Tuesday, 8 April 2014

A Stephen King short story

I'm keen to maintain the momentum on my reading. Hemingway was a success and I'm gripped by the short story format.
Having read a handful of stories in as many days I thought I'd invest a little time in identifying an author and a style that perhaps I'd read more of.
It's not entirely scientific but my criteria essentially boiled down to drama, intensity, strong character, sex (!), setting. For me the genre isn't so important as I'll happily read a story set on Mars as much as I'll read something set in Middle Earth.

Stephen King's name fell out of the bottom of the process.
I'd read King when I was younger. Salem's Lot and The Dead Zone I read early on and then a handful of other novels in my early 20s. Since then I've read a bit of Clive Barker within the horror genre. In fact Barker's writing helped me to redefine horror. So much so that I really don't see King as that much of an horror author any more. An extremely effective author of dark and disturbing tales for sure, but Barker's gruesome focus on the fantastical, ancient beasts and human mutilation are on a different level.

I picked up King's A Face in the Crowd. A short story about an elderly loner (a common fear right there if ever there was one) who spends his evenings watching Baseball on TV.
On one such evening he identifies a familiar face in the crowd of the poorly attended ballpark. On TV this familiar face from the distant past. A face that belongs to somebody who is surely dead by now.
The next night the exact same thing happens. A different but equally as familiar face right there in the same seat. A few rows back behind the batter.

What King does here is very quickly builds a picture of this man's situation. He creates a character whom I care about. I feel his loneliness. His wife had died some years before and he has nobody else in the world.
Similar in some respects to Hemingway's old man out at sea on his skiff.
The gaps in between the defining points of this man's life are neatly filled with his little quirks and idiosyncrasies. His daily routine is oddly familiar such that when something extraordinary happens we are forced to sit up and take notice.

I look forward to seeing just how this short tale pans out.

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