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Tag: king’s march

A Good Marriage (from Full Dark, No Stars) by Stephen King – Wrapping up King’s March

A Good Marriage is the final story in this amazing short story collection, Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King. It’s a 100 page novella and makes a greatly disturbing read. If I think about it, this story has less gore as compared to Big Driver, hardly any violent graphic detail unlike 1922 and it has much fewer glimpses into crazy minds than Fair Extension. Honestly, it ought to be the least upsetting story of the entire collection; if only it weren’t so true to life. 
I saved the last story of the collection for a classic Stephen King-ey experience. Reading it alone in the middle of the night (it was around 2 a.m. by the time I finished), with a reading light and shuddering every so often, resisting the impulse to just abandon the book and go to sleep instead. That’s how Stephen King should be read, isn’t it? Without the eerie atmosphere, the building tension, The Shining wouldn’t quite have been The Shining. 
A Good Marriage is very different from the other stories in Full Dark, No Stars. It isn’t about a lunatic murderer, or a raging victim driven to murder, it is the story of a murderer’s wife. What would a woman do if she were to find out one day, out of nowhere, that her husband of some twenty seven years was a notorious serial killer? If she were to realize the man she loved, the man who surely loved her back, the father of her two children had lived a secret life as a murderer? How far would Darcy go to save her marriage?
It’s not a unique setting, you have to admit. In fact, based as it is on a true story, it’s not meant to be one of its kind. It almost reminded me of Alice Munro’s Dimension in the way it focuses on the one who is the closest to an offender, the one who suffers the most after the victims, the one who gets the least sympathy: the murderer’s family. That it is convincingly, worryingly realistic is what makes A Good Marriage the best and the worst story at once. King has done here what he does best. In his words, he’s put “ordinary people in extraordinary situations” to provoke a reaction. He’s played out this situation in invigorating, unnerving, undistorted, tear-jerking detail. 
King has toyed with the realization that someone you love, someone you thought you knew completely, can turn out to be a altogether different creature. King has described vividly how it dawns upon Darcy that you can never really know a person, not even one you’ve built your life with. Once the truth hits home, it takes only one caressing touch, from her husband for Darcy to be terrified of him. Seeing him for what he really is, his once-endearing toothy smile and soundless laugh make her nauseous. And she loves him.
It’s a good story, and what makes it good, is how difficult it is to put yourself in Darcy’s shoes. To wonder how you’d react in that situation; a situation that when not looked at personally makes so much sense. A Good Marriage is a nice story about marriage and oddly, it’s a happy story, in that it leaves you with a grudging sense of relief and the realization that there’s a little hope for humanity, after all.
It turns out A Good Marriage is being made into a movie. Or is it already out? I don’t think I’ll watch it, but I’m curious to see how it’s received. I suppose it will fair well like all his movies do, I only hope it’s for the right reasons.
The Afterword is brilliant. Only Stephen King can do justice to describing what he does in his stories. And it really got me thinking. 
“I have tried my best in Full Dark, No Stars to record
what people might do, and how they might behave, under certain dire
circumstances. The people in these stories are not without hope, but they
acknowledge that even our fondest hopes (and our fondest wishes for our
fellowmen and the society in which we live) may sometimes be vain. Often, even.
But I think they also say that nobility most fully resides not in success but in
trying to do the right thing… and that when we fail to do that, or willfully
turn away from the challenge, hell follows.”

As much as I love having the ‘visceral’ reactions that King intends to invoke in his readers, I am happy to be out of the dark and in the light, glad, of course, that he brought me out here (even if with a cheeky wink), impressed that the collection ends on a fairly optimistic note. I loved this collection, and I know overuse that word but I do mean it in its fullest sense here: I loved it. It’s a must read. But I don’t think I’ll be revisiting Stephen King anytime soon.
My copy of Full Dark, No Stars has an extra ‘bonus’ story at the end. I don’t want to read it. Nor do I want to read Different Seasons, which I’d picked up for King’s March as well. I’m going to return those two to the library and take a temporary hiatus from Stephen King, and perhaps all things horror. I know that contradicts what I wrote in my previous post about reading everything he’s ever written, but hey, I have a whole lifetime for that.) 
King’s March has been quite an experience. I loved reading people’s reviews of books I’ve already read, their opinions and recommendations of books I hope to read somewhere down the line and how almost everyone complained about that thing that always irritates the hell out of me: He doesn’t just write horror! Sharing bookish love is what blogging’s all about anyway. But now I’m all geared up for the Once Upon a Time Challenge – for a bit of fantasy after this. I think magic and a little gooey happy fun would do me some good right about now.
Tell me this, fellow Stephen King fans, are you ever just a bit too overwhelmed by the dark? Or did you just roll your eyes and call me a chicken? I wouldn’t be offended if you did!

