#24in48 Readathon – Hour 16 Update:

: okay, I got off to a much slower start than I hoped, having decided I should at least put in an appearance at my brother’s birthday party. I got home about 9:45 (I decided to used GMT for my time zone for this readathon, so that means I official started at 8pm here) and hoped to read for at least awhile, but didn’t last too long before ISP started drifting off. I decided to let sleep happen (like I have a choice!) and just hit the ground running this morning, which I did. Immediately getting started by reading a couple stories in bed before I got up. Then it was off to Panera for coffee and breakfast where, for once, no one was in “my spot” and I read pretty solidly untila bout 10:30. At that point I’d read nine of my intended fifty-two stories and drew my card for the tenth one.

Activities: I’ve been pretty active in tweeting updates and trying to read and like a few tweets between each break in stories. This is quite fun for me, seeing what everyone else is reading and even what challenges they may be encountering during the readathon. Seeing some of their progress reports, though, makes me wish I were a much faster reader (this happens every time I participate in a readathon, though.)
Time: I’m averaging around a twenty minutes a story I guess, which means it’s theoretically possible I complete all fifty two during the readathon, but we’ll see.


Story 1: Rathskeller Biergarten & couch at home; 2. Couch at home 3 & 4 Bed; 5-9 Panera Bread on Southport Road (where much of this blog has been written over the years)

It seems appropriate to use a space travel-related deck of cards, so I opted for this “Space Center” deck.

space center cards

Stories Read (& my rating) so Far:

7 of Hearts – Way in the Middle of the Air (4.0 Stars)

Ace of Clubs – The Watchful Poker Chip of H.Matisse (2.5 stars)

9 of Hearts – The Martian (3.5 stars)

3 of Hearts – The Third Expedition (4.5 stars)

8 of Spades – The Witch Door (4 stars)

4 of Diamonds – The Man (4 stars)

Jack of Clubs – The Toynbee Convector (3.5 stars)

5 of Hearts – The Fire Balloons (3.5 stars)

10 of Hearts – There Will Come Soft Rains (4.5 stars)

: It’s odd that random chance thus far has front loaded my stories from The Martian Chronicles. Maybe Fate knows how much I liked that book and wanted to start men out with more favorites. There’s something about “There Will Come Soft Rains” that really gets to me. Something about an “automated” house outliving its creators yet eventually falling victim itself to “The Forces of Nature” that activates my “sympathy subroutine” – and the inclusion of the poem by Teasdale is perfect in this story. A couple stories examined religious themes too,especially “The Man” which I don’t think I’ve ever read before. It offers a somewhat damn good view of humanity – or at least some of its members.

Giveaway Update:
I’ve recorded just over 30 entries or “chances in the hat” so far. If I eclipse 100, I will consider adding a second giveaway item. You can enterthegive away by commenting on this – or any – blog post during the readathon, or by liking or replying to my tweets, or – for double credit – liking or following The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies’ Facebook Page. https://m.facebook.com/bradburycenter/posts/1767308936627668

Up Next: I’ve adjourned to the Indiana State Library in downtown Indy – a favorite weekend reading/working spot and am going to try to read for the next three hours straight. Follow my progress on Twitter (@Bibliophilopoly) and let me know how you’re doing as well.

My 24in48 Readathon Plans


What is the #24in48 Readathon? You can find out details about it here, but essentially it’s a readathon where the goal is to spend 24 hours out of a 48-hour weekend (Friday midnight until Sunday midnight) reading.   I don’t recall how flexible the start and end times are, but I usually cheat a little bit and make mine run from early evening Friday to early evening Sunday, since I’m usually asleep after 10pm… 🙂

Stories to read in 24in48 Readathon – “Deal Me In version”

I chose eight source books, all anthologies or short story collections (or essays, in one case) by one author. I picked only books that I have a kindle version of, so that I can read “on the run” on my phone or iPad, if I find myself in line somewhere or if I take a break to go grab a bite and sit at the bar.

I picked three stories from each book, somewhat based on title (or what I hadn’t read of the anthology before) but also more or less random.  I will attempt to read all 24 stories within the 48 hour period of the #24in48 Readathon (leftover reading time will be used to finish up “A Brief History of Seven Killings” for a book club meeting the week after the readathon.)  Of note also is that I’m reading three of Roxane Gay’s essays from her collection “Bad Feminist” in anticipation of my attending a talk of hers here at the Central Library on January 24th.

