Deal Me In 2020 – Week 23
It’s the summer of 1970 and Peter has a student deferment from Vietnam. He’s trying to get Lizzie to sleep with him but she is “deferring ” that. I guess the title of Dwight Allen’s short story “Deferment” has something of a double entendre.
With Vietnam looming large in the background and Thelonious Monk as the soundtrack, Peter and Lizzie grapple with and search for the meaning and purpose in their lives. Whether they succeed in this search isn’t really the point of the story. It’s more about the attempt and its difficulty and the disappointment they may not even realize they are feeling when world circumstances beyond their control seem to make choices for them. In an image that I won’t soon forget, they both climb to the top of a no-longer-used bridge that crosses the Ohio River from Louisville to Indiana:
All but the last glow of day had been sucked from the sky. The lights of downtown Louisville were on, and there was a sprinkling of lights along the Indiana shore. In the growing dark, the bridge seemed to lose its firmness, to become tracery in the sky.
“Deferment” snuck up on me but it’s now definitely a favorite from this anthology and of the stories I’ve read so far this year.
Dwight Allen’s website can be found here.
This story is included in Home and Beyond: An Anthology of Kentucky Short Stories edited by Morris Allen Grubbs. I read it when I selected the Seven of Clubs for Week 23 of my Deal Me In 2020 short story project. Check out my Deal Me In 2020 list here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.
Deal Me In 2020 – Week 22
At nightfall, once in the olden time, on the rugged side of one of the Crystal Hills, a party of adventurers were refreshing themselves, after a toilsome and fruitless quest for the Great Carbuncle.
I had to look up what a carbuncle was and all I got was “a large boil”. Since that didn’t seem to align with Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “The Great Carbuncle”, I dug a little deeper to find that a carbuncle is also the name of any red gemstone usually a garnet. This second definition fits with Hawthorne’s story. With the use of the word “Great”, I get the idea that this red gemstone is large in size.
A band of people of different backgrounds have come together to search for the Great Carbuncle in a fashion that reminds me of Ocean’s Eleven. The odd aspect is that while they are all traveling and searching together, they each have their own idea of what they will do with the treasure once they find it. There is never any real explanation as to how the little group got together but as they stop for the night, the story shifts focus to the married couple of the bunch. They seem to be the most genuine and the least arrogant; however, they still want the stone for themselves.
Themes of selfishness show up as the story takes us to a Raiders of the Lost Ark ending. For whatever reason, this story, written well before the advent of movies, made me think of specific movies. I guess everything that is old does become new again.
This story is included in the collection The Celestial Railroad and Other Stories. I read it when I selected the Three of Clubs for week 22 of my Deal Me In 2020 short story project. Check out my Deal Me In 2020 list here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.
Deal Me In 2020 – Week 21
The head was finely shaped, dark-haired. But the very self-conscious style of him seemed to add to the charm. What could equal the stance, the quick lightning movements of the body, or the severe control of its quietness?
I think there’s more to Jane Mayhall’s short story “The Men” than first meets the eye – although “meeting the eye” might in some way be the point.
As an 11 year-old girl, the narrator sees a ballet and during a solo performance, a male dancer makes an impression on her. Fast forward to her high school years and a male librarian smiles at her briefly. Then on to New York City and a male University professor somehow makes her feel comfortable.
This is the entire story. I could call these “encounters” but even that implies some sort of relationship even a limited one. I think the better description would be “observations”. Can observing strangers have an impact on your life? This story would say “yes”. It could be an unusual but accurate look into the mind of an artist.
This story is included in Home and Beyond: An Anthology of Kentucky Short Stories edited by Morris Allen Grubbs. I read it when I selected the Jack of Diamonds for my Deal Me In 2020 short story project. Check out my Deal Me In 2020 list here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.
Deal Me In 2020 – Week 20
“I say friend! will you guide me to the house of my kinsman, Major Molineux?”
Sometimes the journey is better than the destination. Sometimes the set-up is better than the punchline. This might describe Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “My Kinsman, Major Molineux”. But I don’t know if it’s a criticism of the story or if it might be the point.
The protagonist, Robin, arrives in town to find his kinsman so he can start a career of some sort. His search brings him in contact with numerous quirky characters who know of Robin’s kinsman but won’t exactly tell him where he can find him. The reader gets a feeling that Major Molineux isn’t who Robin thinks he is. Maybe the ending isn’t so much a disappointment to the reader as it is to Robin.
This is Nathaniel Hawthorne so the story is of course well-written. Is there a moral to the story as Hawthorne stories so often have? It might be a cheery nod to the Protestant Work Ethic.
This story is included in The Celestial Railroad and Other Stories. I read it when I selected the Five of Clubs for Week 20 of my Deal Me In 2020 short story project. Check out my Deal Me In 2020 list here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.
