Salman Rushdie’s “Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella Consummate their Relationship”

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(Nine of diamonds picture credit: http://eprints.utas.edu.au/6867/ )

Week 43 of my annual Deal Me In Short Story Reading Challenge produced the nine of diamonds which led me to the story. “Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella Consummate their Relationship” by Salman Rushdie. Originally published in the June 17, 1991 issue of the New Yorker magazine, I “own” it via my digital subscription, which allows access to the vast short story archive of that fine publication. (Deal Me In fodder for years to come!) This story was recommended to me for DMI2014 by my blogging colleague and trusted reading advisor, Dale, whose work you may read at his excellent blog “Mirror with Clouds” coincidentally, Dale also had this story on his DMI roster and drew his card last week, just missing a “strange coincidence.”

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This very short story contains the author’s speculation on what the “relationship” between two famous historical figures might have been like. Once again I was amazed at how a skilled author can pack so much into just a few pages – how a story of such brevity can feel so complete and not leave the reader wanting to read more. The story follows the multiple petitionings of Columbus at Isabella’s court and their initial lack of success. The ups and down of Columbus’s emotions as he despairs of ever being accepted or even heard. After one failure, Rushdie writes of Columbus: “Invisibility claims him. He surrenders to its will.” At one point though, the later-to-be-famous explorer muses that “The search for money and patronage is not so different from the search for love.” and somewhat changes his approach.

What finally wins over the queen to patronage is her own epiphany – albeit prompted by external events: “Isabella…is shaken by the realization that she will never, never, NEVER! be satisfied by the possession of the known. Only the unknown, perhaps only the unknowable will satisfy her.” She then agrees to finance Columbus’s travels into an unknown that she may hopefully possess.

As a former history major, I must somewhat red-facedly admit that I don’t know very much about the preliminaries surrounding Columbus’s initial voyage (other than what every school kid in America learns, right or wrong. I do remember that Isabella was a quite powerful and effective monarch, who would likely make most lists like “top ten monarchs,” etc. (There’s a good bit of homework for you- who else would you put on that list?) Reading this story makes me want to read more about her and this period in history. And how appropriate that Deal Me In’s “hand of fate” led me to draw this card during the week of the “Columbus Day” holiday here in the U.S…

(Below: author Salman Rushdie)

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What are your reading experiences with Salman Rushdie? Any recommendations? This story is worth seeking out at your library or via the New Yorker archives if you have access.

(Below: Columbus pleads his case before the monarchs)

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Deal Me In – Week 42 Wrap Up

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A busy week for many book bloggers, with Dewey’s Readathon taking place Saturday (in which at least three DMI-ers participated – congrats to you all). Below are links to new posts. Only ten stories to go!

Dale read Salman Rushdie’s “Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella of Spain Consummate their Relationship” (where the title may ‘longer than the actual story’) http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/10/16/salman-rushdie-christopher-columbus-and-queen-isabella-of-spain-consummate-their-relationship-santa-fe-ad-1492/

Randall (in Mississippi) read Mississippi’s own Richard Wright’s “The Man Who was Almost a Man” http://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2014/10/the-man-who-was-almost-man-by-richard.html

Katherine tried Greg Bear’s “The Fall of the House of Escher” http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/10/19/deal-me-in-week-42-the-fall-of-the-house-of-escher/

Candiss pans Arthur Machen’s “The Great God Pan” (pan intended) http://readthegamut.wordpress.com/2014/10/20/deal-me-in-challenge-story-42-the-classics-club-the-great-god-pan-by-arthur-machen/

I read Vladimir Korlenko’s “The Shades: A Phantasy” and found myself getting reacquainted with… Socrates! https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/10/15/men-of-athens-let-us-investigate-this-question-vladimir-korlenkos-the-shades-a-phantasy/

On a related note. I also visited a “Local Authors Fair” at a nearby library on Saturday. I picked up a few short stories collections/anthologies from amongst the many, many authors there. I talked to about a dozen authors, and all those that I talked with at length enough to mention and describe the “Deal Me In” concept liked the idea and (I think) were excited they might be featured at some point in 2015…

See you next week!

