“La Pulchra Nota” by Molly McNett – selection #12 of Deal Me In 2017

The Card: ♠9♠ of Spades (image at left found here).
The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me In, the suit of Spades is the domain of Clotho, one of the Fates from Greek Mythology who, according to Plato’s Republic sings of “things that are.”
The Selection: “La Pulchra Nota” from my hard copy of Pushcart Prize Winners anthology XXXIX “Best of the Small Presses.” Originally published in issue 78 of the “Image” journal. I also just realized I own this story in two places, as it is included in the 2014 edition of Best American Short Stories. Read it online here.

The Author: Molly McNett– She says she wanted to write a story about a music teacher and student, but didn’t want it to come out sounding like “Glee,” and her solution was to set the story in another time and place. Read more about her and this story at http://northernpublicradio.org/post/niu-author-best-american-writer (where the picture above may also be found)

What is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked! Full details maybe found here, but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants read one short story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for a list of the stories/essays I’ll be reading in 2017.

La Pulchra Nota

La Pulchra Nota is the moment of beauty absolute, but what follows – a pause, however small – is the realization of its passing. Perhaps no perfection is without this silent realization.”

Okay. Full disclosure. This story is my new leader for favorite Deal Me In story of 2017. I am rarely truly moved emotionally by a story and rarer still moved in multiple directions, e.g., from extreme empathy, to clear disgust, and back again, as I was in this story. I also did my traditional “drive by” online research of the story after reading, and was quite pleased to learn some of the details of its origins. (I also note with interest that, as Easter approaches, Deal Me In has dealt me up two stories in a row with a “religious” element…)

The story is the first person narration of John Fuller, who lives in the late Middle Ages – the late fourteenth century to be exact. It is a time when human life remains hard and mere survival – and accompanying happiness – likely involves healthy amounts of both faith and luck. Fuller, for example, is the youngest of twelve children of which only five survived childhood. The other seven being “called back to the fold” by the Lord.

Though Fuller lets us know that though, at the time of his narration, he “no longer has the use of his hands” and his pain “is not inconsiderable,” and that he was born with a deformity of one eye, he initially enjoyed at least some good fortune, including a fortunate marriage to a nine-years older woman, Katherine. He and his wife are “blessed” with twins, though apparently in the Middle Ages many believed that twins “must be sired by two fathers” (something I was unaware of or have forgotten) and she faced condemnation as a harlot by many.

Fuller reveals that “divine providence was pleased to take the life of our dear twins two days apart from each other” – victims of a fever that the narrator himself contracts but survives. Though he notes that “every devout man knows the great mercy He shows us in taking a child out of the world” his wife never recovers from the loss, leaving him in – to the modern eye – a hellish existence with a half-mad wife, who goes on a sort of medieval hunger strike to coerce him into going to see the “anchoress” as a solution to their grief: “John, I have given you sorrow. But the Lord has a remedy. We must go to the anchoress, declare celibacy, and I will again wear white.” John, hardly surprisingly, resists this request.

In the meantime, he continues to follow his vocation as a music teacher, which includes instruction of new young student, Olivia, who has talent far beyond what he normally sees among his pupils. Indeed, his regular lessons with this particular student serve as a kind of lifeline for some scant happiness in his life. He feels she may be capable of achieving the titular “La Pulchra Nota,” the existence of which he reveals to her then quickly regrets. “…your voice at times comes close to a moment of perfection – what Jerome has called la pulchra nota. Let us begin to listen for it. Mostly it appears with no strain whatsoever. But be attentive, for when such a note comes, if you know it, you may ever after use its sound to guide you.” He fears he may have given her false hopes, yet later, in a subsequent lesson, she does achieve la pulchra nota and knows it. This has serious consequences for both teacher and pupil…

I’ve “spoiled” the story enough already, but if you should like to read it, it’s available online at https://www.imagejournal.org/article/la-pulchra-nota/

(I don’t know if the “Jerome” referenced in the story is St. Jerome, but I though it was a safe enough assumption to include a picture of a famous painting 🙂 )

“The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything” by George Alec Effinger – selection #10 of Deal Me In 2017


The Card: ♥8♥ Eight of Hearts

The Suit: For my version of Deal Me IN, this year, Hearts is the domain of Atropos, one of the “Fates” from Classical Greek Mythology who “sang of things that are yet to be” i.e., things in the future – the setting for this story. Atropos is also frequently represented as holding a pair of scissors with which she snips the thread of life which is spun by her two sisters, Clotho and Lachesis.

The Selection: “The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything” from my e-copy of the anthology The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Volume 2, from which I am taking several stories for this year’s Deal Me In.

The Author: George Alec Effinger (pictured at left, from Goodreads.com), author of the novel What Entropy Means to Me and a series known as the “Marid Audran” books. As the intro in my anthology says, “Much of his writing is marked by his strong sense of humor, which is in full flower in “The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything.”

