Sunday, September 15, 2019

What I Watched This ''October'' (2019 edition), part 3

We begin part three with:
The Frighteners (1996)

I saw this in a theatre when it was released in 1996, presumably due to one of the following facts:

  • I'd started working at a movie theatre that summer and was still in see-everything-due-to-it-suddenly-being-free mode;
  • I was intrigued by the Back the Future connection provided by star Michael J. Fox and producer Robert Zemeckis;
  • I was intrigued by the presence of composer Danny Elfman;
  • or, most likely, some combination of all of those factors.

I don't remember for sure, but I do remember being underwhelmed by the movie.  Didn't hate it, just didn't really get much out of it.  Granted, I wasn't into horror movies at that time (with a few exceptions, mostly in the form of Stephen King movies).  I'd never seen any of Peter Jackson's stuff, and I had no idea who Jeffrey Combs was.  So maybe it was that that threw me off.
I watched the movie again on DVD at some point after Jackson had been announced as the director for the upcoming trilogy based on The Lord of the Rings.  Still didn't get much out of it, and that was the last time I saw it ... until now.
And doggone it, it's still not sticking to me.
It's not a bad movie.  There's nothing -- with the possible exception of mildly dodgy (though decent for the era) CGI in a few places -- that I can really complain about.  It just never quite amounts to anything.  I've got a few notes about that:
  • Michael J. Fox is fine.  I'm not sure he was the right guy for the role, though.  Could someone a little schlubbier and more pathetic have had a greater impact?  Maybe.  Fox is fine, he's just not inspired.  He was inspired in Back to the Future; here, he's just ... fine.  But you can do worse, for sure.
  • Trini Alvarado is similarly fine in the lead female role.  She looks like they wanted to cast Andi MacDowell, who proved to be unavailable, but she's lively and tenacious.
  • Jeffrey Combs -- who, as I mentioned, I'd never seen in anything (though he was already a genre legend by this point) -- IS inspired as the FBI creep.  I think he's doing what the movie wanted to be, but director Peter Jackson kind of kept his gloves on for most of the movie, possibly to its detriment.  I think there was a darker and much stranger version of this movie that wanted to get out, and leaked out a little bit via Combs.
  • Dee Wallace Stone is also quite good here.  I mean, she always is, right?  But she seems to relish getting to go full-tilt into crazytown toward the end.  Un-fun fact: her husband, Christopher Stone, died of a heart attack while she was in New Zealand making this movie.  Bear in mind, now, this is a movie about a string of unexplained deaths which come by what appears to be heart attacks.  Creepily, Dee Wallace Stone's credit at the beginning is on screen while someone is talking about people being impacted by the unexplained spate of heart-attack deaths.  This is something an editor ought to have avoided, methinks.
  • The music by Danny Elfman sure does sound like music by Danny Elfman.  This, too, fails to stick to me.  This was around the point in time when Elfman began -- to my ears -- to lose a step and to forget how to write memorable themes.  His score here is mostly sonic wallpaper.  Again, it's not bad; it's just not memorable.
  • Troy Evans -- who I think of from his small role in Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers -- plays another cop.  He's fine.
  • Jake Busey makes a fairly strong impression as the dead serial killer.  Mass murderer?  I'm going with serial killer.
  • The backstory involves a mass shooting.  You'd have a hard time getting that into a spookshow like this (one aimed at a wide audience) these days.
  • There's a director's cut on the Blu-ray which runs an additional thirteen minutes.  I didn't watch that, I watched the theatrical cut.  However, at some indefinite point in the future, when I watch the bonus features, I'll give that director's cut a try.  Due diligence and all.

For now, that's all I've got to say about The Frighteners, apart from this: it's one of those movies that I can't say I have any particular affection for, but which I don't begrudge anyone for loving, if they do indeed love it.  And there must be people who do.  I appear destined not to be one of them, but so be it.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Great Events Turn on Small Hinges: Reading ''The Institute''

Rather than a coherent review of The Institute, let's do this:
September "10," 2019 ("The Night Knocker," pages 1-40)

