Day number 2 of my week of posts, at least I made it this far this time.
Emergency – another story from Johnson’s “Jesus’ Son” this one is about the narrator working as an orderly in a hospital with a friend Georgie who is also as into drugs as the narrator, they steel pills from the hospital while they work there. In one funny episode a man comes in with a k- in his eye and the doctor on call sends out a message to several specialists, because he wants them all there when he takes the knife out, for some reason Georgie needs a knife so he pulls it out of the guys eye himself. On an interesting note, it is argued that the narrator throughout the collection is the same character, however this story could indicate otherwise: the narrator says in this story “no wonder everyone calls me Fuckhead” however in the earlier story “Dundun” it’s Dundun and not the narrator who says “he’s the guy who got everyone calling me Fuckhead” which would indicate that Dundun is the narrator of “Emergency” and thus making a different character the narrator of “Dundun.”
The End of the Whole Mess – Spoiler Alert, you may want to read this story before reading this review. This story is long, but not too long, considering the narrator tells the story from pretty much his childhood up until the point when he helps his brother unintentionally destroy the world. The brother, Bobby (based heavily on King’s older brother Dave) is a child prodigy super genius, who contaminates the worlds water supply with a protean that he thinks will make people more peaceful. The process works, but Bobby did not realize that a side effect of this protean is early onset Alzheimer’s. Early on in the story there is mention that they destroyed all animal life on the planet as well, but I’m not sure if this was a mistake, poetic license, or meant literally. Kind of like “Flowers for Algernon” the story intentionally falls apart at the end as the dementia sets in for the narrator who is writing this “record of events” and is going to bury it for someone or something to find many years later. The story is read by Mathew Broderick (Ferris Bueller & Inspector Gadget himself) who does a spectacular job with the story, especially the end part which is close to unreadable. This is not my favorite story from Nightmares and Dreamscapes, but it is damn close, which is why that collection is hands down the best by Stephen King.
Everything is Green – this isn’t even a short story, this is a Flash Fiction, coming in well under a thousand words, even shorter considering it came from the same guy who wrote one of the world’s longest novels, that’s right, this is the second David Foster Wallace story to appear in this anthology. This is actually the first story I ever read by him in its entirety, though I had started “Infinite Jest” some months before hand (that’s the long novel mentioned). This story is an argument between a man and a woman who are living in the south in a trailer park. It’s not indicated what exactly they are arguing about, details like that have been stripped from the story in order for it to read differently and more real to everyone who reads it. I personally think that the man and the woman are arguing about having children, because there is an indicator of a neighbor who has kids living across the ally, and why mention such a detail if not a clue in such a short work? That being said the story could and can mean anything really. This is the 6th time I’ve read this story, you can read it for yourself here [link].
Everything’s Eventual – this is the third time I’ve read this story, and the first time that I really understood it. It’s about a kid (late teenager) who has some sort of “power” where he can draw symbols that will drive people to suicide. he uses this power on a bully that keeps picking on him and a vicious neighborhood dog. He is eventually recruited by the Trans Corporation (connected to the Dark Tower, the narrator Dinky is also a minor character in the Dark Tower as well) to do the same job. Things go pretty good, until he more or less unintentionally discovers that the people he is killing are not quite the bad people that he was promised by his mentor they would be. I think the main problem with the story, why it was so hard for me to follow the first time, is there are a lot of details that are more or less unimportant in the story, yet the narrator keeps going on and on about them, Dinky’s Dayboard for one. It’s also written in a Teenager’s Vernacular, which is done well, but does also make the story more difficult to follow. Not King’s best work, not even the best story of the collection for which it titles, but its okay, much better after the third time around.
Evil Spirits – after reading this story, I’m not so sure about Palahunik. I thought that his stories were heavily based in fact and thoroughly researched. However after reading this story, I looked up the virus the main character is supposed to have, and couldn’t find anything. I also looked up the naval hospital where the narrator is quarantined; this also didn’t turn up anything. It seems like he’s making more up then I originally thought, and how can I trust any of the other “Facts” in his other stories. On a similar note I looked up the Chewlah tribe, mentioned in the story “Dissertation” and again, nothing. That aside the story is pretty good, there is a very moving passage where they get the kids into bio-hazard suits so they can go outside and play, “It might not sound fun, but you want to cry when it’s time to go back inside.” Probably one of the most sad and powerful passages in the entire book, and maybe any of Palahuniks books.
Exodus – This is the longest story from Palahunik’s “Haunted” though it is still in the realm of short. The story is about an assistant director of a police station who accidently purchases two anatomically correct Russian sex dolls for children to explain what had happened to them. The cops end up taking these dolls for privet use, and the woman (who has an affinity for inanimate object, like stuffed animals) tries her best to protect them. It’s a funny story, but also kind of disturbing and very deep. It takes a reverse approach on the way that people have a tendency to turn other people into objects.
