Deal Me In – Week 15 Wrap Up

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Below are links to the stories I found that are new since last week’s wrap up post. If I’ve missed one, or if you finished after my publishing this, you may share a link in the comments and/or I will include it next week. Until then, happy reading!

Oh, and as always I encourage everyone to read each other’s posts, leaving a comment or “some other evidence” of your visit. 🙂

James read Haruki Murakami and Grace Paley: “A Perfect Day for Kangaroos” and “Zagrowsky Tells“, respectively. http://jamesreadsbooks.com/2014/04/07/grace-paley-meet-haruki-murakami-a-deal-me-in-short-story-challenge/

Dale read his four of spades entry, “Kaleidoscope” in Ray Bradbury’s classic collection, The Illustrated Man: http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/ray-bradbury-kaleidoscope/

Returning Reader’s nine of clubs was Dambuzdo Marechera’s story, “Oxford Black Oxfordhttp://returningreader.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/short-story-15-oxford-black-oxford-dambuzdo-marechera/

My ten of diamonds led me from Transylvania to the Indian Ocean as I read Fredrick Marryat’s “The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountainshttps://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/04/12/the-white-wolf-of-the-hartz-mountains-by-frederick-marryat/

Katherine presents another “magical” post, featuring “Disillusion” by Edward Bryant http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/deal-me-in-week-15-disillusion/

Hanne drew “Richard Wagner’s two of hearts” (from what has become my new favorite novelty deck of cards) and read the Louise Eldrich story, “Love Snares.” http://readingoncloud9.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/love-snares-by-louise-erdrich/

If you’re looking for some extracurricular short story reading and are a fan of dystopian literature, check out my preceding post about the anthology, “Perfect Flaw.”

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Ray Bradbury’s “The Last Night of the World”

Short Story #49 of 2014

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My annual short story reading project is winding down and yesterday morning I drew the six of Spades, leading me to Ray Bradbury’s story, “The Last Night of the World.” It was one of the shortest (just over four pages in my edition) stories I’ve read this year and, frankly, ultimately one of the most unsatisfying. First published in Esquire Magazine in 1951, it is also a part of his highly acclaimed collection, “The Illustrated Man.”

(Below: the February, 1951 edition of Esquire Magazine)

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This story is the second of those that I’ve read from this collection that deals with how people react to the knowledge that their lives will soon end (The other was “Kaleidoscope,” which I’ve blogged about before). https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/kaleidoscope-by-ray-bradbury/ The reactions of the characters in this story couldn’t be more different than in Kaleidoscope. In “The Last Night of the World” the characters, a married couple with children, have a kind of resigned acceptance of the fact that the world will simply come to an end that night. How they, and everyone else, knows this is a little vague, except they seem to have shared a common dream, wherein the certainty of the end is not in doubt.

The wife speculates, “Do we deserve this?” and he says, “It’s not a matter of deserving; its just that things didn’t work out.” Later she says, “We haven’t been too bad, have we?” and he says, “No, nor enormously good. I suppose that’s the trouble.”

According to this story, the date that the world will end is October 19, 1969. I’m not sure if this is significant and in my brief, “drive-by research” for this post found no explanation. All in all a perplexing story, and not among my favorites by Bradbury.

This one’s actually available online too. Click the link below if you have 5-6 minutes to spare to read it.

http://www.esquire.com/fiction/fiction/ray-bradbury-last-night-of-the-world-0251

(Below: Clint Eastwood in the great movie, “Unforgiven,” echoed Ray Bradbury’s story by telling Little Bill, “Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it…”)

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Kaleidoscope by Ray Bradbury

Short Stories on Wednesdays

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Short Stories on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Nancy at A Simple Clockwork. Participants read (at least) one short story a week and post about it, usually linking to their post in a comment on Nancy’s site. It’s a great way to learn about new stories and writers. Many times the stories posted about are available for free on line and are linked within the post – as mine is this week. I am participating in this meme in conjunction with my own short story reading project for 2013 – “Project: Deal Me In!”

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I drew the six of spades from my short story deck this past weekend. This year, stories in that suit are supposed to be of the “Ghost, Scary, or Sci-Fi” category. An argument could be made that this Bradbury story qualifies on all three grounds.

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The human experience has been changed in many ways by technology. One of these ways, which this story led me to ponder about would be a human’s sometimes increased knowledge of the specific time of our inevitable death. We do not hear the old-time stories where a doctor gives his patient “six-weeks” to live* or some other somewhat arbitrary period as often as we used to. As our medical science has become more precise, so has its ability to more closely estimate the time of our “expiration date.” In this short story by Bradbury, the crew of a rocket ship that has been rocked by an explosion knows exactly how much time will elapse before their life must end.

Though hurtled into space through a gaping hole in their ship, the crew are protected by their spacesuits, but do not possess any means of locomotion. They have become human satellites. The radio transmitters in the helmets are functional, though, and that allows the handful of crew mates to maintain conversation as they fly apart in whichever direction the blast sent them. Knowing their doom is imminent, the men react different ways. Some with childlike terror, some with bitterness, some with meanness, some with the contentedness of A Life Well Lived. The character from whose point of view the story is predominantly told is the captain, Hollis. He muses about things in his life left undone and dreams unfulfilled. Of all the crew, he is the only one for whom his trajectory will lead him to fall into Earth, which allows a cute, poignant ending to this tale. Not a bad story, but not among the best I’ve read this year either.

Ever since the news of Ray Bradbury’s death earlier this year, I’ve been wanting to read more of his work, which, with the exception of “Fahrenheit 451” I had thus far neglected. What other books or stories of his would you recommend? I acquired this story in an anthology picked up at a used book sale. It’s titled The Omnibus of Science Fiction, first published in 1952, it includes 42 stories, many by pioneers in the genre

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I found this story in a few places online. One of them is here http://www.scaryforkids.com/kaleidoscope-by-ray-bradbury

*remember the one about the doctor who gave his patient six weeks to live? The patient couldn’t pay his bill so the doctor gave him another six weeks. Ah, the classics…  🙂