What is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details maybe found here, but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants read one story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for a list of the stories/essays I’ll be reading in 2017.

The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything

“Mother ship?” I asked. “You haven’t seen it? It’s tethered on the Mall. They’re real sorry about what they did to the Washington Monument.”

After finishing this story, and looking back at my Deal Me In reading over the years, it struck me how few stories I’ve read that could truly be considered humorous. This story made up for a lot of lost time in that regard!  When I picked the story as part of my 2017 DMI reading plans, though, I knew nothing about it (there I go, picking based on a title again).

The story documents a visit to a future earth (Washington D.C. in particular) by extra terrestrials. Maybe I should say a return visit, as they had come once before, during the Eisenhower administration. The “Nuhp” – as the aliens were called – came this second time expecting the earthlings to be prepared for their visit, but they weren’t. The story the aliens were told in the ’50s was that making their presence known to an unprepared public would be disastrous.

This story is also unique, at least in my experience, in that it’s first person narrator is the President of the United States. (This was a president I wasn’t that impressed with, though.) He seems lost without his advisers, and doesn’t seem to thrilled with any responsibility that falls to him. At one point the Narrator President inquires of his aide if the aliens disclosed anything about their prior meeting with Eisenhower (which the Narrator-President was unaware of) and is told that the alien’s leader “says all they discussed with Mr. Eisenhower was his golf game. They helped correct his putting stroke.”

It soon becomes evident that these aliens, though more or less benevolent, are insufferable in their sharing of opinions about things, especially when it comes to the quality of things. Early on, they comment that though Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is beautiful, it is “certainly not his best work” (in their opinion it his his Piano Conecerto No. 5 in  E-flat major).  This is according to “very rigorous and definite critical principals” naturally. While the Narrator-President is wondering “what could this Nuhp know of what Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony aroused in our human souls?” the Nuhp adds that even the Piano Concerto is not the best human musical composition (that honor apparently goes to the score from the motion picture Ben-Hur, by Miklos Rozsa(!) A good choice,I agree, but the best EVER?


The Nuhp soon immigrate to Earth in huge numbers, and quickly everyone grows fatigued by their opinions on everything.* The punchline (I guess you could call it that) of the story is that earth people begin to emigrate themselves, to other splendid worlds that the Nuhp have made them aware of, but NOT necessarily because of the attractiveness of those other worlds. Rather, they are mainly just tired of listening to the Nuhp and are fleeing their incessant and officious take on everything. What kind of places did they emigrate to? “These planets had one thing in common: they were all populated by charming, warm, intelligent, humanlike people who had left their own home worlds after being discovered by the Nuhp.”

All in all quite an entertaining story, and one that raised some interesting questions. One interesting passage, too long to quote here, was the story of a human named Barry,who was quite like the Nuhp in terms of being a self professed authority on everything and how everyone knew he was the man to go to if there was a question about something, but that no one did. Because they all hated him. 🙂
Other entries on the Nuhp’s Hall of Fame of Earth #1’s:

Best cuisine: Tex-Mex

Best U.S. president: James K. Polk

Best Movie: Grand Hotel (sorry, Ben-Hur, I guess  your great music wasn’t enough!)

Best Novelist: Alexander Dumas

Best Flowers: Hollyhocks

Best Car: 1956 Chevy Bel Air

Best Color: Powder Blue

 

“Safety” by Lydia Fitzpatrick – Selection #9 of Deal Me In 2017


The Card:
♠7♠ of Spades

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me In, the suit of Spades is the domain of Clotho, one of the Fates from Greek Mythology who, according to Plato’s Republic sings of “the things that are.”

The Selection: “Safety” from my e-copy of The O. Henry Prize Stories 2016. Originally published in One Story magazine.

The Author: Lydia Fitzpatrick – Currently a Los Angelean, and  a graduate of the University of Michigan’s MFA program and a Hopwood Award winner.

What is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details maybe found here, but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants read one short story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for a list of the stories/essays I’ll be reading in 2017.

Safety

“The children know that, for the first time, they are hiding without wanting to be found.”

I read this story on my lunch hour at work, and it held my attention better than most that fall victim to that unfortunate time slot. I found myself holding my breath during parts of it, as it was quite suspenseful.  The setting?  A school shooting, seen through the eyes of an aging gym teacher and a young student who turns out to actually know the (at first) unknown active shooter, recognizing the Saint Michael’s (patron saint of soldiers) medallion dangling from his neck.

