“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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“Dethroned” by I.N. Potapenko – selection 38 of #DealMeIn2018

Yes, I’m actually posting about a short story from Deal Me In 2018!  Can you believe it? 🙂

The Card: ♣2♣ Two of Clubs – a wild card.  I stayed with the Russian theme, but looked to another volume for my wild card selection, finding one in Best Russian Short Stories that I hadn’t read before.

The Suit: For #DealMeIn2018, ♣♣♣Clubs♣♣♣ is my Suit for (mostly) stories from the anthology Russian Emigre Short Stories from Bunin to Yanovsky, BUT deuces are WILD in #DealMeIn2018, and I strayed from this volume (see above)

The Author: I.N. Potapenko, who I’ve never read – nor even heard of – before. He wrote in what is now Ukraine. I don’t know if he’s related to the former NBA Player, Vitaly Potapenko. 🙂

The Selection: “Dethroned” published in 1917.

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.

Dethroned

“They were two types of beauty very likely to divide the gentlemen of the regiment into two camps of admirers. But women are never content with halves.”

I didn’t know anything about this story before selecting it so, as is often the case, I only had the title as a hint about its subject matter. Would it be about some great political coup? A Tsar who has met his hostile successor? No, thrones in the ordinary world were seemingly not of interest to Potapenko – this is the story of two women who are in competition to be the proverbial “belle of the ball.”

On the one hand, we have Mrs. Zarubkin, the Captain’s wife, a schemer and the “defending champion,” and on the other we have her main challenger, Mrs. Shaldin. The former was rather plump and with “rather light” hair, while the latter was “a brunette with a pale complexion and large dark eyes.”

We see most of the story’s action through Mrs. Zarubkin’s eyes, for Mrs. Shaldin is away on some kind of “rest cure”-like vacation. Mrs. Z fears that Mrs. S will return with the latest fashions from “abroad” and that, left with her own seasoned wardrobe, won’t be able to retain her status. She engages many  others on her errands to seek intelligence on what Mrs. S’s gown might look like, and makes the only dressmaker in town swear to give her preferred customer status and to spend the last few days before an upcoming “annual ball’ working only on her gown.  She also enlists one her household servants to spy on the the Shaldin’s house to gain information regarding Mrs. S’s return.

“…the lady’s manner toward the servant was far friendlier than toward her husband. Semyonov had it in his power to perform important services for her, while the captain had not come up to her expectations.”

In the end, it is the pretender to the throne who emerges victorious, as she has returned to town with a new “Empire”-style gown, one that the town’s dressmaker cannot or will not duplicate.  At the ball, it soon becomes clear that Mrs. Z had been dethroned:

“For in comparison with the make and style of Mrs. Shaldin’s dress, which had been bought abroad, hers was liked the botched imitation of an amateur. That was evident to everybody, though the captain’s wife had her little group of partisans, who maintained with exaggerated eagerness that she looked extraordinarily fascinating in her dress and Mrs. Shaldin still could not rival her. But there was no mistaking it, there was little justice in the contention. Everybody knew better; what was worst of all, Mrs. Zarubkin herself knew better…

I enjoyed the story a lot and also reading of “the furious resentment of a dethroned goddess” that Mrs. Z displayed. Reading it was a pleasant return to and reminder of all the great Russian Short Stories I’ve read as part of Deal Me In over the years.

A Servant of History by Ron Rash – Selection 13 of #DealMeIn2018

The Card: ♦2♦ Two of Diamonds

The Suit: For #dealMeIn2018, ♦♦♦Diamonds♦♦♦ is my Suit for (mostly) stories from the anthology Everywhere Stories.

The Author: Ron Rash. One of my book clubs read his great collection, “Something Rich and Strange” last year. When I drew a wild card this week, I decided to revisit a story from that book

The Selection: “Servant of History”

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.

A Servant of History

“When his ship docked in London harbor six weeks later, Wilson’s tongue had not fully healed.”

