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I Thesis/Dissertation Sheet I Australia's -1 Global UNSW University I SYDN�Y

I Surname/Family Name Dempsey Given Name/s Claire Kathleen Marsden Abbreviation for degree as give in the University calendar MPhil Faculty UNSW Canberra I School School of Humanities and Social Sciences Thesis Title 'A quick kiss in the dark from a stranger': and the

Abstract 350 words maximum: (PLEASE TYPE)

There has been significant scholarly attention paid to both the short story and the Gothic mode, and to the influence of significant American writers, such as Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne and H.P. Lovecraft, on the evolution of these. However, relatively little consideration appears to have been offeredto the I contribution of popular writers to the development of the short story and of Gothic . In the Westernworld in the twenty-firstcentury there is perhaps no contemporary popular writer of the short story in the Gothic mode I whose name is more familiar than that of Stephen King. This thesis will explore the contribution of Stephen King to the heritage of American short stories, with specific reference to the American Gothic , the I impact of Poe, Hawthorneand Lovecrafton his fiction, and the significance of the numerous adaptations of his works forthe screen. I examine Stephen King's distinctive style, recurring themes, the adaptability of his work I across various media, and his status within American popular . Stephen King's contribution to the short story genre, I argue, is premised on his attention to the general reader and to the evolution of the genre itself, I providing as he does a conduit between contemporary an_d classic short fiction. I I Declaration relating to disposition of project thesis/dissertation

I hereby grant to the University of New South Wales or its agents the right to archive and to make available my thesis or dissertation in whole or in part in the University libraries in all forms of media, n9w or here after known, subject to the provisions of the Copyright Act 1968. I retain all property rights, I such as patent rights. I also retain the right to use in future works (such as articles or books) all or part of this thesis or dissertation.

I also authorise University Microfilms to use the 350 word abstract of my thesis in Dissertation Abstracts International (this is applicable to doctoral I theses only).

I The University recognises that there may be exceptional circumstances requiring restrictions on copying or conditions on use. Requests for restriction for a period of up to 2 years must be made in writing. Requests for a longer period of restriction may be considered in exceptional circumstances and I require the approval of the Dean of Graduate Research. I �OR OFFICE USE ONLY Date of completion of requirements for Award: I ‘A quick kiss in the dark from a stranger’: Stephen King and the Short Story

Claire Kathleen Marsden Dempsey

A thesis in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of

Master of Philosophy

School of Humanities and Social Sciences

[email protected]

March 2018 COPYRIGHTSTATEMENT

'I hereby grant the University of New South Wales or its agents the right to archive and to make available my thesis or dissertation in whole or part in the University libraries in all forms of media, now or here after known, subject to the provisions of th� Copyright Act 1968. I retain all proprietary rights, such as patent rights. I also retain the right to use in future works (such as articles or books) all or part of this thesis or dissertation. I alsoauthorise University Microfilms to use the 350 word abstractof my thesis in Dissertation Abstract International(this is applicable to doctoral thesesonly ). I have either used no substantial portions of copyright material in my thesis or I have obtained permission to use copyright material; where permission �s not beengranted I have applied/willapply for a partialrestriction of the digital copy of my thesisor dissertation.'

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‘I hereby declare that this submission is my own work and to the best of my contains no materials previously published or written by another person, or substantial proportions of material which have been accepted for the award of any other degree or diploma at UNSW or any other educational institution, except where due acknowledgement is made in the thesis. Any contribution made to the research by others, with whom I have worked at UNSW or elsewhere, is explicitly acknowledged in the thesis. I also declare that the intellectual content of this thesis is the product of my own work, except to the extent that assistance from others in the project's design and conception or in style, presentation and linguistic expression is acknowledged.’

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2 Abstract

There has been significant scholarly attention paid to both the short story genre and the Gothic mode, and to the influence of significant American writers, such as Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne and H.P. Lovecraft, on the evolution of these. However, relatively little consideration appears to have been offered to the contribution of popular writers to the development of the short story and of . In the world in the twenty-first century there is perhaps no contemporary popular writer of the short story in the Gothic mode whose name is more familiar than that of Stephen King. This thesis will explore the contribution of Stephen King to the heritage of American short stories, with specific reference to the American Gothic tradition, the impact of Poe, Hawthorne and Lovecraft on his fiction, and the significance of the numerous adaptations of his works for the screen. I examine Stephen King’s distinctive style, recurring themes, the adaptability of his work across various media, and his status within American popular culture. Stephen King’s contribution to the short story genre, I argue, is premised on his attention to the general reader and to the evolution of the genre itself, providing as he does a conduit between contemporary and classic short fiction.

3 Contents

Acknowledgements p.5

Abbreviations p.6

Introduction p.7

Chapter One p.15 A Quick Kiss in the Dark

Chapter Two p.35 The Art of Darkness

Chapter Three p.53 Don’t Go into the Woods

Chapter Four p.64 Voyages

Chapter Five p.81 When the Get You

Chapter Six p.94 Made for the Screen

Conclusion p.112

Bibliography p.116

4 Acknowledgements

First and foremost, this thesis would not have been possible without the tireless of my supervisor, Dr Heather Neilson. This MPhil has been a long engagement, but I am so thankful to have shared it with you. Thank you for your generosity with your time and wisdom, your honesty and encouragement, and the veracity of your challenging draft annotations. Most of all, thank you for supporting me in pursuing a research topic that I truly enjoyed. My academic explorations would not be the same without you!

To the family and friends who offered their prayers, happy thoughts, encouragements and crazy memes (thanks, Paul!) throughout this process – thank you for your consistent and enduring love and support. A special note of thanks to Dylan for sharing his particular disdain of the recent film adaptation with me as I composed Chapter Six (unfortunately a tad explicit for this forum); the essence of your elaborate analysis remains!

And finally, to the love of my life and greatest supporter, my husband James, who has selflessly endured hours of listening to my musings on Stephen King, the short story genre and the Gothic mode; has watched countless film and television adaptations (and enjoyed most!) of King’s fiction; and has even become a fan of King’s work in the process. Your enduring support, encouragement and reassurance has been invaluable – I could not have completed this without you. Thank you for tolerating my living on ‘planet thesis’; for taking on more familial responsibility while I was lost amongst books and post-it notes; and for not getting (too) jealous of my brief dalliance with another man, Mr King. You are my ka-tet, thankee-sai.

5 Abbreviations

In the course of this thesis, the titles of Stephen King’s short story collections are abbreviated as follows:

NS Night Shift (1978) SC Skeleton Crew (1985) N&D Nightmares and Dreamscapes (1993) EE Everything’s Eventual (2002) JAS (2008) FDNS Full Dark, No Stars (2010) BBD (2015)

6 Introduction

And by such means, with such care and skill, a picture is at length painted which leaves in the mind of him who contemplates it with a kindred art, a sense of the fullest satisfaction.1

…there are few pleasures so excellent as […] reading a good story which I can complete in a single sitting.2

There has been significant scholarly attention paid to the examination of the short story genre and the Gothic mode, in both their traditional and modern forms, and to ground-breaking writers, such as Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne and H.P. Lovecraft. However, relatively little consideration appears to have been offered to the contribution of popular writers. Stephen King is one of the most prolific, recognisable, widely-distributed and widely-read contemporary American authors of his time. To date, he has published sixty-two fiction , (seven of these under the pseudonym ), seven non-fiction works, eleven short story collections, thirty- three comic books, twelve poems, twenty-six essays, two screenplays, nineteen e- books and a children’s book.3 Furthermore, over 350 million copies of his works have been sold worldwide4; his novels have been translated into over fifty languages; and there have been forty-three feature film adaptations and twenty-three television adaptations of his stories at the time of writing.5 His versatility as an author – along with his enthusiastic willingness to evolve with his field and to support adaptations of his stories – means that his popularity is perpetuated by the success of the screen adaptations of his works, and vice-versa. With one of the ‘…most recognizable [sic]6 names on the planet’7, King’s reputation has kept his stories and the film adaptations thereof accessible and attractive to readers and audiences of various persuasions. This very reputation for extraordinary productivity would appear to be one factor in his

1 Edgar Allan Poe, ‘Twice-Told Tales: A Review’, Graham’s Magazine, May 1842, viewed 04 Aug 16,

7 having been denied inclusion in the lofty category of ‘literary fiction’; yet, as the King scholar Tony Magistrale argues, ‘“popular” does not necessarily mean “sub-literary”’8 or unworthy of academic interest. This thesis will argue that the significance of Stephen King’s contribution to the short story genre rests in part upon his reputation.

Stephen King has openly lamented the current state of the short story in the , remarking in the introduction to The Best American Short Stories (which he edited in 2007), that he had read ‘…scores of stories that felt…not quite dead on the page […] but airless somehow, and self-referring […] and – worst of all – written for editors and teachers rather than for readers.’9 He goes on to contend that the short story’s popularity with the general reader has diminished, predominantly, he argues, because of ‘…an ingrown laziness in the American reading public, where the number of adventurous readers who are willing to try a short story by a newcomer have [sic] shrunk.’10 According to Percy H. Boynton, in the year 1923, after the news, the short story was the ‘most demanded commodity in the market of printed goods.’11 However, ten years H.E. Bates observed that the reader of 1943 preferred a novel over a short story; he hypothesises that a reader given a book of short stories at the library under the impression that it was a novel would feel ‘...a strong justification for a suit against the librarian for false pretences.’12 Over sixty years later, Stephen King made a similar observation: of his short story collection Skeleton Crew (1985) he remarks, ‘I suspect you won’t like [this book] as well as you would a novel, because most of you have forgotten the real pleasures of the short story.’13 Such opinions imply that, while the short story has historically received considerable scholarly attention, its popularity with the general reader diminished throughout the twentieth century.

8 Tony Magistrale, ‘Teaching the Intellectual Merits of Stephen King’s Fiction’, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Vol. 44, Issue. 41, Jun 1998, p.B7 9 Stephen King, ‘Introduction’, The Best American Short Stories 2007, Stephen King (ed.), Houghton Mifflin, , 2007, p.xvi [emphasis in original] 10 WNYC, ‘The Leonard Lopate Show’, Stephen King on The Best American Short Stories 2007, recorded 19 Oct 07, viewed 12 Aug 17, < http://www.wnyc.org/story/54662-stephen-king-on-the- best-american-short-stories-2007/> 11 Percy H. Boynton, ‘American Authors of Today: IX. The Short Story’, The English Journal Vol. 12, No. 5, May 1923, pp.325-333, p.326 12 H.E. Bates, The Modern Short Story: A Critical Survey, Thomas Nelson and Sons LTD, London, 1943, p.221 13 Stephen King, Skeleton Crew, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 2012 (1985), p.6

8 Perhaps in an attempt to rectify this, King claims to write short stories that are accessible and attractive to the general reader, rather than merely the critic.14

At the beginning of his career, between the publication of (1974) and ’Salem’s Lot (1975), King was warned by his publisher at the time that, should he continue in the vein of telekinetic girls and , he would be ‘typed’ as a horror- writer. King’s response was incredulous: ‘…no one can make a living writing just horror stories in America.’15 Indeed, despite his reputation as a horror-writer, King often explores other modes, including , such as The Eyes of (1983) and The Dark Tower series; science-fiction, such as (1987) and ‘’ (1979); and the detective story, such as his most recent trilogy: Mr. Mercedes (2014), Finders Keepers (2015) and (2016). King remarked in 1983 that the only books he had written to date that were ‘pure unadulterated horror’ were ’Salem’s Lot, (1976) and (1982), because, he explains, ‘…they all offer no rational explanation at all for the supernatural events that occur.’16 He goes on to say that Carrie, (1979) and (1979) conform more with the tradition.17 Furthermore, King has asserted that he has ‘redefined the horror genre’ in the United States18: as Magistrale remarks in his book Stephen King, America’s Storyteller, King’s work is known far beyond the United States of America and he ‘…represents more than just a good Gothic scare’.19 Stephen King is, indubitably, an author whose work draws on the Gothic tradition, but to pigeonhole him as a mere writer of horror stories would suggest a lack of understanding of the Gothic mode and a lack of familiarity with the King’s oeuvre.

In his notes in the short story collection Full Dark, No Stars (2010), King declares: ‘I have no quarrel with literary fiction, which usually concerns itself with extraordinary people in ordinary situations, but as both a reader and a writer, I’m much

14 Stephen King, Nightmares and Dreamscapes, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 2012 (1993), p.9 15 Stephen King, , Warner Books, London, 1995 (1982), p.553 [emphasis added] 16 Stephen King, ‘Extract from an interview with Playboy’, in Clive Bloom (ed.), Gothic Horror, A Reader’s Guide from Poe to King and Beyond, Macmillan Press LTD, London, 1998, p.97 17 Ibid. 18 Stephen King quoted in Bill Goldstein, cited in George Beahm, Stephen King from A to Z, Andrews McMeel Publishing, Kansas City, 1998, p.99 19 Magistrale, America’s Storyteller, p.ix

9 more interested by ordinary people in extraordinary situations.’20 Often, these ‘extraordinary situations’ include horrific characters or places, because, as King admits, his ‘…obsession is with the .’21 In the Foreword of his first short story collection, Night Shift (1978), King explains that this obsession means he is compelled to write about fear. He also remarks that he is often asked why people would want to read about it. King suggests it is the same reason people slow to look at a car accident on the side of the road: that …life is full of horrors small and large, but because the small ones are the ones we can comprehend, they are the ones that smack home with all the force of mortality. […] As we become aware of our own unavoidable termination, we become aware of the fear-emotion.22

He proposes that some of the great literature of the past evokes the ‘car accident syndrome’, arguing that writers such as James and Hawthorne also figuratively show us such an accident: ‘…the bodies have been removed but we can still see the twisted wreckage and observe the blood on the upholstery.’23 Clive Bloom contends that the Gothic ‘…is always linked to the desire of contemporary readers. [It] speaks to the dark side of domestic fiction: erotic, violent, perverse, bizarre and obsessionally [sic] connected with contemporary fears.’24 Likewise, H.P. Lovecraft has asserted that ‘The one test of the really weird is simply this – whether or not there be excited in the reader a profound sense of dread’.25 Don Herron has argued that it is King’s depiction of ‘ordinary’ characters, his willingness to break social taboos, and his contemporary portrayal of sex, death and fear that the general reader wants: ‘the frights of classic horror without the intellectual baggage attached.’26 King deftly constructs short stories, combining themes and images from various modes – all encompassed by the generous scope of the Gothic – that illustrate the ‘car accident’ while also eliciting a

20 Stephen King, Full Dark, No Stars, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 2011 (2010), pp.428-429 21 Stephen King, Night Shift, New English Library, London, 1991 (1978), p.8 22 Ibid., pp.10-11 23 Ibid., p.10 24 Clive Bloom, ‘Chronology of Significant Horror and Tales’, in Clive Bloom (ed.), Gothic Horror, A Reader’s Guide from Poe to King and Beyond, Macmillan Press LTD, London, 1998, p.2 [emphasis in original] 25 H.P. Lovecraft, ‘Extract from “Supernatural Horror In Literature’, in Clive Bloom (ed.), Gothic Horror, A Reader’s Guide from Poe to King and Beyond, Macmillan Press LTD, London, 1998, p.58 26 Don Herron, ‘Horror Springs in the Fiction of Stephen King’, in Tim Underwood & Chuck Miller (eds.), Fear Itself: The Early Works of Stephen King, Underwood Miller Inc., Lancaster, 1982, p.58, p.61

10 sense of trepidation for what may be yet to come. According to King, the attraction for the general reader is that ‘serves as a rehearsal for our own deaths’.27

The brief literature review which follows will identify the niche in which my study is situated within the current published scholarship on Stephen King and his fiction. The scholarship pertaining to the short story genre and the Gothic mode will be explored in Chapters One and Two, respectively. There is a small number of scholars who have conducted a sustained analysis of the works of Stephen King from an academic perspective; those whose work has been particularly informative in my research include Tony Magistrale, Heidi Strengell, Gary Hoppenstand, Michael R. Collings and George Beahm, each of whom have published several books and articles on King and his oeuvre over the course of his career. In the 1980s and early 1990s, there was an influx of publications about King’s work from both popular28 and academic perspectives, with several by scholars such as Joseph Reino, Douglas E. Winter, Don Herron, Tim Underwood, Ben P. Indick, Burton Hatlen and Leonard G. Heldreth. More recently, the names Patrick McAleer and Greg Smith have appeared as authors of dissertations, articles and books exploring Stephen King and his works. There have also been a number of Masters and Doctorate-level dissertations, from universities across the Western world, considering the works of King. Several of these alluded in passing to his short stories, however, I discovered only one – a Masters of Arts dissertation from a student of the California State University from 1994 – which focussed on Poe’s and King’s short stories. This thesis offered close readings of only two stories by each of these writers.

In his study, Stephen King: The First Decade (1988), Joseph Reino considers the collection Night Shift, remarking that most of the stories therein ‘…begin with dramatic situations so interestingly rendered that curiosity is immediately aroused: […] opening scenes have an intensity and directness that impact upon the reader immediately, and are occasionally […] even highly comical.’29 In 1989, Magistrale

27 King, Night Shift, p.12 28 There is an introduction to the collection Reign Of Fear: The Films and Fiction of Stephen King written by the actress Whoopi Goldberg. 29 Joseph Reino, Stephen King: The First Decade, Carrie to , Twayne Publishers, Boston, 1988, p.100

11 published Stephen King: The Second Decade, an informal sequel to Reino’s study, in which he reviews King’s second short story collection, Skeleton Crew. Magistrale describes the collection comprised of a ‘wide and uneven range’ of stories, remarking that ‘several of his short tales are paragons of precision and psychological terror’, whereas others are ‘…less exacting, […] themes less sophisticated, […] conclusions telegraphed and predictable.’30 Overall, Magistrale contends that the short story is ‘…pressed to its limits in [King’s] hands; […] often too derivative of blood-and-guts horror fiction, overly sentimental, or just plain silly.’31 Magistrale makes the link between the themes and issues explored in Skeleton Crew and those explored in King’s novels, where they are given more ‘elaborate consideration’.32 He also notes that King’s second decade of work differentiates itself from the first through the emergence of what he terms King’s ‘self-reflective attention’ to protagonist writers who find difficulty adapting to the sudden fame they experience.33 More interesting, perhaps, are the differences between King’s twentieth century and his twenty-first century publications, which demonstrate the impact both global and personal trauma had on his writing and which will be examined later in this thesis.

