she says, she “shot a man, a beast of a man who deserved to be shot. The circumstances under which I killed him were such that no jury on earth would have convicted me.” When it happened though, she was “only a frightened kid” and thus ran and has been fleeing her past ever since.

We join the story as a man from her past intrudes upon her present, threatening to reveal her sordid history to her “public” thus ruining her if he is not paid. She discusses how to deal with the threat with her manager (the quotation above is from her interaction with him) and the solution that she comes up with is worth an Academy Award. In which category I’m not sure as it seems she’d be eligible for several. Olga’s execution of her “defense strategy” was clean and seamless and, thus, also entertaining.

What about YOU? Are you an Agatha Christie fan? Are there other short stories of hers that you would recommend? What about mysteries in general? What is your favorite short story mystery?

Next week on #DealMeIn2020: Alice Munro’s “Too Much Happiness”

 

 

 

My Short Story Deck for Deal Me In 2020

One of my favorite things to do as the end of the year approaches is to come up with a roster of short stories to read for my annual Deal Me In Short Story Reading Challenge. This year was no exception and I’m excited about the stories that I was able to come up with. (It sure helps to have a lot of anthologies populating one’s bookshelf too!

One wrinkle I’m adding this year is the plan that, when I draw one of my four wild cards (Deuces Wild!) I will walk over to one of three nearby libraries and get a story from the shelves there. I have the Indiana State Library, The Library at the Indiana History Center, and the Central Branch of the Marion County Public Library. All within walking distance of Deal Me In Headquarters!

So, without further ado, here we go!

Wait – “Could it be that you don’t know the story of Deal Me In? Well, pull up an ice block and lend me…” er, read the signup post here. Sorry, but it is Christmas Eve after all… Have a Holly Jolly Christmas everybody!

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♦♦♦Diamonds♦♦♦

For this year’s Deal Me In diamonds suit, I’m going with stories from favorite female authors. I’m taking four stories each from Alice Munro‘s “Too Much Happiness”, Margaret Atwood‘s “Dancing Girls”, and Daphne Du Maurier‘s “The Birds and Other Stories”

♦A♦ – The Birds – Daphne Du Maurier

♦2♦ – Wild Card – library pick?

♦3♦ – Kiss Me Again, Stranger – Daphne Du Maurier

♦4♦ – The Old Man – Daphne Du Maurier

♦5♦ – Betty – Margaret Atwood

♦6♦ – Polarities – Margaret Atwood

♦7♦ – Under Glass – Margaret Atwood

♦8♦ – Hair Jewelry – Margaret Atwood

♦9♦ – Monte Verita – Daphne Du Maurier

♦10♦ – Deep Holes – Alice Munro

♦J♦ – Child’s Play – Alice Munro

♦Q♦ – Wood – Alice Munro

♦K♦ –  Too Much Happiness – Alice Munro (week 2)

♠♠♠Spades♠♠♠

As I often do, I’m going to devote a suit to darker stories.  Loosely defined this year as Science Fiction, Mysteries, and an Alfred Hitchcock anthology, “Stories Not for the Nervous.” My Sci-fi stories will be from William Tenn’s collection “Here Comes Civilization” and the mysteries from Agatha Christie’s “The Harlequin Tea Set and Other Stories.”

♠A♠ – Manx Gold – Agatha Christie

♠2♠ – Wild Card – Library Read?

♠3♠ – Within a Wall – Agatha Christie

♠4♠ – The Lonely God – Agatha Christie

♠5♠ – The Actress – Agatha Christie (week 1)

♠6♠ – The Malted Milk Monster – William Tenn

♠7♠ – Everybody Loves Irving Bruner – William Tenn

♠8♠ –  The Ionia Cycle – William Tenn

♠9♠ –  Dune Roller – Julian May

♠10♠ – The Puzzle of Priipiirii – William Tenn

♠J♠ –  The Man With the Copper Fingers – Dorothy Sayers

♠Q♠ –  Don’t Look Behind You – Frederick Brown

♠K♠ – The Bath for the Brooms – Margot Bennet

♥♥♥Hearts♥♥♥

Hearts are going to be for stories from three books I picked up at the recent Holiday Author Fair at the Indiana History Center, because I ♥ supporting local authors and events. 🙂 The three books are 1) Ray Boomhower‘s “Indiana Originals” (non fiction tales about famous Hoosiers – for this challenge, I picked only the pieces about famous female Hoosiers. 2) Trading Post – an anthology of Western tales edited by Hoosier author Larry Sweazy, and 3) My Name Was Never Frankenstein – an anthology collected by Hoosier author Bryan Furuness. I spoke to all three authors at the event and decided they were worthy of a suit in this year’s Deal Me In Challenge. 🙂

♥A♥– The Prairie Fire – Larry Sweazy (week 4)

♥2♥ – Wild Card – Library Story?

