Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Devouring Stephen King: Everything's Eventual

"I want to make you laugh or cry when you read a story... or do both at the same time. I want your heart, in other words. If you want to learn something, go to school."

When starting Everything's Eventual, it occurred to me that I hadn't read a book of King's short stories for quite a while, but I didn't realise that it hadn't been for practically 2 years. What this tells me, really, is that I need to get a move on if I'm ever going to finish reading all his stuff (not that that will actually have happened until he, you know, dies. And if that never happened, I'd be ok with that.) but also that there was quite a wait between collections- 14 books, and 'almost a decade', according to the back of my copy. 

But none of that is really important. I've said before that I think King's short stories get better as you read them in progression, and I definitely think that Everything's Eventual is at least as good as, if not better than, Nightmares and Dreamscapes (from what I can remember of it). There were a couple of duds, as always, but there's also an impressive range of different genres covered here, which is a big reason that I always appreciate King's short stories- they prove that he's not limited to one style, that he can be effective in a number of different ways, and almost always scare your pants off. 

I never know how to review short stories (never, never, never) but I think this time, since there's only (!) 14 of them, I'll tell you some really brief thoughts on each of them. I think I actually do have thoughts about all of them, which is pretty rare, so please bear with me whilst I ramble. This shouldn't be too painful.

Autopsy Room Four- This story makes me roll my eyes now because of certain elements of it, BUT at the time I was reading it, it really freaked me out because I'm just a tiny bit scared of being alive whilst an autopsy is carried out on me. Just another one of those 'weird' fears I have.

The Man in the Black Suit- Kid goes out fishing by himself, meets the devil. I can see what King was trying to do with this one, but it really really didn't do it for me. 

All That You Love Will Be Carried Away- Again, this story was a little bit meandering, and I didn't really get anything out of it. In fact, I barely remember it, which doesn't necessarily mean it was bad, but refreshing my memory of it didn't exactly light my fire. Research tells me it first appeared in The New Yorker, which makes me wonder if King was messing with his style to try and fit into that magazine, and if that's true I want to shake him and say NO. You're awesome, stick with it.

The Death of Jack Hamilton- A fictional account of something that happened in John Dillinger's gang that's both sad and incredibly human. I'm pretty sure that gang gets way more good press than bad, especially these days (see: Public Enemies), and this only adds to their legend, and their humanity. And, it's pretty fun and exciting.

In The Deathroom- This is an exercise in creating dramatic tension, and ohhhh boy, does it work! A man is being interrogated inside a room he fully expects to be the last one he sees- will he escape? WILL HE? Tension, man. It's awesome.

The Little Sisters of Eluria- At 80 pages, this is almost more of a novella than a short story, but since it's part of The Dark Tower series, I didn't mind so much. This tale, of one of Roland's skirmishes before he meets up with his ka-tet is both creepy and such a welcome glimpse of a character I haven't seen since last summer. ALL THE ROLAND.

Everything's Eventual- This starts off slow, and actually doesn't necessarily get any quicker, it just builds a full picture of everything that's happened in a roundabout way, until you realise what's really been happening, and you're kind of shocked. I really liked the first person narration of this one, it worked well, and I can't quite put my finger on what I liked about it, just that I did.

L.T.'s Theory of Pets- This is another one where I could see what King was trying to do, but it didn't really work for me. It's a good example of the difference between people's public faces and private thoughts, though.

The Road Virus Heads North- This story scared me. Big time. I have a weird, childhood-based fear of inanimate objects that come to life, and this is that, and combined with the open ending, I was not left easy at the end of it. *shudder*

Lunch at the Gotham Cafe- This was a little bit gory, as well as showing a divorcing couple who can't even get their shit together when their lives are being threatened. I liked it, but not that much. 

That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is In French- If The Road Virus... scared me, then this one freaked me out. It honestly made me palpitate a little bit, and made my stomach twist because it's the weirdest case of deja vu ever. To say much more about it would give it away, but it must be a perfect use of the uncanny because it freaked me the fuck out.

1408- Alley week may be over, but I think it's worth mentioning that this is her favourite short story from this book (and I think from King?) I can see why- it's got a good build up, and it's not quite the way you expect it to be, which is why I think it is actually scary- things don't happen that are necessarily in-your-face shocking, but everything's a little off until suddenly everything's wrong. It's really good- not my favourite, but still pretty great.

Riding the Bullet- This story contains a lot of anxieties about death, King calls it his attempt to deal with the death of his mother, and it manages to be gross and sad and goes back and forth between the two until its end. I liked it, even if it didn't necessarily play with my mind like some of the others.

