The Mongerji Letters by Geetha Iyer – selection #4 of Deal Me In 2017

The Card: ♠5♠ of Spades

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, the suit of Spades is the domain of Clotho, one of the Fates from Greek Mythology who, according to Plato’s Republic sings of “the things that are.”

The Selection: “The Mongerji Letters” from Orion magazine. As of this post’s publishing, the story is available on line at  I own a copy of the story via The O. Henry Prize Stories 2016 collection.

The Author: Geetha Iyer – yet another new to me author. To quote Orion Magazine’s info on her, she “…was born in India and grew up in the United Arab Emirates, and moved to the United States to study biology. She has since become an MFA student at Iowa State University’s Creative Writing & Environment program. She writes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry bent toward place-based and science writing.” She currently lives in Panama City, Panama. You may visit her website at

What is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details maybe found here, but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants read one short 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.

The Mongerji Letters

“Since the collapse of one of the last dynasties of the common era and the subsequent end of the era itself, historians have searched for descendants of the Mongerji family, as well as descendants of the scribes who, under their employ, collected samplings of flora and fauna from around the world. The only evidence discovered thus far are the letters that follow. They are from Mr. Mongerji, his wife, Kavita, and two of the three Mongerji children, all addressed to a Mr. Chappalwala, thought to have been the last of the Mongerjis’ scribes. Archivists continue to seek Mr. Chappalwala’s side of the correspondence.”

This was a rather bizarre story. The introductory paragraph quoted above is all the grounding that the reader is given. The nature of the world in which these letters were written (“created” is probably a better word) is left primarily to our imagination. What is clear, however, is that the family whose members wrote them are in decline, probably throwbacks to an older world – i.e., the “common era” referred to in the intro. The correspondence is multi-generational, but the letters covered in this story seem to span 15 years, from “__18” to “__33” – the first two digits that would tell us the century are strategically omitted…

The letters have some kind of magical quality as the envelopes that contain them also contain somehow “compressed” examples of the flora and fauna from wherever the Chappalwalas are sending them, often resulting in near tragic events upon opening – in once case a giant tree springs out of the envelope and it is all the Mongerjis can do to get it stuffed back in.  Another time, an opened envelope floods their living room with water and a living polar bear(!)

I won’t claim I totally understood this story, but it did leave me with a vague impression of the decline or even”decay” of the natural world’s beauty due to a continued siege by humanity’s progress.  The writing was superb too, and the perspectives of the different Mongerji children of the current generation added additional layers to the story’s complexity as well.

The “magic” property of the letters is not explained, but I liked the following passage because it refers to one of my favorite creatures, discovered via a prior Bibliophilopolis read – this one for The R.I.P. Challenge – The Axolotl!

“I asked Dhidhi whether if we left the fruit outside the envelope the eggs would hatch, but she said that everything trapped inside the Chappalwala envelopes was like an axolotl — it would never really grow up.”

Below: some of the beautiful artwork from Orion Magazine where the story was originally published. Did you notice the envelopes in each picture?

Playing card image in DMI header from

#24in48 Readthon Wrap-Up: How’d I Do?


I didn’t write any posts during the readathon this time, opting instead for a barrage of tweets about what I was reading, what was up next, etc. Since I read mostly short stories this year, in between each story, I would check the #24in48 hashtag, try to like a few tweets, and try to comment on ones that I felt connected with me.  In fact, the “interstitial tweeting” and following the readathon online made it a lot of fun this year. I should say also that one thing that I feel strongly about regarding reading short stories is that each one must be read “separately” – as its own “reading experience” if you will. If you finish one and start another immediately, you may have trouble with them “running together” when you try to remember them later.  That belief made the “interstitial tweeting” a good idea and yielded almost a palate cleanser effect before proceeding on to the next one.

What did I get read, and how much time did I spend reading?

I knew beforehand that I wouldn’t get 24 hours of reading in, but I did get more in that I have in the past – if I count some of the “reading” which I did.  I probably totaled about 13-14 hours, which is very high for me. I did finish my planned 24 short story/essay reads, which I outlined in a prior post, and ended up liking at least 20-21 of them. I also read close to 300 pages of the behemoth, “A Brief History of Seven Killings” by Marlon James, who is in Indianapolis tonight at Butler University. One of my book clubs is attending his ‘talk’ en masse, which is one reason I was hustling to get this book finished. (I should wrap it up on my lunch hour today – nothing like waiting until the last minute, eh?)


