Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The nine-year-old boy I was had done nothing for which he might legitimately fear the devil either…and yet the Devil came

I like the method King used to choose the order of the stories.  Get a deck of cards, assign the stories a value Ace through King, shuffle and deal.  Whatever order they come out, that's the order they show up in.  I like the randomness of this method and I think it works out nicely, though I always prefer this sort of random order.  My iPod Shuffle gives me a similar experience, jumping around from Flight of the Conchords to Frank Sinatra to Buck-O-Nine to Rx Bandits to David Bowie to Bob Dylan*.  I get bored if there is some sort of thought out order to these things.  Every once in awhile I'll try to make a playlist that doesn't sound like I had a seizure while in the middle of creating it, but I always find myself bored with those mixes.

I was thinking of how to discuss this book.  Should I do brief entries on all of the stories?  Should I pick a couple I like?  Do a quick synopsis of all, but focus on some point I like?  I’ve decided I’ll focus on the stories I love, and perhaps make a quick mention of the other stories I like.  Or maybe I’ll make one entry dedicated to quick synopsis of the stories I like.  Who knows?  I’ll just play it by ear. It lets me be as ADD as I'd like.

“The Man in the Black Suit” is among my favorites of this collection.  It’s not my absolute favorite but I’ll get to that one in a later entry.  In his description at the end of the story King describes this tale as “a rather humdrum folktale told in pedestrian language” (68). I don’t know that it feels exactly like a folktale, with the exception of the time period, nor does the language feel pedestrian; modern sure.  It certainly doesn’t read like a Hawthorne piece, which King used as inspiration for this story and in my mind this is certainly not a criticism of the piece.  I always like the idea of early American Lit, the idea of Hawthorne, but when I actually read it I find myself so distracted by the language I have trouble fully appreciating the story.  Here I can completely focus on the tale without the distraction.  I’m sure this just means I’m not working hard enough at Hawthorne, but I’ve spent plenty of time getting used to Elizabethan English that I don’t feel too much need to work too hard on another dead dialect. 

Back to the story!  Sorry, I easily get off topic.  I think it’s the innocence of the story that I enjoy so much.  It’s early 1900’s and the main character, Gary, who meets the man in the black suit, is only 9 years old at the time of the story though he is telling the story as an old man.  Had Gary been older, even if only by a couple years, the story would have progressed much differently and certainly much more violently.  Who but a child would offer the Devil a freshly caught fish when the Devil tells you he’s hungry?  Perhaps someone older than a child wouldn’t have met a man in black.  He wouldn’t have believed and accepted the Devil would just walk out of the forest and start talking to him.  It’s true that Gary is telling the story as an old man who clearly still believes in the Devil but this is only because as a youngster he was confronted with this reality.  The horror of the story really comes from this belief Gary carries with him through old age.  He writes his story down to try to release himself from these memories but he fears he’ll meet the Devil again when he shuffles off this mortal coil.  There’s a line at the end of the story, the line I used as the title that describes the fear succinctly.  “The nine-year-old boy I was had done nothing for which he might legitimately fear the devil either…and yet the Devil came” (67).  It’s the fact that even living a good and innocent life cannot necessarily save you from the Devil.

King, Stephen.  “The Man in the Black Suit”.  Everything’s Eventual: 14 Dark Tales.  Pocket Books: New York, 2002.

*I actually did an iTunes shuffle for this, so if you're wondering what songs came up here you go!
Flight of the Conchords "Hip Hopopotamus Meets the Rhymenoceros"
Frank Sinatra "Young at Heart"
Buck-O-Nine "Who Are They?"
Rx Bandits "Only for the Night"
David Bowie "China Girl"
Bob Dylan "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)"


  1. How does this short story collection compare with King's other collections like Nightmares and Dreamscapes or Different Seasons (which is actually novellas)? I've always liked King's short fiction - I'm thinking of picking this one up.

  2. Thanks for stopping by!

    I haven't actually read King's other short stories, but having read these I would definitely pick them up. There isn't really a theme among these tales, which I like. You get a little taste of everything. This collection includes my favorite short story, “1408". If you've never read it I would definitely recommend. I'll have a post on that story in the next few days.

  3. It's fun to jump around with King short story collections. Actually, in the intro to either "Everything's Eventual" or "Just After Sunset", King admits that he numbered each story, rolled a pair of dice, and let the stories in the collection be ordered by fate. If you are enjoying Everything's Eventual, make sure you get a copy of Just After Sunset. That has some gems in it as well.
    For Tyrie, Nightmares and Dreamscapes is pretty good, although I prefer his newer collection a bit more. Different Seasons, is a collection of four novellas with two classics ("Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption" and "The Body") one very good read ("Apt Pupil") and another that I really wasn't too fond of (Can't remember what it was called).

  4. @peterkarnas - I'll check out Just After Sunset. With this collection he said he picked the stories by a deck of cards, so about as random as the die method. :)


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