Deal Me In – Week 46 Wrap Up

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A little behind schedule getting this posted as i was “out late” last night at the Colts game (which was a disaster for the home team, ugh). Anyhoo, here we are:

Only a few cards left now… Below are links to new posts this week.

It’s time for James to shuffle up as he drew his last two cards, getting Haruki Murakami’s “The Rise and Fall of Sharpie Cakes” and Henry James’s “The Figure in the Carpethttp://jamesreadsbooks.com/2014/11/10/henry-james-vs-haruki-murakami-a-deal-me-in-short-story-challenge/. James becomes the first of us to complete his 52 stories this year. Can’t remember everything he read? His original roster can be found at: http://readywhenyouarecb.blogspot.in/2014/01/deal-me-in.html

Dale read the oft-anthologized James Baldwin story, “Sonny’s Blues” http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/11/12/james-baldwin-sonnys-blues/

Randall read Bruce McAllister’s “The Boy in Zaquitos” http://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2014/11/the-boy-in-zaquitos-by-bruce-mcallister.html from the Best American Short Stories anthology of 2007.

I read Katherine Vaz’s “Fado” https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/fado-by-katherine-vaz/ and continue to enjoy one of my favorite new to me authors of 2014.

Return Reader delivers four new posts:
On George Saunders’s “Sea Oak” http://returningreader.wordpress.com/2014/11/15/short-story-35-sea-oak-george-saunders/

On Olufemi Terry’s “Stickfighting Days” http://returningreader.wordpress.com/2014/11/15/short-story-36-stickfighting-days-olufemi-terry/

On Saki’s “The Mouse” http://returningreader.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/short-story-37-the-mouse-saki/

On Ray Bradbury’s “The Veldt” http://returningreader.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/short-story-38-the-veldt-ray-bradbury/

Katherine wrote about Matthew Costello’s “The Final Vanish” http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/deal-me-in-week-46-the-last-vanish/ and shares a video of another famous vanishing…

Deal Me In – Week 20 Wrap Up

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I trust everyone is enjoying Short Story Reading Month? Below are links to new posts I’ve found since last week’s wrap-up. As always, please try to visit your fellow DMI-ers’ posts, leaving a comment or ’liking’ them if you can. 🙂

James at Jamesreadsbooks.com read two stories: Henry James’ “The Private Life” and Tobias Wolff’s “Bullet in the Brain.” I hadn’t heard of the second story before, but the premise is fascinating. Check out his post at http://jamesreadsbooks.com/2014/05/13/henry-james-vs-tobias-wolff-a-deal-me-in-short-story-chalenge/

Dale of Mirror With Clouds read Anton Chekhov’s “The Bet”http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/05/15/anton-chekhov-the-bet/

Candiss at Read the Gamut is in the midst of the Bout of Books Readathon. She found time to read Ted Chiang’s ” The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling.” Her post will be forthcoming after the BoBR has been completed.

Katherine at The Writerly Reader drew a winner with her ten of hearts (same card I drew this week!) and read George Guthridge’s “Chin Oil.” Read her post at http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/05/17/deal-me-in-week-20-chin-oil/ to find out more about this story

Returning Reader rejoins us with two stories: James Joyce’s “Araby” http://returningreader.wordpress.com/2014/05/16/short-story-16-araby-james-joyce/ and Maaza Mengiste’s “A Good Soldier” http://returningreader.wordpress.com/2014/05/16/short-story-17-a-good-soldier-maaza-mengiste

Susan at Avid Series Reader add a couple more reviews on Shelfari scroll down to the bottom to see her thoughts on Doran Larson’s “Morphine” and Bliss Broyard’s “Mr. Sweetly Indecent” at http://www.shelfari.com/books/16334/The-Best-American-Short-Stories-1998/reviews/4410861

I read a new-to-me author Roxane Gay and thoroughly enjoyed her story “North Country.” I hope to have my post up later tonight or tomorrow morning. 🙂

That’s it for now. See you next Sunday with another wrap up. In the meantime, keep those cards flying!

“Omelas, Bright-Towered by the Sea”

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“The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin (and other short stories I’ve read recently)

In catching up (and I AM caught up now – hallelujah!) with my 2012 short story reading project, I’m reading stories faster than I am able to blog about them, so this post is a bit of a catch-up with just brief comments on the last six I’ve read.

Maybe the best of the group was “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin, a highly acclaimed science fiction writer.** The story tells the tale of the city of Omelas, where all the citizens enjoy a seemingly unadulterated happiness. Well, ALMOST all, I should say. The city has a dark secret to its happiness that the reader only discovers midway through the story. Largely allegorical, the tale asks the question of how much we would be willing to sacrifice for the greater good. Apparently, most of the citizens are willing to accept the sacrifices their city has deemed necessary. Some are not, however and they are the titular “ones who walk away…” This story won the Hugo Award for The Best Science Fiction Short Story of 1974. Wikipedia has a list of nominees and winners – take a look and see how many you’re familiar with.

Another good one was “Cumberland Breakdown” by Joyce Carol Oates. This was another from her collection “I Am No One You Know,” from which I’ve read another story, “The Mutants,” as part of this year’s reading project. In this story, two children, Melora (13) and her older brother Tyrell (16), are coping with the loss of their father, a volunteer fireman who lost his life fighting a fire at the house of some “welfare people,” the Barndollars. Tyrell especially resents that the act of saving these poor, “probably drunk and smoking in bed,” people has taken away their father. With Melora tagging along, Tyrell contemplates revenge and stalks the Barndollars, meeting them in the final pages of the story, which did not end as I expected.