Anyway, I haven’t enjoyed this book very much at all, and would’ve abandoned it if it weren’t a book club book. As always, I’m curious what my fellow will have to say about it.

As for my short stories and essays, I had 3 each from eight sources:

  1. Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales – Ray Bradbury
  2. The Very Best of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Vol. 2 (anthology)
  3. Hoosier Mosaics – Maurice Thompson (short story collection)
  4. Irredeemable – Jason Sizemore (short story collection)
  5. Bad Feminist – Roxane Gay (essays)
  6. Strange New Worlds, Vol. 2 – (anthology of short “Star Trek” fiction)
  7. War by Candlelight – Daniel Alarcon – (short story collection)
  8. The End Was Not the End – Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy Tales anthology

I’ve read something from all of these already, many from my Deal Me In challenge from over the years. Each provided some fun, challenging, or thought-provoking reading entertainment.

war-by-candlelightPound for pound, the Alarcon collection was probably the best of the bunch. Bradbury’s story, “Bang! You’re Dead,” was probably my favorite from that collection.  Oddly, two of my favorite stories – and my least favorite story – came from The Very Best of Fantasy and Science Fiction anthology.  Jack Finney’s “The Third Level” was a great, Twilight Zone-y piece, and “The Country of The Kind” by Damon Knight was also a surprise favorite. I enjoyed all three of Roxane Gay’s essays, especially her one about being a “Typical First Year Professor.” She’s also coming here to town tomorrow night for an event at the Central Library sponsored by Indy Reads Books. I have my ticket for that. J

I’m a sucker for dystopian/post-apocalyptic fiction, which is why I own – and includedend-was-not-the-end stories from – The End Was Not the End anthology.  Only one of them (William Ransom’s “In the Hills Beyond Twilight”) really resonated with me, though. From Irredeemable, my favorite was “The Dead and Metty Crawford”, featuring teens hired to ‘guard’ a secluded marijuana crop, a terrifying old mountain man, and … zombies! It had some intense scenes which I “enjoyed.” Somewhat of a disappointment for me  – considering how much I liked his two stories I read during Deal Me “IN” 2016 – were the stories from Maurice Thompson’s “Hoosier Mosaics.”  “The Venus of Balhich” is the only one I’d feel comfortable recommending to others. It’s the tale of a pathetic suitor who misreads his intended’s feelings about him, with tragi-comic consequences. The End Was Not the End was my favorite book cover though, so it’s pictured at right. 🙂

That’s how I spent my #24in48 weekend.  How did YOU do this time around?

“The Anything Box” by Zenna Henderson – selection #3 of Deal Me In 2017

The Card: ♥Q♥ Queen of Hearts

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, Hearts is the domain of Atropos, one of the “Fates” from Classical Greek Mythology who “sang of things that are yet to be” i.e. the future. She’s also frequently represented as holding a pair of scissors with which she snips the thread of life which is spun by her two sisters, Clotho and Lachesis.

The Selection: “The Anything Box” which I own as part of the anthology “The Very Best of Fantasy and Science Fiction” anthology, volume 2. I have several stories from this book included in my Deal Me In list for 2017.

The Author: Zenna Henderson (pictured at above right), who I’ve never read before. She was “an American elementary school teacher and science fiction and fantasy writer,” according to Wikipedia. Many of her stories feature a school setting or the southwestern United States (she was from Arizona) – or both.  She also wrote a series of stories about “The People” – humanoids who are here on Earth because their home planet was destroyed. Sounds intriguing – perhaps I will explore these sometime…

What is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details maybe found here, but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants read one short 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.

“The Anything Box”

“I swore by the pale hollow of her cheek that never, never again would I take any belief from anyone without replacing it with something better.”

The narrator of this story is a teacher. A teacher in what seems to be a school of the future, though that is never really explained in detail. It certainly doesn’t feel like a bright future either. That part is probably irrelevant to the impact of the story. It’s the story of Sue-lynn, one of the narrator’s students. One she doesn’t quite know what to make of at first, one who is quiet and keeps to herself for the most part…

Eventually, though, the teacher notices some peculiar behavior:

“She had finished her paper – far ahead of the others as usual – and was sitting at her table facing me. She had her thumbs touching in front of her on the table and her fingers curving as though they held something in between them – something large enough to keep her fingertips apart and angular enough to bend her fingers as if for corners. It was something pleasant that she held – pleasant and precious.”

