Deal Me In – Week 32 Wrap Up

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My apologies for being a little late with this week’s wrap up.

SHORT STORY NEWS & LINKS

I found another blogger doing a challenge similar to ours, but much more ambitious. Check out “the short story box” – http://msbookish.com/a-short-story-a-day-randomized/

If, like me, Returning Reader’s short story deck has whetted your appetite for African short stories, check out the following:
http://bookslive.co.za/blog/2014/08/05/short-story-day-africa-2014-longlist-announced/

This one sounds interesting:
http://siouxcityjournal.com/lifestyles/local/retired-dordt-professor-digs-up-tales-from-the-crypt/article_dc90c812-4317-5d7d-8094-56d145e9465c.html

NEW POSTS THIS WEEK

Dale read Truman Capote’s “Mojave”http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/08/07/truman-capote-mojave/

Candiss read the Guy de Maupassant classic, “The Necklace” – http://readthegamut.wordpress.com/2014/08/10/deal-me-in-challenge-story-32-the-necklace-by-guy-de-maupassant/

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Katherine read “Diamonds aren’t Forever” by S.P. Somtowhttp://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/08/10/deal-me-in-week-32-diamonds-arent-forever/

Randall read “Dimension” a story by one of Deal Me In’s most popular authors, Alice Munrohttp://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2014/08/dimension-by-alice-munro.html

Me? I’m behind and haven’t read my 32nd story, “The Redfield Girls” by Laird Barron…

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

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The Elegance of a Well-Turned Twist

A couple weeks ago, for my short story reading project, I read Guy de Maupassant’s famous tale, “The Necklace.” Last night, another reading/discussion group that I participate in met to discuss Sartre’s “The Wall.” Both of these stories end with an ironic twist, the former likely being one of the more famous in literature. This left me pondering the device of the “twist” and how it has almost become a cliche over the years in short fiction, with some readers even feeling that a good story isn’t complete without one. I suppose we have, in part, O’Henry to thank for that…

The twist is prevalent in other forms of art too, and here I’m thinking of tv and film. It seemed few episodes of “The Twilight Zone” were complete until that little twist at the end – often accompanied the well-placed tinkle of piano keys as Burgess Meredith drops his glasses or sometimes by an in-your-face exclamation (“It’s a cookbook!”)

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“The Necklace” is a quick and easy read, and available online if you’d like to spend the ten or fifteen minutes it takes to read before proceeding (since I am going to spoil it for you, otherwise). http://www.bartleby.com/195/20.html

This is the story of Mathilde, a “pretty and charming girl, born by a blunder into a family of employees.” Her charm would suggest that she belonged to a higher station in life than that which it fell to her to inhabit. In one great moment, her husband is invited to a ball, and she at last has a chance to shine, which she does brilliantly, thanks in part to a “diamond” necklace she has borrowed from a rich acquaintance, Madame Forrester.

When the ball is over and they return home, she realizes to her horror that the necklace has been lost. It will take years of toil and labor and aggressive saving to repay the money they must borrow to buy a replacement. Being good citizens, this is what they do, their life a continual hardship under the burden of this debt, and it is only when they are finally out from underneath it that they learn that Madame Forrester’s diamonds were imitation and their value but a hundredth of what Mathilde and her husband have paid to replace it! (queue those tinkling piano keys from the Twilight Zone here)

I recalled also, after reading, that the classic American TV comedy, The Andy Griffith Show, shamelessly ripped off the plot twist in a 1968 episode. Perhaps you’ve seen it. Young Opie gets a job at the town drugstore and, while cleaning, knocks over and breaks an expensive (or so he thinks) bottle of perfume. He scrimps and saves to buy a replacement, only to later learn from the boss that what he broke was just a “display” bottle, containing only water.

(below: proud employee Opie Taylor – before disaster strikes…)

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So, here’s my question for you: what are some of your favorite literary twists? Do you think the twist is an over-used plot device, or do you enjoy a good twist as much as “the next guy?”

(Other famous twists: a pretzel, Alexander the Great’s Gordian Knot, and Chubby Checker’s dance…)

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Deux par Guy de Maupassant

How profound that mystery of the Invisible is! We cannot fathom it with our miserable senses, with our eyes which are unable to perceive what is either too small or too great, too near to us, or too far from us – neither the inhabitants of a star nor of a drop of water.”

Over the last few days I’ve had the pleasure of reading a couple short stories by the french master, Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893). The first was in one of my “go to” anthologies – my 1941 edition of 1937’s “Great Ghost Stories of the World: The Haunted Omnibus” edited by Alexander Laing, with eerie yet beautiful illustrations by Lynd Ward. (title page pictured below)

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The first story, “The Horla,” was my favorite of the two. Having just been reminded of it from reading another blog (and I’ll be darned if I can remember which one now – if it was you, let me know so I can link and give you credit), I thought I would read it again as part of my seasonal reading for October.

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It is a story in the form of journal/diary entries of a man who is either losing his sanity, or being dogged by a supernatural entity (the titular “Horla”). At first, he is describing a “classic case” of the phenomenon known as “sleep paralysis” but over time it becomes more than that. Much more. The man’s struggles to free himself from, or even just understand the nature of, this entity lead him further down the path toward madness. The story can be read for free online here:

http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/Horl.shtml

The other story was more pedestrian. **Spoiler Alert** Promisingly titled “Ghosts,” it sounded perfect for another seasonal read. Despite its title, it turned out to NOT include supernatural elements at all, but instead a scheming clergyman, taking advantage of the superstitions of one of the locals. I found this story via my iPhone app “Short Stories.” It may turn out to be memorable to me just because I learned a new word from it: “Latitudinarian” – from my Merriam Webster app – “not insisting on strict conformity to a particular doctrine or standard: tolerant; specifically, tolerant of variations in religious opinions or doctrine.” Actually, I think I may have a bit of Latitudinarian in me…

What are your experiences with Guy de Maupassant? Favorites? Recommendations?

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(above: Guy de Maupassant)