Heidi Strengell has explored various short stories from both King’s twentieth and twenty-first century collections, considering the broader scope of what these stories – and his novels – offer to the Gothic or horror fiction. In her book, Dissecting Stephen King (2005), Strengell asserts that ‘Mythical and -tale motifs occur as an integral part of all of King's fiction.’ She argues that King is ‘especially sensitive’ to such archetypes, offering some of the stories of Night Shift by way of example: ‘Jerusalem's Lot’ and ‘One for the Road’ relate to the ; Reino regards ‘I Am the Doorway’ as a twentieth-century Arthurian ; ‘’ alludes to the Bible; ‘Strawberry Spring’ invests the berry with mythical and sexual significance; and ‘’ refers to Pan.34

30 Tony Magistrale, Stephen King: The Second Decade, to , Twayne Publishers, New York, 1992, p.86 31 Ibid. 32 Ibid. 33 Ibid., p.155. Some of the most notable examples of this are: (1987); The Dark Half (1989); (1998); ‘, Secret Garden’ (1990)’; and ‘1408’ (2002). 34 Heidi Strengell, Dissecting Stephen King: From the Gothic to Literary Naturalism, University of Wisconsin Press, Wisconsin, 2005, p.168

12 Strengell goes on to explore these motifs in more depth in three of King’s novels, rather than in his short stories. What she does reiterate in her study is that King cannot be pigeonholed into a particular category. Strengell claims that King’s blending of realism and fantasy, often based on his own fears and experiences, makes his stories ‘honest and real to the reader’.35 Douglas E. Winter provides what Magistrale remarks is a ‘broad sweep of King’s prolific canon’36, offering a combination of biography, literary analysis and interviews. George Beahm has compiled a more popular critique of King and his works: The Stephen King Companion (1989) and The Stephen King Story (1991) offer more biographical information and critical reception than literary analysis; Stephen King Country (1999) explores the impact of regionalism and place on King’s fiction; and, in his ‘encyclopaedia’ Stephen King From A to Z (1998), Beahm offers an anecdotal overview of ‘all things King’. The authors of The Shorter Works of Stephen King (1985), discuss King’s collections Night Shift and Different Seasons (1982), remarking of some of the stories therein that they are ‘some of the finest examples of supernatural horror’.37 Gary Hoppenstand and Ray Browne edited a collection of essays specifically focussed on King and the Gothic tradition, entitled The Gothic World of Stephen King: Landscape of Nightmares (1987), which considers King’s brand of Gothic predominantly in his longer works, but also in some of his earlier short stories, such as ‘The Mangler’ (NS), ‘’ (NS) and ‘Mrs Todd’s Shortcut’ (SC).

Overwhelmingly, the scholarship has focussed on King’s longer works of fiction of the twentieth century, namely Carrie; The Shining; The Dead Zone; (1978); ’Salem’s Lot; Firestarter; (1981); Pet Sematary (1983); Christine; and the and ’, ‘Apt Pupil’ and ‘’ from Different Seasons. Similarly, the sporadic examination of King’s short fiction has been concentrated on stories from his first two collections – Night Shift and Skeleton Crew – and has predominantly considered specific themes or comparisons between King’s horror and more mainstream fiction. King’s more recent

35 Ibid., p.181 36 Magistrale, Landscape of Fear: Stephen King’s American Gothic, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, 1988, p.1 37 Michael R. Collings and David A. Engebretson, The Shorter Works of Stephen King, Starmont House, Mercer Island, 1985, p.1

13 novels and short story collections from Nightmares and Dreamscapes (1993) to The Bazaar of Bad Dreams (2015) have largely gone underrepresented, which this thesis aims to rectify.

The methodology employed in this thesis focusses on an analysis of King’s short stories based on theme and form rather than a close examination of . Initially, a detailed study of the short story genre and the Gothic mode was conducted to understand the and the evolution of both; this research then informed the development of a provisional definition of the short story in the context of the Gothic mode as it pertained to King’s works specifically. This definition was then used in Chapters Three, Four and Five against which selected short stories were considered based on common themes. Specific stories from each of King’s short story collections were nominated because they provided effective examples of the themes explored in these chapters, as well as demonstrating King’s deliberate use of more mainstream motifs, discrediting claims that he is purely a horror-writer. Chapter Six has been included to appraise the tone of popular opinion of the screen adaptations of King’s stories and novels, which has directly impacted upon the reception of his written works. The thesis is constructed as follows: Chapter One explores the short story genre, providing an overview of its emergence and evolution, the influence of Edgar Allan Poe’s theories; the genre’s popularity and proliferation through magazines and anthologies; and, its effectiveness as a pedagogical tool. Chapter Two examines the Gothic genre; its history and development; and the influence of Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne and H.P. Lovecraft on Stephen King’s own fiction. In this chapter I will also investigate various themes and images common to King’s own ‘brand’ of Gothic, considering his proclivity for combining various and modes in his works. Chapter Three considers the perceived danger of King’s particular portrayal of Regionalism and place and the misadventures of the characters who stray into the wilderness. The dichotomy of good and evil will be explored in Chapter Four, with specific reference to King’s various depictions of internal and external evils and the moral judgements his characters must make. Chapter Five examines the concept of human mortality and the futility of hope as a tenet of King’s fiction. Chapter Six evaluates the plethora of film adaptations of King’s novels, short stories and screenplays and the relative success or otherwise of these adaptations.

14 Chapter One

A Quick Kiss in the Dark

Reading a good long novel is in many ways like having a long and satisfying affair. […] A short story is a different thing altogether – a short story is like a quick kiss in the dark from a stranger […] their very brevity forms their own attraction.38

In his book, Some Aspects of the American Short Story (1973), Walter Allen asserts that the modern short story form ‘…spontaneously and almost simultaneously [emerged] throughout Western literatures in the early years of the nineteenth century.’ Allen posits that the first modern short story in English was Walter Scott’s ‘The Two Drovers’, which was published in Chronicles of the Canongate, in 1827.39 This view has been supported as recently as 2006, with William Boyd remarking of Allen’s claim that: ‘It's a convenient starting point, if only because the short story's subsequent rapid development was international and Scott's influence, huge in its day, was international also...’.40 The trouble with defining a particular genre is that, as John Sears contends, ‘Genre concerns generation and regeneration’41; that it, in effect, ‘…comprises sets of unconsciously inherited and socially imposed rules to which individual texts are subject and against which they react.’42 This cycle suggests that genre largely defies enduring and consistent definition, and the short story genre is no exception. While this theory of the genesis of the genre does not appear to be openly contested, it was not until fifteen years after the publication of ‘The Two Drovers’ that the first definition of the short story was offered by Edgar Allan Poe in his review of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘Twice-Told Tales’. Poe argues that a short story was one ‘…requiring from a half-hour to one or two hours in its perusal.’43 This prescriptive reading time allowed for what Poe refers to as the ‘unity of effect’ or ‘totality’ of a story; in other words, the reader should be able to consume the entire story in one sitting and not be distracted by ‘Worldly interests’. As Ian Reid has elucidated in his study of the short

38 King, Skeleton Crew, pp. 6-7 39 Walter Allen, Some Aspects of the American Short Story, Oxford University Press, London, 1973, p.3 40 Boyd, ‘A Short History’, op. cit. See also W.J. Overton, ‘Scott, the Short Story and History: “The Two Drovers”’, Studies in Scottish Literature, Vol. 21, Issue 1, January 1986, p.20 41 John Sears, Stephen King’s Gothic, University of Wales Press, Cardiff, 2011, p.82 42 Ibid, p.83 43 Poe, ‘A Review’, op.cit.

15 story, the evident disadvantage of this criterion is that ‘…some people can sit for longer than others.’44 Concomitant with his concept of ‘totality’, Poe affirms that ‘preconceived effect’ or ‘pre-established design’ was crucial to the construction of a short story – that the author, having first decided on a preconceived effect, subsequently created their story with ‘deliberate care’.45 He remarks, ‘In the whole composition there should be no word written, of which the tendency, direct or indirect, is not to the one pre-established design.’46 Four years later, Poe published a more detailed essay, reiterating the importance of the preconceived effect. In this essay, ‘The Philosophy of Composition’, Poe describes at length how he wrote one of his most famous works, ‘The Raven’, through a step-by-step, painstaking process. He observes, ‘It is only with the dénouement constantly in view that we can give a its indispensable air of consequence.’47 Interestingly, Stephen King’s short story ‘Under the Weather’ (BBD) is one of the few stories that King confesses to have constructed in this way. King recalls that …the end was clear, which meant the story had to be built carefully to get there. […] I don’t care for it. As a rule I like the ending to take care of itself, feeling that if I don’t know how things come out, the reader won’t either.48

Poe also introduces what he calls the ‘objects’ of truth and passion as characteristics of the short story, remarking that, while the poem is superior in its ability to convey beauty, ‘…the object, Truth – the satisfaction of the intellect – and the object, Passion – the excitement of the heart – are […] far more readily attainable in prose.’49 Thus, Poe’s initial theories of the short story were not so restricted by concerns of technique and form as to exclude some reference to content. Despite some contention, Poe’s definition became the foundation for subsequent considerations of the genre and has remained thus for the past 175 years.50

44 Ian Reid, The Short Story, Methuen & Co., London, 1977, p.9 45 Poe, ‘A Review’, op.cit. 46 Ibid. 47 Edgar Allan Poe, ‘The Philosophy of Composition’, Graham’s Magazine, Vol. 28, No. 4, Apr 1846, pp.163-167, p.163 48 Stephen King, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 2015, p.281 49 Poe, ‘Philosophy of Composition’, p.164 50 Of the thirty-eight sources of scholarship related to the short story genre researched for this thesis, thirty-one of them offer some kind of definition; of those thirty-one, sixteen directly reference Poe and/or his theories, while the remaining fifteen provide definitions based upon similar themes of length and unity of effect. See James Brander Matthews, The Philosophy of the Short Story, Longmans, Green & Co., New York, 1901, p.8; T.E. Rankin, ‘The Modern Short Story’, Poet Lore, Vol. 14, No. 4, January 1906, p.100; W.J. Dawson, ‘The Modern Short Story’, The North American

16 The first to build upon Poe’s theory appears to have been James Brander Matthews. In The Philosophy of the Short Story, published in 190151, Matthews provides a comprehensive definition of the short story – as distinct from the novel, the sketch and the tale – and is the first overtly to declare the short story a genre.52 In a prefatory note to The Philosophy of the Short Story, Matthews explains that, in the decade before the turn of the twentieth century, the topic of modern fiction was being reviewed and discussed so incessantly that he recognised a demand for a more detailed essay on the subject, one ‘…with such revision and annotation as might render it more useful, not only to the earnest student, but also to the casual reader.’53 This suggests that, at the beginning of the twentieth century, the ‘casual reader’ was at the forefront of at least one critical mind, yet there seems to be little focus on the general reader in the scholarship of the short story that followed. Matthews proposes that, the short story writer must have a ‘sense of form’ – what he terms ‘the highest and last attribute of a creative writer’ – so that each story is ‘logical, adequate, harmonious.’54 As for the story itself, Matthews states that ‘…the chief requisites are compression, originality, ingenuity, and now and again a touch of fantasy.’55 Matthews’ publication appeared to prompt an influx of scholarship from both the United Kingdom and the United States, particularly in the first quarter of the twentieth century. In 1909, W.J. Dawson enthusiastically endorsed Poe’s contribution, remarking that ‘…the form which he gave the short story has become the model of succeeding writers.’56 Dawson also

Review, Vol. 190, No. 469, Dec 1909, p.808; H.E. Rollins, ‘An American View of the Short Story’, The Academy, Vol. 86, Issue. 2196, Jun 1914, p. 715; Fred Lewis Pattee, ‘The Present Stage of the Short Story’, The English Journal, Vol. 12, No. 7, September 1923, p. 440; Warren Beck, ‘The Real Language of Men: Note on an Aspect of the Modern Short Story’, The English Journal, Vol. 23, No. 9, Nov 1934, p. 734; A.L. Bader, ‘The Structure of the Modern Short Story’, College English, Vol. 7, No. 2, Nov 1945, p. 87; Ray B. West Jnr, ‘The Modern Short Story and the Highest Forms of Art’, The English Journal, Vol. 46, No. 9, Dec 1957, p. 535; Danforth Ross, The American Short Story, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1961, p.6; Allen, Some Aspects, p.3; Reid, Short Story, p.55; Valerie Shaw, The Short Story: A Critical Introduction, Taylor and Francis, New York, 1983, p. vi; , ‘Introduction’, The Oxford Book of American Short Stories, Ed. Joyce Carol Oates, ‘Oxford University Press, New York, 1992, p.10; Joseph Urgo, ‘Capitalism, Nationalism, and the American short story’, Studies in Short Fiction, Vol. 35, Issue. 4, Fall 1998, p. 345; Boyd, ‘A Short History’, op.cit.; William M. Purcell, The Rhetorical Short Story, University Press of America, Maryland, 2009, p.2. 51 This essay was originally published anonymously in the Saturday Review of London in 1884. 52 Matthews provided something of a disclaimer in his essay, remarking that he believed he was the first to make this claim. Matthews, Philosophy, p.77 53 Matthews, Philosophy, p.8 54 Ibid., p.30 55 Ibid., p.72 56 Dawson, ‘Modern Short Story’, p.808

17 introduces three principles of the short story: it must be complete in itself; it is short because it is not long; and it consists of a single incident.57 However, he acknowledges that these criteria are not infallible, and therefore poses four questions by which to ascertain the quality of a short story: The cardinal questions to be addressed to a writer of short stories are these: Has he any vital message to communicate? Has he any sincere experience to impart? Has he seen life for himself, from his own angle of vision, and seen it truthfully and completely? Has he the creative force that makes us see what he sees, feel what he has felt, comprehend what he has comprehended?58

In 1914 Hyder Edward Rollins commented on the inundation of definitions of, and publications concerning, the short story following Poe’s critique of Hawthorne’s work. He remarks sardonically in his article in The Academy that, ‘At present, the highest ambition of every American school-teacher, story writer, critic, and magazine editor is to write a book on the short story’, observing that emerging theories were cumulatively contradictory and increasingly restrictive.59

In 1934 Warren Beck observed the emergence of ‘simpler diction and style’ that constituted a ‘fresh aspect’ of the recent short stories he had read.60 He recognises in the modern short story a ‘…resolute rejection of the traditional literary vocabulary’61, such as the ‘realistic conversation’ that developed in the short stories of the 1920s, citing Sherwood Anderson’s ‘I’m a Fool’ (1922) as a notable example. Yet, Beck argues, even more significant than plausibly rendered speech was the ‘…bare, abrupt narration which supports the dialogue’, such as in Hemingway’s ‘The Killers’ (1927), which he claims reflected a ‘revolutionary demonstration’ in the American short story.62 Toward the mid-twentieth century, A.L. Bader highlights some observable changes in the genre since Poe’s initial definition by comparing the ‘traditional’ with the ‘modern’ – that is, the twentieth century – short story. He opines that the traditional story was ‘essentially dramatic’ and followed a formulaic plot structure: ‘…a conflict is stated at the beginning of a story, developed by a series of

57 Ibid, p.799 58 Ibid., p.810 59 Rollins, ‘An American View’, p.716 60 Beck, ‘Real Language of Men’, p.732 61 Ibid. 62 Ibid., p.733

18 scenes, and resolved at the end’; whereas the modern short story of 1945 ‘...frequently seems to be without narrative structure and [...] has been called plotless, fragmentary, and amorphous.’ 63 Observing that ‘…the reader must supply the missing parts of the traditional plot in many modern stories’, Bader identifies, as had scholars of the previous decade, that the modern short story requires the active cognitive engagement of the reader. However, he only applies this observation to ‘many’ short stories, recognising the difficulty in providing any kind of concrete definition for so prolific and contested a genre.