Well, The Institute came out yesterday, and I'd have begun reading it lickety-split if not for the fact that I had a doctor's appointment in the early afternoon and work at night.  I'm a night-owl type, and had to get up "early" for the appointment -- with a sleep specialist -- which meant that while I had a couple of hours during which I could have started reading the novel, I'd have been tempting Hypnos to descend upon me if I'd dared sit down in a chair.  That's a pretentious way of saying I'd have drifted off to the land of serial micronaps.  Not the way one wants to dive in to a new Stephen King novel.
And so, I waited until after work to begin.  Technically, it's September 11 now, but for me it's still the 10th, so that's how I'm dating this entry.
Whatever the date, I've now got 40 pages under my belt, and am here to report on it.
The novel begins with a short-story-length section called "The Night Knocker" that is all about a guy named Tim Jamieson.  He's a former policeman from Florida who has hitched his way up to South Carolina after getting canned from his job after an unfortunate incident was filmed by onlookers and went viral.  The thing that got him canned is pretty innocuous as far as publicly-disgraced-cops go, but it got him canned nonetheless.  Some inner voice has put him on the road, however, and he's ended up in a tiny town called DuPray, where he applies for a job as a "night knocker" with the town police force.
I just gave the phrase "night knocker" a vigorous Googling (meaning I went five pages into the search), and what I found consisted almost entirely of reviews of this novel, plus a couple of seemingly-obscure songs.  So maybe there's a law-enforcement position known as "night knocker," but I didn't immediately find any evidence of it; which suggests to me that King is pulling a fast one on us kinda like he did with that "fifth business" business in Revival.  Fine by me, Uncle Steve, you rascal.
The "night knocker" position is basically just a night-patrol security guard who walks around the little town keeping an eye on things.  Tim doesn't get a gun, doesn't even get a nightstick; can't even make arrests when and if the need arises.  What he can do is call a real cop.
King makes all of this instantaneously compelling.  He's at his best here, especially once Tim gets to DuPray and King begins introducing subordinate characters.  Virtually all of them pop immediately, and I can only assume that some of the seemingly-random things which happen in this introductory section will come back into play later on.
An amusing Easter egg comes into...
Now, Bryant, hold your damn horses.
I'm not that big a fan of the rabid Easter-egg collecting that has descended upon King fandom in the past decade or so.  In point of fact, I find it chapping my ass on occasion.  This is mostly true only of the movie adaptations, but still, can I un-shame-facedly launch myself into an observation about Easter eggs, knowing how annoyed I was by the ones in, say, the Hulu 11.22.63?  Would that be the right thing to do?  What would that say about me?
The answers to those questions are: no but I am willing to fight through it; on the fence, leaning toward yes; and who gives a fuck?, in that order.
Anyways, this is a really good Easter egg.  There's a mention of a convenience store in DuPray called Zoney's Go-Mart.  It sounded familiar to me, and the second time it was mentioned, I remembered where I'd heard it from before: Kelly Braffet's novel Save Yourself, in which it is one of the primary locations.  If you didn't know, Kelly Braffet is King's daughter in law by virtue of being married to Owen.  So this is a pretty excellent example of Big Steve giving a subtle shout-out to a family member.  You should read Save Yourself, by the way; it is fucking great.
I turned to Google yet again to make sure that Zoney's wasn't an actual convenience-store franchise that I was mistakenly crediting Braffet with creating, and while performing that research, I found out some things I'd apparently forgotten: that King had already included Zoney's in his Bill Hodges novels, as well as The Outsider and Elevation.  Not only that, but Owen King mentions a Zoney's in his 2013 novel Double Feature ... which actually preceded Save Yourself in publication by a few months.  Nevertheless, I think it's safe to say that it was Braffet who created it, and Owen who paid tribute to it in his own book, which simply happened to hit shelves first.
Regardless, I approve of all of this.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

What I Watched This ''October'' (2019 edition), part 2

We begin part two with a part two:

It: Chapter Two (2019)

I was a big fan of the first part of director Andy Muschietti's take on It, so I've been looking forward to Chapter Two ever since.  This might help to explain why I was more disappointed by this movie than by any I've seen since Spectre.  Put simply, It: Chapter Two is a crushing disappointment, one which squanders nearly all of the goodwill generated by the first film.

The cast of adult Losers is game; in no way is any of this their fault.  To a person, they do good jobs.

Nope, the blame here must be pinned squarely on director Andy Muschietti, who shows virtually none of the flair he demonstrated with the first film.  Also in for a pounding: screenwriter Gary Dauberman, who does not understand what makes King's novel tick.  Please keep this hack away from any further King properties (such as 'Salem's Lot, which he is currently adapting for producer James Wan).