I’ve applied the Deal Me In ‘randomizing element’ to 24in48 at least once before, last July, where I read 24 stories and actually managed to post a brief word about ALL of them.  See posts here, here, and here for details. Wow, just looking back at those posts, I’m remembering how much fun I had last July and can’t wait to get started again. I’m sure I won’t have time to post about all the stories this readathon, but I’ll try to at least post about my progress and maybe some detail about my favorite ones.

I’ll rate the stories according to the card values in a Euchre Deck: Right Bower- 5 stars, Left Bower – 4.5 stars,  Ace – 4.0 stars, King 3.5 stars, Queen 3 stars, Ten – 2.5 stars, Nine – 2 stars.

Here are the stories I’ll be reading. Do you recognize any favorite authors or stories? Which have you read before, and how did YOU like them?


♦9♦“A Ribbon for Rosie” by Isla Bick (Strange New Worlds II)
♦10♦ “A Science for Being Alone” by Daniel Alarcon (War by Candlelight)
♦J♦ “A Strong Dead Man” by Daniel Alarcon (War by Candlelight)
♦Q♦ “An Idyl of the Rod” by Maurice Thompson (Hoosier Mosaics)
♦K♦ “Bang! You’re Dead!” by Ray Bradbury (Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales)
♦A♦ “I Once Was Miss America” (essay) by Roxane Gay (Bad Feminist)


♥9♥ “In the Hills Beyond Twilight” by William Ransom (The End was Not the End anthology)
♥10♥ “No News, or What Killed the Dog?” by Ray Bradbury (Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales)
♥J♥ “Plug and Play” by Jason Sizemore (Irredeemable)
♥Q♥ “Seventh Heaven” by Dustan Moon (Strange New Worlds II)
♥K♥ “The Attack of the Giant Baby” by Kit Reed (The Very Best of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Vol. 2)
♥A♥ “The Country of the Kind” by Damon Knight (The Very Best of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Vol. 2)

♠9♠ “The Dead and Metty Crawford” by Jason Sizemore (Irredeemable)
♠10♠ “The First Law of Metaphysics” by Michael S. Poteet (Strange New Worlds II)
♠J♠ “The Morality of Tyler Perry” (essay by Roxane Gay (Bad Feminist)
♠Q♠ “The Third Level” by Jack Finney (The Very Best of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Vol. 2)
♠K♠ “The Venus of Balhinch” by Maurice Thompson (Hoosier Mosaics)
♠A♠ “The Watchers” by Ray Bradbury (Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales)


♣9♣“Third Avenue Suicide” by Daniel Alarcon (War by Candlelight)
♣10♣ “Trout’s Luck” by Maurice Thompson (Hoosier Mosaics)
♣J♣ “Twenty Year Plan” by Jay Wilburn (The End was Not the End anthology)
♣Q♣ “Typical First Year Professor” (essay) by Roxane Gay (Bad Feminist)
♣K♣ “Useless Creek” by Jason Sizemore (Irredeemable)
♣A♣ “Waist Deep” by Bill Blume (The End was Not the End anthology)

Happy 200th Birthday, Indiana!


cake image found at http://fmdg.org/

On December 11th, two-hundred years ago, Indiana became a state. The 19th state in the United States of America to be precise. 346 days ago, here at Bibliophilopolis we began a year-long celebration of the State’s Bicentennial year, retrofitting our annual “Deal Me In” short story reading challenge (What is Deal Me In??) to contain only stories with some Indiana connection. It’s been a long journey and, rather than spread out the final three posts of the rest of December (i.e. after Indiana’s actual birthday has passed), I thought I’d just do the last few early to get them posted closer to the exact date of Indiana’s birth.

Below is a list, in order, of the fifty-two selections for this year’s Deal Me “IN” project:

1st Quarter* 

(*Hey, I’m an Accountant; I’m breaking these up into quarters!)