The gym teacher protagonist isn’t named, but was easy enough to like. We learn that he “is old, has been at this school for decades, and with each passing year, the children like him more and listen to him less..” and that dripping of the shower of the locker room has become “the metronome of his days.” I liked that one. He’s in the process of leading his class of eighteen small children through the “wind-down” phase of their exercise period, when an out of place sound fractures their normal routine.  The sound reminds one boy of “the sound a baseball bat makes when it hits a baseball perfectly” and one girl thinks it is the sound of lightning – “not lightning in real life, because it is sunny out and because she can’t remember ever hearing real lightning, but like lightning on TV, when the storm comes all at once.” Only the teacher and one other boy (who has “been to the range with his father and brother”) recognize the sound.

The teacher leads the children to a hiding place in his office (within the boys locker room) where they “huddle” and where he covers them with an old blue parachute that “the children play with on Fridays.” There they hide… and listen. They hear the sound of the gunman entering the gym, then the door to the locker room. They hear footsteps moving across the floor.  One boy thinks it’s the principal “because the principal is the only one who walks through the halls when they’re empty.” Then they hear metal clang on metal (the gunman’s hitting a locker with the butt of his gun?)

I have to admit, this story got my adrenaline flowing. The topic is certainly not a pleasant one, though, as the term “school shooting” has sadly entered the language in recent years. I included this story in my Deal Me In roster at random, maybe because I was curious about the title. I didn’t know in advance where it would lead me. The author states (in the story notes in the back of the book) that she started the story just after the one-year anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, noting that she’d “just had a baby, and all of a sudden, my fears involved this new person and the safety of her current self, over which I had some control, and her future self, over which I have way less control.” These thoughts led to a good story – one good enough to make the O. Henry Prize Stories collection for 2016.

What about you? Have you ever encountered stories that – even though they were about a topic you would prefer to avoid – you found really “worked” for you? I’d have to say that was the case for me with this one.

 

 

 

The Mongerji Letters by Geetha Iyer – selection #4 of Deal Me In 2017


The Card: ♠5♠ of Spades

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, the suit of Spades is the domain of Clotho, one of the Fates from Greek Mythology who, according to Plato’s Republic sings of “the things that are.”

The Selection: “The Mongerji Letters” from Orion magazine. As of this post’s publishing, the story is available on line at https://orionmagazine.org/article/the-mongerji-letters/  I own a copy of the story via The O. Henry Prize Stories 2016 collection.

The Author: Geetha Iyer – yet another new to me author. To quote Orion Magazine’s info on her, she “…was born in India and grew up in the United Arab Emirates, and moved to the United States to study biology. She has since become an MFA student at Iowa State University’s Creative Writing & Environment program. She writes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry bent toward place-based and science writing.” She currently lives in Panama City, Panama. You may visit her website at https://geethaiyer.wordpress.com

What is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details maybe found here, but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants read one short story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for a list of the stories/essays I’ll be reading in 2017.

The Mongerji Letters

“Since the collapse of one of the last dynasties of the common era and the subsequent end of the era itself, historians have searched for descendants of the Mongerji family, as well as descendants of the scribes who, under their employ, collected samplings of flora and fauna from around the world. The only evidence discovered thus far are the letters that follow. They are from Mr. Mongerji, his wife, Kavita, and two of the three Mongerji children, all addressed to a Mr. Chappalwala, thought to have been the last of the Mongerjis’ scribes. Archivists continue to seek Mr. Chappalwala’s side of the correspondence.”

This was a rather bizarre story. The introductory paragraph quoted above is all the grounding that the reader is given. The nature of the world in which these letters were written (“created” is probably a better word) is left primarily to our imagination. What is clear, however, is that the family whose members wrote them are in decline, probably throwbacks to an older world – i.e., the “common era” referred to in the intro. The correspondence is multi-generational, but the letters covered in this story seem to span 15 years, from “__18” to “__33” – the first two digits that would tell us the century are strategically omitted…

The letters have some kind of magical quality as the envelopes that contain them also contain somehow “compressed” examples of the flora and fauna from wherever the Chappalwalas are sending them, often resulting in near tragic events upon opening – in once case a giant tree springs out of the envelope and it is all the Mongerjis can do to get it stuffed back in.  Another time, an opened envelope floods their living room with water and a living polar bear(!)

I won’t claim I totally understood this story, but it did leave me with a vague impression of the decline or even”decay” of the natural world’s beauty due to a continued siege by humanity’s progress.  The writing was superb too, and the perspectives of the different Mongerji children of the current generation added additional layers to the story’s complexity as well.

The “magic” property of the letters is not explained, but I liked the following passage because it refers to one of my favorite creatures, discovered via a prior Bibliophilopolis read – this one for The R.I.P. Challenge – The Axolotl!

“I asked Dhidhi whether if we left the fruit outside the envelope the eggs would hatch, but she said that everything trapped inside the Chappalwala envelopes was like an axolotl — it would never really grow up.”

Below: some of the beautiful artwork from Orion Magazine where the story was originally published. Did you notice the envelopes in each picture?