♥3♥ – The Trading Post – Michael Zimmer

♥4♥ – Wren’s Perch – Vonn McKee

♥5♥ – Dirty Old Tom – Greg Hunt

♥6♥ – The Thing is Right (Eliza Blaker, Teacher) – Ray Boomhower

♥7♥ – For the People (Julia Carson) – Ray Boomhower

♥8♥ – A Woman of the Limberlost (Gene Stratton Porter) – Ray Boomhower

♥9♥A Voyage Against War (May Wright Sewall and the Ford Peace Ship) – Ray Boomhower (week 3)

♥10♥ – Listen to Me – Bryan Furuness

♥J♥ –  The Return of the Ape Man – Edward Porter

♥Q♥ –  My Name Was Never Frankenstein – Rachel Brittain

♥K♥ – There Once Was a Man – Kelcey Parker Ervick

♣♣♣Clubs♣♣♣

Clubs will be my suit for “the rest” of the stories I wanted to include. I have four relatively recent stories published in The New Yorker magazine, four stories From Ernest Hemingway, and four stories from a recent anthology, “Grimm, Grit, and Gasoline” from World Weaver Press, several of whose books I already own.

♣A♣ – God’s Caravan (The New Yorker) – Tiphanie Yanique

♣2♣ – Wild Card – Library Story?

♣3♣ – Old Hope (The New Yorker) – Clare Sestanovich

♣4♣ – Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God (The New Yorker) – Joyce Carol Oates

♣5♣ –  The Bunty Club (The New Yorker) – Tessa Hadley

♣6♣ – The Gambler, The Nun and the Radio – Ernest Hemingway

♣7♣ – The Short Happy Life of Francis McComber – Ernest Hemingway

♣8♣ – Homage to Switzerland – Ernest Hemingway

♣9♣ – God Rest You Merry, Gentleman – Ernest Hemingway

♣10♣ – Circles and Salt – Sara Cieto

♣J♣ – Evening Chorus – Lizz Donnelly

♣Q♣ – One Hundred Years – Jennifer R. Donohue

♣K♣ – Things Forgotten on the Cliffs of Avevig – Wendy Nikel

So… what do you think of my selections this year? Any authors among your favorites? How many of these stories have YOU read? Enquiring minds want to know! 🙂

It’s the Most Wonderful Day of the Year! Join Me for the 10th Anniversary Edition of the Deal Me In Challenge!

The Deal Me In Challenge is BACK!!  (And so am I! – at least I hope to be a more active blogger in the new year!)

Everyone gets busy with Real World responsibilities, and sometimes it is hard to find enough time to make room for a healthy amount of reading. The number of books I’ve read per year has been steadily decreasing the past few years and hit a new low in 2019 when travel, other responsibilities and interests continued to carve out more and more of my available time. Not to mention that the “Deal Me In Office Headquarters” (i.e., my residence) was rendered uninhabitable by a tornado(!) halfway through the year. I’m set up and settled down a little again now in downtown Indianapolis and am planning on a big new year for the blog AND for the Deal Me In Challenge.

When I started blogging, it only took me a year ( 🙂 ) to invent the Deal Me In Challenge (I actually got the idea from (I think retired – does anyone know what became of them or what they moved on to? I’d love to know.) bloggers Padfoot and Prongs who were doing a similar project only with books. Short stories are obviously much less of a reading burden (anyone can finish ONE short story a week, right?) so I did a test (solo) run of the DMI Challenge in 2011. In 2012 a couple more bloggers joined in and the number of participants just kept growing. I’m very proud in the knowledge that literally THOUSANDS of short stories have been read ALL OVER THE WORLD as a result of this challenge. So… I guess all that’s left to ask is….

