Sunday, June 25, 2017

DMI2017: More Catching Up (Weeks 21-24)

This group of four stories brings me up to the end of last week, so I am officially caught up now. And it's definitely a mixed bag of stories!

Week 21: "Why I Live at the P.O." by Eudora Welty
Card: Two of Hearts (Mississippi authors)
Collection: The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty
How have I missed this story all these years? I know that it has been widely anthologized and whenever one mentions Welty, this story usually comes up. In addition to being a famous author, Welty was also known for her photography, and supposedly this story was inspired by one of her photographs showing a woman ironing in the back of a post office. This is a truly funny story of sibling rivalry and the ways in which it can cause family relationships to go all to hell. I'm sure I'm not the first person to think of this, but I definitely saw glimpses of the Biblical parable of the Prodigal Son in this story. But more than anything else, I just wallowed in the Southern cadences and turns of phrase that Welty uses all throughout the story.

Rating: 5 stars, no contest!

Week 22: "The Apprentice" by Larry Brown
Card: Seven of Hearts (Mississippi authors)
Collection: Big Bad Love
When I put together my list of Mississippi authors for my Hearts suit, I'm ashamed to say that I didn't actually know many beyond the obvious ones like Welty, Faulkner, and Wright. So I started googling and came up with a pretty long list of authors born or raised or living in Mississippi, and Larry Brown was on that list. He passed away in 2004, but in his lifetime he was a pretty notable author and won many awards, including the Mississippi Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts, as well as the Southern Book Award for Fiction. He hailed from Oxford, Mississippi and became known for his gritty, down-to-earth stories and novels.

This story, "The Apprentice," was actually pretty funny, but with an undercurrent of darkness and despair. Lonnie and Judy are a married couple who, according to Lonnie, at least, were happy until Judy decides she's going to become a writer. She writes all the time, which is actually OK with Lonnie, except that he begins to read some of her stuff and it's completely awful. (Her story "The Hunchwoman of Cincinnati" is what finally leads him to realize that she's a terrible writer.) The problem is, if he tells Judy the truth about her writing, she becomes unhinged; if he lies and says it's great stuff, then they have amazing sex. So he's in-between the classic rock and hard place.

Rating: 5 stars; I really liked Brown's tone and style, and I am very eager to read more of his stuff.

Week 23: "How To Become a Mars Overlord" by Catheryanne Valente
Card: Queen of Diamonds (Science fiction/Fantasy)
Collection: Twenty-First Century Science Fiction
This was one of those stories that I really wanted to like. The premise is irresistible: the "story" (really more of a humorous essay) consists essentially of instructions on how to become a Mars overlord, with examples of those who have gone before you. It's true that there's only one Mars in our solar system, but apparently every solar system in the Universe contains a Mars-like planet, just ripe for the taking by any enterprising overlord. The sections of the essay include: "Welcome, Aspiring Potentates!", "Query: Why Mars?", "Step One: Get to Mars," and "Step Two: Become an Overlord."

Rating: 3 stars; I wanted to like this story, but I didn't really because it was not a story. The title was the best part. The essay consisted of tale after tale of Mars overlords and what they were like and what they did to conquer their Mars, and in the end I just found it all very confusing.

Week 24: "My Dear, My One True Love" by Lee Durkee
Card: Ten of Clubs (Mystery/Detective set in Mississippi)
Collection: Mississippi Noir
This is another story that's not a story (have I missed something somewhere in the rules of modern fiction?) but it's entertaining nonetheless. It's an ode to the crazy woman. It begins: They have the most beautiful eyes, crazy women do, differing tints and gleams, true, but always that pinprick of wilding incandescence, the swamp gas rising. Of course, relationships with crazy women don't end well. And with no risk of a spoiler, here's the end of the story: Life goes on in this manner until someone gets led away in handcuffs or we find ourselves late at night once again shoveling away under the Mississippi stars, my dear, my one true love.

Rating: 4 stars; even though it's not really a story in my opinion, it was well-written and humorous, always pluses to me.

Deal Me In 2017 is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

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