In her book, The Short Story: A Critical Introduction (1983), Valerie Shaw has similarly remarked that there are ‘…so many different kinds of short story that the genre as a whole seems constantly to resist universal definition…’.64 She is, however, one of a few to offer a firm definition, asserting that the short story is a ‘…stretch of fictional prose, shaped and controlled to leave no margin of error in the way it creates a pleasing, unified impression on the reader’s .’65 This basic definition offers considerable license yet conforms with the common criteria of subject matter (namely fictional), limited length, and a particular effect upon the reader. Shaw alludes to the short story as a mirror for contemporary life, citing Henry James’ vision of ‘…short fiction becoming a vehicle for what he calls […] “the civic use of the imagination”’, and remarking that ‘…the short story could reflect what was happening in society at large [and is] directly imitative of the modern experience of being alive.’66 Shaw considers the works of various writers, such as Sherwood Anderson, Ambrose Bierce, Anton Chekhov, Franz Kafka, O. Henry, Elizabeth Bowen, Virginia Woolf, and Henry James, applying two simple evaluative questions to the texts selected for analysis: ‘What are the special satisfactions afforded by reading short stories?’; and ‘How are these satisfactions derived from each story's literary techniques and narrative strategies?’67 Her focus thus appears to be on answering a fundamental question: why should we read short stories? To address this question, she notes the benefit of brevity, observing that the ‘contrived and highly stylised’ form of the short story results from

63 Bader, ‘Modern Short Story’, p. 86, pp.87-88 64 Shaw, Critical Introduction, p.vi 65 Ibid., p.21 66 Ibid., p.17 67 Ibid., p.vi

19 the writer’s need to exercise the ‘science of control’, sacrificing diversity for ‘one vivid idea’.68 For Shaw, brevity is one of the delightful aspects of the short story; she remarks by way of elaboration that the success of the short story depends, in part, on what is left unsaid. Considering Kafka’s ‘Investigations of a Dog’ (1922), she asserts that this success ‘…lies in conveying a sense of unwritten, or even unwriteable [sic] things: the storyteller accepts the limitations of his art, and makes his freedom an aspect of those same restrictions.’69

Early in the twenty-first century, William Boyd reaffirmed the enduring aspects of the short story. While he considers Poe’s initial theories ‘too schematic and prescriptive’, he suggests that Poe’s theory of the effect of the short story remains relevant. This effect – ‘a sense of the fullest satisfaction’ – is derived from the that the short story can appear ‘larger, more resonant and memorable’ than its brevity would indicate.70 Elaborating on Poe, Boyd declares that the ‘totality of effect’ makes the ‘fully functioning’ short story impossible to summarise but is also what differentiates the short story from the novel. For Boyd, ‘The great modern short stories possess a quality of mystery and beguiling resonance about them – a complexity of afterthought – that cannot be pinned down or analysed.’71 He offers as examples the longer stories of Herman Melville, such as ‘Benito Cereno’ (1855) and ‘Bartleby the Scrivener’ (1853), yet he attributes the mantle of ‘greatest short story writer ever’ to Chekhov, whose ‘unbearably lifelike’ stories revolutionised the short story, to the extent (Boyd claims) that all short stories written since are in some way indebted to him.72

Many of the definitions that emerged after Poe’s initial theories and Matthews’ declaration that the short story constitutes a genre focussed on similar concepts. The requirement for brevity or compression, unity of effect, originality, ingenuity, and fantasy are common criteria throughout scholarship of the next 116 years, however, there have been dissenters. Indeed, in 1906 T.E. Rankin suggested that ‘...the true artist

68 Ibid., p.11 69 Ibid., p.264 70 Boyd, ‘A Short History’, op.cit. 71 Ibid. 72 Ibid.

20 of the short story progressed with his task in exactly the opposite fashion…’ to Poe's concept of the preconceived effect.73 According to Rankin, the author ‘...has his experience of life, its effect upon him is meditated upon; then [...] he presents to us the situation so that to us is communicated the effect which the experience had on him.’74 In response to Matthews, Enoch Arnold Bennett published a rather terse article in The Academy, in which he states unequivocally that ‘Short stories are not different [from novels and] there is no “art of the short story”.’75 Although not directly alluding to Poe, Bennett asserts that ‘A short story is merely a short - story, and there's an end on it. […] Every novel would be a short story if it was short enough; and every short story would be a novel if it was long enough…’.76 In 1923 Fred Lewis Pattee concurred with Bennett’s opinion, stating that there is only one ‘fundamental rule’ for the short story: ‘it must be short’; all the other aspects of the story – unity, momentum, immediateness – are simply the unavoidable consequences of such brevity.77

Despite the apparent consensus that the short story must be short, few scholars have offered specific restrictions of length. In 1943, H.E. Bates innovatively proposed specific word limits, stating that adherence to a ‘light restriction of length’ – between one hundred and fifty and fifteen thousand words – makes the short-story writer the ‘freest of all artists in words’.78 For Bates, length was the main discriminating factor; otherwise, ‘No two stories are alike; no two methods. [...] the story is the thing, and can be written in an infinite number of ways.’79 In 1992, Joyce Carol Oates reiterated the importance of limited scope in defining the short story. As editor of The Oxford Book of American Short Stories, she provides a personal definition of the short story as comprising a ‘concentration of imagination’ within ten thousand words that, regardless of plot or theme, ultimately attains closure: ‘…when it ends, the attentive reader understands why.’80 By contrast, Frank O’Connor had previously asserted that the material itself, rather than an editor, should determine the length of the short

73 Rankin, ‘Modern Short Story’, p.104 74 Ibid. 75 E.A. Bennett, ‘Some Fallacies about the Short Story’, The Academy and Literature, No. 1589, 18 Oct 1902, p. 421 76 Ibid. 77 Pattee, ‘Present Stage’, pp. 440-441 [emphasis in original] 78 Bates, Critical Survey, pp.215-216 79 Ibid., p.219 80 Oates, ‘Introduction’, p.7

21 story.81 Similarly, Ian Reid has argued that, whereas minimum and maximum word limits have been suggested by editors and authors, word count should not be the sole criterion: ‘Genre is not arithmetically defined.’82 One alternative, he suggests, is simply to accept a short story as whatever an author ‘…wishes to nominate – or allows to be nominated – as such.’83 Length is, obviously, a crucial factor in defining a short story, yet there appears to be no unequivocally accepted length more specific than the bespoke requirements of a writer, editor or publisher.

In describing truth as the ‘satisfaction of the intellect’ and passion as ‘the excitement of the heart’84, Poe categorises the short story as a medium of reciprocal experience, designed to establish a cognitive and visceral connection with the reader. For Rankin in 1906, the purpose of the short story was ‘…simply and merely the transferring from the life of the writer, without let or hindrance, precisely the individual experience which the artist has conceived worth while [sic] to communicate…’.85 Similarly, in 1957 Ray B. West Jnr identified the purpose of the short story in its ‘simplest form’: as ‘…a brief recounting of some event of special significance in the life, or the imagination, of the narrator.’86 West describes the act of storytelling as a form of ‘’, creating or recalling an experience that resonates with the reader’s own experience.87 In 2009, William M. Purcell proposed the concept of the ‘rhetorical’ short story, explaining that ‘Rhetorical depiction features the creation of word pictures, scenes that connect with the reader to present a feeling that is more powerful than [that evoked by] speech.’88 This, too, supported previous theories about the short story which drew to the impressionistic painting, the cinema, and modern photography.89 Purcell describes the short story as an ‘…enthymeme, a type of rhetorical demonstration that requires the participation of an audience/reader to complete’.90 Similar to Rankin, Dawson, Bates, Eudora Welty,

81 Frank O’Connor, The Lonely Voice, MacMillan & Co. Ltd, London, 1963, p.27 82 Reid, Short Story, p.10 83 Ibid., pp.9-10 84 Poe, ‘Philosophy of Composition’, p.164 85 Rankin, ‘Modern Short Story’, p.111 86 West, ‘Highest Forms’, p.531 87 Ibid., p.532 88 Purcell, Rhetorical Short Story, p.3 89 See: Rankin, ‘Modern Short Story’, p.102; Bowen, ‘Introduction’, p.152; Bates, Critical Survey, p.215; and, Shaw, Critical Introduction, p.14 90 Purcell, Rhetorical Short Story, p.3

22 Shaw, Richard Ford, and Oates, Stephen King advocates the primacy of imagination in writing, remarking that, Good writing – good stories – are the imagination’s firing pin, and the purpose of the imagination, I believe, is to offer us solace and shelter from situations and life-passages which would otherwise prove unendurable.91

For King, the relationship between writer and reader is a ‘meeting of the minds’92, and he specifically relates this to the ability of a ‘good’ story to make the reader ‘…forget the real stuff weighing on [their] mind for a little while and take [them] away to a place [they’ve] never been.’93 This admittedly sentimental concept of the connection between writer and reader may be established in the supernatural short story through the description of a relatable emotional response to a supernatural antagonist; however, King’s observation suggests the need for the engagement of a reader’s imagination and their willingness to suspend disbelief in order to establish such a connection.

Another romanticised theory pertaining to the content of the short story is the idea of ‘truth’. Poe conveys an idea of truth as an intellectual contentment, the expression of which is a skill that ‘demands a precision’94; while he offers stories of ratiocination by way of example, he stops short of describing exactly what truth is. Dawson asks the hypothetical writer if they have ‘seen life […] and seen it truthfully’, remarking that if the writer ‘…will but continue to see vividly the dramatic possibilities of life, and to report truthfully what he sees, he need never lack material for the warp and woof of the stories he can spin.’95 This concept of ‘reporting truthfully’ is of course subjective. Equally subjective is Welty’s assumption posed as a rhetorical question to the reader and writer: ‘Don't we after all want the same thing? A story of beauty and passion and truth?’96 In his book, New England Men of Letters (1972), Wilson Sullivan identifies ‘truth’ as the difference between a merely good story and a classic. In his chapter on Nathaniel Hawthorne, Sullivan posits that

91 King, Bazaar, p.2 [emphasis in original] 92 Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 2012 (2000), p.117 93 King, Different Seasons, p.560 94 Poe, ‘Philosophy of Composition’, p.164 95 Dawson, ‘Modern Short Story’, p.805 96 Eudora Welty, ‘The Reading and Writing of Short Stories’, in Short Story Theories, ed. Charles E. May, Ohio University Press, 1976, p.177

23 Hawthorne’s work endures because he had ‘...mastered the “Great Art of Telling the Truth”’97; that Hawthorne was not interested in merely telling a story, ‘...but in using narrative as a means to teaching a moral truth.’98 For Sullivan, Hawthorne is great because ‘...he told the truth about the only reality a man can know: himself.’99 He further claims that Hawthorne’s ‘truth’ offers stories of ‘timeless relevance’ to the human condition, which is what raises Hawthorne’s works to the status of .100 In 1992, Richard Ford described the significant shifts in contemporary story writing of the 1960s and 1970s, remarking that the new work of that era consisted of stories in which truth was ‘…a process of collaborative myth’ and ‘Life […] a process of many shocking and ill-fitting things, little of which was being truthfully or interestingly referred to by […] the traditional forms of story-ness.’101 Despite his having also lived through what Ford termed the ‘fractious and dislocating’102 era of the 60s and 70s, Stephen King appears more attracted to the version of truth endorsed by Poe, Dawson, Bowen, Welty, and Sullivan. In 2010, King cited one of his ‘literary idols’, Frank Norris, as his inspiration: ‘…I’ve kept what [Norris] said on this subject in my mind for over forty years: “I never truckled; I never took off my hat to Fashion and held it out for pennies. By God, I told them the truth”.’103 Hence, he himself aims to ‘…tell stories about what people actually do – to face the fact, let us say, that murderers sometimes help old ladies across the street.’104

Nonetheless, concomitantly emerging in the early twentieth century was the concept of the short story as a reflection of the social environment and nationalism, rather than a of moral truth. As early as 1923, Percy H. Boynton argued that the genre held significant cultural relevance, as ‘Some day the historian will turn to it for cultural signs of the times...’.105 Similarly, in 1937 Bryllion Fagin contended that

97 Wilson Sullivan, New England Men of Letters, Atheneum, New York, 1972, p.84 98 Ibid., p.87 99 Ibid., p.93 100 Ibid., p.70 101 Ford, Richard, ‘Introduction’, The Granta Book of the American Short Story, Richard Ford (ed.), Granta Books, London, 1992, p.ix [emphasis in original] 102 Ibid. 103 King, Full Dark, p.429 104 Ibid., p.430 105 Boynton, ‘American Authors’, p. 326

24 the American short story actually speaks to American nationalism and is an expression of national . He states: It is not always clear speech: like the country itself the short story is young and it does not yet often achieve sharp and distinct articulation. But it has spoken bravely and has said enough to help us understand our , our perplexities, ourselves.106

Appositely to the era in which he published his article, Bates reflects on the influence of war on the short story, remarking that ‘..if no other good comes out of wars, stories will.’107 Recalling the impact of World War I on the literature of that period, Bates proposes that the literature of World War II would find ‘…in the short story the essential medium for whatever it has to say.’108 Bates considers the short story to be thriving in the mid-twentieth century, which he attributes to the wider global events of the time, observing that art does not progress arbitrarily, but that certain ‘cultural, inventive, revolutionary, or popular forces’ combine to promote its development.109 In 1961, Danforth Ross compared the influence of the Frontier experience to the emergence of naturalism in American literature, noting that, unlike the Frontier, naturalism was international in scope and that it ‘…challenged some writers to discover the spiritual resources of their characters. [It] shifted the emphasis from the old of life [...] to the social environment.’110 Considering the ‘Beat Generation’ writers of the 1950s, Ross contends that the short story presented the ‘...full range of the American experience, in exploration of vital and universal themes, in experimentation with technique and style, in search for language.’111 Richard Ford has cited Frank O’Connor’s observation that, by the mid-twentieth-century, short stories portrayed ‘…America as a brutal place full of dislocated people who sometimes fool you and act nice…’; an environment that, Ford asserts, made the United States a likely place for short stories to thrive.112 Furthermore, O’Connor has noted the short story’s capacity for depicting ‘…an intense awareness of human loneliness.’113 Ten years

106 Bryllion Fagin, ‘The American Short Story Speaks’, The Educational Forum, Vol. 1, No. 3, Mar 1937, pp.331-338, p.332 107 Bates, Critical Survey, p.223 108 Ibid. 109 Ibid., p.222 110 Ross, American Short Story, p.32 111 Ibid. 112 Ford, ‘Introduction’, p.vii-viii 113 Ibid., p.19

25 later, Walter Allen claimed that ‘…the American story is very often the story of the life of a man who is not involved in society at all, [a man] in himself, and sometimes against himself.’114 According to Allen, this theme is a ‘counter-tradition’ to that of man as a ‘...product of his social and historic environment’, and that American stories are ‘…of isolation, of man-alone [...] repudiating society as alien to them or simply not acknowledging its existence.’115 More recently, Urgo has argued that the ‘energy and vitality’ of the American short story derives from the intersection of capitalism and nationalism.116 He asserts that the short story’s demand for ‘efficiency of form, cohesiveness, and economy of scale’ reflects the demands of ‘managerial capitalism’; a ‘tightly written’ story, he argues, is reminiscent of an efficiently run business, organisation or utility.117 I would concur with the consensus that the theme of isolation, separation and human loneliness is integral to a genre which is largely defined by its restriction to a single main character, conflict and climax.

William Boyd identifies that, while the short story had always existed within an informal , it was not until the increase in middle-class in the nineteenth century, and the evolution of the magazine and periodical to provide for the desires of the broadening readership, that there was an appropriate publishing forum for short fiction.118 Indeed, as Reid has explored, the absence of international copyright laws and the proliferation of British novels in the nineteenth century meant that publishing novels in the United States at that time was a ‘costly luxury’. The short story, however, found a ready readership through periodicals and annuals which increased in popularity after 1830.119 According to Florence Goyet, the nineteenth century provided the ‘major stage’ of the short story, its popularity well-attested through the ‘innumerable publications’ publishing ‘countless stories’. She observes that, between 1885 and 1901, the number of ‘cheap magazines’ in circulation in the United States increased from 3,600 to 7,500.120 However, the consequence of the proliferation of stories has been debated since the genre emerged. In 1923 Pattee

114 Allen, Some Aspects, p.5 115 Ibid., p.18 116 Urgo, ‘Capitalism, Nationalism’, p.339 117 Ibid. 118 Boyd, ‘Short History’, op.cit. 119 Reid, Short Story, p.29 120 Florence Goyet, The Classic Short Story, Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, 2014, p.4

26 observed that since its popularity had increased, the short story had been ‘obedient to the voice of fashion’.121 In the same year Boynton echoed this sentiment. Noting that that these magazines relied on advertisers for income, he contends: The chief advertisements in the copy at hand are a cosmetic, a shaving soap, a chewing gum, a tooth paste, a system of fat reduction, a correction for bow legs and knock knees, a nose-shaper, a hair restorer, a cheap candy, diamonds-on- the-instalment (two), and get-rich-quick correspondence courses (five). The people who buy these commodities are going to buy the sort of stories that go with them [and] are not likely to be either very analytical or very imaginative.122

Fourteen years later, Fagin reasoned that critics were struggling to engage with the genre in part because of a ‘preoccupation with technique’ – a result of the proliferation of scholarship – and the abundance of the stories themselves. ‘The record’, he states, ‘is too vast for careful reading.’123 However, by 1961, Danforth Ross commented positively on the volume of stories produced in the twentieth century, arguing that two of the ‘marks’ of the writing of this century were the ‘…sheer volume of good stories [and] Experimentation with technique…’.124

Anthologies have also been responsible for the proliferation and popularity of the genre. Arguably one of the most influential and enduring publications of the short story of the twentieth century was that which Edward J. O’Brien created. In 1916, the first Best Short Stories125 anthology (for the year 1915) was published. In the introduction to this edition, O’Brien expresses his motivations for beginning the series: …to undertake a study of the American short story from year to year as it is represented in the American periodicals which care most to develop its art and its audiences, and to appraise so far as may be the relative achievement of author and magazine in the successful fulfilment of this aim.126

Also evidently concerned about the influx of material, O’Brien explicitly remarks that he began the series in order to prove the superiority of the American short story over

121 Pattee, ‘Present Stage’, p.441 122 Boynton, ‘American Authors’, p.330 123 Fagin, ‘Short Story Speaks’, p.331 124 Ross, American Short Story, p.41 125 Best Short Stories appeared to be renamed Best American Short Stories upon Martha Foley’s succession as editor in 1941. 126 Edward J. O’Brien, ‘Introduction’, The Best Short Stories of 1915, Edward O’Brien (ed.), Small, Maynard and Company Publishers, Boston, 1916, p.15

27 that of the European, especially the British; he wanted his anthology to ‘...do something toward disengaging the honest good from the meretricious mass of writing with which it is mingled.’127 O’Brien was certainly not the first to comment on the perceived supremacy of the American short story over its contemporaries128: indeed Matthews, Rankin, and Dawson made similar claims.129 However, ninety years later, Richard Ford asserted that there is no particular difference or superiority of the American short story over that produced in any other nation. He claims that place and character names change but, fundamentally, the stories are the same.130 O’Brien stipulates strict selection criteria for his editions of Best Short Stories. To be selected, a short story must have ‘substance’ and ‘form’, the latter meaning the ‘…skilful selection and arrangement of [the] material’.131 Boynton dismisses O’Brien’s ‘formula’ as a ‘mechanical separator’ that distributes the ‘cream to the ’.132 More recently, Purcell has criticised the twenty-first century editors of The Best American Short Stories anthology, remarking that, The contemporary editors are not as confident as O'Brien and Foley133 in naming the best stories. They are loath to proclaim their selection as “best” and are generally apologetic in making their choices. O'Brien and Foley [...] were resolutely decisive in making their selections. They operated under the consistent assumptions as to what constitutes “best”.134