Sue-lynn seems like a nice enough kid, but the other children have, of course, noticed that she is “different.” Her imaginary “anything box” – for that is what she’s holding in front of her – is her way to escape from her troubled home life. Her mother and father frequently quarrel, leading to the husband disappearing for long stretches of time. One male fellow-student in particular is disturbed by her and causes trouble. The teacher intervenes on Sue-lynn’s behalf, and gets close enough to her to eventually find out more about her “imaginary” box. Or is it imaginary?

I’m not 100% sure what the author intended the story to be about, but I think it may resonate with many readers the way that it did with me – that is to say in recalling school days and how, as we age, our capacity for imagination is slowly and methodically snuffed out. One of the narrator’s mean-spirited fellow teachers seems to have it in for Sue-lynn, frequently calling her “disturbed”, etc., even making us wonder if ““Maybe a child can smile a soft, contented smile and still have little maggots of madness flourishing somewhere inside,” but fortunately Sue-lynn has a champion on her side in the form of the narrator.

At one point, though, even the narrator feels compelled to intervene and stop the child’s “overactive” imagination and advises that her “anything box” is “just for fun” and shouldn’t be taken so seriously. A crisis follows in which Sue-lynn “loses” the box and blames her teacher. Later she has a “fainting spell” and a doctor is called. She seems to recover but only to the point that she “puttered along quite satisfactorily except that she was a candle blown out.”


Does the story end happily, though? If you’d like to read for yourself, it’s part of several anthologies. One is the one I own, and is available in kindle version for just $7.99:


Have YOU read anything by this author before? What else by her would you recommend?

Next week: The five of spades and  Geetha Iyee’s “The Mongerji Letters” – yet another new-to-me author.

My 24in48 Readathon Plans


What is the #24in48 Readathon? You can find out details about it here, but essentially it’s a readathon where the goal is to spend 24 hours out of a 48-hour weekend (Friday midnight until Sunday midnight) reading.   I don’t recall how flexible the start and end times are, but I usually cheat a little bit and make mine run from early evening Friday to early evening Sunday, since I’m usually asleep after 10pm… 🙂

Stories to read in 24in48 Readathon – “Deal Me In version”

I chose eight source books, all anthologies or short story collections (or essays, in one case) by one author. I picked only books that I have a kindle version of, so that I can read “on the run” on my phone or iPad, if I find myself in line somewhere or if I take a break to go grab a bite and sit at the bar.

I picked three stories from each book, somewhat based on title (or what I hadn’t read of the anthology before) but also more or less random.  I will attempt to read all 24 stories within the 48 hour period of the #24in48 Readathon (leftover reading time will be used to finish up “A Brief History of Seven Killings” for a book club meeting the week after the readathon.)  Of note also is that I’m reading three of Roxane Gay’s essays from her collection “Bad Feminist” in anticipation of my attending a talk of hers here at the Central Library on January 24th.

I’ve applied the Deal Me In ‘randomizing element’ to 24in48 at least once before, last July, where I read 24 stories and actually managed to post a brief word about ALL of them.  See posts here, here, and here for details. Wow, just looking back at those posts, I’m remembering how much fun I had last July and can’t wait to get started again. I’m sure I won’t have time to post about all the stories this readathon, but I’ll try to at least post about my progress and maybe some detail about my favorite ones.

I’ll rate the stories according to the card values in a Euchre Deck: Right Bower- 5 stars, Left Bower – 4.5 stars,  Ace – 4.0 stars, King 3.5 stars, Queen 3 stars, Ten – 2.5 stars, Nine – 2 stars.

Here are the stories I’ll be reading. Do you recognize any favorite authors or stories? Which have you read before, and how did YOU like them?


