Category Archives: Deal Me In 2023

Deal Me In 2023: 3 of Hearts

AnthologyThe Collected Stories of Willa Cather

StoryNeighbour Rosicky

I confess that I re-shuffled when the first card I pulled this week was a club – I wanted to read something out of the Willa Cather anthology, which was the only one that hadn’t yet come up for me. I won’t do it again, now that I’ve managed to read something out of each suit.

Reading this reminded me of why I love Willa Cather, and why I’ve made it a personal goal to read everything she ever published. No one writes the prairie immigrant experience like Cather. This story is told in third person, and focuses on Rosicky, a late-middle aged Czech immigrant who owns a farm somewhere in Nebraska. Rosicky is married to Mary, and they have five sons – he is contented, and even a little bit awestruck, by how his life has turned out. He owns his farms outright, is married to a fine woman he both loves and respects, and has five strapping, kindhearted and hard working boys, even if he doesn’t have much cash in the bank.

They were comfortable, they were out of debt, but they didn’t get much ahead. Maybe, Doctor Burleigh reflected, people as generous and warm-hearted and affectionate as the Rosickys never got ahead much; maybe you couldn’t enjoy your life and put it into the bank, too.

For a man who began his life extremely impoverished, nearly starving on the streets of London, he feels a great deal of gratitude for how it all worked out.

While he sewed, he let his mind run back over his life. He had a great deal to remember, really; life in three counries. The only part of his youth he didn’t like to remember was the two years he had spent in London, in Cheapside, working for a German tailor who was wretchedly poor. Those days, when he was nearly always hungry, when his clothes were dropping off him for dirt, and the sound of a strange language kept him in continual bewilderment, had left a sore spot in his mind that wouldn’t bear touching.

I was born in Nebraska, and have a soft spot for the prairie. So did Cather – she loved the wide open skies and the endless horizons of that part of the country, and, as well, shows a deep and abiding respect for the hardscrabble, warmhearted people who lived there. She doesn’t romanticize the hard work and austerity of their lives, but she also acknowledges that there was love, generosity and happiness there, too.

If Neighbour Rosicky is an example of what I have to look forward to in this collection, I am really looking forward to continue to read Cather’s short fiction.

Deal Me In 2023: Four of Spades

So far, I’ve managed to pull a card for a different anthology each week, which has been lucky.

AnthologyThe Persephone Book of Short Stories

StoryDimanche by Irene Nemirovsky

Nemirovsky is most famous for her novel Suite Francaise, which was first published in 2004, 62 years after her death in Auschwitz in August, 1942. I heard of it when it was published, and it’s been on my mental TBR ever since, but this is the first thing by her that I have read.

It is a gem of story, set on a spring day in Paris. Nemirovsky was born in Ukraine, but this story feels entirely French. I have never been to Paris in the spring, but I have been there, and I can imagine that it is just like it is portrayed in this story. At the center of the story is Agnes, a middle-aged Frenchwoman who spends a Sunday alone with her 5 year old daughter,  Nanette, who is a little bit under the weather.

Guillaume, her husband, has plans to spend the day in the countryside, and invites Agnes along, knowing she will decline. He is meeting his current mistress, so the invitation is not sincere and Agnes briefly considers what he would do if she said yes.

It also concerns her twenty year old daughter, Nadine, who has also made plans to meet a man. The end of the story is quite insightful, with Agnes and Nadine both reflecting on each other; Nadine with the self-centered self-assuredness of youth and Agnes, who is not nearly so oblivious as Nadine believes.

I loved the writing in this one and will make it a point to move Suite Francaise up on my TBR.

Deal Me In 2023: The King of Diamonds

This is a catch-up post from last Sunday, to be followed by this week’s story!

AnthologyTroubled Daughters, Twisted Wives edited by Sarah Weinman

StoryA Nice Place to Stay by Nedra Tyre

I’ve never heard of Nedra Tyre, who published 6 crime novels during the 1950’s through 1970’s.

This was a grim little tale, with the protagonist who lived in devastating poverty until she is convicted of a crime she didn’t commit and, for the first time in her life, she has a room of her own and three solid meals a day. The fact that it’s in a women’s prison doesn’t bother her at all, which sort of proves that abject poverty is its own sort of prison.

The story begins with the following lines:

All my life I’ve wanted a nice place to stay. I don’t mean anything grand, just a small room with the walls freshly painted and a few neat pieces of furniture and a window to catch the sun so that two or three pot plants could grow.

Things spiral badly when her lawyer manages to get her conviction overturned and causes her release. When he expects her to be grateful to him, well, she’s not. She just wants to go home.

Deal Me In: The Jack of Clubs

I’ve been trying to decide how to handle this project on my blog – do I write a post for each story? Do I do a monthly wrap up post?

Anyway, at this point, I’ve decided to write up a post for each story, although I’m not sure I will continue as I have started.

