Deal Me In – Week 52 Wrap Up

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We’re finally at the end of DMI 2015. Congrats to all who have made it this far! I’ve really enjoyed sharing the challenge with everybody and am appreciative that many have already re-upped for another year. As reading challenges in the blogosphere go, I think this one has a lot going for it, both practically (as to the “reading burden” it imposes) and entertainment wise (all the authors you are exposed to via your own reading and reading others’ posts). I think we’re up to fifteen or sixteen sign-ups for 2015, and I expect a few more will straggle in (as they did last year). I also realize we’ll lose a few to attrition and the demands of “life,” but that is the way it goes with blogging…

I’d also like to thank those ‘core members’ of our group who have already visited and commented on some of the newcomers’ rosters – and encourage others to do so as well if they have the time and feel so inclined. I think we have a nice little informal community here and growing it a little bit would not hurt.

Anyway, on to the new posts this week:

Dale was introduced to Katherine Anne Porter via her story “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/12/26/katherine-anne-porter-the-jilting-of-granny-weatherall/

James compared and contrasted Joan Didion’s “Where the Kissing Never Stops” and “Don’t Call it Syphilis” by Jessica Mitford (and who says the DMI’s randomizing hand of fate doesn’t have a sense of humor!?) http://jamesreadsbooks.com/2014/12/26/joan-didion-vs-jessica-mitford-a-deal-me-in-short-story-non-fiction-special-edition/

Katherine read Kevin J. Anderson’s “Just Like Normal People” http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/deal-me-in-week-52-just-like-normal-people/

Randall read Flannery O’Connor’s “Everything That Rises Must Converge” http://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2014/12/everything-that-rises-must-converge-by.html

(And be sure to checkout Randall’s “mini-reviews” of his advent calendar stories while you’re there.)

I read “Maurice Broaddus’s “A Stone Cast Into Stillness” from my Dark Futures anthology. Dark was right! https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/12/29/a-stone-cast-into-stillness-by-maurice-broaddus/

That’s it for this year. “Deal Me In 2014 is dead. Long Live Deal Me In 2015!”

“A Stone Cast Into Stillness” by Maurice Broaddus

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My final week of the 2014 Deal Me In Challenge served me up the Ace
of Spades, which I had assigned to the Maurice Broaddus short story “A Stone Cast Into Stillness.” I own it as part of the anthology collection, “Dark Futures: Tales of SF Dystopia.” (pictured above) I didn’t realize it when creating my 2015 roster that one of my featured “local” authors for next year, Jason Sizemore, also edited this anthology. Perhaps this is Deal Me In’s way of segueing me into the new year.

Anyhow, this particular tale is set in a distinctly bleak future featuring, among other things a suffocating – and largely automated – bureaucracy. The couple we’re introduced to in the story, though residing in the “Middle Caste,” have a life seemingly devoid of happiness and almost – almost – without hope for any.

Through the wife’s “customer service” call (to a snarky automaton) regarding her “Certificate of Procreation” we eventually learn that she has lost a child. Naturally, a terrible thing to endure, but maybe even more so in this world where reproduction is strictly controlled. Despite their relative “insignificance” to society as a whole’ the couple, especially the wife feels the pain of a lost child as acutely as those at the uppermost levels of society. Later, her husband has the best of intentions and tries to ameliorate her pain by making a special purchase:

…so, anyway, I got you a Vir-Bab.”
“A Vir-Bab.”
“A virtual baby. It’s all the rage on the West Coast
.”

The Vir-Bab, it turns out, is a pretty damn sophisticated construct, accepting programmed-in DNA of the owners, with all kinds of other interfaces to give one a, well, virtual experience. After explaining how the Vir-Bab works, the husband says, “Can you imagine? We can skip those troublesome teen years.” Broaddus continues:

She hated her husband in that moment. He was such a… man. Trying to fix something – the hole inside of her, the eternal ache – that couldn’t be fixed.”

How does the story end? Does the wife accept this “substitute” for a real baby? I’m afraid I shouldn’t tell you. If you’re interested, the book is available as a $4.99 download at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Futures-Tales-Dystopian-SF-ebook/dp/B0056AEAB4

Oh, and where does the title of the story come from? It is a quotation about the impact a death of a child has. Author John DeFrain compared it to a stone cast into a still pond, the ripples go everywhere. Everywhere. A great image to inspire a story, I thought.

