Posted in Anthology, Male Author, Short Story

Deal Me In, Week 27 ~ “The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad”


Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

But first, a mid-year survey from Jay

  1. Do you have a favorite story or author so far?  The two easy picks would be “Eisenheim the Illusionist” (which feels like cheating since it was a re-read) and “The Barnum Museum,” both by Steven Millhauser. The real surprise, going back through my posts, was “Fat Man and Little Boy” by Gary Braunbeck.
  2. What is your major “discovery” from DMI this year? Either from the posts of fellow participants or from your own story roster – or both.  Every week, I am overwhelmed by how much good literature has already been written. I think there is at least one story per wrap-up post that is a “classic” that I haven’t read, but, boy, do I want to.  Book bloggers sometimes get wrapped up in the NEW! when there is so much already there.
  3. Would you participate in the challenge again in 2015? Yes!
  4. Do you think a weekly wrap-up post is necessary? Would you prefer a monthly wrap-up? I like the weekly post because it keeps things in a nice sized chunk for checking out. (I totally spaced last week, I’d hate to think of spacing a post with a whole month’s worth of links!)
  5. Do you have any good ideas for suit “themes” to share for others who might try the challenge again? I like the idea of themes, but really, I’m way too lazy to plan them. This year, I took three anthologies that I wanted to read, assigned each to a separate suit, used the fourth suit for “clean up,” and filled in with other stories I wanted to read. I’ll probably do the same next year.
  6. Have you gotten much of a response from other readers of your blog (other than fellow DMI’ers I mean)?  Not a lot of response, but I’m a small fry in the land of blogging.
  7. Can you recommend any good resources (on line or otherwise) for those looking to populate their DMI roster? PaperbackSwap; if you’re looking for science fiction/fantasy, SF Signal has a regular listing of free genre fiction, as well as ToC posts from some of the free-content genre magazines; Project Gutenberg.
  8. Does DMI rate favorably in comparison with other book blogging challenges in which you’ve participated? Why or why not? Not that I wish for DMI not to spread, but I like the smallness of the group. I realized a couple weeks back that I had signed up for another challenge that’s so big that no one really comments or visits.
  9. What is/are your favorite part/parts about The Deal Me In challenge? To sum-up the above: Lots of great literature being read by a group of friendly, intelligent people.
  10. Conversely, what do you NOT like about the challenge or what would you change about it? Hmm. I like to give some constructive criticism, but nothing is coming to mind.
  11. Feel free to add any other general comments. I’ve made a short story a week a goal in the past, and two things happen. I quit about halfway through the year and I never end up writing about the stories. DMI is a good way for me to do both!

“The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad” by Steven Millhauser

Card picked: Five of Diamonds

From: The Barnum Museum

Review: I have the same relationship with Steven Milhauser’s stories that I have with Coen Brothers movies: Some are my favorites of the medium, some I do not get; there is no middle ground. The advantage with movies is, I can watch a trailer and easily decide whether I’m going to get a pleasing experience. Right now, picking a low diamond is a little like the spin of the wheel (to mix my gambling metaphors). What will I get?

“The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad” is one of the longer pieces in The Barnum Museum and one of the most structured. Each section of the story has three paragraphs, Millhauser isn’t shy about big, chunky paragraphs. The first paragraph is about Sinbad, now an old man who can’t quite decide if his voyages are memories, tales he once told, or maybe a combination of both. The second paragraph is about the history of the Sinbad the Sailor stories, their variations, translations, and the story-with-in-a-story-structure of the Arabian Nights. The third paragraph is Sinbad’s first-person POV telling of his eighth voyage, which is an amalgamation of aspects mentioned in the previous sections. The popular reader in me rolls my eyes at this sort of very literary “storytelling.” It could go wrong in so many ways, but in this case, Millhauser makes it work.

…Sinbad can summon to mind, with sharp precision, entire adventures or parts of adventures, as well as isolated images that suddenly spring into enchanted life behind his eyelids, there in the warm shade of the orange tree, and so it comes about that within the seven voyages new voyages arise, which gradually replace the earlier voyages as the face of an old man replaces the face of a child.

It doesn’t hurt that both of the best part of Millhauser is in this story. The old man’s paragraphs have all the colorful imagery I’ve come to appreciate, and the “academic” paragraphs all the arcane details. The third paragraph marries the two together in an actual narrative. It’s a really nice piece on the mutability of stories and memories.