#24in48 Readathon – 2nd Check-in

A really fun day of reading is winding down for me in my #24in48 efforts. So far I’ve read 15 of my 24 planned short stories and am more or less on pace to finish 24 by tomorrow evening. I’ve discovered some great new authors and been really blown away by two of the stories. For now, though, I’m here to update you on my second group of stories. So here goes…

Card #5 ♥10♥ ten of hearts – “The Dissection” by George Heym

Actually a very powerful story even though it was quite short. Written in 1913, it explores the question of how quickly ones “soul” or essence leaves one’s physical body after death. It graphically follows a team of autopsy-doers as they get busy with their work: “From their white cabinets they took out dissecting instruments, white crates full of hammers, saws with sharp teeth, files, hideous sets of tweezers, tiny knives with large needles like vultures’ crooked beaks forever screaming for flesh.” My rating: Left Bower (=4 stars)

Card #6: ♥J♥ Jack of Hearts – “Salamander” by Mercè Rodoreda

Kind of interesting story about a woman whose affair with a married man in her village leads to the unexpected backlash of her being labeled a witch by the townsfolk. Burning at the stake, transmogrification – this story had it all, but I never quite connected with it. Reminded me a little of the (superior) Katherine Vaz story, Journey of the Eyeball. My rating: King (=3 stars)

Card #7 ♦A♦ Ace of Diamonds –  “That Baby” by Lindsay Hunter

Quite the disturbing macabre story of a baby that grows at an “accelerated” rate and surely must be evil. Wasn’t the story I was in the mood for when I read it this morning, but as a representative of the horror genre, it got the job done. My rating: Ace (=3.5 stars)


Card #8 ♣A♣ Ace of Clubs –  “Vanka” by Anton Chekhov

One of my least favorite of all the Chekhov stories that I’ve read, this is the heartbreaking story of the orphan, Vanka, who seizes the opportunity of his “master” being gone to write a letter to his grandfather pleading – no, BEGGING – to allow him to come live with with him and be delivered from his horrible existence. Seems to me there is a key flaw in his plan, however… I particularly enjoyed Chekhovs description of the Grandfather’s dog: “Viun was an unusually friendly and civil dog, looking as kindly at strangers as his master’s, but he was not to be trusted. Beneath his deference and humbleness was hid the most inquisitorial maliciousness. No one knew better than he how to sneak up and take a bite at a leg.” My rating: Ace

Card #9 ♦10♦  ten of diamonds –  “The Etiquette of Homicide” by Tara Laskowski

Another brief story, this one from The New Black anthology. It presents a clinical, almost “Employee Handbook-like” view of the guidelines for a hit man. I appreciated the concept bu didn’t really connect with this one either. My rating: King


(I know I should try to find some connection between the quoted lyrics on the cards and the stories I assigned them to, but I’m too tired tonight. Maybe tomorrow.)

How about YOU? How is your #24in48 reading coming along? Are you following the 24in48 hashtag on Twitter? That’s been one of the most entertaining parts of my day. 🙂

Advertisements

#24in48 Readathon – 1st Check-in

I started the Readathon late last night and made it through my first four stories. If you read my last post, you know my goal this year is to not (necessarily) read 24 HOURS but to read 24 short stories in the 48 hours. I’ve assigned each story to a card in a euchre deck of cards (not familiar with euchre? See here: http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/the-basics-of-playing-euchre.html ) My list of stories and suit themes may be found in my last post too.

I’ll try to do my twentyfour stories in five groups. One of four (corresponding to the “widow” in euchre) and then four groups of five, corresponding to the four players’ hands in a hand of euchre. Let’s get started with the widow:

img_7582
(Above: I’m using my legends of Rock-n-Roll playing cards for this Readathon. How appropriate I got started on this crazy train with Ozzy Osborne…)

First card (turned up at the start of the game): ♥A♥ Ace of Hearts.