Well, that does it for Deal Me In 2014. I’ll have to print myself up a “certificate of completion” or something. :-). I’ll be reading (at least) a story a week again in 2015 via the Deal Me In 2015 Challenge – care to join in? My story roster for the new year may be viewed here.

Photo below found at: http://www.gettingthroughthis.com/6771/skipping-through-life/

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Deal Me In – Week 51 Wrap Up

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The Penultimate round of Deal Me In yielded the following posts:

Dale wrote about Ring Lardner’s “Alibi Ike” http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/ring-lardner-alibi-ike/

Katherine wrote about Charles de Lint’s “The Invisibles” http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/deal-me-in-week-51-the-invisibles/

Candiss posted about the John Cheever story “Goodbye, My Brother” http://readthegamut.wordpress.com/2014/12/22/deal-me-in-challenge-story-51-goodbye-my-brother-by-john-cheever/

Randall covers “The Bris” by Eileen Pollack http://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2014/12/the-bris-by-eileen-pollack.html

I read the Jerome Bixby short story, “It’s a Good Lifehttps://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/its-a-good-life-by-jerome-bixby/

I should also mention that we’ve had another participant, Susan  at Avid Series Reader, (who I’ve shared links to before on occasion but have not been good about looking for new updates since they were somewhat infrequent) who posts her reviews on Shelfari.  Peeking at her website today, I see she’s updated her roster with links to all of her reviews for 2014.  It’s at http://avidseriesreader.blogspot.com/2014/01/2014-deal-me-in-short-story-challenge.html  if you’d like to take a look.

One more week to go. Thanks to everyone who has joined me in Deal Me In this year, whether for the whole year or for parts of the year. You’ve really helped make it a fun challenge for me.

AND If you’re dealing yourself in again for DMI 2015, please take a moment and comment on the sign up post https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/its-the-most-wonderful-time-of-the-year-deal-me-in-2015-sign-up/ with a link to your roster, if you’ve finalized one already, or even to just say that you’re in. Also please consider helping spread the word about Deal Me In. We have three new participants already for next year, and there’s always room for more. 🙂

 

“It’s a Good Life” by Jerome Bixby

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Some short stories outgrow their original confines and enter the public consciousness, often due to being adapted into movies (think The Birds or The Shawshank Redemption) or television shows. One such is Jerome Bixby’s tale “It’s a Good Life,” featuring a “monster” who also just happens to be a little boy named Anthony.

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Already recognized as a superior short story, first published in Frederick Pohl’s “Star Science Fiction Stories” magazine in 1953, it took on a new life when it was adapted into a teleplay for Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone” series in 1959, starring Billy Mumy (later of “Lost in Space” ‘Danger, Will Robinson!’ Fame). The episode has made many of the lists of top all-time episode lists, etc., and deservedly so. It, like the story, is deliciously creepy.

Anthony, who in the story – unlike the Twilight Zone episode – we are introduced to immediately, has supernatural mental powers, including the ability to wish things in and out of existence (like the rest of the world except for his small town of Peaksville; where did it go?) and the power to read people’s thoughts, of which certainly no good comes. At his age, Anthony’s attempts to both help and harm usually lead to disaster and horror, so the other 45 inhabitants of Peaksville have settled into an eggshell-walking existence of constantly thinking “it’s a good day” or “it’s good that Anthony did (whatever terrible thing he did)” What must such an existence be like for those living there?

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Some might consider Star Trek’s “Charlie X” an adolescent version of Anthony. Maybe William Shatner should have starred in this episode of the Twilight Zone as well…

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The Last Speaker of the Language – Carol Anshaw

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It’s week fifty (50!) of Deal Me In 2014 and I drew the eight of hearts, which I had assigned to the Carol Anshaw’s story “The Last Speaker of the Language,” which I own as part of the 2012 edition of The Best American Short Stories. This volume (and prior years’ editions) has contributed several of my Deal Me In reads this year.

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This is the story of Darlyn, a single mom, a lesbian, a dead-end job holder with an aging and alcoholic mom and a clandestine love affair with a Lexus-driving, married woman. That feels like enough for an entire novel (and maybe it is – I’d like to read more of Darlyn’s story) but Anshaw somehow distills it all into a short story.

