Deal Me In – Week 13 Wrap Up

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Ready for our first quarter results? 🙂 Thirteen weeks in means we’re 25% done with Deal Me In 2014. By my calculations, our little band of short story readers’ earnest efforts have covered over ONE HUNDRED stories thus far. Something to be proud of!

Below are links to new posts since the last update. Please consider doing your fellow bloggers the courtesy of visiting and reading their posts, leaving a comment or “liking” them if you wish.

James has better luck with Isak Dinesen this week, reading her story “Peter and Rosa” and also Raymond Chandler’s “Red Wind” http://jamesreadsbooks.com/2014/03/24/isak-dinesen-vs-raymond-chandler-for-the-deal-me-in-short-story-challenge/

Dale read John Steinbeck’s “Junius Maltby” which, like Caesar’s Gaul, he found could be divided into three parts 🙂 http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/03/27/john-steinbeck-junius-maltby/

Katherine read “Fat Man and Little Boy” by Gary Braunbeck in the anthology “Shadow Show: All New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury” http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/03/29/deal-me-in-week-13-fat-man-and-little-boy/

I read a story with local flavor Marianne Halbert’s “Dark Cloud Rising” found toward the bottom of my Indiana Horror Underground post. https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/03/30/indiana-horror-underground/

Returning Reader got two stories in this week: O. Henry’s “The Coming Out of Maggie” http://returningreader.wordpress.com/2014/03/24/short-story-13-the-coming-out-of-maggie-o-henry/ and “An Snamhai” by Katherine Duffy http://returningreader.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/short-story-14-an-snamhai-katherine-duffy/

Hanne read “The Lost Order” by Rivka Galchen from a 2013 issue of The New Yorker http://readingoncloud9.wordpress.com/2014/03/30/week-13-the-lost-order-by-rivka-galchen/#more-1247

Candiss’s eight of diamonds served up the Katherine Mansfield story “Blisshttp://readthegamut.wordpress.com/2014/03/30/deal-me-in-challenge-story-13-bliss-by-katherine-mansfield/

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July Reading: The Month Ahead

A new month is upon us again. Already. What’s on tap in my reading for July? Let’s start with the leftovers from June:

A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
In fairness, it was late June when I “re-engaged” with this chunkster. I’m almost a third of the way through it as of last night, though. Like the first book in this series, I find some of the characters more compelling than others, which makes Martin’s penchant for skipping from one (of many, many) character to another with each new chapter’s beginning somewhat vexing. I’ll get through it, though. The jury’s still out on whether I will continue on to book three… (author Martin is pictured below)

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Class of 1846: From West Point to Appomattox by John Waugh
I’ve stalled again on this one, with only about 150 pages to go, I haven’t opened it in more than a week now. More discipline is required from this reader. (you can tell I never would’ve made the cut as a West Point Cadet!) Below: author John Waugh

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Palm Sunday by Kurt Vonnegut

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A “required” read, this one is of course for my monthly meeting of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library Book Club. I am so looking forward to reading this non-fiction work of Vonnegut’s musings. Only a couple more Vonnegut books to go for me and I’ll have read them all (I finished the last novel in May, and I think I just have this one and Armageddon in Retrospect left to go overall).

Probable reads:
Destination Unknown by Agatha Christie – a shorter, hopefully lighter read. A story with an interesting premise that I learned of via a fellow book blogger.

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Panther in the Sky by James Alexander Thom – this one’s appeared before at least once on my “the month ahead” posts. I think it’s finally time I gave Shawnee leader Tecumseh (portrait below) some attention…

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The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck – a local book discussion group is meeting on this one on July 10th. Though I’m familiar with the story through the movie and pop culture in general, never having read this classic is a serious gap in my cultural literacy that needs to be addressed. Not sure if I’ll be able to read it in time for that meeting though.

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Also I’ll be continuing to catch up on my 2012 short story reading project, which I’ve been enjoying doing the past few days already. 🙂

That’s about it for me. What about you? What’s on deck in your reading plans for July? I’d love to hear…

“Flight” by John Steinbeck

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Yes, I’ve been neglecting my short story reading project for many weeks. I don’t know why, either. It had become such a nice routine to draw a new card from the deck on Saturday morning and find out what story I “must” read next. This morning, though not a Saturday, I decided to start getting back on track. I drew the four of hearts, leading me to John Steinbeck’s story, “Flight.”