Week 1: ♣8♣ – Mr Blake’s Walking Stick – Edward Eggleston

Week 2: ♦9♦And One for the Road – Joanna Parypinski

Week 3: ♥7♥The Gods of Indianapolis – Jason de Koff

Week 4: ♠Q♠ – Life on a Flat Top – Ernie Pyle

Week 5: ♥Q♥  – Drills – Laura Citino

Week 6: ♣Q♣ – Bobby and the Keyhole: A Hoosier Fairy Tale – Edward Eggleston

Week 7: ♥5♥I Can Hear the Clicking at Night – Ann Gamble

Week 8: ♣10♣ – The Legend of Potato Creek – Maurice Thompson

Week 9: ♥10♥Come Go With Me – Nora Bonner

Week 10: ♦8♦Shadowed – Christine Johnson

Week 11: ♦7♦What Happens in Hell Stays in Hell – Clint Smith

Week 12: ♦2♦Play Like I’m Sheriff – Jack Cady

Week 13: ♣A♣ – A Reward of Merit – Booth Tarkington

2nd Quarter

Week 14: ♦4♦Missing Athena – Josh Green

Week 15: ♠6♠ – The Gentleman of the Press in Skirts (Janet Flanner) – Fred Cavinder

Week 16: ♦5♦It Came From Burr County – Marian Allen

Week 17: ♠3♠ – God Bless You Mr. Vonnegut: And Farewell – David Hoppe

Week 18: ♥9♥The Passeur – E.E. Lyons

Week 19: ♥2♥Siddhartha – Abe Aamidor

Week 20: ♥A♥Letter to the Man in Carnivorous Plants – Lauren Ann Bolton

Week 21: ♠10♠ – Politics and Poetry (John Milton Hay) – Fred Cavinder

Week 22: ♦3♦The Penance of Scoot McCutcheon – Frank Bill

Week 23: ♣J♣ – Next Door – Kurt Vonnegut

Week 24: ♥6♥Ransom Place – Corey Dalton

Week 25: ♣2♣ – The Boyhood of Christ – Lew Wallace

Week 26: ♣6♣ – Autumn Full of Apples – Dan Wakefield

3rd Quarter

Week 27: ♠4♠ – Men From Mars – Ernie Pyle

Week 28: ♦10♦Schliemann in Indianapolis – Michael Martone

Week 29: ♠J♠ – Peyton Manning – Champion: This Doesn’t Happen Very Often – David Hoppe

Week 30: ♥8♥The Devil and James Whitcomb Riley – Jason Roscoe

Week 31: ♥4♥A Conversation with Tim O’Brien – James J. Hanna

Week 32: ♠8♠ – The B-29s – Ernie Pyle

Week 33: ♥3♥Everything Strange and Unknown – Joe Meno

Week 34: ♠A♠ – Poet, Prophet and Philosopher (Max Ehrmann) – Fred Cavinder

Week 35: ♦6♦The Circle Effect – Diana Catt

Week 36: ♣4♣ – Harrison Bergeron – Kurt Vonnegut

Week 37: ♦K♦The Table of the Elements – J T Whitehead

Week 38: ♣5♣ – The Old Soldier’s Story – James Whitcomb Riley

Week 39: ♥K♥Not in Kansas Anymore – Rocco Versaci

4th Quarter

Week 40: ♥J♥A Hundred Ways to Do it Wrong – Emily Temple

Week 41: ♠K♠ – Songs of Experience: Bob Dylan at the Egyptian Room – David Hoppe

Week 42: ♣K♣ – The Haunted Valley – Ambrose Bierce

Week 43: ♦Q♦Uncle Sack – Murphy Edwards

Week 44: ♠5♠ – Profiles in Survival: Eleanor M. Garen – John Shivley

Week 45: ♣3♣ – The Boarded Window – Ambrose Bierce

Week 46: ♠9♠ – Profiles in Survival: James Duckworth – John Shivley

Week 47: ♣7♣ – The Pedagogue – Maurice Thompson

Week 48: ♣9♣ – The Beautiful Lady – Booth Tarkington

Week 49: ♦A♦Fort Wayne is Seventh on Hitler’s List – Michael Martone

Week 50: ♠7♠ – Educational Testing: Just Another Job – David Hoppe

Week 51: ♦J♦Murder on Indiana Avenue – Andrea Smith

Week 52: ♠2♠ – Working a Jigsaw – Barbara Shoup

During the course of the year for this project, I read more than twenty authors for the first time, and several I know will become future favorites.  My favorite suit was easily “Clubs” – the “legendary authors” suit, but each suit had its own merits and I did enjoy reading some short, non-fiction works for the first time in a Deal Me In challenge this year.  So much so that I may include a suit of essays in my 2017 version. We’ll see.

Well, thanks to all those who followed along this year, and especially those that commented on some of these 52 posts. If Deal Me IN was a new discovery for you this year, I hope you’ll consider doing the challenge in 2017.  The official sign-up post will be on 12/21/2016.


“Not in Kansas Anymore” by Rocco Versaci – selection #39 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♠K♠  King of Hearts (the picture at left is, appropriate for this story, from a Bicycle deck)

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, Hearts is my suit for “Stories from Indiana literary magazines and journals.