Why is it that some of us (myself admittedly included) enjoy so much stories in which someone gets his ‘comeuppance?” I suspect it’s because so often those people we ourselves know who are “full of themselves” are never held accountable for their haughtiness. My granddad used to say that such people were “too big for their britches.” But being full of oneself isn’t exactly a crime, is it? And, as much as we may want to ‘go upside someone’s head’ for such behavior, actually doing so would be an overreaction. (It would, wouldn’t it?)  My Granddad’s actually a somewhat appropriate authority for this particular story too, as he was a denizen of Appalachia as well as most of the people in this story. In his case, the mountains of West Virginia, in their case in Jackson County, North Carolina.

The story is set in 1922, when James Wilson, the story’s protagonist, and a member in good standing of the English Folk Dance and Ballad Society, journeys across the ocean to venture “among the New World’s Calibans” in search of ballads that, “though lost to time in Britain might yet survive in America’s Appalachian Mountains.” Upon arrival, he makes the acquaintance of an elderly resident who serves as his guide in the ‘neighborhood’ letting him know of an established local family, the McDonald’s who immigrated from Scotland, though long ago. His guide says the family has “their great-granny yet alive,” and that she’s “nigh a century old but got a mind sharp as a new-hone axe. She’ll know your tunes and anything else you want, but they can be a techy lot, if they taken a dislikin’ to you.”

It turns out old great-granny McDonald does indeed know some old Scottish ballads, though is hesitant to share them. Rash describes Wilson’s first meeting and seeing the old woman wonderfully: “…Wilson only then saw that the Windsor chair was occupied. The beldame’s face possessed the color and creases of a walnut hull. A black shawl draped over her shoulders, obscuring a body shrunken to a child’s stature. The old woman appeared more engulfed than seated…”

Wilson’s efforts to coax the old woman include posing as if his own Scottish heritage (not really much of one, but he exaggerates it in hopes of gaining favor) is of great and long-standing importance to him. He leaves his chair and “…walked over to the red-and-black tartan hung on the wall, let a thumb and finger rub the cloth. He nodded favorably, hoping to impart a Scotsman’s familiarity with weave and wool. ‘Our tartan hangs on a wall as well, blue and black it is, the proud tartan of Clan Campbell.'”

Suffice it to say perhaps that Wilson should have done a little more research about the Clans whose descendants he might encounter, and especially about what their relationships might have been to his clan, which he so suddenly remembers and claims allegiance to…

(below: I imagine the top tartan here might be like the one hanging on great-granny McDonald’s wall)

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Have you read Ron Rash’s “Something Rich and Strange?” It was a big hit with my book club, and I have posted briefly about it before. What are some of your favorite ‘stories of comeuppance?’

 

“Mr. Templar” by Jason Sizemore – Selection 13 of #DealMeIn2018

The Card: ♠Seven♠ of Spades

The Suit: For #DealMeIn2018, ♠♠♠Spades♠♠♠ is my Suit for “dark/sci-fi/horror stories from various sources.

The Author: Jason Sizemore https://jason-sizemore.com I’ve featured a couple of his stories before in prior iterations of Deal Me In, notably “Yellow Warblers” and “The Sleeping Quartet”

The Selection: “Mr. Templar,” which I own as part of the author’s collection, “Irredeemable”

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.

Mr. Templar

“In eight centuries, Mr. Templar had never fully grasped the true desolate nature of the Earth. However, riding at high speeds two hundred meters in the air, seeing the same grey, dusty landscapes hour after hour, he began to appreciate the total annihilation of the humans’ nuclear bombs.”

First things first, The title character, Mr. Templar, is an Android. There are no humans left on Earth at the time of this story. And the androids that are left are running out of fuel. They roam a desolate landscape several hundred years after humanity has fled the nuclear wasteland of an uninhabitable world they created.