♦9♦“A Ribbon for Rosie” by Isla Bick (Strange New Worlds II)
♦10♦ “A Science for Being Alone” by Daniel Alarcon (War by Candlelight)
♦J♦ “A Strong Dead Man” by Daniel Alarcon (War by Candlelight)
♦Q♦ “An Idyl of the Rod” by Maurice Thompson (Hoosier Mosaics)
♦K♦ “Bang! You’re Dead!” by Ray Bradbury (Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales)
♦A♦ “I Once Was Miss America” (essay) by Roxane Gay (Bad Feminist)


♥9♥ “In the Hills Beyond Twilight” by William Ransom (The End was Not the End anthology)
♥10♥ “No News, or What Killed the Dog?” by Ray Bradbury (Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales)
♥J♥ “Plug and Play” by Jason Sizemore (Irredeemable)
♥Q♥ “Seventh Heaven” by Dustan Moon (Strange New Worlds II)
♥K♥ “The Attack of the Giant Baby” by Kit Reed (The Very Best of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Vol. 2)
♥A♥ “The Country of the Kind” by Damon Knight (The Very Best of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Vol. 2)

♠9♠ “The Dead and Metty Crawford” by Jason Sizemore (Irredeemable)
♠10♠ “The First Law of Metaphysics” by Michael S. Poteet (Strange New Worlds II)
♠J♠ “The Morality of Tyler Perry” (essay by Roxane Gay (Bad Feminist)
♠Q♠ “The Third Level” by Jack Finney (The Very Best of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Vol. 2)
♠K♠ “The Venus of Balhinch” by Maurice Thompson (Hoosier Mosaics)
♠A♠ “The Watchers” by Ray Bradbury (Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales)


♣9♣“Third Avenue Suicide” by Daniel Alarcon (War by Candlelight)
♣10♣ “Trout’s Luck” by Maurice Thompson (Hoosier Mosaics)
♣J♣ “Twenty Year Plan” by Jay Wilburn (The End was Not the End anthology)
♣Q♣ “Typical First Year Professor” (essay) by Roxane Gay (Bad Feminist)
♣K♣ “Useless Creek” by Jason Sizemore (Irredeemable)
♣A♣ “Waist Deep” by Bill Blume (The End was Not the End anthology)

Jess Walter’s “Mr. Voice” – selection #2 of Deal Me In 2017

The Card: ♠J♠ Jack of Spades

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

The Selection: “Mr. Voice” from my copy of the 2015 Best American Short Stories, edited by T.C. Boyle

The Author: Jess Walter of Spokane, Washington. I’ve read a couple of books of his before, “Beautiful Ruins,” and the excellent short story collection “We Live in Water.” (Post about the latter found at I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting him in person when he came through Indianapolis a couple years ago for a Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library event. Learn more about him at

IMG_3919-0What 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.

Mr. Voice

“Listen to me, Tanya. You’re a very pretty girl. You’re going to be a beautiful woman. This is something you won’t understand for a while, but your looks are like a bank account. You can save up your whole life for something, but at some point, you’ll have to spend the money. Do you understand?”

This is a story told at the present (Clotho!) but concerns a time forty years ago, when the narrator (Tanya) was a young teen girl. Tanya’s mother is a real looker, who never has any problems getting men’s attention or dates. Suddenly, however, one of the dates sticks around, and it’s not one young Tanya would expect: the 50-something “Mr. Voice,” a locally famous voice-over guy. We as readers suppose that she’s marrying him for the “security” as this is about the time she tells her daughter the quotation above. I find this a lamentably mercenary approach to life.

Frankly, Mr. Voice sounds pretty creepy at first, as poor Tanya can hear some of his and her Mom’s “intimate moments” through their house’s paper thin walls. Add into the mix a son of Mr. Voice’s from a previous marriage who, though several years older than Tanya (not to mention being gay), the young girl has a crush on, even if he is her stepbrother.

I’ve written before how I admire and enjoy stories with resilient young characters, and Tanya certainly falls into this category. What raises this story another level, though, is the surprising steadfastness that the initially creepy Mr. Voice exhibits. When things take a turn for the worse for Tanya after her mother “runs off” with a musician in a rock band, it is Mr. Voice who helps stabilize her world and gives her the opportunity to overcome her mother’s parenting shortcomings. This ended up being a “feel good” story for me, especially after Tanya narrates a glimpse of her own present life and how she deals with a “rebellious” daughter of her own – one who is fond of tattoos and piercings.

Personal Notes ♫: I have a couple of Jess Walter’s books in my TBR pile, namely The Financial Lives of Poets and The Zero, which he signed for me when he visited Indy. As he signed, I got to speak to him briefly, primarily about one of his stories, “Wheelbarrow Kings,” which I told him sounded to me like a modern retelling of “The Odyssey.” He nodded knowingly, which explains in part how he signed the book in the picture above.

Next up in Deal Me In 2017: Zenna Henderson’s “The Anything Box”

What short stories did YOU read this week?

“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 (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

It’s My Blogiversary!

