After reading the underwhelming Rooms, and with the real life horror of the inauguration yesterday, I needed a sure thing to scratch my supernatural itch. Enter Joe Hill. Ever since Locke and Key, I’ve been a fan, and this is from someone who read too much of his dad’s coke-fueled 80s novels to be charitably inclined toward the family. Joe Hill had to win me over at first, but there’s no true believer like a convert.
20th Century Ghosts didn’t disappoint; a collection of short stories that ran the gamut from dark and fantastic to the slightly shadowy mundane, there’s something for everyone in a variety of tones, but a cohesive voice prevails. Considering the stories’ subjects range from the sons of Dracula’s Van Helsing to a budding supervillain to the adolescent would-be victim of a murderer, this is impressive.
Despite my seeking out this book in hopes I’d get another Horns or NOS4A2 (please don’t judge the former by the flat as a pancake movie adaptation, or the latter by that train wreck of a title), my favorite story of the bunch -Pop Art- was essentially a coming of age story about the petty cruelties we visit upon those who are different (can’t imagine why THAT resonates lately). This difference happens to be that our protagonist’s best friend was born inflatable. It’s written so subtly I had to go back in the first few pages to make sure I understood, the story treats it like a congenital ailment like any other. And, the way the narrator’s father subjects the inflatable Arthur to various indignities that may or may not be intentionally malicious may as well be directed at a gay or disabled child as we’ve unfortunately seen recently. Despite the ridiculous premise, the story is mostly serious and touching, and exactly what I needed this week. Go read some Joe Hill, the best thing Stephen King’s made.