Mr. Templar’s search for fuel leads him to meet another android, who he calls Mr. Ruby (Ruby can’t remember his own name as his memory has been compromised by “data flies” – the reigning pest in this post-apocalyptic world). Ruby has picked up a signal from orbit and believes it to mean that their human “masters” are returning. How will they react? Wishing to reunite with the humans, together they head off to search for jet packs when Mr. Ruby shares that he knows where are cache of them are stored – in a bunker two hundred feet beneath Cape Canaveral.

What struck me about this story was that, in the absence of human stewardship of Earth, the technological life that now remains begins to exhibit some very human characteristics. Those that remain are embroiled in bitter competition for dwindling resources. Sound familiar? It’s every man – er, Android- for himself in this world. The remaining “life” forms also deteriorate into their own form of racism too: When Mr. Templar first encounters Mr. Ruby, he scoffs, “Only robots speak the old language. You must be a worthless robot.”

A good story, on a ♪personal note♪, the abandoned androids reminded me of an old Star Trek (The Original Series) episode (titled “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”) where Kirk and the gang encounter a certain Dr. Corby, off on a remote planet making androids with the help of “Ruk” (portrayed by Ted Cassady of “The Addams Family” fame!). Ruk, too, was an Android who was left behind by his creators…

“Yes. The Old Ones… The ones who built us!”

“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:

“Child’s Play” by William Trevor – Selection 11 of #DealMeIn2018

The Card: ♥3♥ Three of Hearts

The Suit: For 2018, ♥♥Hearts♥♥ is my Suit for stories by the Irish author William Trevor.

The Author: William Trevor has written several of my all-time favorite stories. He passed away in 2017, so there will be no more new stories from his pen, but he wrote so many that I still have a sizable inventory to explore.

The Selection: Child’s Play, from Selected Stories of William Trevor, of which I own a kindle version.

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.

Child’s Play

“Gerald wanted to comfort her, as once his father had comforted his mother, saying he forgave her, saying they would try again. But their game wouldn’t stretch that far… Helplessness was their natural state.”

***Spoilers Follow****

Child’s Play is the heartbreaking story of Rebecca and Gerard, each an only child of one of a pair of couples who were neighbors. The neighboring couples’ marriages disintegrate in the wake of infidelities and jealously, to which Rebecca and Gerard are involuntary witnesses.

When the couples break up, the children each remain with the parent who still occupies the neighboring houses. Eventually those two parents marry each other making Gerard and Rebecca “brother and sister” who become as close perhaps as brothers and sisters by blood would be. Of them, Trevor offers that “They missed the past; resentment and deprivation drew them close.”

The children’s coping mechanism is a game they play in the attic – “their game of marriage and divorce,” their understanding of these institutions cobbled together from personal memories (which they often reenact) and “from information supplied by television.” (“…they watched a television serial in which the wronged ones made a kind of fuss that both Gerard and Rebecca had witnessed.”) What chance for happiness do these children have in such circumstances?

Even less than you think, since the story comes to an end as Rebecca’s birth mother decides to regain custody of her “a court of law would put the matter right, no doubt about that: a child goes to the mother if the mother’s fit and well.”

As with a few other sad stories of Trevor’s that I’ve read, I still “liked” it in spite of that, as Trevor’s writing is so nearly perfect.

What about you? Are there some sad stories you’ve read but liked anyway? I’d think, generally speaking, this phenomenon is somewhat rare as it seems such a difficult thing to pull off.

Rose Wept by William Trevor – Selection 9 of #DealMeIn2018

The Card♠Ten♠ of Hearts

The Suit: For 2018, I have devoted the suit of ♠Hearts♠ to the stories of William Trevor, a personal favorite author of mine who passed away in 2017.

The Selection: Rose Wept – from the collection “William Trevor: Selected Stories” which I own via an e-copy

The Author: William Trevor. A “KBE” (Knight of the British Empire), Trevor is widely acknowledged as one of the best contemporary writers of short stories. I was first introduced to him via the “Ana the Imp” blog (sadly, no longer active) whereafter I read through his great collection “After Rain.” The title story of that volume after rainremains one of my all time favorites. I blogged about it here. There are a couple other stories of his that I’ve blogged about before, Gilbert’s Mother and Lost Ground. “I’m very interested in the sadness of fate, the things that just happen to people,” – William Trevor (as quoted by Publishers Weekly in 1983)

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.