Will YOU become part of this great tradition in 2020?  The rules of the challenge are not difficult:

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Deal Me In logo above designed by Mannomoi at https://dilettanteartiste.wordpress.com/ follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/callmemanno

What is the goal of the challenge?

To read 52 short stories in 2020 (that’s only one per week – versions with a lesser story requirement are noted below)

What is the purpose?

To have FUN and to be exposed to new authors and stories and maybe get in the habit of reading a short story a week. Isn’t that enough?

What do I need?

1) Access to at least fifty-two short stories (don’t own any short story collections or anthologies? See links to online resources below)
2) A deck of cards
3) An average of perhaps as little as just thirty minutes of reading time each week

Where do I post* about my stories?

(*You don’t have to post about every single story, of course, – or even ANY story – but if you have something to say about the story you read any given week, your fellow participants would love to hear it.)

1) On your own blog or website if you have one. I must say the challenge was indeed created with bloggers in mind, but non-bloggers – or anyone really – can benefit by challenging themselves to read just one story a week.

2) If you don’t have a blog or website you may comment on any of my Deal Me In posts, sharing thoughts on your own story. Better yet, you can tweet about short stories you read using the hashtag #DealMeIn2020. In fact, I encourage everyone who does blog about the stories they read to use the hashtag (which I will link to in my sidebar in 2020) when you publish a post. Fellow DMI’ers can find them more easily and, hopefully, retweet them too.

How do I pick which stories to read?

The 52 stories themselves are totally up to you. Before you get started reading, come up with a roster of fifty-two stories (you can use any source) and assign each one to a playing card in a standard deck of cards. It can be fun to use different suits for different types of stories, but that is optional. I’ve often included one wild card for each suit too, so I can maybe read a story I’ve heard about during the year, or read another by an author I’ve discovered through this challenge. Each “week,” (if you’re like me, you may occasionally fall a story or two behind – that’s okay) you draw a card at random from your deck and that is the story you will read. There are links to many participants lists in prior years’ sign up posts (links below) if you want to see some examples. I’ve just about finalized my reading roster and will link to it here when completed.

The Deal Me In Challenge Through the Years…

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

 

What if I don’t have time to read a story every single week?

You don’t have to read your stories on a regular schedule (I almost always fall behind at least once during the year) and can catch up once a month if your prefer – OR try one of the challenge variations noted below, the Fortnight (or “payday” if you prefer) version is one story every two weeks or the “Full Moon Fever” version with just thirteen stories read or selected on seeing each full moon…

How do I sign up?

Leave a comment below with your URL, and I will link you on my home page, where I hope to eventually have a section in my sidebar for “2020 Deal Me In Participants.” I hope to occasionally publish some kind of wrap-up post, linking to other Deal Me In participants’ posts I’ve seen recently, or just giving an update on how things are going.

Late sign-ups (we always get a few) are allowed and encouraged too. If you can, I’d love you to add where in the world you’re blogging from and where or how you heard about the Deal Me In! challenge.

Some short story resources:

Links:
Classic Horror Stories:
AmericanLiterature.com short story of the day
EastoftheWeb’s short story of the day:
The Library of America’s short story of the week archive:

Free online novels.com has a wide selection; or check here for a few more. Heck just google “free short stories on line” and you’ll have enough to last a lifetime of Deal Me In Challenges!  Check out The New Yorker too. Last I checked you could access a limited number of their published stories per month. If your local library is like mine, they’ll likely have a good collection of annual O’Henry Prize-winning volumes, or the yearly Best American Short Stories anthologies, I often visit this section of my library and “knock out” out a couple stories on lazy afternoons. Looking for some really short stories? Try here If you have recommendations for other free sources of short stories, feel free to share in the comments.

Deal Me In Variations:

The Deal Me In “Fortnight Version” – just use two suits from your deck and assign a story to each card, drawing a card every two weeks. If you get paid bi-weekly, you can use that as a reminder to draw a new card (I guess this makes the fortnight variation a.k.a. The “payday version.”) You could also use a euchre deck and include the two jokers to make up your Fortnight Version deck.

The Deal Me In “Euchre Deck Version”If you work for “one of those companies” where you only get paid twice a month on the 15th and 30th, e.g., use a euchre deck!  Note: I’ve experimented with an accelerated euchre deck version for a couple readathons, especially the 24 in 48 readathon, where, instead of trying to read 24 hours out of 48, I try to read 24 short stories in 48 hours. Also pretty challenging!