A word about my incredible deck of cards – for anyone who is interested, the Etsy listing is here. Every image is a miniature work of art, related to a well known literary character or classic story and they are absolutely gorgeous. The fact that I pulled Sherlock as my first card was a pure coincidence, although also possibly a sign that fortune favors my enterprise!

Anthology: Deep Waters, edited by Martin Edwards

Story: Echo of a Mutiny by R. Austin Freeman

This story was new to me, and is a fairly long short story. It even has two chapters. It’s an inverted mystery – the first chapter sets up the mystery, so the reader knows everything. The second chapter brings in Dr. Thorndyke, a recurring detective character from Freeman’s work, and he figures out (more or less, and in this case rather less) what happened, with the help of a bitten pipe stem, some flake tobacco, a knife, and some barnacles. It was all very Sherlockian, making the card even more appropriate.

Inverted mysteries aren’t my favorite, but this was fun, and I think that they may work better as short stories. I’m not going to bother to try to rate the stories because I struggle with a star scale for books, much less short fiction.


2023 Reading Plans and Updates

This time of year, I always get excited, thinking about a brand new reading year in the offing, and I start making plans for what I want to tackle in the new year. 2023 isn’t an exception to that rule – in fact, because I am retiring on 9/30, I’m extra excited about the possibility of more reading time at the end of the year.

I still have several ongoing projects that I am working on, and will continue with next year:

With respect to my A Century of Women project, I made a lot of progress early in 2022 and then sort of fizzled out towards the end of the year. I have been struggling with 1900 through 1919 because I haven’t been enthusiastic about the books that I have found for that part of the challenge. I decided to change up the challenge, and, instead of starting in 1900, to start in 1920 and read through 2019. This should open up my book choices a lot and enable me to put this particular project to bed – probably not in 2023, but maybe in 2024, which would be great. I have a follow up project – A Century of Crime – that I have been waiting to start until the finish line is in sight.

I also decided to do the Back to the Classics Challenge this year.

Again, I did really well on this one early in the year. There are a total of 12 prompts, and I have read for & posted about 8 of them. There is 1 more that I can finish off with books I’ve already read. I finished Jane Eyre, which will work for 19th Century Classic. That leaves me with 3 unread. I’m satisfied with that. I think I’m going to pass on this challenge for next year, because I have some other plans.

I also have an ongoing Classics Club project that I largely ignored in 2022. I’d really like to make some progress on this project. I read a few of the books on it, but never got around to writing up a post, so that’s probably going to be something I work on during January. The books are: Grand Hotel by Vicki Baum, The Balkan Trilogy by Olivia Manning, and Lolly Willows by Sylvia Townsend Warner, all three of which I loved. I DNF’d Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell, which is odd because I usually love her, so I may give that one another try. If it continues to not work for me, I’ll read a different Gaskell. I also started, but lost interest in, The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch. I’m also going to give that one another chance because I didn’t get very far into it, but if it’s not for me, I’m taking Murdoch off the list and adding someone else. Life is too short.

My new projects for next year are:

All of the Agatha Christie mysteries for 2023 (in my GR group) were published in the 1940’s, so I decided to focus on that decade next year. It was a really good decade for mystery publishing, and I’m looking forward to reading a lot of different mystery styles by different vintage authors, both men and women. My library has a lot of the American Mystery Classics reprints, many of which were published during this decade, and there are a number of reprints from BLCC and DSP that are from the ’40s. As a part of this project, I may also watch some film adaptations from the books I read. This will give me a jump start on my Century of Crime project – I expect I will fill in the entire decade by the end of the year.

Because I am planning to focus on mysteries published in the 1940’s, I think it’s time to start this project in earnest.

My final challenge for 2023 is a short story challenge.

My other project for next year is to try to finish the Deal Me In Challenge, which is a short story challenge that I have tried to complete several times and have consistently failed. The basic challenge structure is to assign each card in a deck of cards a different short story, and then draw a card each week to select that week’s story. I will have a separate master post that sets out the stories I have assigned to each card. I have some really great anthologies that I will be reading out of:

  • Deep Waters: Murder on the Waves: a BLCC anthology edited by Martin Edwards (assigned to Clubs)
  • The Collected Stories of Willa Cather by Willa Cather (assigned to Hearts)
  • The Persephone Book of Short Stories, Volume 1: a Persephone anthology edited by Susan Glaspell (assigned to Spades)
  • Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives: an anthology of vintage crime stories written by women, edited by Sarah Weinman (assigned to Diamonds)

The only suit that I haven’t managed to assign at this point is Spades, because the Persephone anthology hasn’t arrived and I can’t find a list of stories anywhere on the internet. My copy isn’t going to be here for a few weeks, but my library has a copy that I can check out to start the project. I am really happy with the anthologies I have chosen for this challenge, so I’m hopeful I can finish it!

There are some other, smaller items I have in my general reading plans – more Maigret, more Inspector Alleyn, catch up on a few series, finish all of Willa Cather’s published works (only 1 novel left, and that short story collection!) read more Dorothy Whipple, Patricia Highsmith, Barbara Pym & Stella Gibbons.