Purcell asserts that, with a new editor each year, the standard of selections will be inconsistent. However, perhaps this variety better reflects the inherent challenge of the short story, as a largely undefinable genre that is arguably whatever the writer, critic, academic or reader wants it to be. Indeed, O’Brien’s stringent standard appears to have been succeeded by a more subjective means of selection. In his introduction to The Granta Book of the American Short Story (1992), Ford admits that the stories included

127 Ibid., p.16 128 The significant scholarship debating the supremacy of the American short story over that of Europe and Britain is not considered critical to the definition of the American short story for the purposes of this thesis and is, therefore, outside the scope of this study. 129 See: Matthews, ‘Philosophy’, p.50; Rankin, ‘Modern Short Story’, p.108, Dawson, ‘Modern Short Story’, p.805. 130 Ford, ‘Introduction’, p.vii 131 O’Brien, ‘Introduction’, p.20 132 Boynton, ‘American Authors’, p.326 133 Martha Foley succeeded O’Brien and edited the anthology from 1942 until 1977, after which time the anthology has been allocated a different guest editor each year, with Stephen King selected for the 2007 edition. 134 Purcell, Rhetorical Short Story, p.4

28 were simply ones he liked: ‘...they treat us to language. They stir our moral . They take our mind off our woes, and give order to the previously unordered for the purpose of making beauty and clarity anew.’135 Similarly, as one of the judges for the inaugural National Short Story Prize of 2006, Boyd explains that he had selected stories according to his own ‘rough taxonomy of the short story’.136 In his essay, ‘Whatever Happened to the American Short Story?’ (2009), Anis Shivani remarks that this subjective trend of selection exemplifies the American short story’s decline into ‘decadence’.137

Boyd has observed that while ‘…it has become harder than ever to publish short fiction in [the United States], the American market is still large and remunerative’.138 He expects the short story to endure, ‘For the taste among readers for short fiction [...] has never really gone away, despite the vagaries of publishing economics.’139 Stephen King, however, appears to agree with the reservations of the earlier scholars, remarking in the introduction to his fourth short story collection, Everything’s Eventual (2002), that the short story, although not yet a lost art, is close to ‘…the lip of the drop into extinction.’140 He observes, When I sold my first short story in the delightfully antique year of 1968, I was already bemoaning the steady attrition of markets […] In the years since, I have seen the markets for short stories continue to shrink. […] every year there are one or two fewer.141

Five years later, in the introduction to the 2007 edition of Best American Short Stories, King reiterates his concern, lamenting – as had Boynton over eighty years earlier – the calibre of the magazines of his day. ‘Celebrities in gowns and tuxes, models in lo-rise jeans, luxy [sic] stereo equipment, talk-show hosts with can’t-miss diet plans – they all scream Buy me, buy me! Take me home and I’ll change your life!’142 Perhaps it was in response to the caprices of the market that, in the year 2000, Stephen King

135 Ford, ‘Introduction’, p.xxii 136 Boyd, ‘Short History’, op.cit. 137 Anis Shivani, ‘Whatever Happened to the American Short Story?’, Contemporary Review, Vol. 291, Issue. 1693, Summer 2009, p.217 138 Boyd, ‘Short History’, op.cit. 139 Ibid. 140 King, Everything’s Eventual, p.xv 141 Ibid. 142 King, ‘Introduction’, p.xiv

29 explored a more contemporary avenue of publication. Asked by his editor at Scribner if he would like to publish anything in the burgeoning world of e-books, he submitted a short story entitled ‘.’ King remarks that this publication ‘…made a little bit of publishing history [as] Several hundred thousand people downloaded the story.’143 Notwithstanding this apparent validation, King’s response was one of disillusionment because he could not differentiate between the people who bought the story because of the ‘novelty’ factor and those who actually cared about the story. Although stating that he was not concerned about the success of e-publishing per se, he explains that ‘…going that route was simply another way of trying to keep myself fully involved in the process of writing stories. And then getting them to as many people as possible.’144

In 1923, Pattee asserted that the short story was being taught in schools and universities in a way that demonstrated only the monetary value of being published. He argues that it was ‘…a trade-school matter, a handwork vocation to be acquired by mere diligence and mastery of technique.’145 He rues this development, asserting that, while the short story should be taught, it should be merely a course in composition or literary history.146 In the twenty-first century, by contrast, Boyd regards creative writing courses – both in the United States and in Britain – positively. He claims that more young American writers are turning to the genre and that more publishers are publishing collections because ‘The short story is both relatively quickly written and the perfect pedagogical tool.’147 With the benefit of 167 years of scholarship since the publication of Poe’s initial theory, Shivani observes that, Until the 1960s, Americans probably wrote the best short stories of the twentieth century […] But after the 1960s, writing became too professionalized, publishing too commercialized, and it became much safer – certainly more profitable – to wallow in the culture’s narcissistic obsession than to critique it in any substantial manner.148

143 King, Everything’s Eventual, p.xvii 144 Ibid., p.xix 145 Pattee, ‘Present Stage’, p.440 146 Ibid., p.449 147 Boyd, ‘Short History’, op.cit. 148 Shivani, ‘Whatever Happened’, p.216

30 This perspective is similar to those of Matthews and O’Brien, who sought strictly to define the genre in order to prevent the proliferation of mediocre stories. Shivani expresses another familiar concern; that America’s 300 university writing programs compel callow graduates to produce enormous quantities of short stories, published by literary quarterlies so great in number that there is no parallel in the world. These truly meet the definition of insularity breeding insularity.149

This historical snapshot identifies a trend in academic engagement with the short story. Poe’s initial reflections and Matthews’ definition inspired an abundance of scholarship on the short story and, indeed, a proliferation of stories themselves. Throughout the mid-twentieth century, contemporary shifts were noted and examined, with the emerging consensus being that the genre was, because of its fecundity, largely undefinable. Scholars of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have continued to reflect on the legacy of writers of the nineteenth and early-twentieth- centuries, with Boyd claiming that twenty-first century stories generally still adhere to the Chekhovian style.150 In 1957, Ray B. West Jnr. argued that Henry James was one of the most significant contributors to the genre, achieving with his stories what Poe termed the ‘…highest forms of art’.151 Nevertheless, he concedes, the contributions of writers such as James, Hemingway and William Faulkner can only impress upon other writers an appreciation for ‘craftsmanship’ and a ‘respect for the craft’, rather than specific insights in relation to composition and subject matter.152 While craftsmanship is crucial, it is not sufficient to ensure the longevity of a genre; as West asserts, the short story’s endurance relies on the ability of the writer to adapt, modify and employ the form ‘in a totally fresh manner.’153 From a writer’s perspective, Welty remarks that, ‘It's not an imitative process. […] It is not ours to note influences, trace , and consider trends. […] The next story will always be a different thing.’154 Welty argues that creating an enduring impression on the reader – an ‘after-effect’ – was more important than eliciting an immediate response.155 Similarly, King has claimed:

149 Ibid. 150 Boyd, ‘A Short History’, op.cit. 151 West, ‘Highest Forms’, p.537 152 Ibid., p.538 153 Ibid., pp.538-539 154 Welty, ‘Reading and Writing’, pp.160-161 155 Ibid., p.164

31 I want to provoke an emotional, even visceral reaction in my readers. Making them think as they read is not my deal. …if the tale is good enough and the characters vivid enough, thinking will supplant emotion when the tale has been told and the book set aside (sometimes with relief).156

Valerie Shaw quotes Virginia Woolf’s opinion of what constitutes a ‘great essay’ – one that has the power to ‘…haunt the mind and remain entire in the ’ – as a description that can be equally applicable to the short story.157 This ‘power’ is what I consider to be a story’s capacity to resonate with the reader. Akin to Matthews’ requisite ‘touch of fantasy’, Shaw remarks that, because of the advances in science, medicine, the intellect and psychoanalysis, it is incumbent on ‘…artists to cherish a sense of mystery, not propitiating ancient superhuman gods, necessarily, but still warning us against making new secular gods out of machines, intellectual systems or conceptual schemes.’158 Warren Beck has asserted that, while it is the function of the scholar, historian or anthologist to consider the maturity of a genre in any given year, ‘The intelligent reader’s function […] is continued alertness to change and appreciation of development.’159 In answering the question, ‘why read short stories?’, it is reasonable to expect academics, editors and general readers each to give a different answer. Whereas scholars are searching for references to early examples of the genre, and editors are searching for suitable stories to publish, then the general reader may be simply seeking to be entertained. Thus, as Goyet asserts, ‘“Modern” short stories that follow less generic conventions may very well be more satisfying for twenty-first century readers than the classic form.’160 For Stephen King, the challenge of the short story is part of the attraction of writing them; he has stated, ‘I never feel the limitations of my talent so keenly as I do when writing short fiction’, and describes the art of writing short stories as requiring ‘…a kind of acrobatic skill that takes a lot of tiresome practice’.161 But he perseveres because he contends that short stories are ‘…one of the vital ways in which we try to make some sense of our lives, and the often terrible world

156 King, Full Dark, p.429 [emphasis in original] 157 Eudora Welty, cited in Shaw, Critical Introduction, p.227 158 Shaw, Critical Introduction, p.257 159 Beck, ‘Real Language’, p.731 [emphasis added] 160 Goyet, Classic Short Story, p.7 161 King, Bazaar, p.2

32 we see around us. [They are] the way we answer the question, How can such things be?’162

Evidently, the short story has engendered no unanimous, unambiguous definition. There are what Ian Reid refers to as ‘predominant norms’ and ‘evolving features’163 upon which to create working definitions, but no consolidated definition. Throughout the twentieth century, the concept of the short story as a mirror of contemporary society and a medium for exploring and reflecting the human condition emerged and, arguably, this is what makes the genre still so difficult to define. A genre that evolves with the cultural and social environments in which examples are written – whether because of technological, social, political or educational shifts – is unlikely to be reducible to a conclusive set of criteria. The answer to the question, ‘why read short stories’ remains subjective. In 1936 Bryllion Fagin asserted: The idea of an entire ‘story’, lacking neither in complexity nor completeness, being contained efficiently in the space of a single chapter but with no antecedent or sequel, and containing no extraneous words, no diversionary subplots, is an idea that mirrored the values of the culture at large in the United States.164

Whether or not this sentiment has endured into the twenty-first century is difficult to substantiate. However, for the purposes of this study, a provisional, and generous, definition was necessary to establish, against which selected stories were examined. Limited length, as the most consistently agreed feature of the short story, was the first criterion against which stories were selected. In light of Ian Reid’s remark that the length of a short story can be ‘…whatever an author wishes to nominate’165, and King’s of the 20,000-word boundary to the ‘country’ of the short story166, I selected short stories that adhere to the limit suggested by King to be analysed in Chapters Three, Four and Five. Considering this limit and taking various aspects of the research of this chapter into account, the definition I employed in my analysis of the selected texts was: Stories that are less than 20,000 words in length, that are simple in diction and form, and that leave an enduring impression on the imagination of the

162 King, Full Dark, p.428, [emphasis in original] 163 Reid, Short Story, p.4 164 Bryllion Fagin, cited in Urgo, ‘Capitalism, Nationalism’, p.347 165 Reid, Short Story, p.9 166 King, Different Seasons, p.555

33 reader. While Shaw’s definition of the short story specified a ‘pleasing, unified impression’167 on the imagination, I consider that many of King’s stories often leave a distinctly unpleasant impression, hence I have decided to use the term ‘enduring impression’ to describe the effect of his stories. The efficacy of this impression is subjective, therefore, all references to this effect relate to the enduring impression these stories have made on my own imagination. In my opinion, this impression takes into account the establishment of an emotional and visceral connection between reader and writer; the requirement for cognitive engagement of the reader for the story to be fully realised; and the creation of a lasting resonance that leaves an impression on the imagination long after the story has been completed. The stories examined in this thesis adhere to all or part of this working definition. The next chapter will explore the research I conducted into the Gothic mode, its history, evolution and the predominant contributors to its generally accepted themes. I will also elucidate Stephen King’s own brand of Gothic and further develop my definition of the short story within the context of the Gothic mode to best examine the selected texts in Chapters Three, Four and Five.

167 Shaw, Critical Introduction, p.21

34 Chapter Two

The Art of Darkness

In the mid-nineteenth century, there was Edgar Allan Poe; in the early twentieth – Howard Phillips Lovecraft; and in the waning years of the twentieth – Stephen King.168

The Gothic, like the short story, appears to resist universal definition, to the point where Gothic themes can be identified in seemingly almost any fiction in any medium. Robert K. Martin suggests that the Gothic is best explored in terms of various ‘sites’ and ‘moments’ evident in art and culture; he states: ‘…if the gothic169 may be said to be everywhere, then it will cohere nowhere in particular.’170 Scholars have at various times debated as to whether ‘Gothic’ constitutes a ‘genre’ or a mode’. Clive Bloom asserts that, while ‘...the term “gothic genre” may be singular its incarnations are diverse and often retain only the slightest genuflection toward an original “core” or formal set of generic properties.’171 Anne Williams refers to the Gothic as a ‘genre’ defined primarily by setting; she defines the Gothic as …a matter of decor and mood – of haunted castle, and brooding, mysterious /villain […] of an ambiguously pleasurable terror, of the nostalgic melancholy of ruins and of remote times and places.172

However, she also claims that some works have a Gothic “flavor” [sic], while ‘violating’ the ‘hand book’s criteria’, citing the Alien films as an example.173 Alan Lloyd-Smith considers the ‘dispersions, attenuations, name-checking, and stylized imitations’ of the Gothic and asks ‘…does it any longer make sense to speak of the Gothic as a genre, or American Gothic as a distinct strand within it?’174 Moving farther

168 Garyn G. Roberts, ‘Of Mad Dogs and Firestarters – The Incomparable Stephen King’, in The Gothic World of Stephen King: Landscape of Nightmares, in Gary Hoppenstand & Ray B. Browne (eds.), Bowling Green State University Popular Press, Ohio, 1987, pp.31-36, pp.31-32 169 Scholars vary in the use or otherwise of a capital for ‘Gothic/gothic’, therefore, I will simply maintain the original without [sic]. 170 Robert K. Martin, ‘Introduction’, in Robert K Martin & Eric Savoy (eds.), American Gothic, New Interventions in a National Narrative, University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, 1998, p.ix [emphasis in original] 171 Bloom, Gothic Horror, p.1 172 Anne Williams, Art of Darkness: A Poetics of Gothic, University Press, Chicago, 1995, p.14 173 Ibid. 174 Lloyd-Smith, American Gothic Fiction, p.127

35 from the concept of genre, Eric Savoy has likened the Gothic to , suggesting that ‘… the gothic is a fluid tendency rather than a discrete literary “mode”, an impulse rather than a literary artefact.’175 For the purposes of this thesis, I am choosing to consider the Gothic a “mode” defined by themes and images and represented in different mediums, in agreeance with John Sears’ observation of the Gothic’s ‘proclivity for generic hybridity’ and his assertion that it …is less a genre than a mode that assimilates different genres into differently inflected combinations – Gothic romance, Gothic crime, Gothic comedy and […] Gothic science fiction – performing transgressive mixings and productions.176

Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764) is widely acknowledged as the putative first Gothic novel.177 Lloyd-Smith, for example, asserts that the Gothic representations of ‘extreme circumstances of terror, oppression and persecution, darkness and obscurity of setting, and innocence betrayed’ began with Otranto, and culminated in Ann Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) and Matthew G. Lewis’ The Monk (1796).178 Clive Bloom observes that genre-defining works serve ‘retrospectively [to] redefine their precursors’; once the Gothic mode was established with Otranto and similar works, Gothic elements were then identified in earlier works, including Shakespeare’s plays.179 Jerrold Hogle proclaims that Otranto was a ‘counterfeit’ source of the Gothic, being itself comprised of ‘several long-standing literary forms’.180 Similarly, John Sears posits that the Gothic is a ‘generic hybrid’ of ‘unreliable origin’, comprised of varied and sometimes conflicting styles and genres, which were themselves established from pre-existing forms.181 Peter K. Garrett considers the historical tapestry of the Gothic positively, suggesting that the basic

175 Eric Savoy, ‘The Face of the Tenant: A Theory of American Gothic’, in Robert K Martin & Eric Savoy (ed.), American Gothic, New Interventions in a National Narrative, University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, 1998, pp.3-19, p.6 176 Sears, Stephen King’s Gothic, p.14 177 See: Bloom, Gothic Horror, p.1; Jerrold E. Hogle, ‘The gothic ghost of counterfeit and the progress of abjection’, in David Punter (ed.), A Companion to the Gothic, Blackwell Press, Oxford, 2001, pp.293-203, p. 294; Garrett, Gothic Reflections, p.46; Goddu, Gothic America, p.3; Lloyd- Smith, American Gothic, p.134; Sears, Stephen King’s Gothic, pp.30-31; Williams, Art of Darkness, p.50; 178 Lloyd-Smith, American Gothic, p.3 179 Bloom, Gothic Horror, p.3 [emphasis in original] 180 Hogle, ‘Gothic ghost’, p.294 181 Sears, Stephen King’s Gothic, p.14

36 foundations of the Gothic have not changed; he observes the ‘…remarkable institutional stability of Gothic, its long history of repeating and reworking a restricted set of devices to reproduce similar effects. […] a well-rehearsed cultural drama that assures a safe experience of transgression.’182 Some of the sub-textual concerns Lloyd- Smith identifies in the early Gothic comprised familial feuds, issues of inheritance and genealogy, religious supremacy, mistaken identity, and the oppression of women, all of which, he observes, are packaged ‘…within a pleasurable cycle for the reader of loss followed by restitution.’183 This resonates with what Sears refers to as a feature of Stephen King’s Gothic: ‘…a “rhythm” of transgressive movements that promise double resolutions of momentary liberation from and restorative return to social order…’.184 Teresa A. Goddu has suggested that the motivation behind recognising and classifying the Gothic as a distinctive mode emerged from the desire to differentiate it from ‘higher’ literary forms and that, because of American literature’s ‘historical belatedness’, ‘…critics are particularly anxious to provide the American literary canon with a respectable foundation.’185 Similarly, Bloom asserts that the Gothic is ‘…the genre against which critics attempted to separate serious fiction from such popular entertainment and escapism’186, and Williams posits that some scholars have employed the psychoanalytical theories of Freud and their similarity to the Gothic as a means of ‘lending respectability’ to the mode.187