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(for those who are new visitors to Bibliophilopolis, my annual short story reading projects involves mapping out fifty-two stories to read during the year [52 weeks, 52 stories!] and assigning each story to a playing card in a 52-card deck, roughly organizing the suits as follows:

Hearts: Favorite Authors
Clubs: Famous Authors I may or may not have read
Diamonds: Female Authors
Spades: Ghost, Scary or Sci-Fi Stories

Once a week (in theory anyway) a new card is drawn from the deck and “fate decides” which story I will read next, sometimes with curious coincidences.
A list of all the stories on my list is found on my page on the left titled: “Deal Me In” – 2012 Short story reading selections. I encourage everyone to try this as an annual project some year.)

Since Steinbeck is one of my favorite authors, his story was in the hearts suit. It resides in my library in an old badly used (by a former owner, of course!) anthology of thirty six stories titled “Short Story Masterpieces” edited by Robert Penn Warren and Albert Erskine. I don’t remember where I picked this one up, but I’m a sucker for anthologies, and its condition didn’t deter me. It was first published in 1954 and contains several of the stories in my 2012 reading project.

(Below: a young John Steinbeck)

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***Some Spoilers follow***

Though a little disappointed in the story overall – it WAS Steinbeck, after all, and I “expected more” – it was still interesting to me. The characters in the story are a young, 19-year old “man,” Pepe and his family, consisting of widowed mother and his two siblings, twelve and fourteen years old. The location is a familiar one to Steinbeck: California.

Easygoing but somewhat indolent, Pepe seems concerned with whether or not “he is a man.” His mother doesn’t think he is yet, saying at one point, “A boy gets to be a man when a man is needed. Remember this thing. I have known boys forty years old because there was no need for a man.” Is this perhaps the moral of the story? It could be, I suppose, but I didn’t really think so.

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Pepe’s legacy from his father (long since dead – from a rattlesnake bite: “When one is bitten on the chest there is not much that can be done”) is a black knife, a switchblade from the sound of it. Pepe has become proficient at throwing the knife with lethal force into a redwood post on their farm. The wary reader suspects that such a skill may lead to trouble…

His mother sends him on an errand to Monterey (“alone”) to buy medicine. He views this as a rite of passage via which he will “become a man.” She directs him to stay the night there at a friends house. He returns early, though, and from the look in his eyes, Mama knows something has happened. There was a quarrel and in reaction to insults – and a threatening approach – the knife had flown from his hand “almost by itself.” We understand he is a fugitive, and the latter two-thirds of the story deal with his flight (there’s that title!) into the nearby mountains and canyons.

Though armed (now with a gun) and possessing some degree of sense, we know it may not be enough to elude and outwit his pursuers, who likely really are men.

I enjoyed the natural descriptions of the land during his flight, and his encounters with wildlife including a mountain lion, a rattlesnake, lizards, etc. I’ll leave it as a homework assignment for you to discover if he is successful or not in his flight. It’s a short story of about twenty pages – easy reading during a lunch hour or on the bus or rail for a daily commute. One place you can find it for free online is here.

What are your thoughts about Steinbeck? Have you read any of his short stories or, like me, mostly just his novels? Where does he rank among your list of favorite authors?

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The Wisdom of John Steinbeck

I think the truly great writers are the ones to who have an ability to touch on ‘great (or universal) truths’ that maybe readers have always subconsciously known but never expressed, or never thought to try to express.  While working my ‘day job’ this week, I was reminded of a passage in Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley.  It’s about a third of the way through the book, when the author contemplates going into Canada, but is thwarted by some problem of his not having the proper certificate of rabies vaccination for his dog (the titular Charley).  He becomes exasperated with the customs people.  He says:

“I guess this is why I hate governments, all governments.  It is always the rule, the fine print, carried out by fine-print men.  There’s nothing to fight, no wall to hammer with frustrated fists.  I highly approve of vaccination, I feel it should be compulsory; rabies is a dreadful thing.  And yet I found myself hating the rule and all governments that made rules.  It was not the shots but the certificate that was important. And it is usually so with governments – not a fact but a small slip of paper.”

This is often true in the workplace – especially at unfortunate companies (like mine) which are now bound by the regulations of the Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act. (By the way, thanks, Enron!).  The intent of the act is good and sound, the execution of it sometimes devolves into the equivalent of Steinbeck’s “certificate” and “small piece of paper.”  In the world of SOX, it often becomes not the control that’s been put in place or its effectiveness that‘s important, but the simple fact that “Yes, we have a control, and yes, we’ve checked it off.”

Now reading Travels With Charley

This will be my second time around for this book.  It was picked by someone in my book club to be our book for March of this year. Since I already finished our February book, I thought I’d go ahead and refresh my memory on this one.  After one day I’m already about 40% through with it.  A great read.  Steinbeck is a quality writer, and I can really tell the difference compared to some of the other stuff I’ve read lately.

This book makes me want to go on a road trip… Oh, and get a dog, too. (but not a poodle; I mean, come on…)