The Man Who Sold Rope to the Gnoles by Margaret St. Clair

A truly creepy story (appropriately found in The Weird anthology) where most of the work is left to the reader himself. What/Who exactly are the Gnoles? Why do they have need of “cordage” and why do they have “fattening pens” in their cellar? Early in the story we are told that, “In the cellars from time to time someone would scream.” My rating: King (=3 stars)

Next ♣9♣ (nine of clubs) The Revolutionist by Mikhail Artzybashev
Gabriel Anderson is a teacher who, on an early spring morning walk, stumbles onto a military patrol about to perform an execution of three of its detachment. Anderson ducks for cover before he is seen, but the event scars him and leads to his later becoming a “revolutionist” himself. Beautiful writing in this one, especially when describing the Russian springtime as it encroaches on the landscape after the ravages of winter. My rating: Ace (=3.5 stars)

Third Card: ♥K♥ King of Hearts – Genius Loci by Ashton Smith
My first (noticed) coincidence. Just like last year’s #24in48, with Margaret Atwood’s story “Lusus Naturae”  I learn a new Latin term. Genius Loci refers to “the prevailing character or atmosphere of a place”. Do you believe a certain spot can have an evil character? This story’s narrator didn’t at first, but, by the end of the story… My rating: King (3 stars)

Fourth Card: ♣10♣ ten of clubs – Hide and Seek – Fyodor Sologub

My favorite of this first “round.” A doting young mother, neglected by a cold an unemotional husband, obsesses with playing hide and seek with her young child, Lelechka. An old peasant woman tells the child’s nurse that it’s a bad omen the child loves to play hide and seek so much: “She’ll hide, and hide, and hide away…” said Agathya in a mysterious whisper. This story didn’t head quite the way I expected it to at first, but boy did it pack an emotional wallop. My rating: Left Bower (=4 stars)

Well, that’s where I am as of almost 9am Saturday morning. How is your #24in48 progressing along? Any great discoveries so far?

Another Challenging Weekend Ahead: #24in48 meets Deal Me In (Part II)

IMG_6034

I had such fun with my twist for last year’s #24in48 Readathon that I’ve decided to repeat my approach this year. My goal is to read 24 stories in 48 hours rather than read an actual 24 hours out of the 48 (although I may try to do this too as I have some required book club reading that is looming large…)

IMG_5696

As the host of the annual Deal Me In short story challenge, I’m going to let the luck of the draw again decide the order in which I read my 24 stories. I’ll be using a euchre deck and, also like last year, will be rating my stories not with a number of “stars” but with the rank of trump in a game of euchre e.g. a “right bower” rating is a five-star read. I probably explained this method better last year, so take a peek HERE if you want to see that. 🙂

Here are my suits and stories:

Clubs – Russian Stories (I devoted clubs to Russian stories once in a prior year’s Deal Me In Challenge and it was one of the best decisions I ever made)

♣9♣- The Revolutionist – Mikhail Artzybashev

♣10♣- Hide and Seek – Fyodor Sologub

♣Q♣- The Servant – S.T. Semyonov

♣K♣- The Signal – Vsevolod Garshin

♣A♣- Vanka – Anton Chekhov

♣J♣- How a Muzhik Fed Two Officials – M.Y. Saltykov

20140614-084039.jpg

Spades – Tales from The Arabian Nights (I’ve always wanted to read more of Scheherazade’s tales and this is a good excuse)

♠9♠- The Hunchback’s Tale -Arabian Nights

♠10♠- The Tale of the Three Apples

♠Q♠- The Hermits

♠K♠- The Man Whole Stole the Dish of Gold Wherein the Dog Ate

♠A♠- The Caliph Omar Bin Al-Kattab and the Young Badawi

♠J♠- the Prior Who Became a Moslem

arabian nights

Hearts – Tales from The Weird anthology (a repeat of one of my suits from last year. This anthology does not disappoint, and I still have a lot of stories from it to go before I finish)

♥9♥– The Discovery of Telenapota – Premendra Mitra

♥10♥– The Dissection – Georg Heym

♥Q♥– The Vegetable Man – Luigi Ugolini

♥K♥– Genius Loci Clark – Ashton Smith

♥A♥– The Man Who Sold Rope to the Gnoles – Margaret St. Clair

♥J♥ – The Salamander – Mercè Rodoreda

IMG_2558

Diamonds – From The New Black Anthology (a great modern day anthology from which I’ve featured several stories on Bibliophilopolis before. I think this wraps up the volume for me.)

