Solitude by William Trevor – Selection 2 of #DealMeIn2018

The Card: ♥Ace♥ of Hearts

The Suit: For 2018, I have devoted the suit of ♥♥♥Hearts♥♥♥ to stories by Irish writer William Trevor, a widely acknowledged titan of the short story form. He passed away last year; how sad that there will be no more new stories from his pen.

The Selection: Solitude, from William Trevor: Selected Stories. I selected it solely because of the title, for I am among those who often enjoy solitude. 🙂

The Author: William Trevor. I became acquainted with Trevor through his collection, “After Rain,” which I acquired back in 2010. The title story of that volume after rainremains one of my all time favorites. I blogged about it here. There are a couple other stories of his that I’ve blogged about before, Gilbert’s Mother and Lost Ground.

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 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 2018. Check the sidebar for links to other book bloggers who are participating in this year’s challenge.


“In the hotel where I live, in Bordighera’s Regina Palace, my friends are the dining-room waiters, and the porters in the hall, and the bedroom maids; I do not turn away such friendship and I have myself for company too. Yet when my face is there in the glass of my compact, or reflected in shop windows when the sun is right, or glimpsed in public mirrors, I often think I do not know that woman. I wonder when I gaze for a moment longer if what I see is the illusion imposed by my imagination upon the shadow a child became, if somehow I do not entirely exist. I know that this is not so, yet still it seems to be.“

This story is the first person account of a girl named Villana told from when she was a little girl of undisclosed age (though young enough to still have imaginary friends) to being a teenager, to being fifty-three years old and living on after the death of her parents. It’s the evolution of her relationship with the parents across the decades that makes this story worth reading.

When Villana is in her youth, her father is often absent (he’s a kind of “wanna be Egyptologist”) which leads her mother to find a new (male) “friend.” While they are certainly not the first family to encounter such “difficulties,” their case is made especially painful due to the mother & friend’s careless lack of discretion, which leads to Villana witnessing something “no child ever should.”

How this “secret” effects Villana then, and at different stages of her life is the engine that drives the story, which takes some twists and turns – including a real shocker that is thrown in, if only by implication. Her later life seems a sad and incomplete one, as the quotation shared above no doubt let’s you know. Perhaps it is her parents’ “normalizing” the past indiscretion – or at least not making a “big deal” out of it, which contributes most to her life of solitude.

“There is no regret on my mother’s part that I can tell, nor is there bitterness on his; I never heard a quarrel.”

Maybe if there had been a standard “row” about it there would have been closure for her, and she would have led a more normal life. Certainly a sad story, but one well told.

Two down and fifty to go! How did your #DealMeIn2018 reading go this week?



The Fish of Lijiang by Chen Qiufan – selection #1 of Deal Me In 2018

img_1299The Card: ♠8♠ of Spades

The Suit: For 2018, ♠♠♠Spades♠♠♠ is my Suit for horror, sci-fi, or fantasy stories

The Selection: The Fish of Lijiang, from the anthology “Invisible Planets: Contemporary Chinese a Science Fiction in Translation.” I’ve become interested in Chinese Sci-fi of late, mostly due to the astounding Li Cixin Novel, “The Three Body Problem” translated by Ken Liu, who also did the translation for the stories this anthology. He has also made a Deal Me In appearance in the past, with his story The Paper Menagerie. As of the time of this blog post, the story is available to read online, thanks to Clarksworld Magazine.

The Author: Chen Qiufan – A new-to-me author, he wrote his much-praised debut novel, “The Waste Tide” in 2013. (Pic above from his twitter account). There were three of his stories in “Invisible Planets” and this one was easily my favorite.

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 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 2018. Check the sidebar for links to other book bloggers who are participating in this year’s challenge.

The Fish of Lijiang

“Ten years ago, I had nothing and no cares. Ten years ago, Lijiang was a paradise for those who liked to exile themselves from civilization.”

And right out of the gate in Deal Me In 2018 I already have a candidate for favorite story of the year! I’ve read a few other stories over the years that gave me a similar feel to this one, most notably, Premendra Mitra’s “The Discovery of Telenapota,” which I read during a 2016 Readathon. Both tell of a city benighted by fantastic imagery and events. Our protagonist in this story is a businessman who to falls victim to his company’s “damned mandatory physical exam” which leaves him diagnosed as “PNFD II (Psychogenic Neural-Functional Disorder II).” The prescribed cure? A getaway sojourn in the town of Lijiang.

After “drifting around” following his arrival in Lijiang, he begins to wonder, “Is this how you get better? Without any physical therapy, medication, special diet, yoga, yin-yang dynamics, or any other kind of professional care?” Eventually, though, he meets a woman. A very interesting woman. It turns out she’s a “special care nurse,” in town for her own rehabilitation. After getting acquainted they begin to explore the town together, though they have been there before. Both lament how the town has changed and lost its magic, with nothing being “real” anymore but instead soaked in a feel of consumerism.