I'm sure you guys are expecting more details from me; I apologize for failing you in that regard, but I don't want to spend any additional time with this misfire of a film than I have to, at least for now.

UPDATE:  My opinion on the movie has softened somewhat in the couple of days since I saw the movie.  I'm still disappointed by it, and I still have problems with it of both a macro and a micro nature, but there are so many good scenes that I feel it would be irresponsible of me to suggest the movie is a complete failure.  It's not that.  I stand by my assessment that it's a disappointment, or at least that it was a disappointment for me personally.  But I acknowledge that it might be the kind of thing that grows on me over time, once the initial shock of immediate letdown has dissipated.  Or maybe not; maybe my disdain for it will only grow over time.

Impossible to say for now.  So that's where we'll leave it.  I'll certainly have a quite a lot more to say about this movie one of these days.  That day is not this one.

We move on to an acknowledged misfire, but one that I kind of enjoy:

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

What I Watched This ''October'' (2019 edition), part 1

It's been kind of a rough year for the staff here at The Truth Inside The Lie.  Which is a way of saying I've had a rough year.  Not in any kind of interesting way, either!  Nope, no illness or unemployment or divorce or being Tweeted about or getting caught in a MeToo transgression or anything interesting.  Am I depressed?  That's debatable, I suppose; but it feels to me like if I said I was, I'd be insulting people who do legitimately suffer from depression.  So ... no, I don't think I am.
But I sure have been down a lot, y'all.  And for a good long span of months there, I found myself entirely incapable of tamping that down.  That seems to have settled down, though; finally.  And in fact, in some ways I'm beginning to find myself feeling optimistic for large chunks of the day.  Am I suddenly happy?  Well, let's not get carried away or nothin'.  Let's say I've been feeling content; if so, I've been feeling more content than I have in a pretty good stretch of time.
Still, this is a respite after a somewhat grueling few months, and I find myself in need of some manner of holiday.  The best one that's close is Halloween; it's not for nearly two months yet, but fuck that, we're starting that shit today.  I typically start in late September, but that's just not going to do in 2019.  2019 calls for an extended Halloween season, possibly on the back end as well as on the front.

With that in mind, here come some capsule reviews.  Gonna be a LOT of these posts coming down the pike the next few weeks (I hope).  Spoiler warning for each and every title, so if you haven't seen it and don't want to know, skip on down the line.
We begin with:

Pet Sematary (2019) 

I had mixed feelings about the new Pet Sematary when it came out this spring.  I didn't like it all that much, but neither did I dislike it.  I felt indifferent toward it; not the reaction one hopes for, but heck, one can do worse.  If you want to hear me try to talk these indifferent feelings out, here's a podcast where I did just that (as backup to Lou Sytsma).
As I'm guessing I mentioned in that podcast, I have been feeling ever since seeing the film that I owed it a second look.  That look has finally come, and the verdict...

Is pretty much the same as the first time.  This is a really strange case, because there is very little in the film that I dislike at all, much less vigorously.  I can name a single shot: Louis bellowing with rage while burying Ellie.  Even that is something I can rationalize.  Oh, and I guess I'd say that Pascow is a washout for me, as well as the non-presence of the wendigo.  Maybe a few beats in the Zelda subplot are a little weak, too.  But most of these things are intellectual problems for me, not things which actively bother me while I'm watching the film.

On the other end of the spectrum, I can think of quite a few moments that work for me very well, from the very beginning to the very end.  They work for me in the moment, and they work for me in my memory.  Why, then, does the movie play like something which is less than the sum of its parts?

It's a question I'm not going to be able to answer tonight; I think this one is going to require some unraveling, which means a deep-dive, and I've got no stomach for a deep-dive just now.

I'll give you my hypothesis, though.  I think a case of all the behind-the-scenes filmmakers having good intentions, and being talented people, but not quite taking the proper amount of care in deciding what this movie needed to be.  Put another way, I think everyone involved wanted to make a great new version of Pet Sematary because they wanted to honor the old version, but failed to truly figure out a plan to distinguish new from old.