The Selection: “Not in Kansas Anymore” from my copy of the Spring 2014 issue of “Midwestern Gothic” magazine.

The Author: Rocco Versaci (pictured at left upper right [from his website]), who earned both his M.A. and PhD at Indiana University, and also worked as film critic for the Bloomington Herald times. He is currently teaching at Palomar College in San Marcos, California. You may learn more about this author at http://www.roccoversaci.com/

What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card, and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/story roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is also now officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.


Not in Kansas Anymore

“This is some perverted backwoods version of Zen, where I’m shackled to the present moment, forced to feel each droplet of sweat, smell each dead possum, listen to each echo of thunder.”

Are you a homebody or do like adventure? How do you feel about road trips? For my part, I’m usually happy staying at home, or at least only straying to places that I’m familiar and comfortable with.  That said, I have been on my share of road trips over the years as well and enjoyed them for the most part. In a sense, this story reminded me of that feeling of being “on the road” and made me think that, in a way, being on the road is almost an altered state of consciousness…

This is kind of what the narrator of this story experiences.  We join him in medias res, pedaling across the country on his bicycle, as he’s leaving Kansas and entering Missouri (just one of the reasons for the story’s title). His reaction to seeing the “leaving Kansas and entering Missouri” sign on the road? “About Goddamn time!” (having driven across Kansas, I can appreciate the fact that it is a very long way across)  He encounters a detour, which have come to plague him during his trek.  Here we also learn a little of his background:

“Detours are another matter. Detours, I know about. I hit a big one in my mid-thirties. A lump in my chest that became nine weeks of chemotherapy. Nine weeks inside a body being slowly almost-killed. Like a lot of detours, it had piss-poor signage, and by the time I got back on the road I’d been on, it didn’t look the same.”

Smattered with details of small encounters on his trip, especially in the Ozarks, the story leaves the reader with a good idea of that ‘altered state’ of consciousness that being on the road can evoke. I liked the story a lot and it made me feel like going on a trip myself. I will NOT be bicycling, however. J

What are some of your favorite road trips (of any kind)?  I’ve often thought of going on a literary road trip, retracing some of Kerouac’s routes but haven’t pulled the trigger yet. Or maybe a re-tread of (roughly) the path of the Lewis and Clark Expedition would be fun.  I also have accumulated a list of great places that I visited as a child on summer ‘family camping trips’ that I’d really like to see again through the eyes of my adult self. Maybe when I retire I’ll finally have ample time to try these things…

below: from wikipedia – a map of the Ozark Mountains, where much up and down pedaling was done by the author in the story


Next Door by Kurt Vonnegut – Selection 23 of Deal Me “IN” 2016


img_7504The Card: ♣J♣  Jack of Clubs

The Suit: For 2016, Clubs is my suit for “Legendary Indiana authors”

The Selection: “Next Door” from the short story collection “Welcome to the Monkey House”; it was originally published in the April, 1995 issue of Cosmopolitan. It was also made into a short film in 1975 – I was unaware of this prior to my “research” for this post.

The Author: Kurt Vonnegut. Hopefully he needs no introduction, but he is perhaps most famous for his novels Slaughterhouse Five and Cat’s Cradle. Indianapolis was his home town, and today the city is home to the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, which has a book club. Yes, of course, I am a member. 🙂 Vonnegut was also a frequent contributor of short stories in the great era when “The Slicks” – several prominent national magazines – were still regularly publishing short fiction.

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/storylegacy project seal of approval 2roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is now also officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

Next Door

Young Paul Leonard, though only eight years old, is no longer “a baby” and is, the evening of this story, being evaluated by his parents to determine whether or not he’s old enough to be left “home alone” while they enjoy a brief night out to see a movie. Paul probably is old enough, if the night of being home alone would have stayed true to his original plan of “just looking through my microscope I guess.” Instead, his time gazing through a lens at “hair, sugar, pepper – stuff like that” is interrupted by an escalating domestic donnybrook between his neighbors next door, Mr. & Mrs. Harger.