Deal Me In – Week 41 Wrap Up

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A little late with the wrap up this week, but here, finally, are links to this week’s posts by DMI participants:

Dale read Ernest Hemingway’s “Now I Lay Me” http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/10/09/ernest-hemingway-now-i-lay-me/

I read Alexander Pushkin’s “The Queen of Spades” https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/the-queen-of-spades-by-alexander-pushkin-brought-to-you-by-the-queen-of-clubs-via-deal-me-in-2014/

Katherine read David Copperfield’s story “Eagle” http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/deal-me-in-week-41-eagle/

Randall read William Hoffman’s “Amazing Grace” http://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2014/10/amazing-grace-by-william-hoffman.html

OTHER LINKS Of SHORT STORY INTEREST

A review of Margaret Atwood’s new collection “Stone Mattresshttp://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/oct/10/stone-mattress-margaret-atwood-review-short-story-collection

Actually, here’s a second review (they’re popping up everywhere!) http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/lucy-sussex-reviews-margaret-atwoods-stone-mattress-short-stories-20141003-10pi83.html

Free Alice Munro stories available online? Sounds good to me! (a couple of these have been read by our Deal Me In group this year) http://www.openculture.com/2013/10/read-14-short-stories-from-nobel-prize-winning-writer-alice-munro-free-online.html

Tis the season to be… scary. Interesting post about Sheridan Le Fanu’s classic short story collection “In a Glass Darkly” whose influence persists today. (Note: I did not watch the linked videos and don’t know if any might be “objectionable”…) http://www.irishcentral.com/roots/history/Dubliner-inspired-horrors-from-ghost-stories-to-the-Twilight-movies-VIDEOS.html

Deal Me In – Week 40 Wrap Up

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A lot of great stories and posts this week. Check out the links below.

Candiss is back, and with a “doubleheader” covering Ursula K. LeGuin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” and Anton Chekhov’s “Gooseberries” http://readthegamut.wordpress.com/2014/10/05/deal-me-in-challenge-stories-39-40-an-unexpected-relationship-between-chekhov-and-le-guin/

Dale brings us Dorothy Parker’s “The Waltz” http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/10/02/dorothy-parker-the-waltz/

It’s the Ace of Spades at Time Enough at Last which means Randall shares with us “February 1999: Ylla” by Ray Bradbury http://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2014/10/february-1999-ylla-by-ray-bradbury.html

Katherine drew the King of Clubs and reviews “A Cascade of Lies” by Steve Rasnic Tem http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/10/04/deal-me-in-week-40-a-cascade-of-lies/

At two stories a “pop”, James is down to just four cards in his deck after reading Grace Paley’s “In Time Which Made a Monkey of us All” and “A Prince of Thirteen Days” by Ayala Dawn Johnson http://jamesreadsbooks.com/2014/10/05/grace-paley-vs-alaya-dawn-johnson/

My story was so short, I almost felt like I had the week off, but Kate Chopin’s “Story of an Hour” was, pound for pound, one of the best I’ve read recently. https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/10/04/kate-chopins-story-of-an-hour/

Kate Chopin’s “Story of an Hour”

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This week I drew the ace of diamonds from my “stories recommended by others” suit. Tip of the cap to Megan, a longtime reader and “honored citizen” of Bibliophilopolis, who recommended this story to me when I was building my short story roster for Deal Me In 2014 late last year.

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An awful lot can happen in “just an hour” can’t it? One thing that could happen is that someone could read this story about ten or fifteen times. It’s that short. This story, published in 1894, packs quite a wallop nonetheless.

A young wife with a heart condition learns from her sister and friend that they have received news her husband was killed in an accident while traveling. She reacts in a completely understandable grief-stricken way and then retires to her bedroom to “be alone.” She sinks into an armchair in front of an open window and experiences something of an epiphany. “There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully. What was it? She did not know; it was too subtle and elusive to name. But she felt it, creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, the color that filled the air.”

It is only then that the reader learns something more about what kind of married life this woman had, one where she often felt oppressed. She begins to see a “silver lining” in the dire news she has received, thinking that no longer “…would (a) powerful will (be) bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature.” She begins to think of herself as “Free! Body and soul free!” which she keeps whispering to herself. What will the rest of her new life be like now? It isn’t long before the reader finds out…

If you would like to read the story for yourself, it’s available on line in many places, one of them here

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The logo for the TV show “Sixty Minutes.” (i.e, an hour 🙂 ) It was quite familiar to me when I was growing up – not because I watched the program, but because it came on after the late afternoon Sunday football games on CBS, during which we were frequently reminded that – since games usually ran late – it could “be seen in its entirety” following the conclusion of the football broadcast. Anyone else remember that?

