Deal Me In – Week 26 Wrap Up – and Mid-Year Survey!

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Well, we’ve made it to the halfway point, and if you’ve made it this far you know that you’ll be able to make it the rest of the way. 🙂

Below are links to new posts since the last update and also a survey about what you think of the challenge so far and of the stories you’ve read. Participation is optional, but I would enjoy reading some feedback. You can either participate via the comments or via a separate post on your own blog.

James found an easy connection between his stories this week, reading Ernest Hemingway’s “A Canary for One” and Charles de Lint’s “A Tangle of Green Men” http://jamesreadsbooks.com/2014/06/27/strangers-on-a-train-ernest-hemingway-vs-charles-de-lint/

Dale read Truman Capote’s “A Diamond Guitar” http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/06/26/truman-capote-the-diamond-guitar/

Katherine drew the mustache-less King of Hearts and read the Kevin J Anderson story “Technomagic” which included a nod to the great Arthur C. Clarke. Oh, and another card trick video as well 🙂 http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/06/28/deal-me-in-week-26-technomagic/

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Pour moi, it was another new-to-me author as I read Eric Puchner’s strange story “Beautiful Monsters” https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/06/28/beautiful-monsters-by-eric-puchner/

Mid-Year Survey:

1. Do you have a favorite story or author so far?

2. What is your major “discovery” from DMI this year? Either from the posts of fellow participants or from your own story roster – or both.

3. Would you participate in the challenge again in 2015?

4. Do you think a weekly wrap-up post is necessary? Would you prefer a monthly wrap-up?

5. Do you have any good ideas for suit “themes” to share for others who might try the challenge again?

6. Have you gotten much of a response from other readers of your blog (other than fellow DMI’ers I mean)?

7. Can you recommend any good resources (on line or otherwise) for those looking to populate their DMI roster?

8. Does DMI rate favorably in comparison with other book blogging challenges in which you’ve participated? Why or why not?

9. What is/are your favorite part/parts about The Deal Me In challenge?

10. Conversely, what do you NOT like about the challenge or what would you change about it?

11. Feel free to add any other general comments.

Thanks for participating!

My answers:
1. I have several. Two that really stood out are Leonid’s Andreev’s “Lazarus” and Katherine Vaz’s “Undressing the Vanity Dolls.” In general, the Russian Authors (“clubs”) that I’ve read have been my favorites.
2. Too many to mention. One that springs to mind immediately is Grace Paley, much lauded by James at JamesReadsBooks. I’ve also enjoyed learning and reading about some of the African Authors at Returning Reader’s blog.
3. Absolutely! 🙂
4. I think I’d prefer a monthly wrap-up (less work for me) or some kind of Linky widget-y thing (where participants would be responsible for linking in their posts), which I don’t think is available for my “free” version of WordPress. Any shared expertise on this possibility would be appreciated.
5. I’ve thought about a classic fairy tales suit a couple times but never did it, since I fear that would be committing too many of my choices to less “meaty” works. I’ve also thought about a “New Yorker Stories” suit since I’m a subscriber. Another idea is a suit dedicated to authors with a local connection; one of the unstated missions of Bibliophilopolis is to support writers in my area. My favorite idea is a suit of stories I learned about from my fellow DMI participants this year.
6. Most seem to think “That’s a great idea.” A few authors that I’ve communicated with really like it too. One even said she might use it for her students.
7. I’m a big fan of library book sales and used bookstores. I pick up a couple cheap anthologies a year at those. I have ample fodder to last the rest of my short story reading life I think. 🙂
8. I’ve basically only done “read-alongs” and in my “completely objective” opinion DMI is much more fun.
9. I love the randomness and “the hand of fate” participating in deciding when I read something. “Strange coincidences” seem to often occur. I also have loved seeing some of the unique playing cards others have pictured and how others have put their own stamp on the challenge, or have come up with their own variants. And Katherine’s sharing the videos of card tricks.
10. I wish I had specifically stated that participants aren’t necessarily “required” to write a post about every story they read. Being committed to a weekly post can begin to feel like a burden. The real goal should remain just reading 52 stories. The more you post about, the better, but you don’t have to post about every one. 🙂
11. I’ve really enjoyed Deal Me In’s becoming a shared experience the past couple years. Was it Oscar Wilde who said that “a pleasure shared is a pleasure doubled?” – sounds like him but I’m not sure…

Mid-year trivia: can you name the movie that included the scene below? (It’s relevant to this week’s wrap-up…)

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“Beautiful Monsters” by Eric Puchner

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It’s the midway point in my 2014 Short Story Reading challenge. For week twenty-six I drew the three of spades. Spades are designated for “darker” stories, and this one certainly qualifies. I own it as part of the 2012 volume of The Best American Short Stories series, which I heartily endorse as a good investment if you’re a fan of the short story form.

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This is also my first reading of Los Angeles author Eric Puchner. He has also published a well-received collection of stories titled “Music Trough the Floor” (love that cover picture) and the novel “Model Home.”

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This particular story was first published in Tin House.

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In the Contributors’ Notes section of the Best American Short Stories collection I have, Puchner writes that this story “…was a real departure for me. I’m not a big reader of science fiction, though the first stories I fell in love with as a boy were Ray Bradbury’s magical Martian creep-outs.” Being a Bradbury fan myself, that was certainly a point in his favor and part of the reason why I added this story to my Deal Me In roster this year.

Beautiful Monsters is a story about an (unnamed) boy and girl who are “Perennials,” the primary citizens of a future world where aging has been determined to be a disease, cured scientifically by fixing the age of children just before adolescence. The children of this world, however, hold jobs and take care of themselves and each other just like adults in our own familiar society. The world of the boy and girl is disturbed one day, however, when they see an “old” man in their yard, eating apples directly from their tree. In the future world of this story, there still exist people who have not been cured of the aging “disease” and are the pariahs of society. They have their own camp in the hills near the city of children, but a forest fire has apparently destroyed their reserves of food, leading them to forage nearer the civilized parts of the world and encroach upon the dominion of the Perennials.

The two children see that the old man in their yard is also injured and help him, at least initially. They become fond of him by degrees, even though, as an adult, he exhibits many traits strange and unfamiliar to them. At one point, they put on a puppet show for the old man’s entertainment, pretending to be children from the man’s world, and reveal something of the nature their strange world:

“Hello, red puppet.
Hello, white puppet.
I can’t even drive.
Me either.
Let’s play Capture the Graveyard.
Okay.
In seventy years I’m going to die. First, though, I will grow old and weak and disease-ridden. This is called aging. It was thought to be incurable, in the Age of Senescence.
Will you lose your hair?
I am male, so there’s a four in seven chance of baldness.”

And later in the puppet show:

“Everyone will have to pay more taxes, because we’ll be too feeble to work and pay for our useless medicines.”

I suspect this last is how their world came about. The aged have become too much of a burden on society as a whole. A chilling thought to ponder in today’s real world, where the future of health care is a frequent topic of conversation and debate.

I should point out that the story features the annoying (to this reader) quirk of not using quotation marks for dialogue. What’s up with that? To me it’s just a gimmick that distracts from the real story. This wasn’t one of my favorite short stories in this year’s project, but I think that’s more because of the subject matter since I found the writing to be quite good.

Have you heard of – or read anything by – this author? Have you explored any of the Best American Short Stories of ____ series? What short stories have you read lately?

(below: Eric Puchner )

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