Lloyd-Smith affirms that the American Gothic did not emerge as simply an adaptation or imitation of the early Gothic of Otranto; rather, because American fiction largely emerged during the ‘great period’ of British and European Gothicism, it began in a Gothic mode.188 He attributes the initial success of the American Gothic to its appeal to the developing readership of the United States, suggesting that the ‘stark and sensational’ of the Gothic both attracted the unsophisticated and amused the

182 Peter K. Garrett, Gothic Reflections: Narrative Force in Nineteenth Century Fiction, Cornell University Press, New York, 2003, p.2 183 Lloyd-Smith, American Gothic, p.3 184 Sears, Stephen King’s Gothic, p.212 185 Teresa A. Goddu, Gothic America: Narrative, History and Nation, Columbia University Press, New York, 1997, p.5, p.6 186 Bloom, Gothic Horror, p.2 [emphasis in original] 187 Williams, Art of Darkness, p.241 188 Lloyd-Smith, American Gothic, p.28

37 educated.189 The ‘unique cultural pressures’ that influenced American Gothic included the Frontier, the Puritan inheritance, political instability and the emergence of democracy, a lack of an established society and the prevalence of racism, sexism and . He suggests that, even in works not predominantly Gothic per se, authors engaged with Gothic themes in describing the tumultuous environment in which they lived.190 Goddu refers to the Gothic as ‘…an historical mode operating in what appears to be an historical vacuum.’191 She observes that, ‘Because of America’s seeming lack of history and its Puritan heritage, the American gothic […] takes a turn inward, away from society and toward the psyche and the hidden blackness of the American soul.’192 However, she argues that the Gothic also ‘…tells of historical horrors that make national identity possible yet must be repressed in order to sustain it. […] the gothic challenges the critical of American literary history [and] unsettles the nation’s cultural identity’.193

Poe and Hawthorne exert significant influence on the American Gothic mode, employing Gothic elements in their work to comment on society and the human condition, underpinned by moral messages. Bloom submits that Poe’s fiction marked the ‘decisive break’ from the Gothic of Otranto and inaugurated the ‘’ that emerged later in the late nineteenth century. Bloom contends that, ‘For Poe, it is perversity that marks horror just as peculiarity is the mark of art and both confront common sense, decency and normal moral codes.’194 He describes Poe’s horror fiction as aspiring to an art form, and as fiction that invokes but never exploits the supernatural.195 King’s horror fiction he regards as diverging from Poe’s ‘type’, yet for him the work of both writers can be situated with the ‘…grander literary tradition of American letters…’.196 For Lloyd-Smith, Poe’s influence on the Gothic was similar to that of his influence on the short story genre: Poe’s ‘unity of effect’

189 Ibid., p.25 190 Ibid. 191 Goddu, Gothic America, p.9 192 Ibid. 193 Ibid., p.10 194 Bloom, Gothic Horror, pp.2-3 [emphases in original] 195 Ibid., p.5 196 Ibid., p.8 [emphasis in original]

38 demonstrated ‘…a concern for the reading experience that left a deep impress [sic] both on American and European Gothic developments’.197

According to Magistrale, Poe’s Gothic is ‘domestic’ in nature, as exemplified by the murder in a bedchamber in ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’; the descent into madness of the siblings isolated in the family mansion in ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’; and the entombment of the narrator’s wife’s corpse and cat in ‘The Cat’.198 In these examples, Poe’s ‘microcosms’ transcend time and place so that his stories could be set anywhere. In these domestic environments, Poe explores the introspective and psychological nature of the Gothic; as Bloom asserts, for Poe, ‘No longer does the external world threaten as much as the internal, and within that the ineffable demands of the will.’199 In Stephen King’s short story, ‘Dolan’s Cadillac’ (N&D), the protagonist, Robinson, seeks to avenge his murdered wife by burying her killer alive in his own Cadillac Sedan DeVille. Dolan is a wealthy and dangerous man, who frequently travels between Las Vegas and in his armoured Cadillac on the US 71; he is also the man who ordered one of his subordinates to murder Robinson’s wife, Elizabeth, after she had witnessed and subsequently reported to the police a crime that he had committed. Plagued by his wife’s voice from the grave, Robinson devotes himself to the demise of Dolan. With overt references to Poe’s ‘The Cask of Amontillado’, this story follows Robinson’s transformation from an unassuming school teacher to a relentless homicidal avenger, as he plots his revenge with painstaking care, taking jobs on road works sites to familiarise himself with the machinery with which he plans to dig a hole large enough to swallow the car. Having successfully created the hole on a deserted stretch of the US 71 and captured his prey, Robinson, in Montresor-like fashion, fills in the hole in which Dolan screams from inside his vehicular tomb. Thus, Dolan meets a similar fate to Fortunato in Poe’s story and his last words echo the latter’s: after laughing maniacally Dolan pleads, ‘For the love of God, Robinson!’200, just as Fortunato shrieked, ‘For the love of God,

197 Lloyd-Smith, American Gothic, p.32 198 Magistrale, Second Decade, p.38 199 Bloom, Gothic Horror, p.3 200 King, Nightmares, p.75

39 Montresor!’201 Both Robinson and Montresor seek retribution and both manipulate their opponents’ arrogance to lure them into their respective , burying them alive – one with bricks and mortar, one with dirt and tar. Poe’s process of composing with the dénouement firmly in mind is evident in this example, as what King achieves in sixty-seven pages, Poe accomplishes in eight. Yet King’s approach provides context to Robinson’s , justifying to the reader their vicarious complicity in the burial of Dolan; whereas, in Poe’s tale, it is arguably difficult to identify with Montresor, whose intent is simply to ‘punish with impunity’ the man who insulted him.202

Conversely, Hawthorne for the most part explicitly situates his fiction in a specific time and place. Exceptions include the more ‘fairy-tale’-like stories, such as ‘The Birthmark’ and ‘Rappaccini’s Daughter’. Massachusetts is fundamental to Hawthorne’s most important works: ‘Young Goodman Brown’ is a pertinent example of a story in which, Magistrale contends, Hawthorne’s protagonist is ‘dwarfed’ by the New England forest into which he journeys and in which he is confronted with the ‘confirmation of original sin.’203 Lloyd-Smith remarks that In Hawthorne’s hands the Gothic is performed: it is not allowed to direct the form of the narrative but is instead manipulated and distorted for purposes that include a recognition of its origins in destabilized personal and political situations.204

For Eric Savoy, ‘“American Gothic” is inextricable from its specific regional manifestations’.205 Sears asserts that in the fiction of Hawthorne and Lovecraft, as in that of Stephen King, the environment mirrors human psychology and becomes endowed with ‘psychological depth and symbolic force’: ‘Place becomes a figure of self, a kind of reflection of an ego projected outside of itself into landscape.’206 Indeed, Hawthorne’s depictions of the forests of New England anticipate King’s depictions of contemporary Maine in which, as Magistrale has noted, what is revealed is ‘a reflection

201 Edgar Allan Poe, ‘The Cask of Amontillado’, in In the Shadow of the Master: Classic Tales by Edgar Allan Poe, Michael Connelly (ed.), Harper Collins, New York, 2009, pp.25-35, p.32 [emphasis in original] 202 Ibid., p.25 203 Magistrale, Second Decade, p.39 204 Lloyd-Smith, American Gothic, p.33 [emphasis in original] 205 Savoy, ‘Face of the Tenant’, p.6 206 Sears, Stephen King’s Gothic, p.158

40 of the self’s essential darkness and the human affinity to sin’.207 This observation is particularly applicable to the protagonist of Pet Sematary, Louis Creed, whose discovery and exploitation of the restorative powers of the ancient Indian burial ground in the woods behind his home results in his losing his family and, ultimately, his life. Despite his neighbour’s warnings, Creed attempts to control the power of the Micmac burial ground, resonating with Magistrale’s observation about Hawthorne’s woods; that they ‘…are environments over which the human world exerts no dominion […] settings fraught with danger. […] Hawthorne’s journeys into the realm of primitive landscape were really for journeys into the self.’208 Similarly, King’s Maine …is a place of terrible loneliness, where nature appears to be antagonistic to a human presence, and where men and women often feel the same degree of estrangement from one another as they do from the supernatural creatures inhabiting the woods on the outskirts of their towns.209

In The Tommyknockers (1987), the discovery and subsequent activation of a buried alien spacecraft in the woods surrounding the fictional town of Haven, Maine, unites the townsfolk on a psychological and telekinetic level, while rendering them incapable of normal human interaction and relationships. One character, Gard, is immune to the effects of the gas released by the spacecraft as a result of an old head injury and soon finds himself ostracised from the remainder of the citizens and, ultimately, perceived as a threat. Despite being surrounded by people, Gard is increasingly isolated, as his fellow ‘Havenites’ feel a greater affinity for the mysterious object in the forest than for other human beings. Similarly, in the short story, ‘One for the Road’ (NS), a husband, wife and daughter become victim to the vampires who have taken over the abandoned town of Jerusalem’s Lot, deep in the New England woods. The family’s car becomes stuck on the road to Jerusalem’s Lot in the midst of a fierce storm. The husband, Gerard Lumley, treks six miles through the storm to the nearby town, Falmouth, for assistance. It is the threat of vampires within the wilderness that causes the reluctance of two of Falmouth’s citizens, Tookey and Booth, to help Lumley retrieve his family. They do return with Lumley to his vehicle, whereupon he discovers that it is empty; his wife and daughter have been turned into vampires and proceed to hunt the three men. Lumley is attacked by his wife, while Tookey and Booth run for

207 Tony Magistrale, cited in Sears, Stephen King’s Gothic, p.158 208 Magistrale, Second Decade, p.39 209 Ibid.

41 their car and flee the scene. The final warning of the narrator, Booth, is ‘Whatever you do, don’t go up that road to Jerusalem’s Lot.’210 In this story, as in The Tommyknockers, it is not merely the woods themselves, but the threat of what lurks in the woods that deters those characters who know and understand that threat. In this way, King simultaneously comments on both the danger of the wilderness and the nature of small towns and intimate communities and their perception of ‘city folk’. This appears to be one of the most significant differences between King’s regionalism and Hawthorne’s: in King’s stories, the divide between small town mentality and city life is depicted as more distinct, with the city visitors often the cause or the victim of small town issues.

King acknowledges that ‘Lovecraft […] opened the way for me, as he had done for others before me.’211 According to Bloom, Lovecraft combines the ‘mystical tale’ with ‘American-style science fantasy’ to create simultaneously supernatural and cosmological fiction. Bloom contends that Lovecraft never aspired to the ‘status of art’ but ‘achieved the status of cult’, having encouraged other writers – , for example – to challenge the limits of the Gothic tradition and evolve horror fiction.212 Lovecraft asserts that ‘cosmic fear’ – that is, the fear of the ‘hidden and fathomless worlds […] that may pulsate in the gulfs beyond the stars’ – had always existed.213 He contends that ‘The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.’214 Lovecraft’s contribution to twentieth century Gothic is his cosmic perspective, bringing to the mode a new version of supernatural, other-worldly creature, through what Bloom has described as his ‘…creation of a ‘horror lifestyle’ and culture around ‘Arkham’ and the mythos of

210 King, Night Shift, p.393 211 Stephen King, Danse Macabre, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 2012 (1981), p.118. Despite his affinity with Lovecraft, King recalls that his ‘first experience with real horror’ was an adaptation of a story, ‘Mars Is Heaven’, broadcast on Dimension X. For King, Bradbury was one of the most readily identified fantasy authors in the 1950s and 1960s within the general reading public, and whose ‘remarkable, iconoclastic style’ has never been imitated. Indeed, King argues, Bradbury’s best work was his fantasy, and his best fantasy was horror stories. According to King, Bradbury was an American naturalist of ‘dark persuasion’, who wrote stories of American people ‘…living in the heartland […] of innocence coming heartbreakingly to experience [and of people speaking] in voices which are uniquely, even startlingly American.’ Danse Macabre, p.140, p.364, p.365 212 Bloom, Gothic Horror, pp.7-8 213 Lovecraft, cited in Bloom, Gothic Horror, p.57 214 Ibid, p.55

42 Cthulhu.’215 Stephen King’s ‘Jerusalem’s Lot’ (NS) illustrates the influence of Poe, Hawthorne and Lovecraft in the one story. King’s story very clearly resonates with Lovecraft’s ‘The Rats in the Walls’ (1924)216, in which the first-person narrator inherits and returns to the ancestral family home; he is ostracised from the surrounding community because of his apparently cursed lineage; he is perturbed by the insidious scurrying of the rats in the walls; he explores the residence and discovers its secret with the aid of his companion; and he reveals the ‘dark worship’ and living sacrifices that occurred at the site on which the family mansion was built.217 King’s story unfolds through letters from the protagonist, Charles Boone, written to his friend ‘Bones’, and the occasional journal entry written by Boone’s butler, Calvin, between 02 October and 04 November 1850. Boone has recently inherited and moved into the family mansion, Chapelwaite, located ‘…atop a huge jutting point of land perhaps three miles north of Falmouth and nine miles north of Portland’218, in the New England woods. The mansion itself is ‘sinister’ and Boone soon decides it is haunted and that the scratching in the walls is not caused by rats. In his search for some explanation to the nature of the mansion and his inheritance, Boone and Calvin venture to the nearby deserted town of Jerusalem’s Lot and into the church, in which they uncover evidence of satanic worship and, on the pulpit, a large book entitled De Vermis Mysteriis: The Mysteries of the Worm. Boone develops a fever and, despite warnings from the housekeeper to abandon the mansion, he and Calvin go in search of the source of the noises, discovering in the cellar the of his cousins who attempt to draw them into the darkness. Upon reading his ancestor’s journal, Boone decides that, as the final descendent of the Boone line, that he must destroy De Vermis Mysteriis and release his family from the associated curse. They return to the church in Jerusalem’s Lot, where they are overwhelmed by the horrors that Boone releases by reading from De Vermis Mysteriis. Boone flees to the mansion, leaving Calvin’s corpse behind. In his final entry, Boone recalls to Bones what had happened in the church before indicating his intention to commit suicide in a final attempt to ‘break the chain’.219 Unbeknownst

215 Bloom, Gothic Horror, p.7 216 Indeed, King often employs rats in the torment, torture and death of his characters. Lovecraft’s story also depicts a ‘helpful cat companion’, another image King employs in his fiction. 217 H.P. Lovecraft, ‘The Rats in the Walls’, published 1924, page updated 20 Aug 09, viewed 19 Mar 18, 218 King, Night Shift, p.23 219 Ibid., p.61

43 to Boone, he was not the last of his lineage; a descendent of the family occupies the mansion in 1971 and submits Boone’s letters to a museum, assuming that Boone had gone insane and that his written testimony was merely evidence of ‘paranoid delusions.’220 Through the isolation in the wilderness the influence of Hawthorne can be inferred, the haunted family mansion and psychological turmoil are reminiscent of Poe, and the storyline and worm from the ‘…chambered darkness beneath the abominated church’221 are clearly Lovecraft-inspired.222

Lloyd-Smith defines the ‘atmosphere’, or ‘mood’, of the early Gothic as one of ‘…futility, despair, and the loss of hope…’ originally stemming from oppressive medieval architectural settings, ‘…ancient stone buildings with elaborate “Gothic” arches, buttresses, passageways, and crypts.’223 Similarly, the landscape of the Gothic was traditionally represented by the ‘…exposed, inhuman and pitiless nature of mountains, crags, and wastelands’.224 For Lovecraft, atmosphere extended beyond architecture and landscape: he asserts that ‘Atmosphere is the all-important thing, for the final criterion of authenticity is not the dovetailing of a plot but the creation of a given sensation.’ Lovecraft describes the ‘true weird tale’ as having: …something more than secret murder, bloody bones, or a sheeted form clanking chains according to rule. A certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces must be present; [and the] suspension or defeat of those fixed laws of Nature which are our only safeguard against the assaults of and the daemons of unplumbed space. 225

Kim Ian Michasiw remarks that the Gothic is ‘… a mode of fantasy that facilitates the molding of anxiety’226; he posits that it is this anxiety, augmented by landscape, that has the most significant effect. The Gothic ‘…defines a scene, terrain, geography, for something terrible.’227 For example, in Poe’s ‘The Black Cat’, the reasonable tone with

220 Ibid., p.61 221 Ibid., p.60 [emphasis in original] 222 Reino also notes that story contains the ‘gothic paraphernalia’ of The Castle of Otranto, and, through names such as Jerusalem, Lot, Chapelwaite and Calvin, overt references to several books of the Bible. Reino has noted that almost all of King’s fiction is ‘touched by Scripture’, the exploration of which is outside the scope of this thesis. 223 Lloyd-Smith, American Gothic Fiction, p.7 224 Ibid. 225 Lovecraft, ‘Supernatural Horror’, p.57 226 Kim Ian Michasiw, ‘Some Stations of Suburban Gothic’, in Robert K Martin & Eric Savoy (eds.), American Gothic, New Interventions in a National Narrative, University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, 1998, pp. 237-257, p.237 227 Ibid.

