Author Archive

The Gingerbread Girl

January 10, 2010

Summary

Emily has lost her child, which causes tensions in the relationship with her husband Henry. She takes up running till she collapses to control her grief. Henry notices her behavior and tries o talk to her. The situation escalates and she runs off, just with her running clothes and a few credit cards. Her father suggests going to their small house on the Keys and she follows his proposal. During the next few weeks she runs 5 miles a day while eating nest to nothing.

One day, Dake, who runs the draw-bridge between Vermilllion and the mainland, tells her that Pickering is back. Pickering is one of the rich owners of the huge houses on the beach. He arrived with a new “cousin” who is young and attractive. Dake tells her that he thinks all the “cousins”, Pickering arrives with, are killed and shipped back with his yacht. A bit later Emily runs past that estate and sees a woman lying injured in the trunk. She walks closer and is knocked down from behind.

Em wakes up and in order to prevent Pickering from killing her, she lies to him. She says that Dake knows where she is. Pickering leaves with the intention to eliminate Dake. Slowly she is able to get rid of the duct tape which ties her to a chair. Emily has almost finished when her tormentor returns. She succeeds in knocking him down, although she is weak and injured by the falling the chair.

Emily tries to find the exit, but she ends up in the bedroom. By jumping out of a window she is able to escape and to gain a lead over Pickering. At the beach she already feels free although he is close on her heels. She seems to be fitter than him, but a Mexican worker, who works for Pickering, catches her. Emily convinces the Latino that she is needs help, but he gets brutally stabbed with a pair of scissors. Exhausted and heavily breathing she limps on.

When Pickering reaches her at last, she jumps into the water as last escape. Em realizes that he is not able to swim and pulls him deep under water. With her last power she swims ashore where she watches him drifting helplessly away in the Gulf Stream.

My impression

“The Gingerbread Girl” is divided into twelve parts. The first three parts form the exposition. The next four parts are the rising action. The climax is in part eight. It is the escape from the house. The moment of final suspense is in part nine, ten and eleven. The solution follows in the last part.

Stephen King describes the story very brutally, but in simple words. He plays with the fear of being kidnapped and killed by a psychopath. The reader is torn between the hope for Em and the fear that Pickering might kill her. In many situations she seems to win, but by chance Picking always stays on her heels. In my opinion the introduction is a bit too long, but I like the happy ending, when she gets her revenge. Em is mentally very strong and tries to think rationally all the time. From the point where Dake tells Emily about Pickering the plot is quite predictable. Most of the story seems realistic, but on the other hand the ending with the Mexican and Pickering’s unexpected fear of water -Pickering as a man who owns a boat and a house on the beach – is not convincing. It makes the reader wonder, if Stephen King wanted to put an end to the story.

Willa

January 10, 2010

Summary

The story “Willa” takes place near Crowheart Springs in Wyoming. David Sanderson notices the absence of his girlfriend Willa. He and a few others are waiting for a pick-up train in the station of the small town. He asks several people and it becomes clear, that she has gone into town, which is dangerous since there are wolves outside. David decides to look for her, against the warnings of the people in the station. Walking along the only lonely road he sees a wolf, which is scared of him. Without wondering about that David reaches a honkey-tonk bar, where “The Derailers” are playing that evening. Without paying David walks in and finds Willa. They talk about music and mirrors and Willa explains the effects of perception and expectation. Slowly it becomes clear that they both died a long time ago and that they are ghosts. The pick-up train the people are waiting for in the station will not arrive as the train they have been traveling with derailed. With the knowledge that David is already dead, he can remember the derailment. Together they walk back to the station. It becomes obvious that David and Willa think they live in a completely different time while they are already in the year 2006. At that point David is able to see different stages of the station building. In the year 2006 the building is struggling to keep up its appearance. To their horror they discover a sign which says, that the building shall be demolished in June 2007. Inside nobody believes them. Willa and David try to do their best to convince the travellers but except for a child nobody believes them. Together they walk back into town to see “The Derailers” again, while they wonder if the group succeeds in making the train arrive with their will power.

My impression

This is the first short story of Stephen King I have ever read. It is written in a simple style and without many stylistic devices. The third person narrator is linked with David’s point of view. While David is described in a natural and human way, Willa seems to be strange at first sight. The plot shows parallels with “The Sixth Sense” with Bruce Willis. At first, the reader asks himself, what the creepy event of the short story might be. Since the reader slowly gets the idea, that they aren’t alive anymore, and the main characters see the positive aspect of being a ghost, there isn’t too much horror effect left. I enjoyed reading the story, because Stephen King invites the reader to an experiment of thoughts – what it would be like to be a ghost- and tries to show the positive aspects of being a ghost.

