“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:

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“This Bitter Pill” by Frank Bill

For week 31 of the 2015 Deal Me In challenge, I drew the eight of diamonds, which I had assigned to the Frank Bill short story, “This Bitter Pill” from the Indy Writes Books anthology. Now in its fifth year, Deal Me In is an annual short story reading challenge (explained here). My list of stories I’m reading this year, with links to those I’ve posted about, may be found here.


The randomized order of my Deal Me In selections often produces eerie coincidences. For instance, just this week, in nearby Anderson, Indiana, police broke up a heroin ring of more than twenty(!) people. (News article may be found here if you’d like to be depressed) Heroin addiction and its consequences is the subject of Frank Bill’s short story, “This Bitter Pill,” originally published in Pank Magazine but also reprinted in the “Indy Writes Books” anthology, which I own a copy of.

“Tar Baby” is an eighteen year old mother of a newborn. She has a deadbeat boyfriend, “Patch Work,” a stuttering, “stillbrain” whose main attraction appears to be that he “scores good drugs.” She works at a low-paying convenience store job, and is, along with her boyfriend, a heroin addict. Tar Baby and Patch Wwork have gotten into debt to a despicable dealer, “Deuce,” using some of the money that friendly relatives have given them to help “the young couple out with the baby” as a down payment on a fix and promising the rest, thinking they’ll pay Deuce back  when Tar Baby gets her meager paycheck. Sadly, they discover that much of that money is needed for diapers and other baby-related expenses.

What to do? It seems one option is that Deuce is notorious for taking payment in flesh – usually in sadistic ways – from his delinquent female customers. This option hangs in the background throughout this short story as the young couple try to cope.

This was not a pleasant story, and I’m still a little perplexed at how it found its way into this anthology, the submissions for which were supposed to have “something to do with reading, writing, literacy, books, or bookstores.” I guess a stretch could be made that “illiteracy” might be assumed to be among the young couple’s shortcomings, though that isn’t explicitly stated. Illiteracy is rampant, in general, in the margins of society that these characters inhabit. In fact “margins” of society is a good choice of words here, as one of the problems that keeps people like this down is the fact that there is little or no margin for error in their lives. Just one setback or piece of bad luck (or more often a bad decision) can quickly derail any progress (or the hope of progress) being made to extricate themselves from the margin…

I continued to enjoy the author’s gritty and visceral writing style in this story (as I have in his previous works that I’ve read, “Coon Hunter’s Noir” and “Amphetamine Twitch“) I have one more story of his to go in this year’s Deal Me In, titled “What Once Was” and am looking forward to reading it.

Indy Writes Books is an anthology for sale by Indy Reads Books, with all proceeds going to support local adult literacy programs, an undeniably worthy cause which Bibliophilopolis is happy to support. If the Indy Writes Books anthology sounds like something you’d be interested in, please consider purchasing a copy. More info may be found at http://www.indyreads.org/indy-writes-books/

Up next for week 32 of Deal Me In 2015 (Also from Indy Writes Books): “Your Book: A Novel in Stories” by Cathy Day.

Below (from goodreads.com): author Frank Bill

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Deal Me In 2015 – Week 28 Wrap Up

Below are links to new posts since the last update. Please take a moment to visit (or comment or “like”) these posts and support your fellow DMI participants! 🙂

James at James Reads Books wrote about H.L. Mencken’s essay “On Being an American” and Ursula K. LeGuin’s story “Darkrose and Diamond” from her Earthsea world. Did he find a connection? http://jamesreadsbooks.com/2015/07/07/h-l-mencken-vs-ursula-k-le-guin-a-deal-me-in-short-story-challenge/

Dale at Mirror with Clouds tackles Donald Barthelme’s “A City of Churches” https://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2015/07/11/donald-barthelme-a-city-of-churches/

Katherine at The Writerly Reader posted about Dan Chaon’s “The Bees” https://katenread.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/deal-me-in-week-28-the-bees/

Tracy at Bitter Tea and Mystery shares with us the Stephen Murray story “Positive Vettinghttp://bitterteaandmystery.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/positive-vetting-by-stephen-murray.html

I read my fifth story from the “In the Meantime” anthology (stories set in Brussels), “The Commissioner and the Pig” by Nick Jacobs. I learned of this collection a few years back at Alex’s excellent blog “The Sleepless Reader.” I haven’t written a post yet as I’m recovering from the weekend’s “24in48” readathon (and yes, of course I read short stories for that!)

“o” at Behold the Stars brings us another Miguel Cervantes story “The a Little Gypsy Girl” http://beholdthestars.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/the-little-gypsy-girl-by-miguel-de.html

That’s it for now. happy reading until next week!