♦9♦– His Footsteps are Made of Soot – Nik Korpon

♦10♦– The Etiquette of Homicide -Tara Laskowski

♦Q♦ – Sunshine for Adrienne – Antonia Crane

♦K♦ – Rust and Blne – Craig Davidson

♦A♦– That Baby – Lindsay Hunter

♦J♦– Christopher Hitchens – Vanessa Veselka

IMG_5269

I’m excited that I have never read almost ALL of the authors of these stories before and am looking forward to getting immersed in them over the weekend. I wonder what new favorite writers and stories I shall discover…

What about you?  Are you doing the #24in48 Challenge this time?  What is on your schedule for reading?  I’d particularly like to hear from others who might read short stories during this event. 🙂  Cheers, and good luck to all the participants.

24in48 Final Update

I don’t exactly how many hours of the weekend I spent reading, but I did complete my goal of reading 24 short stories in the 48 hours. Barely. I finished at about 10 p.m. last night. My stories ranged from a short 8 pages to a longish 44 pages. If I had to guess, I’d say I got between 450 and 500 pages read – a very good total for a slow reader like me.

I have to admit that even this “lighter” version of 24in48 was much more challenging than I expected. I mean, I don’t care if they’re only short stories. Twenty-four is a LOT of them to read. I liked the randomized order of reading though, as I have come to enjoy in the years I’ve been doing the Deal Me In challenge. Sometimes a story was a neat “complement” to the last one I read (and sometimes not, of course). I ’discovered’ some great new literature (Stevenson’s “The Suicide Club” Poe’s “The Imp of the Perverse”), met some authors for the first time (Clive Barker, Octavia Butler, Ramsey Campbell, and Hugh Walpole), and reinforced my favorable opinion of some others (Poe, Atwood, Oates, Irving, Munro, etc.). All in all a great reading weekend.

If you saw my prior posts, you know I’m applying the Deal Me In method to this challenge, having picked in advance the 24 stories to read and assigning them to the cards in a euchre deck. I draw one at a time and re-shuffle afterward, randomizing my order. (& I guess if you didn’t see my prior posts, you know now.) 🙂

Below are brief comments on stories 13 thru 24: (I’m rating the stories according to the trump suit in a game of euchre Highest = Jack of the suit [right bower], followed by Jack of same color [left bower], then Ace, King, Queen, Ten, Nine)

#13 “The Freeze-Dried Groom” by Margaret Atwood: What would you do if you were the winning bidder on the contents of an “abandoned” storage unit and discovered a body within? I guess it depends on the kind of person you are to begin with, doesn’t it? 🙂 My rating: King

#14 “The Brood” by Ramsey Campbell: My first reading of this well-known horror author. Pretty decent creepiness factor, especially the ending, but I was hoping for more with this one. My rating: King

#15 “Casting the Runes” by M.R. James: This was my only re-read of the weekend and it was worth it (heck, I confess I remembered almost nothing about it since the first time I read it was so long ago). An alchemist, rejected by the scientific community, has a unique method of dealing with rejections. This story led me to do a little on-line research into the Runic alphabet. Of course there’s a website that will translate English characters into Runic. Did you expect there wouldn’t be? My rating: Ace

#16 “Free Radicals” by Alice Munro: Kind of ‘a Joyce Carol Oates story meets The Misfit from Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is a Hard to Find”‘ but with a happier outcome. Very well done and a tidy ending. My rating: Ace

#17 “The Imp of the Perverse” by Edgar Allen Poe: How I had missed this story in my previous Poe reading I don’t know. This is another first person account of how things went wrong in the life of an unfortunate protagonist. Poe is the master of this, and I love the idea of their being an” Imp of the Perverse.” Explains a lot. 🙂 My rating: Left Bower

#18 “The Angel of the Odd” by Edgar Allen Poe. I didn’t like this one as much as the previous and suspect it was one that Poe wrote leaning heavily on his personal experience with being heavily intoxicated. My rating: King

#19 “Family” by Joyce Carol Oates: No one does dark like JCO. She doesn’t waste any time in this one explaining a back story. The reader just finds himself in a post-civilization collapse world where the horrors just keep piling up. This was even more disturbing than Atwood’s “Torching the Dusties” that I read on day one of 24in48. My rating: Ace