Bibliophilopolis is seven years old now! I’ve published 805 posts, and am closing in on 275k page views, having settled down to averaging around 4,000 visits a month and 45-50 thousand a year these past few years.

I’d like to thank all those who have visited or left a comment or “liked”a post (probably like many bloggers, I sometimes wonder if “anyone is reading this” so all communication is welcome!) I wasn’t sure my blogging would last seven DAYS when I first started, but here we are in 2017 and Bibliophilopolis is still plodding along. I’ve also especially enjoyed the emergence of the small but loyal Deal Me In community, and am looking forward to seeing how our new participants fare this year.

As a Blogiversary “Special Offer” (okay, I’m not offering to do anything but read something) I will allow the commenters (if any) on this post the opportunity to pick one of the books I read in 2017 books. Presuming there might be more than one, I reserve the right to pick which recommendation I go with, but may also read more than one if you convince me they’re worth the time. I will also pledge to write a full review post about whichever book “wins” giving full credit – or blame! 🙂 – to its recommender.

So, recommend away. I’ll probably make my decision after a week or so.

Happy reading to all in 2017!

The Shorties – My 2016 Short Story Awards!


Dale at Mirror With Clouds posted his top ten stories of the year this morning, which reminded me I had planned to do another edition of my “Shorties” awards this year. So, without further ado…


Somehow I neglected to do the “Shorties” awards last year.  But here are the 2013 and 2014 editions if you want to see the past winners.  This year, for the Third “Annual” edition, we retain George R.R. Martin’s Tyrion Lannister, brilliantly brought to life by actor Peter Dinklage in the HBO Series, Game of Thrones, as our spokesman, taking to heart his quotation below. “A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone if it is to keep its edge.” And… once again, as I did last year, I’ll stress that “shorties” is intended as a term of endearment not a politically incorrect disparaging remark about short people. 🙂  All the stories below may be found in the summary post for my 2016 Deal Me In Challenge.

  1. Favorite New (to me) Author:
    a) Maurice Thompson
    b) Edward Eggleston
    c) Ernie Pyle
    d) John Shivley
    e) Nora Bonner

Really a toss up here, between Pyle and Thompson, but I’m going to have to go with Maurice Thompson. Both his stories in my Deal Me In deck were among my favorites of the year!

  1. Most Memorable Female Character
    a) narrator (“Letter to the Man in Carnivorous Plants” by Lauren Ann Bolton)
    b) Aunt Gingy (“It Came from Burr County” by Marian Allen)
    c) Alice (“The Beautiful Lady” by Booth Tarkington)
    d) Eleanor Garen (“Profiles in Survival” by John Shivley)
    e) Katie Deane (“Autumn Full of Apples” by Dan Wakefield)

At the risk of heading toward an Academy Award-like sweep, I’ll go with the title character, Alice, in Booth Tarkington’s The Beautiful Lady. Such purity of heart is rare – and refreshing.  I did notice that there was a lack of memorable female characters in my Deal Me In stories this year. Of course, with a lot of non-fiction in the mix, there were fewer opportunities, but I’m going to keep a better eye out for them in 2017.

  1. Most Memorable Male Character
    a) Dan (“Autumn Full of Apples” by Dan Wakefield)
    b) Harrison Bergeron (“Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut)
    c) Willie (“Mr. Blake’s Walking Stick” by Edward Eggleston)
    d) Zach (“The Legend of Potato Creek” by Maurice Thompson)
    e) Uncle Midas (“The Boyhood of Christ” by General Lew Wallace)

I’m going to go with the GENERAL Lew Wallace’s character.  His Uncle Midas was such a likable character, there is probably a likeness of him if you look up “avuncular” in the dictionary. 🙂

  1. Most Memorable writing
    a) Booth Tarkington
    b) Rocco Versaci
    c) Ernie Pyle
    d) Josh Green
    e) Michael Martone

I enjoyed all of these writers very much, but the Shortie goes to Tarkington. The clinching quotation (from The Beautiful Lady): “To fall in love must one behold a face? Yes; at thirty. At twenty, when one is something of a poet No: it is sufficient to see a grey pongee skirt! At fifty, when one is a philosopher No: it is enough to perceive a soul! I had done both; I had seen the skirt; I had perceived the soul.” Winner.