Rose Wept

“She wept for his silent suffering, for his having to accept a distressing invitation because of her mother’s innocent insistence… She wept for the brittle surface of her mother’s good-sort laughter and her father’s jolliness, and Jason’s (her older brother) settling into a niche. She wept for all her young life before her, and other glimpses and other betrayals.”

Rose Dakin is a marginal student, one on the cusp of being admitted to a good university. What do well-meaning parents do when their child is in that situation?  Well, if you’re the Dakins, you hire a tutor to ensure a successful move for your child up the next rung of the latter.

The occasion of the story is a dinner party to celebrate Rose having been admitted to university and, since the tutor, Mr. Bouverie, was instrumental in her success, he and his wife were invited. His wife “can’t make it” and therein is the introduction of the gist of the story, the whole of which takes place at the dinner, but, through flashbacks, we learn “The Rest of the Story” about Mr. (& Mrs.) Bouverie. Seems all this time – a year of Thursdays – whenever Rose would visit him, Mr. Bouverie’s wife would use the time to entertain a special male “guest,” a certain “Mr. Azam.”

When she realizes what is going on, Rose at first feels terrible for Mr. Bouverie, yet indelicately shares the knowledge with her gaggle of young friends. Later, to her increased horror, she realize that Mr. Bouverie is aware that this is going on. As one of her friends says “When a husband knows, he’s not so much a cuckold as complaisant.”

During the dinner Rose imagines what hell the life of Mr. Bouverie must be, and regrets not being there for him as some kind of confidant, but “had betrayed him” (by telling her friends) even before he offered any confidences.

A sad and bitter story which left me wondering how Rose would “do” at University – and indeed for the rest of her life. If I were a betting man, I’d say her parents “won’t be much help.”  It’s as if this one dinner laid bare all the pitiable features of her life – and Life with a capital L as well. I hope she makes it.

♫♫ Personal Note:  I did learn a new “word” while reading this story.  Do you know what a “Gooseberry Fool” is?  It’s an English Dessert made by “folding pureed stewed fruit (normally Gooseberries) in sweet custard”  (or whipped cream). According to Wikipedia, ROSE water may be added as a flavouring agent, so there’s my Deal Me In coincidence of the week.  P.S. Looks delicious!

What short stories did YOU read this week? Are you enjoying the “8th Annual” Deal Me In challenge?

Visiting Chairman Mao by Jocelyn Cullity – Selection 8 of #DealMeIn2018

The Card: ♦Seven♦ of Diamonds

The Suit: For 2018, I have devoted the suit of Diamonds to stories from the anthology, “Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction From a Small Planet.”

The Selection: “Visiting Chairman Mao” – I don’t think I had a reason for choosing this particular title from those in the anthology. The author says the story “came to her” after teaching in China in the 1990’s.

The Author: Jocelyn Cullity, a native of Australia, she grew up in Canada and has spent time in other countries before now living in the United States. She had a novel published last fall, Amah and the Silk Winged Pigeons . Learn more about her at her website https://www.jocelyncullity.com

What is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details may be found here  but the short version is that 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: old postcard of the throngs of people going to “visit Mao” in his mausoleum)

Visiting Chairman Mao

“‘So many followers, even after all that tragedy. Such respect. Astonishing.’ She spoke too loudly. Li labored with the purpose of her statements. ‘We have an official saying,’ Li said. ‘Chairman Mao was sixty percent right and forty percent wrong.”

The title of this story intrigued me, which is probably why it found its way onto my 2018 DMI list. I admit I was somewhat disappointed to learn I wouldn’t be reading a story with Mao as one of the characters, though. Visiting him, in this case, only meant going to view his embalmed body in his grand mausoleum.

