my occasional musings on life, love, art, perfume ... what else is there?

8.24.2005

Either Way, Either Way

I guess Stephen King at times has been considered a hack ... he uses a formula, and successfully, but he's also broken out of his own mold, transcended his own style to create

NO. This isn't what I want to say. I want to tell you about something he wrote that I read five years ago that still comes to me as a tears-wrung-out-recollection.

My life was miserable at that time, and I read, read, read for the escape. I would jump on the New Yorker when it arrived every week and read it cover to cover -- not like today, happier times, when I skim it and barely catch the high spots.

In that January 2001 issue, I was surprised to find a short story by Stephen King. I've got my literary pretenses and I snootily thought, "huh." But I read the story and found it so wrenching that I dragged the magazine into my psychiatrist's office, threw it down in front of him and said, "This is it. This is how I feel."

Of course he made me describe it:

A Willy Loman-esque traveling salesman checks into a Nebraska motel one wintry night to commit suicide.

He's a gourmet food rep, he has a wife who doesn't much care if he ever comes home, a daughter from whom he is distant, and a hobby – he collects graffiti.

The mysterious, often rancid, messages on bathroom walls of all the rest areas he stops at -- these say something to him. These "voices on the walls" become his mind's companion as he drives the flat, flat miles of the midwest.

The shorthand notes-from-somewhere are meaningful to him, important, something that connects him to something outside himself. They bring some sort of context to a life lived so alone, so unmoored.

His collection of graffiti, the notebook carrying this communication, is all that tethers him to this existence. And, in a strange way, it becomes the means of making his decision about life or death.

Something outside him must decide, because from his perspective, it's "either way, either way."

The story is called "All That You Love Will Be Carried Away" and, again, it can be found in the January 2001 New Yorker, or in a compilation of Stephen King short stories (including three others previously published in the New Yorker) called Everything's Eventual.

If you're a writer, please find this and read it. The way the author constructed it will haunt you, in ways you won't expect.

9 Comments:

Blogger AP3 said...

Thanks for the recommendation. It sounds very good... actually, I think King is brilliant in his own way.

Great blog entry!

4:56 PM

 
Blogger Bela said...

Sounds great. I've never actually read any Stephen King; I've only watch TV or film adaptations of his stories. He wrote a book about writing, didn't he? It's supposed to be very good too.

5:41 PM

 
Blogger AP3 said...

(ah - you like Hildegard of Bingen too!)

5:42 PM

 
Blogger A Little Bar of Soap said...

I am praying for you and for Lucio Guerrero.

6:44 PM

 
Blogger mireille said...

thank you, little bar. we both appreciate it. he especially needs all the help he can get. xoxo

6:48 PM

 
Blogger Trina said...

bela - I think you're referring to Danse Macabre? It is supposed to be quite good :~D

I really think King is underestimated as a writer. I'm not a fan of all his stuff (especially the more recent and "realistic" stories) but he has written SO many things outside the formula he's "known" for. I hate that he's willing to knock off main characters in his stories, and love how much he can make me care about them!

3:01 AM

 
Blogger actonbell said...

Thanks for the recommendation. I've read lots of his short stories, but haven't run across that one. I've been of two minds about Stephen King--he is formulaic, but he can also get into people's minds. He's so much deeper than the usual genre writer.

And I'm sorry to hear that you ever felt so bad.

3:22 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember that story. I loved it.

xoxo

g

8:24 AM

 
Blogger still life said...

I have heard of this short story before but never read it. I'm usually not a fan of King's, but if you say that it's so...it must be. I'll order it from Strand.

12:49 PM

 

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