The Eye – this is an Alice Munro story about a young girl who becomes very close to her babysitter, who is eventually killed while walking home from a town dance, and the girl attending the funeral. Since the story is about a kid who doesn’t really understand what death is, and this is her first funeral (I think), and said kid is the narrator of the story, it’s not nearly as heavy as it sounds, and not that bad either, one of her shorter ones, which I admire.
The Family Meadow – I know it’s been a while, but we finally get to another John Updike story. This is not so much a story but more like a Prose Poem or if you would a Prose Painting. There is very little “story” involved, it’s about a large family that gathers together once a year for a reunion, and I mean that’s it. There are maybe five or ten sentences that detail some back story with the family, if that, most things happen in the present, the family gets to the meadow, they eat, they play, they leave. It’s pretty beautiful though, and this particular story is read by Updike himself, whose soft Pennsylvania/New England voice I do enjoy.
Farmers Law – another Turtledove story, but this one is not alternate history (as far as I know) but rather a combination historical fiction and whodunit mystery. Taking place in the Byzantine Empire, the local priest is pushed into solving the town’s latest murder. He has to do so because if they are to call on the higher government to solve the crime, the “iconoclasts” will arrest the priest for having the religious icons in his church, and the towns folk who also warship said icons will not do to well either. And interesting and pretty original type of story, I enjoyed it more this time around then the last time I read it.
Fathers – another Munro story, but for the first time in this anthology, not one from her newest collection “Dear Life” but from the collection just before “The View from Castle Rock.” That collection in itself is somewhat unusual. The first part comprises of 5 stories that are semi-fictional and based heavily on Munro’s ancestors. The second part consists of another 6 stories that are all autobiographical. This story “Fathers” is from that second part. The story compares Munro’s father (previously seen in “Dear Life” see stories D) who is more or less a good man, and a friend’s father who is not even remotely close to a good person.
Fathers and Sons – this story is about a lot of things. One of those things is a kid saying how he would like to pray at the tomb of his grandfather. Interestingly enough, while I was reading this, the last time around, my father sent out a text message saying that that day was the 20th anniversary of his father’s death. Believe it or not this piece is the 3,000th piece read since I’ve been keeping track of everything I read. It’s a good story to begin with and it seems to keep coming up at unusual times, so maybe there is something beyond this story. In case you’re wondering the 1,000th thing read was a flash fiction by Thomas Craughwell called “The Scuba Diver in the Forest Fire” part of an urban legend collection, the 2,000th thing read was Thomas Pynchon’s “Inherent Vice” it was the first time I read that novel and also the first thing I ever read by Pynchon. The first thing on the list is “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.”
The Fifth Quarter – another story from Nightmares and Dreamscapes, and again not horror but a noir mystery, that reads like any sort of old style pulp Dashal Hammet, Raymand Chandler take your pick. Some crooks rob a bank and because the money is new they can’t spend it so they bury it, draw a map to the location and split the map 4 ways. However one of the crooks get’s greedy and kills one of the others for his quarter of the map. Unfortunately the crook, Barny, was not quite dead and he tells the story to a friend who goes to avenge Barny’s death and maybe get some of the loot on his own. It’s a good story and not very long.
Fifty Grand – this is one of the longer stories from “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” though it is I believe slightly shorter than the title story. It’s told in the first person, but the narrator is not the main character, the main character is an Irish Boxer, who is going into his last match and betting Fifty Grand against himself. Unlike a lot of the other Hemmingway stories, this one is rather hard to follow for me for some reason, and I’m still not entirely sure of the ending, it’s a good one though, of course they all are, even the worst story in the collection is still pretty good.
Footwork – another Haunted story, this one is also fairly risqué, dealing with a massage therapist who has been lured into the dark side of massage therapy, giving orgasm inducing “foot jobs” to rich men. She’s able to buy her parents a nice condo in Florida but soon after the market gest flooded with other foot therapists and she again struggles to get buy. This is an even bigger problem because her boss is a Russian mobster.
Forever Overhead – I mentioned earlier about my favorite David Foster Wallace story, this is it. This is one of the most beautifully written stories by him or by any other author. Simple enough, it’s about a kid who is going to dive off the high board for the first time on his 13th birthday. The story is heavily detailed. Interestingly enough, when I ripped this story, I somehow messed it up, and a chunk from near the end is somehow in the middle. I’m not sure how this happened. In any other story it would be highly noticeable, but for Wallace it’s hard to tell. I wasn’t even sure one way or the other until last year when I “sight read” the story. It’s one of the few stories available on the “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men” audio collection, and is read by the author. If you ever read anything by Wallace, make it this one. I wish someone had read this story to me when I was 13, of course I might not have understood it then, plus I was 14 when it came out and certainly not reading stuff like this at the time. In fact I wasn’t reading anything at that age, but that’s a story for another time.