Darlyn also has a (nearly) perfect daughter, Mary, who, not happy with her name, has chosen another to be called by, “Lake.” Darlyn’s strategy had been intended to give Lake/Mary “the simplest name possible” since she herself “had suffered her whole life with one that makes anyone using it sound like they’re calling over a truck-stop waitress.” That quotation is representative of the wry humor sprinkled throughout the story – an element which made the tale of Darlyn’s depressing condition at least bearable.

The story itself is somewhat episodic. At first I thought it was going to be about Darlyn’s coping with her mother’s alcoholism, but that is just one of the many helpings on her over-filled plate.

And where does the odd title of this story come into play? It’s during an intimate exchange between Darlyn and her Girlfriend, Christy:

Christy: “Here’s the saddest thing. It was on NPR. This woman just died. She was the last speaker of her language. Bo. That was the language. The sad part was when the second-to-last speaker of Bo died four years before. So for her last four years, this woman had no one in the world she could talk with.”
Darlyn: “I don’t think that’s the saddest thing. The saddest thing is me being I love with you.”
Christy: “Don’t say that.”
Darlyn: “You’re the only one I can speak Bo with.”

The concept of a “last speaker of the language” is indeed a powerful one and it’s understandable that an author would be inspired to include it in one of her works. Though not my favorite short story this year, I can see why others found it worthy of being included in the Best American Short Stories series. I found a copy of this story online at http://www.ohio.edu/nor/a/content/pdfs/anshawbaf.pdf if you’d like to read it.

Have you read anything by this author before? This was my first experience with her.

What are some of your favorite short stories that you’ve read this year? I’m looking for stories to include in my 2015 Deal Me In roster…

Below: Carol Anshaw

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“Mateo Falcone” – by Prosper Merimee

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I drew the eight of diamonds for week 47 of the 2014 Deal Me In Short Story Reading Challenge, yielding this Prosper Merimee story, which was recommended to me by Hila Katz at The Sill of the World blog.

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The story is set in the rugged countryside of Corsica where a man, the title character Mateo Falcone, has made a name and reputation for himself in a land populated by rough-and-tough characters, some of questionable repute. We learn that Mateo and his wife first had three daughters, vexing Mateo to no end, before finally having a son and, presumably, someone to carry on the family name and honor. The son is named, ironically, Fortunato. (The only other literary Fortunato I’m acquainted with met his end in the wine cellar of Edgar Allen Poe’s Montressor…)

One day Falcone goes out to hunt, accompanied by his wife who will scavenge chestnuts for him as they go, leaving ten-year old Fortunato at home. Now, the rugged nature of the surrounding countryside makes it a favorite hideout for bandits and one of this ilk, fleeing the authorities and wounded by a gunshot, approaches the house of Mateo with ’the law’ in hot pursuit. He pleads with the young Fortunato to aid in his escape or at least hide him. Fortunato agrees, for a silver coin, and conceals the fugitive in a haystack just before those chasing him arrive. At first, Fortunato meets the questions of the authorities with impudence and reminds them more than once that “Mateo Falcone is my father!” and thus feels exempted from any “requirement” to cooperate with anyone. The leader of the authorities, sergeant Tiodoro Gamba, is a distant cousin of the Falcones and applies a full court press to persuade the ten-year old to provide him with information regarding the fugitive’s whereabouts…

The shocking and brutal denouement of the story shows that the concept of family honor and sacredness of hospitality are absolutes to the stern Falcone. I was reminded by this story of how ancient and imbedded the concept of the hospitality is in the human race. I had a Classics Professor in college who often talked about “Zeus Xenios” (one of the king of the Gods many roles was that of “patron of hospitality”) and how much woe was heaped upon those who let guests under their roof (or protection) come to harm. He would have liked this story. Below (from Wikipedia) a coin image of Zeus – think of Zeus Xenios the next time you have a guest ask if he can stay with you. (Probably a WWZXD wrist band would be going too far, though)

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Prosper Merimee (above) was a 19th century writer and dramatist. He is most famous for the novella Carmen, which was the forerunner of the opera of the same name. This story was also made into an opera in Russia but failed to gain an audience. Have you read any of his work before? What short story/stories did you read this week?

This story is in the public domain and may be read online at http://www.bartleby.com/195/7.html

Below: I wonder if Beyonce read Prosper Merimee’s original novella Carmen, before filming her “Hip Hopera” version of the story…

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Deal Me In – Week 45 Wrap Up

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New posts this week from the DMI crew:

Coincidentally, with me also reading The Martian Chronicles this week, two of us drew a Ray Bradbury story from their Deal Me In deck.

