Deal Me In – Week 35 Wrap Up


Greetings to all as we pass the 2/3rds-way point of Deal Me In 2014. I hope everyone is continuing to enjoy the one story per week habit!


Dale returns to Herman Melville, reading his story (actually more of a novella) “Benito Cereno

Randall’s three of diamonds led him to Alice Walker’s story, “Everyday Use”

Katherine read Neil Gaiman’s “The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories” and shares with us a video of “the artist’s dream illusion

I read Annie Proulx’s “The Half-Skinned Steer” and posted about it here yesterday.

Other links of possible interest:

Interesting article about the commercial viability of the short story in MacLean’s. And I see Margaret Atwood has a new collection coming out next month! Yippee! 🙂

A new collection of Neil Gaiman stories is coming out in early 2015

Two short story collections made the Daily News’ “ten books to pack for Labor Day” list:

Deal Me In – Week 31 Wrap Up



A busy week here at the Deal Me In 2014 Offices!


Latest on potential publication of “new” Salinger work:

Have you heard of “Teffi?” I hadn’t.

And we thought we were doing good to read 52 stories a year? How about 4,000?(!)

Are short stories “Literary palate-cleansers?”


Another blogger is joining the Deal Me In challenge! Bellezza of Dolce Bellezza has created a list. Check out her intro post – and way cool picture – at

James reads Grace Paley and Raymond Chandler and shares impressions on their stories, “Come On, Ye Sons of Art” and “No Crime in the Mountains”

I read Gertrude Atherton’s “The Bell in the Fog” (Atherton was recommended to me by Paula of “Paula Cappa’s blog”) I haven’t finished my post yet ’cause I left my notes at the office Friday.

Dale enjoyed another Herman Melville story, this time tackling “The Encantadas

Randall posts about William Gay’s “Where Will You Go When Your Skin Cannot Contain You?”

Katherine’s David Copperfield anthologies continue to (finally) live up to her expectations, this week with Tad Williams’ story “The Stuff that Dreams are Made Of

Candiss is back and shares her thoughts on Tobias Wolff’s “Bullet in the Brain” (This story is DMI2014’s fifth “twin,” as James also covered it in May; in case you missed it, his take is at )

Bellezza posts about “In a Grove” by Ryunosuke Akutagawa

I think that’s it for this week. Hope I didn’t miss anybody. (As always feel free to add an additional link in the comments). See you next time!

Deal Me In – Week 28 Wrap Up


Below are links to new Deal Me In posts since out last update. Five new stories for your perusal…

I would prefer not to give too much away, but Dale read a great story – Herman Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener”

James read Haruki Murakami and John Hersey this week, comparing their two stories “Firefly” and “A Game of Anagrams,” respectively. Will he find a connection? And which will he like best? Find out at

Katherine drew a wild card and decided to go with Leonid Andreyev’s story, “Lazarus,” making it the third(?) “twin” (two of us reading the same story) we’ve had this year. Find out what she thought of it at Will we be blessed with any “triplets” before the year is over? I guess remaining wildcards still at large do make at a possibility…

I read Vladimir Nabokov’s “That in Aleppo Once…” Trivia points go to anyone who knows from what Shakespeare play Vlad lifted that title. Or how to pronounce Vlad’s last name… 🙂

That’s it for now. See you next week!

Deal Me In – Week 24 Wrap Up


I’m way behind schedule in posting this, but here are links to new posts by all the Deal Me In’ers since the last wrap-up. We’re almost at the midway point of the challenge! Note: for week 26, I’m working on a kind of “survey” about the challenge. I hope you’ll consider participating by answering a few questions, via which I hope to make improvements for DMI 2015 next year…

Dale wrote about Herman Melville’s “The Piazza” at

I wrote about Maxim Gorky’s “Her Lover” at

James posted about a couple stories, Grace Paley’s “The Pale Pink Roast” and Tim Pratt’s “Our Stars, Ourselves” from the Welcome to Bordertown anthology:

Candiss writes about Amy Bloom’s “Silver Water” at

Returning Reader read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “The Arrangers of Marriage”

Katherine tackles a classic, Edgar Allan Poe’s. “The Purloined Letter


“Follow Your Leader” – Herman Melville’s “Benito Cereno”


I’ve never been a big fan of the traditional mystery genre. I have certainly read some books that were good mysteries, but the exercise of reading with the intent of determining “whodunit” doesn’t appeal to me as the best way to spend my reading time. This bias of mine does not apply, however, to a certain class of novel that is something akin to a mystery. I’m speaking of novels in which the reader is from the start cast into unknown circumstances and must be patient as things are slowly revealed to him. Herman Melville’s novella “Benito Cereno” is such a novel – or I guess technically a novella, as it checks in at only about 75 pages.


I first read Benito Cereno back in 1992, together in a volume along with several other of Melville’s shorter works. The other two I still remember are “The Encantadas” and “Bartleby the Scrivener” (the latter of which I’ve posted about previously). I remember way back then being confused by Benito Cereno, and when I recently re-read it I could easily see why. It’s a mystery of sorts, not so much of a whodunit as a “whodunwhat.”

