Deal Me In, Week 17 ~ “The Southwest Chamber”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“The Southwest Chamber” by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman

Card picked: Three of Diamonds
From: Masterpieces of Terror and the Unknown, edited by Marvin Kaye

Thoughts: Aunt Harriet has only been dead a few months. With no other living relatives, her house is inherited by her two nieces, the daughters of her estranged sister. The nieces, Amanda and Sophia, move into the house and take in borders to help pay for the upkeep and taxes. As the story begins, Amanda decides to put the newest border in the southwest chamber, the chamber that had been Aunt Harriet’s. No one has used the room and the very thought of it gives Sophia the heebie-jeebies.

Most of this story involves the strange things that happen in the titular southwest chamber. Items (like an entire wardrobe of clothes) appear and disappear. The pattern on the drapes change. During the night the border stays, she is repeatedly attacked by a nightcap. While not really comedic, the story felt like it could be a Noises Off-style stage play with much door slamming as characters move through the house and the plot; kind of a different take on the “bedroom” farce. Of course, this led me to think about what sort of stage magic effects might be employed to achieve Aunt Harriet’s haunting.

About the Author: Born on Halloween 1852, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman started writing as a teenager to help support her family and remained a prolific until her death in 1930. She was known generally for the domestic realism of her stories, but also had an interest in the supernatural, which lead to some well-regarded ghost stories. Indeed, she and Shirley Jackson would make a great pair of B&B ghosts.

The Reason I Jump ~ Discussion Part 2

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Info on The Reason I Jump
Info on the Nonfiction Book Club
My post for Part 1

Questions

What did you think of the short stories Naoki included?

I wasn’t particularly fond of them. They were…short stories written by a thirteen year-old. Also, by the last short story I was really thinking about the issue of translation. Translators make decisions. I’ve read different translations of Pushkin’s poems and been amazed at how different the same poem can be in English. I don’t doubt that Higashida is a smart, well-“spoken,” young man, but I think it’s important to remember that this is a translation.

I know some of us talked about this already, but I’m still curious – what did everyone think of his use of the word “we” to describe his feelings and experiences?

The “we” really bugged me, moreso in the second half when things got more spiritual/nature-oriented—things that seem perhaps more culturally-oriented than autism-oriented. (Also, is the “we” Higashida’s word or Mitchell and Yoshida’s word?)

When talking to my husband about this last night, he commented, “It’s like that story about the autistic kid with the dog. Now, suddenly, every autistic kid needs an animal in their life.”

What did you think of the book overall?

Continue reading “The Reason I Jump ~ Discussion Part 2”

Deal Me In, Week 16 ~ “The Billiard Ball”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“The Billiard Ball” by Isaac Asimov

Card picked: King of Clubs
From: Asimov’s Mysteries

Thoughts:

Pool-playing scientist frenimies.

One is James Priss, a pale, slow-talking theoretical physicist, a two-time Nobel prize winner (both in science). The other is  Edward Bloom, a charismatic, college drop-out innovator, a multi-billionaire who has made his fortunes on the back of Priss’s theories. Their rivalry comes to a head as Bloom attempts to create an anti-gravity device based on Priss’s two-field theory. After a skirmish or words in the press, Bloom tricks Priss into demonstrating his new invention with a billiard table, ball, and cue. Unfortunately, a terrible accident occurs and Bloom ends up dead with a billiard ball-shaped hole through his chest. Freak tragedy? Or did Edward Bloom set himself up to be murdered?

There’s always a question in hard science fiction about how accurate the science is. Most general readers will assume the writer is knowledgeable enough to get it right. I don’t know enough about Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity to be too discerning, but Asimov knew his stuff (in his day) and it all *sounds* pretty good to me. It’s definitely my favorite of this anthology thus far.

 

Deal Me In, Week 15 ~ “Marooned Off Vesta” & “Anniversary”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“Marooned Off Vesta” & “Anniversary” by Isaac Asimov

Card picked: Nine of Clubs
From: Asimov’s Mysteries

Thoughts:

This draw was a double story in the anthology. The first, “Marooned Off Vesta,” is a reprint of Asimov’s first published story, written in 1939 by a teenaged Isaac. It tells of three men trapped in a portion of their space ship, Silver Queen, after the majority is destroyed by an asteroid hit. The remains of the ship is in orbit around the asteroid Vesta. The men have three days of air left, as well as a week’s worth of rations, one space suit, a heat ray, a detonator, and, since the remainder of the ship includes the water storage, a year’s worth of water. If only they could jar themselves out of orbit and land on the inhabited Vesta…

“Anniversary” is a continuation of the story, written and set twenty years later. **Spoiler alert!** The three men survived but now face the middle-aged fear of their legacy being forgotten. “Anniversary” provides a little bit of mystery as the men try to discover why Trans-space Insurance is still looking for parts of Silver Queen wreckage.

The most amusing part of this second story is Multivac:

[Moore]…doubted if ever in his life he would meet any of the handful of technicians who spent most of their working days in a hidden spot in the bowels of Earth tending a mile-long super-computer that was the repository of all the facts known to man, that guided man’s economy, directed his scientific research, helped make his political decisions, and had millions of circuits left over to answer individual questions that did not violate the ethics of privacy.

Not quite Wikipedia and cloud storage…

The Reason I Jump ~ Discussion Part 1

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Info on The Reason I Jump

Info on the Nonfiction Book Club

Initial Impressions

While I can understand that this might be a very comforting book to parents of an autistic child, I’ve had some reservations about The Reason I Jump. First, I don’t know about anyone else, but I knew nothing about myself at age 13. Anything I thought I knew, I was more or less wrong about. Has Naoki Higashida spent more time than the average kid in self-reflection? Maybe. Second, it’s acknowledged that autism a really wide thing, encompassing a lot of thought patterns and behaviors. It feels weird to me that “we” is used so much. The book isn’t called The Reason We Jump. It’s cool that this young man is giving us a look into his world, but I’m pretty sure his experiences aren’t universal for everyone on the autism spectrum.