The Deal Me In “Full Moon Fever Version” – this would be the baby steps way to ease into the Deal Me In routine, basically reading just one story a month (who doesn’t have time for that?). Just use one suit or face cards only and you’re set. Seeing the full moon in the sky can also serve as a reminder – “hey, I need to read my next short story!” 🙂

Not sure when the full moons occur? Not surprisingly, that information is available in many places on line, one of which is HERE.

You could also try using the new moons, as well, or BOTH new and full moons. In the past, we’ve had a couple Deal Me In’ers have a full moon add-on in addition to their 52 stories.

Other participants in the past have added their own wrinkles: Reading a story a week for only half the year, reading two at a time and trying to find a “connection” between them, reading essays, plays, poems, or famous speeches… Feel free to twist, spindle or mutilate this challenge any way you see fit to suit your own plans – the only element that should probably remain is the use of playing cards to determine your reading order.

So, how about it?  Are you UP for a challenge? If so, Deal Me In 10.0 might just be for you!  Shall we “Deal YOU in?”

“Chaunt” by Joy Williams – Selection 37 of #DealMeIn2019

The Card: ♦Jack♦ of Diamonds

The Suit: For Deal Me In 2019, ♦♦♦Diamonds♦♦♦ are my Suit for stories which I intended to listen to rather than read. Several of this suit are from The New Yorker, which often includes an audible file of the author herself reading the story. Sadly, for this one, my iPad was taking an inordinately long time to load the audio version, so I just read it the old-fashioned way. 🙂

The Author: Joy Williams. I know I’ve read her before, but I can’t remember what. I do know I haven’t blogged about her before.

The Story: “Chaunt” from the December 10, 2018 edition of The New Yorker magazine. I “own” it via my digital subscription to that publication. The best part is, as a digital subscriber, I have access to their short story archive going back “forever.” Me like. 🙂

What is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details may be found here  but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants try to read one short story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for the list of stories I’ll be reading in 2019.

Chaunt

“Night was best, for, as everyone knows but does not tell, the sobbing of the earth is most audible at night. You can hear it clearly then, but the sobbing still harbors a little bit of hope, a little bit of promise that the day does not afford.”

This was a puzzling story indeed, and it was only with pointed, post-reading research that I may have finally got a handle on it. The main character, Jane Click, (probably non-accidental initials) is living in a kind of rest home-like facility, and grieving the death of her young son who, along with a friend was killed by an automobile while bicycling to the nearby “ghost town” named Chaunt.

The facility where she now lives, called The Dove, is on a barren stretch of land in a world that is deteriorating around her – perhaps the result of climate change, (The author is a noted advocate for conservation and environmental issues) but there are no details given. Those left running things are a younger generation, seemingly trying to make the best of what has been left to them by the generation of which Jane is a part.

There is also a somewhat Christ-like fellow resident of The Dove whose name is Theodore. He volunteers to drive Jane to Chaunt to see the ruins of a church where her son used to play, but – he doesn’t have a car. Her son’s friend is named Jerome – yet another name with religious overtones. Everything feels so hopeless in Jane’s existence, In spite of the faint glimmer offered by the quotation above. Since no details are given about “How did it come to this” I’m assuming the takeaway from the story for the reader is supposed to be an emotional one. One clue about the state of things is given by a brief conversation between Jane and a fellow resident of The Dove:

“There’s something we should have done and we didn’t do it is my suspicion. But life goes its merry way without us. Everything’s provisional.” “I disagree,” someone said. “I think what’s happened is permanent and not provisional at all.”

A bleak future may be in store for us and our upcoming generations, but one must have faith in human ingenuity and resilience, as I do. It’s funny that the luck of the draw for Deal Me In had me picking this story just after reading one from an anthology “Solarpunk: Ecological And Fantastical Stories In a Sustainable World” (another of my sources for #DealMeIn2019. More on that one later I hope.

What about you? Have you read any “End of the World Stories?” One such that I was reminded of when reading this one was Ray Bradbury’s “The Last Night In Earth” which I once blogged about here.