The story describes a brief incident where an earnest young woman, Li, working as a tourist guide, takes her (also young) American charge, Claire, to view the legendary Chairman Mao. Both seem unassuming at first, though with Li, who  “…couldn’t get used to her informality,” continually worrying about Claire not knowing when to keep quiet and how to show proper respect.  “At the entrance to the second room, the viewing hall, a guard put up his hand and the line slowed. There would be positively no talking inside the chamber.”

It turns out Claire has other plans and ends up staging a scene of some kind and “shrieking something about democracy” Li becomes “collateral damage” in Claire’s haphazard protest and is forced to leave Beijing, but not before Claire, while being led away by the police, hands Li her bandanna as a gift. At the end of the story, back home, Li decides she will keep it close at hand:

“She would use it as she thought Claire should have used it – to wipe away the fog on her classroom windows when she wanted to really look at the world outside.”

Nice.

This was my eighth story read so far this year for #DealMeIn2018.  Are you also participating in the challenge?  What have been some of your favorite stories so far?

(Below: Mao wasn’t the only one cultivating a Cult of Personality: clockwise from upper left – Stalin, Koreans Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il, Ho Chi Minh, and, well, the band who sang about it in the ’90s)

The Hill Bachelors by William Trevor – Selection 4 of #DealMeIn2018

The Card: ♠Eight♠ of Hearts

The Suit: For 2018, I have devoted the suit of ♠Hearts♠ to the stories of William Trevor, a personal favorite author of mine who passed away in 2017.

The Selection: The Hill Bachelors – from the collection “William Trevor: Selected Stories” which I own via an e-copy

The Author: William Trevor. A “KBE” (Knight of the British Empire), Trevor is widely acknowledged as one of the best contemporary writers of short stories. I was first introduced to him via the “Ana the Imp” blog (sadly, no longer active) whereafter I read through his great collection “After Rain.” The title story of that volume after rainremains one of my all time favorites. I blogged about it here. There are a couple other stories of his that I’ve blogged about before, Gilbert’s Mother and Lost Ground. “I’m very interested in the sadness of fate, the things that just happen to people,” – William Trevor (as quoted by Publishers Weekly in 1983)

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.

The Hill Bachelors

“It might not have been noticed that these days the bachelors of the hills found it difficult to attract a wife to the modest farms they inherited.”

This was a quietly powerful story. The patriarch of a family has died, and the five children return home for the funeral & cetera. We follow the story through the perspective of the youngest – and only bachelor – son, Paulie. Probably few of us have not experienced the bittersweet reunions that such occasions create. As someone who has,  I can say that Trevor’s descriptions and summary of the events that follow hit very close to the target.

Paulie’s mother is of an age where she will be too old to manage the farm herself, even with the help of neighbors, which she argues would be enough to sustain her without one of her children (Paulie, being a bachelor and “only” having a job that would be easy to quit, being the only candidate) moving back to help her.  He tells her that she’d “be dependent,” but she argues that “You have your own life, Paulie,” to which he replies “You have what there is.” A touching exchange – indeed much of the story is quite touching. There are logistics to be worked out regarding leaving his current job and other sundry tasks related to a death in the family, but, finally,

“He’d taken over. She could feel he’d taken over, the way he’d gone out to see were the heifers all right, the way it was he who remembered, last evening and this morning, that there was the bit of milking to do, that he’d done it without a word.”

Paulie doesn’t mind “taking over” but sadness creeps into the story when we realize that he will not be able to find a wife in the neighborhood. (He’s left behind a girl in the town where he worked, who he thought might be “the one.”) He doesn’t even resent that though (although it pains his mother):

“Paulie harboured no resentment, not being a person who easily did: going back to the farmhouse was not the end of the world. The end of the world had been to hear, in Meagher’s back bar, that life on a farm did not attract Patsy Finucane.”

Another great story from Trevor.

What about YOU? How did your Deal Me In reading go this week?