I think they thought they had done exactly that in having it be Ellie who dies in the new movie.  The more time I spend with that decision, the more I like it.  It actually seems quite natural to me; I'm not sure it isn't a better idea than having Gage die -- at least as far as filmmaking goes.  The fact that Miko Hughes works as Gage in Mary Lambert's original film increasingly seems like a miracle; replicating that was a high enough bar as to be practically impossible.

No, the Ellie thing works for me.  But what else does the movie do to set itself apart?  Very little.  And while most of what it replicates works, little of it works at a high enough level to sever the umbilical cord which connects this infant version to the mother original.  I love the new Church; but I love the old Church, too, and so while it's satisfying to see a different one, it's not THAT satisfying.  Right?

Jason Clarke is good as Louis (a few wonky accent moments excepted), and in fact he's significantly better than Dale Midkiff was; but it's not enough to send the movie into the stratosphere, because the two men are essentially doing the same thing -- one at a higher level, yes, but so what?  Same goes for Amy Seimetz as Rachel, who is such a better actor than Denise Crosby that it's not a conversation worth having.  AND YET ... I like Denise Crosby in the original, so even though I love Seimetz here, it's somewhat irrelevant.  And in the case of John Lithgow as Jud, he's very good; but he can't hold a candle to Fred Gwynne as Jud.

The movie even ends with a competent but utterly uninspired cover of the Ramones song which ended the original film.  Why?  Who thought that was a good idea?

Ultimately, I remain indifferent to the film.  But I found it be painless enough to watch a second time, which means it's in my good graces; it's not my favorite student in the class, but I'm not sending it to the principal's office just for that.  What am I, a monster?

Graveyard Shift (1990)

Friday, August 23, 2019

I Was Built to Believe in Weird Stuff: A Review of ''Nightmares & Dreamscapes''

Nightmares & Dreamscapes was published in late September 1993, and might well have come as a relief of sorts to many King fans.  Since he ended his Castle Rock cycle in 1991 with Needful Things, he'd pumped out two relatively slim novels that told mostly non-supernatural stories.  Those books were Gerald's Game and Dolores Claiborne, both of which I love; not all King fans do, and while I can't presume to speak for anyone else, I'd wager that more than a few Constant Readers were a bit worried about the direction their favorite author was taking back in those days.
Imagine, then, what a relief, this cover must have been:
I can't remember the first time I saw it, but I love it, and assume I must always have done so.  That Rob Wood cover art is just wonderful: suggestive of the arrival of a peaceful and comfortable night-time after some long and taxing day, the colors manage to make the spooky scarecrow -- standing implausibly in the middle of the road -- a welcoming figure and not an intimidating one.
That's not the description I intended to write when I began that sentence.  I expected to write something about how the colors informed one that King was back at the horror game.  And the cover does suggest that, as well, but I think it also suggests comfort, which in turn implies familiarity.  And that makes a sort of sense given this book's place in King's bibliography, don't you think?  If many King fans were breathing sighs of relief to find that King (after the abused-women duology of Gerald's Game and Dolores Claiborne) was in the mood to get spooky again, then it makes sense to see that scarecrow as being a welcoming figure.  Bottom line: I think the cover art works either way.
Before we get into a discussion of the book's introduction, let me tell you what this post won't be: in-depth.  I do have a tendency to aim for going deep when it comes to writing about King's short fiction, as anyone who has read my reviews of the following stories can attest:
I sometimes allow myself to run hog-wild on this blog, and so you get what we had here for "The Fifth Quarter," which was slavering lunacy.  I personally found it be rewarding, but I don't know why anyone would ever read what I wrote with that one.  To those of you who did I say thanks with apologies.
Anyways, the point is this: we won't be doing that sort of thing in this post.  In fact, I'd anticipate that as I march through the book, I'll restrain myself from writing more than three or four paragraphs about each story.  I'd love to write in-depth pieces about each; but that sort of attention is best saved for the series that all the above links come from.  See, those -- most of you know this, but I'll make it explicit nonetheless -- are King's stories in chronological publication order, whereas Nightmares & Dreamscapes is a collection that spans several decades' worth of material.  So I'll cover those individual stories when they come up in the chronology (as, indeed, two of this book's stories -- "Suffer the Little Children" and "The Fifth Quarter" -- already have).
What was that I just heard?  A collective sigh of relief from this blog's readers?  Well, it was a wind of some sort, and if it was of that variety I wouldn't be too surprised.

