The Nose – Nikolai Gogol

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It was the two of clubs this week for Deal Me In 2014. Since deuces are wild, I got to pick an “ad hoc” story and decided to stay within my theme for clubs – stories by Russian authors. One story I’d heard a buzz about during my other Russian reading was Nikolai Gogol’s “The Nose,” and I had really enjoyed his “The Cloak” and “St. John’s Eve” earlier on in DMI2014, so I chose that one to close out my suit for the year. It turned out to be probably my least favorite Russian story of 2014. So much for wild cards.

“FARCE really does occur in this world, and, sometimes, farce altogether without an element of probability.”

I’d argue that Gogol’s story goes beyond farce. My dictionary defines it (farce) as “a light dramatic composition marked by broadly satirical comedy and improbable plot.” The plot of The Nose (a man awakens to find his nose “missing” later encountering it wandering around town in the guise of a public official)  is beyond improbable, which is maybe why Gogol inserts the sentence above at the start of part three of the story. If you think about that sentence, though, it’s self-contradictory. Something without an element of probability occurs? What?

Anyway, perhaps this story just didn’t suit my taste. Give me “The Cloak” or the darker “St. John’s Eve” any day and keep your “Nose” out of my business. 🙂

Read this story online at https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/g/gogol/nikolai/g61n/

below: a statue of Gogol presides over a prominent street in modern day St. Petersburg.

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Deal Me In – Week 36 Wrap Up

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New Deal Me In Posts This Week:

Randall shares a funny(!) tale from Edgar Allan Poe, “The Angel of the Odd” http://timeenuf.blogspot.com/2014/09/the-angel-of-odd-by-edgar-allan-poe.html

James reads Haruki Murakami’s “The Year of Spaghetti” and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “The Arrangers of Marriage”http://jamesreadsbooks.com/2014/09/02/haruki-murakami-vs-chimamanda-ngozi-adichie/

Dale tries on Junot Diaz for the first time, with that author’s story, “Edison, New Jerseyhttp://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/09/04/junot-diaz-edison-new-jersey/

Katherine read Raymond Feitz’s “Geroldo’s Incredible Trick” http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/09/06/deal-me-in-week-36-geroldos-incredible-trick/

I read Nikolai Gogol’s signature story, “The Cloak
https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/the-cloak-by-nikolai-gogol/

Other Short Story-related links:

Are short stories “annoying buzzing insects set upon this world” to distract writers from longer works? Interesting article. http://www.locusmag.com/Roundtable/2014/09/anton-strout-guest-post-the-eternal-epic-struggle-of-novels-vs-short-stories/

Nice interview with Margaret Atwood (I love her) and her new short story collection. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/books-and-media/qa-margaret-atwood-on-her-new-collection-stone-mattress-maddaddam-and-how-to-kill-a-man-in-the-arctic/article20375640/?page=all

I particularly liked the following quote from her:

“I talk about money and artistic excellence and there’s only four forms: There’s a good book that makes money, there’s a bad book that makes money, there’s a good book that doesn’t make money, and there’s a bad book that doesn’t make money. So of those four, the first three I can live with.” 🙂

Margaret Atwood

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Another review of the upcoming Atwood release is at http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/the-stone-mattress-by-margaret-atwood-book-review-these-short-stories-are-razor-sharp-9700477.html

I’m a big fan of this series and it has contributed many stories to my Deal Me In short story decks. The 2014 edition comes out next month. http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/pageviews/review-best-american-short-stories-2014-exhibits-writing-storytelling-best-blog-entry-1.1923816

The Cloak by Nikolai Gogol

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(A Russian card for a Russian story)

I may have pulled a muscle in my arm this weekend from patting myself on the back for my decision, when putting together my roster for Deal Me In 2014, to dedicate the clubs suit to “stories by Russian authors.” 🙂 After drawing the Ace of Clubs this week, I’m now 9 out of 9 in picking great stories from that suit!

This was only the second work by Nikolai Gogol (below) that I’ve read. (I tackled his story, “St. John’s Eve” back in May. https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/05/11/st-johns-eve-by-nikolai-gogol/

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I knew of this story, The Cloak, by reputation but knew nothing of the plot. It reminded me a little of Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener” in that its protagonist, Akakiy Akakievitch Bashmatchkin, is a minor official/apparatchik in the Russian government, whose primary duty is to copy letters and other official documents. Already rendered vulnerable by fate’s having allotted him a timid nature and now a low-paying job, he seems primed to be toppled by the next blow that the great forces of the world decide to deal him…

Gogol writes: “There exists in St. Petersburg a foe of all who receive a salary of four-hundred rubles a year, or there-abouts. This foe is no other than the Northern cold, although it is said to be very healthy.”