Only the schools of red fish that live in Lijiang’s waterways retain the magic of the old Lijiang.

“Whether it’s dawn, dusk, or midnight, you can see them hovering in the water, facing the same direction, lined up like soldiers on a parade ground, ready for inspection. But if you look closer, you’ll see that they aren’t really still. In fact, they’re struggling against the current in order to maintain their position.”

I don’t think I can say too much more without “revealing” the whole story, but when it turned really interesting for me is when we learn that both “patients” are suffering from a “time-related” illness, but not the same illness. Maybe they can help each other? Read the story for yourself at the link in the header for this post.

So, how was YOUR first story of Deal Me In 2018? Will it be among your favorites?

(Below: Lijiang is a “real” place in the world. It looks quite beautiful, and it’s easy to see how it could inspire a story…)






Another Reading Challenge!? Introducing “The Frankenslam!” – a 2018 Frankenstein Bicentennial Reading Challenge

2018 is the Bicentennial of the publication of Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein. In honor of this occasion, I created for myself a reading challenge and – upon further reflection – decided to “make it public,” so here goes.

Just what is a “Frankenslam?” Well, when I first read Shelley’s novel – maybe 25 years ago – I remember being struck by how articulate and literate the “monster” was. Do you know how this came to be? If you haven’t read the book you won’t know, but even if you have you may have since forgotten. At a certain point in the novel, the monster is heading back to his “hovel” in the woods and stumbles upon someone’s lost “leathern portmanteau” which contains three books – a volume of Plutarch’s Lives (he doesn’t say specifically other than it contained the lives of the first leaders of the ancient republics,  so maybe that can be intuited(?) – extra credit available there!)  The second is Goethe’s The Sufferings of Young Werther (a.k.a. “The Sorrows of Young Werther”) and the third is John Milton’s Paradise Lost. My challenge to myself is to read all three of these in 2018, thus acquiring a similar ‘base knowledge’ to that of Frankenstein’s monster.  Who’s with me??

To complete a Frankenslam, participants will need to accumulate One Billion (say these last two words like Dr. Evil if you want) Volts (according to each bolt of lightning can contain up to a billion votes – get it?). How do you accumulate volts? By reading the three books, each having a value in volts:

Paradise Lost 375 million volts; Plutarch’s Lives – 350 million volts; The Sufferings of Young Werther – 275 million volts.  If you can finish those three then, congratulations, you have completed a Frankenslam! Ideally, I and other Frankenslammers would also love to read a blog post describing your reaction to these three books (50 million volts) and how they helped shape the “monster,” but the most important thing is to READ them all.

Maybe you are more ambitious than that, though.  If so, there’s also a ‘double secret’ level, the Frankenslam Dunk!  Which you can earn if you also read the original Frankenstein novel itself (200 million volts) and watch the iconic 1931 film version (100 million volts) for a total of 1.3 Billion volts.

If you’re less ambitious, you can try The Frankenlay-up. Reading just one or two of the three books from the leathern portmanteau.

Universal Frankenstein - angry mob

If you don’t have time to do so much reading, do a light-hearted Villagers with Pitchforks and Torches level and maybe just read the Classics Illustrated Comic Book 51wPPHD6o+L._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_version of the novel (50 million volts), eat a bowl of Frankenberry cereal (10 million volts – I hope this is still around(?)), watch Young Frankenstein (25 million volts), watch The Bride of Frankenstein (25 million volts) and maybe a few episodes of The Munsters (5 million volts each). Watch an episode or two of the animated Milton the Monster series (for 4 million volts each).

Other ways to accumulate points, er volts:

Convince your book club to read Frankenstein (100 million volts); Go to Geneva Switzerland, the “birthplace” of the novel (100 million volts). Discuss the novel with a reading friend who has read it (25 million volts; limit 4 friends). Buy a leathern portmanteau yourself to proudly carry evidence of your completing a Frankenslam.


So, have I got everyone “charged up” about this challenge?! You can follow your progress with the convenient scorecard below:

score card.jpg

Okay, so yes, this really is kind of a tongue in cheek challenge, but seriously, wouldn’t it be worthy to have these three famous books under your belt?  Do you know any readers in your circle who have read all three? I’d bet the number of people out there who have is a relatively small number.  I suppose that Mary Shelley herself had read them so as to be able to include them effectively in her novel, but who else?? The only one I’ve read completely is The Sufferings of Young Werther. I’ve tried Paradise Lost before but without success. I’ve read a few individual lives of Plutarch but not a “volume” so I have a lot of reading to do.

Won’t you join me in this unique challenge for 2018? Leave a comment below and I’ll link to you on my sidebar. I’ll also post a “quarterly report” with my progress and updated scorecard.