  1. Favorite Story
    a) The Pedagogue by Maurice Thompson
    b) Schliemann in Indianapolis by Michael Martone
    c) Autumn Full of Apples by Dan Wakefield
    d) A Reward of Merit by Booth Tarkington
    e) The Beautiful Lady by Booth Tarkington

So tough to decide, but since I’ve already “honored” Tarkington twice, I’m going to go with Maurice Thompson’s story, The Pedagogue – a classic Indiana “Frontier” story that sometimes reminded me of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Honorable mention to Martone, whose stories in the collection “Fort Wayne is Seventh on Hitler’s List” have all been enjoyable thus far.

Well, those are some of my favorite stories, characters, and authors from this year. Which were YOURS?


What I’ll be Reading for the 2017 Deal Me In Short Story Challenge


This year for Deal Me In (my 7th!) I’ve decided to try something a little new. I’ve decided to let fate decide, er, I mean let THE fates decide.  You know, the three fates from Greek Mythology?  Clotho, Lachesis & Atropos? (pictured below) In Plato’s Republic, Lachesis sings of “things that were,” Clothos of “the things that are,” and Atropos of “the things that are to be.” So I’ve roughly assigned some stories or essays that fit those categories.  But that’s only three suits, right?  I needed a fourth, and for some reason I recalled that the streets in the Indianapolis neighborhood I grew up in had literary names. (Hawthorne, Emerson, Riley, etc.) So I’m going to “take a stroll through the old neighborhood”and read things by the “author” street names in that neighborhood.  How’s that? I’ve also included some more essays in my roster, making this a non-pure “short story” challenge. But the rules are flexible on that. 🙂 I’m repeating my tradition of making “deuces wild” to allow some ad hoc selections throughout the year.  I will try to keep those in line with their suit, though.


(above pic found at

Here are my stories/essays:



Lachesis – the past


♦A♦Letter from a Birmingham Jail – Martin Luther King (week 5)

♦2♦ – Wild Card

♦3♦I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou (week 7)

♦4♦ – The Perfect Past – Vladimir Nabokov

♦5♦ – The Lincoln Train – Maureen F. McHugh

♦6♦ – Winter, 1965 – Frederic Tuten

♦7♦– Go Back – Karen Joy Fowler

♦8♦ – Hippies and Beats – Edward Hoagland

♦9♦ – How She Remembers It – Rick Bass

♦10♦Winter Elders – Shawn Vestal (week 11)

♦J♦ – What it Means to be Colored Me (essay) – Zora Neale Hurston

♦Q♦ – The Hills of Zion (essay) – H.L. Mencken

♦K♦The Devil Baby at Hull House (essay) – Jane Addams (week 6)


Clotho – the present


♠A♠ – The Future is Now (essay) – Katharine Porter

♠2♠ – Wild

♠3♠ – Tradition and the Individual Talent (essay) – T.S. Eliot (week 13)

♠4♠ – What Are Masterpieces? (essay) – Gertrude Stein

♠5♠ – The Mongerji Letters – Geetha Iyee (week 4)

♠6♠ – The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates – Stephen King

♠7♠ – Safety – Linda Fitzpatrick (week 9)

♠8♠ – Interview With a Moron – Elizabeth Stuckey French

♠9♠ – La Pulchra Nota – Molly McNett (Week 12)

♠10♠ – Watching a Woman on the M101 Express – Kamilah Aisha Moon

♠J♠ – Mr. Voice – Jess Walter (week 2)

♠Q♠ – The Big Cat – Louise Erdrich

♠K♠ – Double On-Call – John Green (week 8)


Atropos -the future


♥A♥– Moving On – Diane Cook

♥2♥ – Wild

♥3♥ – Happy Endings – Kevin Conti

♥4♥By the Time You Read This – Yannick Murphy (week 1)

♥5♥ – Jeffty is Five – Harlan Ellison

♥6♥ – Divergence – David H. Lynn

♥7♥ – The Prize of Peril – Robert Sheckley

♥8♥The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything – George Alec Effinger

♥9♥ -Sex Ex Machina (essay) – James Thurber

♥10♥ – The Creation Myth of Cooperstown (essay) – Stephen Jay Gould

♥J♥ – The Paper Menagerie – Ken Liu

♥Q♥The Anything Box – Zenna Henderson (week 3)

♥K♥ – The Spirit Stone – Maurice Broaddus


The old neighborhood – stories by authors the streets of my childhood neighborhood were named after (with one exception, but that exception still is an Indianapolis street name, just not one where I grew up) 🙂

