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Bookends: Twilight Tales for a Winter’s Night February 14, 2012

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: Twilight Tales for a Winter’s Night

By Dan Davidson

January 11, 2012

Star, Jan. 13/12

– 663 words –

 

Just After Sunset

By Stephen King

Pocket Books

539 pages

$12.99

 

It’s kind of reassuring to know that a writer with a track record like Stephen King’s continues to have misgivings about his craft. King’s career as a published writer began on a portable typewriter in the laundry room of the family’s home during the period when he was a high school English teacher. It was all about short stories and he knocked them out as fast as he could in order to supplement their meager income. Most of them have been collected elsewhere (except for one that’s in this book) and most were short, as befits material appearing in magazines of various types.

As we all know, King’s page count expanded exponentially after his first successful (and short) novel, Carrie, and so did the size of his shorter fiction. One collection, Four Past Midnight, contained just four stories, each of them well past 180 pages – short for King, but well into novella or novelette length for anyone else.

About 10 years ago King writes that he was afraid he had lost the knack for telling a short story, and he took on the editing of that year’s Best American Short Stories in the hope that it would jump-start the process for him. I understand that. When I haven’t written any poetry for a while I find I need to read some to get that part of my brain working again. Apparently it worked for him, if the 14 stories in this collection are any indication.

A lot of them still bulk up pretty well and, while there are a few that clock in at around ten pages, there are also several that range between 60 and 90. He can’t help it. Whether it’s a horror story or a more mundane thriller, King’s technique has always involved a transition from the everyday world to the macabre, and the transition requires some space.

The oldest and the newest stories in the book are both homages of a sort, one being a riff on the tale that goes with the song about the cat that came back, and the other a somewhat Lovecraftian tale with shades of Charlotte Perkins. There are stories about nightmares that come true, stalkers, spousal abuse, the end of the world and coping with 9-11. Some are sad, some ironic, some scary and one or two surprisingly lovely.

If King does research some of his stories, and he says he does, I’m not sure I want to know what he had to do to research the longest story in the book, the one about the old man who gets trapped in an industrial porta-potty by his crazy neighbour. The thing fell door down you see, and there was really only one way out.

For a fellow who announced his retirement from writing a few years back, King has been quite busy ever since. I really can’t keep up. I began reading this collection a year ago, but set it aside after two stories in order to read his massive Under the Dome, which I received for Christmas that year. I fished it out of my reading pile during the recent holiday fortnight and polished it off in two afternoons. I was spurred on by two facts: my wife had given me his latest novel for a Christmas present and that I knew he’d released another short story collection already.

I’ve peeked at that one, which has the logical follow-up title of Full Dark, No Stars, and I can see he’s up to his old tricks again, The first “short story” in it is 193 pages long. the next is 164, followed by 48 and 122. The paperback edition has a bonus fifth item that’s a mere 25 pages. Do you suppose he was trying to prove to himself that he could do it?

 

-30-

 

 

 

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