Playing card image in DMI header from http://nonregistrability55.rssing.com/chan-24181537/all_p1.html

“By the Time You Read This” by Yannick Murphy – selection#1 of Deal Me In 2017

The Card: ♥4♥ Four of Hearts

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, the suit of Hearts is the domain of Atropos, one of the Fates from Greek Mythology who, according to Plato’s sings of things that are to be.

The Selection: “By the Time You Read This” from my copy of the 2015 Pushcart Prize Best of the Small Presses anthology (# 39)

The Author: Yannick Murphy, an award-winning author currently living in Vermont. For more about her, check out her website at http://www.yannickmurphy.com (where the pic at left is found)

IMG_3919-0

What is the Deal Me in Challenge? Full details maybe found here, but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants read one story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for a list of the stories/essays I’ll be reading in 2017.

“By the Time You Read This”

“I killed myself because I couldn’t imagine those memories living alongside the more recent memories of you cheating on me.”

You can tell already this will be a cheery story, right? I guess it isn’t, although there are a few quite humorous moments in it as well. I didn’t know anything about the story when I chose to add it to my Deal Me In roster, I was only attracted by the title, which included the word “time.” I didn’t know it was about a suicide note. Or was it?

The writer of the note includes sections addressed to several people, predominantly her husband and daughter, but also a couple former teachers, her UPS man, and – of course – the other woman, who is the source of some of the humor. All other sections of the “suicide note” begin “Dear xxxx” (insert husband’s or daughter’s name, etc.) but the writer feels “Dear Slut” is too ridiculous. Check out the following:

“Dear whatever your name is, of course, in my eyes, you are Dear Slut, but I should really take the ‘dear’ out anyway because ‘dear’ and ‘slut’ are probably too incongruous to appear one right after the other and there is probably some rule my sixth-grade English teacher, Mr. Sun, could tell me about placing two incongruous words right next to each other. So, Slut, I am writing this to let you know…”

I liked how she solved the incongruity problem there, didn’t you? I also chuckled when future passages came around and began simply with, “Slut,”. Good stuff.

Toward the end of the story, the writer of the note seems to start having doubts about completing her suicidal act, noting certain things that she will miss out on if she follows through. I, for one, was glad these rays of hope entered this story with a dismal subject matter. Perhaps Atropos’s scissors will not yet snip the thread of her life after all.

The story also felt a little gimmicky (though writing a lengthy suicide note such as this one is a challenging exercise – and one which I think Murphy succeeds quite well at). I suppose “Write a suicide note from a jilted woman” would also make a good writing prompt for students, wouldn’t it?


This story originally appeared in issue 60 of Conjunctions Magazine (above; I like that cover art, too!), a biannual literary journal published by Bard College in New York, pictured below. (Man, that’s a lot of ivy…)

Deal Me In Coincidence: In doing the Deal Me In Challenge over the years, I’ve always enjoyed spotting coincidences of timing that may be found in the randomized order of the stories. This week’s story included a passage that is quite topical about now: “At times he takes things very seriously, and once, while watching election returns, he threw our television out the window when a certain president was elected that  he didn’t like.”

What about you? Have you read any stories or other worksof literature that focused on suicide? How effectively do you think they were done?

On deck for week 2 of Deal Me In 2017:  “Mr. Voice” by Jess Walter

What I’ll be Reading for the 2017 Deal Me In Short Story Challenge

IMG_3919-0

This year for Deal Me In (my 7th!) I’ve decided to try something a little new. I’ve decided to let fate decide, er, I mean let THE fates decide.  You know, the three fates from Greek Mythology?  Clotho, Lachesis & Atropos? (pictured below) In Plato’s Republic, Lachesis sings of “things that were,” Clothos of “the things that are,” and Atropos of “the things that are to be.” So I’ve roughly assigned some stories or essays that fit those categories.  But that’s only three suits, right?  I needed a fourth, and for some reason I recalled that the streets in the Indianapolis neighborhood I grew up in had literary names. (Hawthorne, Emerson, Riley, etc.) So I’m going to “take a stroll through the old neighborhood”and read things by the “author” street names in that neighborhood.  How’s that? I’ve also included some more essays in my roster, making this a non-pure “short story” challenge. But the rules are flexible on that. 🙂 I’m repeating my tradition of making “deuces wild” to allow some ad hoc selections throughout the year.  I will try to keep those in line with their suit, though.

the-three-fates-at-castell-coch.jpg

(above pic found at http://andberlin.com/2012/09/13/castell-coch-red-castle-near-cardiff/)

Here are my stories/essays:

Suits:

♦♦♦Diamonds♦♦♦

Lachesis – the past

lachesiswaterhouse

♦A♦Letter from a Birmingham Jail – Martin Luther King (week 5)

♦2♦ – Wild Card

♦3♦I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou (week 7)