44 which the narrator expresses his ‘most homely narrative’ does little to assuage the anxiety and foreboding that is elicited by his early comment, ‘But to-morrow I die, and to-day I would unburden my soul.’228 In these opening statements, Poe’s narrator creates what Michasiw describes as the stimulation of ‘dread’ and ‘anxiety’ which often derives from the suggestion of a threat, rather than the certainty of it, which is an aspect of the power of fear of the unknown. Nicholson describes the reader as a ‘…powerless onlooker, part victim, part accomplice. […] They share the plight of the solitary mad person or alien.’229 Just as we are powerless to prevent our own deaths, we are powerless to change the outcome of a story; the visceral feeling of helplessness is disturbingly addictive. Garrett elaborates on this notion in his study, Gothic Reflections, remarking that, particularly in first-person narratives, ‘tales of terror’ solicit an empathetic reader experience in which we share in the protagonist’s sense of ‘mystery and dread’. However, some stories allow – and even require – us to adopt an opposing perspective, particularly if we suspect a narrator of delusion and attempt to create a more reasonable sequence of events; thus, Garrett reasons, we affiliate ourselves with ‘collective norms and consensual realities’.230 The atmosphere of anxiety and dread, combined with the reader’s vicarious participation is, arguably, more acute in tales in which, as in ‘The Black Cat’, the villain is recognisable and relatable, at least as a fellow human being, susceptible to impulses and emotions. The reader of this story is situated as confidant, as we are privy to the confession of the narrator, for which, he claims, he does not ‘expect nor solicit belief’. The narrator recognises that, for some, what he recalls may be horrific, whereas for some ‘more calm, more logical’ mind, it may seem ‘…nothing more than an ordinary succession of very natural causes and effects.’231 The reader’s position, then, is identified by the narrator as one of aversion or complicity, or perhaps both.

According to Vernon Hyles, the American Gothic is concerned with the grotesque; with the employment of microcosms analogous to the old Gothic castle;

228 Edgar Allan Poe, ‘The Black Cat’, in Michael Connelly (ed.), In the Shadow of the Master: Classic Tales by Edgar Allan Poe, Harper Collins, New York, 2009, p.45. Spelling of ‘to-morrow’ and ‘to- day’ in original. 229 John Nicholson, ‘On Sex and Horror’, in Clive Bloom (ed.), Gothic Horror, A Reader’s Guide from Poe to King and Beyond, Macmillan Press LTD, London, 1998, p.264 230 Garrett, Gothic Reflections, p.3 231 Poe, ‘Black Cat’, p.45

45 with narcissistic and perverted love; and with the disintegration of family and self. Hyles argues that the new American Gothic replaced old conventions ‘…with new ingredients to satisfy the modern need for the bizarre, the macabre, the disharmonious.’232 Irving Malin defines the ‘new American Gothic’ as an exploration into the ‘buried life’ in which the psyche is more important than society.233 Malin argues that the Gothic in general created a microcosmic setting in which ‘…there is enough room for irrational (and universal) forces to explode’.234 These forces, according to Malin, are primarily concerned with love; but this love frequently turns inward and becomes a ‘disfiguring, narcissistic love’, which results in ‘flat, stylized, and almost inhuman’ stories and superficial characters who are stunted because of their self-obsession.235 Discussing Shirley Jackson’s The Sundial as an example, Malin identifies characters who are isolated and bereft of a community or society; this lack of social interaction causes them to turn inward and creates a defensiveness that turns to resentment and the desire for the destruction of others who are perceived to be a threat, and is most common in the depiction of the family microcosm.236 King’s The Shining offers a distinctive example, depicting the microcosm of a family of three isolated by geography and climate, and the turning inward of the protagonist and father, , and his resentment of his wife and son, whom he eventually attempts to murder. Malin asserts that, because family is usually commensurate with stability, the new American Gothic attempts to destroy it; he opines that ‘…the assumption is that if the family cannot offer security, nothing can. Narcissism causes the destruction.’237 King has in turn referred to Malin’s theory as an ‘exciting’ and ‘fundamental’ shift in the intent of the Gothic, asserting that the focus has moved from ‘sexual interest and a fear of sex’ (symbolised by the womb as the ‘Bad Place’) to an ‘interest in the self and fear of the self’: in the new American Gothic we confront ‘…instead of a symbolic womb, a symbolic mirror.’238

232 Vernon Hyles, ‘Freaks: The Grotesque as in the Works of Stephen King’, The Gothic World of Stephen King: Landscape of Nightmares, in Gary Hoppenstand & Ray B. Browne (eds.), Bowling Green State University Popular Press, Ohio, 1987, pp.56-63, p.63 233 Irving Malin, New American Gothic, Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, 1962, p.4 234 Ibid., p.5 235 Ibid., p.6 236 Ibid., p.8 237 Ibid., p.50 238 King, Danse Macabre, p.317

46 Discussing Lewis’ The Monk as an example, William Veeder has suggested that the ‘first tools’ for defining Gothic fiction are the ‘…distinction between terror and horror.’239 For Lloyd-Smith, ‘…the terror of what might happen, or might be happening, is largely foregrounded over the visceral horror of the event.’240 Arguing that ‘…gothic fiction need not be horrific and horror fiction need not be gothic’241, Bloom elaborates: ‘If the gothic is concerned with the manipulation and exploration of feeling (human nature) then horror is more closely concerned with the manipulation of effect.’242 This effect, according to John Nicholson, pertains to emotions: horror must stimulate a reaction and awaken hidden fears and desires.243 Apropos to his consideration of Poe’s ‘unity of effect’ exerting ‘control’ over the reader, Garrett proposes that terror in the ‘…Gothic scene […] typically displays a protagonist losing his grip; the tale of terror is centrally concerned with both control and the loss of control…’.244 Discussing Stephen King’s fiction specifically, Steven Bruhm argues that ‘Horror is epistemological. […] intimately bound up with the representation of the thinking subject.’245 In his non-fiction study Danse Macabre, King remarks that ‘Terror […] often arises from a pervasive sense of disestablishment; that things are in the unmaking’, whereas horror is ‘…an emotion that one grapples with […] all alone. It is a combat waged in the secret recesses of the heart.’246 King surmises: Horror, terror, fear, panic: these are the emotions which drive wedges between us, split us off from the crowd, and make us alone. It is paradoxical that feelings and emotions we associate with the “mob instinct” should do this, but crowds are lonely places to be…247

King refers to the terms ‘horror’ and ‘terror’ as different ‘levels’ of the larger horror genre. He posits that the first, and ‘finest’, emotion aroused by the horror story is terror: ‘It’s what the mind sees […] It is the unpleasant speculation called to mind when the

239 William Veeder, ‘Nurture of the Gothic’, in Robert K. Martin and Eric Savoy (eds.), American Gothic, New Interventions in a National Narrative, University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, 1998, p.20 240 Lloyd-Smith, American Gothic Fiction, p.8 241 Bloom, Gothic Horror, p.9 242 Ibid., p.11 243 Nicholson, ‘On Sex and Horror’, p.249 244 Garrett, Gothic Reflections, p.40 245 Steven Bruhm, ‘On Stephen King’s Phallus, or The Postmodern Gothic’, in Robert K Martin & Eric Savoy (eds.), American Gothic, New Interventions in a National Narrative, University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, 1998, pp.75-99, p.75 246 King, Danse Macabre, p.22, p.26 247 Ibid., pp.26-27

47 knocking on the door begins…’.248 Secondary to terror is horror, which elicits a physical as well as an intellectual reaction by depicting that which is physically wrong.249 Lastly, there is revulsion; whereas terror is evoked by the ‘…sound of the old man’s continuing pulsebeat [sic] in [Poe’s story] ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ [revulsion] seems to be where the “chest burster” from Alien fits.’250 Thus, terror and horror are two distinct emotions: terror is evoked with a sense of suspense and dread, whereas horror is a more visceral emotion, inviting an intellectual and physical response.

Citing Catherine Spooner’s assertion that the Gothic ‘possesses no original’251, Sears argues that an analysis of Stephen King’s version of Gothic is actually a study of how his texts ‘…perform and deform the unstable, repetitive, generic non-basis of Gothic traditions.’252 According to Sears, King’s writing constructs a ‘movement’ …from a past of popular Gothic traditions into the Gothicised present: a familiar (but Gothically defamiliarised) present of media and consumer commercialism, brand-names and realistically rendered characters who speak the argots of modern America.253

To an extent, King relies on repetition to write stories designed to resonate with the reader. His settings are thus created to be readily familiar to the American reader, and he often recreates recognisably ‘real’ settings, from specific references to popular culture and , to brands of medications, radio stations and soft drinks, so that the reader is at once comfortable with the familiarity of their imaginary surroundings. As Sears asserts, ‘…the resonance of King’s Gothicised places resides partly in their insistent, disturbing familiarity to a reader already ‘placed’ within the genre.’254 A pertinent example is King’s own Gothic site, the fictional place of Castle Rock through which he recreates his experience and observations of life in a small town. Various novels and short stories are set in Castle Rock and either depict or allude to common places, events and characters. King also sets stories in his other fictional towns, and Jerusalem’s Lot, often directly referencing Castle Rock or its inhabitants and

248 Ibid., p.36 249 Ibid. 250 Ibid., pp.37-38 251 Catherine Spooner cited in, Sears, Stephen King’s Gothic, p.14 252 Sears, Stephen King’s Gothic, p.15 253 Ibid., p.80 254 Ibid., p.160

48 creating, for the King enthusiast, a mappable fictional site of recognisable stores, characters and events.

King works within the American Gothic tradition, writing with a particular awareness of Poe, Hawthorne, and Lovecraft, but, according to Magistrale, he also embellishes that tradition, situating Gothic themes and images in a contemporary American context.255 Furthermore, despite his reputation as purely a ‘horror writer’, King eclectically combines genres and modes. For example, his Dark Tower series is a combination of Spaghetti Western, Gothic Tale and apocalyptic . The Dead Zone is a political novel with supernatural themes, and Firestarter a combination of the ‘dark fantastic and espionage.’256 Sears identifies The Dark Half (1989) as a ‘…mixing of Gothic, crime fiction, police procedural and noir’ and King’s fantasy writing more generally as drawing on ‘…motifs borrowed from modernist and nineteenth century English poetry alongside conventions deriving from the Western novel and the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone.’257 King often relies on elements of science fiction in his writing; he has described The Tommyknockers, for example, as a ‘…forties-style science fiction tale’.258 Sears has referred to this same novel as comparable with H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine (1895): a ‘…formal conflation of genres, a kind of science fiction-becoming-Gothic.259 According to , ‘Horror fiction is the essential fiction of rebellion in modern times.’260 He observes that, in Stephen King’s works, it is ‘…the rebellion of the middle against all extremes. On one level his books are about supernatural – or, at least, inexplicable – horrors. On another, they are about injustice.’261 In King’s fiction, the Gothic does not always manifest in fantastical beasts, aliens, , killer clowns, homicidal vehicles, and possessed or diseased animals; often the most disturbing manifestation of the mode is in King’s disconcertingly accurate depiction of his human characters and the human

255 Anthony Magistrale, The Moral Voyages of Stephen King, Wildside Press, Rockville, 2006 (1998), p.106 256 James Egan, ‘The Dark Tower: Stephen King’s Gothic Western’, The Gothic World of Stephen King: Landscape of Nightmares, in Gary Hoppenstand & Ray B. Browne (eds.), Bowling Green State University Popular Press, Ohio, 1987, pp.95-106, p.95 257 Sears, Stephen King’s Gothic, p.81 258 King, On Writing, p.71 259 Sears, Stephen King’s Gothic, p.81 260 Whitley Strieber, ‘On Stephen King’, in Clive Bloom (ed.), Gothic Horror, A Reader’s Guide from Poe to King and Beyond, Macmillan Press LTD, London, 1998, pp.98-99, p.98 261 Ibid.

49 condition in stories bereft of the mythological and supernatural. Sometimes King’s stories depict what may be considered relatively ordinary people and scenarios, as in ‘Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption’, yet Gothic themes emerge in the psychological struggles and journeys of his characters. While not horrific in the manner of IT or The Shining, ‘Shawshank’ certainly involves Gothic elements: the exploration of the psychological effects of institutionalisation; the metaphor of an unjust justice system; the representation of a hypocritical ‘Godly’ man in the Warden; rape and violence; and the analogy of the dark and lonely places within the penitentiary and the human mind.

Tony Magistrale asserts that King has never relinquished faith in the individual’s capacity to choose good over evil and that his heroes and heroines achieve a ‘…level of dignity commensurate with the intensity of their struggles.’262 Magistrale argues that, in both novels and short stories, King’s heroes and heroines triumph because ‘Their endurance is based upon the degree to which they have not sacrificed their humanity and upon their quest to find others with whom they might entrust their love.’263 He refers to Danny and , and Dick Halloran, in The Shining, the ‘Loser’s Club’ in IT, and Stella Flanders in the short story ‘’ (SC) as characters who demonstrate a degree of commitment to others that assists them in overcoming the evil that confronts them in contrast to Malin’s theory of narcissistic love. Interestingly, King’s sequel to The Shining, (2013), depicts as a grown man, carrying the legacy of anger and alcohol abuse that plagued his father, and as a character in isolation, unable – and unwilling – to commit to relationships with healthy people as a result of the gift which he uses to assist the dead in passing on. Determined to recover from his addiction, Danny begins regular work at a hospice, where he becomes known as ‘Doctor Sleep’ as – with the assistance of a white cat, named Azreal, who can, like his mythological namesake, sense when people are near death – he uses his psychic ability to make the journey from life to more comfortable for his patients. Shortly thereafter his assistance is required by a young girl, who shares his gift of ‘shining’ and is being pursued by a group of vampiric creatures who feed not upon blood, but upon the life force of gifted individuals, such

262 Magistrale, Landscape, p.108 263 Magistrale, Second Decade, p.99

50 as Danny and the girl, Abra. In order to defeat the nomadic vampires, known as ‘The True Knot’, and save Abra, Danny must join forces with the girl, return to the location of the Overlook Hotel, and there face his childhood fears. Danny’s triumph over this new evil not only enables him to conquer his addiction, but also to find companionship and freedom from the memories that had haunted him. Citing ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ and ‘The Black Cat’, and Melville’s Moby Dick as examples, Magistrale proposes that Poe and Melville, along with Hawthorne and Twain, employ similar ‘ethical barometers’ to test their protagonists, discerning that ‘…evil triumphs when the individual fails to exert control over his darkest impulses.’264

What, then, is the attraction of the Gothic story? As Lloyd-Smith claims ‘One reason for the original invention and popularity of the Gothic mode was a near revolution in aesthetics and in philosophy […] showing how even the emotion of fear might be pleasurable in the right context.’265 Anne Williams remarks that if book (novel) sales were to be used as evidence, ‘…much of the reading public still prefers a gallop on the back of the nightmare to Realism’s seemly trot – nowadays Stephen King perennially haunts the best-sellers lists.’266 When the reader is not interrupted by what Poe refers to as ‘worldly interests’, the short story delivers Gothic effects with most devastating impact. If the short story is exempt from closure and rational explanation, then the Gothic trajectory of what Lloyd-Smith calls ‘…loss followed by restitution’267 may not exist; the reader experiences the loss, but the restitution does not necessarily follow. There is, however, a symmetry of intention: Lloyd-Smith describes Gothic fiction as ‘…staged, knowing, aware of itself as a particular sort of treatment of literary events, scenes, atmospheres.’268 As Shaw similarly contends, the short story is ‘contrived and highly stylised’269: thus, both the short story genre and Gothic mode appear deliberately structured to achieve what Poe terms the ‘unity of effect’. There are other Gothic tropes I discovered in my research that lend themselves effectively to the short story genre, including: the use of Gothic themes as a reflection of self and individual psychology, society, the social environment and national

264 Magistrale, Landscape, p.21 265 Lloyd-Smith, American Gothic Fiction, p.27 266 Williams, Art of Darkness, p.2 267 Lloyd-Smith, American Gothic Fiction, p.133 [emphases in original] 268 Ibid., p.134 [emphasis in original] 269 Shaw, Critical Introduction, p.11

51 identity, as well as the depiction of isolation and human loneliness. In Stephen King’s brand of Gothic, fear is harnessed to achieve a number of outcomes that satisfy the requirements outlined in the definition of the short story for the purposes of this study. Collectively this could be summarised as a fear of the unknown; indeed, the three most dominant motifs of King’s fiction – Regionalism, including depictions of place and culture; the dichotomy of good and evil, portrayed through both internal and external threats; and the frailty and perceived injustice of human mortality – can be neatly categorised in the overarching concept of ‘fear of the unknown’. This evocation of fear also satisfies Lovecraft’s version of the weird tale as one eliciting an atmosphere of ‘breathless and unexplainable dread’270. Similarly, the connection between writer and reader is established through Nicholson’s depiction of the reader as ‘…powerless onlooker, part victim, part accomplice’271 and through this the reader is prompted to the emotional and visceral reaction King desires to elicit. This connection is reinforced by King’s creation of the familiar: readers are encouraged to relate to the depiction of places and people before King then distorts those images, often using more traditional Gothic motifs such as death, isolation, madness, place and . The following three chapters will examine a range of King’s short stories, selected because they adhere to the definition provided in Chapter One, while also illustrating the predominant themes identified in this chapter – Regionalism, morality and mortality – and the overarching theme of fear.

270 Lovecraft, ‘Supernatural Horror’, p.57 271 Nicholson, ‘On Sex and Horror’, p.264

52 Chapter Three

Don’t Go into the Woods

He had taken a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest […] so that with lonely footsteps he may yet be passing through an unseen multitude.272

John Sears has described King’s stories as ‘machines’ that repeatedly combine plots, characters, scenarios, events and actions273; King himself has remarked that some of his stories may appear self-imitative, yet, he reflects, there is a big difference between ‘…working in traditional forms and self-imitation.’274 As outlined in Chapter Two, King adheres to traditional themes and images of the Gothic mode fashioned by Poe and Hawthorne, such as Regionalism, moral tribulations and psychological turmoil, and also to the twentieth-century developments introduced by Lovecraft, such as his depiction of cosmological evils and of rats as the harbingers of guilt or death. Yet, as Magistrale has noted, King has built upon these traditional elements to reflect his own personal fears – such as the death of his children and, later, the fragile nature of human mortality – and his personal sense of place and time, both in the regional landscape in which he lives and in keeping with the cultural, social and technological developments of his lifetime. This chapter will consider four short stories that exemplify King’s depiction of Regionalism and place, exploring both the perceived danger of the woods or wilderness, and the threat of specific places, such as the interior of a car or a hotel room. The study herein is aimed at elucidating the overarching theme of Regionalism, rather than providing close analysis of narrative.

