Deal Me In, Week 37 ~ “The Witch”

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)
(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“The Witch” by Shirley Jackson

Card picked: 3
From: The Lottery, and other stories

The Story
Johnny is traveling by train with his mother and baby sister. Since the train car isn’t very full, Johnny is sitting on his own across the aisle. He says “Hi” to passersby and imagines seeing witches outside the window and telling them to go away. Johnny like to tell the occasional fib (“What is your name?” “Jesus”), but surely that’s what four-year-olds do. His mother is enjoying some quiet reading time in between taking care of Johnny’s sister. All is well until a man with a cigar stays to chat with Johnny. “Shall I tell you about my little sister?” the man asks.

“I bought her a rocking-horse and a doll and a million lollipops,” the man said, “and then I took her and I put my hands around her neck and I pinched her and I pinched her until she was dead.”

Of course, this rattles Johnny’s mother. The man continues. Johnny is amused. Mother is appalled. Finally, she manages to shoe the man away. “He was teasing,” she tells Johnny.

And we’re left with another mother in a Shirley Jackson story who isn’t a bad mother, but we wonder if this happenstance (could it have been prevented?) will leave some terrible scar on her child. And what are we to think of Johnny’s lying? There is a very thick feeling of judgement in these stories even though nothing is explicitly stated.

Peril of the Short Story

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Deal Me In, Week 36 ~ “Where the Heart Is”

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)
(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“Where the Heart Is” by Ramsey Campbell

Card picked: 3
From: The Architecture of Fear, edited by Kathryn Cramer & Peter D. Pautz

The Story
Our narrator (unnamed) is writing to the current resident of what had been his house. He relates his circumstances: He sold the house after his wife died, but he increasingly regrets the decision. He is troubled by their renovations; memories of his life with his wife seem to have disappeared along with the wall they removed between the dining room and living room. He knows about this change because he *did* make an extra key. He is, in fact, writing this at the dining room table. He intends to stay in the house…

Now this is a story that lives up to my hopes for this anthology. Delightfully unsettling. Through our narrator’s memories, the house feels like an actual place rather than a prop. And it plays with the notion of a haunted house, one that will just become more haunted.

Peril of the Short Story

Deal Me In, Week 35 ~ “Ellen, in Her Time”

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)
(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“Ellen, in Her Time” by Charles L. Grant

Card picked: 4♠
From: The Architecture of Fear, edited by Kathryn Cramer and Peter D. Pautz

Timothy has recently suffered a devastating loss, of whom we don’t quite know at first. He’s having problems doing much more than visit the cemetery and return home to Ellen making comforting hot chocolate any time of the day or night… Okay, that’s a little weird…

Timothy away from home is a different man. When he does manage to go in to work, he is a very slick, and therefore successful, car salesman. He’s a bit of a ladies man with a good collection of phone numbers. Always has been.

Even when Ellen was alive.

This anthology is continuing to be rather lackluster, but at least the house in this story has a larger role than the places and buildings in several of the other tales. Timothy in his modest home with the memories/ghost of Ellen doesn’t really feel regretful for being unfaithful or unthoughtful, but he doesn’t feel the need to go anywhere either. The house seems to like it that way.

Deal Me In, Week 32 ~ “The Gateway of the Monster”

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)
(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“The Gateway of the Monster” by William Hope Hodgson

Card picked: A
From: Carnacki, the Ghost-Finder by William Hope Hodgson

The Story
For some reason I was under the impression that there was a short story entitled “Carnacki, the Ghost-Finder,” which is what I originally had as my ace of spades story. Apparently there is not(?) and I therefore substituted the first story in the anthology of that name: “The Gateway of the Monster.”

This is the first Carnacki story I’ve read (and maybe my first Hodgson) though he’s been on my TBR list for quite awhile. Carnacki is maybe the quintessential paranormal investigator. This story (the first?) showcases his MO perfectly with a blend of occult know-how and technological invention. I wasn’t expecting that last part. I’m not sure there’s anything more 1910 than the notion of an electric pentacle.

I also enjoyed the allusion to M. R. James’ “Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You My Lad.” Both hauntings involve moving bedsheets, but Hodgson gives them a rather interesting provenance where James doesn’t bother explaining his ghost at all. While Hodgson gives some closure to the matter, I think James’ is the scarier story.

A thought that crossed my mind: I’m guessing that Shirley Jackson did not have a very solid grounding in the pulp/genre fiction. Carnacki takes more scientific control precautions in this short story than Dr. Montagu does in the entirety of The Haunting of Hill House. For the literary world, was Jackson bringing something new to the table with her paranormal investigator? For the genre world, did Hill House read as very weak horror?

Deal Me In, Week 26 ~ “Charles”

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)
(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“Charles” by Shirley Jackson

Card picked: 6
From: The Lottery, and other stories

The Story
I don’t know whether I’ve read this story before or whether I’ve simply heard about this story before. “Charles” might be the most famous of Shirley Jackson’s domestic tales.