#20 “The Enchanted Island” by Washington Irving: actually this ’story’ is an introduction to another Irving story, but was still charming and thought provoking. This one would also be a good companion piece to Poe’s The Domain of Arnheim, which I read on Saturday. My rating: King

#21 “I Dream of Zenia with the Bright Red Teeth” by Margaret Atwood: the characters from Atwood’s novel,”The Robber Bride” reunite many years later and recall their misadventures with Zenia from that novel. This was my most anticipated story of the 24, but as so often happens my high expectations left me disappointed. My rating: King

#22 “The Tarn” by Hugh Walpole: My first reading of this author. If you liked Poe’s “A Cask of Amontillado” you’ll like The Tarn. Walpole’s Foster and Fenwick could be compared to Poe’s Fortunato and Montressor. What’s a Tarn? A deep mountain lake..  My rating: Ace

#23 “Tale of the Ragged Mountains” by Edgar Allen Poe: The Ragged Mountains really exist here in the United States. I doubt if you hiked into them you would encounter similar sights to those that Poe’s character did, however. My Rating: Ace

#24 “Ligeia” by Edgar Allen Poe: interesting that my random selection brought me my six Poe stories in pairs. What are the odds? Anyway, I’d heard of this story when I read Ackroyd’s excellent Poe biography a couple years ago. This story also makes a good companion piece to Chekhov’s “The Beauties” as much of its text is a paean to the lovely Ligeia. My rating: King

How did YOU do with the 24in48 Readathon? What were your favorite reads?

#24in48 Update 2



I’m already into day two of the 24in48 Readathon so it’s probably time to post another update. 🙂  

I finished another 7 stories since my first update yesterday, bringing my total to 12 – half of 24 and half of my planned reading. Half in the NUMBER of stories anyway! I don’t know about page count. I had two quite long “short” stories yesterday that took me about an hour each, which is more than I had budgeted. Maybe I’ll get some shorter ones today, which I’m starting out with Ramsey Campbell’s “The Brood” and the M.R. James classic “Casting the Runes.” This latter is the only story of my 24 that I’ve read before, but it’s been so long I hardly remember anything but the atmosphere. 

If you saw my prior posts, you know I’m applying the Deal Me In method to this challenge, picking 24 stories in advance to read and assigning them to the cards in a euchre deck. I draw one at a time and re-shuffle afterward, randomizing my order. (& I guess if you didn’t see my prior posts, you know now.) 🙂 

Here are some brief thoughts on stories six through 12 (I’m rating the stories according to the trump suit in a game of euchre Highest = Jack of the suit [right bower], Jack of same color [left bower], then Ace, King, Queen, Ten, Nine):

Story #6 was my first encounter with author Clive Barker (he of “Hellraiser” fame), reading his story “In the Hills, the Cities” from The Weird Compendium. Two clueless English tourists blunder upon a ritual of colossal magnitude while touring the countryside of the former Yugoslavia. I liked how the early part of the narrative included the time of day, like some kind of a log book, which gave the reader the feeling the story was counting down to something stupendous, and, boy, was it ever! Kind of long for a short story but it wowed me nonetheless.

My rating: Ace

Story #7 continued my first reading of an author with Octavia Butler’s acclaimed story, “Bloodchild.” The reader’s thrown right into the thick of an unknown world, but, near as I could make out, humans on this alien world have become the hosts for the young of insect-like natives. The narrator is a young boy/man who is slated to be ’impreganted’ by his family’s insect keeper.

My rating: King

Story #8 was Margaret Atwood’s chilling “Torching the Dusties” from her latest collection, Stone Mattress. The stories in this collection have aging as a theme, and this story explored a dystopian (at least for the elderly!) future where a grass-roots movement “Our Turn” creates upheaval by deciding the world no longer need waste resources on the elderly. The action takes place in the nursing home, Ambrosia Manor. Quite a disturbing tale, but representative of Atwood’s mastery.