In my opinion this quotation sums up the idea of the story quite well:

“Succinct, fast-moving …. This collection’s most successful stories start unprepossessingly but then head for unknown territory, off in the far reaches of Mr. King’s imagination.” – Janet Maslin, The New York Times

Graduation Afternoon

January 10, 2010

Summary

„Graduation Afternoon“ takes place on an estate which allows a great view of New York City. Janice is playing tennis and thinks about her relationship with her boyfriend Buddy. He is swimming in his pool. With her exotic last name Gradolewiski it is hard for her to be accepted in the high society. Buddy’s Grandma sneers at her constantly. In three weeks Buddy will go hiking, which seems to be his mother’s diabolic plan to separate them painlessly.

She walks slowly back to the big house, while thinking of the graduation party in the evening. In the distance in the city, she sees an enormous spark of light. It spreads quickly and the whole southern sky is a glooming red. A crimson mushroom slowly forms. Buddy’s relatives come out of the house wondering what kind of light this is. It becomes very hot and the sound of the nuclear bomb reaches them. Janice, almost blinded, looks at the place, where Ney York City had been 90 seconds ago. A hot breeze rises and she thinks of Buddy, his grandma und the evening.

My impression

The beginning of the story is unimpressive and characterized by Janice`s internal monologue. The second part is completely different. A nuclear bomb detonates in New York and changes her life as well as many other lives. Stephen King makes the nightmare of many people come true in his story: a nuclear bomb in a big city such as New York. The events after the detonation are described very vividly. The reader almost feels the radiant heat and hears the incredible noise. The author of a book review in The New York Times wrote: “….showcases King’s almost unholy talent of making the natural world seem like something not of this world…. Unsettling and clever.”
A very exciting story I recommend to everyone, who does not want to read a 500 pages-book, but who doesn’t want to miss a little bit of the Stephen King feeling.

Rest Stop

January 10, 2010

Summary

After five beers in a bar in Jax a man is sitting in his Jaguar. He is on his way home. He is an English professor for American poets and novelists at university and has decided to write a book instead of teaching another term. The protagonist has different identities: John Andrew Dykstra is the name on his passport, the smart professor who tries to avoid trouble. His antagonist is Rick Hardin, who has drunk two additional beers to John’s two. Rick is tough and always causes trouble.

Dykstra thinks about his life and the decision to write a book and about what kind of characters he should write about. Since he has drunk a bit too much, he leaves the interstate for the next rest area. The parking lot is empty with the exception of a PT Cruiser. He stops his car and walks over to the men’s room opposite the women’s room. Dykstra wants to enter, when he hears a woman screaming at the women’s restroom. A guy, called Lee, abuses his girlfriend. Dykstra wonders what to do while listening to them. The scene escalates and John still thinks of his mobile phone which is in his car. To call the police would be a waste of time, the girl would be dead by then. John wishes, he had not stopped.

The point of view changes and shows Ellen Whitlow, the woman in the cubicle of the women’s room. Lee wants to slay her, when a car alarm goes off. He walks outside and is knocked down by a man. Hardin advises the girl to take the PT Cruiser and to drive to the next rest area. He destroys Lee’s glasses. Dykstra returns slowly, but Hardin’s identity pushes him back into subconsciousness. Rick kicks Lee one more time and leaves with his car after calling the police.

On his way home, he realizes what he has done. His identity changes back to Dykstra. At home he sets the burglar alarm.

My impression

At first it is difficult to get why there are two people acting in one, but slowly Stephen King lets the reader find out who is who. The story contains a lot of internal monolog as well as action which make the reader understand the crisis Dykstra respectively Hardin is in. After the change to the third person narrator, the reader does not exactly know which man helps Ellen Whitlow. He is always called “the man”. When the point of view changes again, it becomes clear, that Hardin helped her.

Hardin could be an allusion to Hades (Greek “the unseen” or “invisible”) in Greek mythology. He was the God of the underworld.

The story succeeds in being creepy without supernatural appearances. The atmosphere and the scary character who changes his identity is enough to make the story interesting. At the beginning I was really immersed in Dykstra’s thoughts who thinks all the time of his book and how he could create his main character. His need of a toilet jolted me out of his/my daydreams.

