Deal Me In – Week 45 Wrap Up


New posts this week from the DMI crew:

Coincidentally, with me also reading The Martian Chronicles this week, two of us drew a Ray Bradbury story from their Deal Me In deck.

Dale read “Some Live Like Lazarus

And Randall read “Let’s Play Poison

The avalanche of stories from Returning Reader continues:
1) Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “Eva is Inside Her Cat
2) the Ernest Hemingway classic “The Snows of Kilimanjaro
3) Anton Chekhov’s “Gooseberries
4) Dylan Thomas’s “A Child’s Christmas in Wales
5) Ungulani Ba Ka Khosa’s “An Unexpected Death

Katherine has exhausted her hearts suit after reading Robyn Carr’s “Natasha’s Bedroom There’s also a magic trick video featuring her card 🙂

I missed Halloween by one day in drawing Ambrose Bierce’s ghost story, “Beyond the Wall” (I got goosebumps)

Candiss posted about Margaret Atwood’s “Happy Ending

Some other short story content from the week that I found interesting:

Have you heard of author Ron Rash before? I hadn’t, but this collection sounds like it would be at home on my bookshelf

Great article about an event in NY where some of the authors featured in The Best American Short Stories (2014 edition) read their work at a Barnes and Noble. I’ve included some stories from The BASS series the past couple Deal Me In challenges. Looks like I may want to do so again. 🙂

I follow a couple Irish literary accounts n Twitter and they appear to have a thriving short story culture over there. The Davy Byrnes award is one of their prestigious writing prizes. (I’ve read one story from this source in a previous DMI, Claire Keegan’s “Foster”.
Here’s a collection of the cream of that crop.

How I learned of writer Paulo Coehlo

Note: names of people and places have been purposefully removed or embellished in the following post in order to “protect the innocent” 🙂

I admit it, I like coffee shops and bars. I like going into them – usually by myself – and leisurely hanging out for awhile reading or browsing the internet (it’s better – though not cheaper – than staying at home where the tv is a constant temptation; why I don’t just get rid of my tv, I don’t know). If the bar has the Buzztime Trivia Network, then of course I will stay longer than I should, trying to make or even “dominate” the local leader board. I will happily talk to fellow patrons or staff of these establishments if they initiate conversation, but I am equally content to just keep to myself and my reading/browsing/trivia playing. In the past eight months or so (or my “iPad Era” as I like to call it) I am often approached with questions about my iPad- “Ooh, is that an iPad?”, “So, how do you like your iPad?”, “Don’t you just love your iPad?”, ad infinitum. I’ve even joked that my iPad is my new “wingman” due to all the attention it draws.

So, that was a long preamble I guess, but this is kind of how I learned of the writer Paulo Coehlo last week. I was in a favorite downtown Indy bar Tuesday after work; the weather was bad, and the place was relatively deserted. I was talking to the bartender – a friend of mine – and she introduced me to their new employee. After awhile, I hear “new employee” ask, “So, how do you like your iPad?” (see option 2 above). I go into my usual spiel about how I’m on it for hours every day, and mention that a large chunk of that time is spent reading e-books since “I have an app that let’s me access books I’ve purchased on my e-reader,” etc. She says, “Oh, you have a Kindle?”

I explained that I don’t have a Kindle but a Nook. It turns out that “new employee” is a fellow books & reading addict. So I show her the app and my library of e-books that I’ve already purchased, and she’s read a surprisingly large number of them too. She asks about the author Paulo Coehlo, mentioning that he’s one of her favorites and “have you read anything by him?” I cringe as I don’t know that name and fear I have been exposed as a cultural illiterate. She mentions some titles (“The Alchemist? Yeah, I’ve at least heard of that!” slightly redeeming myself.). She says Coehlo reminds her somewhat of Gabriel Garcia Marquez whose One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of her favorites. I admitted I enjoyed that book (“even if I didn’t completely understand it”) and said I liked Love in the Time of Cholera much better. She’d read that one too. I asked which Coehlo book of the ones she mentioned I should start out with, and she said “probably The Alchemist,” (but I ended up reading “Eleven Minutes” this week instead).