My rating: Left Bower

Story #9 was Katherine Vaz’s “Math Bending Unto Angels” and was my first disappointment of the day. I’d read four other stories from her collection “Fado, and Other Stories” and all were home runs. This one may have been thrown out at first base. A tale of obsessive love, it did show signs of Vaz’s bewitchingly poetic prose, but it never latched on to me. The title sounded so promising too.

My rating: Queen

Story #10 was the oldest story of my group, Voltaire’s “Micromegas” which was written in 1752. It’s kind of an early version of sci-fi, as Voltaire uses a pair of visitors, one from a planet orbiting the star Sirius and the other a SaturnianTo share the story. The catch is that these creatures are of gigantic size. Even the Saturnian, large beyond human’s comprehension is considerd a dwarf by the other. The Story reminded me a little of Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, where the perspective of the very large and the very small are explored, but this story is more a commentary on the state of humanity and its apparent folly when one tries to explain it to outsiders. Very interesting tale, especially considering the time period when it was written.

My rating: King



Story #11 was my favorite of day one, and it’ll be tough to beat today. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a trilogy of short stories collectively known as The Suicide Club stories. This one, “Story of the Man with the Cream Tarts” was the first of these. I was unaware of their existence and only noticed them when searching for some more classic authors to populate my euchre deck for #24in48. This story also was special to me because the dealing of cards is a important component of the story (Deal Me In, baby!). Very dramatic and well written.

My rating: Right Bower



Story #12 was the title story of Margaret Atwood’s “Stone Mattress” collection and yet another solid entry (I expect no less from her). It’s the story of Verna, kind of a lite version of an aging black widow. She’s a lite version at least until she encounters someone from her past on an arctic tour ship. She carefully and flawlessly plots her revenge for “Bob’s” criminal act of decades ago. 

My rating: Left Bower

That’s it for me as of the end of day one. I’ve really been enjoying taking the short story reading approach to this challenge. I’ve taken a break after each story and tried to finish each one in one sitting, which I thus far have managed to do (if you don’t count falling asleep at my post last night against me)

How is your readathon going? Is there anyone else of our roughly 200 participants thatisfocusing on short stories? What are your favorite reads of the weekend thus far?

#24in48 Update #1:

If you read my last post, you know I’m participating in the “24in48” challenge this weekend, the goal being to spend 24 of the 48 hours (between midnight Friday to midnight Sunday) reading. I’m spicing up my challenge by playing a mini-game of Deal Me In, with 24 short stories each assigned to a card in a euchre deck of paying cards. My list of stories I’ll be reading is in my previous post.

I got up extra early today and have read five stories so far. I’m also going to rate the stories using the rank of cards in the trump suit in euchre, from “Right Bower” (the best, i.e. “five star” rating) proceeding downward from Left Bower, Ace, King, Queen, Ten to a “nine” as being my equivalent of a one star rating. (I doubt any stories of this poor quality made it past my screening process, but we’ll see.) A quick recap of the first five:

Story #1 “The Dead Hand Loves You” – Margaret Atwood: the first card I draw is a forty-two page story?! Wow. Probably the longest of my deck. This was a great story, though. A “starving writer” makes a deal with his three college roommates, who he owes 3+ months rent to, that he’ll split any proceeds of the novel he’s working on with them if they forgive his debt and extend his residency another month. No one expects his work to have any market value but, lo, he writes a cult horror classic!

My rating: Ace

Story #2 “Lusus Naturae” – Margaret Atwood

I learned a lot of vocabulary with two Atwood stories right out of the gate! I didn’t know or had forgotten that lusus naturae is a term for freakof nature, which describes the (unreliable?) narrator of this shorter Atwood story. The family of a child who would be more at home in a circus side show is Embarrassed by her and fakes her death so that the rest of them, including a sister hopeful of making a good marriage, may have a chance at a normal life. Things are going okay until the neighbors find out…

My rating: Left Bower

Story #3 “The Power of Words” by Edgar Allen Poe

The deck of cards I’m using for this project features “animals” and the one I drew for this story has a butterfly on it. Appropriate, since this Poe “story” is really more like a dialog from the Greek Philosophers, the subject of which would today be called “The Butterfly Effect”

My rating: Queen

Story #4 “The Domain of Arnheim” by Edgar Allen Poe

It’s true that it was “in Xanadu did Kublai Khan a stately pleasure dome decree” but Poe’s insanely rich character, Ellis, searches the world for a suitable place to create a work of art from nature, which by the end of the story we learn is the titular “domain.” I was unaware of this Poe story before today, but it is one that made quite an impression on me.