Harvey’s Dream

January 10, 2010

Summary

The short story „Harvey’s Dream“ takes place in the kitchen of Janet and Harvey Stevens. Harvey has Alzheimer’s disease. This is why Janet is afraid of the future. In general Janet is unhappy with her life. One reason for her unhappiness is that she didn’t leave her husband in order to let their children grow up in an idyllic family. Everything seems to be normal that afternoon, till Harvey wants to tell her of the dream, he had last night. He starts but at this moment Janet becomes very angry without cause. Janet doesn’t understand why she reacts like that, she just wants him to stop, but he goes on talking. Like in reality it was Saturday afternoon in his dream. He went to a window, where he saw the car of a friend which was dented. Exactly that happens in reality, too, and Janet gets very scared. In Harvey’s dream their phone rang. It was their oldest daughter Trish, who is drug-addicted. She mumbled something of death and Harvey knew right away that one of their daughters had died. Then reality starts to seep through. Looking outside, Janet discovers something in the dented car, that looks like blood and hair and she gets goose bumps. The phone rings and Harvey takes the call.

My impression

The story is structured very simply. In Janet’s and Harvey’s situation everything seems to be normal. Harvey talks about a dream, which is unusual. By chance his dream might exactly reflect their day. But then Janet discovers the blood and the phone rings. The reader cannot deny the thought that one of their children has died. Janet and Harvey seem to be normal people with normal lives but Harvey’s dream changes the reader’s perception. The open ending is typical of short stories. The reader is left alone with the question if their child has really died.

This is definitely a story I do recommend since it shows Stephen King’s skills to write a very exciting short story in simple words.

New York Times at Special Bargin Rates

January 10, 2010

Summary

The short story „New York Times at Special Bargain Rates” starts with a phone call.  Anne takes the call since her relatives downstairs are too busy to do so. It’s her husband James. Shocked she sinks down on her bed, because her relatives on the ground floor are planning her husband’s funeral. The plane in which her husband had been sitting, crashed into an apartment building. Anne rejects the idea that her husband is calling her, but his voice and the way he talks convince her. James tells her an incredible story. He knew that the plane wouldn’t be able to land. So he has tried to call her before his death and now he has got the connection. His rechargeable battery is almost flat which limits their time. They talk about where he is and what it looks like. James is in a big kind of station building with many doors. It remains a mystery to James which door is the right one for him. Without any sign of fear, her husband tells Anne what terrible things might happen and therefore she shouldn’t go to a special bakery, where a catastrophe will happen. For James, time is more a theoretical concept than a strict construct. After an “I love you” he puts the phone down and Anne sits still for a while. She tries to find out, who called her but the call is not registered in her phone. The protagonist starts laughing and walks down to her relatives.

Five years later, she hears a gas explosion. The bakery she was warned of is completely destroyed. Anne races home and tries again to call the person who had last called her. But it is a recorded voice which offers her the Ney York Times at special bargain rates.

My impression

I enjoyed reading this short story because of the vivid description of Anne’s feelings after James’ call. The reader can understand and feel exactly like Anne. Since the rechargeable battery of his mobile phone is low, the connection could be interrupted any second. This makes the reader rush through the story, he gets the feeling of being in a hurry. But the characters don’t really seem to care about that, which increases the reader’s “worries” of their being disconnected. At the beginning, he describes Anne’s feelings, but Anne and James don’t talk about them. The rest of the story confirms James’ prophecies, which of course come true as the experienced Stephen King reader knows.

The Author: Stephen King

January 10, 2010

Stephen KingStephen King was born in Portland on September 21st, 1947. He grew up without his father who left the family when Stephen was 2 years old. His mother was forced to raise Stephen and his brother David in poor conditions. He started writing a column in the school newspaper “The Maine Campus”. After highschool Stephen King studied English literature and began a carrier as a teacher.  He married Tabitha Spurce in 1971. When “Carrie”, his first book, was published and succeeded, he gave up his job and devoted himself to writing. Shortly after that “The Shining” was published.

Stephen King used the pseudonym Richard Bachman to publish several books including his early novels “Rage” and “The Running Man”, which was made into a film in 1987 with A. Schwarzenegger. The novels became famous, but when it turned out that Stephen King had published them, they were even more successful.

By 1985 Stephen King had become addicted to alcohol and cocaine. In 1990 he succeeded in getting rid of his addiction.

His income is estimated at about 40 to 45 million dollars. Stephan King succeeded in publishing his 30th No 1 bestseller (of the New York Times list with Duma Key). His most important works are:

The series “The Dark Tower”

“Carrie”

“The Shining”

“The Stand”

“Cujo”

…and many others