Deal Me In – Week 39 Wrap Up


We’re at the three quarter post of the Deal Me In 2014 track and thus now in the home stretch. Below are links to new posts this week.

Dale read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown”

Randall read Ray Bradbury’s “Junior”

Katherine read Joyce Carol Oates’ “The Hand Puppet”

I read Leo Tolstoy’s “God See’s the Truth But Waits” but may not post about it. I did post about a remarkable non-DMI story, “Axolotl” by Julio Cortazar if you want to read something 🙂

Candiss checked in with an update ( ) and I for one am glad to hear she is still reading her short stories, even if there haven’t been any posts lately. 🙂

This is a non-DMI post of James’ but it does deal with short stories if you’d like to read

I missed Bellezza’s post last week about the Edgar Allen Poe classic, “The Black Cat”


Deal Me In – Week 16 Wrap Up


Happy Easter to all! I hope everyone is enjoying the weekend and maybe some nice spring weather like we had here in Indiana today. Below are links to the new posts I’ve found since the last update. Please take a moment if you can to visit your fellow Deal Me In-ers blogs and explore what stories they read this week – maybe you’ll find one you’ll want to add to your list. 🙂

Dale’s ten of spades was Graham Greene’s “The End of the Party”

James paired Haruki Murakami’s “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman” with Christopher Barzak’s “We Do Not Come in Peace”

I read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Mrs. Bullfrog” as prescribed by my six of spades

It’s the jack of hearts and Robert Silverberg’s story “Crossing Into the Empire” for Katherine this week:

And, from Hanne, the queen of spades yielded Lorrie Moore’s “How to Talk to Your Mother”

“Mrs. Bullfrog” by Nathaniel Hawthorne


(I love African Bullfrogs)

For week 16 of the Deal Me In 2014 Short Story Reading Challenge, I drew the six of spades. Spades are my suit for “darker” stories and this one certainly qualified. For my complete roster of 2014 click here. Prior years’ rosters are accessible via the links on the left.


(Six of spades image from

The first sentences of this story certainly make you want to read on: “It makes me melancholy to see how like fools some very sensible people act in the matter of choosing wives. They perplex their judgments by a most undue attention to little niceties of personal appearance, habits, disposition, and other trifles which concern nobody but the lady herself.”

So this will be a story about a match that didn’t work out well? Maybe. The narrator, Mr. Bullfrog, actually admits that he could be counted among those fools: “For my own part I freely confess that, in my bachelorship, I was precisely such an over-curious simpleton as I now advise the reader not to be.”

Mr. Bullfrog, a fastidious shopkeeper, finds only somewhat late in life a woman who he feels to be the perfect match for him, and “within a fortnight” the two are wed. All is going well. At first. It is on their “matrimonial jaunt” in a carriage ride, that he discovers he has hitherto only seen one side of his bride. That would be her good side, naturally.

The careless driver, not mindful of a hazard in the road, allows the carriage to overturn, sending his passengers tumbling. Mr. Bullfrog says “What became of my wits I cannot imagine; they have always had a perverse trick of deserting me just when they are most needed.” Disoriented by the accident, he is amazed to see the coachman being chastised by a strange personage, one “of grisly aspect, with a head almost bald, and sunken cheeks, apparently of the feminine gender, though hardly to be classed in the gentler sex.” He also notices that his dear Mrs. Bullfrog is nowhere to be seen…

Not an overly long or particularly deep story, but I do enjoy Hawthorne’s deft command of the English language, and it is always a pleasure to revisit his work.

This story is available in the public domain and may be read online in many places, one of which is

What about YOU? Have you read this story? What about others by Hawthorne? Which are your favorites among his works?




