Friday, November 11, 2011

Everything's Eventual.

I first read this years ago on my breaks when I was still doing days at Sbux; I loved them all. I picked it up again hoping to enjoy them just as much the second time and did. I just think it's an extremely well-rounded collection and I don't know, just really pleasing. These stories are different from King's novels, obviously, in that they're shorter and more direct, but they're also pretty different from other collections of shorts that he's done in the past. It's not just subject matter (though many of them are a touch more light-hearted than something like The Monkey or Survivor Type) but many of the stories are also terrifying (I'm thinking specifically of 1408, which I've written about before). I think what I like best about this collection is the overall vibe or feeling of the stories that compose it; I'd finish each one and I don't know, just grin and reflect, sometimes wanting to start all over and read them again. They made me happy.

1. Autopsy Room Four. This is one of the more light-hearted ones; easy to read, clever, drops little hints nicely about what actually happened to the "patient," and so on. If you're a fan of the season 3 Tales From The Crypt episode "Abra Cadaver," you'll probably enjoy this, too. And for what it's worth, I myself also enjoy the word "boomslang," and seek it out in my son's various snake anthologies just so I can say it aloud.

2. The Man in the Black Suit. I liked this, and found it extremely frightening. I loved the details, the dog named Candy Bill, the Gordy Lachance sort of feeling to it, the man and how he looked, fire for eyes, all of it. Something bigger that I love about this story (and others like it, and there have been a few) is the idea of these characters who see or experience something awful, live their whole lives without forgetting it, and then spill it, detail for detail---as if nothing has faded. Folk-tale-y, scary campfire stories.

"Even before he reached me, I recognized the aroma baking up from the skin under the suit---the smell of burned matches. The smell of sulfur. The man in the black suit was the Devil. He had walked out of the deep woods between Motton and Kashwakamak, and now he was standing here beside me. From the corner of one eye I could see a hand as pale as the hand of a store window dummy. The fingers were hideously long."

3. All That You Love Will Be Carried Away. Melancholy, random, and very detailed, this one is. The graffiti made me laugh; the loneliness of the character made me sad. I really loved the way he (King) chose to end it, though. Occasionally ambiguous endings annoy me but this one was perfect.

4. The Death of Jack Hamilton. Forgive me, but I didn't read this one this time around; I inadvertently skipped it because I think it reminded me of having dizzy pregnant spins in the break room at work (in 2009). Bad memories. And honestly, if I can make a polite criticism, I usually require my gangster stories to involve someone hot (Ray Liotta, De Niro, Johnny Depp, etc.) with a lively soundtrack. No offense.

5. In The Deathroom. This was enjoyable, short and direct, but in terms of endings it was a small letdown because it kind of cheated. The overall story worked for me, the descriptions of characters and the setting of the death room were properly sinister (you'd never catch me in *any* country south of the border for these specific reasons), and I was interested. At the risk of sounding ungrateful though, I wanted to know how he busted out of there.

6.  The Little Sisters of Eluria. Yeah, skipped this one, too, but only because I wanted some perspective from The Dark Tower series, which I haven't read any of yet. I'll come back to it once I have and then we'll talk.

7. Everything's Eventual. I LOVED this. I just find it so clever and brilliant, the details, especially. What a setup. This story is really one of my favorites, ever.

"I fished the chalk out of my pocket and dropped down on one knee. For one second I thought the whole works had gone out of my head, and that was bad. I felt despair and sadness trying to fill me up and I thought, No, don't let it, don't let it, Dinky, fight it. Write anything, even if it's FUCK MRS. BUKOWSKI'S DOG.

But I didn't write that. I drew this shape, I think it was a sankofite, instead. Some weird shape, but the right shape, because it unlocked everything else. My head flooded with stuff. It was wonderful, but at the same time it was really scary because there was so fucking much of it . . . If someone had come along, I would have ignored him. Shit, if Mrs. Bukowski's dog had finally broken its rope, jumped the fence, and clamped down on my ass, I probably would have ignored that.

It was eventual, man. It was so fucking eventual I can't even tell you."

