“The Garden” by Joanna Parypinski

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I drew the two of hearts this week for My Deal Me In challenge. “Deuces are wild” this year so I went in search of a story… I just happened to have my iPad in hand when I drew my card, and it was providentially opened to my Kindle app, where I have several anthologies downloaded and “in the queue.” One of these is “Suffer the Little Children” from Cruentus Libri Press.

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In February, I learned from author Joanna Parypinski’s blog that this small indie press was closing down and that its ebook titles were available for free download. I’d previously read another one of their projects, Dead Sea, which I never blogged about but did briefly review on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17565709-the-dead-sea I had enjoyed that one enough to “take a chance” (and risk a few kilobytes of memory space) on a free download, and having read some of Parypinski’s other work (e.g. Her novel, Pandora, back in 2012) I picked her short story, The Garden, for my week 25 entry…

This story is about Lily, a young and lonely girl, who learns of a spell that might help her end her loneliness. The story centers around two curious stone statues in her (recently deceased) aunt’s garden. The statues are of two “sisters” who – legend had it (“The story of the sisters was as wondrously strange as the garden where they spent their days in stone.” I really liked that opening sentence!) – were turned to stone by the witch whose garden it originally was. It seems the witch had became jealous of the girls’ gardening abilities. What the witch didn’t realize was that she was only ensuring “an eternity of togetherness” for the girls. While in the garden, Lily hears whispers. Are they from the stone sisters, or from something else – something more … malignant?

The other force at work in Lily’s life is loneliness. After visiting her deceased aunt’s house, she returns to her family’s home in the country: “There was a lot of emptiness here. Even at school with rowdy kids crowding the halls, Lily could still feel the emptiness creeping in on all sides. Her classmates didn’t seem to know it was there, but Lily did. It was all around them, encroaching in the desolate gloom of twilight.”

Lily’s isolation – and a spectral visitor – lead her to seek to “ensure some togetherness” of her own, just as she imagines the stone sisters in the garden enjoy. She gets more than she bargained for, however.

I’m not sure if this story is still available for purchase anywhere now that Cruentus Libri Press is shut down. I will do some checking and update later if I find it.

I admit that this story didn’t immediately effect me that much, but stories can leave their mark on me in different ways. The way this one did is that it led me to thinking all week about statues, and humankind’s long and sometimes curious relationship with them. In fact, I probably lost more than an hour of my life surfing the Internet reading about different statues, ancient and new. Some I was already familiar with and some were new to me. Of particular interest were stories of statues that began their lives as living beings, as did (allegedly) the stone sisters in this story. Take a moment and think about it – how many examples can you think of in literature and legend? Lot’s wife, anyone?

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Another interesting – though not surprising – fact is how people often begin to think of human-shaped statues as being “real” humans, perhaps with personalities of their own, perhaps treating them with undue reverence, considering they are actually only stone, marble, bronze, or whatever. “Anthropomorphizing” isn’t exactly the right word for it, since the statues are already of people.

One of Indy’s suburbs has a Main Street that is peopled with a lot of human statues in everyday poses (like the lady with the groceries pictured below) that coexist with the town’s actual animate population. I admit that, for my part, this creeps me out a little bit. The statues, even though you KNOW they’re statues, have a way of continually tricking one’s senses. When they’re in your peripheral vision, your certainty of what is real and what is not blurs somewhat, and in a way that makes me uncomfortable. 🙂

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For fun, here’s a list of the worlds “top ten statues”: http://10mosttoday.com/10-most-famous-statues-in-the-world/

Colossal statues also fascinate me. Below, the giant Toltec statues at Tula are said to walk around at night(!) Woe to anyone who steps in their path.

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Frodo and friends are braver than I, camping amongst the frozen statues of giant trolls.

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The tallest human statue in the world, in Volgograd, Russia. Colossal!

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The iconic Statue of Liberty sometimes takes a beating in film. “Cloverfield” and “Planet of the Apes” are two memorable examples.

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September Reading – The Month Ahead

What reading do I have planned for September? Let’s start with my “required reads.”

The Great Gatsby by. F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Yes, I’ve read this before (at least once) but my “Great Books” discussion group is reading this for our September meeting. We usually discuss shorter works, but we don’t meet over the summer and for September’s meeting it is traditional to read a novel. That’s what they tell me, anyway, I haven’t been a member for that long yet. 🙂

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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This is the September selection for the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library Book Club. In honor of “National Banned Books Week,” we read a book that has suffered the ignominy of being banned. Last year it was Huckleberry Finn. I’ve read this before too. Twice. It will be interesting to see what my fellow KVMLBC members, an intelligent group, will have to say about this one. I always learn a lot at these meetings. It’s a good choice, too, with Bradbury having just passed away earlier this year.

Speaking of re-reads, I’m doing a nostalgic re-read of Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes – a favorite from my youth. Look for a post on this around the middle of the month. Fellow blogger Dale at Mirror with Clouds is also re-reading. Why not join us?

I’m also reading Pandora by Joanna Parypinski. A just-published first novel. After reading a short story of hers in an anthology a few months ago, I stumbled upon her blog and, since she is a graduate of Butler University (here in Indianapolis, just down the road from my office) thought I’d “support the home team” and read her book. I’ve already started and am enjoying it thus far.

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What else? Well, there are five Saturdays in September, and that is the day of the week I draw a card to pick which of my fifty-two scheduled short stories to read. The Queen of Diamonds led me, on September 1, to Maya Angelou’s “Reunion,” which I just posted about. Four more to go, though, and I look forward to learning which ones fate picks for me this month.

There’s also my neglected “Author Biography” 2012 reading project. I have a Charles Dickens bio (Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin) queued up in my e-reader, but haven’t been able to get into it yet.

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That’s about it for me. So, what are YOU reading in September. I’d love to hear about your reading plans…

-Jay