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Posts Tagged ‘Stephen King’

Where the Hills Are Fog and the Rivers Are Mist

October 26, 2015 | by

Ray Bradbury’s The October Country turns sixty.


“The Dubliners of American Gothic”—that’s how Stephen King referred to Ray Bradbury’s first book, the little-known 1947 short-story collection, Dark Carnival. There’s good reason few readers, even those well versed in Bradbury’s work, are unfamiliar with Dark Carnival: Arkham House, a small press out of Sauk City, Wisconsin, published the book in a modest run of 3,112 copies; the book went out of print just a few years later. Besides a pricey limited-edition reprint in 2001, Dark Carnival exists as a literary apparition.

And yet many people have read some of Dark Carnival without knowing it. Read More »

The Art of the Fortune Cookie, and Other News

September 21, 2015 | by

Your true creative calling. Image: Flazingo Photos

  • There are any number of prestigious opportunities available to freelance writers—footwear catalogs, restroom signage, pamphlets about flossing—but it takes a truly outstanding writer to land the best gig of them all: fortune-cookie writer, at seventy-five cents a pop. It’s exacting work. The fortunes “have to be general enough to make sense for any kind of customer, but at the same time, they can’t offend anyone … Companies keep databases of thousands of fortunes accumulated over years that they rotate on a regular basis to keep people from getting the same ones over and over. Coming up with original ideas when there are already ten thousand in the database—as there are, for example, at cookie manufacturer Wonton Foods—is a real challenge.”
  • Stephen King on William Sloane, whose 1930s horror novels were the opposite of Lovecraftian: “Because they ignore genre conventions, Sloane’s novels are actual works of literature … In To Walk the Night, we discover that a disembodied brain—perhaps an alien from space, perhaps a human intelligence from another time-stream or dimension—has inhabited the body of an ‘idiot’ girl named Luella Jamison, transforming her vacuity into coldly classical beauty.”
  • While we’re on horror: try reading The Hound of the Baskervilles when you have a profound fear of dogs. “My elementary school’s library had an edition of the book with a cover like this: a black dog with red eyes standing in a green hoary mist, spittle oozing from its jaws, while the vague silhouette of someone in a cloak (Sherlock Holmes?) lurks in the background. I was totally captivated and scared shitless by the horrific power of this book.”
  • The lexicographer Francis Grose was the first to record phrases like fly by night and birds of a feather, in addition to other, non-flight-related idioms. His Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue deserves the same recognition as Johnson’s Dictionary, and its entries live up to its name: “Inebriation is well documented, with terms ranging from ‘Hicksius Doxius: Drunk’ and ‘Emperor: Drunk as an emperor, ie ten times as drunk as a lord’ to ‘Admiral of the narrow seas: One who from drunkenness vomits into the lap of the person sitting opposite him’. Other entries focus on bodily functions. There’s ‘Fizzle: A small windy escape backwards, more obvious to the nose than ears; frequently by old ladies charged on their lap-dogs’, as well as ‘Fart catcher: A valet or footman, from his walking behind his master or mistress.’ ”
  • We all know that cops are putzes—but does this, in and of itself, explain their love for doughnuts? Is that love a symptom or a cause of their idiocy? The link between law enforcement and dough runs deep: “We’ve officially stuffed the protecting-and-serving citizens of our country with sugary pastries since at least World War I, when the Salvation Army sent female volunteers to France to cook doughnuts and bring them to the front … ”

Demolishing the Literary Gynaeceum, and Other News

September 3, 2015 | by

From the cover of The Story of the Lost Child.