Deal Me In 2020 – Week 19
As if he were a caddie or a servant, Denise handed him her umbrella and brushed water and grit from the ankles of her jeans. Denise was the one who’d instructed him to invite his parents to stop and have lunch in New York today. She’d sounded like the World Bank dictating terms to a Latin debtor state, because unfortunately Chip owed her some money. He owed her whatever ten thousand and fifty-five hundred and four thousand and a thousand dollars added up to.
In David Remnick’s introduction to his anthology Wonderful Town: New York Stories from The New Yorker, he talks about a New Yorker “kind” of story. He describes it as “a quiet, modest thing that tends to track the quiet desperation of a rather mild character and ends in some gentle apercu of recognition or dismay – or dismayed recognition.”
So far as I read the stories in this collection, Jonathan Franzen’s story “The Failure” is the best example of that description. Chip’s parents arrive in New York City from somewhere in the midwest full of quips and questions about his livelihood or lack thereof. It’s interesting that Chip’s sister also lives in New York City. So we get the idea that both siblings have fled the midwest for the Big Apple. I don’t think the conflict Franzen puts into play here is a geographic one even if that’s what it looks like on the surface. It’s more a conflict between parents and children or at least one child – Chip.
And as Chip takes his parents to his apartment where his girlfriend is waiting to break up with him and as he runs out the door after her in time to beg his sister to stay with his parents until he gets back, Chip experiences that “dismayed recognition” that Remnick refers to. Maybe a recognition that all the little jabs from his parents might not always be that much off the mark.
I read this story when I selected the Five of Hearts for Week 19 of my Deal Me In 2020 short story project. Check out my Deal Me In 2020 list here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.
How often do you read a New Yorker story and how would you describe a typical one? Have you read anything by Jonathan Franzen? I know he has several acclaimed novels including The Corrections.
Deal Me In 2020 – Week 18
“Let it be known that, having been sent to Kettle Island to rest, the first thing I did upon my arrival was to sit on a rock and rest. I see my biographer using that as an illustration of my obedience.”
Ernie Booker, in Jon Hassler’s short story “Resident Priest”, is the caretaker and gardener of St. Mary’s convent on Kettle Island. An island in the St. Croix River between Minnesota and Wisconsin. While he seems content with his life there, it’s hard to say that he is happy. In fact, this nuance in character sets the stage for the story.
Father Fogarty gets sent to Kettle Island to be their priest after an absence of one for a long period of time. Getting stuck in the mud getting to the island is Father Fogarty’s introduction to Ernie and Sister Simon, the ever stern nun in charge. One might say that the priest is not just stuck in the mud but is stuck in this same nuance as Ernie – maybe happy but not really. It seems they will become friends if not best friends.
One might also say that the story has a surprise ending but afterwards, the reader will probably say, “Oh, I think I saw that coming”.
It’s a nice little story without a ton of plot – and more character. I read it when I selected the King of Diamonds for Week 18 of my Deal Me In 2020 short story project. It’s included in The Best American Catholic Short Stories edited by Daniel McVeigh and Patricia Schnapp. Check out my Deal Me In 2020 list here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.
Deal Me In 2020 – Week 17
I enjoyed Mary Ann Taylor-Hall’s short story “Winter Facts” so much that I decided to check out another one of her stories, “Banana Boats”, when I selected the Two of Spades for Week 17 of my Deal Me In 2020 short story project – since I save Two’s for a Wild Card choice.
In her twilight years, Rosa looks back at her marriage to Gilbert with both acceptance and regret. Her memories hinge on a moment as a young married couple when Gilbert tells Rosa he’s gotten a job on a banana boat between Tampa and Rio. It would involve being gone for significant amounts of time but he would make more money. She begged him not to – and he didn’t.
As Rosa reviews her marriage in her thoughts, we understand that Gilbert lies, cheats but stays with her. She wonders after all this time what would have happened if she had let him go off on the banana boat:
He used to call her his ball and chain, just kidding, a long time ago.
It’s this “what if” that gives the story it’s emotional tug and gives Rosa’s character both a fragility and a strength. She ultimately feels she is too tied up in her marriage to leave him after all these years. Rosa perhaps thought that over time she would grow to love him. But in Rosa and Gilbert’s older years, we see that didn’t happen. Perhaps Gilbert learned to love Rosa in his own way? No, that didn’t happen either.
I think I liked “Winter Facts” more than this one; however, there’s something about this story that reminds me of William Trevor. The melancholy tone is probably the reason.
This story is included in Taylor-Hall’s collection How She Knows What She Knows About Yo-Yos: Stories.
Check out my Deal Me In 2020 list here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.