Thursday, July 1, 2010

It was the human mind's final great parlor-trick: the perception of eternity in the place where you'd always expected to spend it

The opening line is from the story "That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is in French" which is not really one of my favorite stories of this collection, but I like this quote.  I like this story while I'm reading it, but as soon as I read the last sentence I'm done.  Out of sight, out of mind as it were.  But I made note of this line while reading the story this time and even though the rest of this entry will be about the story "1408" I wanted to include that line. 

First I want to get it out of the way that I love this story.  It is certainly my favorite of this collection and absolutely in my top 5 favorite short stories.  When I got to the last sentence of this tale, it certainly didn't leave me like the deja vu story did.  As a matter of fact as soon as I read that last sentence I exhaled (I didn't realize I had been holding my breath) and then I immediately went back to the beginning to do it again.  The emotion kind of reminded me of a roller coaster: there's a lot of build up as you climb that first hill, you're grasping tight and screaming as you go around the loops and corkscrews and then when you pull back into the station there's relief and you just want to hop back in line and do it again.  That's how I feel about roller coasters anyway and it's how I see this story.

"1408" is King's "story about the Ghostly Room At The Inn" (457) and I can say this is the only story that really scares me.  The other stories here might interest me or revolt me but this is really the only one that gets under my skin.  I think this is because of that first hill, the build up in Olin's office.  Mike Enslin wants to stay in the hotel's haunted room for his book and Olin has been trying to prevent this and this meeting at the beginning of the story is his last attempt to talk Mike out of his quest.  But the build up is subtle.  You know King is setting you up for the horror to come, but the foreshadowing doesn't beat you over the head.

At one point during this intro Mike pulls out his mini-recorder but soon this move has turned on him.  "Usually [the mini-recorder's] little red eye seemed to be watching the other guy, daring him to say the wrong thing.  This evening it seemed to be looking at Mike himself." (466).  This is the first of many times in this story that simple electronics become this evil presence, but on the first reading I didn't consciously fear the mini-recorder.  I just saw this as the first of many things not going the way Mike had intended, but the fact that the mini-recorder is one of the initial sources as discomfort sets you up for that discomfort later in the room.

The build up is my favorite part of the book and it contributes to the fear and unease I feel when Mike actually makes it up to the haunted room.  But the fear comes from Mike's time in the room.  I think this is because the horrors mostly stay on the peripherals.  There's something not quite right you just catch out of the corner of your eye and slowly it builds and it's a gradual build up.  Like a frog in a pot of boiling water, you don't notice how everything is going wrong until it's too late to turn back.

King mentions in the intro to this story there is an audio recording of this in the compilation Blood and Smoke.  I'd love to hear this.  I think I'll avoid the movie because I'm afraid not only will it not live up to what I hope it will be (and really, I don't see how it could, regardless of how well it's made) and I don't want the movie to taint how I feel about the story.  There's no moral reason for not wanting to see the movie; I just want the story to keep scaring me.

Next up on the reading queue: I Was Told There Would Be Cake by Sloane Crosley

Title quote from page 455

King, Stephen.  “1408”.  Everything’s Eventual: 14 Dark Tales.  Pocket Books: New York, 2002

1 comment:

  1. I have watched the movie. It was really good. But only now I know that it was adopted from a book. Nice review


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