This post is for catching up on my short story reads for the Deal Me In challenge. And I have Steinbeck’s The Leader of the People along with H.G.Wells’ The Door in the Wall. While they are very different stories, and random picks on my side, I felt/noticed that each of them points to how people change how they view things/the world around them as they grow out of childhood into adulthood.
Deal Me In: Catching Up
The Leader of the People by John Steinbeck
I drew the 8 of Clubs which led me to Steinbeck’s The Leader of the People. This was for week 7 of the Deal Me In Reading Challenge.
About the Selection and its Author
Steinbeck is of course, a Californian native. And I finally read one of his books only when my son had to read it as part of required reading in school a few years ago. Thanks to my son’s reading assignments, I have now read Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath.
And our trips to Monterey, which is about an hours drive for us, always reminds me I need to read and learn more about Steinbeck! I still need to read Cannery Row.
Steinbeck loved his pencils! He wrote, “It occurs to me, that everyone likes or wants to be an eccentric and this is my eccentricity, my pencil trifling.” He started his day with 24 sharpened pencils, and used each one until it reached a certain dullness, moved on to the next, till all were dulled down. He resharpened all 24 and repeated the process. Once they were of a certain length where he could not hold them comfortably, they were passed on to his young sons. He preferred black pencils and ones that were round because a “hexagonal pencil cuts my fingers after a long day.”
And Steinbeck’s birthday was the 27th of February (1902). He would have been 118 this past week!
This story is part of a four chapter novella titled The Red Pony. This story is the fourth chapter there, but each one can be read as a standalone too. We follow along with little Jody Tiflin on a ranch in 1930s California, as he learns more about life, living, death, relationships, and more in these stories.
I loved the moments between Jody and his grandfather, treasured them indeed. It reminded me of my own grandfathers, as well as the times my own kids have spent with their grandfathers (now cherished as memories).
Jody is thrilled to have his grandfather visit them, while his father is decidedly not so keen having his father-in-law with them. The old man’s oft-repeated stories of “westering” bring about completely different reactions from father and son. It made me wonder and realize how we sadly outgrow the pleasures of listening to a story (even those repeated) and hope we can capture that happiness every once in a while.
From the story:
“I tell those stories, but they’re not what I want to tell. I only know how I want people to feel when I tell them.
It wasn’t Indians that were important, nor adventures, nor even getting out here. It was a whole bunch of people made into one big crawling beast. And I was the head. It was westering and westering. Every man wanted something for himself, but the big beast that was all of them wanted only westering. I was the leader, but if I hadn’t been there, someone else would have been the head. The thing had to have a head. .…..We carried life out here and set it down the way those ants carry eggs. And I was the leader. The westering was as big as God, and the slow steps that made the movement piled up and piled up until the continent was crossed. Then we came down to the sea, and it was done.”
A sweet sad read, and one that makes me more inspired to read more Steinbeck.
The Door in the Wall by H.G.Wells
For Week 8, I was dealt the 4 of Hearts, which is for one of my favorite authors – H.G.Wells. And I have featured his shorts in earlier Deal Me Ins. This time, I picked a story randomly – The Door in the Wall.
About the Selection and its Author
H.G.Wells is, as I mentioned earlier, one of my favorite authors. I read his stories for the first time decades ago, and continue to enjoy reading his books and short stories. While I did not enjoy The First Men in the Moon as much as I had hoped/wanted to (it kind of dragged), Wells still remains a favorite. His short stories still manage to interest and astound me.
The Door in the Wall is considered to one of Wells’ finest tales, and reminded me of another H.G.Wells story I read a while ago, The Magic Shop.
I had to read this one twice to figure out what was happening, but it was worth it. The story is told in a narrative within a narrative format. We are introduced to the protagonist, Wallace, who relates to the narrator of this story, about his many run-ins with the door in the wall.
Wallace first discovered and opened this magical door in the wall as a young child, and found a whole new reality. After a short while there, he ended up on a familiar sidewalk and realized no one believed his tale about fantastical gardens.
Since then, he has seen the door many a time, both in real life and in his dreams. But he has never opened it, and Wallace relates to the narrator that the door has haunted and taunted him throughout his life. Will he ever see that door again, and what will he do when he does? The narrator and the reader both find out the answer soon enough.
This story seemed like one about missed opportunities and regrets, childhood nostalgia and sweet memories, fears of the unknown and the roads not taken, of the whimsy of imagination and the wonders of reality, and more.
A story that shows Wells writing at its best and is worth a (re)read!
And Now, the End of this Post
Dear reader, have you read any of these stories? If yes, your thoughts? If not, then any other short stories by these authors? Do you have any recommendations? Do let me know