you drunk. A successful spell is as potent a loosener of tongues as a bottle of
good claret and you will find the morning after that you have said things you
Mr. Simonelli or The Fairy Widower – This is a creatively written story of a man who discovers he’s not quite as human as he’d grown up convinced. There is some wonderfully vivid imagery in this story.
like a house through which a great wind rushes making all the doors bang at
their frames: death was rushing through her and her wits came loose and banged
about inside her head. She appeared to believe that she had been taken by force
to a place where she was watched night and day by a hideous jailoress.
Tom Brightwind or How The Fairy Bridge Was Built at Thoresby – Tom Brightwind is a handsome, arrogant fairy who reminded me a lot of someone – I racked my brains trying to remember whom and finally realized it was Howl Pendragon. A centuries older and even less morally inclined Wizard Howl. Tom is friends with a human. One day, the two friends happen to travel to a small village called Thoresby, which lies across a river and can only be accessed by ferry. Though they’re initially off to another place, they end up staying in Thoresby to build a bridge. How Tom Brightwind builds the fairy bridge and what the bridge does is for you to read!
Antickes and Frets – This is the story of how the conceited and sly Queen of Scots plots revenge on the Queen of England using evil magic and a bit of cunning embroidery.
John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner – This, of course, was the highlight of the bunch, if only because it starred the Raven King himself. Both while I was reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and now, this book, I seemed even to myself like a puppy begging for scraps – for stories of John Uskglass, the Raven King. Clarke gives us a little snippet in the first story in the collection and never once mentions him till this last story. And the little bits I did get were delicious but not enough.
Each of these stories is totally different from the rest, and the only thing keeping them strung together is the probably-never-done-before way Susanna Clarke makes magic real. You’d have to read the book to know just what I mean, but I’ll give you this:
It occurs to me that
just as Reason is seated in the brain of Man, so we Fairies may contain within
ourselves some organ of Magic.
What about you, do you like fairy tales? Old or new? And have you read Susanna Clarke?
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.”
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?”
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.
(End of spoilers.)