While browsing through me e-library, she noticed all the Kurt Vonnegut titles and asked, “Are you a Vonnegut fan?” I said yes, and she said, “Did you know there’s a new Vonnegut Library right here in town?” I said “of course,” and she said “I live right across the street from it.” Now, this was starting to feel a little like fate, so I promised myself that I would (A) read a Coehlo book and (B) report back to her later. I’ve completed (A) and hopefully (B) can be accomplished on my next visit…

Sent from my iPad

Writer Paulo Coehlo:

One Hundred Years of Solitude

Ever since I read Love in the Time of Cholera, which my book club tackled in April of 2007, I’ve wanted to read this famous book.  It was not quite what I expected, however.  Unlike Love in the Time of Cholera, which has a comparatively straightforward story line – the unrequited love of Florentino for Fermina, One Hundred Years of Solitude doesn’t really have a story line in the traditional sense.

There is no main character, in fact many of the characters (of different generations of the Buendia family) have the same or very similar names(!)  This makes for difficult reading for the non-focused reader (or even the focused reader!). Perhaps the best way to describe the book would be to say that the town of Macondo, and the Buendia family are the main “characters.”

I liked the book anyway, in spite of this “confusion.”  Marquez’s writing style is so beautiful and unique, he could probably have written about anything and I would’ve enjoyed it.  This particular book is known as an example of “Magical Realism.”  Now, I was unfamiliar with this term before encountering this book, but wikipedia calls it “a style of writing in which the supernatural is presented as mundane, and the mundane as supernatural or extraordinary. The term was coined by German art critic Franz Roh in 1925”

The magical, or supernatural, intertwines nearly seamlessly with the ‘normal’ in this book.  One of my favorite characters was the gypsy, Melquiades, who has an association with the Buendia family across many of its generations.  He was also responsible for bringing many magical and technological wonders to the town of Macondo, including fully functioning “Flying Carpets,” to cite one example. He is described in the opening pages of the book as having “an Asiatic look that seemed to know what there was on the other side of things.” At the end of the book, we learn that he had already written the history of the family (in Sanskrit!) before it has taken place, though many of the family’s members have spent years trying to decipher his writings and things he left behind.

There was a lot of symbolism in the book, much of which I didn’t “get” until I read a little more about the novel, but one of the more transparent (even to me, I mean) images to me was that of the town of Macondo as an “Eden” from which humans were eventually expelled, as the town continually devolved and was corrupted by the ‘outside world.’

There is also a lot of sex and passion in the book. In this respect it does not differ from Love in the Time of Cholera.  In One Hundred Years of Solitude, however, many of the relationships are borderline, sometimes blatantly, incestuous.  The characters don’t let that stop them, however.  The only one who seems to give this a lot of thought was the matriarch, Ursula, who has a constant fear that at some point a child will be born with a pig’s tail due to the intermarriage within the family.

One favorite passage of mine in this regard was when Aureliano Jose had fallen in love with his aunt, Amaranta, wanting to marry her and all that that implies.  She tells him, “ ‘You can’t do that to a poor aunt unless you have a special dispensation from the Pope.’ Aureliano Jose promised to go to Rome, he promised to go across Europe on his knees to kiss the sandals of the Pontiff just so that she would lower her drawbridge.”

Overall, the book was a bit too mystical (or maybe I should say mystifying) for me to get really gung ho about recommending.  Marquez has been quoted as saying that he himself did not completely understand the book’s success:

“Most critics don’t realize that a novel like One Hundred Years of Solitude is a bit of a joke, full of signals to close friends; and so, with some pre-ordained right to pontificate they take on the responsibility of decoding the book and risk making terrible fools of themselves.”