(author pic from a  New York Times article; playing card image found at http://climaterevolutioin.co.uk/wp/2017/10/27/jack of diamonds)

“The Virgin of Monte Ramon” by Mia Alvar – selection 34 of #DealMeIn2019

 

The Card: ♥A♥  Ace of Hearts.

The Suit: For #DealMeIn2019, ♥♥♥Hearts♥♥♥ is my Suit for “Stories by favorite authors.”

The Author:  Mia Alvar – Alvar is a new favorite of mine. A Filipino-American author who’s also lived in Bahrain. I tore through her story collection “In the Country” which contained several first-rate stories

The Selection: “The Virgin of Monte Ramon” A sometimes heartbreaking story of friendship between two social outcasts. Beautiful writing made me put this on my DMI list as one of my few re-reads this year. I own it as an e-book copy of “In the Country.”

What is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details may be found here  but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants try to read one short story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for the list of stories I’ll be reading in 2019. At the bottom of that post will be the cards I’ve drawn and links to any posts I’ve written on the stories. Also, check the sidebar for links to other book bloggers who are participating in this year’s challenge.

The Virgin Of Monte Ramon

“Although I am dead, Daniel told my mother, I shall live on through my grandson. He told my mother to name me after him, her father, not after the boyfriend who would end up deserting her. Daniel Wilson would not reveal specifics, but said I would be different from other children and remind my mother every day of the family’s legacy of pride and courage. And so I arrived: with a telltale lightness to my skin, and the vague buds of feet and toes that never quite articulated themselves.”

Although this story is at times heartbreakingly sad, it can also be viewed as a paean to friendship, and how valuable friendship can truly be, especially to those who are outcasts yet somehow find each other. The story is told in first person by a disabled prep school student, Danny. He has been told all his life that his physical disability was a kind of mystical legacy from a grandfather who was a hero in World War II:

“As a soldier he helped evacuate the wooden statue of the Virgin of Monte Ramon – the gilt, gem-encrusted patroness of our town – from her church into the nearby mountains. This was to keep her safe from wartime desecration, yet strangely it was those carrying her who felt protected as they ventured deep into the forests and mountain trails.”

When Danny meets his soon to be friend, “Annelise,” it’s an encounter that readers especially can appreciate:

“…and I saw Annelise for the first time. Though a schoolgirl in uniform herself, she was unlike the others. She did not blush or chat with her classmates, or glance at us from the corners of her eyes every so often. Instead, she was reading a book.”

Annelise has physical problems of her own that I won’t go into, but both she and Danny are mercilessly teased by schoolmates who could be “violently, unimaginatively cruel.” While Danny is relatively well-off, Annelise lives in “the ravine” the poorest section of town. The story’s climax, or at least one moment of epiphany, occurs in the ravine during a heavy rainstorm at the onset of the monsoon season.

“I noticed as the children played that they were trying not to slip and fall. The care they took had slowed their movements into a kind of dance. I turned to Annelise, who said, ‘The rain has crippled everyone,’ and laughed. I laughed too.”

This was one of many great stories in the book, which I heartily recommend (a rare 5-star rating from me on goodreads) You can find out more about it at amazon

What about YOU? What short stories have “struck your fancy” lately? Tell me about them.

♫♫ Personal Notes: The name of Danny’s friend, “Annelise” reminds me of one of my all-time favorite short story characters, “Annieanlouise” from one of my all-time favorite stories, Rudyard Kipling’s “The Brushwood Boy.” I blogged about it almost eight years ago. You can find that post here.

(below from google images – a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary from the Philippines)

Statue of General MacArthur’s famous “return” at Leyte Gulf. The first person narrator’s prep school in this story is called “General Douglas MacArthur Preparatory” 🙂

“The Striding Place” by Gertrude Atherton – Selection 35 of #DealMeIn2019

The Card: ♥J♥  Jack of Hearts.

The Suit: For #DealMeIn2019, ♥♥♥Hearts♥♥♥ is my Suit for “Stories by favorite authors” and, though I haven’t read much by Atherton, the story I have read was a home run.

The Author: Gertrude Atherton – perhaps most famous for her novel, Black Oxen, published in 1923, was a prolific American author in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Raised by a grandfather who “insisted she be well read” she was naturally (or nurture-aly!) well equipped for a literary career!

