I’m a huge Stephen King fan. I’ve liked almost everything I’ve read by him (didn’t really like the Gunslinger book I read, or Firestarter, but I read the latter a loooooong time ago).
King’s long works are almost canon at this point. They’ve been made into, according to the unreliable yet useful Wikipedia:
- Movies (tons & tons of movies)
- Television series, mini-series, & single episodes of shows (“Twilight Zone,” “X-Files,” “Tales from the Darkside,” etc.)
- Comic books & graphic novels
- Stage productions
- Music (well, they might not have been his words, but the artists gave King credit as inspiration, or they detailed King’s unique storylines in their lyrics)
Some of King’s shorter stories & novellas have also been used as inspiration & source material. This includes one of my favorites of his stories (& movies), “Rita Haworth & The Shawkshank Redemption.”
I’ll give you 3 guesses on what movie they used that to make, & the first 2 don’t count.
So, King’s short stories will always hold a special place in my heart. When I found this book, containing, in the author’s words, “14 Dark Tales,” I may have squealed like a schoolgirl.
It did not disappoint!
I’m going to try to avoid spoilers – I want you to read this book!
Most of the stories are between 30-50 pages. The sixth story in the collection, “The Little Sisters of Eluria,” is probably the longest at 86 pages.
I think the longest piece is “Little Sisters of Eluria,” which clocks in at a whopping 86 pages.
Despite their short length, they have amazing reach. I became attached to the characters quickly & desperately wanted to see their situations – which, in classic King style, were horrifying, supernatural, eerie, surprising, & gripping – play out.
Each story is unique. What King does to put his stories into context is, he closes each with a short blurb. He explains where the idea comes from, which I think is the question he gets most often as an author.
He entitled the introduction, appropriately – “Introduction: Practicing the (Almost) Lost Art.”
I could give a run-down of each of the 14 stories, but instead I’m going to give you some quotations from the man himself – Stephen King:
- “I’ve written more than once about the joy of writing and see no need to reheat that particular skillet of hash at this late date, but here’s a confession: I also take an amateur’s slightly crazed pleasure in the business side of what I do. I like to goof widdit [sic], do a little media cross-pollination and envelope-pushing. I’ve tried doing visual novels (Storm of the Century, Red Rose), serial novels (The Green Mile), and serial novels on the Internet (The Plant). It’s not about making more money or even precisely about creating new markets; it’s about trying to see the act, art, and craft of writing in different ways, thereby refreshing the process and keeping the resulting artifacts – the stories, in other words – as bright as possible.” From: “Introduction: Practicing the (Almost) Lost Art
- “Writing [this story] was no fun, but I went on with it, anyway. Sometimes stories cry out to be told in such loud voices that you write them just to shut them up. I thought the finished product a rather humdrum folktale told in pedestrian language, certainly miles from the Hawthorne story I liked so much. When The New Yorker asked to publish it, I was shocked. When it won first prize in the O. Henry Best Short Story competition for 1996, I was convinced someone had made a mistake (that did not keep me from accepting the award, however). Reader response was generally positive, too. This story is proof that writers are often the worst judges of what they have written.” From: “The Man in the Black Suit”
- [POSSIBLE TEENY-TINY HINT OF A PLOT ELEMENT SPOILER IN THIS QUOTATION – BE WARNED!] “One day, out of nowhere, I had a clear image of a young man pouring change into a sewer grating outside of the small suburban house in which he lived. I had nothing else, but the image was so clear – and so disturbingly odd – that I had to write a story about it. It came out smoothly and without a single hesitation, supporting my idea that stories are artifacts: not really made things which we create (and can take credit for), but preexisting objects which we dig up.” From: “Everything’s Eventual”
- “For me, [the] emotional payoff is what it’s all about. 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.” From: “L.T.’s Theory of Pets”
- “But who can foresee such things? None of us can predict the final outcomes of our actions, and few of us even try; most of us just do what we do to prolong a moment’s pleasure or to stop the pain. And even when we act for the noblest reasons, the last link of the chain all too often drips with someone’s blood.” From: “Lunch at the Gotham Café” [This, unlike the other quotations, is from the actual story instead of King’s closing explanation of his story’s origin.]
- “[Like] an earlier story of mine (“The Woman in the Room,” in Night Shift), [this is] an attempt to talk about how my own mother’s approaching death made me feel. There comes a time in most lives when we must face the deaths of our loved ones as an actual reality… and, by proxy, the fact of our own approaching death. This is probably the single great subject of horror fiction: our need to cope with a mystery that can be understood only with the aid of a hopeful imagination.” From: “Riding the Bullet”
I would go into more detail about the titillating terrifying tales contained in Everything’s Eventual, but, as I said, no spoilers. You’ll have to read it yourself.
5 out of 5 stars! Not only does Stephen King’s present stories that raise the hair on the back of my neck, but he offers his inspiration for those stories. I might have read it just for the writing advice, but the stories were so enthralling, I could hardly put the book down.
Even when it gave me a little trouble sleeping afterwards!