Monday, September 8, 2008

Short Story Monday - Everything's Eventual by Stephen King

As I said before, it's not a RIP season without a little Stephen King!! And so, Short Story Monday begins with just that....a little Stephen King. I can't begin to expound on how much of a King Fan-Girl I am. My first encounter with Uncle Steve came in 7th grade....when I picked up the book Carrie. I immediately fell in love, and the affair has lasted all these years. True, there are books that I've been less than excited about. But all in all, it's been a pretty great run. And honestly, for a person like me that isn't all that fond of short stories, King's short stories always make me smile. For some reason though, Everything's Eventual never quite made into my pile of reading until now. I don't even think I realized I hadn't read it until the movie 1408 was released. So I decided to save it for this year's RIP challenge!

As I was reading the introduction, I realized what a great writer King really is. He has a knack for saying things in the simplest way, and yet conveying huge ideas. For example, he says, "The short story is also not a lost art, but i would argue it is a good deal closer than poetry to the lip of the drop into extinction's pit". And he is right. You rarely see short story anthologies anymore. King and Gaiman....and a small handful of others. "I've continued to write short stories over the years, partly because the ideas still come from time to time -- beautifully compressed ideas that cry out for three thousand words, maybe nine thousand, fifteen thousand at the very most -- and partly because it's the way I affirm, at least to myself, the fact that I haven't sold out, no matter what the more unkind critics may think". And to me, that's pretty cool. Writing something, not because you want to sell millions of copies (which with the King name it will probably do anyway), but because you need to say it. Because the story is there no matter what the commercial value.

But on to today's short stories:

Autopsy Room Four is the story of Howard Cottrell. Howard is a stock broker that likes to golf. He lives to golf, you might say. And yet, on this day, he wakes up in the dark and can't for the life of him figure out why. He remembers golfing....then nothing, but waking up in the dark. He can't move or speak. But he can think. And then he realizes something. He's in a body bag!! He's heading to Autopsy Room Four and a date with a Gigli saw and a pair of postmortem shears!!

The Man in the Black Suit is the story of Gary. Gary wants to leave behind a written account of something that happened to him when he was only 9 years old in the summer of 1914. He is afraid no one will believe him. That's why he never told a soul what happened to him. But now that he is sensing the end is near he wants to write it all down. When he was 9, he went fishing one afternoon at the banks of Castle Stream. And on that day, he met a man in a black suit. And with the certainty that only nine-year-olds can have, he was sure that that man was indeed the Devil.

If there was ever a man that could make a desperate situation like being autopsied alive humorous, it would be Stephen King. And try as I might not to laugh, I did! Written as an ode to an old Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode with Joseph Cottten, only King could find a rather "unique" way for Cottrell to show he was alive! Laughter aside, the story was written in such a way that it indeed make me want to scream...."What are you people doing?? Can't you tell he's not dead?" I could FEEL the man's pain, and it was almost suffocating. The same with the nine-year-old Gary. (King actually garnered publication in The New Yorker and an O'Henry Award for Best Short Story for this one). The terror he felt was palpable coming from the pages of this book. And to me, that's what makes Stephen King such a wonderful writer. He can easily put you in the mind of a paralyzed 44-year-old man, and just as easily into a nine-year-old boy on the next page. You can see the saw, and you can see the Devil, with his eyes of orange, burning through his skull. And it makes you scared. It also makes you want to leave on a light when you go to bed at night!


Nymeth said...

King sounds like such a cool guy. You're right, not that many writers do short stories anymore, and it's great that he chooses to continue to write them.

The stories themselves sound great! By the end of RIP you'll probably have completely convinced me to read this collection :P

naida said...

Great review!
I really liked this book too.
Autopsy Room Four creeped me out. I know, I felt bad for that guy, and wanted them to realize he is alive. It made me cringe. Then it makes you wonder 'can that really happen?' OMG

You definitely need to leave the light on when going to bed while reading a S.K. novel :) I had a few nightmares this past week while reading The Shining.

raidergirl3 said...

Amen Stephanie.

I read this one last year for RIP just like this, a few a week. I recently went back and read my reviews and I remembered how much I enjoyed this book. King rules!!

SmallWorld at Home said...

Thanks for this review; I'll pass it on to my son, who is going through a HUGE King reading spree right now!

Anonymous said...

I've read some of King's longer fiction, but I have yet to try any of his short stories. Your review has convinced me to give them a go!

Carl V. said...

It definitely is not R.I.P. without short stories and King certainly is a master. I love reading his articles in EW as well as other reviews he has done, etc. He is an intelligent and interesting writer.

I'm going to have to do a post about short stories this coming weekend as so many people, including myself, are lamenting the fact that I left this peril off of this year's challenge. Bad me!!!

Melody said...

Great review!
I'm glad both Stephen King and Neil Gaiman (two of my favourite authors) continues to write short stories. Good short stories are so hard to find nowadays!

Ladytink_534 said...

I think my first King book was It. My first King movie too lol. I remember these stories! I read this book when it first came out but I thought I'd forgotten all about it.

John Mutford said...

My first Stephen King was also in grade 7 (Christine) and I devoured his books until I graduated highschool. I've read a few since, but they haven't been the same for me. I've always enjoyed his short stories though. I haven't yet read this collection.