Big Driver & Fair Extension (from Full Dark, No Stars) by Stephen King + a few links

First of all, I think Full Dark, No Stars is right up there with the bests of Stephen King. Not for the first time, he’s proved that ghosts don’t have to be translucent white spirits that lurk in and around abandoned houses. These are stories about the terrible frightening ghosts in our minds. 

I read and reviewed 1922, the first novella, last week. I had to wait an entire week before I could read another King. I don’t see myself reading the last two stories quite just yet, either. Not till I’m done digesting these.


Big Driver: This is the second story in Full Dark, No Stars, a roughly 130-page novella. When Tess Jean, a mystery writer, is raped and dumped on the side of a road stuffed in a pipe, she plots revenge against the giant of a man who’s destroyed her life. Big Driver is the owner of Red Hawk Trucking and Tess, haunted by his comically nightmarish image, sets out to kill him.

This story is creepy, and as booksaremything had commented on my review of 1922, very difficult to read. The end seems convoluted and a bit ludicrous, but that apart, to me, the story makes sense. What happens to her drives the cozy mystery writer crazy. Nightmares, insecurity, voices in her head – the whole thing. Contemplating murder has been her profession, she knows revenge is not the answer, a whole part of her knows she should go to the authorities instead; but that’s the old Tess. The new Tess dismisses the idea of police, wondering “What’s in it for me?” Disclosing her attack is out of the question. She imagines people’s reactions to her rape.


One thing she did know was that she would get the sort of nationwide coverage every writer would like when she publishes a book and no writer wants when she had been raped, robbed and left for dead. She could visualize someone raising a hand during Question Time and asking, “Did you in any way encourage him?”
That was ridiculous, and even in her current state Tess knew it… but also knew that if this came out, someone would raise his or her hand to ask, “Are you going to write about this?”

And what would she say? What could she say?
Nothing, Tess thought. I would run off the stage with my hands over my ears. 

The back cover of the book asks you “What tips someone over the edge to commit a crime?” Big Driver answers the question in blatant uncompromising detail. And unlike the evil narrator of 1922, Tess doesn’t ask you to understand her, she doesn’t beg for sympathy, she knows you would hold her guilty, but she simply doesn’t care about you.


She was too tired to consider what might or might not be her moral responsibility. She’d work on that part later, if God meant to grant her a later… it seemed He might. But not on this deserted road where any set of approaching lights might have her rapist behind it. 
Hers. He was hers now.

Big Driver, which I read in one horrific sitting, made me feel ashamed of the world we live in.


Fair Extension: Fair Extension is a short story, the third in this collection. When Streeter is puking on the side of the road, the cancer now making his life more miserable than ever, he spots a pudgy man sitting on the other side, with a sign that reads ‘Fair Extension’. Elvid turns out to be a strange man who offers people all kinds of extensions, hair, height and in Streeter’s case, life extension. Elvid sells Streeter fifteen more years. But there’s always a catch and it goes something like:


You have to do the dirty to someone else, if the dirty is to be lifted from you. 

Streeter confesses to Elvid that he hates his best friend for life, Tom Goodhugh and has no qualms transferring the ‘dirty’ to him. Streeter expects Tom to get cancer, and is quite okay with it, but it turns out that he’s destroyed his life in quite other ways. With every new extra day that Streeter lives, something goes terribly wrong in his friends once perfect life, much to Streeter’s delight.

This story is ridiculous to the point of funny, it is written the sort of dry dark humour that is characteristic of SK, anyway. It’s about greed and ruthlessness of the kind that only a Stephen King story can pull off. What I love the most is that Fair Extension is set in Derry, Maine. Remember Derry? The last time I visited it was with Jake Epping.

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Now to the links I promised:

Last week Anne Rice posted a link to OpenCulture’s Stephen King’s Top 20 Rules for Writers, which you should have a look at, even if you have already read the fabulous On Writing. And if you haven’t read it, just what are you waiting for?

In related stuff, I found a list made by SK of 96 Books For Aspiring Writers to Read. I’ve read: Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, Hannibal by Thomas Harris, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Harry Potter by J K Rowling Parts 1, 2, and 3. Six: which must be pathetic by Stephen King standards. How many have you read?