With that in mind, let's hop right in, beginning with:

"Myth, Belief, Faith, and Ripley's Believe It Or Not!"

About which I might theoretically end up saying more than I'll say about the stories themselves, simply because it's nonfiction, and therefore won't be a part of that incredibly-slow-moving blogthrough of the short stories.  It is King's introduction for the book, and (like the introductions to his previous collections, Night Shift and Skeleton Crew) it is wonderful.

"When I was a kid I believed everything I was told," King begins, "everything I read, and every dispatch sent out by my own overheated imagination."

I can relate.  When I was a child, it was as though I lived in a world of hyper-reality, where everything was exactly what it seemed to be, but plus, somehow.  I loved the things I loved more than I ever had the ability to cope with or even understand; and the things that scared me (which was almost everything) scared me so much that it was like walking through a perpetual nightmare.  A really lame one, granted; but still.  Those feelings -- of wonderment and terror alike -- have mostly dimmed over time.  Long ago, in most cases.  They kind of just shorted themselves out; they're still there, but it's like someone turned down the volume ... or flipped the switch that turned them from color to black-and-white.

I think this helps explain my continued need for stories.  When I read a great book or watch a great movie or hear a great song, it's like the volume on my emotions has been turned all the way up again; like the color has been brought back to my inner life.  That's an awfully pretentious way to think about it, and it's probably not terribly accurate in many ways.  But it's the best I can do tonight, seemingly, so it'll have to do.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Book(s) Review: A Trio by Lee Gambin

Today, let's have a look at a trio of books by film critic and journalist Lee Gambin, beginning with his exploration of the Lewis Teague adaptation of Cujo:

Weighing in at close to five hundred pages, this is an exhaustive piece of work indeed.  I'm pretty sure I feel like every movie ought to have a book this detailed written about it.  Well, okay, maybe not EVERY movie, but certainly every good movie; and Cujo, as Gambin persuasively argues throughout, is probably closer to a great one than merely a good one.
Gambin's structure is simple, but highly effective: he walks us through the entire film, scene by scene, in chronological order.  Not merely summarizing the film, he's also giving keen critical analysis as he goes.  After each scene, he then provides lengthy oral-history-type comments from many of the filmmakers and other contributors who worked on the production.  Often these comments illuminate the making (and intentions) of the scene Gambin has just discussed; sometimes, though, they speak less to specific scenes and more to at-large issues and concerns. 

Sunday, June 9, 2019

A(n almost certainly incomplete) History of Stephen King Audiobooks, Part 1

I have a love/hate relationship with audiobooks.  The first time I encountered one, however many years ago that was, I thought I'd stumbled upon some sort of magic.  And hey, maybe I had.

Over the years, however, my enthusiasm for the format has diminished considerably.  Too many shabby performances, man; I find myself entirely put off by narrators who take it as their duty to deliver character performances.  I guess some amount of that is necessary; and if you're actually good at it, well, why not go for it?  I find most readers to be decidedly not good at it.  Nothing kills an audiobook for me faster, and I've found myself liking some novels less after hearing them in audio form than I had liked them when simply reading them in prose.  Perhaps this speaks to some weakness in my character; beats me, man, I'm just here to try and make sense out of all this shit.

With that in mind, I've embarked upon what is almost certainly a foolhardy mission: to detail the history of King audiobooks, along with my thoughts on each title.  In some cases, I probably won't have listened to the entirety of the audiobook; as I've said, they sometimes gall me, and while I'm into the idea of having listened to them all, I'm not THAT into it.

Before we get going properly, let me acknowledge something: Kevin Quigley is the go-to guy for information about King audiobooks.  This page from his site Charnel House was very valuable to me in putting this overview together; and that's an understatement.

At Charnel House, you will find references to Library of Congress recordings for certain King books.  These were recorded expressly for the use of blind readers (no, that's not an oxymoron), and were apparently available ... somehow.  Via libraries, probably; possibly also via mail on a rental basis.  I've done very little research on this, and if you wish to accuse me of laziness, I will plead no contest.  I will also welcome any additional information you have, so use them comments, y'all.