From Chapter 15 of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein:

“One night, during my accustomed visit to the neighbouring wood, where I collected my own food, and brought home firing for my protectors, I found on the ground a leathern portmanteau, containing several articles of dress and some books. I eagerly seized the prize, and returned with it to my hovel. Fortunately the books were written in the language the elements of which I had acquired at the cottage; they consisted of Paradise Lost, a volume of Plutarch’s Lives, and the Sorrows of Werter. The possession of these treasures gave me extreme delight; I now continually studied and exercised my mind upon these histories, whilst my friends were employed in their ordinary occupations.

“I can hardly describe to you the effect of these books. They produced in me an infinity of new images and feelings that sometimes raised me to ecstasy, but more frequently sunk me into the lowest dejection. In the Sorrows of Werter, besides the interest of its simple and affecting story, so many opinions are canvassed, and so many lights thrown upon what had hitherto been to me obscure subjects, that I found in it a never-ending source of speculation and astonishment. The gentle and domestic manners it described, combined with lofty sentiments and feelings, which had for their object something out of self, accorded well with my experience among my protectors, and with the wants which were for ever alive in my own bosom. But I thought Werter himself a more divine being than I had ever beheld or imagined; his character contained no pretension, but it sunk deep. The disquisitions upon death and suicide were calculated to fill me with wonder. I did not pretend to enter into the merits of the case, yet I inclined towards the opinions of the hero, whose extinction I wept, without precisely understanding it.

“As I read, however, I applied much personally to my own feelings and condition. I found myself similar, yet at the same time strangely unlike to the beings concerning whom I read, and to whose conversation I was a listener. I sympathised with, and partly understood them, but I was unformed in mind; I was dependent on none and related to none. ‘The path of my departure was free’; and there was none to lament my annihilation. My person was hideous and my stature gigantic. What did this mean? Who was I? What was I? Whence did I come? What was my destination? These questions continually recurred, but I was unable to solve them.

“The volume of Plutarch’s Lives, which I possessed, contained the histories of the first founders of the ancient republics. This book had a far different effect upon me from the Sorrows of Werter. I learned from Werter’s imaginations despondency and gloom: but Plutarch taught me high thoughts; he elevated me above the wretched sphere of my own reflections to admire and love the heroes of past ages. Many things I read surpassed my understanding and experience. I had a very confused knowledge of kingdoms, wide extents of country, mighty rivers, and boundless seas. But I was perfectly unacquainted with towns, and large assemblages of men. The cottage of my protectors had been the only school in which I had studied human nature; but this book developed new and mightier scenes of action. I read of men concerned in public affairs, governing or massacring their species. I felt the greatest ardour for virtue rise within me, and abhorrence for vice, as far as I understood the signification of those terms, relative as they were, as I applied them, to pleasure and pain alone. Induced by these feelings, I was of course led to admire peaceable lawgivers, Numa, Solon, and Lycurgus, in preference to Romulus and Theseus. The patriarchal lives of my protectors caused these impressions to take a firm hold on my mind; perhaps, if my first introduction to humanity had been made by a young soldier, burning for glory and slaughter, I should have been imbued with different sensations.

“But Paradise Lost excited different and far deeper emotions. I read it, as I had read the other volumes which had fallen into my hands, as a true history. It moved every feeling of wonder and awe that the picture of an omnipotent God warring with his creatures was capable of exciting. I often referred the several situations, as their similarity struck me, to my own. Like Adam, I was apparently united by no link to any other being in existence; but his state was far different from mine in every other respect. He had come forth from the hands of God a perfect creature, happy and prosperous, guarded by the especial care of his Creator; he was allowed to converse with, and acquire knowledge from, beings of a superior nature: but I was wretched, helpless, and alone. Many times I considered Satan as the fitter emblem of my condition; for often, like him, when I viewed the bliss of my protectors, the bitter gall of envy rose within me.


It’s the Most Wonderful Day of the Year – Announcing the 8th Annual “Deal Me In!” Short Story Reading Challenge!

“My short stories are like soft shadows I’ve set out in the world, faint footprints I’ve left behind.” – Haruki Murakami

stonehenge sunrise solstice

It’s a little known fact that, in ancient Britain, there once lived a race of great storytellers. They were, in fact, specialists in the form of short stories, generally told around a blazing campfire during their long hunting excursions. So great did their passion for the short story grow that they began to hold sacred the shortest day of the year and considered it a great feast day when all would gather and share their stories. Each “clan” of this race (there were about 52 known clans, broadly formed into 4 tribes of 13 clans each) would have a master storyteller, and at the great festivals beautiful painted stones would be drawn from a ceremonial bag to determine the order in which each clan’s grand storyteller would present his family’s best effort. Little-known-fact.png

Now, at this time at the mere Eve of Civilization, “Science” in its modern form was unknown and, in its form of that time,  was inexact and varied from tribe to tribe, leading to tribes calculating different days for the shortest day of the year, but, eventually, the tribes realized a standardized date for their feast would be a good thing so, on the great Plain of Salisbury, they created a great and wondrous stone calendar. The position of the rising and setting sun at certain times, when viewed from the center of this stone calendar would mark the shortest day of the year.**

Later, in the 21st Century, it was thoughts of this vanished civilization that led me to create the Deal Me In! short story reading challenge, which in 2018 will celebrate its 8th year, with thousands of stories having been read – and sometimes blogged about – by bloggers all over the world.