Luckey Quarter- I feel like I shouldn't even like this story as much as I do because there's not a lot to it- it's possibly the shortest of all the short stories, and it doesn't really say much. Except that it kind of says everything, especially in the last few lines. To me, it's a story about how even if you don't have a lot of material things, as long as there are people you love, you kind of have everything you need, and that's just really a message I can get on board with. Short but sweet, definitely.

There, that wasn't SO bad, was it? Although now I scroll back up, it is quite long... Deal with it. If you're into short stories, this is a pretty great collection, and for me there were really only 3 or 4 duds (I'm undecided on Lunch at the Gotham Cafe). It might be worth mentioning that I had read this collection before but didn't remember it AT ALL (I had opposite deja vu when reading it, I guess) so that's probably not a good thing, although it's a definite advantage when it comes to re-reading and wanting to be scared again. So, yeah. 

Now that that's out of the way, I just have one more King book and I can live out my dream of reading the remaining three Dark Tower books this summer. VERY EXCITED.


  1. Wait, what? Is it really possible that you've written a review of a Stephen King book that I *actually* read? Well, I reckon it is!

    I read some of it--a friend of mine was the audio reader on the audio book, but I don't remember that there were so many stories on the audio. I didn't really love the title story, but OMG--that Road Virus story still scares me when I think about it. Whoa. Gotta go be in the sunshine with some puppies while thinking about unicorns, STAT.

    1. HOW HAS THIS HAPPENED?! Madness! Hehehehe, I feel like everyone's just read early King, which I reviewed when no one read this blog, so that's why I'm just reading books of his that no one seems to have heard of- I've read the well known ones already!

      I really liked the way the title story was told rather than it being especially interesting or content-y or anything, I think. But I still stand by liking it. And OMG The Road Virus is super scary. PICTURES CAN'T COME TO LIFE THAT'S NOT FAIRRRRR! I thought it was similar to Riding the Bullet, only scarier because it just creeps closer and there's nothing you can do and arrrrrgh!

  2. My favorite short story OF EVER! Man, I love 1408 and I think you nailed exactly why it works so well, at least for me. Though I can respect that it's not your fav. I think you and I were pretty much on the same page with these. Except Man in the Black Suit. That's another one of my fav stories from this collection

    1. I did enjoy 1408 in a 'mommy, I'm scaaaared' kind of way, it just wasn't necessarily my favourite, but I can appreciate how well done it is. It's just so... uneasy feeling! *shudders a teeny bit* The deja vu one really creeped me out on a really primal level though, so if we're talking scariest, that was kind of mine.

      Full disclosure about The Man in the Black Suit- I read it on the day I went to Harry Potter Land, I think as we were driving home from it, so I may have found *anything* kind of dull on that day. But even when I think about it now, I'm kind of like 'ehhh'. Like, I have no urge to re-read it to check if it's actually good, which I think says a lot.

    2. I feel like the Man in the Black suit is pretty different from his other stuff. But hell, even King said when he wrote it that he didn't think it was a great one so obv you and he are in sync.

      I loooooooove the uneasy feeling in 1408. Like you said, it's a bunch of little things that are off but you sort of accept them until suddenly everything is nuts. A little like how in a dream everything makes perfect sense and it's not until you wake up that you're like "dafuq happened there?" The deja vu one sort of has that feeling and yeah, def another awesome one.

    3. Hahaha, hilariously I too thought 'OMG SK and I clearly have the same opinions about everything' when I read his little afterword/note/whatever. Special bond and all that :)

      So much uneasiness. I like how everything's just a liiiittle bit off kilter, and you're like, hmmm, I can live with this, and then suddenly everything's a little bit oozy and weird and then there's the phone thing- I could honestly have nightmares about the phone thing. I feel like it's the kind of story that gets better the more I think about it, actually!

  3. I still haven't read any of King's short stories; on the PLUS side, I am about 80 pages away from the end of my first of his monster tomes. Well, actually, The Shining might be one too, a bit, but I had a mass market paperback so it LOOKED quite small even though it took me a while to read. I am a firm fan of this man now, and you definitely have a part to play in that, so... well done you. :D

    1. Yaaaaaaaaaay! Anything I can do to bring more Stephen King fans into the world, I WILL DO! His short stories are really really very good, Ellie- I'm not sure how much I generally care about short stories, but I like it when King goes off his leash a little and experiments with genre and succinctness and generally being awesome.

      You know, just sayin.

  4. It's been years since I read this collection, but 1408 still freaks me out!