Deal Me In, Week 1 ~ “‘Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad'”

I’m joining one more challenge. I keep seeing this one around and, well, with the slight magic propensity around here, it seems apt. I’ll be working on a couple of fat anthologies of magician stories and Steven Millhauser’s The Barnum Museum.

Deal Me In 2014 – A Short Story Reading Challenge

20131224-114109Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

How do I pick which stories to read?

Before you get started, 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. Each “week,” (if you’re like me, you may occasionally fall a story or two behind) you draw a card at random from your deck and that is the story you will read.

Hearts
David Copperfield’s Beyond Imagination ed. by David Copperfield

Ace – “Eagle” by David Copperfield
2 – “16 Mins.” by Eric Lustbader
3 – “The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of” by Tad Williams
4 – “Disillusion” by Edward Bryant
5  – Wild
6 – “The Allies” by Katherine Dunn
7 – “The Magician of Karakosk” by Peter S. Beagle
8 – “The N Auntie” by Anne McCaffrey
9 – “The Fall of the House of Escher” by Greg Bear
10 – “Chin Oil” by George Guthridge
Jack – “Crossing Into the Empire” by Robert Silverberg
Queen – “Natasha’s Bedroom” by Robyn Carr
King – “TechnoMagic” by Kevin J. Anderson

Clubs
David Copperfield’s Tales of the Impossible ed. by David Copperfield

Ace – “Snow” by David Copperfield
2 – “Quicker Than The Eye” by Ray Bradbury
3 – “The Singing Tree” by Eric Lustbader
4 – “The Conversion of Tegujai Batir” by Jack Kirby
5 – “Diamonds Aren’t Forever” by S.P. Somtow
6 – “Just Like Normal People” by Kevin J. Anderson
7 – Wild
8 – “The Hand-Puppet” by Joyce Carol Oates
9 – “[symbols]” by F. Paul Wilson
10 – “Switch” by Lucy Taylor
Jack – “The Eighth of December” by Dave Smeds
Queen – “Expert Advice” by Larry Bond
King – “Geroldo’s Incredible Trick” by Raymond E. Feist

Diamonds
The Barnum Museum by Steven Millhauser

Ace – “Behind the Blue Curtain”
2 – “The Barnum Museum”
3 – Wild
4 – “The Sepia Postcard”
5 – “The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad”
6 – “Klassik Komix #1”
7 – “Rain”
8 – “Alice, Falling”
9 – “The Invention of Robert Herendeen”
10 – “Eisenheim the Illusionist”
Jack – “Maelzel’s Chess Player” by Edgar Allan Poe
Queen – “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” by Edgar Allan Poe
King – “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt” by Edgar Allan Poe

Spades
One can use a spade to cleanup:

Ace – “The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories” by Neil Gaiman (BI)
2 – “Humpty Dumpty Was a Runner” by Janet Berliner (BI)
3 – “Indigo Moon” by Janet Berliner (TotI)
4 – “Dealing With the Devil” by Robert Weinberg (TotI)
5 – “Every Mystery Unexplained” by Lisa Mason (TotI)
6 – “Just a Little Bug” by P.D. Cacek (TotI)
7 – “In the Teeth of Glory” by Dave Wolverton (TotI)
8 – “The Last Vanish” by Matthew J. Costello (TotI)
9 – Wild
10 – “The Queen of Hearts and Swords” by Karen Joy Fowler (BI)
Jack – “The Invisibles” by Charles de Lint (BI)
Queen – “A Cascade of Lies” by Steve Rasnic Tem (BI)
King – “‘Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad'” by M.R. James

Week 1 ~ “‘Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad'”

After a good shuffle and a middle-of-the-deck cut, I found myself with the King of Spades: “‘Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad'” by M. R. James

As a supposed fan of the horror genre, I am some embarrassed to admit that I’ve read very little M. R. James. Possibly, my first was “Casting the Runes” a few months back. “‘Oh, Whistle…'” is mentioned often in lists of favorite ghost stories and I had never read it!

Again, I’m amused by the narrative short-cuts that James uses. We start with:

“I suppose you will be getting away pretty soon, now. Full term is over, Professor,” said a person not in the story to the Professor of Ontography,

To me, “a person not in this story” is a thing of beauty. It’s James saying, “I need to introduce this story; that’s what I’m doing. Please, move along to the actual tale.”

I also love the vocabulary. Repining, bourdon, objurgation. Good solid 1904 words. But there’s also “ontography” of which our main character is a professor, and which doesn’t really seem to be a real word. Based on etymology, it would seem to imply the study of the essence or origin or making of things. That’s a detail that deserves more chewing on within the context of a ghost story.

And what a ghost story it is! I couldn’t read it without the feel of Night of the Demon intruding. There is an aspect of the half-seen in that movie and this story, more so than in “Casting the Runes.” I think James also taps some very common feelings.

For some minutes he lay and pondered over the possibilities; then he turned over sharply, and with all.his eyes open lay breathlessly listening. There had been a movement, he was sure, in the empty bed on the opposite side of the room. To-morrow he would have it moved, for there must be rats or something playing about in it. It was quiet now. No! the commotion began again. There was a rustling and shaking: surely more than any rat could cause.

I can figure to myself something of the Professor’s bewilderment and horror, for I have in a dream thirty years back seen the same thing happen; but the reader will hardly, perhaps, imagine how dreadful it was to him to see a figure suddenly sit up in what he had known was an empty bed.

Myself, I’ve had a bout of sleep paralysis that ended in feeling like something next to me in bed was thrashing wildly. It was the most frightening episode I’ve had. As for the specter in this story? I’m never going to look at bedsheet ghosts the same way.

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4 thoughts on “Deal Me In, Week 1 ~ “‘Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad'”

  1. Thanks for joining in this challenge. Reading a short story has grown into a favorite weekly habit of mine.

    I love the ghost stories of M.R. James. A couple favorites are “The Ash Tree” and “Mr. Humphrey’s Inheritance” (creeee-py!). I have a volume of James’ stories that I read through almost twenty years ago, and I still revisit a story or two every now and then.

    I also loved the bit about “said a person not part of the story.” That’s very M.R. James.

    I also enjoyed looking through your story line-up. I hadn’t even heard of the Copperfield books, but they look like they contain good stories. Milhauser in an author I just discovered last year, and his story, “Miracle Polish” was my first card drawn this year. I’ll be posting about it in tonight’s first DMI2014 weekly post.

    Happy reading!

    -Jay

  2. Pingback: Deal Me in 2014 weekly wrap up (and my selection, “Miracle Polish” by Steven Milhauser) | Bibliophilopolis

  3. Pingback: The Best I Read in 2014 | The Writerly Reader

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