The Selection: “The Striding Place” which I don’t own, but is available to all of us online (see link below) is a truly frightening tale of a missing person and the unique way in which he is eventually found.

What is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details may be found here  but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants try to read one short story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for the list of stories I’ll be reading in 2019. At the bottom of that post will be the cards I’ve drawn and links to any posts I’ve written on the stories. Also, check the sidebar for links to other book bloggers who are participating in this year’s challenge.

What about you?

While walking, perhaps in the woods, have you ever came to the barrier formed by a stream and stopped, contemplating jumping across at its narrowest point? The banks might be muddy or slippery and yet you still take a chance and “go for it” because, after all, what’s the penalty if you fail to clear it? Some muddy clothes and maybe wounded pride? Both things may be quickly remedied or forgotten. What if, however, a more formidable waterway, due to quirk of topography, also narrowed at one point to a “jumpable” width. Might such a spot become a local legend, particularly in the guise of a proving ground for the young to test their courage? This is what the titular “Strid” of this story turns out to be…

The Striding Place

“Weigall was not a coward, but he recalled uncomfortably the tales of those that had been done to death in the Strid. Wordsworth’s Boy of Egremond had been disposed of by the practical Whitaker; but countless others, more venturesome than wise, had gone down into that narrow boiling course, never to appear in the still pool a few yards beyond. Below the great rocks which form the walls of the Strid was believed to be a natural vault, on to whose shelves the dead were drawn. The spot had an ugly fascination.”

Some spoilers follow, but by all means, do read the story. It’s not that long and is available online at: https://americanliterature.com/author/gertrude-atherton/short-story/the-striding-place

Mr. Weigall is our main character and is sojourning in Yorkshire, entertaining a guest at his “country estates” for the sport of grouse shooting (I mean, what else is one to do in England in August?). But casting a pall on the occasion is a report that a “chum of Weigall’s college days,” Wyatt Gifford, has mysteriously disappeared, leaving no trace. Some locals suggested it might be a suicide, but Weigall dismissed such nonsense, as they – along with other friends – had recently been together at a funeral of yet another acquaintance and all seemed normal with him (well, as normal as such an occasion might allow, I suppose).

Anyway, search parties have been unsuccessful in their attempts to find Gifford and we join Weigall walking near “the ‘Strid.” He muses about the danger of the place and becomes a bit mesmerized by the roar of the water and the visual motion of the rapids. Suddenly he sees a foreign object “describing a contrary motion to the rushing water, an upward backward motion” He realizes it’s a struggling hand and that “doubtless, but a moment before his arrival” a man had been swept into the current, and was now trying to resist the force of the water in order to free himself.

Weigall leaps into action in an attempt at rescue, at first mindful of his own safety – until he recognizes a french-cuffed shirt sleeve and lower arm – and cuff link – as one belonging to his very friend Wyatt. He renews his efforts at greater risk to himself and using a long stick finally frees the man from the awful current, leaving the man “liberated and flung outward” into the quieter pool downstream from the ‘Strid. Weigall believes the valiant rescue complete, knowing that “the danger from suction was over”  and that “Gifford was a fish in the water and could live under it longer than most men.”

Weigall scrambles down to the quiet pool below but doesn’t find quite what he was expecting..

This was a truly chilling story and I liked it a lot.

I found the picture above via google images. Apparently it’s a ‘strid on the “Bolton Abbey Estate”. It looks smaller and less formidable that what my imagination cooked up while reading the story, but is nonetheless a jump I wouldn’t attempt myself.

♫♫ Personal Notes:  I was surprised to find myself remembering a nearly fossilized memory from my youth when reading the story. I believe it was in 1978, and I was on a summer camping trip out west with my family and one of our stops was Zion National Park in southern Utah. We stayed in the campground, which is bordered by the Virgin River (which has sculpted the wondrous Zion Canyon over the eons). My little brother Gary and I liked to “swim” in the very shallow river which, at least at times, had a reasonably strong current. I remember one day we invented a game at a ‘strid-like narrowing of the river. One of us would man one of the miniature “Pillars of Hercules” on either side of the ‘strid, while the other would go upstream and pretend being caught in the current and sweeping downstream, thinking he would be saved by the other at the narrowing. The other would grab the floater’s arm, pretending he would rescue him, then suddenly let go and let him be swept away, cackling maniacally. Somehow we found this hilarious, and to kids our age, I guess it was!