Flavorwire posted this amazing thing yesterday: Artists Pay Tribute to the Work of Stephen King in Exhibition ‘King for a Day’. God, I would have loved to be there. The artwork is gorgeous and interesting, some based on the movies, and worth checking out.
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So far, even though I haven’t got around to reading a lot, King’s March hosted by Wendy and Rory has been awesome, and I’ve enjoyed reading all the posts by fellow SK maniacs. I do hope to finish Full Dark, No Stars and at least a couple of stories from Different Seasons in this last week of the month, can’t say that I actually can. What have you been reading?

1922 (from Full Dark No Stars) by Stephen King

(I love this book already, and my new Stephen King bookmark, which I’m going to take with me everywhere I go. This review is for King’s March.)

The back cover of the book asks us a question, hinting towards the nature of the whole collection of stories: What tips someone over the edge to commit a crime? For a Nebraska farmer, the turning point comes when his wife threatens to sell off the family homestead.

That is 1922: An old man’s confession to murdering his wife with the help of his fourteen year old son, and then dumping her body in their own well. Don’t worry, these aren’t spoilers. It’s never so straightforward with Stephen King. 1922 is about what comes after the crime. As King succinctly puts it: 

“I discovered something that night that most people never have to learn: murder is sin, murder is damnation (surely of one’s own mind and spirit, even if the atheists are right and there is no afterlife), but murder is also work.”

The worst is never over, he goes on to say, the dead are never truly gone. Once Farmer Wilfred James convinced his son Henry “Hank” into becoming a willing participant in Arlette’s murder, he changed the boy’s life. The plan that sounded simple enough ended up more difficult than the pair could have imagined. A black spot in their lives that neither was able to fully wash off in the following years. As James narrates, eight years later, what happened in 1922, you see the extent of evil in people. Underneath all his guilt for what he did to himself and his son, past the fear of his wife’s vengeful ghost, you still see that he blames his wife for what happened, that he believes his crime was justified, under the circumstances. He feels no real repentance. And the freakiest thing is, he knows it – he knows himself.

1922 shows you how thin the line between fantasy and reality is. It won’t take long for your worst nightmare to come to life, for you to bring it to life and once that’s done, it will take an eternity to put it back to sleep, if ever. On that ill fated night, Wilfred James raised something, the demon inside him perhaps, that tore at him and then ate away Hank’s little boy innocence. “The Conniving Man” James calls him in his confession; the stranger inside every man. Even the pale little boy had evil lurking in him, which his father unleashed: clearly, when it took just a slap from Mama to make him want to help Poppa finish her off. 

But the truth came back to haunt the both of them. It hit Hank in the form of guilt, regret, overwhelming fear and perhaps confusion over his own actions and he dealt with it by blaming his father, rightly so. His escape with his girlfriend, from his father’s farm, led to the bitter end that had already been written for him on that night in 1922. And the truth haunted Wilfred in a more literal sense: his dead wife’s broken corpse accompanied him throughout his life, along with the army of rats nesting in her rotting body. Driven crazy by the ghosts of his past, now holed up in a hotel in Nebraska, Wilfred James writes a confession to his sins, documenting the whole truth as he sees it. 

“This is a ghost story, but the ghost was there even before the woman it belonged to died.
‘All right, Poppa. We’ll… we’ll send her to Heaven.’ Henry’s face brightened at the thought. How hideous that seems to be now, especially when I think of how he finished up.
‘It will be quick,’ I said. Man and boy I’ve slit nine-score hogs’ throats, and I thought it would be. But I was wrong.”
Like in every small town story he’s written, King describes the setting in detail. The small town people and their small town talk and small town minds. A murder committed just because the farmer didn’t want to move to the city. And then you realize it’s not because of the setting. Take a twisted ego and put it anywhere and the story would play out in the same way. 1922 makes you sick and there is no redeeming glow of hope at the end. It is not a romanticized version of a killing. You end wishing you hadn’t read the story and knowing you couldn’t not have. There’s little good in this novella but it’s the ruthless honesty that we all need to take once in a while, chew on and swallow. The disintegration of Wilfred’s mind, his gradual loss of sanity and his self inflicted justice form a lesson in morality like no other. 

King’s March

King’s March. That’s right: King’s March. How could it have taken me so long to come across something called King’s March? It’s a month-long event hosted by Wendy and Rory. And the goal is to read some Stephen King. If you know me you know how much of a Stephen King fanatic I am. Just look at all the gushing reviews.
My goals would be two short story collections, Full Dark, No Stars and Different Seasons. I have seriously under-read King’s short stories. I may throw in a shorter novel.
I’m excited. Oh, and I love this button.