"Willa"

In sixth grade, It was the cool thing. I remember my best friend Ariel plopping It onto our lunch table as she took her seat, and lugging the heavy (1138 pages of heavy) tome to recess every day. I don’t think she actually read it. Actually, I’m pretty sure her adventure with It was about as successful as my attempts at The Lord of the Rings in third grade, or the dictionary in seventh (I fell asleep.).

Half a decade later, It is still the quintessence of horror and Stephen King is still a superhero—but will have to wait until after college applications. Meanwhile, I’m quenching my need for nightmares with Just After Sunset. Being a collection of short stories, Just After Sunset conveniently won’t demand my attention for more than 84 pages at a time. So far I’ve only read the first story, “Willa,” and that’s as much as I plan to read until all my applications are submitted. Pinky swear.

You spend the beginning of “Willa” confused. Stephen King yields detail about characters and setting, but you don’t see a plot; at some point you’re reading on just because it’s Stephen King and, well, where is this going? And then, with a sudden jolt, you realize it is going, and has been going from the start. You flip back to this page and that to reread the hints you didn’t even know were hints. You’re a little stunned, and a lot awed.

I haven’t read anything by Stephen King in years, but I remember a bad habit of hasty 9-page-long happy endings and random nose-dives into the supernatural that vanquished any suspension of disbelief he’d garnered in previous chapters. But “Willa” was good. Stephen King mentions in his notes that it “probably isn’t the best story in the book.” In that case I look forward to a dozen more disquieting bedtime stories—the kind of gloom that even Owl City can’t erase—in Just After Sunset.

(By the way, I idolize Stephen King like most teen girls love Orlando Bloom (or Edward).

—and Dr. Eric Lander, too.

(“Omigosh, Eric Lander! The Eric Lander? Omigosh, Dr. Lander, could you please sign my copy of the human genome? It’s, um, in the truck. Four trucks, actually. Omigosh!”

(I generally don’t support italics in anything but book titles (because you’re supposed to emphasize with, you know, words), but if JD Salinger can italicize individual syllables in dialogue, I don’t see why I shouldn’t. (Stephenie Meyer abuses her Caps lock key for entire sentences, but I refuse to stoop that low.))))

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~ by science cow on November 28, 2009.

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