The Hargers’ default strategy when domestically quarrelling is to just turn up the radio (coincidentally the same strategy I used to use when my car started making strange noises) to drown themselves out in consideration of the Leonards or anyone else who might be overhearing. This time the radio’s volume is insufficient to prevent Paul from hearing them shouting “awful, unbelievable” things. The radio, though, tuned to “All Night Sam’s” call-in request show, gives Paul an idea…

This also allows Vonnegut to introduce us to All Night Sam, one of those great characters you sometimes meet in a short story and wonder how, in such a brief time, you get such a complete and perfect image of them. Sam takes his job of dedicating songs from one lover to another quite seriously, and even waxes philosophic when Paul calls in and requests a dedication from “Mr. Lemuel Harger to Mrs. Harger: I love you. Let’s make up and start over again.” Sam is moved by the request and assumes Paul is the Hargers’ son. He goes into a whole spiel about love and marriage and how folks might better be able to stick together, etc. It almost had me getting a little misty-eyed for a minute too, but at the end we’re brought back to reality with “And here’s Eartha Kitt, and ‘Somebody Bad Stole the Wedding Bell!'”* (He is a disc jockey after all).

It wouldn’t be a great Vonnegut story, though, if Kurt didn’t spring a mousetrap on us by the end. All is not as young Paul assumes, you see, and he – and his parents – are in for quite a surprise before the night is over.

It was a real pleasure to revisit this story, which I first read back in 2011. In fact, the collection “Welcome to the Monkey House” ended up being one of my favorites of the books I read that year. I have one other Vonnegut story waiting to be drawn in this year’s Deal Me IN: the classic “Harrison Bergeron.” I hope I enjoy that re-read as much as I did this one. 🙂

*I had to look this one up, but want to hear Eartha Kitt “Somebody Bad Stole the Wedding Bell?”  https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=YmpRvGZ80r4

The Embellished Movie Quote Challenge (name the film): Sally Kellerman “Whoever did write this blog post doesn’t know the first thing about Kurt Vonnegut!”

In Indianapolis, we even have a Kurt Vonnegut mural!  Located, appropriately on Mass Ave downtown in the heart of the city’s Arts District.

Actually, just a couple weeks ago I was walking north (away from the mural) on Mass Ave, and passed a couple of young women who were walking south. One was saying to the other, “Is that Albert Einstein?” Her friend replied, “No. It’s Kurt Vonnegut. He’s an author.” The first one said,”Oh. He looks like Albert Einstein, though, right?” 🙂
Playing card image from http://ovdiyenko.com

Vonnegut mural pic from http://www.herron.iupui.edu/blog/10112011/pamela-bliss-paints-larger-life-vonnegut-teach-spring-2012-class

For Esme, With Light and Shadow – Story #10 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

 The Card: ♦8♦ The Eight of Diamonds
About The Suit: ♦♦♦Diamonds are my suit for “contemporary” Indiana Authors.
The Story: “Shadowed” from the “Defy the Dark” anthology. I purchased my copy at Bookmamas Bookstore in Irvington (Indianapolis).

The Author: Christine Johnson. A Hoosier native, you can learn more about her and her writing at her website: http://www.christinejohnsonbooks.com which is also where her picture (included in the photo collage at left) is from. 🙂

legacy project seal of approval 2What is Deal Me “IN” 2016?  For an explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/story roster see here. Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection”of some kind.  Deal Me “IN” 2016 is also now officially endorsed as a Legacy Project by the Indiana Bicentennial Commission!

“Shadowed” by Christine Johnson

Okay, so this blog post’s title is not really the title of the story I read this week. It’s not everyday, however, that one encounters the name “Esme.” One other time I’ve encountered it, literarily speaking, was in the famous J.D. Salinger story, “For Esme, With Love and Squalor.” Another was the protagonist of this story, a princess afflicted by a cruel and unusual curse…

For reasons that would be too spoiler-y to elaborate, the Princess Esme cannot be in the presence of direct light. Sunlight, moonlight, firelight, and even torchlight are all very dangerous to her. The appearance of her shadow puts her in grave peril. The consequences of this are as you might imagine – she is kept indoors and cloistered by her family. Sometimes in the top room of her castle’s tower. It is from this lofty vantage point that, on a “mostly cloudy” day, she sneaks a peek at the festival unfolding below, which includes a jousting tournament, and is smitten with a young, fiery-haired knight, Rylan. So smitten, in fact, that she carelessly fails to notice the sun is making an appearance. When it does, it unleashes her shadow and launches this story, which relates her efforts to escape the curse.