Deal Me In 2015 – Week 20 Wrap Up

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Below are links to new posts since our last update:

Randall at Time Enough at Last read Amy Hempel’s “Today Will be a Quiet Day” http://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2015/05/deal-me-in-week-20-today-will-be-quiet.html

Katherine at The Writerly Reader had her first DNF of the year. Read what she thought about Rick Moody’s “The Albertine Notes” at https://katenread.wordpress.com/2015/05/16/deal-me-in-week-20-the-albertine-notes/

Dale at Mirror With Clouds read Mary Lerner’s “Little Clouds” https://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2015/05/13/mary-lerner-little-selves/

Also, check out his “Bradbury of the Month” story, “The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl” at https://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/bradbury-of-the-month-may-the-fruit-at-the-bottom-of-the-bowl/

“o” at Behold the Stars read William Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest” http://beholdthestars.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/the-tempest-by-william-shakespeare.html

I read “The Journey” by Mary Susan Buhner, and am working on a brief post about it today. 🙂

So… what short stories did YOU read this week?

Deal Me In 2015 – Week 8 Wrap Up

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Welcome to the week 8 round up of Deal Me In posts.  We’re almost two months into the challenge, and we have a fresh batch of new and interesting reading covered this week.  Take a moment to visit or comment on your fellow DMI-er’s posts listed below.

“o” at behold the stars read Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem “To a Skylark” http://beholdthestars.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/to-skylark-by-percy-bysshe-shelley.html

Debra read George Saunders’ powerful story “The Semplica Girl Diaries” https://debrabooks.wordpress.com/2015/02/18/the-banality-of-postmodern-evil-george-saunderss-semplica-girl-diaries/

Cleo at Classical Carousel read “Dr. marigold” by Charles Dickens http://cleoclassical.blogspot.com/2015/02/doctor-marigold-by-charles-dickens.html

James at James Reads Books posted about Jessica Mitford “Trial by Headline” and Ursula LeGuin’s “The Bones of the Earth” http://jamesreadsbooks.com/2015/02/20/jessica-mitford-vs-ursula-k-le-guin-a-deal-me-in-short-story-challenge/

Jen at Military History posted about two stories “As Told by the Schoolmaster” by John Galsworthy https://wisepursuits.wordpress.com/2015/02/21/deal-me-in-2015-week-8-told-by-the-schoolmaster/ and Ambrose Bierce’s “An Affair of Outposts” https://wisepursuits.wordpress.com/2015/02/21/deal-me-in-2015-week-7-an-affair-of-outposts/

Dale at Mirror With Clouds read Steven Millhauser’s “The Wizard of West Orange” https://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2015/02/20/steven-millhauser-the-wizard-of-west-orange

Marian at Tanglewood read the classic detective tale “Murders in the Rue Morgue” by Edgar Allan Poe http://tangle-wood.blogspot.com/2015/02/8-murders-in-rue-morgue.html

Katherine of The Writerly Reader also dealt herself an Edgar Allan Poe story this week, “The Man of the Crowd” https://katenread.wordpress.com/2015/02/21/deal-me-in-week-8-the-man-of-the-crowd/

Randall at a Time Enough at Last shares two stories with us: Stuart Dybek’s “We Didn’t” http://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2015/02/deal-me-in-week-8-we-didnt-by-stuart.html and Barry Hannah’s “Nicodemus Bluff” http://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2015/02/deal-me-in-week-7-nicodemus-bluff-by.html

John-Paul at The Reader Regards Himself wrote about “The Black Sites” by Jane Mayer http://readerregards.blogspot.co.nz/2015/02/the-black-sites-jane-mayer.html

Jay at Bibliophilopolis (that’s me!) “read local” again, posting about Angela Brown-Jackson’s story “Anna’s Wings” https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2015/02/22/annas-wings-a-short-story-by-angela-jackson-brown/

That’s it for this week – except for a short story trivia picture.  Which of this week’s DMI posts should the photo below call to mind…?

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“Anna’s Wings” a short story by Angela Jackson-Brown

2015/02/img_54081.jpg(For week 8 of the Deal Me In 2015 short story reading challenge, I drew the queen of diamonds. In addition to being part of my short story reading challenge, this post is another “reading local” post for me. In 2015, I’m trying to increase my reading of local authors and/or books set in my home state of… Indiana.)