Deal Me In – Week 39 Wrap Up

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We’re at the three quarter post of the Deal Me In 2014 track and thus now in the home stretch. Below are links to new posts this week.

Dale read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/09/25/nathaniel-hawthorne-young-goodman-brown/

Randall read Ray Bradbury’s “Junior” http://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2014/09/junior-by-ray-bradbury.html

Katherine read Joyce Carol Oates’ “The Hand Puppet” http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/09/28/deal-me-in-week-39-the-hand-puppet/

I read Leo Tolstoy’s “God See’s the Truth But Waits” but may not post about it. I did post about a remarkable non-DMI story, “Axolotl” by Julio Cortazar if you want to read something 🙂 https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/09/28/axolotl-a-remarkable-short-story-by-julio-cortazar/

Candiss checked in with an update ( http://readthegamut.wordpress.com/2014/09/28/the-mathematics-of-a-post-free-blog/ ) and I for one am glad to hear she is still reading her short stories, even if there haven’t been any posts lately. 🙂

This is a non-DMI post of James’ but it does deal with short stories if you’d like to read http://jamesreadsbooks.com/2014/09/27/a-short-story-review-omnibus-with-carter-borges-russell-fitzgerald-lee-chandler-hemingway/

I missed Bellezza’s post last week about the Edgar Allen Poe classic, “The Black Cat” http://dolcebellezza.net/2014/09/21/the-black-cat-by-edgar-allen-poe/

 

Deal Me In – Week 38 Wrap Up

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What did we read this week? Check out the links below…

James read two “island stories” – James Hersey’s “To The End of the American Dream” and Haruki Murakami’s “Man Eating Cats” http://jamesreadsbooks.com/2014/09/16/john-hersey-vs-haruki-murakami/

Randall read Oliver Wendell Holmes’ “A Visit to the Asylum for Aged and Decayed Punstershttp://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2014/09/a-visit-to-asylum-for-aged-and-decayed.html#comment-form

Dale read G.K. Chesterton’s “The Red Moon of Meruhttp://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/09/18/g-k-chesterton-the-red-moon-of-meru/

Katherine read “Just a Little Bug” by P.D. Cacek http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/09/21/deal-me-in-week-38-just-a-little-bug/

I read “The Business of Madame Jahn” by Vincent O’Sullivan https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/09/21/the-business-of-madame-jahn-by-vincent-osullivan/

“The Business of Madame Jahn” by Vincent O’Sullivan

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(Above: I’ve tried a lot of different beers in my life, but have never heard of this one. The search begins…)

For week 38 of Deal Me In 2014, I drew the seven of diamonds which I had assigned to this story of a murder for greed – and a haunting…

I had not heard of the author Vincent O’Sullivan until I read about him at Paula Cappa’s blog (actually, I think I have a growing list of authors I can say that about). O’Sullivan lived from 1868-1940 and was an American writer of supernatural fiction and friend of the great Oscar Wilde. This short tale is from his first collection of stories, “A Book of Bargains.” His latter life was a tragic one as his formerly well-to-do family was struck down by financial ruin. Wikipedia reports that “in latish middle age found himself ruined, wrote his last book (Opinions) under terrible conditions, and, dying in Paris, ended anonymously in the common pit for the cadavers of paupers.” How sad.

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The story begins with us learning that its protagonist, Gustave Herbout, has committed suicide shortly after inheriting the estate of his deceased aunt. There is speculation about why – now of all times, when he has finally come into some manner of wealth – Gustave would choose to end his life.

So what is Gustave’s problem? Like many people (maybe you know some yourself), Gustave craves a life that is beyond his means. A life of a boulevardier, frequenting chic cafes and sharing stories of wealthy and titled relations with “obsequious” friends – stories that he knows cannot be verified or found to be his own mere fabrications. He also knows that he stands to inherit a sum of money from his aged aunt, Madame Jahn – an amount that could support him in this ideal lifestyle that he has not earned through his own efforts. He begins to ponder, though, how much longer she might live and realizes she might “hold on” for many years yet…

A nice story, though not among my favorites of DMI2014. Read the story yourself online at http://gaslight.mtroyal.ca/mmejahn.htm

Had you heard of, or read anything by this author?