♦4♦ – The Perfect Past – Vladimir Nabokov

♦5♦ – The Lincoln Train – Maureen F. McHugh

♦6♦ – Winter, 1965 – Frederic Tuten

♦7♦– Go Back – Karen Joy Fowler

♦8♦ – Hippies and Beats – Edward Hoagland

♦9♦ – How She Remembers It – Rick Bass

♦10♦Winter Elders – Shawn Vestal (week 11)

♦J♦ – What it Means to be Colored Me (essay) – Zora Neale Hurston

♦Q♦ – The Hills of Zion (essay) – H.L. Mencken

♦K♦The Devil Baby at Hull House (essay) – Jane Addams (week 6)

♠♠♠Spades♠♠♠

Clotho – the present

Clotho

♠A♠ – The Future is Now (essay) – Katharine Porter

♠2♠ – Wild

♠3♠ – Tradition and the Individual Talent (essay) – T.S. Eliot (week 13)

♠4♠ – What Are Masterpieces? (essay) – Gertrude Stein

♠5♠ – The Mongerji Letters – Geetha Iyee (week 4)

♠6♠ – The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates – Stephen King

♠7♠ – Safety – Linda Fitzpatrick (week 9)

♠8♠ – Interview With a Moron – Elizabeth Stuckey French

♠9♠ – La Pulchra Nota – Molly McNett (Week 12)

♠10♠ – Watching a Woman on the M101 Express – Kamilah Aisha Moon

♠J♠ – Mr. Voice – Jess Walter (week 2)

♠Q♠ – The Big Cat – Louise Erdrich

♠K♠ – Double On-Call – John Green (week 8)

♥♥♥Hearts♥♥♥

Atropos -the future

atropos-copy

♥A♥– Moving On – Diane Cook

♥2♥ – Wild

♥3♥ – Happy Endings – Kevin Conti

♥4♥By the Time You Read This – Yannick Murphy (week 1)

♥5♥ – Jeffty is Five – Harlan Ellison

♥6♥ – Divergence – David H. Lynn

♥7♥ – The Prize of Peril – Robert Sheckley

♥8♥The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything – George Alec Effinger

♥9♥ -Sex Ex Machina (essay) – James Thurber

♥10♥ – The Creation Myth of Cooperstown (essay) – Stephen Jay Gould

♥J♥ – The Paper Menagerie – Ken Liu

♥Q♥The Anything Box – Zenna Henderson (week 3)

♥K♥ – The Spirit Stone – Maurice Broaddus

♣♣♣Clubs♣♣♣

The old neighborhood – stories by authors the streets of my childhood neighborhood were named after (with one exception, but that exception still is an Indianapolis street name, just not one where I grew up) 🙂

♣A♣ – Leaf Girl – Elizabeth Pearl (week 14)

♣2♣ – Wild Card

♣3♣ – A Plea for the Constitution (non-fiction) – George Bancroft

♣4♣ – Dedication Speech at Chickamauga – Lew Wallace

♣5♣ –  Friendship (essay) – Ralph Waldo Emerson

♣6♣ – Old Christmas – Washington Irving

♣7♣ – The Corn Song – John Greenleaf Whittier

♣8♣ – The Snow Image: A Childish Miracle – Nathaniel Hawthorne

♣9♣ – Character (essay) – Ralph Waldo Emerson

♣10♣ – Legend of Two Discreet Statues – Washington Irving

♣J♣ – The Celestial Railroad – Nathaniel Hawthorne

♣Q♣ – Love (essay) – Ralph Waldo Emerson

♣K♣ – Strange Stories by a Nervous Gentleman – Washington Irving

Some of my sources for this year:

What about YOU?  Are you participating in the Deal Me In Challenge this year?  Why not give it a try?  It’s a fun way to keep yourself reading even when things get busy. I mean, who doesn’t have time to at least read one little short story a week, right? 🙂

 

Happy 200th Birthday, Indiana!

birthday01

cake image found at http://fmdg.org/

On December 11th, two-hundred years ago, Indiana became a state. The 19th state in the United States of America to be precise. 346 days ago, here at Bibliophilopolis we began a year-long celebration of the State’s Bicentennial year, retrofitting our annual “Deal Me In” short story reading challenge (What is Deal Me In??) to contain only stories with some Indiana connection. It’s been a long journey and, rather than spread out the final three posts of the rest of December (i.e. after Indiana’s actual birthday has passed), I thought I’d just do the last few early to get them posted closer to the exact date of Indiana’s birth.


Below is a list, in order, of the fifty-two selections for this year’s Deal Me “IN” project:

1st Quarter* 

(*Hey, I’m an Accountant; I’m breaking these up into quarters!)