<below (from wikipedia): grouse shooters, of course>

August-1922-m-mcdonald-a-member-of-lord-woolavingtons-house-party-a-picture-id3432611

My #24in48 Readathon Wrap-Up

Thoughts on my July 2019 #24in48 Readathon experience.

I like the idea of an online readthon. So what if I can rarely read the volume of words/books that are generally the goals of these events? I can still appreciate how they make me focus more on reading and, at the very least, encourage me to fill any available gaps in a busy schedule with… reading!

There are other readathons which are more in the tradition of the “Cultural -athon Phenomenon” and by this I mean literally reading for “24 hours straight” for example. This is why I prefer the “more sensible” 24in48 Readathon. You have two whole days to try to hit a goal of 24 hours of reading.

Of course, that’s still too hardcore for me 🙂 , and for the past few years I’ve tried to read 24 stories in 48 hours (probably more like 12 hours of reading – still a healthy increase over my normal amount, though)

So Friday night I took out some of my short story anthologies and collections and picked nine of them to use to populate a reading roster. You can see my list below. And yes, naturally, as the host of the Deal Me In Challenge, I can’t “play it straight” and have to assign the stories to playing cards and draw one card at a time to randomize my reading order.

And below the stack of ACTUAL books (no e-reading this time!) that my 24 stories were collected from.

Did YOU participate in the #24in48 readathon this go-round?  What were some of the favorite things that you read?  How many hours of reading did you get in?I must report that I didn’t succeed in reading 24 stories, finishing at 18 or 19, but here are some thoughts on my reading and a few of my favorites.

Sadly, I was a little disappointed that I didn’t encounter – or discover – more great new to me stories during the Readathon, but I did revisit some old favorite authors (M.R. James, Ray Bradbury and Thomas Hardy) And finally cracked open an anthology that I was once excited to dive into but has lain neglected on my shelf for years (The My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me anthology of fairy tale re-tellings, which includes some “heavyweight” authors among its story contributors). From this last anthology, I really enjoyed Neil Gaiman’s “Orange” which is told in the unique format of an interview with a ‘survivor’ of an event, with the catch being only the interviewee’s answers are given. I couldn’t resist the challenge of trying to guess what the questions were (some were obvious, some less so, but I guess the reader could also come up with his own that “fit” and that would still be okay). I’m not usually a fan of ‘gimmicks,’ but this one worked for me.

Maybe my big surprise was how much I liked the two John Updike stories that I read (“Poker Night” – about the hours immediately following a man’s cancer diagnosis and “The Other” an interesting psychological study of the impact of a man marrying a woman who has an identical twin sister. Maybe I’d been unfairly biased against Updike in recent times. He edited the “Greatest American Short Stories of the Century” anthology, which my ‘after work short story “book” club’ used as source material for over a year, and which also became the subject of good-natured ridicule for so many of the stories being downers.

Two of the Thomas Hardy stories I read were re-reads (if you can even call them that after a gap of twenty-six(!) years) and were ones that I had tagged as ‘recommended’ back in the day. Based on that recommendation, I was a little disappointed in both, but I did certainly enjoy Hardy’s writing style after not having read anything by him in many years. I’m guessing “Two on a Tower” was my last foray into his mastery.

The deck of cards I used was one I picked up during my January vacation in Gibraltar. Turned out it was a great place to be when the temps here at home went sub-zero at the same time!

Let’s see, what else… Oh, I was actually disappointed in the Ray Bradbury story, “The Concrete Mixer” though from a social commentary standpoint one could certainly appreciate it as prescient. The other Bradbury story I got to, “The Highway,” was more consistent with what I’ve come to expect from him, and I did like it much more. Both stories are part of his generally wonderful collection, “The Illustrated Man.” Love that cover!

I also read a couple of Robert Howard’s Conan stories, which were probably the hardest of my reading during the weekend. I had a volume of his work gifted to me 4-5 years ago.  Each of his stories runs about 30 pages or so and I’ve begun to feel them a bit formulaic, with certain elements always seeming to repeat. I had the idea of creating a Conan the Cimmerian reading drinking game to fit all the recurring elements (e.g., mention of cleaving a skull: finish your drink!) but that will have to wait for a future blog post or reading challenge…

I read four stories from “Tales for the Not Nervous” (some text pictured below from “River of Riches”) an Alfred Hitchcock anthology I first heard about via The Writerly Reader blog. More than anything else, this anthology made me realize how badly I need reading glasses! My arms were almost not long enough for me to hold this away from my eyes so I could focus. *sigh* getting old, I guess. I also noted that the story “Dune Runner” was in this anthology, which is one that I didn’t read for the readathon, but it has been recommended to me by several people over the years.