**Okay, I may have fabricated parts of this story, but there IS a great stone calendar in England that tells great time to this day!

Will YOU become part of this great tradition in 2018?  The rules of the challenge are not difficult:


Deal Me In logo above designed by Mannomoi at follow her on Twitter at

What is the goal of the challenge?

To read 52 short stories in 2018 (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 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 participants lists in last year’s sign up post at if you want to see some examples. I’ve already posted my own 2018 roster.

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 “2018 Deal Me In Participants.” This year, I hope to go back to a weekly wrap-up post, linking to other Deal Me In participants’ posts I’ve seen recently.  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:

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!” Not every calendar year has 13 full moons, but we are lucky in that 2018 IS one of the years it does – lunar calendar below for reference.

2018 moon phases calendar

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.

So, how about it?  Are you UP for a challenge? If so, Deal Me In 8.0 might just be for you!  Shall we “Deal YOU in?”


Bartleby, er, I mean, “Tipton the Xerox WorkCentre 7556PS – A Tale of a Government Sponsored Enterprise”

Just for fun, below is a modern retelling of the beloved Melville tale, “Bartleby the Scrivener” that I wrote last year after our short story “book” club read that story…

Bartleby Tipton the Scrivener Xerox WorkCentre 7556PS – A Tale of Wall Street a Government Sponsored Enterprise”

I believe it was in my fourth or fifth year of employment at National Home Loan Finance Bank (NHLFB) that the company took on several new Scriveners (Xerox WorkCenter 7556PS’s).  It was perhaps by some coincidence, I supposed at the time, that their names were also names of counties in the state in which my company was located.  Two Scriveners Xerox WorkCentre 7556PSs, one named Tipton and the other Fulton, were assigned to specifically perform their duties for my department.  In the early days of his employment, Tipton’s performance was beyond reproach.  Any documents that were sent to it for printing or scrivening copying were quickly returned in flawless detail.  He was such a good scrivener copier that we could send files of all kinds.  His performance was such that the Scrivener Xerox WorkCentre 7556PS (Fulton) that labored next to him was rarely called upon to do tasks as all of my coworkers “preferred” to have Tipton do their work for them.

After a time, however, Tipton’s behavior began to change and his performance faltered.  Occasionally, documents were sent to him for reproduction or printing yet when my coworkers went to collect them from him, they were nowhere to be found.  He would happily provide lists of documents he was working on, yet these missing ones would not be included. It was around this time more of my peers began to take their work to Fulton instead of Tipton.  Thinking that Tipton’s problem may have been that he had been overburdened, I initially overlooked his poor performance.  Later, however, his actions became more erratic.  Sometimes, though he was obviously working on documents we had requested from him, he would refuse to give them up to us.  Clutching them tightly so that we could only regain them from him after employing much force – sometimes even to the point of damaging the documents or ripping them, naturally rendering them useless or ruined (at which point we would normally turn to Fulton for assistance). Sometimes he would even hide the documents and only a physical search of his person could find them. I need hardly say that this situation was intolerable.

This was only the worst of his behavior, though.  He would sometimes reproduce documents in a very messy fashion, with random lines or smudges – again rendering them useless for official use.  Often he would act like he did not even recognize us; we thought he was joking and, in turn, showed him our corporate ID badges.  His indifference to them – and subsequent refusal to perform duties for us – eventually led us request that a doctor proficient in treatment of Scriveners Xerox WorkCenter 7556PS’s come to visit. One day he arrived with an assortment of tools of his trade and worked with poor Tipton for a couple hours, at the end of which period he declared Tipton to be “cured” and able to perform his duties “as effectively as he had in the beginning.”  I and the members of my department were very happy to hear this news, as we all had admired and respected the work Tipton had produced when he first came here.  This was two weeks ago.

As I write these words today, however, Tipton has reverted to his poor behavior, seemingly at an even worse level than before.  On a given day, there are only a few employees that he will recognize and work for, and even which few employees these are changes from day to day with no rhyme or reason that we can discern.  We have suggested that he take some time off and have even forcibly attempted this, but he claims he can just ‘reboot’ and will be fine.  We’ve tried to let him do this, but it hasn’t worked.  At this point, I fear we are going to have to discontinue his employment here.  I do worry about what future he will have if he leaves, however, for what other institutions might be willing to retain his services based on his recent performance here?  Sadly, his partner Fulton has now also begun to show similar signs of deterioration – probably caused by the added burden of work formerly done by Tipton now falling to him.  It’s just hard to get a good scrivener Xerox WorkCenter 7556PS these days, though I hear rumors of a new “Bartleby 7556-B” that will soon be available for employment.  Perhaps he will be up to the task, though I “prefer not to” speculate about that at present.

