Intro – I originally planned to read the entire audio anthology in one year, some two years ago, clearly it didn’t quite work out. Since starting the project, I’ve added several story collections, so starting with Stories M, there will be many more stories included, such as five dozen from B.J. Novak’s “One More Thing” and the novella’s from George R.R. Martin’s “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” and the two collections from Vonnegut. So these will be interesting.
The Man in the Black Suit – this story is considered, not by me but by the short story world, to be Stephen King’s finest. One of only a few stories to be published in the New Yorker, and winner of the World Fantasy Award and the O. Henry Award. I’ve read it a few times but each time I seem to forget what it’s about. A kid meets a devil like creature while fishing. But now I remember the other details to it, his brother (before the story) died of a bee sting, the devil tries to convince the kid that his mother died of the same thing while he was down by the river. It’s a pretty good story, but not my favorite by King, and I’m not sure why it has been so well received. I do like the name of the kid’s dog and awful lot though, Candy Bill, I may name one of my future dogs that (though at this point the primary candidate for a name is “Stranger”).
The Man Who Invented the Calendar – this is one of my favorite stories from “One More Thing.” It’s about exactly what the title would imply. It’s very funny, there are a lot of comments on some of the abnormalities in the calendar, and the clock as well, such as why there’s 30 and 31 days a month, why February is spelled strange, how day light savings was drunkenly invented, and so on. All this in an 11 minute story. I think the version that was published in the New Yorker (which I read prior to reading this collection or rereading it for the anthology) was shorter, but I’m not sure, I’ll have to look into it.
The Man Who Loved Flowers – a very early Stephen King story, a horror story with an unexpected twist ending. Comparing this story to even the first one listed in this collection “The Man in the Black Suit” you can tell how juvenile King was at first and how far he has come as a writer. Not that its “bad” it’s actually hopeful exhibition for any would be writers.
The Man Who Posted Pictures of Everything He Ate – a very short story by Novak, a flash fiction, about what the title would imply. This story is king of an anti-joke of which there are a few of in the collection, in which a setup is given for a humorous anecdote or joke, but then its punchline ending reviles the story to be sad and serious.
The Man Who Told Us About Inflatable Women – unlike the last story this is not an anti-joke, it is a joke, a joke, basically a one liner: “Why did the old man prefer inflatable women?” that is extended just a bit further than the one line set up and punch line. it’s a very interesting form for a story.
The Mangler – another story from King’s first collection. The title, I always think implies a serial killer who, as the title would suggest, mangles his victims. This is actually not the case; the Mangler is an industrial laundry machine. I don’t quite understand how it works. Evidently this one has been demonically possessed through a variety of anglo-saxon mysticism.
The Manned Missiles – not one of my favorite stories from Vonnegut’s “Welcome to the Monkey House.” it’s written in epistolary from about an accident in space in which a soviet and an American rocket ship crash into each other. And the letter from the father of the soviet victim seems to have caused an international peace movement, bringing the two countries together.
The Market Was Down – another very short story by Novak treating the Market as though it were a human being with feelings that dictate how it behaves.
A Martian Odyssey – this is my favorite story from the “Classic Science Fiction” audio book. It’s about a scientific exploration of Mars, a guy who survives with an alien creature with human intelligence, but thinks in a different way, and speaks a language that is unable to be understood by the primary narrator. It’s a very interesting story, but is a bit dated, now that we know the environment on Mars is nothing like how it is described in the story. Not that that really matters.
Messenger – the short Epilogue of Alice Munro’s somewhat ambitious Historical Fiction/Auto-biographical story collection “The View from Castle Rock.” The story is about Munro looking for a grave stone of one of the characters from the Historic part of the collection, in a way bridging the two parts of the collection together. It’s not considerably good though.
Midnight in Dostoyevsky – one of the stories from DiLillo’s collection. It’s about two college kids who go around making up facts about things they see, people they meet, and arguing about these facts. It’s a sort of game they play with each other. Things change though when they come across an old man who the narrator insists they talk to and verify the facts they have come up with about him. The collection as a whole has some misses and some hits, this story… is a push.
Mile 81 – the first story from King’s brand new collection “The Bazaar of Bad Dreams.” Not one of my favorites out of the collection. It’s too much like his old style of story-telling. It’s too much a Horror story, not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just not my cup of tea, and this is a bigger problem because I know King is able to write better stuff and does, it’s also fairly long.
Miss Temptation – Kurt Vonnegut’s story about a man coming home from the military. He comes across a very attractive girl and gives her a hard time for being so attractive, because in his past he was always overlooked by women like this. Kind of an interesting story, not his best but not his worst either.