 

“I’m disappearing, Leo,” she had said once Leo got her settled in his car. “I’m not going to let you disappear, Anna,” he had said, stroking Anna’s damp hair. But if the truth be known, Anna was disappearing and there was nothing he could do to stop it. Little by little, piece by piece, segments of Anna’s personality were slipping away, like birds during the onset of winter. ”

“Anna’s Wings” is a gently poignant story about a man, Leo, and his wife, Anna, who is suffering from mental illness and in rapid decline. Maybe “fading fast” would be a better description, as it fits in with her notion of “disappearing” in the passage quoted above. However you decide to describe it, the horror of watching a loved one – or at least watching that part of a loved one that makes her unique – disappear is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

Anna’s illness manifests itself in several ways: Forgetting where she is or where she is going, forgetting to pay for goods at the Winn-Dixie (fortunately Leo is the town sheriff and can make things right in the latter case), and a fascination with a family of ducks that has settled in a pond Leo and Anna’s property. Leo can find her “somewhere near the ducks” most days when he comes home. Since the ducks seem to make Anna happy, and since Leo fears the potential impact their flying away might have on her condition, he clips their wings as a pragmatic – if temporary – way to “treat” her symptoms. Anna’s not so far gone, however, as to not notice that the ducks never seem to fly any more and learns what Leo has done:

“How could you, Leo? How could you clip their wings?” she had cried hysterically, pounding her fists against his chest. “I didn’t want them to fly away from you Anna,” Leo had said to her, as he’d tried to pull her close to him, but she jerked away. “What about me, Leo? Is that what you’ll do to me?” she exclaimed, her eyes shining brightly with tears. “When it’s my time to fly away, will you clip my wings too? Will you? Will you, Leo.”

Will he? You’ll have to read the story to find out…

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Above: American Wigeons (the ducks featured in this story) – picture from website (with more info about them if you’re interested) http://www.birdsasart.com/bn188.htm

I own this story as part of the Indy Writes Books anthology (order online at http://www.indyreads.org/indy-writes-books/ ) – a local project of which Bibliophilopolis is happily a “first edition sponsor.”

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(For my Deal Me In 2015 short story reading challenge, I’ve reserved my diamonds suit for the short stories included in this volume, but it also includes poems and non-fiction pieces and even a puzzle or two. My complete list of stories I’ll be reading for Deal Me In this year is here. Many other bloggers are doing a form of the Deal Me In challenge this year, and links to participants’ blog’s may be found on my sidebar.)

 

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The above picture (taken by me, thus explaining the poor focus and quality) is of the author reading from this story at the book’s launch party at the Indy Reads Books bookstore in downtown Indy last fall. Angela Jackson-Brown teaches English at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. She also writes an excellent blog which may be found at http://www.angelajacksonbrown.com/

Deal Me In 2015 – Week 5 Wrap Up

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Below are links to new Deal Me In posts that I saw since the last update. As always, if I’ve missed you, feel free to link to your post in the comments, and I’ll try not to miss you again. Happy reading!

“o” at Behold the Stars read Emile Zola’s “Death by Advertising” http://beholdthestars.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/death-by-advertising-by-emile-zola.html

Dale read Dorothy Parker’s “Here We Are” https://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2015/01/29/dorothy-parker-here-we-are/

John-Paul at The Reader Regards Himself read George Orwell’s essay “Why I Write” http://readerregards.blogspot.co.nz/2015/01/why-i-write-george-orwell.html

Tracy at Bitter Tea and Mystery read “The Mouse in the Corner” by Ruth Rendell http://bitterteaandmystery.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/deal-me-in-2015-story-2-mouse-in-corner.html

Cleo at Classical Carousel read Anton Chekhov’s “The Princess” http://cleoclassical.blogspot.ca/2015/01/the-princess-by-anton-chekhov.html

Though not technically part of Deal Me In 2015, James re-posted a great short story-laden post from his old blog that you may enjoy: http://jamesreadsbooks.com/2015/01/31/a-short-story-omnibus-edition/

Also not exactly a Deal me In 2015 post, Teresa writes about short story ace George Saunders’ collection “Tenth of December” https://shelflove.wordpress.com/2015/01/28/tenth-of-december-2/

Christine at The Moonlight Reader posted a summary of her January Deal me In reading Dana Cameron’s “Swing Shift”, Holly Black’s “Rag and Bones”; Pateicia Briggs’ “Star of David”, and “Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells” by Delia Sherman http://thedwsblog.com/2015/02/01/deal-january-wrap/

Katherine at The Writerly Reader read the Nikolai Gogol classic “The Cloak” https://katenread.wordpress.com/2015/02/01/deal-me-in-week-5-the-cloak/

Randall at Time Enough at Last posted about Grace Paley’s “Telling” http://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2015/02/deal-me-in-week-5-telling-by-grace-paley.html

I read Alice Munro’s “Some Women” but haven’t cobbled together a post yet (It was great, though) so look for two posts from me in the coming week. Maybe. 🙂

That’ is for this week. We’ve made it through the first month of Deal Me In, but their are still hundreds of stories (& essays, poems, plays, fairy tales) waiting their turn in the draw to keep us entertained for the rest of the year!

