Deal Me In – Week 23 Wrap Up

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Below are links to new posts and reviews since our last update. We’re nearly at the halfway mark of Deal Me In 2014! Please take a moment to visit and read the posts of your fellow challenge participants.

Susan read a few more stories from Alaska Traveler and commented on them at Shelfari: http://www.shelfari.com/books/32614884/Alaska-Traveler-Dispatches-from-Americas-Last-Frontier/reviews/4517561

Returning Reader shares two stories: Milly Jafta’s “The Homecoming” http://returningreader.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/short-story-22-the-homecoming-milly-jafta/ and the Flannery O’Connor classic “A Good Man is Hard to Findhttp://returningreader.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/short-story-23-a-good-man-is-hard-to-find-flannery-oconnor/ As an added bonus, the latter includes a link to an audio recording of the author herself reading it.

Dale read G.K. Chesterton’s “The Song of the Flying Fish” http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/06/04/g-k-chesterton-the-song-of-the-flying-fish/

I read Mary Gaitskill for the first time and found her story “The Other Place” extremely good, if disturbing… https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/06/08/mary-gaitskills-the-other-place/

Katherine read an Edgar Allen Poe story featuring “detective” Auguste Dupin: “The Mystery of Marie Rogethttp://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/06/08/deal-me-in-week-23-the-mystery-of-marie-roget/

Candiss merges Deal Me In with Angela Carter Week ( http://beautyisasleepingcat.wordpress.com/2014/04/09/angela-carter-week-8-15-june-2014/ ), reading that author’s “The Fall River Axe Murdershttp://readthegamut.wordpress.com/2014/06/08/deal-me-in-challenge-angela-carter-week-the-fall-river-axe-murders-by-angela-carter/

A Good Short Story is Hard to Find (unless you’re reading Flannery O’Connor)

A couple Wednesdays ago, I ventured to the far north side of Indianapolis to attend a “book discussion group’ (is there a difference between that and a book club?) meeting at the Carmel Public Library. The book to be discussed was Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find and other stories.” Up until a few weeks ago, the only O’Connor I had read was the famous title story, which seems ubiquitous among the many short story anthologies that I’ve read. Viewed by itself, that particular story is pretty strange, and if I were left with that as my only exposure to O’Connor I would much likely have an altogether different opinion of her than I do today.

Reading a collection of her stories taught me that the morbidity I encountered in A Good Man is Hard to Find is part of her writing style, and the more stories I read, the more I got used to it and began to expect how the stories might turn out. A common theme is that many characters generally begin pretty sure of themselves and their view of the world, which later becomes shattered by degrees or sometimes in one fell swoop. This collection contained ten stories, primarily in the 12-20 page length, with one longer one of about thirty-five pages.

I learned also, that O’Connor was a master of the simile, sometimes “one-liners” and sometimes a bit more lengthy. A few favorite examples:

“(he was) frail as a dried spider”
“(they were) as silent as thieves hiding.”
“(his) stare seemed to pinch her like a pair of tongs.”
“his knees worked like old hinges.”

“The graduates in their heavy robes looked as if the last beads of ignorance were being sweated out of them.” “She looked at nice young men as if she could smell their stupidity.”
“His mind had frozen around his grandfather’s treachery as if he were trying to preserve it intact to present at final judgment.”
“(his eyes) were alert but quiet…as if they belonged to one of the great guides of men. He might have been Vergil summoned in the middle of the night to go to Dante…”

Aren’t those great? I also enjoyed some of the names that she assigned the characters, which often reflected their natures. There may for instance be found among them a Mrs. Hopewell, and a Mrs. Cope. Other names are less thinly veiled, like a Mr. Shiftley, who is indeed “shiftless.”

All in all, I enjoyed the stories and the discussion. Though a large group (nineteen!), every one was well behaved and willingly listened to the opinions of others. I learned that they meet the first Wednesday of every month, and I hope to “go back for more.” They’re next reading the best selling novel, Cutting for Stone, and I’m already about a hundred pages into that one (I’m reading it concurrently with my own book club’s August book, The Historian, and, at this point anyway, Cutting for Stone is “winning”…)

One other quick note regarding something that reading O’Connor has made me think of: the author lived a relatively short life, dying when she was only 39, and the body of her work consists only of two novels and two collections of short stories (of which – the latter format – she is widely recognized as one of the masters). I thought that, unlike many other favorite authors, her “oeuvre” is manageably finite. I.e. One could read all she wrote and even become an “expert” or scholar of her work much more easily than other more prolific authors.

How about you all? Have you experienced Flannery O’Connor’s stories? What do you think of them?

P.S. I just realized I didn’t even talk about the omnipresent religious themes in her work. I suppose that would have to be a topic for another, much longer post… 🙂

below: Flannery O’Connor’s trademark bird…

August Reading – The Month Ahead

Hard to believe that it’s already August(!) but… I must not dwell on that while there is plenty of reading that needs to be done :-). I am keeping up a five books per month pace so far this year (36 completed thus far), and I luckily have several books that are partially read that will make it easier to get five done this month. Here’s a recap:

Already started:
We Make a Life by What We Give by Richard Gunderman – this collection of essays on philanthropy (by a former college roommate no less) is taking me awhile to get through. Each essay, though they only average about 10-14 pages, takes me an Hour or so to digest fully since they are so thought provoking. I think I only have about 7 more to go though and fully hope to add this to the completed list this month.

A Good Man is Hard to Find (and other stories) by Flannery O’Connor. I’m reading this for a book discussion this week up at the Carmel Library (north side of Indianapolis). I’ve only got about 75 pages to go and hope to wrap it up tonight. I spent some time yesterday reading a little biographical info about O’Connor too, so hopefully I won’t be the biggest ignoramus at this discussion meeting… 🙂

Book Club books:
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. This is the reading selection for my primary book club (meeting 8/25). It’s one I picked and have wanted to read for quite awhile, but the reviews I’ve seen on goodreads.com have been a little mixed, and I worry that either I (or worse, the other members of my club) won’t like it. It’s a bit longish too, but the one fellow book clubber who’s read it swears it’s a fast read. We’ll see.

“A Book to be Named Later” by Kurt Vonnegut. I missed the last Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library Book Club meeting, which was “just” a continuation of June’s discussion anyway, so I’m not sure yet what the next selection is. A strategically sent email or two should yield me the answer soon, though.

Others:
Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov. I enjoyed his autobiography so much last month that I went and read Foundation immediately after (it’s a short book). Foundation and Empire is the second book of the original Foundation trilogy and I’m sure I can make room for it is month.

Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope. I need to get back to my mini-project of reading Trollope’s Barsetshire Novels” – especially if I’m to “keep up with the Joneses” (actually “the Anas” since my blogging colleague, Ana the Imp, is reading his Palliser Novels…) http://anatheimp.blogspot.com/2011/07/vixens-tale.html

What Else? Well, I simply must get back and caught up on my “Project: Deal Me In” and read a bunch of designated short stories. (as usual I’ve fallen woefully behind in a project, both in its execution and its record keeping) I’m sure there may also some random, wild card books that will pop up – as they always do. And of course I’m always open to SUGGESTIONS FROM READERS too. Got any? Even if you don’t, I’d love to hear what you’ll be reading in August…

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