(Below: Monet’s painting of the Boulevard des Capucines, where the morally bankrupt Gustave liked to roam and feed his self-delusions…)

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Deal Me In – Week 37 Wrap Up

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Sorry for not getting this post up yesterday. I’ll blame the National Football League. 🙂 Below are links to new posts this week. If I’ve missed someone, please don’t hesitate to put a link in the comments. If a participant has been inactive for a while, I may not check his/her blog every week to look for activity to link to.

Dale read Graham Greene’s “Dream of a Strange Land” http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/09/11/graham-greene-dream-of-a-strange-land/

Randall read George William Curtiss’s “Titbottom’s Spectacles” http://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2014/09/titbottoms-spectacles-by-george-william.html

Katherine read Janet Berliner’s “Indigo Moon” http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/deal-me-in-week-37-indigo-moon-by-janet-berliner/

I read Mark Helprin’s “Perfection” https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/09/15/perfection-by-mark-helprin/. This story was another DMI2014 “twin” as Dale posted about it also this year. If you want to revisit his take on it, it may be found at http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/02/27/perfection-by-mark-helprin/

I wanted to mention also that Randall is using the “Deal Me In machinery” to help him participate in the Ninth Annual R.I.P. Challenge. See his post at http://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2014/08/readers-imbibing-peril-rip-ix.html for the details.

That’s it for this week. Until next time, happy reading!

 

“Perfection” by Mark Helprin

“Perfection” by Mark Helprin

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For week 37 of Deal Me In 2014 (click here for details on the “Deal Me In challenge”), I drew the five of diamonds, which corresponded to the longest “short story” on my roster. At 62 pages in my copy, I think it’s in that limbo world between short story and novella. But no matter. I enjoyed the story, which was also my first introduction to Helprin’s writing.

Perfection is the tale of Roger Reveszhe, a young boy in post- World War II New York City being raised and educated by the Rabbis of his community. He is a Hasidic Jew and a holocaust survivor, with particularly terrible (even in the backdrop of those events) memories. He is clearly a special boy who thinks deeply about things and is beginning to chafe against the rigor and routines of an “orthodox education.” For me, the theme that intellectual curiosity cannot be contained – it will ’find a way’ to gain expression – made the story quite enjoyable. Having led a hitherto sheltered life, when Roger learns from friends that a radio is a window to the outside world. Naturally, he seeks and finds a radio, not getting what he wanted or expected, but finding something he likes nonetheless. In this way, he first discovers that, “Evidently, the rabbis kept certain things from their students. Wonderful things. Exciting things.”

Roger finds the radio at the shop of a butcher, Mr. Schnaiper, who listens “religiously” to broadcasts of New York Yankee baseball games. The Butcher’s understanding of the game, however – gleaned solely from the audio – is incomplete and at times his misinterpretations are hilarious. He calls them the “Yenkiss” and believes they are led by a superstar named, “Mickey Mental.

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(Yankee great, Mickey Mental, er… “Mantle”)

When Roger hears Yankee Stadium referred to as “The House that Ruth Built” he immediately thinks of the Ruth of the bible, leading to more humorous situations. Roger has a young friend Luba who, not wishing to appear ignorant, bluffs about knowing what the house that Ruth built looks like, conjuring up fantastical images. When Roger sees it finally, he realizes it’s different, but “it’s close.”

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In the latter part of the story, Roger learns that the Yankees are going through a difficult seasons and, upon hearing that “Kansas City is going to kill them,” he decides to go on a sort of pilgrimage to help “Mickey Mental” save them. The story does drift into grounds a little too philosophical and supernatural for my tastes, but it was still an enjoyable ride – even if it was my first story this year that I wasn’t able to finish “in one sitting” (which is one of my favorite definitions of a short story).

I own this story as part of the collection, “The Pacific and Other Stories.”

What about you? Have you read anything by this author? What do you think of him? I have had his novel “Winter’s Tale” on my TBR list for quite a while now. Will this story finally stir me to action and make me pick it up…?

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