Week 1: ♣8♣ – Mr Blake’s Walking Stick – Edward Eggleston

Week 2: ♦9♦And One for the Road – Joanna Parypinski

Week 3: ♥7♥The Gods of Indianapolis – Jason de Koff

Week 4: ♠Q♠ – Life on a Flat Top – Ernie Pyle

Week 5: ♥Q♥  – Drills – Laura Citino

Week 6: ♣Q♣ – Bobby and the Keyhole: A Hoosier Fairy Tale – Edward Eggleston

Week 7: ♥5♥I Can Hear the Clicking at Night – Ann Gamble

Week 8: ♣10♣ – The Legend of Potato Creek – Maurice Thompson

Week 9: ♥10♥Come Go With Me – Nora Bonner

Week 10: ♦8♦Shadowed – Christine Johnson

Week 11: ♦7♦What Happens in Hell Stays in Hell – Clint Smith

Week 12: ♦2♦Play Like I’m Sheriff – Jack Cady

Week 13: ♣A♣ – A Reward of Merit – Booth Tarkington

2nd Quarter

Week 14: ♦4♦Missing Athena – Josh Green

Week 15: ♠6♠ – The Gentleman of the Press in Skirts (Janet Flanner) – Fred Cavinder

Week 16: ♦5♦It Came From Burr County – Marian Allen

Week 17: ♠3♠ – God Bless You Mr. Vonnegut: And Farewell – David Hoppe

Week 18: ♥9♥The Passeur – E.E. Lyons

Week 19: ♥2♥Siddhartha – Abe Aamidor

Week 20: ♥A♥Letter to the Man in Carnivorous Plants – Lauren Ann Bolton

Week 21: ♠10♠ – Politics and Poetry (John Milton Hay) – Fred Cavinder

Week 22: ♦3♦The Penance of Scoot McCutcheon – Frank Bill

Week 23: ♣J♣ – Next Door – Kurt Vonnegut

Week 24: ♥6♥Ransom Place – Corey Dalton

Week 25: ♣2♣ – The Boyhood of Christ – Lew Wallace

Week 26: ♣6♣ – Autumn Full of Apples – Dan Wakefield

3rd Quarter

Week 27: ♠4♠ – Men From Mars – Ernie Pyle

Week 28: ♦10♦Schliemann in Indianapolis – Michael Martone

Week 29: ♠J♠ – Peyton Manning – Champion: This Doesn’t Happen Very Often – David Hoppe

Week 30: ♥8♥The Devil and James Whitcomb Riley – Jason Roscoe

Week 31: ♥4♥A Conversation with Tim O’Brien – James J. Hanna

Week 32: ♠8♠ – The B-29s – Ernie Pyle

Week 33: ♥3♥Everything Strange and Unknown – Joe Meno

Week 34: ♠A♠ – Poet, Prophet and Philosopher (Max Ehrmann) – Fred Cavinder

Week 35: ♦6♦The Circle Effect – Diana Catt

Week 36: ♣4♣ – Harrison Bergeron – Kurt Vonnegut

Week 37: ♦K♦The Table of the Elements – J T Whitehead

Week 38: ♣5♣ – The Old Soldier’s Story – James Whitcomb Riley

Week 39: ♥K♥Not in Kansas Anymore – Rocco Versaci

4th Quarter

Week 40: ♥J♥A Hundred Ways to Do it Wrong – Emily Temple

Week 41: ♠K♠ – Songs of Experience: Bob Dylan at the Egyptian Room – David Hoppe

Week 42: ♣K♣ – The Haunted Valley – Ambrose Bierce

Week 43: ♦Q♦Uncle Sack – Murphy Edwards

Week 44: ♠5♠ – Profiles in Survival: Eleanor M. Garen – John Shivley

Week 45: ♣3♣ – The Boarded Window – Ambrose Bierce

Week 46: ♠9♠ – Profiles in Survival: James Duckworth – John Shivley

Week 47: ♣7♣ – The Pedagogue – Maurice Thompson

Week 48: ♣9♣ – The Beautiful Lady – Booth Tarkington

Week 49: ♦A♦Fort Wayne is Seventh on Hitler’s List – Michael Martone

Week 50: ♠7♠ – Educational Testing: Just Another Job – David Hoppe

Week 51: ♦J♦Murder on Indiana Avenue – Andrea Smith

Week 52: ♠2♠ – Working a Jigsaw – Barbara Shoup

During the course of the year for this project, I read more than twenty authors for the first time, and several I know will become future favorites.  My favorite suit was easily “Clubs” – the “legendary authors” suit, but each suit had its own merits and I did enjoy reading some short, non-fiction works for the first time in a Deal Me In challenge this year.  So much so that I may include a suit of essays in my 2017 version. We’ll see.

Well, thanks to all those who followed along this year, and especially those that commented on some of these 52 posts. If Deal Me IN was a new discovery for you this year, I hope you’ll consider doing the challenge in 2017.  The official sign-up post will be on 12/21/2016.

