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Thursday, 4 August 2011

1922 - Stephen King

Being the first novella in the Full Dark, No Stars anthology by Stephen King, and it's a great story - sort of a ghost story without a ghost.  Nebraska farmer, Wilf James is haunted by the wife he killed, or then again it may just be his guilt over the said murder that is causing his sleepless nights. Either way it matters not for as soon as Wilf, along with his  son Hank, carries out the grisly deed it becomes obvious that he is doomed. Wilf sees the murder of his wife as the only way to save the farm he loves and he cajoles his young son into helping with the murder - the actual murder scene is horrific and difficult to read which is testament to the skill of the author and other than one or two gross out scenes, mostly involving rats, it is a surprisingly subtle story.

It's told in the first person with the doomed farmer Wilf offering the narration - we see everything through his eyes and as he is dealt blow after blow, the reader shares in his slip into madness. The story runs for just over 150 pages, minuscule by King's standards, and it is a length the author should use more often. It's all story with no room for padding Constant King readers will know that padding  is something that often plagues some of the author's longer works. Wilf is also a fully rounded character and although he is a bad man who deserves his ultimate fate - he did, after all cajole his young son into helping murder his wife (the boy's mother) - but King manages to create reader sympathy and even some level of understanding for the character. It's powerful writing and set, as it is in depression era America, it almost feels like an epic blues song. Man oh man, King can write and I think I'd go on down to the crossroads and barter my soul to be able to create characters like this.

Full Dark, No Stars, contains four novellas (the new paperback edition also contains a bonus short story) and although I've had the book some time I hadn't gotten around to picking it up yet. If the other stories are as good as 1922 then this could quite easily qualify for being one of King's best works.

Upon the original publication of the book, King's publishers produced a trailer of each of the stories and the first is embedded below.

1 comment:

Icecypher said...

I just finished reading 1922 last night (I was going to leave the last 60 pages for tonight, but I could not stop reading).

One fun thing that happened while reading your review was when I saw how you described Wilf as "a bad man". In an instant, my first thought was that he was not bad, but of course he was. It was the sympathy you mentioned that makes us not see him "as bad" as he is. We may even want him to win.

I am looking forward to reading the rest of the stories from Full dark, no stars.