My rating: Left Bower

Story #5 “The Beauties” by Anton Chekhov

Shout out to my blogging colleague at Short Story Magic Tricks for piquing my interest in this one last week. There’s not much a “plot” here, it’s almost more of an essay on the effect the beauty (feminine beauty, in this case) can have on a man. You know when Chekhov writes something like “I saw the bewitching features of the most beautiful face I have ever met in real life or in my dreams,” that you’re in for a treat of a story.

My rating: Ace

That’s where I stand now at about 730am. How is YOUR 24in48 Readathon proceeding? Have you read any of these five stories? Okay, enough time wasted… I’m “going back in!” See you after five more stories. Maybe. 🙂

“Worlds That Flourish” by Ben Okri – Selection 12 of #DealMeIn2018

The Card: ♠Q♠ Queen of Spades

The Suit: For #dealMeIn2018, ♠♠Spades♠♠ is my Suit for “dark/sci-fi/horror stories from various sources.

The Author: Ben Okri, a new-to-me author from Nigeria who, as his Wikipedia page tells us, is “one of the foremost African authors in the post-modern and post-colonial traditions, and has been compared favourably to authors such as Salman Rushdie and Gabriel García Márquez.” In my brief research on him before writing this post, he definitely sounds like an author I will be reading more of in the future.

The Selection: “World’s that Flourish” – originally published as part of his collection Stars of the New Curfew. I own it as part of my copy of the excellent anthology, “The Weird,” edited by Jeff VanDerMeer.

What is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details may be found here  but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants try to read one short story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for the list of stories I’ll be reading in 2018. Check the sidebar for links to other book bloggers who are participating in this year’s challenge.

Worlds That Flourish

“Then it dawned on me that something had happened to time. I seemed to be sitting in an empty space without history. The wind wasn’t cooling. And then suddenly all the lights went out. It was as if the spirit of the world had finally died. The black-out lasted a long time.”

This was a strange story. I have to say, though, that I almost immediately fell into step with the narrative voice of the protagonist. He remains unnamed, but somehow that feels appropriate for this story. He’s a man whose world is beginning to disintegrate. It starts when he, along with many other co-workers, is fired from his job. He goes home, and a neighbor tells him that he “walks around like a man who has no eyes” (“haven’t you noticed that most of the people in the compound are gone?”)

Later, he is robbed by men with machetes and a gun and though they are later caught, they somehow convince the police that the narrator is involved.

After a brief though brutal period of being jailed, he eventually decides to flee the city. “I got into my car and set out on a journey without a destination through the vast, uncultivated country.” On his way out of town he notices that a lot of the people he sees in the street have handwriting on their faces.

Things are just as phantasmagorical on his journey, car trouble, car crashes (or did he imagine that?) Until he finally reaches a place where people seem to be waiting for him…

(I found the above quote from the author online and really liked it so thought I’d share)

This story reminded me of some others that I’ve read, at least in the feeling that this surreal city and setting evoked in me. Premendra Mitra’s Telenapota and Chen Quifan’s Lijiang And Hagiwara Sakutaro’s “The Town of Cats” are a few examples. Such stories make me speculate as to how our senses manage to hold our perception of the world together, and – more importantly – how fragile that hold may be, and that it may not take that much to disrupt it.

(Above: Nigeria’s capital. For the trivia points, can you name it?)

Queen of spades image in the header found here:

No, Not Binge-Watching, Binge-READING

“Binge-watching” has become quite common in today’s world – both the compound verb and the act itself. I myself have enjoyed a few watching binges. But this past weekend, I maxresdefaultspent a lot of my time binge-reading. Yes, at first one wouldn’t think there could easily be such a thing, as books take so much longer to read than episodes of your favorite tv series. Well, the solution is obvious: short stories can be binge-read. (“…and we’re just the guys to do it!”)