My 2018 Deal Me In reading list


(Deal Me In logo above designed by Mannomoi at follow her on Twitter at

What gall it must take for a blogger – who hasn’t even come close to completing his annual reading project for THIS year! – to take time to plan out the next year’s?  Well, gall I got, so here goes! I should note that I am planning to “host” (using that word very loosely, here, basically I’m just going to announce) the 8th Annual Deal Me In Short Story Reading Challenge a week from today, which will be the “shortest” day of the year – at least for us Northern Hemispherians.  So, I thought maybe I should have a list of my own that I could point back to “to get everyone started.”

I’m trying to keep mine relatively simple this year. No grand, overarching theme, and all the stories I already own and have a kindle version of (no more looking desperately while thinking, “which of my anthologies was that story in?!?”). Also of note is that I’ve only read four of these authors before (albeit for one of the four I have devoted a whole suit of stories – in memoriam. I’ll keep deuces wild, and was thinking this year I might allow the wild cards to be re-reads of favorite stories from Deal Me In’s past – or just the past in general.

So, without further ado…here are my 2018 stories/essays:



everywhere stories

Stories from the anthology “Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet” (“a diverse collection of stories by writers who have lived and worked aorund the globe or traveled extensively. Their connection to these places isn’t casual. The stories go beneath the surface, the way all great fictions do.”)

♦A♦ – Eggs – Susi Wyss (Central African Republic)

♦2♦ – Wild Card – maybe a re-read of a favorite…

♦3♦ – The Boy with Fire in His Mouth – William Kelley Woolfitt (Uganda) week 10

♦4♦ – Rue Rachel – David Ebenbach (Canada) week 6

♦5♦ – Heathens – Alden Jones (Costa Rica)

♦6♦ – The Money Pill – Tim Weed (Cuba)

♦7♦Visiting Chairman Mao  – Jocelyn Cullity (China) week 8

♦8♦ – When Stars Fell Like Salt Before the Revolution – Jill Widner (Iran)

♦9♦ – Comfort Me with Apples – Rochelle Distelheim (Israel)

♦10♦ – A Husband and Wife are One Satan – Jeff Fearnside (Kazakhstan)

♦J♦ – Au Lieu des Fleurs – Matthew Pitt (France)

♦Q♦ – The Ring – Marc Nieson (Hungary)

♦K♦ –  Jean – Holly Painter (New Zealand)


As I often do, I’m going to devote a suit to dark/horror/sci-fi stories.  These are chosen from several sources, as noted below.

♠A♠ – Unseen – Unfeared – Francis Stevens (from “The Weird” anthology) (week 5)

♠2♠ – Wild – maybe a re-read of a favorite…

♠3♠ – Evil Opposite – Naomi Kritzer (from “Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine”)

♠4♠ – The Cage – Jeff Vandermeer (from “The Weird” anthology)

♠5♠ – Touched – Kim Sheard (from “Strange New Worlds II” anthology)

♠6♠ – The Salamander – Merce Rodoreda (from “The Weird” anthology)

♠7♠ – Mr. Templar – Jason Sizemore (from “Irredeemable”)

♠8♠ –  The Fish of Lijiang – Chen Qiufan (from “Invisble Planets” anthology) (week 1)

♠9♠ –  The Town Manager – Thomas Ligotti (from “The Weird” anthology)

♠10♠ – Grave of the Fireflies – Cheng Jingbo (from the “Invisible Planets” anthology)

♠J♠ –  Gods, Fate, and Fractals – William Leisner (from “Strange New Worlds II”) (week 3)

♠Q♠ – Worlds that Flourish – Ben Okri (from “The Weird” anthology)

♠K♠ – The History of the Invasion Told in Five Dogs – Kelly Jennings (from F&SF magazine)


selected stories

The “Grandmaster” short storyteller William Trevor passed away last year so I’m going to devote a whole suit of stories to feature some of his that are included in William Trevor: Selected Stories. I read his story collection “After Rain” very early in my blogging “career” and it contained several of my all-time favorite stories.

♥A♥Solitude – William Trevor (week 2)

♥2♥ – Wild – maybe a re-read of a favorite… (week 11)

♥3♥ – Child’s Play – William Trevor

♥4♥ – The Potato Dealer – William Trevor

♥5♥ – Of the Cloth – William Trevor

♥6♥ – Low Sunday, 1950 – William Trevor

♥7♥ – Death of a Professor – William Trevor

♥8♥ – The Hill Bachelors – William Trevor (week 4)

♥9♥ – Justina’s Priest – William Trevor

♥10♥ – Rose Wept – William Trevor (week 9)

♥J♥ –  Cheating at Canasta – William Trevor

♥Q♥ –  Old Flame – William Trevor

♥K♥ – Sacred Statues – William Trevor


russian emigre stories

Stories from “Russian Emigre Short Stories from Bunin to Yanofsky.” For one prior year’s iteration of Deal Me In, I devoted a suit (also clubs) to stories by Russian authors and to this day it remains one of my all-time favorite DMI suits, so I’m hoping to recapture some of that “magic” in 2018.