Deal Me In – Week 11 Wrap Up


We had a full house at DMI2014 this week. If you throw out (er, I guess I mean “discard”) my seven of clubs, we’re “jacks full” of eights. Although, we might not have left the table in one piece if this were a real poker game – two of our jacks were the jack of clubs. Try explaining THAT while raking in your winnings. 🙂


Anyway, on to the stories. Below are links to all the posts I saw as of the time of this writing. If there’s one I missed, feel free to link in the comments to this post. As always, I encourage everyone to visit and read the posts of your fellow participants, perhaps leaving a comment if you wish…

James read two “stories”, Grace Paley’s “An Interest in Life” and George Orwell’s essay, “England, Your England.” George and Grace? That has a familiar ring to it…

Dale read another classic, “The Celestial Railroad” by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Katherine read “The Eight of December” by James Smed, another story from her David Copperfield collection. Appropriately, she also links to a video of another great, “magic” card trick.

Jay (that’s me) read another Russian short story (I’m loving these!), “Lazarus” by Leonid Andreyev.

Candiss’s eight of spades led her to the story “Brownies” by ZZ Packer

And… late breaking from Hanne at Reading on Cloud 9 just after I posted this… is Andre Dubus’s “A Father’s Story”

Hawthorne: A Life by Brenda Wineapple


Last weekend I finished the first book of my ongoing 2012 Project: Reading twelve author biographies. My January selection, “Hawthorne: A Life” by Brenda Wineapple has set the bar fairly high for subsequent entries. I’ve read several of Hawthorne’s novels (The Scarlet Letter, The House of Seven Gables, and The Marble Faun) and dozens of his short stories, but this was my first real introduction to Hawthorne, the man…

It can sometimes feel a bit profane for us mere readers to learn of the origin and genesis of our favorite stories. It’s like the old warning about not ever getting a ‘backstage pass’ to go behind the scenes to witness your favorite television program being made – it’ll lose its magic and you won’t like it any more. Wineapple, however, succeeds in allowing these glimpses in the behind the scenes motivations and origins of Hawthorne’s works without ruining our appreciation of them in the process.

The book even provides something of a “volume discount,” since peeks into the lives of some of the other famous American authors are a significant part of the book. Melville, Emerson, Thoreau, Longfellow, and Alcott to name just a few.

In spite of his associations, though, Hawthorne was at his core a loner and rather insecure. I had not known before reading this book that he frequently burned his own manuscripts that weren’t up to his own high standards. Wineapple says, “Hawthorne was a perfectionist unwilling to release any of his work to the public before he had polished it to a high gloss.” Another favorite passage related to his burning quotes him as saying, “Thoughts meant to delight the world and endure for ages, had perished in a moment, and stirred no heart but mine.” I loved that one.

(below: Hawthorne in his younger, “dashing” years…)


I also hadn’t known of his politics (really his friends’ politics; he didn’t seem to hold many strong views himself) and his close association with president Franklin Pierce (often referred to as either the worst or weakest of our presidents), a college classmate and friend. Hawthorne’s fawning official biography of Pierce cost him “hundreds of friends” who “drop off me like autumn leaves.” This was in the time where the country was becoming increasing divided and polarized over the issue of slavery.

I was struck also by Hawthorne’s often crippling self doubt and his expressed fears that he will “never make a distinguished figure in the world, and all I hope or wish is to plod along with the multitude.” In another letter he muses that he is likely doomed to become part of “that dull race of money-getting drudges” (in other words, having to get a “real job”).

There was also the traditional lore about Hawthorne. How “the spirit of my Puritan ancestors was mighty in me,” and how “Salem was where women had dangled from the gallows, and Hawthorne’s great-grandfather had all but tied the rope.”

I’ll finish by citing one quotation which sums up Hawthorne in a great, succinct way: Hawthorne’s best stories “penetrate the secret horrors of ordinary life.”

How do you like the writings of Nathaniel Hawthorne? Too dark? Too hard to read? What are some of your favorites?

P.S. February’s selection in my author biography project: “Memory Babe” – about one of my favorite authors, Jack Kerouac. Has anyone read that one?

(Below: Hawthorne’s “Wayside” home in Concord.  He liked to write up in the tower, access to which was gained by a trapdoor, upon which he set his chair while he was writing so as not to be disturbed)