Missed Connection – a funny little story by Novak, in the style of a Personal Add. I’d go into detail but the details would ruin the story because of the way it progresses. It’s very short though.
Missing Link – I’ve read this story 3 times now, and to date it is still the only thing I’ve ever read by Frank Herbert. It’s about an astronaut who is investigating a missing ship on a planet of violent glass blowers. Kind of a cross between Sci-Fi and Mystery.
Monster the Roller Coaster – when you read a story like this you realize just how brilliant of a writer Novak truly is. The story is about an artist who makes a roller coaster that is supposed to imitate life. The story takes place at a focus group with people explaining what they liked and didn’t like about the roller coaster. Every word of the story has a double meaning to it, if not more. It’s incredibly deep, maybe not as funny as some of the others from the collection, but very much worth a few reads.
The Moon is Green – this is one of a handful of stories from the “Classif Sci-Fi” audiobook about a post nuclear war. Taking place I think in England, about a woman living in one of the hard to get surface apartments with an important but also emotionally abusive husband. It’s a heavy story, which almost goes without saying, but it’s very good.
More Stately Mansions – A Vonnegut story from “Welcome to the Monkey House.” It’s kind of sad and kind of disturbing, but not so much to spoil the reading. It’s about a couple that moves into a neighborhood and befriends a woman who is constantly making suggestions about things to do with the house. The disturbing part is when the couple finally goes over to the neighbor’s house they see her house is very shabby. The story gets even weirder at the end, but it ends on a happy note… kind of.
The Moving Finger – this is one of the few stories from King’s Nightmare and Dreamscapes that I don’t much care for. It’s just a basic monster plot device, a long finger that crawls out of the sink, too long for what it’s about.
Mr. Yummie – One of the stories from King’s latest collection “Bazaar of Bad Dreams” and a new edition to the Story anthology. The story is about two old men, one who believes he is about to die because he has seen someone from his past who no one else can see in the nursing home. The idea of death is just as prevalent in King’s later works, though it’s a very different side of the subject, understandable given his semi-advancing age.
Mute – this is my favorite story from King’s “Just After Sunset” and maybe second favorite story by King (top five easily). It’s very funny and not really a horror story. It’s about a man who picks up a hitch-hiker who is a deaf-mute and the proceeds to tell the hitch-hiker all about his current troubles with his wife, which are pretty significant. The story is then interspliced with the same man telling a catholic priest about the telling the hitch-hicker about his problems, adding an interesting double layer meta-narrative to the story.
My Appearance – despite the fact that David Foster Wallace is my favorite writer, he is still hit or miss, and this story is one of those misses. The constant use of the phrase “I am a woman who…” gets rather annoying and also doesn’t make the story or narrator believable, at least for me. There is an essay by Wallace (“Twenty Four Word Notes” from the posthumous collection “Both Flesh and Not”) where he explains “who” is the appropriate way to say a sentence in reference to somebody as opposed to “that,” which I assume is technically true, but when used so heavily in a first person narrative, is not successful narration, it’s also an example of telling not showing. Also the “behind the scenes” take of a popular television show was already done and done much better in the first story from the same collection “Little Expressionless Animals.” I like the story the first time I read it, but much less so this time around.
My Pretty Pony – Evidently a segment from a Bachman novel that was either never finished or published (I don’t quite remember which). Not at all a horror story, but also not good, one of the rare misses from “Nightmares and Dreamscapes.” The story is about a boy and the last time he sees his grandfather who is dying from heart disease caused by smoking. Strangely enough, this story was the one I most wanted to read from the collection, yet ultimately one of my least favorites (but still better than “The Moving Finger”).
The Mystery Knight – and wrapping up the letter we have the third Dunk and Egg Novella from George R.R. Martin. For those of you who don’t know, the Dunk and Egg stories are from the Game of Thrones universe, but take place about 90 years before the start of that novel, following the adventures of future king Agon the Unlikely as he squires for a mildly-witted and massive hedge knight named Sir Duncan the Tall. Of the three stories thus far, this is one the best, it deals a lot in heraldry, and a tourney held at a wedding, and features two characters that appear in the Game of Thrones book proper, i.e. Walder Frey and Blood Ravine. There is a great scene where an unassuming tourney knight, Sir Uther Underleaf, offers to team up with Sir Duncan at various tourney’s and suggests Sir Duncan change his arms to a baby impaled on a lance. I would love to see this series continue, almost as much as I love to see the author finish the god damn Game of Thrones series, but since he appears to do everything accept finish the book at this point, I’m not holding my breath.