  • Elena Ferrante would like to remind you, now that her novel The Story of the Lost Child is out, that she is not a man, and that if you think she might be a man, you’re part of the problem: “Have you heard anyone say recently about any book written by a man, ‘It’s really a woman who wrote it, or maybe a group of women?’ Due to its exorbitant might, the male gender can mimic the female gender, incorporating it in the process. The female gender, on the other hand, cannot mimic anything, for it is betrayed immediately by its ‘weakness’ … even the publishing industry and the media are convinced of this commonplace; both tend to shut women who write away in a literary gynaeceum … we’re dealing with a new tradition of women writers who are becoming more competent, more effective, are growing tired of the literary gynaeceum and are on furlough from gender stereotypes.”
  • We often praise fiction for its ambiguity, which is counterintuitive—normally we admire good writing for its clarity, and more confusingly still it seems that the best fiction is at once clear and ambiguous: so what do we mean when we celebrate ambiguous fiction? “Ambiguity, uncertainty, multiplicity are positive in literature in so far as they act as a corrective against a dominant and potentially harmful manipulative hubris … the novelist has to be truly open to the world he describes; it is the multiplicity he then inevitably lets into the text that overwhelms the petty habit of knowing better… Nothing is less attractive, in a poem or novel, than the feeling that ‘ambiguity’ has simply been constructed or contrived.”
  • There’s a rich ambiguity about the nose, at least insofar as it figures in literature. Gogol’s story “The Nose” “was but one part of a larger body of literature improbably concerned with, of all things, the human nose … The history of the written nose is rich, varied, and wildly unpredictable, marshaled for a host of potential uses and meanings from slapstick gag to moral emblem to racial signifier.”
  • Stephen King recently wrote an Op-Ed defending novelists who publish (very) regularly, including himself and Joyce Carol Oates. But it’s time to take a stand against prolificacy: “King concludes his op-ed by saying that he’s glad Ms. Oates continues to write new books ‘because,’ he says, ‘I want to read them.’ I wonder if he really has. If anyone has read them all. Or truly does anxiously await the next one’s arrival … When considering huge bodies of work, there’s still the uncertainty about where to enter and where to go next once you’ve found a way in.”
  • The tremendous resurgence of so-called “nature writing” reveals the inadequacy of the term: “ ‘Nature writing’ has become a cant phrase, branded and bandied out of any useful existence, and I would be glad to see its deletion from the current discourse … The best of the recent writing is ethically alert, theoretically literate and wary of the seductions and corruptions of the pastoral. It is sensitive to the dark histories of landscapes and to the structures of ownership and capital that organize—though do not wholly produce—our relations with the natural world … Some of this writing is kick-up-the-arse furious, some is elegiac, some is about disease and dispossession, some is about dignity and the deepening of knowledge. Across its range, moral engagement and hope are consistently in evidence.”

Austenites Resplendent, and Other News

September 17, 2014 | by

Jane Austen festival 2014 - Regency costume world record

Photo: Jane Austen Festival

  • “Madame Bovary, c’est moi” is all well and good as a witty rejoinder—but in all honesty, which of the women in Flaubert’s life was the real Madame Bovary?
  • At a Jane Austen festival in Bath, 550 people claimed the world record for “the largest gathering of people dressed in Regency costume.”
  • On “reading insecurity,” the newest existential disease: “the subjective experience of thinking that you’re not getting as much from reading as you used to. It is setting aside an hour for that new book … and spending it instead on Facebook.”
  • Among Stephen King’s “most hated expressions”: many people, some people say, and YOLO. (I agree with the first two, but I’ll go to the mat for YOLO any day of the week.)
  • What’s it like to translate a compendium of Alain Robbe-Grillet’s sadistic fantasies? Haunting, but, you know, in a good way: “As translator, I am a filter for material: it travels through me. As such, there’s a residue, but it is difficult to qualify. At best, you might compare the book’s effect on me to its effect on any reader: certain images—many, in fact—remain in you, and surge forth unbidden, superimposing themselves in your mind’s eye on perfectly anodyne and serene scenes of everyday life.”


Tragic Beauty

July 16, 2014 | by

Axes from The Shining

Axes from The Shining at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Photo: Eric Chan, via Flickr

The thing under my bed waiting to grab my ankle isn’t real. I know that, and I also know that if I’m careful to keep my foot under the covers, it will never be able to grab my ankle. ―Stephen King

The rain is pouring up here in Maine: King country. The weather is regenerative and generous, but awfully forbidding, too. Someone hearty told me that this weather is, in fact, the best time to take walks up here—certain vivid mosses have been known to appear. But this is the sort of individual who enjoys icy five A.M. swims, and I did not want to admit that my study of bryology never really extended beyond carpeting bowers for the occasional fairy, and that said experiments generally resulted in pulling up large hunks of moss, moving them, and then being surprised when they died. In short, I am still indoors. And for good measure, we watched The Shining. I remembered it having been much scarier.


Cabin fever is an idiomatic term, first recorded in 1918, for a claustrophobic reaction that takes place when a person or group is isolated and/or shut in a small space, with nothing to do for an extended period. Cabin fever describes the extreme irritability and restlessness a person may feel in these situations.

A person may experience cabin fever in a situation such as being in a simple country vacation cottage. When experiencing cabin fever, a person may tend to sleep, have distrust of anyone they are with, and an urge to go outside even in the rain, snow, dark or hail. The phrase is also used humorously to indicate simple boredom from being home alone.

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Stephen King Freaks Out Twitter, and Other News

December 10, 2013 | by


  • Tattered Covers Books is opening an additional three outlets in Denver.
  • The Pitchfork Review, the new print branch of the venerable music review site, drops (as they might say) this weekend.
  • Stephen King joins Twitter; doesn’t say much; people freak out.
  • Titles popular with Scottish inmates include those by Lee Child, James Patterson, and George R. R Martin, and, uh, Hitler.
  • “I have no idea who else is reading me. The New Yorker certainly isn’t. I’ve sent to them for fifty years. I’ve been sending since 1963. That’s fifty years of rejections.” The Rumpus sits down with Stephen Dixon.