#24in48 Update #1:

If you read my last post, you know I’m participating in the “24in48” challenge this weekend, the goal being to spend 24 of the 48 hours (between midnight Friday to midnight Sunday) reading. I’m spicing up my challenge by playing a mini-game of Deal Me In, with 24 short stories each assigned to a card in a euchre deck of paying cards. My list of stories I’ll be reading is in my previous post.

I got up extra early today and have read five stories so far. I’m also going to rate the stories using the rank of cards in the trump suit in euchre, from “Right Bower” (the best, i.e. “five star” rating) proceeding downward from Left Bower, Ace, King, Queen, Ten to a “nine” as being my equivalent of a one star rating. (I doubt any stories of this poor quality made it past my screening process, but we’ll see.) A quick recap of the first five:

Story #1 “The Dead Hand Loves You” – Margaret Atwood: the first card I draw is a forty-two page story?! Wow. Probably the longest of my deck. This was a great story, though. A “starving writer” makes a deal with his three college roommates, who he owes 3+ months rent to, that he’ll split any proceeds of the novel he’s working on with them if they forgive his debt and extend his residency another month. No one expects his work to have any market value but, lo, he writes a cult horror classic!

My rating: Ace

Story #2 “Lusus Naturae” – Margaret Atwood

I learned a lot of vocabulary with two Atwood stories right out of the gate! I didn’t know or had forgotten that lusus naturae is a term for freakof nature, which describes the (unreliable?) narrator of this shorter Atwood story. The family of a child who would be more at home in a circus side show is Embarrassed by her and fakes her death so that the rest of them, including a sister hopeful of making a good marriage, may have a chance at a normal life. Things are going okay until the neighbors find out…

My rating: Left Bower

Story #3 “The Power of Words” by Edgar Allen Poe

The deck of cards I’m using for this project features “animals” and the one I drew for this story has a butterfly on it. Appropriate, since this Poe “story” is really more like a dialog from the Greek Philosophers, the subject of which would today be called “The Butterfly Effect”

My rating: Queen

Story #4 “The Domain of Arnheim” by Edgar Allen Poe

It’s true that it was “in Xanadu did Kublai Khan a stately pleasure dome decree” but Poe’s insanely rich character, Ellis, searches the world for a suitable place to create a work of art from nature, which by the end of the story we learn is the titular “domain.” I was unaware of this Poe story before today, but it is one that made quite an impression on me.

My rating: Left Bower

Story #5 “The Beauties” by Anton Chekhov

Shout out to my blogging colleague at Short Story Magic Tricks for piquing my interest in this one last week. There’s not much a “plot” here, it’s almost more of an essay on the effect the beauty (feminine beauty, in this case) can have on a man. You know when Chekhov writes something like “I saw the bewitching features of the most beautiful face I have ever met in real life or in my dreams,” that you’re in for a treat of a story.

My rating: Ace

That’s where I stand now at about 730am. How is YOUR 24in48 Readathon proceeding? Have you read any of these five stories? Okay, enough time wasted… I’m “going back in!” See you after five more stories. Maybe. 🙂

A “Challenging” Weekend Ahead!

I learned via Katherine’s blog (The Writerly Reader) of a new to me challenge coming up this weekend. It’s called the 24in48 Readathon (see http://24in48.com). It’s kind of a less hard-core version of Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon. In this one, participants are given 48 hours on the clock to get their 24 hours of reading done. Ah, SLEEP is possible! 🙂

My plan, though, is not necessarily to log 24 hours of reading, but to complete twenty-four selected short stories. AND, as host of the Annual Deal Me In short story reading challenge, I feel I should assign the stories to the 24 playing cards (drawing them one at a time to randomize my reading order) in a euchre deck. (Euchre is a very popular card game in the U.S. Midwest and Canada, but if you’re not familiar with the rules and are interested, look here)

I plan to write a few posts with very brief summaries of the stories and how I rate them. I think I will count my post-writing time toward my 24 hours too (although this may be bending the rules!) Maybe I’ll write one post for each “hand” of five cards that I deal and one for “the widow” (the remaining four “unused” cards in a hand of euchre)