♣A♣ – The Visit to the Museum – Vladimir Nabokov

♣2♣ – Wild Card – maybe a re-read of a favorite…

♣3♣ – The Lady from Monte Carlo – Dovid Knut

♣4♣ – The Murder of Valkovsky – Nina Berberova

♣5♣ –  The Tunnel – Irina Guadanini

♣6♣ – They Call Her Russia – Vasily Yanovsky

♣7♣ – The Life of Madame Duclos – Irina Odoevtseva

♣8♣ – Atlantis – Vladislav Khodasevich

♣9♣ – A Scattering of Stars – Ivan Lukash

♣10♣ – The Atom Explodes – Georgy Ivanov

♣J♣ – The Astrologist – Mark Aldanov

♣Q♣ – Klasson and His Soul – Boris Butkevich

♣K♣ – In Paris – Ivan Bunin (week 7)


What do YOU think of my selections?  Are YOU thinking about doing Deal Me In in 2018? Look for the “official” announcement post on 12/21!

Chinese Dystopian Sci-Fi, anyone?

invisible planets

I’ve been working my way through an anthology this week – “Invisible Planets: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation”  (edited and translated by Ken Liu -pictured below holding his most renowned translating effort). I don’t recall now where I first heard of this book – maybe via – but I first encountered Liu in his short story, “What I Assume You Shall Assume” from – of all places – an anthology of ‘Weird Western’ tales called “Dead Man’s Hand.”


Later, we crossed paths again when he made an appearance in 2014’s “Deal Me In” challenge, as the story “The Gods Will Not Be Chained” was read by James of the blog,“James Reads Books.” Then his crowning achievement to me thus far was his “epic” translation of the first book of Cixin Liu’s acclaimed “The Three-Body Problem” – the first book read by my reincarnated book club a.k.a. “Book Club II: Son of Book Club.” (“Re-hydrate!” sorry, inside joke for The Three-Body Problem readers…)


Soooo… when I heard of this anthology, I promptly purchased it and have been anxious to get started in on it. So far it has not disappointed. I’m now halfway through, having read 7 of its 14 stories. A couple of the stories were really outstanding, Chen Quifan’s “The Fish of Lijiang” and Xia Jia’s “Tongtong’s Summer” and “Night Journey of the Dragon-Horse”. These and other stories in the book have frequently called to mind other favorite stories of mine, of such varying pedigree as Oscar Wilde’s “The Happy Prince,” and Premendra Mitra’s “The Discovery of Telenapota”

But the one I’m going to talk about briefly in this post is..

“The City of Silence” by Ma Boyong

“It’s understandable that the appropriate authorities prefer electronic books. With electronic books, all you need is FIND and REPLACE to eliminate all the unhealthy words in a book and decontaminate it. But to correct and edit physical books would take forever.”

The story paints one of the bleakest dystopias I’ve encountered, and it is clear that the author is well versed in Dystopian Classics of the West as well, with nods to both Orwell’s 1984 and Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 appearing in this near-novella length story. In the society described in The City of Silence, most “living” (if you can call it that) is done via “The Web”  – “The Capital’s streets had few pedestrians. Now that the Web was everywhere, most chores could be done there. Unlike in the primitive past, people no longer needed to go outside the home for the necessities of daily life.” Communication is slowly being constricted as well. Citizens are constantly monitored by The State and must adhere to and use only words from a continually updated list of “healthy words.” The insidiousness of gradualism is on display in how the communication and language are inexorably taken away from the citizens. I found the descriptions of the stages by which language was slowly becoming a lost art, and how the citizenry would retreat to a new strategy, only to see it also eradicated, fascinating.

As you can see by the quotation above, physical books have become extinct and most haven’t heard of even the famous Orwell Classic: “Do you know 1984?” asks one, “I only know that ‘1984’ is part of my Web Access Serial “(i.e. his name) The story’s protagonist, “ARVARDAN19842015BNKF,” eventually discovers a secretive group of non-conformists, who clandestinely run a speakeasy-like support group called “The Talking Club”- No forbidden words there! They even have ‘shielding’ which prevents the government’s (or I should say “The Appropriate Authorities” which is the “Big Brother” of this story) surveillance of their activity, but for how long..?

The story’s nod to Fahrenheit 451 lies in the fact that one of the members of “The Talking Club” read 1984 once, when copies were still available, and entertains the group by retelling the story – from memory – in “installments” to her fellow members, one of whom notes that “The author of 1984 predicted the progress of totalitarianism, but could not predict the progress of technology.” She’s like one of the “living books” of Fahrenheit 451!

If you’re a fan of dystopian fiction, you will definitely want to give this story a try. I don’t know if it’s available individually (I didn’t see it during a quick off-the-cuff search) but the anthology is available on  I am looking forward to finishing off the other stories in this book over the upcoming long Thanksgiving Weekend.