Thanks to Allie, over at A Literary Odyssey for making me finally read this book as a result of her hosting a read-along.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Short Story Month (looking at some Salinger)

Each July, my book club takes a ‘break’ and reads a group of short stories.  Each member selects one story and shares it with the group via a link to on-line availability or a photocopy or an emailed PDF file.  Everybody reads all the stories (generally, this has been a much lighter ‘pages to read burden’ than a normal month) and then we meet and discuss our thoughts.  In the past, I’ve picked out past favorite stories of mine that I’ve read more than once: Chekhov’s “The Black Monk,” Kipling’s “The Brushwood Boy” are two of my picks.  This year, I thought I’d try to find a new story.  With that in mind, when I was shopping at “Full Price Books” (er, I mean “Borders”) for my book club’s June  book (In the City, at Least Someone Would Hear Me Scream by Wade Rouse – as it turns out, this book only becomes available in paperback tomorrow, and they were sold out of the hardcover copies.  This provides me with an excuse to go back downtown one day this week after work and stop by my favorite pub, O’Reilly’s, which is just around the corner from Borders J)

Anyhoo… since they didn’t have the book I wanted, I browsed  for a while and picked up a couple books.  One was One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, which I’ve coveted for quite a while (ever since my bookclub read the same author’s Love in the Time of Cholera in early 2007 – still one of my favorite’s that my book club has read) and which I look forward to reading.

The other book I picked up was “Nine Stories” by J.D. Salinger.  It’s a collection of – you guessed it – nine of his short stories.  Now, awhile back – around the time of J.D. Salinger’s death – I had posted about finally filling a gap in my cultural literacy by reading Catcher in the Rye (Nope, still haven’t done that), and perhaps feeling guilty about never getting that done led me to buying this book.

I read two of the shorter stories in the little café (actually if you’ve been to the downtown Indianapolis Borders you know this is a misnomer) before I left the store.  Neither one of them would I recommend to my book club.

The first one was called “A Perfect Day for Bananafish.”  I don’t know if you’ve read it or not but **Spoiler Alert!** I found it distressing and a bit confounding.  A woman (Muriel) is on her honeymoon (or second honeymoon I guess) with her husband, (Seymour Glass) who is apparently mentally disturbed & suffering from unspecified troubles.  I had the impression or made the conclusion (though baseless) that he was a former soldier with post-traumatic stress disorder.  His wife is vapid and the reader is persuaded via a phone call with her mother, which is related in the early part of the story, to form an easy dislike of her.

Seymour spends some time on the beach and encounters a very young girl (Sybil), who he apparently has had some contact with at the hotel in which they are both staying.  (He plays the piano and she has sat with him on the piano bench as he played).  He compliments her on her “blue swimsuit” and she points out to him that it is “yellow”; as they swim out a bit into the ocean he tells her the story of the Bananafish.  I had a brief fear that the story would veer off onto some  weird, “pedophiliacal” course, but it doesn’t. The gist of the story of the bananafish is that it eats so many bananas that it cannot swim back out of the ‘hole’ it swam into to eat the bananas.  (are the bananas in the water?  – I have no idea).  Anyway, after the swim, he goes back to the hotel room and, while gazing at his sleeping wife, takes out a gun and kills himself.  Pretty light reading, huh?

I read somewhere on-line that the Seymour character is supposed to be a ‘sensitive, fragile person” his name Seymour “see more” and “glass” as in fragile. The criticism cited on questions “is Seymour the bananafish who has glutted himself with the simple pleasures of life (like swimming with an innocent child) but who then must die because such rapture cannot be sustained? Or is he afraid of becoming like the bananafish, making his suicide his only solution for forsaking the sensual pleasures of the world?”  I guess it’s possible. Thumbs down from me on this one.

The second story I read was titled “Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes” and deals with a man who receives a phone call from a friend while he is enjoying the company of a female.  The friend goes on and on about how he doesn’t know where his wife is and how he should have never married her because she apparently sleeps around.

I like this one a little better as I assumed early on that the woman with Lee (the phone call receiver) is in fact Joanie (the phone caller’s wife).  This belief is supported later when Arthur (the phone caller) asks if Lee minds if he stops by to talk, and Lee is not too encouraging of the idea.  He basically tells Arthur to relax and that Joanie will surely come home and ‘barge in’ any moment now.  The conversation ends, but the phone rings again not long afterward.  Arthur says “She just barged in,” etc. and that everything is okay.  I suspect he is lying to ‘save face’ or for other purposes, but I believe the ending is open to interpretation.  I don’t think I will recommend this story to my club either, though.

The search continues.