Will the efforts of Rylan, her friend Margaret, and the town’s old witch be enough to break the curse? With what weapons would one fight a shadow, anyway? The story provides the answer to one of these questions. Whether or not the other is answered, I believe, is open to multiple interpretations, and I liked it that way. 🙂 Interested in reading this story? Look for it at your local bookstore or library, or even online, where a kindle version is available at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B009NF68R2/

Where else have you seen the name Esme in literature or in real life? Also, have you encountered any great “shadows” in literature? I can immediately think of one case in a prior year’s Deal Me In challenge, when I read Mary Williams Freeman’s “The Shadows on the Wall” https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/the-shadows-on-the-wall-by-mary-wilkins-freeman/ and I’m hopeful, but wonder if alert readers noticed that I even found a playing card at google images that included shadows?! 🙂

When reading this story, to help picture the events described, I found myself drawing upon my childhood memories of the “Classics Illustrated” comic book edition (See below – I still have my copy too!) of Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, which featured knights and a damsel in a tower, in that case the lovely Rebecca…

Next up for Deal Me In? The Seven of Diamonds. Which I have assigned to Clint Smith’s story “What Happens in Hell Stays in Hell.”

“Happy Trails” a Sherman Alexie short story

I drew the ace of clubs from my short story deck, and thus this was my week 50 pick for 2015’s Deal Me In short story reading challenge. In 2015, Clubs were my suit assigned to “stories from The New Yorker” of which I’ve enjoyed many. I’ve read Alexie before and own his story collection “War Dances.” He has also been featured by other participants in the Deal Me In challenge the last couple years. Mr. Alexie was in the news earlier this year when he cancelled some appearances in Indiana amid the national “outrage” about my state’s passing of a “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” – legislation for which I (among many) didn’t believe we had any need.  Politics aside, I found Alexie’s response disappointing in that it punished the wrong people (like me, or those who would attend his events – one of which was in honor of Banned Books Week(!) – and make no real impact other than publicity-wise). What did end up prompting an amendment to the law was a feared ECONOMIC impact (surprise!) to the state. For a moment, I considered removing Alexie’s story from my roster in a “ha! how do you like them apples?” tit for tat, but I thought it better to take the high road and not censor art based on political activity.

Ugh, I feel dirtied by even mentioning politics on this blog, so let’s get on with this story, which was first published in The New Yorker magazine in 2013. It’s narrated by a Native American member of the Coeur d’Alene tribe of the U.S. Northwest, a man who had a favorite uncle disappear some forty years ago. Our narrator decides he wants to hold a memorial for this uncle, now presumed dead (saying at one point “…we need to make the dead better people than they were, because it makes us look better for loving them.”), and the story follows his musings about how the uncle may have died (it is presumed that he would have contacted his family at some point over the years if he was still living – he “wasn’t the kind of person” not to do that. It also provides the opportunity for him to comment on the modern day world and conditions that the Coeur d’Alene live in.

It’s an eminently sad story, and perhaps the narrator has some self-loathing of his people too, hinted at when he refers to the uncle as a “half-assed warrior” of whom he speculates at the end of the story that:

Maybe he thought he could kill the world and instead learned that the world is undefeated.”

I loved that line. Have you read anything by Sherman Alexie? Perhaps his most famous work is “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” which has itself been the subject of multiple book banning incidents.

This story is available online at http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/06/10/happy-trails (I believe the New Yorker allows a limited number of views per month for non-subscribers)

This picture of Alexie was taken in 2008 (from Wikipedia)

The Most Wonderful Day of the Year – Announcement of the 6th Annual Deal Me In Challenge!

It’s December 21st, the SHORTest day of the year. What better date to take the plunge and sign up for a short story challenge? So, without further ado…

Welcome to the Short Story Reading Challenge, Deal Me In 2016!


(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

Yes, I know you’re being bombarded with posts about all sorts of reading challenges for the new year, and they all sound like a lot of fun. But here’s a unique challenge where your reading burden is relatively light AND where you still can experience a lot of different authors and genres.

What is the goal of the project?

To read 52 short stories in 2016 (that’s only one per week – versions with a lesser story requirement are noted below)

What do I need?

1) Access to at least fifty-two short stories (don’t own any short story collections or anthologies? See links to online resources below)
2) A deck of cards
3) An average of perhaps just thirty minutes of reading time each week

Where do I post* about my stories?

(*You don’t have to post about every single story, of course, but if you have something to say about the story you read any given week, your fellow participants would love to hear it.)

1) On your own blog or website if you have one (I will link to your post at the bottom of my weekly post. I currently plan to do my weekly post on Sundays)

2) if you don’t have a blog or website you may comment on any of my Deal Me In posts, sharing thoughts on your own story – or start one at WordPress or blogspot – it’s easy and free to create a basic blog.

