I was struck late last year with the overwhelming urge to read some Stephen King short stories, and so here is the result. I hadn’t read this collection for a few years so was able to re-read these with a sense of meeting old friends who I slightly remembered. This collection has a high overall level of stories, and I was struck by the strength of his writing and the way he worded things throughout, often very beautifully and strikingly. I will say that having not read this for a few years, I was not as scared by some of these as I remembered being on the second or third go-round, as they’re more well-worn but no less enjoyable to me. I know that King is most well-known for his door-stopper novels, which I also love, but I personally have always thought that short stories are where he shines. He has the skill of making perfect little jewels of stories, often with a nasty edge, and the limitations of the length keeps him from overwriting as he has the tendency to in his longer form work.
My favorite story in this collection has always been “N.” a cosmic horror take on OCD, but this time around I really found myself drawn to “The Gingerbread Girl,” which concerns itself with running and inner strength. It’s always interesting to me how my reactions are changing as I grow older, and given the life marathon I feel like I’m signing up for in the next few years, it didn’t shock me that I was more struck by his contemplations on surviving and continuing through life challenges. Several of the other stories deal with mortality and the afterlife in various guises, which I found to be touching and thought provoking. “The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates” was a particular favorite of mine within this theme. I also found “Harvey’s Dream” to be particularly unsettling and to capture a horrible sense of inevitability and unreality very well. My least favorite was probably “A Very Tight Place,” but that’s just because I don’t like gross stuff.
Overall, this is a keeper for me and I’ll return to it again in 5-7 years. It’ll be interesting to see what stories resonate for me then!
Warnings for: murder, attempted rape, domestic abuse, intrusive thoughts/OCD, mutilation, cancer, sick and dying children, death, homophobia, suicide — I probably missed a few, it’s full of stuff