Regionalism is manifested in three predominant forms in King’s short stories. Firstly, like Hawthorne, King employs the environment, particularly the wilderness of the forest or the desolateness of the open road, to educate his characters. Secondly, place, whether a town, building, room or car, provides the basis for many of the exceptional situations in which his characters find themselves. Finally, through the depiction of culture, King creates scenes that are at once familiar and foreign to his readers. These forms frequently intersect or overlap: depictions of place are often set within the wilderness – King rarely situates his characters in such mundane

272 Hawthorne, ‘Young Goodman Brown’, p.85 273 Sears, Stephen King’s Gothic, p.97 274 King, Nightmares, p.956

53 environments as suburbia. Within this wilderness or specific place, familiar cultural artefacts, regional language and intertextual or popular culture references are commonplace. Like Hawthorne’s ‘Young Goodman Brown’, King’s ‘The Man in the Black Suit’275 (EE) is the story of a naïve individual’s journey into the forest that leaves him irrevocably changed. Of ‘The Man in the Black Suit’ King remarks that it is his hommage [sic] to ‘Young Goodman Brown’, a story he regards as one of the best he has ever read.276 In both stories the woods represent an ever-present danger, yet this similarity is seemingly where the congruence between these two stories ends. ‘Young Goodman Brown’ depicts the eponymous protagonist, an adult man with a wife, symbolically named Faith, who ventures into the woods that border his town and is taken on a journey of discovery of the evil truth surrounding his community and the Puritan values and they claim to adhere to. The third-person narrator describes Brown’s sojourn into the woods as his ‘evil purpose’, and, after learning the true nature of mankind through ‘’ with his ‘race’, Brown returns to his hometown, Salem, bewildered, unsure of whether he had really experienced or only dreamed the ‘witch meeting’ in the woods.277 Brown is irrevocably changed by his journey and is left ‘A stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate, man’ who lives permanently with doubt until he is ‘…borne to his grave, a hoary corpse’.278 ‘The Man in the Black Suit’, however, is a tale of the loss of childhood innocence through an event which continues to haunt the ninety-year old narrator, Gary. In a nursing home, his mental acuity declining, Gary writes down his ‘pointless anecdote’ to release himself from the memories associated with his experience in the woods, remarking that it is not belief for which he hopes, but freedom. While Gary cannot remember the name of his great-granddaughter in whose diary he writes, the face of the devil grows clearer and closer as he nears death and the memory of that day remains potent. Gary recalls that most of his hometown, Motton, ‘…was woods and bog, dark long places full of moose and mosquitoes, snakes and secrets. In those days there were ghosts

275 Interestingly, for ‘The Man in the Black Suit’, King was awarded an O. Henry Award for Best American Short Story in 1996, yet King has described the story as a ‘humdrum folktale told in pedestrian language’. He considers this award ‘proof’ that writers are the worst judges of their own works. (Everything’s Eventual, p.63) 276 King, Everything’s Eventual, p.62 277 Hawthorne, ‘Young Goodman Brown’, p.85, p.94, p.95 278 Ibid., p.95, p.96

54 everywhere.’279 Gary lived with his father and mother, and the family dog, Candy Bill; his older brother, Dan, had died of an anaphylactic reaction to a bee sting the year prior, a cause of death his mother refuses to believe. Presumably, the death of Dan resulted in restrictions on Gary, who, we learn, is not permitted to venture too far into the woods, nor to go past where Castle Stream ‘splits’. As if tempting fate, Gary falls asleep while fishing at the fork in the stream and is later awoken by his fishing rod jerking wildly. He awakens to find a large bee on the end of his nose; terrified that he may share his brother’s fate, he freezes until he hears the sound of a single hand clap which kills the bee instantly. Gary turns to see a tall man, wearing a three-piece black suit, with perfectly parted hair, a long face and furnaces for eyes. The man approaches and Gary, unaffected by the scepticism of adulthood, is certain he is the devil. The devil attempts to convince Gary that his mother has died, stung by a bee as his brother was, and that, with his mother gone, his father would sexually abuse him; therefore, Gary’s best option is to be consumed by the devil, because ‘Murdered souls always go to Heaven.’280 Instead, Gary throws the spoils of his fishing trip, a large brook trout, into the devil’s gaping mouth, and flees. Only momentarily distracted, the devil pursues Gary, who barely escapes from the woods. On the road back to his house, Gary encounters his father, who tells him his mother is alive and well; after confirming this for himself, Gary returns with his father to the fork in the stream – armed with the family bible – to collect the abandoned fishing gear. Despite attempting to convince Gary that he had had a dream, his father briskly vacates the woods, making an agreement with Gary not to explain the event to his mother.

Another significant connection between ‘The Man in the Black Suit’ and ‘Young Goodman Brown’ is the depiction of religious themes. Brown is portrayed as a devoutly religious man left disenchanted with what he perceived as the hypocrisy of the Puritan community in which he lives. Gary’s experience of Christianity is limited. His mother had refused to return to church after a woman in the congregation tried to tell her that Dan had died of a bee sting, as had the woman’s own uncle years earlier. Gary also recalls his father’s blaspheming and his mother’s ‘crying and calling the name of Jesus’ when Dan’s corpse was discovered, and the ribbon with ‘DEDICATED

279 King, Everything’s Eventual, p.34 280 Ibid., p.48 [emphasis in original]

55 TO JESUS’ printed on it, tied to his father’s fishing gear.281 Nonetheless Gary is convinced that he needs the family bible as protection when he returns to the woods with his father, as his own seems inadequate, ‘…even when the words of Jesus were marked out in red ink.’282 Having completed his own testament, the elderly Gary rests in his nursing home room, recalling that it was he who had ‘coaxed’ his mother back to church after his encounter in the woods and that he had led a ‘good, kindly life’ and that he ‘need not fear the devil’. However, he reminds himself that a nine-year-old boy should have done nothing to cause him to fear the devil either, ‘yet the Devil came’. 283 In Gary’s residual fear that the devil will return for him and he will not be able to outrun him a second time, we note King’s message about the futility of good deeds in assuaging one’s doubts of safety and salvation. Like Brown, Gary continued had to attend the services and carry out the rituals of his ; yet, while Brown ‘scowled’ and ‘turned away’ from the practices of his community and family, Gary sought to arm himself against the return of evil, never forgetting his experience in the woods. Unlike the voice of Hawthorne’s narrator in ‘Young Goodman Brown’, King’s first-person narration is much more prosaic. For example, like Gary, Brown lived a long life, yet Hawthorne’s narrator’s closing comments illustrate his life post his encounter in the woods as bereft of joy or hope, his ‘dying hour’ as ‘gloom.’284 Gary’s final remarks are more mundane and ambiguous: ‘I am old now and my creel is empty. Suppose [the devil] were to come back and find me so? And suppose he is still hungry?’285 This simple diction and style is a common aspect of King’s oeuvre; while he often imitates authors such as Poe, Hawthorne and Lovecraft in theme, he rarely shifts from his use of more elementary language and dialogue.

In a story that similarly explores the danger of the wilderness and what lurks within, King considers another characterisation common to his oeuvre, that of the dysfunctional marriage. In this story, entitled ‘You Know They Got a Hell of a Band’ (N&D), King consciously works within what he terms the ‘tradition’ of certain horror- tale archetypes: ‘The haunted-house story; the return-from-the-grave story; the

281 Ibid., p.36, p.57, p.53 282 Ibid., p.58 283 Ibid., p.62 284 Hawthorne, ‘Young Goodman Brown’, p.96 285 King, Everything’s Eventual, p.62

56 peculiar-little-town story.’286 This story follows the misguided journey of a married couple who decide to embark on an impromptu road trip holiday through Oregon to see something of the state before the husband is transferred there by his employer. There are early intimations that the road trip will end badly: the initially jovial atmosphere becomes tense as Clark, the husband, stubbornly ignores the threat of the wilderness (which is labelled on their map) and takes a back route and, despite realising his mistake, refuses to turn around. Mary, his wife, eager to maintain the peace despite her frustration, waits for Clark to admit that they are lost and retrace their journey. The strain on the marriage intensifies within the restricted space of the car, despite the open roads on which they travel. Gradually, the paved road gives way to deserted track weaving through the woods; the more suffocating the woods and the more irregular the track, the more volatile their relationship becomes. Eventually they come across a sign on the ‘…crest of a deeply wooded hill’, beyond which the track becomes road again, and the woods subside, as does the tension between the couple.287 The sign which they pass at the crest welcomes them to ‘ Heaven’ and below they see ‘…a perfect jewel of a town nestled in a small, shallow valley like a dimple.’288 Like Hansel and Gretel discovering the Gingerbread Cottage, Mary and Clark eagerly enter the town. Once inside, Mary’s unease returns, as does the capriciousness between them, with Mary insisting they leave and Clark refusing to do so before they go to the diner to purchase some takeaway drinks. In the diner, Mary understands what has made her feel so anxious about the town: as Clark remarks that the waitress reminds him of Janis Joplin, Mary realises that the waitress is Janis Joplin.

Soon the reader is introduced to some of the other citizens of ‘Rock and Roll Heaven’: Rick Nelson, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, members of Lynard Skynard, Otis Redding and, of course, the Mayor, Elvis Presley. There are living citizens also: tired, scared-looking people who maintain the town alongside the dead musicians. The couple flee from the diner and attempt to escape in their car, hoping that the interstate they were originally seeking is over the next ridge. They are intercepted by Police Officer Otis Redding, and the town Mayor, Elvis, who tell the couple that the road

286 King, Nightmares, p.957 287 Ibid., p.408 288 Ibid., p.410

57 leads only to the Umpqua swamp, where there are no further roads; only quicksand, bears and ‘other things’.289 Thwarted in their attempt to escape, Clark and Mary are assimilated into the eternal rhythm of the town, given mundane employment, and forced to attend the nightly rock concert in the town square, along with the other living citizens. It becomes clear to Mary, as she watches the first of many concerts, that she is condemned to this existence for eternity, whereas Clark remains in denial of his fate, ‘…a man who still believes he might be dreaming.’290 In this story, the journey into the wilderness is unintentional, but the option of leaving dissipates as the couple’s frustration with each other increases. The decision not to admit their mistakes and resolve their petty arguments has resulted in their being irrevocably lost. Unlike the protagonists of ‘The Man in the Black Suit’ and ‘Young Goodman Brown’, the characters in this story have no option to return from wilderness; Clark’s stubbornness and Mary’s acquiescence have trapped them in what turns out to be ‘Rock and Roll Hell’.291

I consider this story to be an example of what Sears refers to as King’s ability to both ‘perform and deform’ Gothic traditions.292 Using the traditional archetype of the peculiar-little-town – something he often does – King deforms that tradition by depicting that peculiarity in a relatively contemporary and unexpected way: while ghosts and the living-dead may be commonplace, a town inhabited by the ghosts of arguably the most recognisable rock stars in history is unusual. King further deforms this tradition by making the familiar unfamiliar. Through his description of ‘Rock and Roll Heaven’ he creates for the reader’s imagination a familiar scene, with familiar characters and music. While such tribute towns may exist in a tourism sense, it would

289 Ibid., p.447 290 Ibid., p.445 291 Ibid., p.449. King, as a singer and guitarist himself, has remarked that he considers the high mortality rate of young musicians as ‘authentically creepy [with a] darker side’, which is what he wanted to explore in this story. Indeed, once the couple reach the town, references to and depictions of famous twentieth century rock and roll musicians and how they died permeate the story. There are also many popular culture and intertextual references in the story, such as Mary’s recollection of a film in which Buddy Holly had been played by Gary Busey, and of the Norman Rockwell concerts she had attended as a girl – she suspects concerts in Rock and Roll Heaven will be more akin to a Francisco Goya painting than a Rockwell. Similarly, during their journey, Clark is reminded of the kinds of roads the characters in the fantasy epics of Terry Brooks, Stephen Donaldson and J.R.R. Tolkien would take, against their ‘gloomy intuition’, that resulted in their ‘battling trolls or boggarts or mace-wielding skeletons.’ King’s intertextuality and popular culture references are vast enough to warrant their own study and, as such, will not be explored in depth in this thesis. 292 Sears, Stephen King’s Gothic, p.15

58 be distinctly unfamiliar for these recognisable characters to begin emanating maggots from their faces.

In both ‘The Man in the Black Suit’ and ‘You Know They Got a Hell of a Band’, King uses the wilderness to isolate and perturb his characters; however, his depiction of the wilderness is not always representative of danger or hopelessness. In the case of ‘Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut’ (SC) the wilderness is a conduit for Ophelia Todd’s determined pursuit of the shortest route between two places; in the safety of her two- seater sportster Mercedes, Ophelia is seemingly oblivious to the increasingly peculiar wilderness through which she travels, the only evidence of which is smeared across the outside of her car. ‘Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut’ is more of a yarn, with dialogue reflective of the regional slang in Castle Rock; in this story there is a supernatural aspect and, unusually for King, a . David Owens is a permanent resident of Castle Rock and the framing narrator, recalling a story which his friend and fellow resident, Homer Buckland, had told him some years earlier about Mrs. Ophelia Todd, the first wife of a wealthy businessman, Worth Todd, and her relentless quest for shortcuts. The Todds are ‘summer people’ who, to the permanent residents in town, generally run on different metaphorical racecourses: they are ‘trotters’, while the residents are ‘pacers’.293 Yet Mrs. Todd had attracted some attention and respect from the community because she was a woman who spent time with them; the mark of this respect was that the townspeople showed concern when she disappeared.294 Homer tells David of his experience as the Todds’ summer house caretaker and how Mrs. Todd had shared with him her love of finding shortcuts in her Mercedes. Homer recalls his experience of riding with Ophelia Todd, exploring her latest shortcut between his town of Castle Rock and her city, Bangor. Homer reflects that Mrs. Todd not only resembled, but almost became, the goddess Diana during the journey; she seemed unaware of the abandoned roads they travelled, lined with pervading trees that tried to grab you as you passed, with toads the size of cats, and ‘places that ain’t on any map of Maine, not even on those survey-squares’.295 Homer explains to David that the more shortcuts Mrs. Todd discovered, the younger she became, as though in saving time she

293 King, Skeleton Crew, p.260 294 Ibid., p.261 295 Ibid., p.280

59 was reversing time. Two weeks before she disappeared, Homer went to the Todd residence at her request to unlock the house in preparation for her return from her latest jaunt. Thinking that forty-five minutes was ample time, Homer was shocked to discover she had beaten him there, and even more bewildered when he inspected her Mercedes, which was covered in moving , insects and creatures that, he describes to David, ‘hurt your mind’ to look at.296 When Homer confronts Mrs. Todd about the car and expresses his concern for her obsession, she remarks to him that on the road, in the wilderness, she is different: she is all herself and in the heart of herself.297 A week later, Mrs. Todd finds a shortcut from which she does not return, at least, not until some years later, after her husband had remarried and Homer had recounted his tale to David. David’s final interaction with Homer is as Homer is preparing to leave Castle Rock; David notices that Homer has shaved and combed his hair and looks closer to sixty than seventy. David watches Homer climb into the torpedo-like Mercedes with the former Mrs. Todd, looking younger still, and watches with some envy as his friend embarks on his new life. Before he leaves, Homer tells David to say he left for Vermont and David tells the reader, ‘Vermont, I tell the folks from town, and Vermont they believe, because it’s as far as most of them can see inside their heads.’298 In this story, King again performs and deforms the Gothic: the reader is primed to anticipate some evil to befall Mrs. Todd in the wilderness, or in her car, yet what results is an unexpected love story, in which the wilderness offers solace and redemption to those who dare to explore it.

In these three stories, the threat of the wilderness manifests through geographical and physical places: the fork in Castle Stream, the peculiar-little-town of Rock and Roll Heaven and the interior of Mrs. Todd’s Mercedes are tangible spaces in which characters are challenged and developed. King’s overt message is of the perceived danger of the wilderness, but in the Gothic ‘place’ is not merely associated with physical structures or geographical location. According to Sears, ‘place’ is representative of contradiction, insofar as ‘Gothic place is familiar and unfamiliar, affording comfort and discomfort, welcome and hostility. It seduces and repulses in

296 Ibid., p.288 [emphasis in original] 297 Ibid., p.292 298 Ibid., p.294

60 paradoxically equal measure.’299 Thus, Sears contends, place in fiction is allegorical, with geographical and architectural structures symbolising psychological and emotional experience. Furthermore, characters in Gothic places experience ‘interpenetration’, that is, ‘…abjection and evisceration (the inside becoming outside) or of penetration and intrusion (the outside becoming inside).’300 The most pertinent example is King’s ‘Ghostly room at the inn’301 story, ‘1408’ (EE), wherein a seemingly safe and familiar hotel room actually hosts a significant threat. In this story, a disenchanted ghost-story writer, Mike Enslin, is determined to stay in the Hotel ’s reputedly haunted room, number 1408, in order to include the experience in his next book, Ten Haunted Hotel Rooms. Against the vehement advice of the hotel manager, Mr. Olin, Enslin demands access to the room overnight, sceptical that the twelve suicides and thirty seemingly natural deaths that occurred in the room since October 1910 are anything more than fabrication or coincidence. Olin claims that the room is not haunted by ghosts per se; just that it is a ‘poisoned room’.302 Undeterred, Enslin enters room 1408 and manages to spend seventy minutes therein, recording what he observes in the room on his tape recorder. At first, his narration is coherent, but it deteriorates into babble as Enslin begins to see, smell, hear and feel strange things in the room. As the room around him begins to melt and something begins to bulge through the wall, Enslin sets his shirt on fire and manages to open the front door, which had previously been locked to him, as though the room has ‘no use for a burning man’.303 Enslin escapes from room 1408 and retires from writing and ghost hunting to Long Island, where he suffers several ailments as a result of his time in the room; he reflects that ‘…he isn’t the first person to escape 1408 without really escaping’.304 There are some typical horror story references – room 1408 is technically on the thirteenth floor, because there is no floor numbered thirteen, and the numbers 1408 add up to thirteen – yet this is not a typical . As Enslin muses, ‘…at least ghosts were once human.’305 Rather the focus is more on the depiction of a possessed space, a lurking evil that is reminiscent of a Lovecraft-inspired ‘thing’; indeed, it is the

299 Sears, Stephen King’s Gothic, p.161 300 Ibid. 301 King, Everything’s Eventual, p.424 302 Ibid., p.442 303 Ibid., p.465 304 Ibid., p.470 305 Ibid., p.471

61 place and not people in this story that presents the threat. While Enslin’s arrogance may preclude the reader’s sympathy, he is not portrayed as an evil man deserving of punishment, but instead one upon whom evil is enacted through place simply because he is present. Past victims of room 1408 have seemingly left their mark, contributing to the evil presence within it. It is as if evil gathers in isolated places – be that in the wilderness, or in a forbidden room – and manifests when an unsuspecting victim enters; each victim resources the evil, so that it continues to grow with each manifestation.

