Date read: 4.27.08
Read from: Public library
A horror review for belated Halloween wishes, maybe? I have a weird love-hate relationship with King’s fiction, characterized of late by a growing tolerance and respect for his work. About half of the time I find his work screechy, self-important, and overburdened with stylistic tics, but I do think that his particular understanding of life deepens a lot of his writing. (A little more on that below.) Also, I think The Shining is pretty good as a novel, and amazing as a movie. (I just re-watched it with my roommate a few days ago. Excellent.)
Given all that, I decided to cherry-pick only the stories that seemed most interesting to me out of this collection, which ended in me reading about half of it. Blurblets below.
- “The Man in the Black Suit:” My favorite story in the whole collection. An unexpectedly frightening tale of a young boy who encounters the devil in the woods. Both images and dialogue are deeply unnerving despite their simplicity, but the questions that it raises about human vulnerability and moral uncertainty had the most lasting effect on me. I think King does just about everything right in this story, which was originally published in The New Yorker.
- “Everything’s Eventual:” Second-favorite, except for the irritatingly saccharine center point of the story. A young man with an unusual talent finds himself hired out to an apparently welcoming organization that simply asks him to send some of his specially-composed letters to certain addresses.
- “L.T.’s Theory of Pets:” L.T. espouses his theories on marriage and pets. Kind of funny in a very crude way; the twist in the ending is interesting.
- “The Road Virus Heads North:” Fairly unremarkable living-painting story, though the title and central image are excellent (and based on an actual painting that King saw once, if I recall correctly), and I enjoyed the overall air of luridness about it.
- “Lunch at the Gotham Café:” A couple in the midst of a sudden divorce meet at a city café for an ill-starred legal meeting. Very disturbing, vivid, and desperately depressing. Another favorite.
- “1408:” This is the story that I read the book for, really, because I’ve heard so much about it. Unfortunately, it would have been MUCH scarier if I hadn’t read so much about it already (go me), but it’s executed extremely well regardless. Classic haunted hotel-room story, coupling growing dread with violent jags of stomach-flipping, Lovecraft-inflected terror. Whee! Also, I’ve never seen the movie adaptation, but it has Samuel L. Jackson in it, which gives it 5 instant-awesome points.
- “Riding the Bullet:” On the way to visiting his ill mother, Alan Parker has an unexpected hitchhiking experience that forces him to reevaluate his love for her. Very sad.
- “Luckey Quarter:” A poor hotel maid and single mother finds a single “luckey quarter” left as a tip and considers the consequences should she use it. Also very sad.
The collection as a whole didn’t do too much for me, but the stories that I chose to read, at least, felt very real and thoughtful – at the most basic level, they’re about unfortunate things that happen to unlucky, unhappy, and ordinary people. I think it really shows in his work that King has had a great deal of experience with life and people, especially problems like divorce and addiction. Consequently, this is the kind of horror that his best work often grows out of: fears of futility, of loss of control over self and others.