Anyways, these were technically the first King audiobooks, and they are as follows:

  • Carrie (circa 1974, read by Anne Chodoff) 
  • The Shining (circa 1977, read by Bruce Huntey)
  • Night Shift (circa 1979, read by Michael Kramer)
  • The Dead Zone (circa 1979, read by Diane Islandburg)
  • Firestarter (circa 1980, read by Merwin Smith)
  • Cujo (circa 1981, read by Bob Askey)
  • Danse Macabre (circa 1981, read by Merwin Smith)
  • Christine (circa 1983, read by Bob Askey)
  • Cycle of the Werewolf (circa 1983, reader unknown)
  • Rage, The Long Walk, Roadwork, and The Running Man (circa 1985, read by Bob Askey)
  • It (circa 1986, read by Chuck Benson)
  • The Eyes of the Dragon (circa 1987, read by David Palmer) 
  • The Tommyknockers (circa 1987, read by Pam Ward)
  • The Dark Half (circa 1989, read by Chuck Benson)
  • The Stand: Complete & Uncut (circa 1990, read by Bruce Huntey) [although based on Huntey having read The Shining circa 1977, I personally wonder (based on nothing concrete) if this isn't Huntey reading the '78 version of The Stand]
  • Storm of the Century (circa 1999, read by Gregory Gorton)

Additionally, I happen to know of the following, which may or may not have anything to do with the Library of Congress:

  • 'salem's Lot (read by Richard Nazarewich)
  • The Eyes of the Dragon (read by Bill McNeff)
  • The Mist (reader unknown) 

I've managed to track down MP3s of a few of these; I've listened to none of them, and I'm not sure I ever will.  Quigley asserts that the readers are amateurs, not for-hire professionals; and I wonder whether I'd be able to endure such a thing.

I might, eventually; I mean, heck, if a series of posts like this won't get to listen to them, what would?  If nothing else, I'm kind of curious to find out what an audiobook version of a screenplay (like Storm of the Century) would be like.

But I won't be covering any of those in this particular post, and while I am 100% copacetic with that decision I thought it made sense to at least mention them, just so y'all didn't assume I was unaware of them.

We good with that?

Okey doke, then let's move into the post proper, beginning in a real damn fine place to begin:

1984 -- Different Seasons
(read by Frank Muller, produced by Recorded Books)

There are two things I absolutely do not know about Frank Muller's Different Seasons:

(1)  Whether these were indeed released separately and (2) whether it/they was/were actually the first commercially-available King audiobook(s).

Quigley lists these as being 1985 releases, which would generally be good enough for me.  The recordings themselves say "copyright 1984," though, so between that and Skeleton Crew definitively NOT being released until '85, I think it's likely these four releases beat the Recorded Books Skeleton Crew into the world.  And if they didn't, we're going to pretend they did.
There's also a third contender: the truncated Stories From Night Shift release, more on which in a few paragraphs.  That, too, was a 1985 release; could it have actually preceded the Recorded Books Different Seasons volumes?  I do not know for a fact, but it seems possible.
What I do know for a fact is that these four audio releases of the Different Seasons novellas are awesome.  Frank Muller was hands down the finest narrator of audiobooks to ever live.  Have I heard every audiobook narrator to ever work in that business?  I have not.  But I'm standing by my assessment, and that's just all there is to it.  We'll hear Muller's name again in this post, fairly frequently (though not frequently enough for my tastes).

Monday, May 20, 2019

Potluck time at The Truth Inside The Lie, part 2

Diving right in, let's have a look at:
You can probably guess why I bought this new anthology from Lawrence Block: yes, sure enough, it was for the Joe Hill story.  And we'll get to that in a few moments.
First, an apology to the many authors represented herein whose stories I didn't read.  My standing policy is to read anthologies cover to cover, but folks, I'm badly off my game right now in all sorts of ways, and I just didn't want to spend the amount of time it would take to read it all.  Nothing more complicated or nefarious to it than that; I'm being a time hoarder over here, plain and simple.  That said, I felt pretty bad about it, so I did read a couple of pages from every story, and pretty much every single one of them seemed interesting, so my feeling is that this is likely a very strong anthology.
I did, apart from Hill's, work my way through two additional stories in full.  