I only got to one of my Sherman Alexie stories, and it (“Catechism”) wasn’t really even a story in the traditional sense. I must go on and finally read this collection, though, as it has also been languishing on my shelf for awhile.

I find it impossible to do a readathon without taking some walking breaks. Saturday morning, before the sun blazed through the morning haze and made being outside intolerable, I walked over to White River State Park and paused for a moment to take a picture looking back east toward downtown Indianapolis, where I actually live now (a little beyond and to the right of that tallest building in the background.

 

The Story of Keesh by Jack London – selection 3 of #DealMeIn2019

The Card: ♥3♥  Three of Hearts. Playing card image found on Pinterest from the “Undertale Souls” deck of cards. I thought it would be appropriate to have a card featuring snow since the story involves the Inuit People of Alaska. 🙂

The Suit: For #DealMeIn2018, ♥♥♥Hearts♥♥♥ is my Suit for “Stories by favorite authors” and London certainly qualifies. I – and other Deal Me In participants – have written about many London stories over the years.

The Author: Jack London, one of the Titans of American Literature. I’ve posted about several of his works before, including Before Adam, Negore the CowardA Relic of the Pliocene, and Moon Face, to name a few.

The Selection: “The Story of Keesh” which I own as part of my e-copy of The Complete Works of Jack London. The story is in the public domain and may be read for free online in many places, like the link at the bottom of this post.It was first published in 1907.

What is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details may be found here  but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants try to read one short story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for the list of stories I’ll be reading in 2019. At the bottom of that post will be the cards I’ve drawn and links to any posts I’ve written on the stories. Also, check the sidebar for links to other book bloggers who are participating in this year’s challenge.

The Story of Keesh

“Keesh lived long ago on the rim of the polar sea, was head man of his village through many and prosperous years, and died full of honors with his name on the lips of men.”

***spoilers follow*** This one was, frankly, a bit of a disappointment. At least compared to other Jack London stories I’ve read. There just wasn’t enough to it for me. It’s basically an old folktale of a young boy (he has only seen “thirteen suns” – after each winter of no sunlight, when the sun returns, that counts as one year, so he is…13) who rises to a place of respect in his “igloo village” due to his crafty method of hunting polar bears.

It all starts out when he speaks up at a council one night, because, since his father has died (in the act of slaying a large bear to provide food for the village) he and his widowed mother’s meat apportioned to them by the tribe is “ofttimes old and tough, this meat, and, moreover, it has an unusual quantity of bones.” The men of the tribe, brave hunters all (just ask them), are neglecting their duty to provide for the rest of the village fair shares of the “community” meat.

The men react harshly to this upstart and Keesh vows never to return to the council but sets out on his own with arrows and his father’s spear. He’s gone a very long time and his mother and her comforters fear the worst, but he shows up with – lo and behold! – a big hunk of bear meat and directs the other hunters in the tribe that the rest of his kill may be found and returned if they take their sleds along the path he has come. Naturally, Keesh makes sure that everyone in the village from “the least old woman and the last old man” receive a fair portion of the meat.

With Keesh being so young, the men of the tribe suspect some trickery and even suggest that “witchcraft” might be involved, and that he “hunts with evil spirits.”  Such is the way with any who are ignorant of how something extraordinary is achieved, isn’t it? Keesh, when questioned, puts them straight and says, “It be headcraft, not witchcraft.” His method of bringing down the bears was quite original, I must say.

So, an easy read, but too short to sate my story hunger for one week. A better story, with more “meat on its bones” if you will, featuring the natives of the far north is London’s tale “Negore the Coward” which I’ve wrote about before and linked to in the header of this post.

What short stories did YOU read this week? What is your favorite of Jack London’s many short stories?

You can read the story online here: https://americanliterature.com/author/jack-london/short-story/the-story-of-keesh

 

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