 

Deal Me in 2015 – Week 3 Wrap Up

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A nice new crop of stories, poems, etc. this week. Below are links to new posts I found since the last update. If I’ve missed you, leave a note in the comments and I’ll update the post.

I’m also working on a new page that is an index of the stories read by last year’s Deal Me In participants. It’s the 2014 Deal Me In posts index by author page on my sidebar. Pretty much a bare bones list at this point (without links) but it does indicate the week the story was included in the wrap up post so one who is truly ambitious could get to the story by searching for the wrap up post. Maybe I’ll add links at the bottom to the weekly wrap up posts at some point, but – that’s a lot of links. :-). The list is kind of fun to peruse – seeing which authors were read the most, which stories were picked by two participants, etc. The group posted on over 300 stories last year.

Tracy at Bitter Tea and Mystery wrote about Roald Dahl’s “Lamb to the Slaughter” http://bitterteaandmystery.blogspot.com/2015/01/deal-me-in-2015-story-1-lamb-to.html

Cleo at Classical Carousel read Jean Fritz’s “The Cabin Faced West” http://cleoclassical.blogspot.ca/2015/01/the-cabin-faced-west.html

Jen at Military History read “With a Burqa” by Katey Schultz https://wisepursuits.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/deal-me-in-2015-week-3/

Dale at Mirror with Clouds wrote about E.B. White’s story “The Second Tree from the Cornerhttps://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/e-b-white-the-second-tree-from-the-corner/

Jim at Science a fiction Times has two posts, one on Isaac Asimov’s “The Callistan Menace” http://sciencefictiontimes.blogspot.com/2015/01/the-callistan-menace-by-isaac-asimov.html. and another on Harlan Ellison’s “Shattered Like a Glass Goblin” http://sciencefictiontimes.blogspot.com/2015/01/shattered-like-glass-goblin-by-harlan.html. I, for one, am loving this classic sci-fi!

John Paul at The Reader Regards Himself writes about the Peter Hessler article “China’s Instant Cities” http://readerregards.blogspot.co.nz/2015/01/chinas-instant-cities-peter-hessler.html

Somehow I previously missed a new participant, Elsie at The Book Drum. Check out her roster at https://thebookdrum.wordpress.com/2015/01/07/deal-me-in-for-52-weeks-with-wordsworth-2/ Her “twist” on Deal Me In is that she’s reading 52 Wordsworth poems. Her entries so far are: “The Solitary Reaperhttps://thebookdrum.wordpress.com/2015/01/17/the-solitary-reaper/The Reverie of Poor Susanhttps://thebookdrum.wordpress.com/2015/01/12/52-weeks-with-wordsworth-week-2-the-reverie-of-poor-susan/ and “Simplon Passhttps://thebookdrum.wordpress.com/2015/01/08/deal-me-in-week-1-wordsworths-simplon-pass/

Marian at Tanglewood read Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid”
http://tangle-wood.blogspot.com/2015/01/5-little-mermaid.html

Katherine at The Readerly Writer tackles Ambrose Bierce’s “The Damned Thing” https://katenread.wordpress.com/2015/01/17/deal-me-in-week-3-the-damned-thing/

Randall at Time Enough at Last posted about Mark Richard’s “Strays” http://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2015/01/deal-me-in-week-3-strays-by-mark-richard.html

I read Annie Proulx’s “Rough Deeds” https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2015/01/14/rough-deeds-by-annie-proulx/

“o” at Behold the Stars covers “Arnita and Arcite” by Geoffrey Chaucer http://beholdthestars.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/anelida-and-arcite-by-geoffrey-chaucer.html

That’s it for this week. How is YOUR short story reading going in 2015?

(Below: Jupiter’s moon Callisto – one of the Galilean Satellites. It does look a little “menacing” doesn’t it?)

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Deal Me In – Week 27 Wrap Up

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Another slow week for DMI activity, but stalwarts Dale and Katherine both contributed a post, and your humble host managed one as well. :-). Below are the links.

Dale read a July 4th story (randomly drawn!) – Ernest Hemingway’s “Ten Little Indians.” http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/07/04/ernest-hemingway-ten-indians/

Katherine read Steven Millhauser’s “The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad” and also shared her thoughts on last week’s survey. It’s all here http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/07/05/deal-me-in-week-27-the-eighth-voyage-of-sinbad/

For my part, Nobel Prizewinner Alice Munro (it’s her birthday this week!) made her DMI debut (from my roster anyway) as I read her story “Menesetung.” https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/07/06/meneseteung-by-alice-munro/

That’s it for this week. Oh, and if you haven’t taken the Deal Me In “survey” from last week, feel free to do so at your convenience. 🙂