8. L.T.'s Theory of Pets. I giggled a lot at this one; calling the cat "Screw-Lucy" was probably my favorite. I don't actually think the violent bit at the end (wife's demise) was the best, but the story had so much heart and ridiculous silliness that won me over, I still dug it.
Tom Berenger played the writer? No way! 

9. The Road Virus Heads North. I liked this one a lot; I think everyone has a framed picture in their past that they're scared of----my mother told me that once when she was little, her sister told her that the woman in the picture in their bathroom (Sylvia) was watching her. And after she said this, my mother thought the eyes really were watching, seemed to move with you across the room, etc. The thing about this story that got me were the subtle changes in the photo at first (fangs a bit longer, arm extended differently, tattoo, no tattoo? etc.) but then after he realizes that it's indeed happening, the picture just goes off the hook. Nice.

10. Lunch at the Gotham Cafe. Wow; this was another one I really loved. I don't know what I liked most about it, the crazed French dude (Guy the Demon Waiter) or King's little explanation before the story and knowing that this entire creepy story was born from such a seemingly minuscule little interaction between King and a waiter. Genius.

"'Forgetful of me you shouldn't have been!' Guy screamed, sounding like Yoda in the Star Wars movies. 'Your hateful dog! . . . Your loud music, so disharmonious! . . . Eeeeee! . . . How you ever---'

There was a large pot on one of the front burners of the lefthand stove. I reached out for it and slapped it at him. It was over an hour before I realized how badly I'd burned my hand doing that; I had a palmful of blisters like little buns, and more blisters on my three little fingers. The pot skidded off its burner and tipped over in midair, dousing Guy from the waist down with what looked like corn, rice, and maybe two gallons of boiling water."

11. That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is in French. This is my normal kind of story; reminded me very much of The Twilight Zone episode, "Shadow Play," or even LOST, without the changes in characters or you know, time travel and stuff. Any time a Crown Victoria (Crown Vic!) is used in a story it thrills me. Grand Marquis or Caprices too, for that matter. Precognition might seem like a cool trick to some, but I think the story captures a really disturbing and ominous aspect to it, pairing it with being caught in an endless loop like they were . . . yee.

12. 1408. Yes, yes, YES! Another absolute winner. I'll tell you in all honesty that I first read this at work in the break room (and had to constantly glance behind me while doing so), then read it for the second time in the bath last year (and got extremely shivery and uncomfortable) and then earlier this week, had to put it off for a day because the night it came up on the rotation, Matt was out that night for a concert. I was not willing to read it alone in the house at night because I knew it would completely mess my shit up (and bad), despite having read it two other times before. This one terrifies me; I think it's the scariest of anything in King's collected works. I just find it so . . . unsettling and well done. This is so wonderfully crafted and subtle in its evil that I think it might be the most goddamned genius thing I've ever read, or close to it, anyway. In the link up above, I mentioned my favorite bits of writing, here are a few different ones:

"In the picture where the fruit had been, there was now a severed human head. Yellow-orange light now swam off the sunken cheeks, the sagging lips, the upturned, glazing eyes, the cigarette parked behind the right ear."

"The thought of Olin smirking (in his deferential New York hotel manager way) and saying I told you so didn't bother him, and the idea that Olin had somehow induced these strange perceptions and horrible fear by chemical means had entirely left his mind. It was the room. It was the goddamned room."

13. Riding The Bullet. I was fooled by this in that I assumed for sure that the old piss-smelling guy was the monster, but you know how I feel about the elderly by now, I suppose. It had a lot of heart (mother/son experiences, memories, devotion, etc.) and it's pretty clear that King felt very strongly about his own mother from many of his stories, but this one definitely stands out.

14. Luckey Quarter. I loved this, and loved that it was the last one in the book. Light, wonderfully random, and entertaining. Wasn't there a Twilight Zone with Dick York dealing with something similar?


Justin Garrett Blum said...

I actually kinda liked that 1408 movie. I thought it was pretty well done. I'd be interested in reading the book if it's as scary as you claim.

Donald said...

I remember thinking the story was neat, but not scary at all. The movie was a pretty good adaptation, but they stretched out a ten or so page story into two hours, so it kind of went on too long for its own good. Also, it didn't really have much of story beyond "haunted hotel room."

But the story was all right.