The day my son Laurie started kindergarten he renounced corduroy overalls with bibs and began wearing blue jeans with a belt; I watched him go off the first morning with the older girl next door, seeing clearly that an era of my life was ended, my sweet-voiced nursery-school tot replaced by a long-trousered, swaggering character who forgot to stop at the corner and wave goodbye to me.

Laurie returns from kindergarten with tales of Charles, a kid who enjoys one-upping himself in terms of misbehavior over the next three weeks. Laurie relates these tales with glee, and his parents are alternately appalled and amused by the shenanigans. “Being a Charles” even becomes part of the family’s lexicon. Indeed, Laurie has been influenced by this other boy, becoming a little more independent and insolent.

Laurie’s mother misses the first PTA meeting and it’s three weeks into the school year before she has the opportunity to potentially meet Charles’ mother. By the time that the meeting ends, no mother has stood up to apologize for her son’s behavior. Laurie’s mom approaches the teacher and chit-chats about Laurie and about Charles, who must be a handful. The teacher tells her that Laurie seems to have be having a hard time adjusting. And, by the way, there is no Charles in the class…

Jackson leaves us with this ambiguity: is Laurie doing all the things he reports, or are his stories fibs to make his new behaviors look tame? The teacher doesn’t come out and say “Your kid’s a nightmare.” And after Laurie’s mother has been somewhat judgmental about Charles’ absent mother, what might the other mother’s think about her, who missed the first PTA meeting?

Deal Me In, Week 24 ~ “The Stoker Memorandum”

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)
(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“The Stoker Memorandum” by Lavie Tidhar

Card picked: K
From: Daily Science Fiction, Jan. 20, 2012

I’ve read and enjoyed Lavie Tidhar’s science fiction anthology/novel Central Station, but I hadn’t dipped into what might be more up alley: his Victorian steampunk series the Bookman Histories. Until now…

“The Stoker Memorandum” is connected to this series and introduces an adjacent 19th century populated by characters fictional and real, terrestrial and celestial.

The Queen herself was there, in the Royal Box, stately as ever, with her forked tongue hissing out every so often, to snap a fly out of the air. I remember the prince regent did not come but Victoria’s favorite, that dashing Harry Flashman, the popular Hero of Jalalabad, was beside her. So were many foreign dignitaries and many of the city’s leading figures, from our now-Prime-Minister Mrs. Beeton, my friend and former rival Oscar Wilde, the famed scientists Jekyll and Moreau (before the one’s suspicious death and the other’s exile to the South Seas), the Lord Byron automaton (always a gentleman), Rudolph Rassendyll of Zenda, and many, many others. Your brother, the consulting detective, was there, if I recall rightly, Mr. Holmes.

The Memorandum is, of course, written by Bram Stoker. He’s not yet the writer that we know him to be, but he’s being given the opportunity to write the biography of Charles Babbage, a recluse who has taken up residence in castle beyond the Borgo Pass… There’s a lot of literary allusions and steampunk-ery. Almost maybe too many, but I’ll probably give the first in the series The Bookman a try at some point.

(Aside: Central Station just won the Campbell Award. Congrats, Lavie Tidhar!

Deal Me In, Week 23 ~ “The Snake-Oil Salesman and the Prophet’s Head”

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)
(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“The Snake-Oil Salesman and the Prophet’s Head” by Shannon Peavey

Card picked: Q
From: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issue 172

The Story

They’d preserved his brother’s head in grain alcohol and floated it in a dirty glass jar. Leo peered through the glass and his own face looked back at him, slack-jawed and cloudy-eyed.

“Don’t know him,” Leo said.

“Some people say that thing talks at night,” he said. “Haven’t heard it, myself.”

Leo said nothing.

Leo and his twin brother Cary are kind of like the “one man who can speak no truth and the other man who can tell no lies” puzzle. Cary, who has become a head in a jar in Colonel Klee’s WORLD’S MOST DEPRAVED TREASURES, can hear what people mean when they speak. Leo, who is a roadie with Klee’s travelling show (and snake oil pitch), can only speak what people want to hear. It had been more convenience than brotherly love that had kept Cary and Leo together. Who else could know what Leo meant to say? Unfortunately, Cary told Leo something Leo didn’t want to hear, which lead to the head-in-a-jar situation. Leo thought that he was done with his brother. Leo was wrong.

Great little Weird West tale. Weird West is usually a genre that I want to like more than I do. It’s probably because I am fond of Westerns and too much “weird” can sully the things I enjoy about that genre. This story has the right weird:west ratio.

The Author
I read Shannon Peavey’s “A Beautiful Memory” last year during #24in48 and was looking for more by her. And now I’ll still be looking for more by her.