How do I pick which stories to read?

(The 52 stories themselves are totally up to you.) Before you get start reading, come up with a roster of fifty-two stories (you can use any source) and assign each one to a playing card in a standard deck of cards. It can be fun to use different suits for different types of stories, but that is optional. I’ve often included one wild card for each suit too, so I can maybe read a story I’ve heard about during the year, or read another by an author I’ve discovered through this challenge. Each “week,” (if you’re like me, you may occasionally fall a story or two behind – that’s okay) you draw a card at random from your deck and that is the story you will read. There are links to last year’s participants’ rosters in the comments to last year’s sign-up if you want to see some examples. I’ll be posting my own 2016 roster soon. My twist this year? Since 2016 is my home state of Indiana’s bicentennial, I’ll be reading all Indiana-related stories and changing the name of my version to “Deal Me IN” (“IN” being capitalized on purpose as a nod to Indiana’s postal code abbreviation 🙂 )  (Dale, a four time Deal Me In participant at Mirror With Clouds has already posted about his plans for DMI 2016. Will you be next?)

What if I don’t have time to read a story every single week?

You don’t have to read your stories on a regular schedule (I almost always fall behind at least once during the year) and can catch up once a month if your prefer – OR try one of the challenge variations noted below, the Fortnight (or “payday” if you prefer) version is one story every two weeks or the “Full Moon Fever” version with just thirteen stories read or selected on seeing each full moon…

How do I sign up?

Leave a comment below with your URL and I will link you on my home page, where I’ll have a section in my sidebar for “2016 Deal Me In Participants.” I’ll try to periodically link to other Deal Me In posts I’ve seen recently too.

What is the purpose?

To have FUN and to be exposed to new authors and stories and maybe get in the habit of reading a short story a week. Isn’t that enough? 🙂

Some short story resources:
Classic Horror Stories:
AmericanLiterature.com short story of the day
EastoftheWeb’s short story of the day:
The Library of America’s short story of the week archive:
Looking for some really short stories? Try here

Deal Me In Variations:

The Deal Me In “Fortnight Version” – just use two suits from your deck and assign a story to each card, drawing a card every two weeks. If you get paid bi-weekly, you can use that as a reminder to draw a new card (I guess this makes the fortnight variation a.k.a. The “payday version.” 🙂

The Deal Me In “Euchre Deck Version”If you work for “one of those companies” where you only get paid twice a month on the 15th and 30th, e.g., use a euchre deck!

The Deal Me In “Full Moon Fever Version” – this would be the baby steps way to ease into the Deal Me In routine, basically reading just one story a month (who doesn’t have time for that?). Just use one suit or face cards only and you’re set. Seeing the full moon in the sky can also serve as a reminder – “hey, I need to read my next short story!” We only have twelve full moons in 2016, so maybe you can have a ‘discretionary read’ sometime during the year where you draw a thirteenth card.

Dates of the full moons in 2016: 1/23, 2/22, 3/23, 4/22, 5/21, 6/20, 7/19, 8/18, 9/16, 10/16, 11/14, and 12/23.

Want to “play with a full deck” – er, I mean full suit? You can try the using the new moons, there are 13 of them in 2016. 🙂  1/9, 2/8, 3/8, 4/7, 5/6, 6/4, 7/4, 8/2, 9/1, 9/30, 10/30, 11/29, and 12/29

Other participants in the past have added their own wrinkles: Reading a story a week for only half the year, reading two at a time and trying to find a “connection” between them, reading essays, plays, poems, or famous speeches… Feel free to twist, spindle or mutilate this challenge any way you see fit to suit your own plans – the only element that should probably remain is the use of playing cards to determine your reading order.

Last of all, please help spread the word about Deal Me In. It’s been so much more fun the past few years with others playing along.  I haven’t been counting, but we’ve certainly passed the “1,000 stories read” mark by challenge participants – something I’m a little proud of. 🙂

Anton Chekhov’s “The Bet”


In the nearly four years that I’ve been doing my one short story per week reading project, a handful of authors have emerged who can always be counted on to deliver the goods. I would count Anton Chekhov (above) among these select few, so I was happy to see that, when I drew the three of clubs, I had assigned it to his famous story, “The Bet.” (My roster of stories may be found here ) I also found it amusing that, after blogging last week about the concept of “Chekhov’s Gun,” the author immediately presented himself as my next “luck of the draw” selection.

