“The Lady from Monte Carlo” by Dovid Knut – Selection 47 of #DealMeIn2018

Deal Me In, Catch Me Up!

Though I haven’t been writing many blog posts this year, I have been keeping up with my reading of the stories on my Deal Me In list. I only have five to go now, and a couple recent reads were very good – or at least though-provoking – so I thought I should break my silence. I’m also beginning to think about next year’s Deal Me In chalenge. Are you? I will be posting an invitation to join post on December 21st (the “SHORT”est day of the year, of course – at least for us in the Northern Hemisphere!)

The Card: ♣3♣  Three of Clubs.

The Suit: For #DealMeIn2018, ♣♣♣Clubs♣♣♣ is my Suit for (mostly) stories from the anthology Russian Emigre Short Stories from Bunin to Yanovsky. I’ve long been a sucker for short stories written by Russian authors, and this volume has provided several more that were memorable for me.

The Author: Dovid Knut, who I’ve never read – nor even heard of – before. He lived from 1900 – 1955 and, after the Bolshevik Revolution, spent a lot of time in Paris. He was actually born in what is now Moldova and also lived in Romania for a while. His personal bio information in Wikipedia was interesting to read through.

The Selection: “The Lady from Monte Carlo” I own this story as part of the great anthology “Russian Emigre Short Stories from Bunin to Yanovsky.” I had no particular reason for picking this story as one of the thirteen from the volume I would read for the challenge.

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.

(below: the city of Monte Carlo today, from Forbes Travel Guide)

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The Lady from Monte Carlo

“For the love of God, my dear boy. Leave this place. Go. Trust me, you must leave at once.”

I was a little confused, initially at least, as to what this story was “about.”  But eventually I decided it was about the giving of advice, and how frequently advice – particularly good advice – is ignored. I’ve been guilty of not taking good advice throughout my life and I’m sure, if you’re being honest, you’ve – at least at times – done the same.

Why do we do it, though? Our reasons may vary but the end result is usually to our detriment. Do we think we know more than the advice-giver? Do we not trust the advice-giver? Do we just not like to think we need to be told what to do or how to behave? I think I’m guilty on all of these accounts in the many instances of my being heedless. What are some other reasons?  Do we pick the advice we like the best, ignoring the rest, often because the path of following the most correct advice is more work or more difficult? What do YOU think?

Our narrator for this tale is a rather dissolute young man, and we find him in Monte Carlo at the tables. All is rosy at first, as he is having “one of those nights” noting that his ‘luck was in.’ I think the author communicates this rare state of euphoria well, as the narrator notes that “I began to feel a definite pride – the pride of a successful gambler (I was sure I was in some way worthier, more gifted, more intelligent than my neighbours at the table, whom I probably – I could now swear to this – regarded with disdain).” Of course, as with most lucky streaks, it can’t go on forever and – imagine this! – he doesn’t quit while he’s ahead.

While he’s in town (and Monte Carlo is probably not the best city to be in if you have a gambling problem!) he sees an old lady who, for reasons he initially doesn’t know, seems to take an interest in him. She tells him of her her life, which “was an essentially uncomplicated story, yet I listened intently to ‘The Lady from Monte Carlo’, never taking my eyes off her.”

He learns that she came to Monte Carlo at the age of twenty, and that she had been exceptionally beautiful. She had visited the casino “out of boredom” and – surprise! – lost all her money, deciding never to do something so foolish again. Those who have a little knowledge of gambling addiction can probably guess that she did not stick to that decision. In her own time of need, she is saved by a kindly old gentleman and now she is presumably intent on ‘paying it forward’ to this contemporary young man, who seems to be careening down the same road she took in her youth.

What I began to see emerge in the story was a kind of multi-generational cycle of advice givers, advice ignorers, and advice “acceptors.” This was a pleasing idea to me that, in the midst of this city where these temptations thrived there was a kind of “lineage” (the kindly old gentleman seems to be part of it) of those who sought to help and and spare others what they themselves had suffered.

The Lady even has a Hamlet-worthy soliloquy near the end:

“I had a beloved, a sister, interesting work, hobbies, youth, beauty, life – and I gave it all up, do you hear? All of it. Do you know what that means? All, all, all of it for this money. I turned into a machine for accumulating money. I was loved – now I am despised. By everyone. I was surrounded by people; now I am alone, or surrounded by monsters. I was once beautiful – I became ugly. I was once alive – but I very nearly became a corpse.”

I wondered while reading if there are other stories centered around gambling that an organization like Gamblers Anonymous would present as cautionary tales. Do you know of any, or even just any good stories where gambling plays a major part?

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“The Table of the Elements” by J.T. Whitehead – selection #37 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

 

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The Card: ♦K♦ King of Diamonds

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, diamonds is my suit for “Stories” by Contemporary Authors with an Indiana Connection

The Selection: “The Table of The Elements” a collection of poems published in 2015.

The Author: J.T. Whitehead – I met him at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library (he also happens to be the husband of the Library’s executive director, Julia Whitehead) at the “launch party” for this book. He also serves as the editor of the Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, “So It Goes.”

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card, and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/storylegacy project seal of approval 2roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is also now officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

 

The Table of the Elements

Okay, so, full disclosure: I don’t (or very rarely) read poetry. I usually don’t “get” poetry. My dad used to like to attempt to memorize poems, and some of his favorites were Poe’s “Annabel Lee” or “The Raven” and Robert W. Service’s “The Cremation of Sam Magee.” As a kid I did like listening to them, and enjoyed their rhythm and meter. Most poetry these days, it seems, is not of the rhyming type, which I think somehow makes it even harder for a brute like me to appreciate it. Nonetheless, I did enjoy working my way through this slim volume of poems.