 

“Working a Jigsaw” by Barbara Shoup – selection #52 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♠2♠ Two of Spades

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, Spades is my suit for short Indiana-related non-fiction works.

The Selection: “Working a Jigsaw” from my copy of the “Not Like the Rest of Us” anthology of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, which along with Deal Me “IN” 2016, is a fellow Legacy Project of the Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

The Author: Barb Shoup, the director of the Indiana Writer’s Center in Indianapolis. A couple years back, I enjoyed her novel, “Looking for Jack Kerouac” but didn’t blog about it. My buddy Dale at the Mirror With Clouds blog did, though.

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 postlegacy project seal of approval 2For a look at my deck of cards/storyroster 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. The 2016 iteration of Deal Me “IN” is also a “Legacy Project” officially endorsed by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission!

Working a Jigsaw

“The puzzle becomes a piece of my life. An object. A week in time. The ghost of an unwritten story. And this snippet of understanding: every beautiful thing is made of many pieces, each one complete in its own way, utterly, maddeningly, gloriously itself.”

In “Working a Jigsaw” Shoup describes a planned week-long personal writing retreat where she intends to get some serious work done without distractions. Describing items she’s packing for the trip (books, notebooks, computer, printer, paper, pens, etc) she then adds “As an afterthought, I brought along a puzzle.” It’s not just any puzzle though, it’s a jigsaw puzzle of a painting by Vermeer, she “impulse bought” when in Wales.

Over the course of her week, she becomes seduced by the puzzle, being unable to walk past it without stopping to work on it. She is “…mesmerized by the task of fitting the pieces together. I look at each piece carefully. I look at its shape, its markings. Is there any clue in it to the whole? A dash of orange, a thin green line, a silver curve? An eye, a fret, a finger? Usually, there is not. Usually, each piece seems much like any number of other pieces I pick up – and at the same time maddeningly unique. Hours and hours I meant to spend writing pass as I stand staring at the picture of the painting, then at some section of the puzzle I am trying to complete.”  

Shoup describes going through many of the frustrations puzzle workers are familiar with, surmising, for example, at one that “…surely, there must be some pieces missing.” Sound familiar? In the end, though, she begins to realize that working the puzzle has a lot in common with her writing:

“Just now, I am typing these black words onto a white screen. Am I working? I am not doing the work I planned to do. I am working a puzzle, looking hard at a painting in order to put each piece in its place, and, from time to time, I am writing down facts and memories and odd insights float up, pieces of another, bigger puzzle. This puzzle has no picture on the box to help me, though. Just pieces.”


I looked up Vermeer after reading this story and, although I’m not certain, I think I may have found the painting that the puzzle in this story represents.

♫♫Personal Notes: Do you enjoy jigsaw puzzles? Did you do a lot of them as a kid, but don’t do them any more? I bet a lot of us fall into the latter description, myself included. Sort of. I remember several large puzzles we had when I was a kid that we liked to do over and over again. One was of a couple boys giving spoonfuls of castor oil by a woman while they were sitting among scattered green apple cores as a sign that they had over indulged. Another favorite was one of the presidents. It was unique because it was circular in shape, which small portraits of the presidents around the border and a seal of the United States in the middle. Of course, we were frequently vexed by lost or missing pieces.

Periodically I enjoy a rebirth of jigsaw puzzle working. This has happened a couple times during family reunion weekends at various Indiana State Park Inns, where the “community room” usually has a bookshelf full of games – including jigsaw puzzles – to fend off guest boredom on rainy days or post-hiking evenings. Then there was the fateful day I was having coffee with a friend who told me about the jigsaw app you could buy for your iPad or tablet (see a recent before & after example below that I worked in between blog posts). Warning: Do NOT get this app! It will eat up vast chunks of your time and prevent you from getting important things done. Oh, and you’ll love it. 🙂


Well, with this post, my Deal Me “IN” 2016 project is complete. I’m a couple weeks ahead of schedule because I was desperately trying to finish on Indiana’s exact birthday (12/11) but I missed it by a day. Soon I’ll have a summary post with links to all the stories I’ve read this year.  It’s been quite a fun challenge and I’ve “met” a lot of new authors that I’m sure I will see again over the years.  I’m already starting to plan for the “7th Annual” Deal Me In Challenge in 2017.  The official announcement/sign-up post will be on 12/21, the shortest day of the year. Thanks for reading!

“Murder on Indiana Avenue” by Andrea Smith – selection #51 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♦J♦ Jack of Diamonds

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, Diamonds is my suit for Stories by Contemporary Indiana Authors.

The Selection: “Murder on Indiana Avenue” from my copy of the short story anthology “Decades of Dirt” – a production of the Speed City Chapter of Sisters of Crime.

The Author: Andrea Smith (pictured at left from a reading at Bookmamas Bookstore), an Indianapolis writer who was born in Chicago, and who I’ve read once before, in the “Hoosier Hoops and Hijinks” anthology.