I also read a sad story by Katherine Mansfield titled “Marriage a la Mode.” Published in 1921, it deals with a man fighting a seemingly hopeless battle to prevent losing his wife to her new “Bohemian” friends and lifestyle. As a last ditch tactic, he writes her a traditional “love letter” which she reads to her friends(!) who enjoy a good laugh over it. She feels ashamed and resolves to write him back in kind, but her resolution is tested by the pull of her new friends.

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My recent reading also included two stories by James Joyce, both from “The Dubliners.” One, “The Boarding House,” didn’t do much for me, being the “standard fare” of the daughter of a boarding house owner being compromised by one of the boarders and the natural attendant consequences. The other was better. Titled “A Little Cloud,” it deals with a reunion of two friends who had grown up together but had, at the time of the story, been separated for quite awhile. One had gone off and “made a name for himself” while the other has settled into a traditional life. The traditional life friend feels some jealousy and envy of the one who went off to seek his fortune. This was kind of an analysis of the concept of “the grass is always greener” that I thought was very well done. I enjoyed neither of these stories as much as I did “The Dead.”

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I also read my second Henry James story of the year. Though I enjoyed it less than the other one (“The Middle Years”), “The Tree of Knowledge” was an interesting look at the concept of self-delusion and how we may support each other in our self-delusions. In a nutshell, it’s about a couple, the man being a professional – though certainly not brilliant – artist, who have a son who also wants to follow an artistic career path. Not too remarkable a situation until you throw in the old family friend, who “has always loved” the artists wife, and has carefully protected her from the knowledge of “the truth” about her husband’s lack of real talent. He finds he wants to protect the son from this truth too, leading to a cerebral story that may be a warning about the futility of getting tangled up in the lives of others.

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So, have any of the above stories – or authors – struck your fancy at some point in your reading life?  What did you think of them? Do you have any recommendations for  my future short story reading?

**Those who are not fans of the sci-fi genre may have heard her name in the 2007 movie – based upon the 2004 book – “The Jane Austen Book Club.” In the movie, ***SPOILER ALERT*** the only male (Grigg) in the book club is a sci-fi fan and recommends reading Le Guin to fellow member, Jocelyn, who’s a bit of a literary snob and thus above reading sci-fi even though Grigg explains that his recommendations are not the standard ray gun & robot sci-fi. She’s also blind to the fact that Grigg is clearly interested in her, but eventually reads them and is swept away, driving immediately over to his house and only realizing after she’s there that it’s five o’clock in the morning,so she waits in her car and falls asleep. He sees her when he’s leaving to go to work the next morning, and taps on her window… “I read these books!” she gushes, and they head inside and tear off each others clothes. So cliche. That happens to me all the time <cough cough> when I recommend books to women who look like Maria Bello and they actually read and like them. (below: the cast of “The Jane Austen Book Club” – that’s Jocelyn & Grigg on the right)

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The Romance of Certain Old Clothes – a short story by Henry James

Henry James

Today I remembered that I still have a lot of short stories left to read this year for my project, so I drew a card and found the ten of spades, which pointed me to the story, “The Certain Romance of Old Clothes,” by Henry James. James’s writing is somewhat of an acquired taste. Many describe him as “too wordy,” and I would have to admit that this often feels true. In spite of this, I have managed to read a lot of his work over the years. My book club even read one of his longer stories, The Turn of the Screw, one of the more famous ghost stories in literature. This story I read today, also categorized as a “ghost story,” is much lesser known – I think for good reason.

Read the story for yourself online here.

I didn’t find it too much to my taste. **Spoiler Alert** First of all, there is no ghost until the last page of the story, which takes place in the pre-revolution America of the 18th century. It deals with a “single mother family” of a woman (“a widowed gentlewoman”) her son, and her two daughters. Her son Bernard is sent off to England to be properly educated and returns with a friend, Arthur Lloyd, who we quickly learn is fated to pick one of Bernard’s charming sisters, Rosalind and Perdita, as his bride.

This “selection process” seems an excruciatingly long affair, and, despite the agreeable nature of the two young ladies, becomes too much of a burden for their gentle natures to overcome, and jealousy inevitably comes a calling when Arthur’s favor settles upon Perdita. Rosalind’s jealousy, AND Perdita’s disappointment in it, leads to a kind of “civil estrangement.” When complications arise during the birth of Arthur and Perdita’s first child, a daughter, Perdita is crushed to learn that her husband, absent at the time of these troubles, was with Rosalind (though innocently, it seemed to me).

Although the daughter survives, Perdita does not, and in a fit of spiteful deathbed bitterness, extracts an oath from Arthur that he will not give away any of her fine gowns, except one to be saved for their daughter, knowing that Rosalind covets them. The surviving sister, somewhat predictably, moves in to claim Arthur, scandalously not long enough after the death of her sister. She does have the decency to delay inquiring about the gowns and when she does is initially gently rebuked, but becomes more insistent and almost nagging, finally weakening Arthur to the point where he throws up his hands and concedes.

Only in the final paragraph, when the greedy Rosalind heads to the attic to open the trunk of clothes, does the bitter ghost “appear” (actually it doesn’t even appear in the story, we only learn of its attack after the fact) to protect the coveted wardrobe.

I have one Henry James story to go in my 2011 short story project. It’s “The Middle Years,” which I remember nothing about other than I really enjoyed it many years ago when I read it for the first time. I added it to my “hearts” suit (favorite stories to read again) when I created my list of 52 stories to read. I look forward to that one, but The Romance of Certain Old Clothes will likely not be re-read by me.

What do you think of Henry James? What have you read by him?

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