♣A♣ – Leaf Girl – Elizabeth Pearl (week 14)

♣2♣ – Wild Card

♣3♣ – A Plea for the Constitution (non-fiction) – George Bancroft

♣4♣ – Dedication Speech at Chickamauga – Lew Wallace

♣5♣ –  Friendship (essay) – Ralph Waldo Emerson

♣6♣ – Old Christmas – Washington Irving

♣7♣ – The Corn Song – John Greenleaf Whittier

♣8♣ – The Snow Image: A Childish Miracle – Nathaniel Hawthorne

♣9♣ – Character (essay) – Ralph Waldo Emerson

♣10♣ – Legend of Two Discreet Statues – Washington Irving

♣J♣ – The Celestial Railroad – Nathaniel Hawthorne

♣Q♣ – Love (essay) – Ralph Waldo Emerson

♣K♣ – Strange Stories by a Nervous Gentleman – Washington Irving

Some of my sources for this year:

What about YOU?  Are you participating in the Deal Me In Challenge this year?  Why not give it a try?  It’s a fun way to keep yourself reading even when things get busy. I mean, who doesn’t have time to at least read one little short story a week, right? 🙂


“It’s The Most Wonderful Day of the Year!” – Announcing the 7th Annual “DEAL ME IN” short story reading challenge.

It’s December 21st, the SHORTest day of the year. What better date to take the plunge and sign up for a short story challenge? So, without further ado…

Welcome to the Short Story Reading Challenge, “Deal Me In 2017!”


(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

Since I was a child, I’ve always loved a good story. I believed stories helped us to ennoble ourselves, to fix what was broken in us, and to help us become the people we dreamed of being. Lies… that told a deeper truth.”

                           -Anthony Hopkins (portraying Dr. Robert Ford) in Westworld, season 1, episode 10.


Yes, I know you’re being bombarded with posts about all sorts of reading challenges for the new year, and they all sound like a lot of fun. But here’s a unique challenge where your reading burden is relatively light AND where you still can experience a lot of different authors and genres.

What is the goal of the challenge?

To read 52 short stories in 2017 (that’s only one per week – versions with a lesser story requirement are noted below)

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 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 will link to your post at the bottom of my weekly post. I currently plan to do my weekly post on Sundays)

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 – or start one at WordPress or blogspot – it’s easy and free to create a basic blog.

How do I pick which stories to read?

(The 52 stories themselves are totally up to you.) Before you get start 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 of last year’s participants’ rosters in the comments to last year’s sign-up if you want to see some examples. I’ll be posting my own 2017 roster soon. My twists this year? I’m actually including 13 essays this time around (inspired by “o” at the Behold the Stars blog) One of my suits will be stories by authors who the streets in the neighborhood I grew up in are named after (Irving, Hawthorne, Wallace, etc.)  I think my other three suits will be loosely based on the three fates (Moirae) from Greek Mythology who, we are told in Plato’s “Republic” sing of “things that were, things that are, and things that will be.”  Not sure how I’m going to manage that, but I have a few days left.

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’ll eventually have a section in my sidebar for “2017 Deal Me In Participants.” This year, I think I’ll try to go back to a weekly wrap-up post, linking to other Deal Me In participants’ posts I’ve seen recently too.  Late sign-ups are allowed and encouraged too.

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? 🙂

Some short story resources:

Classic Horror Stories: 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 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.
Looking for some really short stories? Try here

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.” 🙂

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!” We only have twelve full moons in 2017, so maybe you can have a ‘discretionary read’ sometime during the year where you draw a thirteenth card.

You can try the 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.

Giveaways! I’m working on a system to actually do a few giveaways this year. Maybe one a quarter. Nothing extravagant, just maybe a B&N or Amazon gift card or something. Winners will be determined somehow by luck of the draw (naturally!) I’ll try to have that figured out and announced with my first wrap-up post of 2017.

So, how about it?  Are you UP for a challenge? If so, Deal Me In 7.0 might just be for you!  Shall we “Deal YOU in?” 🙂

Last of all, please help spread the word about Deal Me In. It’s been so much more fun the past few years with others playing along. Bloggers from all over the world have participated – from Great Britain to Ghana and from Tempe to Tasmania! 🙂 I haven’t been counting, but I know we’re well over the “1,000 stories read” mark by challenge participants – something I’m a little proud of. 🙂

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