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2010 Stories 22 - 27

Another batch of stories from Stephen King's Just After Sunset collection, listened to on the drive from home to Boston, and then from Boston to Hartford.

22. The Things They Left Behind
, read by Ben Shenkman.  This story might not be to everyone's taste, as it is King's attempt to deal with the lingering emotional horror / baggage of the September 11th attacks.  It may not be obvious at first (it took me a little bit to piece it together), but that is what this story is about.  It's not outright horror, and King stays away from any real political statements (except for one character opining "how can there be a God if he didn't strike them dead in their waiting areas before they even boarded those planes," or words to that effect). Ultimately, to me, the story was cathartic -- yes, there's a fantastical spin on the idea of coming to terms with survivor's guilt, but the emotions are real and the release at the end of the story is too.

23. N.  read by Holter Graham, Denis O'Hare, Ben Shenkman and Karen Ziemba. This story first appeared as a "motion comic" put together from King's story by Marvel Comics. Hence, the full-cast recording.  The story is told in classic epistolary fashion -- cobbled together from letters, emails, journal entries and psychiatrist case files the way my favorite novel, Dracula, was.  No vampires here, though -- just a good old-fashioned hefty wallop of Lovecraftian elder gods mixed with the possibility that everything happening is just one person's psychosis. Very well paced, well put together, and a great sense of building tension that I'm sure comes across on the page, but definitely comes across through the readers' performances.

24. The New York Times At Special Discount Rates read by Jill Eikenberry  Another excellent reading job by Jill Eikenberry.  The title of this one is misleading and doesn't have much to do with most of the story's content, and one can analyze to death why King chose this mundane title for the story.  I think it's a commentary on the fact that life does go on after a tragic loss, no matter how much we may think it won't.  Of course, there's more to the story than that.  I'll leave it up to you to see what, and how it all plays out, and where the title actually comes into play.

25. Mute read by Skipp Sudduth.  King loves the story-within-a-story-within-a-story format, and he puts it to good use here. A confession to a priest about picking up a mute hitchhiker  leads further into the story the driver tells to the hitchhiker about the drama of his life, and the repercussions of the telling of said story. Very effectively done.

26. The Cat From Hell read by Holter Graham.  I think every horror writer out there has to write an "evil cat" story at some point: Bram Stoker's The Squaw, Edgar Allan Poe's The Black Cat, Neil Gaiman's The Price are among my favorite horror stories, about cats or otherwise.  King's entry into the genre works well enough but feels a bit predictable in its outcome.  Graham does a wonderful job with at least one of the character voices, though, and adds a creepiness factor I'm not sure I would have supplied in my own head had I read the story rather than listened.

And one I actually read in print:

27. All That by David Foster Wallace from the December 14, 2009 issue of The New Yorker.  There are certain authors I really should just stop trying to read, having given them a fair chance.  Jonathan Lethem is one of those, as I mentioned a post or two ago.  I think Wallace is another.  This long, winding autobiography of a character's childhood obsession with a "magic" wooden cement truck as a child just doesn't feel like it goes anywhere.  It's the kind of story my friend Eric would describe as "written for English majors," but this particular english major just found it tedious.

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