What Not To Read on a Fourteen Hour Flight

I wrote this review of Stephen King’s Everything’s Eventual in March of 2013.

Reading this book was a mistake.

You almost certainly misunderstood that last statement.

I like Stephen King. He’s a darn good story teller, and he’s darn good at evoking just the response he wants (which, it seems to me, isn’t quite the same thing). I use to buy all of his books as they came out, until I got to Insomnia, which was frankly a waste of time. He told the story well, but the story itself was too silly for words. After that I more or less stopped buying him, and even got rid of all but my favorite books by him.

I kept all of his short story collections. He’s a darn good story teller. So when I saw Everything’s Eventual at the bookstore and realized it was a new collection, I almost bought it. Almost, but not quite. I wasn’t in a buying mood, and I wasn’t in a Stephen King mood.

Well, then came the day when I was to leave for Australia. I didn’t much want to go, so I was in a foul mood. And then I came across this book again, at the airport, and thought it would distract me a bit, and so I bought it and started reading it in lieu of the book I’d brought for the trip.

That was the mistake.

See, when you write a horror novel you can make it as scary and awful as you like, and still provide a bit of a happy ending after all of that catharsis. When you write a short story in the same genre, you mostly can’t–there’s not time or space. Reading a short horror story is something like hitting yourself on the head with a hammer, because it feels so good when you stop. The horrible thing happened to someone else, someone you don’t know, someone who isn’t even real.

If you read a horror anthology straight through in one sitting, it doesn’t stop. You just keep getting hit with that hammer through story after story. It’s enough to make a guy feel really lousy, and indeed that’s usually the effect a Stephen King collection has on me if I’m stupid enough (after all this time) to read it that way.

I started reading Everything’s Eventual in the terminal. I continued reading it on the plane. And when I finished a story, I was still on the plane, with many hours to go (it was a fourteen-and-a-half-hour flight) before I got to Australia, feeling cramped, confined, and really out-of-sorts about leaving my family.

I guess you could say that the book fit my mood…but on the whole I’d have been better off with something cheerful. At the very least, I didn’t do the stories justice, reading them that way.

Which is a pity, because it’s really a rather good book, if you like that sort of thing.

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