Based on “actual events” in the early 1800’s, Melville’s story was published in serial form in 1855, and it should be read with the historical context of that time in mind. A time when the struggle between anti- and pro-slavery forces was nearing the fever pitch that culminated in the U.S. Civil War. The story is of an American sea captain, Amasa Delano, at a remote port in southern Chile. While there, a nearly derelict Spanish vessel, the San Dominick is spotted, erratically making its way into the harbor. Delano takes a small boat out to encounter it, possibly to offer assistance, and there meets its captain, the eponymous Benito Cereno.

On board, Delano is met by a rag-tag crew featuring both Spaniards and African slaves. All are nearly starving and beg for supplies. Clearly something is not quite right in this unusual social amalgam. Delano, however, struggles to grasp what might be amiss. An extremely frustrating character, many things are obvious to the reader long before they are to Delano, who continues to take Cereno and his black servant, Babo, at their word when, to most, suspicion and a skeptical reaction would seem to be the order of the day. There is undoubtedly some great writing along the way in the book, as the truth is slowly revealed, and Melville also deftly handles a great, climactic scene that kept this reader on the edge of his seat.

I feel, however, that, since I’ve labeled this work a mystery of sorts, I shouldn’t reveal the details of the true story of the San Dominick. I will reveal the source of the “Follow Your Leader” quote from the title of this post, though. When Delano first boards the ship, he notices that the figurehead on the ship’s prow is covered with canvas and only the ship’s inscription “follow your leader” is visible. Check the illustration above to see what lay hidden under the canvas…

Have you read Benito Cereno, or other shorter works by Melville? What did you think of them?

Benito Cereno may be read for free online at

It is also one of many available audiobooks free via the “Free Audio Books” app for the iPhone/iPad.

(Below:  from Wikipedia)


Bartleby sure was strange… but so was his employer.

Note: this post assumes the reader has already read the story. If you haven’t read it, take 45 minutes or so on your lunch hour some day and add it to your collection…

I re-read Melville’s short story, “Bartleby the Scrivener: A Tale of Wall Street,” yesterday. Most people probably find the story memorable simply because of the uniquely strange title character. I mean really, how does one get away with staying on in a job after repeatedly replying “I would prefer not to” to any request to do something?

Part of what’s remarkable to me about the story, though, is the character of his boss, the narrator of the story. He admits to being somewhat “disarmed” by Bartleby’s passive resistance via steadfast though quiet and polite refusals and reacts with pity and charity to the man, rather than with anger and violence – as many others certainly would. Indeed, at each instance of increasing non-compliance or insubordination, the boss simply retreats and re-evaluates his stance regarding poor Bartleby.

His boss is also self delusional. At one point, after he has communicated his latest “ultimatum” to Bartleby. He convinces himself what a fine job he did of it, and by the time he had walked home was confident that, when he arrived at the office the next day, Bartleby would be gone. However, in the morning he realizes his mistake as he has “slept off the fumes of vanity” (as Melville says; I love that description) and finds Bartleby still haunting his offices.

The narrator’s perplexity at how to deal with Bartleby – now a “millstone around his neck” – leads him to eventually relocate his offices to another building. This “solves” the boss’s problem, but not the problem of Bartleby himself, who continues hanging around the old building, so much to the dismay of the new tenants that they at last have him arrested and taken away.

Our narrator still feels pity for Bartleby and visits him in jail, offering to help him and even ‘bribing’ the cook/commissary man in order to make sure his charge is well fed. Why does the narrator of this story react to Bartleby the way he does? I know countless analyses of this story have been written or contemplated, but I naturally haven’t had the time yet to read them all.

There was one interesting interpretation I did read, however. It is that the story is biographical, and that Bartleby represents Melville. This rings true in one important way: Melville had gained much success with is earlier novels, Typee and Omoo, written more for mass consumption, but his Moby Dick (written more in the contemplative style he would “prefer to” write) was snubbed by critics and readers alike. This coincides with Bartleby’s profession as a scrivener (essentially a human copy machine). People wanted Melville to simply copy the formula of his early successful books even though he “would prefer not to.” This may be why at one point in the story, Bartleby informs the narrator that he has decided to stop copying altogether (his earlier refusals are for other tasks). I find this interpretation interesting.

What about you? Have you read this famous story? I’m particularly interested in anyone’s thoughts who read it for a literature class or the like. What were the interpretations there?

Lending eBooks …. And yet another book club

I just remembered that I had “promised” to let my readers know about the success or failure I experienced in lending my copy of an eBook to a fellow Nook owner. The short version: it was a piece of cake. One only needs to set up the “lendee” on one’s nook as a ‘friend’ including the email address. Once this is done, when you have selected a book from your library, you press ‘other options’ and “lend” is right there. The other user receives an email alerting them that the book has been offered to them, and they accept or decline. There are still, as I mentioned earlier, the draconian regulations of only being able to lend a book once, and the person being lent the book only has it for fourteen days. I hope these are eased at some point, but I won’t hold my breath.

In another “development” locally, there is another meeting of the “Great Books” discussion group tomorrow night at a local library. This is the group I found out about when visiting the Center for Inquiry downtown. (a somewhat brainy group of skeptics, free thinkers, etc). This month’s book (actually a long-ish short story) is Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener, which I have already read a couple times, so I’m thinking about crashing this meeting. (I guess I cant technically “crash” it since they did put me on their email list at my request a while back). I almost feel, however, that I may be getting involved in too many things like this and as a result will not leave myself enough time to read books of my own choosing, and that is certainly something “I would prefer not to” do…