Friday, March 4, 2016

Short Fiction Friday: Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King + Short Stories as Slump Busters

So I mentioned recently that I'd been suffering a bit of a book slump. It's not that I haven't been reading - I have. I've had some great review stuff of late - but any non-scheduled reading time hit a bit of a road bump. You know, those times when you have plenty to choose from but nothing seems to be hitting the spot? Yeah, that. Most of the time I find that I'm able to barrel through a slump simply by sticking to a review schedule. But when I've got nothing waiting on my committed attention and a slump hits, it's never good.

I have a few absolute slump busters I can rely on, though, and one of them is Stephen King. Fortunately for me, I hadn't yet cracked open his latest collection, Bazaar of Bad Dreams. And I have to say, "Mile 81" as an opener was very much something to get excited about.

Here's the full TOC:

Mile 81
Premium Harmony
Batman and Robin Have an Altercation
The Dune
Bad Little Kid
A Death
The Bone Church
Herman Wouk is Still Alive
Under the Weather
Blockade Billy
Mister Yummy
The Little Green God of Agony
That Bus is Another World
Drunken Fireworks
Summer Thunder

As you can see, the book features twenty tales, some new and some that have appeared elsewhere. Some of them are quieter than others but, true to King fashion, all of them are highly disturbing and fun. It was exactly what I needed.

And while I loved the whole collection, I do have a few personal favorites. As I mentioned above, "Mile 81" set the tone as an absolutely fantastic and brutal opening tale. "Ur," which I missed when it released as an ebook in Kindle's early days, was a welcome return to the Dark Tower world. (Speaking of which, the Dark Tower movie adaptation is one step closer to reality!) "Under the Weather" was another one I adored. Don't get me wrong, it's pretty cringeworthy and, though I feel guilty admitting it, a little funny as well.

King kindly includes a foreword to each tale in the collection, explaining the inspiration behind the stories. As you know, this is always one of my favorite aspects of any collection and I quite appreciated it here. He's also dedicated each story to a different individual.

Now I know I've said that King in particular is a very reliable slump buster for me, but let me just take a sec to sing the praises (yet again) of the grand short story. The short story works hard, readers! And the writers behind those stories work even harder to create something short and concise that contains just as much oomph as a full novel. King often talks about the importance of short fiction in his collections and I have to admit his words were part of the reason I continued to try shorts even when the ones I read in school felt like so much torture. And granted, I'm not really reading the same kinds of shorts we all had to read throughout the school years, though Winesburg, Ohio was a college assignment and one of my first favorite non-King collections.

If you really think about it, though, when nothing is hitting the spot what better than a sampling of lots of somethings? That's what short stories give you. Whether it's an anthology of multiple authors or a collection by one author in particular, each piece is short enough that even if you aren't finding yourself fully invested or grabbed by one story, the next one might be completely different. And you might just find that one (or more than one) of the authors/stories in question is exactly what you need to force you out of that slump!

King says, in the intro to Bazaar, that he still writes short stories because writing them makes him happy. Well, I say keep 'em coming 'cause reading them certainly makes me happy!

Rating: 5/5

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