Back in late January, I mapped out 24 short stories to read during the 24 in 48 readathon and, as often is the case, failed to complete my mission. I didn’t even blog about the stories I read then, only tweeting updates to the #24in48 hashtag. The remaining stories had been kind of rotting on my TBR vine ever since, but I didn’t want to forget them and this past weekend I resolved to just “knock out” the rest of them. The exercise felt similar, emotionally, to the more common form of tv show binge-watching. As usual when I read through a batch of stories, I discovered some real gems, and I’d like to tell you about a few of my favorites:

“Irises” by Elizabeth Genovise, found in the 2016 edition of “The O. Henry Prize Stories” anthology. Uniquely told by an unborn baby narrator (!!) it provided poignant insight into a love affair.  “I am not yet a daughter but rather a subtle shift in the taste and color of her world, unfurling at the edges of her consciousness as the autumn does just before it erupts into deep reds and yellows.” Why is the narrator’s mother “ready” to have an affair? She’s an artist, specifically a ballet dancer, and he is a well-intentioned but “unfeeling” brute. “He has never known immersion in an art, never taken the artist’s gamble, and so the sheer foreignness of my mother’s commitment to dancing baffles him.” This was truly a great story with some of my favorite writing that I’ve encountered lately. I recommend you pick up a copy and read it for yourself. You can find out more about this author at https://www.elizabethgenovisefiction.org/

“A List of Forty-Nine Lies” by Steven Fischer from the Jan-Feb 2018 issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine. A very effective format for a story about a “suicide-bomber-like” revolutionary of the future, in opposition to the ruling dystopian society called The New Dawn. A very short story, only forty-nine sentences long, and each one of them is a lie. If you weren’t aware of the title of the story, whether or not the sentences are lies, would not be immediately obvious, but by the end of the story, no knowledge of the title would be necessary. Bravo. The entire piece of flash fiction – at least the first draft – was written during a tedious lecture on medical statistics (the author is described as a fourth-year medical student in the story’s intro)

“Train to Harbin by Asako Serizawa, also from the 2016 edition of “The O. Henry Prize Stories” anthology. A hard-hitting story on a difficult subject – the World War II era war crimes of Japan in using Chinese prisoners for medical experiments. Told by one of the doctors/perpetrators who is, naturally, struggling with his role though he was – as the cliche goes – “only following orders.” A powerful story.

“You see, you must understand something: We had always meant to preserve lives. A few thousand enemies to save hundreds of thousands of our own? In that sense, I hardly think our logic was so remarkable or unique.”

“The Equationist” by J.D. Moyer, also from the Jan-Feb 2018 issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine. Rare among short stories in that it follows almost the entire life of the protagonist who, as a precocious young math student, decides that people can be understood as equations. Some linear, some circular, some exponential. One he can’t figure out is his classmate crush, Emily Lessard – “A chaos function, maybe. I’m just learning about those.”

I also read four stories from W.W. Jacobs’ collection “The Monkey’s Paw and Other Tales,” all of which were good, but none as extraordinary as the four I list above (and none were as good as the two I’d already read during #24in48 – “The Lost Ship and “The Castaway”). Additionally, I enjoyed three more stories from the Welcome to the Greenhouse anthology (stories featuring – you guessed it – climate change)

I enjoyed my weekend binge-reading so much, I plan to make it a regular habit whenever I have a weekend largely free of other responsibilities. Maybe once or twice a season? As usual, I will randomize my reading order and have stories from four different sources; I’m assigning each to a card in a euchre deck to fit my “Deal Me In” challenge methodology.  For this batch, I’m continuing on in several of the sources I started for the Readathon, while adding a new source, that being the short stories found in recent issues of The New Yorker, to which I am a digital subscriber.

What about YOU? Have you ever binge-read? Have you ever binge-watched? I’m much more interested in binge-reading, but I’d like to hear about either, frankly. 🙂

spring 2018 deck

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…)

4244418F-127B-4E23-9A33-3E9ADAAA47E9

FFCB82C9-1F16-4653-84C5-FA0B976B0CA7

 

 

 

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 Yelp.com. 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…

macnivens

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.

IMG_5386

***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…

« Older entries Newer entries »