Dale read “Some Live Like Lazarushttp://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/11/06/ray-bradbury-some-live-like-lazarus/

And Randall read “Let’s Play Poisonhttp://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2014/11/lets-play-poison-by-ray-bradbury.html

The avalanche of stories from Returning Reader continues:
1) Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “Eva is Inside Her Cathttp://returningreader.wordpress.com/2014/11/03/short-story-30-eva-is-inside-her-cat-gabriel-garcia-marquez/
2) the Ernest Hemingway classic “The Snows of Kilimanjarohttp://returningreader.wordpress.com/2014/11/05/short-story-31-the-snows-of-kilimanjaro-ernest-hemingway/
3) Anton Chekhov’s “Gooseberrieshttp://returningreader.wordpress.com/2014/11/06/short-story-32-gooseberries-anton-chekhov/
4) Dylan Thomas’s “A Child’s Christmas in Wales
http://returningreader.wordpress.com/2014/11/09/short-story-33-a-childs-christmas-in-wales-dylan-thomas/
5) Ungulani Ba Ka Khosa’s “An Unexpected Deathhttp://returningreader.wordpress.com/2014/11/09/short-story-34-an-unexpected-death-ungulani-ba-ka-khosa/

Katherine has exhausted her hearts suit after reading Robyn Carr’s “Natasha’s Bedroomhttp://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/11/08/deal-me-in-week-45-natashas-bedroom/ There’s also a magic trick video featuring her card 🙂

I missed Halloween by one day in drawing Ambrose Bierce’s ghost story, “Beyond the Wall” (I got goosebumps) https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/11/08/beyond-the-wall-a-ghost-story-by-ambrose-Bierce/

Candiss posted about Margaret Atwood’s “Happy Endinghttp://readthegamut.wordpress.com/2014/11/09/deal-me-in-challenge-story-45-happy-endings-by-margaret-atwood/

Some other short story content from the week that I found interesting:

Have you heard of author Ron Rash before? I hadn’t, but this collection sounds like it would be at home on my bookshelf http://www.thedailynewsonline.com/entertainment/article_6fa4c738-66d1-11e4-9fcb-dfce161211a2.html

Great article about an event in NY where some of the authors featured in The Best American Short Stories (2014 edition) read their work at a Barnes and Noble. I’ve included some stories from The BASS series the past couple Deal Me In challenges. Looks like I may want to do so again. 🙂 http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/nov/07/jennifer-egan-writing-technologies-short-stories

I follow a couple Irish literary accounts n Twitter and they appear to have a thriving short story culture over there. The Davy Byrnes award is one of their prestigious writing prizes. (I’ve read one story from this source in a previous DMI, Claire Keegan’s “Foster”. https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/a-perfect-opportunity-to-say-nothing/)
Here’s a collection of the cream of that crop.
http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/six-of-the-best-davy-byrnes-stories-2014-1.1988889

“Beyond the Wall” a ghost story by Ambrose Bierce

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I’ve often mentioned how much I enjoy looking for or noting coincidences in the random order of short story reading that the Deal Me In Challenge provides. Lately in this year’s edition of the challenge, DMI has often just missed dealing me up a perfect short story for the week – e.g., just after Columbus Day, it dealt up a story with The Admiral of the Ocean Sea himself in the title. Then last Saturday, November 1st, one day after Halloween, it led me to a goosebump-inducing ghost story by one of the masters, Ambrose Bierce.

The narrator of our story begins by providing a lengthy sketch of its subject, a man named Dampier, a “strong fellow of scholarly tastes, with an aversion to work and a marked indifference to many of the things which the world cares for, including wealth.” (Though he has plenty of it, and is of the uppermost class). Our narrator is going to visit him in San Francisco after a long separation. While talking to his friend in a ‘tower room’ of his mansion (on a stormy night, of course) a pause in the noise of the storm is suddenly filled by a tapping on the wall:

“The sound was such as might have been made by a human hand, not as upon a door by one asking admittance, but rather, I thought, as an agreed signal, an assurance of someone’s presence in an adjoining room…”

There is no adjoining room.

Somewhat discombobulated, the narrator prepares to leave, as he has “no interest in spooks.” Dampier seems to wish not to be alone though and tells his friend that he has heard the sound before and “it is no illusion.” Urging him to stay, he says “Have a fresh cigar and a good stock of patience while I tell you the story.”