You see, Akakiy’s old and humble cloak has become threadbare and his daily journeys to and from his office are taking their toll on his nearly exposed back and shoulders. A tailor refuses to mend it “there’s nothing to sew a patch to…” and a new coat is beyond his means. The story takes many twists and turns as Akakiy tries to resolve his situation. I’m afraid it is a sad story, but it has its share of surprises and is thick with quotable lines and dialogue. If you’d like to read it yourself, it’s available online at http://www.classicreader.com/book/2026/1

(The story’s title is often translated as The Overcoat. This title makes more sense to me)

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Have you read any of Gogol’s stories? Which are your favorites?

Deal Me In – Week 19 Wrap Up

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Below are links to new Deal Me In-related posts since last Sunday. I’m happy to relate that Risa, a fellow “friend of the short story” with whom I go way back to the “Short Stories on Wednesdays” era, is now joining the DMI crew. Welcome, Risa!

Also, last week, I mentioned that Cedarstation was adapting Deal Me In to help “clean up” her TBR list of books. Another blog, Plethora of Books, has now also taken up that variant (“reading roulette”) of the Deal Me In challenge. http://bookchallenges.weebly.com/9/post/2014/05/reading-roulette-card-1.html
Initial post: http://bookchallenges.weebly.com/9/post/2014/05/reading-roulette.html

Dale reads one of the titans of the short story form: Ernest Hemingway (and his story “Soldier’s Home“) http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/05/09/ernest-hemingway-soldiers-home/

Risa of Breadcrumb Reads joins us with her first post – on the fantasy story “The Wizard’s Coming” by Juliet E. McKenna http://breadcrumbreads.wordpress.com/2014/05/10/the-wizards-coming/

I posted about two of my stories this week: Ray Bradbury’s “All Summer in a Day https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/05/05/all-summer-in-a-day-by-ray-bradbury/ and Nikolai Gogol’s “St. John’s Eve” https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/05/11/st-johns-eve-by-nikolai-gogol/

Katherine read Robert Weinberg’s “Dealing With the Devil” http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/05/10/deal-me-in-week-19-dealing-with-the-devil/

Also, C.A. Talks a little about short story month and has some helpful links at https://bonesparkblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/05/knight-time-rewind/

That’s it for this week. & Good luck to those hearty souls participating in the Bout-of-Books Readathon. Happy reading to all!

“St. John’s Eve” by Nikolai Gogol

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(Above: St. John the Baptist)

This is the second week in a row that I’ve drawn a club for my Deal Me In Short Story Reading Challenge For this year, clubs are my designated suit for “stories by Russian authors,” and all I have read thus far have been excellent. This week’s draw, the nine of clubs, was assigned to the Nikolai Gogol story, “St. John’s Eve.” I haven’t read much Gogol, but his famous story, “The Cloak,” is also on my list for this year, waiting patiently to be drawn.

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St. John’s Eve – for any fellow heathens who don’t know – is a religious holiday (celebrated on June 23rd) in honor of John the Baptist. St. John is famous for his wildness and zealousness, and those same qualities could be said to suffuse this story of a small village in Russia that is plagued by a strange man, Basavriuk, who seems to appear and disappear out of/into nowhere. Many believe him to be the devil incarnate. He tempts villagers with gifts that they are both afraid to refuse and accept, for if some trinket was accepted, “the next night some fiend from the swamp, with horns on his head, came and began to squeeze your neck, if there was a string of beads upon it, or bite your finger if there was a ring upon it, or drag you by the hair, if ribbons were braided in it.”

Enter a young man known as “Peter the Orphan,” a poor soul who labors for the Cossack, Korzh, who also happens to be the father of a lovely daughter, Pidorka. Gogol relates that “well, you know what happens when young men and maidens live side by side,” and the two youths, naturally, fall in love. Things are going okay until Korzh catches the unfortunate young lovers kissing, and Peter is promptly turned out and told never to show himself again.

Desperate about his lost love and concluding that he only lacks a fortune to be an acceptable suitor in the eyes of Pidorka’s father, who can Peter turn to? Basavriuk, of course. The story takes a horrific turn, which I will leave the interested reader to find out for himself – the story is available online at http://www.readbookonline.net/readOnLine/1048/

I liked the final lines of the story: “…all appears to be quiet now, in the place where our village stands; but it was not so very long ago… that I remember how a good man could not pass the ruined tavern which a dishonest race had long managed for their own interest…”

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Have you read this story, or any others by Gogol? What do you think of the Russian authors? I admit I have become quite partial to them…

I own this story as part of my anthology “Great Short Stories of the World.”

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