When most people hear the name Stephen King, the first thing they think of is (well, besides “that clown scared me shitless”) is long.
As in long books, you pervert! What else would you be thinking of???
But yes, Stephen King is known for writing some long books. The first book of his that I read was It, which clocks in at almost 1100 pages. The Stand is over 1100 pages. 11/22/63 is somewhere around 800 pages. His most recent full length novel, Revival, was only a little over 400 pages. For King, that is light reading.
However, King is one of the greats. And like one of the greats, he is versatile. In other words, he does not have to write a 1000+ page novel (although I appreciate those as much as the next Constant Reader) to be great. He can write shorter books, like Carrie and Dolores Claiborne, and still tell a fantastic story.
And The Master can condense himself even further. King has a large collection of short stories, from N, to The Reaper’s Image, to The Little Sisters of Eluria, to Popsy, that are simply gems. And there are countless more to choose from, even if horror does not strike your fancy (1922 and Big Driver immediately come to mind).
And King’s latest collection of short stories, titled Bazaar of Bad Dreams, does not disappoint. There is a little something for everybody, and even the pickiest shopper will probably walk away satisfied.
With that being said, I have chosen to review the stories in the collection that have jumped out at me, for whatever reason. So all
both of my readers will be able to indulge in their voyeuristic tendencies, and will be treated to multiple close-ups of those kisses in the dark.
I am reviewing in no particular order, just reviewing what may strike me at the moment. And Batman and Robin Have an Altercation struck me in a few places, so sit back and get ready to analyze one of those kisses up close.
Batman and Robin Have an Altercation centers around Dougie Sanderson, and his elderly father, known as Pop. Pop is suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and lives in nursing home. Dougie is one of his main caretakers, and tries to spend as much quality time with his father as possible.
Every Sunday, Dougie takes his father to lunch at Applebee’s. Pop pretends to study the menu, even though he can no longer read, but always orders the same thing for lunch. Some days are better than others in terms of Pop’s memory, as he is given to confusing Dougie with his brother Reggie, who was killed by an errant driver 40 years ago. Pop has also become somewhat of a kleptomaniac, stealing items such as knives and other eating utensils when he thinks that no one is looking.
On one of their outings, Pop recalls a time in Dougie’s childhood when he and Dougie dressed up as Batman and Robin, respectively, and Pop took Dougie trick-or-treating. Both father and son recall the memory as a happy one, even though Pop’s costume was makeshift. Pop also reveals that he was unfaithful to his wife that night, reminding Dougie of the double-edged sword that is Alzheimer’s Disease: the memory becomes unreliable, but can still be relied upon to remember what may best be forgotten.
Dougie and his father leave the restaurant, and Dougie drives his father back to his nursing home. On the way back to the nursing home, Dougie is involved in a car accident. A driver attempts to change lanes, but carelessly hits Dougie instead. The driver tells Dougie that he is uninsured and his vehicle is not registered, and tries to convince Dougie to not call the authorities or his insurance company. Dougie refuses, and the driver attacks him, beating Dougie badly.
Dougie sees blood and fears that it is his blood. However, it is the blood of the other driver (referred to as Tat Man). Dougie sees his father standing over the other driver, and realizes that his father has come to his defense and stabbed Tat Man. He also realizes that his father had distracted him earlier at the restaurant, having him look at the birds outside, while Pop stole a steak knife. Pop almost immediately forgets where he is and who the other driver was, and demands to go back home and take his nap, leaving Dougie to deal with the authorities who have finally arrived.
Um, thanks for the throat punch, Uncle Stevie? For once in my life (and mark your calendars, this is rare indeed), I am having trouble finding the words to express my feelings on this story…
Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, sometimes a good story can hit you in just the right place!
First of all, Batman. Batman is the alpha and the omega…I mean, he’s the goddamn Batman!
Yeah, I am a fan of Batman, if that wasn’t obvious. And I love that this story referred to Batman. I mean, Stephen King and Batman. Kind of like peanut butter and jelly. Or bacon and Kool Aide (sorry, private joke between me and some other crazy Stephen King nerds).
But, as much as I like Batman (and if you don’t like Batman, we are not friends!), the inclusion of Batman in this story was not responsible for the throat punch. Like almost everything else The Master has ever written, this story was…unexpected…I think that’s the word I want.
Dougie’s father is an Alzheimer’s patient in this story. My beloved grandmother is also an Alzheimer’s patient. She has been suffering from the disease for nearly 4 years now.
King often writes about “human horrors”, such as domestic violence, child abuse, addiction and even unemployment. And all of those are definitely horrors, and give his stories that touch of realism that makes them believable.
Well, now we can add Alzheimer’s disease to that list. Seeing my grandmother suffer from the disease is truly one of the most horrific things I have endured. She calls out for my grandfather, who died over 13 years ago, and we have to tell her that he is on his way. Of course, she cannot remember our names any more. She wants to go home, even though her home was sold last year, and she does not understand why she lives in a nursing home, and not the home where I spent so much of my childhood. Horrific, indeed.
But one of the biggest throat punches in regards to Alzheimer’s Disease is that the person who suffers from it will emerge and convince you that he/she is his/her “old self.” This has happened with my grandmother on more than one occasion: she will remember names, places, dates and hold a conversation with us that is not one-sided. And this happened with Dougie’s father as well: Pops remembered the Halloween he dressed up as Batman with his son, and took him trick-or-treating. And Pops put on that Batman costume once again, when Dougie was under attack from the enraged motorist and literally fighting for his life. And it was beautiful: Batman was there when needed, and he defeated the bad guy, just like how he was supposed to. We don’t always get rescued by heroes. People let us down, and they are not there when needed. But this was Batman, and he did the job admirably.
But, unlike some super heroes, Batman is human. He is fallible. And even he can’t beat all the bad guys, all of the time. Like the rest of us, Batman must eventually come back to earth. But even as he falls, he is still the glorious hero, the caped crusader who looks out for the little guy. After all, he is the goddamn Batman.