Monday, January 13, 2014

Deal Me In Short Story Challenge: The Five of Hearts (Tobias Wolff) and the Jack of Clubs (Bordertown)

One of the challenges I signed up for this year is the Deal Me In Short Story Challenge.  The idea is to assign 52 different short stories to one card in a deck, then draw a one each week and read the corresponding short story.

I decided to liven this up a little bit by reading and posting on two stories at once.  My own personal challenge will be to find a way to link the two random stories.  Today my challenge is to connect a story by Tobias Wolff with a story from the Welcome to Bordertown anthology of urban fantasy.  We'll see how it goes.

"The Night in Question" by Tobias Wolff is a slice of life story about a brother and sister who have a relationship that has stood the test of time and trial by fire.  In "The Night in Question" the brother is trying to tell his sister a story he heard in church.  Although he has only recently become a convert to full bore Christianity, she is already tired of hearing him tell stories from sermons.  This story is about a man faced with the terrible choice of either sacrificing the life of his beloved son or the lives of five strangers.

The sister stops her brother before he can finish. She has had enough of her brothers terrible church stories.  She knows the message will once again be about how right it is to sacrifice one person for the lives of many others and that this will tied to the story of Jesus's crucifixion.  The sister, who has sacrificed so much for her younger brother, born so much suffering from his years of addiction, their father's abusive behavior, years a sacrifice for her little brother, cannot bear the suggestion that one life should ever be forfeit for the sake of another.  After all they have been through the idea of sacrificing the one person you love to save the lives of strangers is something she cannot countenance.

The Jack of Clubs led me to a story about every genre readers dream job.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Bordertown series an introduction is in order.  Terri Windling invented Bordertown in the mid-1980's as a place where everyone could come and play.  The idea is that there is a town between the human world and the elvish world of faerie called Bordertown.  There humans, who cannot enter the world of faerie can mingle with elves who cannot enter the world of humans.  Terri Windling came up with the world and invited everyone to submit stories set there.  Since Bordertown first appeared five volumes of short stories and three novels have been released.

Will Shetterly's "The Sages of Elsewhere," which appears in Welcome to Bordertown is about a human man who runs a bookshop in Bordertown, the secret dream job of every genre fan.  When he is offered the chance to purchase a rare magical book, he does so reluctantly only to find the book talks back when spoken to.  He hopes to quickly move the book on to a prospective buyer as soon as he can, but a talking magical book means an elvish origin and this means trouble for a simple bookstore owner.

Soon, there is a mob outside his door figuratively demanding his head on a spike, threatening both his life and his livelihood and a talking book just really isn't much help in the circumstances.

So how does this fantastic story in the realm of faerie relate to a slice of life a la Tobias Wolff?

Both are about stories, the power of stories and collectors of stories.  "The Night in Question" features a brother who collects anecdotes from sermons and a sister who doesn't want to hear them.  "The Sages of Elsewhere" features a bookstore owner who must get his book into the hands of the right buyer.  In each the root of the problem comes from people trying to deal with a story they don't want, to hear in "The Night in Question" and to own in "The Sages of Elsewhere."

One story is stopped before the end; the other ends with a book that turns its pages into wings a flies away.


Sandy Nawrot said...

(Post #7 and I think the end of my James-a-thon) I don't really have a comment for this post. I'm not sure I would read either of these, but I applaud you for finding the links!

gautami tripathy said...

I am in awe of you! I can't even imagine doing this your way!

I am gonna read all your short story reviews though!

bibliophilica said...

I love the "find the connection" variant of Deal Me In that you've chosen. I've often thought of doing some kind of connect-the-dots reading project where something about or within one work is used as a connection that leads you to choose the next, but I've never followed through with it. Short stories would be a good place to try it out though.

I've read a little Tobias Wolff (his "Hunters in the Snow" was one of the first cards I drew the first year I tried DMI). I’d never heard of "Bordertown" but love the concept. Thanks for introducing me to it. :-)

I also love some of the "non-standard deck" playing card photos some are sharing on their posts - like your Jack of Clubs. There are some beautiful and artistic playing cards out there!

Thanks for participating in Deal Me In!


katenread said...

Great connection! I love stories about stories.

Good luck with future connections.

readthegamut said...

I love your twist on the challenge! These stories seemed to work pretty well together in the end. I'm looking forward to finding out which two stories you must link up next week.