Below: Ma Boyong


Have you read any Chinese Science Fiction? Maybe The Three-Body Problem? Are you familiar with Ken Liu’s work?

Ghachar Ghochar – a novel by Vivek Shanbhag

ghachar ghochar

“How did I slip into this way of life? I can only look back and wonder.”

I went into this book “blind” – not really knowing what it was about or even where I had heard of it.** Given the type of story this is, however, my reading experience actually might be enhanced by that situation, as it’s only sneakily revealed just how disturbing it truly is. It’s told as a kind of tiered flashback by (yet another!) unnamed narrator who is currently sitting in “Coffee House” – his refuge from his family and wife. The waiter at the coffee shop, Vincent, acts almost as an oracle to the narrator, who goes there seeking wisdom or advice from him. The narrator himself is rather shiftless – an idler who doesn’t seem to have an independent bone in his body – and it was easy for me to immediately not like him very much.

His story is one of a “family group” that once lived together in a very small home until, after its current, aging patriarch has lost his job, the narrator’s uncle has an idea to start up a business selling spices. It takes off and, with it, naturally so do the family’s fortunes. At the time the book begins, they are living (still all together) in a much nicer house. The narrator has even gotten married (“he never even held a woman’s hand until his wedding day”) but his wife has become dissatisfied with his not really “earning his way” in the family. (He does receive a salary and has a ‘lofty-sounding title’ in the new company but he doesn’t really do anything and rarely even shows up to “the office.”) I think he and the family could have tolerated her disdain, though, if she hadn’t also interfered when a “threat” to the family’s status quo presents itself via a woman showing up at their house asking to see the uncle (a pregnant mistress perhaps?)… The family feels that the uncle, having become the major provider, cannot be disturbed by any outside “distractions.” I think the uncle is very well aware of this and takes full advantage of it. The family treats her unkindly and basically runs her off, with Anita, the narrator’s wife, being the sole “dissenting opinion” in the matter. This is apparently intolerable, though how much so is not revealed until the book’s final pages…

One thing I admired about the book is that it’s one of those that surprises you – and does so to such a degree that I was unable to resist the urge to look back in the book searching for “clues” that might have led me to anticipate what was truly going on with this family.

I also think the book could be considered to be a warning about the corrupting nature of money, or especially newly acquired money. One of my favorite quotations from the book was the following:

“It’s true what they say—it’s not we who control money, it’s the money that controls us. When there’s only a little, it behaves meekly; when it grows, it becomes brash and has its way with us.”

I cannot neglect mentioning that I loved the concept expressed in the novel that Ghachar Ghochar (generally meaning “hopelessly entangled” – see book cover above) was a phrase that only existed in the family of Anita, and the fact that her sharing those words with the narrator was a kind of intimacy. As the narrator says:

“Of course, those words could never mean to me all that they meant to her; nor would I ever utter them as naturally as she did. But she had shared with me this secret phrase that didn’t exist in any language, and now I was one of only five people in the world who knew it.”

It also got me thinking – are there any “invented” words or phrases that only my family or friends only used/use among ourselves? I thought of a couple, but one that still shows up from time to time at family gatherings is “defanon” (pronounced like “deaf” and “anon” strung together) which my (very young at the time) brother used once when telling a story, concluding – after escaping a dangerous situation – that “I got out of there like defanon!” I think it was a convolution of real words he heard once, but whatever its genesis, thereafter any hasty exit from a predicament in my family’s subsequent storytelling included the simile “like defanon!”  Gee whiz, now I’m wondering if I should even have shared this story, since this word may now get out “loose” in the world… I guess for once I can be glad that probably only a few people actually read my blog regularly. 🙂  What about YOU?  Does your family have any special words or phrases that no one else would understand? Care to “out” them here and share with me?

Ghachar Ghochar is a surprisingly short book as well, which makes it an easy one for me to recommend to others. 🙂 A definite five-star read for me.

(below: the author with an alternate cover of the book picturing the ants which were some of the “clue providers” I noted on the second pass)


**One thing I always try to do – but often fail to do – is make a note of where I have heard about a book that I’ve added to my TBR list. This book is a case where I failed to make a note of it, and now I can’t remember. (Though I want to say I heard of it via NPR or maybe the Sunday edition of New York Times, the book section of which I occasionally will peruse online over breakfast on Sunday mornings.)  If it was an individual who recommended this to me, and you’re reading this, please remind me so I can give you credit – and so that I may THANK you. 🙂

A Beer (or Two) and a Story (or Two)

I like reading. I like beer. Sometimes I like both at once, usually when I go out ‘solo’ after work for a quick dinner and drink (or two) rather than go home and rustle up my own food. I thought it might be fun to start blogging every now and then about some of the more entertaining stories I’ve read in this situation, so here goes episode 1 of ??…

The Venue: MacNivens Restaurant & Bar, visited on 7/25/17; picture below from I once toyed with the idea of founding a “Sir Walter Scott Book Club” that would meet here (since, after all, it’s a Scottish Restaurant) but I found it hard to recruit members…


The Beer: Natural Liberty – an American Pale Lager by Black Acre Brewing Company

Did I Eat Anything? Yes, the Poached Salmon Salad, which was, as I like to say, “MacNivenscent!” 🙂

The Story: Ray Bradbury’s “The Dragon”

(photos from Indianapolis Monthly and Google images)

Disclaimer: I actually read two stories and had two different beers on this outing, the other story being Bradbury’s “The Exiles” and the other beer being Confessional IPA from St. Joseph Brewing Co. I’d read the story before (even blogged about it here) so I won’t include it in this post, and though Confessional IPA is a decent brew, it is imho inferior to “Nat Lib,” which is one of my favorite local beers.