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 postlegacy project seal of approval 2For a look at my deck of cards/storyroster 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. The 2016 iteration of Deal Me “IN” is also a “Legacy Project” officially endorsed by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission!

Murder on Indiana Avenue

“The yellow brick Walker Building was shaped like a slice of pie. Set on an angle right at the tip of Indiana Avenue, the four-story structure took up a huge chunk of the street.”

(image above found at stenzcorp.com)

Eve and Gabriel Dawson are a jazz musician/singer couple from Chicago, in town (Indianapolis) to perform at the Stardust Theater.  The club is run by a friend of theirs, Lester Sanders, and their appearance at his club is kind of a mutual favor for both parties. When they arrive, they awkwardly walk in on a confrontation between Lester and some unsavory types.  Their friend subsequently waves it off as nothing, but sure enough, later in the evening their performance is interrupted when the police swarm the club investigating a murder, and Lester is their prime suspect!

Eve and Gabe proceed to do some amateur detective work of their own, enlisting the aid of an attorney whose office is also in the Walker Building. A couple twists and turns later and they have their man.

I’ve never been a big reader of mysteries, so don’t feel that well qualified to rate them. I do think it must be incredibly hard to write an effective one in just about 20 pages, but the stories I’ve read from the two anthologies produced by the Speed City (Indianapolis) Chapter of “Sisters of Crime” seem to be able to pull this off.

What are some short story format mysteries that you have read? Any you’d care to recommend to me?  Deal Me In 2017 is just around the corner…

“Educational Testing: Just Another Job” by David Hoppe – selection #50 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♠7♠ Seven of Spades

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, Spades is my suit for short, Indiana-related non-fiction works.

The Selection: “Educational Testing: Just Another Job” from collection of essays titled “Personal Indianapolis.” This is the fourth piece from this book that I’ve read for this year’s Deal Me “IN” challenge.

The Author: David Hoppe –An Indianapolis writer who has labored for Indy’s “Alternative Weekly” Nuvo Magazine since 1998.

 

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 postlegacy project seal of approval 2For a look at my deck of cards/storyroster 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. The 2016 iteration of Deal Me “IN” is also a “Legacy Project” officially endorsed by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission!

Educational Testing: Just Another Job

“In test-scoring centers, dozens of scorers sit in rows, staring at computer screens where students’ papers appear… each scorer is expected to read hundreds of papers. So for all the months of preparation and the dozens of hours of class time spent writing practice essays, a student’s writing probably will be processed and scored in about a minute.”

I struggled with this piece, which was my least favorite of those that I’ve read thus far in Hoppe’s book, Personal Indianapolis. I have no children in school so perhaps lack a good vantage point of the issues the essay covered, but I have followed news stories about standardized tests for years, and have frequently been amazed at how big the time gap between testing and receiving results is. I also naively hadn’t realized that the standardized testing included a writing sample from the students (i.e. something that can’t be scored in an automated fashion). I had just been picturing a multiple choice, computer scored exam like many we used to have even way back when I was in school.

Hoppe had come across an article in the Monthly Review by Dan DiMaggio titled “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Test Scorer.” (linked here if you’d like to read it) and kinda jumps on the bandwagon of condemnation regarding the process. While I agree there seems to be much that should be condemned, I felt Hoppe’s piece was superfluous once I had read the “source” article. It’s frankly a little sloppy too, as an instance of ‘bad math’ had me in an uproar pretty early in the essay:

“DiMaggio, who lives in the Twin Cities, says he has personally read tens of thousands of papers, for which he has been paid at a rate of 30 to 70 cents per paper. That means he has to score forty papers every sixty minutes to make $12 an hour”

Wait. It only means that if the rate is at the bottom of that scale. What about the 70 cent rate?  At the top of the scale it would be $28 an hour, right? Shouldn’t it read something more like “scoring forty papers every sixty minutes might only earn him $12 an hour,” or even “That means he has to score forty papers every sixty minutes to make $12-$28 an hour”? My loyalty as a reader goes out the window pretty fast when I feel I’m being manipulated by partial truths, whether they are intentional or not.

Overall, though, this piece and the DiMaggio article that inspired it, left me disappointed in “the system” once more and even glad I don’t have kids that are being “taught to pass tests” that people who often are not even educators themselves are scoring in an assembly line fashion.

What about you?  Any teachers out there reading this?  What are your thoughts about standardized tests and their value?  I’d love to hear more from the front lines on this issue.

Next up in Deal Me “IN” 2016: “Murder on Indiana Avenue” by Andrea Smith

P.S. Yes, I’m even getting a little bit ahead of schedule now, as I’m hoping to be done by Indiana’s ACTUAL bicentennial date of 12/11/16 rather than the end of the year.  We’ll see if I can make it. 🙂

« Older entries