I continued reading (sans cigar, but with patience) and learned the sad and tragic story behind the tapping on the wall. If you possess a similar patience or a good cigar – or both – maybe you’d like to read this story as well. It’s in the public domain and available online in many places. Like this one: http://www.classicshorts.com/stories/btw.html

Have you read any Ambrose Bierce stories? His most famous one is probably “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” – frequently anthologized and rightly so. I own this story as part of his book, “Terror by Night – Classic Ghost & Horror Stories” which includes about fifty tales.

Personally speaking, I remain fascinated by Bierce’s biography as well, as he is famous for having “Disappeared” about 1914. The last communication known to have been received by him was just over 100 years ago, when he wrote in a letter dated December 13, 1913. “As to me, I leave here tomorrow for an unknown destination.”

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Below: From the Ambrose Bierce site http://donswaim.com/bierce-lienert.html one (of many) hypothesized resting place for the writer is in Sierra Mojada, Mexico. There is a marker set up in that location.

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Bear Dance by Edina Doci (a good story, born from a great idea)

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It’s week 44 of the 2014 Deal Me In Challenge. I drew the three of hearts and, referring to my short story roster, learned that Edina Doci’s story “Bear Dance” was up to bat. I own this story as part of the collection of nine stories titled “The Meantime.” I first heard about it via Alex’s excellent blog, “The Sleepless Reader” which, due to motherhood and other responsibilities, has largely fallen silent in recent months. I miss it. I’ve also read one other entry from this collection for this year’s DMI, Monica Westeren’s “From Brussels South to Ottignies.”

The story relates the deterioration of a relationship to the point where the sex is mechanical – and regularly scheduled – and the passion is clearly gone. I guess it would probably be better to say it presents a relationship that has already deteriorated to a point of no return. The writing is good, though, and the story interestingly opens with a first person narrative of an actual bear “couple” in the woods. They are “running out of berries” and contemplating leaving their safe haven in the forest. Why? The overt connection is that, later, in the “human” part of the story, told in the first person by the woman, we learn the man calls her “my little bear,” as one of his terms of endearment. But there are subtler reasons as well.

The story also contains a great interlude where the couple is mistaken for “young lovers” by an older couple who even ask them if they’re planning to have children. The narrator “cant stand the envy of these old folks” and realizes that she and her lover are “older in our love than they are.” – a uniquely clever way to put it.

In preparing this post, however, I have become more fascinated with how this story came to be published than the actual story itself. This collection of nine stories (of which Doci was one of the editors) grew out of a Brussels writing group, of which all the members were not Belgian natives but expats from “all over” (Doci is from Budapest and Westeren – whose story I read earlier this year – is from Finland. They got the idea to each contribute a story, either set in Brussels, or starring characters from Brussels, to a book which they would independently publish. From the results I’ve read, they took their task seriously and ended up producing a solid collection of stories.

I found an interview of the three co-editors online at “Fans of Flanders” and ended up watching the whole thing. It’s at http://www.fansofflanders.be/Channels/Ear%20Candy/Interviews/3_November_2012/The_Meantime/TheMeantime if you’d like to view some or all of it.

Below : That’s Doci in the middle and Westeren on the right. Nick Jacobs is on the left – I guess I’ll make his story the next one I read from this collection. 🙂

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For more information on this collection, try http://www.themeantime.be/

Deal Me In – Week 43 Wrap Up

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(Image from cafepress.com)

Happy Hallowe’en to everybody! Below are links to new posts since the last update:

Katherine read “[Answer]” by F. Paul Wilson http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/10/26/deal-me-in-week-43-answer/

Randall read Ray Bradbury’s “The Smile“.http://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2014/10/the-smile-by-ray-bradbury.html

Dale read Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Merry Menhttp://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/10/25/robert-louis-stevenson-the-merry-men/

I read my first Salman Rushdie “Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella Consummate their Relationship” https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/10/25/salman-rushdies-christopher-columbus-and-queen-isabella-consummate-their-relationship/ this is another Deal Me In “twin” as Dale also posted about this story just last week.

Our year of fifty-two stories is winding down. Has anyone else begun building a roster for next year? I came up with one of my four “suits” over the weekend – I’m doing a “stories published in The New Yorker magazine” suit (gotta put that digital subscription with access to the short story archive to good use, right?). I have ideas for my other suits, but I’ll keep them secret for now. 🙂 What are your short story reading plans for 2015?

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