During a party at the house of a banker, in a drawing room conversation, a debate arises regarding capital punishment. One argues that it is immoral and has no place in a Christian Nation, the host disagrees, however, saying “…in my opinion capital punishment is more moral and more humane than imprisonment. Execution kills instantly, life-imprisonment kills by degree. Who is the more humane executioner, one who kills you in a few seconds or one who draws the life out of you incessantly for years?”

A brash young lawyer in attendance argues that life-imprisonment is by far more preferable, saying “Capital punishment and life-imprisonment are equally immoral; but if I were offered the choice between them, I would certainly choose the second. It’s better to live somehow than not to live at all.”

Much debate takes place, and an outrageous bet is the fallout. The banker puts up “two millions” against the young lawyer’s boast that he could stay willingly imprisoned for fifteen years. Terms and rules are set and the clock begins ticking on November 14, 1870…

The story is so short, I’ll leave it for you to read yourself if interested. It may be found online at http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/Bet.shtml

The premise for this story may seem familiar to some readers. If so, it might be because of a “classic” episode of the TV series, “The Twilight Zone.” Rod Serling shifts the location and changes some of the characters, the purpose for the bet, and many of the details, but it’s still an effective treatment and does, I believe, capture the “spirit” of Chekhov’s story. It’s actually available on YouTube. Here’s a link to part 1:


Dale at Mirror with Clouds has also posted about this story as part of Deal Me In 2014, making it the fourth “twin” our group has spawned this year. His post may be found here

“Meneseteung” by Alice Munro

This week I drew the ace of hearts for my Deal Me In project . This led me to the Alice Munro short story, “Menesetung.” I own it as part of the massive volume “The Best American Short Stories of the Century.”


On a personal note, this volume remains, to date, the only “material compensation” I have ever received for writing this blog, as one of my readers – who also happens to be a fellow participant in a local Great Books Foundation reading group I often attend – made a gift of it to me over a year and a half ago. I think I’ve read about sixteen of the stories so far, blogging about most of them. Thanks again, Richard! 🙂

This story was first published in the New Yorker in 1988…


…and was later included in a collection of Munro’s stories titled “Friend of My Youth.”


Munro is something of a rare bird among writers, choosing to specialize in short stories as her primary form. To date, I’ve only read a few of her stories, from the one collection of hers that I own, “Too Much Happiness.”

“Menesetung” is basically the story of Almeda Joynt Roth, a late 19th century poet of Ontario, Canada (Not coincidentally the region where Munro is from). Each chapter is introduced by a few lines of her poems. I must say I found the structure of this story a little tedious, as points of view and points in time jumped around quite a bit. There were also times when a fictional local paper, the Vidette, is quoted as a way to introduce new topics or passages. Though I struggled with the format, there was some indisputably amazing writing in the story, especially when Munro describes life in the province where she grew up. For example:

“From her window she can see the sun rising, the swamp mist filling with light, the bulky, nearest trees floating against that mist and the trees behind turning transparent. Swamp oaks, soft maples, tamarack, butternut.”

This passage reminded me a little of one of my favorite passages in Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, which I read a couple years ago.

There was also a great passage about the sort of “Victorian stuffiness” of Roth’s time – when it came to the interaction of the sexes. She is rather sweet on a neighbor gentleman, but must wait on him to “make the first move” thus we have the following:

“She does not invite him to come in – a woman living alone could never do such a thing. As soon as a man and woman of almost any age are alone together within four walls, it is assumed that anything may happen. Spontaneous combustion, instant fornication, an attack of passion. Brute instinct, triumph of the senses. What possibilities men and women must see in each other to infer such dangers. Or, believing in the dangers, how often they must think about the possibilities.”

Isn’t that great?

Overall, though, the story wasn’t one of my favorites this year. Perhaps, like many, it just requires a deeper dive on the readers part. Sadly, this week I lacked the time and energy to read this one over again. Maybe someday.

The odd title of the story refers to the name of a river in the region of Ontario where the story takes place. It is speculated it may have a deeper meaning, but I won’t go into that. Oh, and this week’s “coincidence” is that Munro’s birthday is just a few days after this posting, July 10th. So, happy early 83rd to Alice Munro! 🙂

Two other Deal Me In participants this year have read Munro, both choosing her short story “The Bear Came Over the Mountain,” but what about you? Have you read any Alice Munro? What do you think of her, and what recommendations do you have for further reading?

(Below: Alice Munro)


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