Sunday, July 1, 2012

Constant Reading Project: Do you love?

One more down.

Skeleton Crew is short stories, so I will quickly say something about each piece in the collection.

Let's talk about the introduction for a second. As you know, I've been reading every Stephen King book and I have read every King book (except The Wind Through the Keyhole because it came out after I started this project and I'm saving it for the end). When King talks to his Constant Readers, it's people like me he's talking to.

The intro to Skeleton Crew is the first time King uses that title for his readers. I know; I've been watching for it.

"The Mist": Classic monster tale right out of the 1950s. If you get a chance to watch the movie in black and white, do so. If you read this story after watching the movie, don't be disappointed by the story's ending.

"Here There Be Tygers": You know, for a while I thought there was a shark in the toilets of my elementary school. Maybe a teacher-eating tiger would have been better.

"The Monkey": Some toys are creepy as hell. King knows it, you know it. This particular evil monkey made the cover. It's one of the stories that people think they know what happens, but they are usually wrong.

"Cain Rose Up": We'll get to Rage soon enough. This story is one that we can call King's "Charles Whitman" stories. The crazed sniper, taking potshots at random strangers. Seemingly random violence and its roots is one of King's best-used themes.

"Mrs. Todd's Shortcut": Every once in a while, we see King's family slip into his stories. His wife Tabitha's use of shortcuts prompted this piece. It's one of those stories that only seems right being set in Maine.

"The Jaunt": When King does venture into science fiction, it's easy to see just how much of that genre he absorbed in his youth. There is just enough originality here to make it a fun read.

"The Wedding Gig": Historical pastiche creeps into King's work about as often as his family does. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes, it is somewhere in the middle. This also feels like a precursor to his much later story "My Pretty Pony" and the stories that could have been written by Richard Bachman. Or George Stark.

"Paranoid: A Chant": King doesn't publish much poetry. This has a college-level feel to it. What's great is how certain themes in the poem pop up in other stories in the collection.

"The Raft": Another chance for King to go for the gross-out. It works here because the tension is allowed to build up before the major gore gets splattered.

"Word Processor of the Gods": I used to tell a version of this story and "The Reaper's Image" when I was a Boy Scout. The story is easy to follow and one of the few times that everything works out in the end.

"The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands": A return to the club full of old men and their stories from "The Breathing Method." I think it would be great if King went back there for one more pull from the well.

"Beachworld": Sci-fi, again. If these astronauts had had the Jaunt at their disposal, this wouldn't have happened.

"The Reaper's Image": This is a campfire story. If you go camping this summer, take this one with you.

"Nona": Hey, look, it's a Castle Rock story. The main character gets his ass kicked by everyone's favorite delinquent Ace Merrill. King really does have a universe and the joy of being a Constant Reader is being on the inside for things such as this.

"For Owen": A poem about fat kids for his youngest son. Grade school sucks.

"Survivor Type": A seed of an idea, a little bit of research and King gets a story of one man's fight for survival by self-cannabalism. Hail to the King!

"Uncle Otto's Truck": Another Castle Rock piece and another vindictive automobile. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

"Morning Deliveries (Milkman #1)" and "Big Wheels: A Tale of the Laundry Game (Milkman #2)": The same stories told from opposite sides. This combo scream to be filmed, maybe in an hour-long anthology series. Any of those around?

"Gramma": When you were a child, did you ever imagine that some old person--a grandparent, perhaps-- just wanted to suck the lifeforce out of you so they could be young again? The fears of children can be intense.

"The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet": There are no notes about this story in the "Notes" epilogue of this collection. While King offers tidbits on other stories, he didn't touch this one. Perhaps writing it was too much, too close to the possibility of self-inflicted madness. Creative people are all just a bit mad, anyway.

"The Reach": This story should go with "Storm of the Century" and "Dolores Claiborne." Maine folk are weird anyway. Those who live on the islands are an even odder breed.

"Notes": If you don't want to know, don't read them. I like King's notes and I hate myself a little for it.

Check off another 573 pages. Up next, a collection of a different sort.

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