The Story

I’m in the process of cleaning up the unread “orphan stories” that I didn’t finish as part of my #24in48 Readathon plans, and the next card I drew was the four of Clubs, to which I had assigned the story “The Dragon” from my copy of Bradbury Stories: 100 of his Most Celebrated Tales. It was originally published in 1955 in Esquire Magazine.


***Spoilers follow*** It’s a very short story, which I didn’t realize when I started it, having just “jumped” to its location on my Kindle reader. Two intrepid men (I’m assuming they’re knights since they have armor and lances) are somewhere on the moor, seeking a dragon which has apparently been causing havoc in the countryside, eating “men traveling alone between our town and the next.” We learn something of what the men are up against:

“This dragon, they say his eyes are fire. His breath a white gas; you can see him burn across the dark lands. He runs with sulfur and thunder and kindles the grass. Sheep panic and die insane. Women deliver forth monsters. The dragon’s fury is such that tower walls shake back to dust. His victims, at sunrise, are strewn hither thither on the hills. How many knights, I ask, have gone for this monster and failed, even as we shall fail?”

Though the men in this story know the time period (or think they do) in which it is set – “900 years after the Nativity” – there is something special about Time on the moors…

“On this moor is no Time, is only Forever. I feel if I ran back on the road the town would be gone, the people yet unborn, things changed, the castles unquarried from the rocks, the timbers still uncut from the forests; don’t ask how I know; the moor knows and tells me.”

This story wouldn’t deliver the goods if these two brave souls didn’t indeed encounter the dragon they seek, but is it one of their time, or another? Will they vanquish it, or will their bodies be left strewn in its wake, as countless others have been?

I really enjoyed this story and was once again amazed at how some authors can tell such a great story in so few pages.

What about YOU? Do you sometimes find yourself “sitting at the bar” and reading? e-Readers and their associated apps have made this commonplace for me anymore…

A Quick #24in48 Readathon Update


Morning all! I have to get to work here in a minute, but now that the #24in48 Readathon is officially over, I thought I’d provide a quick update:

I read for a total of 10 hours and 13 minutes and completed 28 stories (my lofty goal was 52 stories so I waaaaay overestimated my chances there). As most of my readers know, all of the stories were by Ray Bradbury. This is the first time I’ve read so many stories by one author “in a row” and I found that it was a very interesting experience – be the end of the readathon, Bradbury’s voice was becoming very familiar to me. (I’ll publish a more detailed post later on my impressions of what I read)

I tried to stop and tweet about my reading in the breaks between stories and I believe I sent out between 40-50 Tweets, and received 169 “likes” on them. I gained six Twitter followers during the readathon.  The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies gained eight “likes” on Facebook during the readathon, though I couldn’t prove if all (or any, frankly) were due to my tweeting and blogging about it.

I will be tabulating the “entries” to my give away during the next couple days and will announce the winner(s) soon. Likes, comments, and retweets all counted as an entry, and likes and comments on my blog did as well, so I may have close to 200 entries in the hat to draw from. Now I have to find a hat. 🙂

Here are my answers to the wrap-up questions posted by readathon hosts Rachel, Kristen, and Kerry:

  1. How many books did you read? Pages? (If you didn’t keep track, tell me that too!) I read short stories instead of books and finished 28 of them. A record for me during a #24in48 readathon – the last few #24in48 readathons, I’ve read my goal of 24 short stories rather than 24 hours. I didn’t keep track of pages read – I’m such a slow reader that it’s too depressing to do that. I’d estimate 400-450 pages, though.
  2. How many hours did you read? If my records are correct, 10 hours 13 minutes. (In my defense, I had several other obligations during the weekend that each took big chunks of time away from my reading opportunities, but it seems that’s always the case for me.)
  3. What do you think worked well in this readathon? Reading short stories gave me natural breaks, as only a few took me longer than 30 minutes to read. During the breaks I would tweet a couple times and try to like and comment on other ‘thon’ers tweets. This part of the readathon was a lot of fun.
  4. What do you think could be done to improve the readathon for next time? Seems pretty good as it is, to me! 🙂 I wish I weren’t such a slow reader, but that happens with me every readathon.
  5. Will you participate in a future 24in48 readathon? Yes, I am looking forward to it already!

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