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Potluck time at The Truth Inside The Lie, part 1

I am in the midst of a week of vacation time right now, and thought I'd work my way through a few bits of King-related ephemera in lieu of doing anything useful.  In order to prove it, here come some random thoughts about it all, beginning with:

The last time I read a Tabitha King novel, it was The Trap, which I thought was pretty great.  It was only the third of her novels I'd read, and next up in the queue is a book called Pearl, with One On One being the next after that.  I'd been wanting to wait to listen to this audiobook until I had actually read the novel, because I generally find that I no longer respond very well to audiobooks as first "reads."  This is especially true of abridged audiobooks, which are something I try to avoid whenever possible.
However, I'm also -- verrrrrrrrrrry slowly -- working on a series of posts about audiobook versions of King books, and the next title up in my explorations was his abridged reading of Tabitha's One On One.  So I figured hey, the time has come; let's just dig into that, and think of it as a preview of the actual novel.
Which is exactly my response upon having finished it: I just got a preview of a novel.  And I think it's a novel I'm going to like quite a lot; maybe more even than Tabitha King's Caretakers, which I flat-out loved.
Thing is, I can't make that call based on an abridged audiobook, even one narrated by Stephen King himself.  Mr. King does a terrific job of reading Mrs. King's words; so much so that I immediately wished unabridged audiobooks existed of him reading all of her novels.  Frankly, she deserves the attention, and that'd be one way to get a bit more of it.
The story (as you can read a bit for yourself from the back cover) is about the fraught relationship between two high-school basketball players.  The Kings were, during the nineties, famous for their championing women's basketball at both the collegiate and high-school levels; Mr. King would work the sport into a short story ("Ur") in a roundabout way years later, but Mrs. King tackled the subject while they were in the thick of it.  And, indeed, she wrote a regionally-published nonfiction book (Playing Like a Girl) about a high-school hoops team only a year after this.
As I have found to be the case previously, Mrs. King's gift is for writing characters.  Deanie Gauthier is maybe the best I've read from her yet; I found her to be incredibly frustrating but also utterly irresistible, which meant that I was in complete sympathy with Sam, her male counterpart.  This is a different-sides-of-the-tracks relationship, in some ways, but in a setting where more or less everyone is a born loser.  Basketball arguably offers them both a way out of that world; but that world has its hooks in them deep, and does NOT want to let go.  I got deeply invested in this relationship, and its ups and downs worked on me fully even though I was getting only what felt like a cursory summary of the novel's events.
That, of course, is the problem with abridged audiobooks.  By definition, a lot of things have to get cut out; in a way, it's like hearing edited-down clips of songs and saying you've listened to a whole album.  Nope, you sure haven't; and here, I really felt it.  I was never sure when I bouncing from one scene to the next because it had been designed that way by Mrs. King, or because the rough blade of abridgement had sliced a scene to smithereens.  It was mostly the latter, I feel sure.
Nevertheless, I found it to be enjoyable.  The bottom line for me is that I love to hear Mr. King narrate a story; he's really, really good at it.  He keeps the goofy character-voice tomfoolery to a minimum, and just goes at the material in straightforward fashion.  I guess I'm glad he's spent much of his life writing books, as opposed to narrating them; but if somebody told me he'd spent secret hours recording dozens of audiobooks for other authors' works, I'd buy every single one of them when and if they got released.  This is not merely because I'd feel obliged to for my collection, but also because I just like the way he reads.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

A gallery of cover art from Russian editions of King books

Today, I've got something for you that I would have liked to have put out much sooner -- but life gets in the way sometimes, and I've had precious little hours in the week to devote to blogging of late.  Better late than never, though, one hopes!
Anyways, a while back, a commenter named Arseniy left some links within comments on my 2018 King-books rankings in which he pointed our attention toward the cover art for Russian edition of the books.  I asked if he'd mind me turning that into a post, and he said he wouldn't, and I said I would, but then over two months went by.  However, I never forgot about it, and so now, I present to you, courtesy of Arseniy, a look at some awesome editions of King books.
I'll go in chronological order by publication, beginning with:
Carrie -- A decent few of these, you will see, are inspired by one of the movie adaptations.  This one takes its cues from the 2013 Kimberly Peirce adaptation.  I'm a bigger fan of that movie than many people seem to be, and so this cover works for me just fine; it's creepy, and I can easily imagine it lodging in some kid's brain the way iconography from the Brian DePalma version lodged in mine many years ago.
'Salem's Lot -- This one mystifies me a bit, because I don't really know what it has to do with the novel.  But as an image on its own, it's fairly striking, I think.  So this is not a favorite among the images we'll be looking at, but it's not bad.