Tag Archives: morgan & west

Deal Me In, Week 11 ~ “The Villager”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“The Villager” by Shirley Jackson

Card picked: Eight of Spades – I swear I’m shuffling, but this is my third Shirley Jackson story in a row.
From: The Lottery and Other Stories

Thoughts:

Miss Clarence lives in Greenwich village. She moved to New York City in hopes of becoming a dancer. Instead, she became a secretary to pay the bills and, twelve years on, has become a private secretary, has a comfortable apartment, and considers herself a “Village die-hard.” At age thirty-five, she is always on time, with a pack of Kools on hand, as she searches for the right furniture for her apartment.

Not like the Roberts’ who are selling off their (woefully inappropriately oak) furniture and keep a messy house. Miss Clarence doesn’t even meet Mrs. Roberts–Mrs. Roberts had to run an errand she forgot about and left with door unlocked with a note for Miss Clarence to look around until she gets back. The Roberts’ are obviously the artistic sort; their bookshelves full of books about painting and photography…and dance. To kill time, Miss Clarence strikes a dancer’s pose, something that she used to do but had always required work, and is interrupted by a young man also there to look at the furniture. In order to not seem foolish, Miss Clarence tells him that she is Mrs. Roberts, a dancer.

Of the three stories of Shirley Jackson’s that I’ve read in a row, this is the second with identity at its core. Jackson doesn’t really leave us with a firm sense of whether Miss Clarence is regretful of the path her life has taken; whether the work it took to be a dancer was joyous or, well, just work.

Is This Your Card?

Deal Me In, Week 8 ~ “The Man of the Crowd”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“The Man of the Crowd” by Edgar Allan Poe

Card picked: Two of Hearts – Would you believe that? A wild card for the second week in a row. The third in six weeks! I decided again on an Obscure Literary Monster.

From: The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore’s website

Thoughts:

This little gem begins, as many of Poe’s stories do, with an epigraph, a quote by Jean de La Bruyère: “Ce grand malheur, de ne pouvoir être seul” or, “This great misfortune, of not being able to be alone.”

Our unnamed narrator is on the mend after being sick for a while (“merely to breathe was enjoyment,” he comments) and is observing the crowd from the window of a London coffee house. Poe treats us to feats of deductive reasoning as the narrator infers the professions and positions of many of the passers-by. Toward dark, though, he is especially intrigued by one old man who seems to defy other description.

…there arose confusedly and paradoxically within my mind, the ideas of vast mental power, of caution, of penuriousness, of avarice, of coolness, of malice, of blood-thirstiness, of triumph, of merriment, of excessive terror, of intense — of supreme despair. I felt singularly aroused, startled, fascinated. “How wild a history,” I said to myself, “is written within that bosom!

Despite his fragile health and changing weather, our narrator decides to follow this man. He’s led all around London, from street to tavern to docks, never stopping anywhere for more than a second or two and always led by the ever-present people of London. In fact, this old man only seems invigorated by the crowd; the bigger, the better. The narrator decides that this strange being is forever restless and unexplainable. He simply exists everywhere there are people. This man has the great misfortune of not being able to be alone.

As Obscure Literary Monsters go, this one is at least disquieting, if not truly monstrous. Still, how often have I clicked from Facebook to Twitter to Reddit to my RSS feed reader and back to Facebook again. The Man may still exist even if the Crowd is different.

Is This Your Card?

Deal Me In, Week 31 ~ “The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of” by Tad Williams

Card picked: Three of Hearts

From: David Copperfield’s Beyond Imagination

Review: For the first half of the year, I was a little disappointed that these David Copperfield edited anthologies didn’t have more stories with magician characters in them. It seemed that it was pretty much the “luck” of the draw. The last few stories have been enjoyably full of illusionists.

In Tad Williams’ “The Stuff that Dreams are Made Of,” Dalton Pinnard (aka Pinardo the Magnificent) is called upon to help the daughter of a deceased colleague. The story is told in a semi-hard-boiled style (soft-boiled?) with a touch of parody. You see, Charlie Helton died while practicing the Basket and Sabers trick. You know the one. A magician or his assistant scrunches into a wicker basket barely big enough to hold a person, then the magician (or his assistant) sticks sabers through the basket. After the sabers are pulled out, the magician (or his assistant) emerges unharmed. Only Charlie died while practicing this trick, alone, in a locked room. Was it murder? The reader says, “Of course!” The characters mainly ridiculously debate whether it was an accident or suicide. And somehow, this works giving what would be a fairly average locked room mystery a silly edge.

The magicians of this story are rather blue-collar. No big-time Las Vegas stages for them. Pinardo has been working birthday parties. Other magician’s questioned about Charlie’s “accident” are working nightclubs and children’s wards at hospitals. If you believe his stories, only Charlie Helton seems to have had a career, but that too might just be an illusion.

About the Author: Tad Williams is a fantasy author best known for his Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series. Though a mere three books, I’ve only read 1.5 of them, not due to the quality of the writing, but because I’m crap at reading series. In fact, Tad Williams is one of the few writers I’ve read where I’ve stopped after a paragraph and marveled at the beauty of the writing. “The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of” went down easy, but isn’t quite at that level.

Is This Your Card?

Though not a video of the saber & basket trick, it is somewhat apropos considering the parody nature of the story.