Here are the stories I’ve chosen for #24in48

Spades – stories by Edgar Allan Poe

J – The Angel of the Odd

A – The Domain of Arnheim

K – The Imp of the Perverse

Q – Tale of the Ragged Mountains

10 – The Power of Words

9 -Ligeia

Clubs – Margaret Atwood (the remaining six stories I haven’t read from Stone Mattress)

J – Lupus Naturae

A – The Freeze-Dried Groom

K – I Dream of Zenia with the Bright Red Teeth

Q – The dead Hand loves You

10 – Stone Mattress

9 – Torching the Dusties

Hearts – A miscellany of stories I want to read

J – The Beauties (Anton Chekhov)

A – the Enchanted Island (Washington Irving)

K – The Story of the Young Man with the Cream Tarts (Robert Louis Stevenson)

Q – Math Bending Unto Angels (Katherine Vaz)

10 – Micromegas (Voltaire)

9 – Free Radicals (Alice Munro)

Weird-1_B2

Diamonds – Stories from The Weird compendium:

J – Casting the Runes (M.R. James)

A – The Tarn  (Hugh Walpole)

K – The Brood (Ramsey Campbell)

Q – Blood Child (Octavia Butler)

10 – In the Hills, the Cities (Clive Barker)

9 – Family (Joyce Carol Oates)

What do you think of my plan and my story selections? I should mention as well that you are completely free to join me in this challenge. 🙂 Wish Me luck!

“Revenant” by Margaret Atwood

I drew the two of hearts for week 26 – the midway point! – of Deal Me In 2015. Deuces are wild, and hearts is my suit “for women authors only” so, having recently started Margaret Atwood’s newly minted collection, Stone Mattress, I thought reading the second tale in that book an appropriate choice. For a brief summary of how Deal Me In challenge works, see the 2015 sign up post. If you want to see what my 52 stories for 2015 are, check out my roster.

After reading and doing some minimal research, I learned that the first three stories in the book (“Alphinland,” “Revenant,” and “Dark Lady”) actually, when read together, make up a tidy little novella. In “Alphinland” I met the author character, “Constance” who made a killing writing a wildly popular fantasy series which lent its name to the story title. In “Revenant” I met Gavin, who was married to Constance, but now is in the twilight of his life, in ill health (he’s become “an atrophied bundle of sticks and twine”) and – as a “literary” author himself – somewhat embittered by the enduring fame of his former wife’s work.

In “Revenant” Gavin is now “under the care” of the latest woman in his life. Her name is Reynolds, and her “babying” of him got on not only Gavin’s nerves, but this reader’s nerves as well. Gavin’s recalling his somewhat lecherous past fuels the first part of this story, but the main “action” takes place when a pretty young female graduate student visits Gavin and Reynolds in their home. Apparently she has based her thesis on some of the great writer’s work (as Gavin reacts: “Thesis on my fucking work,” he says. “Christ defend us!”). Or that’s what he thinks at first.

The story – and the others in this collection from what I’ve heard – deal with the issue of aging and not always in a happy way, it seems. Atwood also takes some time out in this story to comment on an aspect of the current state of high education: “’Every halfwit has an M.A. They’re like popcorn…’ ‘Tiny little kernels,’ he says. ’Superheated in the academic cooker. The hot air expands. Poof! An M.A.” Not bad, he thinks. Also true. The universities want the cash, so they lure these kids in. Then they turn them into puffballs of inflated starch, with no jobs to match. Better to have a certificate in plumbing.'” Pretty damning, huh? I guess we should also remember that these are the grumblings a of a bitter old man, though.

I’m not so “in tune” with the publishing world that I often await an author’s new book with great anticipation. I guess it’s happened a couple of times with series, but those are rare cases.  When I learned last year that Atwood had this short story collection “coming out in 2015,” however, I began counting down the days. I have been so impressed by everything I’ve read by her so far, particularly The Handmaid’s Tale and The Robber Bride. Since all these stories have to do with aging, and its effect on us humans, I’m sure I’ll find them fascinating. Though she’s got more than a couple decades on me, at seventy-five Atwood speaks from authority on this subject and has gotten me thinking a little more about the subject of aging than maybe I’d like to. 🙂 Nonetheless, I look forward to reading the rest of the stories in this collection.

What is your favorite Margaret Atwood work?

Playing card image from http://playingcardcollector.net/2013/07/18/kashmir-playing-cards-by-printissa/