Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Just after Sunset

Just after Sunset by Stephen King
Simon & Schuster, 2008
Hardcover, 384 pages
ISBN-13: 9781416584087
Very Highly Recommended

Who but Stephen King would turn a Port-O-San into a slimy birth canal, or a roadside honky-tonk into a place for endless love? A book salesman with a grievance might pick up a mute hitchhiker, not knowing the silent man in the passenger seat listens altogether too well. Or an exercise routine on a stationary bicycle, begun to reduce bad cholesterol, might take its rider on a captivating — and then terrifying — journey. Set on a remote key in Florida, "The Gingerbread Girl" is a riveting tale featuring a young woman as vulnerable — and resourceful — as Audrey Hepburn's character in Wait Until Dark. In "Ayana," a blind girl works a miracle with a kiss and the touch of her hand. For King, the line between the living and the dead is often blurry, and the seams that hold our reality intact might tear apart at any moment. In one of the longer stories here, "N.," which recently broke new ground when it was adapted as a graphic digital entertainment, a psychiatric patient's irrational thinking might create an apocalyptic threat in the Maine countryside...or keep the world from falling victim to it.
My Thoughts:

Just after Sunset was an incredibly good collection of thirteen well crafted short stories. King concludes the collection with "Sunset Notes" in which he discusses what inspired the story or gives some information about it, which I found interesting. In the past I have generally avoided short story collections because I've always had a vague feeling that they tend to be lacking in character development or plot. King may have just made a new fan for the short story. Certainly he has shown what a truly accomplished writer can do with a short story.

In this collection King covers what really frightens us - things like divorce, life after death, random violence, OCD, wayward children, survivor's guilt, nuclear war, illness, and being trapped in a port-a-potty. The one story that was a miss with me, The Cat From Hell, was actually an early story of King's that had never made it into a collection before. A Very Tight Place totally grossed me out, but most certainly played on all sorts of real fears of small spaces, port-a-potties, and free-floating excrement.
Very Highly Recommended

Just After Sunset includes the following stories:
The Gingerbread Girl
Harvey's Dream
Rest Stop
Stationary Bike
The Things They Left Behind
Graduation Afternoon
The Cat from Hell
The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates
A Very Tight Place


You don't see what's right in front of your eyes, she'd said, but sometimes he did. He supposed he wasn't entirely undeserving of her scorn, but he wasn't blind, either. (Willa, pg. 5)

Only fast running would do.
After the baby died, Emily took up running. (The Gingerbread Girl, pg. 29)

The things I want to tell you about - the ones they left behind - showed up in my apartment in August of 2002. (The Things They Left Behind, pg. 147)

Janice has never settled on the right word for the place where Buddy lives. It's too big to be called a house, too small to be an estate, and the name on the post at the foot of the driveway, Harborlights, gags her. (Graduation Afternoon, pg. 177)

"What's wrong with me could be very dangerous." Another pause. "To me." Another pause. "Possibly to others." (N., pg. 190)

...- and the children growing up, which is a divorce of a different kind, and almost as painful - (N., pg. 199)

"He is very friendly," Drogan said. "At first. Nice friendly pussy has killed three people in this household. That leaves only me. I am old, I am sick... but I prefer to die in my own time." (The Cat from Hell, pg. 240)

There were three confession booths. The light over the door of the middle one was on. No one was waiting. The church was empty. Colored light came in through the windows and made squares on the central aisle. Monette thought about leaving and didn't. Instead he walked to the booth that was open for business and went inside. (Mute, pg. 265)

I didn't think I would ever tell this story. My wife told me not to; she said no one would believe me and I'd only embarrass myself. What she meant, of course, was that it would embarrass her. (Ayana, pg. 289)

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