On the other hand, there’s often a refreshing “Why? Because.” vibe that is sort of universal. I’d like to imagine that Higashida has as long of a list of things non-autistic people do that are as equally confounding. I mean, why do we like to hold hands anyway?

I’m glad that “normal” was acknowledged—that, for Higashida, autism is normal. The thought experiment in the intro wouldn’t work because all us neurotypical people would be too distracted by our losses to know what autism is like.

Interesting points about certainty—that the same comfy clothes, the same commercials, are touchstones of certainty.

Quote I wish were in the book’s “Popular Highlights” on Kindle:

I think it’s very difficult for you to properly get your heads around just how hard it is for us to express what we’re feeling.

Questions

Is the tone of the book what you expected, from someone with autism and/or from a thirteen year old boy? Tying into my earlier comment, Higashida seems very self-aware for 13 and maybe the encompassing “we” comes from that youth. The only other tone thing I found a jarring was some of the England-English slag: “told off”, “hacks me off”, etc.. These, I am assuming, are due to his translators.

Have you learned anything that has surprised you so far? I know quite a few adults on the spectrum and have considered autism a lot. It’s been interesting getting a different perspective on things, but nothing has surprised me.

Do you think that you would interact with someone who has autism differently after reading this book? Probably not, but I am a reserved person and, generally, I try to treat everyone evenly. When dealing with kids, I’m more likely to speak to them on an adult level anyway. That said, I have no idea how I’d deal with a raucous child that I couldn’t communicate with. I know I’m not the most patient person.

David Mitchell says that the problems of socialization and communication people with autism display “are not symptoms of autism but consequences.” What does he mean exactly…what is the difference as Mitchell sees it? Many of the difficulties are due to how people without autism deal with people with autism. Lack of patience. The assumption that “Oh, he just wants to be left alone” or “She doesn’t understand anyway”. Or  that everyone wants all the same things we do, which just isn’t the case.

Mini Reviews, Vol. 2 ~ The Woods (Real, Figurative, & Fantasy)

MiniReviews

alt text A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson, read by Rob McQuay

I’d been meaning to finally read something by Bill Bryson and I was happy to find that my local library’s digital collection includes lots of his titles in ebook and audio formats. I’m not an outdoors person, which is exactly why I chose A Walk in the Woods.

Bryson does a wonderful job merging an entertaining narrative with lots of information about the Appalachian Trail, its statistics and history. I laughed out loud, a welcome diversion from some of the other reading materials I’m lately engaged in (not those below). I did find some of the environmental asides a bit heavy-handed, only because they seemed pushy in light of the rest of the tone. But this is definitely not the last book by Bill Bryson that I’ll be reading.

© 2016 Galen Dara, Now that I’m beyond the Triple Dog Dare, I’m back to reading online fiction. So far, there’ve been two great stories in April from Strange Horizons:

“This Is a Letter to My Son” by KJ Kabza – I always have an eye out for KJ’s fiction. Luckily, he’s on Twitter! What if we had a choice about how we intrinsically think about ourselves? Would we change? Should we change? Even if we seem to have a really good reason? This is a concise, beautiful near-future science fiction story about those questions.

“The Right Sort of Monsters” by Kelly Sandoval – Conversely, Kelly Sandoval was completely new to me (I think…). A fallen god (literally) and a grove of trees that provide a very special type of fruit for childless families. Of course, a sacrifice is required. (Art at left by Galen Dara.) Together, these two stories would make a great Mothers’ Day issue. And I’m counting “The Right Sort of Monsters” as my first official Once Upon a Time read.

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Deal Me In, Week 14 ~ “The Hungry Stones”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“The Hungry Stones” by Rabindranath Tagore

Card picked: Ace of Diamonds
From: Masterpieces of Terror and the Unknown, ed. by Marvin Kaye

Thoughts: “The Hungry Stones” is a strong “classic” ghost story. We start with a narrator telling us of the time he was told a story while waiting for a train. I love framing devices… In this case, the storyteller is a collector of cotton duties and a bit of a know-it-all. The narrator, traveling back to Calcutta, somewhat snarkily notes: “As we had never stirred out of our homes before, the demeanor of the man struck us dumb with wonder.”

Our duty collector relates an experience he had in Barich. While working there, he was put up in an abandoned palace. He is warned by the locals that it’s a fine place to inhabit during the day, but that he should really find somewhere else to sleep at night. At first the duty collector’s nights are quiet since he arrives back at the palace after dark and immediately goes to sleep. But when he has a little idle time, he relaxes at twilight, enjoying his beautiful surroundings, and imagines he hears a group of ladies frolicking in a fountain. It’s such a lovely fantasy that he begins to rush home from work and spend his evenings wandering the palace and dreaming. It’s only the morning cries of the local madman yelling, “Stand back! Stand back! All is false! All is false!” that wakes him.

When the duty collector realizes that he’s in way too deep, the locals tell him that only the madman has resisted the palace. You see, it all began 250 years ago with a young Persian girl and a heart-rending tragedy, but unfortunately it is right about then when the late train arrives…

About the Author: If you look up polymath in the dictionary, you should probably find a picture of Rabindranath Tagore. In addition to writing novels, short stories, and poetry, the Bengali-born Targore was a musician, actor, painter, and politician. He won a Nobel in literature and turned down a knighthood. Yet, I kind of wonder if he’s poking a little fun at himself with his know-it-all duty collector.