On the agenda today: a super-duper brief look at "That Bus Is Nother World," a brand-new King short story that was published in the August issue of Esquire. Yes, I know; it's still July. It's one of those weird things where the cover date and the on-sale date seemingly have about a month's difference. I don't get that, but whatever.
Regardless of such obfuscation, my local Publix was more than happy to sell me a copy of this today:
The cashier took one look at this, and said, in a tone that indicated what I assume to be semi-immodest envy (but which might theoretically have actually been sapphic appreciation; even, possibly, both), "Boy, that's some bod, huh?"
Know ye that I am a man. Yes, it is true. I like a good-lookin' woman. Know ye also that while it might be a reasonable assumption for a Publix cashier to make to assume that Cameron Diaz's luscious physique was the reason for my purchase, this was not actually the case. I really WAS buying it for the articles. Or, at least, for the short story.
My reply to the cashier was, "She sure does. I'm the weirdo who's buying this for the Stephen King story, though." Followed by what hoped to be a winning smile, but probably wasn't. This was greeted with skepticism, or pity, or (again) maybe a bit of both.
So be it. She wasn't the first cashier to give me such a look, and she won't be the last.
The story, then. How is it?
Know ye (he said again, not sure where such weirdly formal language was coming from) that I will divulge no spoilers. As such, I'd like to tell you as little about the story as possible. That isn't unusual in my reviews of new King stories, because I assume most King fans will not read it until it is collected. And also because, due to the way many short stories function work, the less the reader knows the better.
Such is the case here. I don't particularly think that having preconceptions of any kind do the reader any good with "That Bus Is Another World." So, you won't have any preconceptions from me, or at least, you won't have many. So, what is the story about? It's about three pages long. Who is the main character? A guy. Where is this guy? He's in a place you've heard of. What is he doing there? He's working. Sort of. What happens to him during the course of those three pages? Well, depending on how you look at it, something. Is it a horror story? You tell me.
My point is, these are things you should discover for yourself. "That Bus Is Another World" is not atypical among recent King stories in that regard; I'd say much the same about excellent recent tales like "The Dune," "Herman Wouk Is Still Alive," "Batman and Robin Have an Altercation," and "Summer Thunder." Is this one as good as those? You tell me. (But I think the answer is mostly a "yes.")
Two parting points, one specifically vague and the other vaguely specific:
- The story features a main character from Birmingham, Alabama, which may make "That Bus Is Another World" the first King story to prominently feature a character from my home state. Cool!
- The story shares with the recent novel Mr. Mercedes a bleak political/cultural view. You can practically feel King saying "What the fuck is going on here?!?" It feels almost as if he is tuning up for some sort of grandly politically-relevant work. As in Mr. Mercedes, that content is here both backgrounded and, via the subtext, very much foregrounded.
In short: a very good story from King. If you're a big fan, go buy a copy of Esquire and support them. It'll only set you back $5, and your cashier might be bemused by the experience.
Everyone else, it just means you've got another winner for the next collection.