Sunday 21 December 2008

The word of the day is "vulpine"

Vulpine (adj.): of or resembling a fox; cunning or crafty. Stephen King must like this word a lot for he uses it noticeably often in his short story collection Night Shift.

This is my second time reading Night Shift, the first being approximately 21 years ago when I was given to staying up all night reading shit that scared me. What really scares me now is that I can talk about books I read 20 years ago without referring to The Berenstein Bears or Hop on Pop or I Wish That I Had Duck Feet.

Getting back to this classic King collection has been part of my post-thesis easy reading project, although I began it on the train to Kingston for the event in question. I had to skip the first story, "Jerusalem's Lot", though, because it was epistolary, and that's the last thing I was up for as I hurtled towards what I imagined would be my final destruction.

I read the epistolary tale last and I enjoyed it perhaps best of all, which surprised me, because I don't really remember reading it before. I thought, when I decided to read this book, that revisiting the stories I remembered best would be the most pleasurable (in a hair-raising way). I recall finding finding "Children of the Corn", "The Mangler", "The Boogeyman", and "I Am the Doorway" to be great examples of horror fiction.

Re-reading them, however, hasn't been the scary thrill ride I'd been hoping for. "The Mangler", "I Am the Doorway", and even "The Boogeyman", the latter of which has caused a friend of mine to have a night light in her bedroom for the past 20 years, completely failed to affect me in any way.

"The Children of the Corn" still freaked me out a bit, but it was the stories that I barely remember reading that got me this time, at least a little. "Gray Matter" and "One for the Road" were pretty freaky, as was "Jerusalem's Lot". But I think they wouldn't freak me out were I to read them again. I'm thinking Stephen King may be a one night stand kind of read, not a permanent relationship kind of read.

Not that I didn't read his massive novel It twice when I was 12, of course. But that may have had more to do with the 12 year old characters' crazy sexual tension with each other than the fear and alienation associated with scary clowns and giant spider-ish things.

Another thing: Stephen King is very 70s. The casually racist and sexist comments he just throws out there I don't think would fly now. E.g., referring to one of the undead villains in "Sometimes They Come Back", he described his "negroid lips" specifically as a sign of said villain's obvious...villainy. It was awkward.

But I'm done with Stephen King for this decade, I suspect. We took over our bookstore on Friday and as I've been re-organizing the shelves, I've been accumulating a stack of books that absolutely must be read. Said stack is so awesome that it would have to kick any Stephen King book that tried to join it right in the face.


Anonymous said...

I also recently re-read Night Shift, and that kicked off a whole string of Stephen King re-reads for me: Carrie, Christine, The Shining, and now on to some Dark Tower action.

I've found, for the most part, that they've held up rather well to my 28 year old memories. I've never been one to need a night-light after reading a book, but they still do a decent job of creeping me out just a little, and sucking me in to their little universe.

All in all, a good time, after all this time.

Stacy said...

First of all, can I say how ridiculously jealous I am that you are an owner of a bookstore. Second, I also read King when I was twelve. Whenever I read his books I would have to take the book out of my room at night or I wouldn't be able to sleep. Third, is it a crime to say that I prefer watching the movies to reading the books? The books seem to get into my head and under the skin in a way that the movies can't which I guess is a testament to his writing.