First of all, I love the concept. Not surprising, since I love the Periodic Table (Nerd alert!) :-). The book is divided into two parts, the first with poems about specific elements, the second with poems about compounds (like nitro glycerine for example – see picture above from infohive.net). I asked the author if he was aware of Sam Kean’s great book “The Disappearing Spoon: and Other True Tales of Love Madness and The History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements” (Long title; great book – see here for the summary on Goodreads.com). He said he wasn’t but “funny you should ask” as he did encounter other poets who told him he had ripped off their idea. They just weren’t sure how he found out about it(!)

Anyway, instead of reading just one poem for Deal Me “IN” I ended up reading them all as they are mostly short. Here is one favorite, and about one of my “favorite elements” as well.

Mercury

Namesakes

are as fast

& just as slick

& kill as quick-

Limo lengthy

classy chassis

metal monster

classic auto

Crashing head-ward

tires skidding

metal mangled

causing death

fastest planet

hottest planet

closest planet

chasing death-

gods’ messenger

winged messenger

Death’s messenger

& coming fast –

Tide turner

Skin burner

Gill filler

Fish killer –

Quicksilver –

the slowest killer –

The fastest killer –

A killer –

I have now also acquired a Periodic Table deck of cards (actually two decks – to accommodate more elements) and the King of Diamonds is the card for Iron. There was a poem about Iron included in the book (not all elements were represented, especially trans-uranium ones 🙂 )

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(Sometimes when you go to book events, the author will sign your book for you.  Actually, pretty much ALL the time they will 🙂 )

I found a nice interview with Whitehead at http://www.vonnegutlibrary.org/as-is-for-arsenic-an-interview-with-national-book-award-nominee-j-t-whitehead/

Buy this book online from The Broadview River Press at http://www.thebroadkillriverpress.com/apps/webstore/products?page=2

Note: Mercury image from periodictable.com

Deal Me in Week 6 Wrap-Up

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Below are links to new posts since last week’s wrap-up. Please take a moment to visit – or even better – leave a comment for this week’s posts. Wo knows, you may find a new favorite story or author among them. And … it’s never too late to join the Deal Me In Challenge, either. 🙂

James tackles John Hersey and Henry James. Will he find a connection between “The Wedding Dress” and “John Delavoy“? http://jamesreadsbooks.com/2014/02/03/henry-james-goes-to-key-west-a-deal-me-in-short-story-challenge-post/

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Meet murderer Hubert Granice as Dale posts about Edith Wharton’s “The Bolted Door.”
http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/02/07/edith-whartons-the-bolted-door/

Hanne at Reading on Cloud 9 read Alice Adams’ “The Last Lovely City” http://readingoncloud9.wordpress.com/2014/02/09/lastlovelycity/

For my part, I was blown away by “The Things” by Peter Watts. https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/02/09/the-things-by-peter-watts/

Katherine at The Writerly Reader read Katherine Dunn’s story “Allieshttp://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/02/08/deal-me-in-week-6-allies/

Katherine Dunn is also author of the novel “Geek Love.” (THAT’s where you’ve heard that name before) 🙂

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

Deal Me In 2014 – Week 3 Wrap-Up

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Below are links to the new “Deal Me In 2014” reading challenge posts that I’ve found since my last update. Most are story #3 but participants are “permitted”/expected to read at their own pace. If I’ve overlooked a post by you, please share a link in the comments, and I’ll update the body of the post later to include it, otherwise I’ll just include the link in next week’s wrap-up post.

I’ve enjoyed reading about everyone’s stories and in some cases the curious coincidence of which story the luck of the draw has led them too. This latter is a fun part of the challenge for me. 🙂 I’ve also loved seeing the unique playing card pics with some posts. Keep them coming! Lastly, I hope all the participants will take a few minutes to check on what others have read and leave a comment or “like” their posts as well.

Returning Reader write’s about Uwem Akpan’s “An Ex-Mas Feast”
http://returningreader.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/short-story-3-an-ex-mas-feast-uwem-akpan/

Dale at Mirror with Clouds read Mark Twain’s “The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg”
http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/the-man-that-corrupted-hadleyburg/

James at Ready When You Are, C.B. wrote about two stories, Tobias Wolff’s “The Night in Question” and Will Shetterly’s “The Sages of Elsewhere” (in James’ variant of Deal Me In, he’s reading two stories at a time and then challenging himself to find a link or connection between the two – great idea!)
http://readywhenyouarecb.blogspot.in/2014/01/deal-me-in-short-story-challenge-five.html

Hanne at Reading on Cloud 9 shares Isaac Babel’s “Guy de Maupassant”
http://readingoncloud9.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/guy-de-maupassant-by-isaac-babel-deal-me-in-week-3/

Kate at The Writerly Reader posted about “The Magician of Karakosk” by Peter S. Beagle
http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/01/18/deal-me-in-week-3-the-magician-of-karakosk/

Jay at Bibliophilopolis (that’s me!) read Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “The Christmas Tree and the Wedding”
https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/deal-me-in-story-3-the-christmas-tree-and-the-wedding-by-fyodor-dostoevsky/