Each of these stories adhere to the required word limit, are simple in their diction and style, and are designed to leave an enduring impression on the reader’s imagination through elements of the Gothic mode which appeal to the reader’s sense of fear. In ‘The Man in the Black Suit’, as in many of his other works306, King uses the wilderness to exacerbate childhood fears – such as supernatural threats, the loss of a family member, and disappointing a parent – seemingly appealing to the reader’s inner-child, while also engaging the fear of old age and senility through the depiction of the narrator. What links the elderly narrator with his younger self is his vivid imagination and tangible fear that the devil is not finished with him yet. The town of ‘Rock and Roll Heaven’ represents a potentially ideal afterlife for dead rock stars: a never-ending concert with a captive audience. At face-value, this threat is trivial, which is why the use of the more traditional Gothic tropes of isolation and captivity is necessary to appeal to the reader’s fears and thus establish an emotional and visceral connection between writer and reader. So too does this story require the cognitive engagement of the reader to be fully realised; without the conceptualisation of an eternity spent isolated in a town run by ghosts and being forced to attend rock and roll concerts every night, the story is merely absurd. ‘Mrs Todd’s Shortcut’ presents the reader with an unexpectedly happy ending, offering an antidote to the fears of growing old, unrequited love and being trapped by people or place. This deviation from the expected is what creates an enduring impression on the imagination: it is possibility and not fear that entices the reader to imagine beyond the realms of the familiar and

306 Such as, The Shining, Pet Sematary, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, , The Tommyknockers, Firestarter, Carrie, Doctor Sleep, IT, ‘Apt Pupil’, ‘The Body’, ‘Here There Be Tygers’, ‘’, and ‘The Last Rung on the Ladder’.

62 the normal. Finally, ‘1408’ depicts the manifestation of evil in specific places, making what may be familiar to the reader – that is, a hotel room – intensely unfamiliar by using more traditional Gothic motifs of haunted rooms, apparitions and a disjointed sense of time. So too does this story encourage one to wonder about the history of hotel rooms and is an apt example of King’s tendency to take the commonplace and distort it to devastating effect. Indeed, King’s treatment of the wilderness, place and the familiar in all of these stories exemplifies his own brand of Gothic within the wider tradition of the Gothic mode and, within the restrictions of the short story genre, these themes are intensified to leave an enduring impression upon the reader’s imagination.

63 Chapter Four

Moral Voyages

All tales of horror can be divided into two groups: those in which the horror results from an act of free will – a conscious decision to do evil – and those in which the horror is predestinate, coming from outside like a stroke of lightening.307

Heidi Strengell has remarked that King is influenced by the ‘contradictory impulses of free will and determinism, a factor that highlights a core tension in his oeuvre.’308 Indeed, the struggle between good and evil permeates King’s short stories as an influence on characters’ thoughts, behaviour and decisions they must make. The internal evils manifest themselves psychologically and, sometimes, unconsciously. King describes the external evils as ‘predestinate’ forces that plague his characters, creating situations out of their control that require moral judgements to be made. These forces can derive from the natural or human realm, such as other human characters, religious, governmental or military institutions, technology, animals and intangible threats, such as mist or fog; or they can be supernatural, such as ghosts, demons, vampires, possessed machines or Lovecraft-inspired creatures from the abyss. Whether internal or external, the evils depicted in King’s short stories present his characters with moral choices, through which he explores the extremes of human response and capacity for both good and evil. Strengell asserts that ‘King is a moralist who asks both his characters and his readers to realize that the existence of evil calls for moral action without the assurance even of survival, let alone victory.’309 The length restrictions generally agreed upon by the short story genre exacerbate these evils, resulting in stories that provide no closure and, therefore, no catharsis for the protagonist or the reader. The provisional definition identified in this thesis is, in my opinion, a self-reinforcing interpretation: the brevity imposed by restrictions of length necessitates the use of readily comprehensible language and dialogue in order to create stories that leave an enduring impression on the reader’s imagination. With little scope for backstory or context, the evils described in the following stories must be portrayed in a way that is immediately discernible as an internal, insidious and recognisably

307 King, Danse Macabre, p.79 308 Strengell, Dissecting Stephen King, p.27 309 Ibid., p.206

64 human threat, or as an external, potentially supernatural and unfamiliar . Either way, the reader is encouraged to quickly identify and sympathise with either the victim or perpetrator, creating a connection with the writer; the reader’s cognitive engagement is required so that when the situation is distorted through fear, as is King’s method, the reader’s imagination is deeply impacted.

The concept of the ‘evil within’ is portrayed in various ways in King’s short stories, from the protagonists who consciously enact evil, to those who are oblivious, to those who recognise evil but choose to ignore it. In the short story, ‘Strawberry Spring’ (NS), the first-person narrator is spurred to a confession by an article he reads in the paper, reminding him of an event that had occurred eight years earlier at the university he attended. The article refers to the return of the mass-murderer, known as ‘Springheel Jack’, who had killed four women on the university campus where the narrator had studied. The murders coincided with a meteorological phenomenon, referred to as a strawberry spring; reminiscent of an Indian summer, it a false spring, a period of warm days and foggy nights before a large winter storm, and only occurs in New England once every eight to ten years. The narrator employs metaphor to evoke the nature of and its association with Springheel Jack. The narrator describes it thus: ‘It was soft, insubstantial stuff, but somehow implacable and frightening. Springheel Jack was a man, no one seemed to doubt that, but the fog was his accomplice and it was female…’.310 As Strengell elucidates, King is definitely aware of medieval symbolism, which invests the strawberry with sexual significance. […] In this short story, fog has transformed itself into a sexually arousing woman who leads a killer by the name of Springheel Jack to commit crimes under her influence.311

The narrator discloses that he finds his own solace in the fog, choosing to walk late at night to clear his head and, despite the omission of an acknowledgement of guilt in his recollection, we suspect that he himself is Springheel Jack. The narrator finishes his account with a confession: the strawberry spring has returned and, with it, his homicidal tendencies. He reveals that he cannot remember what happened after he had left work the previous evening and discovered that another fog had descended. He

310 King, Night Shift, p.233 311 Strengell, Dissecting Stephen King, p.50

65 concludes with a damning admission – also with erotic overtones – ‘I can hear my wife as I write this, in the next room, crying. She thinks I was with another woman last night. And oh dear God, I think so too.’312 In this story, the evil within is suppressed so that the narrator may lead a presumably ordinary life; his homicidal nature is apparently reawakened by a meteorological phenomenon every eight to ten years. The questions that remain unanswered by the story are, now that he is aware, will he be able to stop? And will he want to? Despite the gruesome details of the corpses of the first four victims, the reader is not encouraged to dislike the narrator; the story unfolds so that, even though we infer his guilt, we question how he can be held morally accountable for his seemingly involuntary actions.

The short story ‘’ (SC) offers a similar reading experience. The first- person narrator remains in denial of his own duality, having projected his homicidal desires onto a fictitious woman, Nona, using her as a catalyst and accomplice for the killing spree in which he engages in the story. In the concluding statements of the unnamed narrator’s confession, before he presumably performs his intended suicide, he remarks that he is still certain that Nona existed, despite the insistence from ‘them’ that he had acted alone. Yet his account of the events, his mental state before, after and during the murders, the haphazard and impersonal way in which he kills his victims and his persistent delusions – he believes that Nona transformed into a rat and ran away, leaving him to be found culpable – leaves little room for reader empathy. Considering Skeleton Crew, Magistrale observes that one of King’s most profound skills as a writer is his portrayal of the ‘terrors associated with childhood, particularly the shadowy guilts [sic] that frequently attend a child’s initial experience with death.’313 The narrator in this story explains that, when he was three years old, his family had died in a house fire while he was in hospital, as a result of which he was orphaned. Upon first meeting him, Nona asks him if he is from the university. He explains: ‘I was. I quit before they could fire me. […] No home to go to. I was a state ward. I got to school on a scholarship. I blew it. Now I don’t know where I’m going.’ My life story in five sentences. I guess it made me feel depressed.314

312 King, Night Shift, p.237 313 Magistrale, Second Decade, p.92 314 King, Skeleton Crew, p.494

66

The traumatic loss of his family and life thereafter culminate in his unexpected homicidal , prompted and resourced by the presence of Nona, the woman whom he creates to replace the woman he loved, Betsy. Through the depiction of a homicidal spree, King comments on the human capacity for evil resulting from childhood trauma, suggesting that the actions of the careless adults in the narrator’s life (his father had fallen asleep while smoking in bed) and his fruitless attempts to find comfort in female companionship have resulted in his mental instability. The reader is left to pass judgement: is the evil within the narrator innate, or a result of external forces?

According to Gary Hoppenstand and Ray B. Browne, King’s works are not simply about ‘monsters’ but rather about the ‘faulty perception’ of monsters. Analysing ‘The Man Who Loved Flowers’ (NS) as their example, Hoppenstand and Browne identify King’s tendency to make a cruel : to set the reader up with ‘sunshine and saltbox houses’ and then ‘slap them in the face’ with the reality of the situation. They remark that the ‘final punch-line’ in this technique is the …twisting of the normal into the abnormal, and the horror of it all is when people fail to perceive this change in reality, and are consequently destroyed by their lack of vision.315

‘The Man Who Loved Flowers’ depicts the journey of a seemingly love-struck young man wandering in on a spring evening. He stops at a flower stand to purchase flowers, presumably for his beloved, Norma, before he proceeds to a dark alley and encounters a woman whom he believes to be Norma. Unsurprisingly, she is not and, upon her confusion at being presented flowers by a stranger, he beats her to death with a hammer. Appearing to forget the deed as soon as it is done, the man returns to the main street, resuming the pleasant demeanour of a man in love. The third-person narrator explains that the real Norma had died ten years earlier and that the young man, in his search for her, had already murdered five other women. Through the perception of other characters in the story and even through the title of the story – the assumption that a love of flowers is not indicative of a mass murderer – King shows

315 Gary Hoppenstand & Ray B. Brown, The Gothic World of Stephen King: Landscape of Nightmares, Bowling Green State University Popular Press, Ohio, 1987, p.13

67 us the fallacy of our preconceptions, asking the question: what do we expect ‘monsters’ to look like? Indeed, as Heidi Strengell asserts, More horrific than the monsters themselves is a faulty perception of them, that is, seeing them as harmless. […] Like the original Gothic writers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, King is able to recognize the threatening and dangerous in the seemingly harmless and innocent.316

More broadly, the story also implies something of a relational crisis: how well do we really know anyone? It exemplifies the fact that, as King alludes to in the foreword of this collection, sometimes murderers help old ladies across the street, and sometimes they buy flowers for their girlfriends. The young man is detached from the reader; no insight is offered into his past beyond what we learn of Norma. How she died, and what involvement he may have had in her death, remains unexplained. This is one of King’s shortest stories and a distinct example of the effects of brevity upon the lack of context and catharsis afforded by the genre. Arguably, the reader is encouraged immediately to distrust the young man, as the narrative appears far too amiable given King’s reputation for the macabre. Indeed, it is not so much the confirmation that the pleasant-looking young man is the perpetrator that is most disturbing, but the brutal and implacable way he murders the woman that pointedly alters the direction of the story and leaves an enduring impression upon the imagination. This story establishes the reader’s expectation of what future King stories may be like and it is this expectation that makes the outcome of stories such as ‘Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut’ seem even more foreign.

In a story about the uncertainty as to where evil resides, King leaves the differentiation between imagination and reality to the reader. ‘The Boogeyman’ (NS) depicts the story of Lester Billings, a young man who confides in a psychiatrist, Dr Harper, his guilt at having killed his three children. We soon learn, however, that Billings believes that the boogeyman killed his children, and his crime was to fail to stop it. Through Billings’ narration, the reader learns that he and his wife, Rita, married young because she was already pregnant and, thus, they received little family support. Billings shares his disdain for what he perceives as his wife’s weakness and soft treatment of the children, firmly believing that ‘you cripple’ children by being

316 Strengell, Dissecting Stephen King, pp.29-30

68 overprotective. This mentality is what prompts Billings to leave his children – all toddlers at the time of their respective deaths – alone in their rooms, despite their feeble exhortations that the boogeyman was hiding in the closet. Rita, wanting another child after the deaths of the first two, is pleased when she unexpectedly falls pregnant; frustrated, Billings believes that Rita deceived him by secretly removing her contraceptive device. Their third child, Andy, looks most like Billings and he finds himself fond of the baby despite himself. Billings describes how their situation improved for a time as he had a better job and they moved out of the ‘haunted’ house, until, after a year, ‘“Something about the house changed.”’317 Billings begins to feel the presence of the boogeyman and believes it had followed them to their new residence. Paranoid, he begins to avoid closets, sleeps poorly and grows increasingly irritable with Rita. While Rita is away caring for her injured mother, Billings ends up sacrificing Andy to the boogeyman to save himself, remarking to Dr Harper, ‘“I knew it would go for him, see. Because he was weaker. And it did.”’318 After Billings completes his confession, Dr Harper recommends he make further appointments. Billings begrudgingly consents and leaves to confer with the nurse. He returns to Dr Harper’s rooms, remarking that the nurse is absent, only to find the room empty but the closet door ajar. The boogeyman emerges from the closet: ‘It still held its Dr Harper mask in one rotted, spade-claw hand.’319 While the conclusion of the story appears ‘absurdly cliché’, as Reino suggests320, the power of belief is what the story examines. As Billings remarks at one point: ‘I started to think, maybe if you think of a thing long enough, and believe in it, it gets real. Maybe all the monsters we were scared of when we were kids […] maybe they were real.’321

King is adept at depicting human characters with whom the reader can both identify and be disgusted by. While we may feel some sympathy for the narrator of ‘Nona’ as a victim of childhood misfortune, Billings is portrayed as harsh and dictatorial, yet ultimately a weak and petulant man. We gain some insight into his childhood when he recalls his mother’s fear of the ocean. She had never allowed him

317 King, Night Shift, p.142 318 Ibid., p.144 319 Ibid., p.146 320 Reino, First Decade, p.103 321 King, Night Shift, p.142

69 to wander too far in, to which he attributes his enduring fear of the water, but it does not justify his attitude toward his children’s fear of the dark. In her study, Teresa Goddu refers to the American Gothic as reflecting the blackness of the American soul and that sentiment resonates in this story; indeed, King describes Billings’ confession similarly: ‘And the words poured out, as if a black cork had been pulled from the bottom of his soul’.322 King takes the conventional childhood fear of a ‘boogeyman’ and conflates it with an adult one, just as acute: that of losing a child. It is not only the thought of losing a child, but it is the knowledge that Billings could have prevented it – that he failed to do so three times – that is deeply unsettling. It remains unclear as to whether the boogeyman is a figment of Billings’ imagination – a projection of his own homicidal desires – or real. One comment that Billings makes to Dr Harper suggests the former: describing his interaction with police after Andy’s death, Billings recalls: ‘I lied to the police, see? Told them the kid must have tried to get out of his crib in the night and…they swallowed it. Course they did. That’s just what it looked like. Accidental, like the others. But Rita knew. Rita…finally…knew…’323

Reinforcing this particular interpretation, Billings’ final encounter with the boogeyman in Dr Harper’s office could represent his finally facing his alter ego, and the realisation that he been instrumental in the death of his children by creating an ‘other’ to unburden himself of what had necessitated the unhappy marriage and a succession of unsatisfying jobs to support a family he did not want. There are clues throughout the story that Billings’ dissatisfaction with his life is linked to the appearance of the boogeyman – which Rita never saw – which may also explain why all the children died when they were toddlers, just beginning to speak and to be able to recognise the threat in the darkness. Killing Andy had brought Billings undone because the ‘human’ part of him genuinely did love that child, but the ‘other’ would not let Billings keep him. In this story, the distinction between the internal and external evil is ambiguous; Billings eventually faces the boogeyman, but whether or not the apparition represents his ‘other’ remains unclear. Billings’ fate is similarly uncertain, requiring the cognitive engagement of the reader to complete the story. As discussed

322 Ibid., p.138 323 Ibid., p.145

70 in Chapter One, the lack of closure which is characteristic of the short story results in judgement and justice being the responsibility of the reader.

While the characters afflicted with internal evils have often already made their choice – or are unable to make a choice – between condemnation and redemption, the characters faced with an external threat are then forced to make a difficult or moral decision. Disaster generally befalls those characters who make the selfish or self- serving choice and, often, the stories in which characters decide to take the moral high ground end abruptly, so that a decision is never executed, or the consequences are not revealed. In the case of the short story ‘Everything’s Eventual’ (EE), a seemingly ordinary teenager is offered a unique employment opportunity with the ominous ‘Trans Corporation’. Nineteen-year-old Richard ‘Dinky’ Earnshaw, high school dropout and pizza delivery man turned mass murderer, has an uncanny talent for creating letters comprised of unusual symbols that, when combined with a particular word pertinent to the reader of the letter, results in the reader’s death. Dinky was identified by similarly gifted employees of Trans Corporation who had sensed him experimenting with his talent: Dinky had written a letter to a workmate at the local supermarket who had been bullying him; subsequently, the bully, Skipper, fatally drove his car off the road. As an average child of a single mother in a low-income situation, Dinky is easily persuaded by the promise of ‘adventure’ offered by the mysterious Mr Sharpton of Trans Corporation. Living alone and not permitted to contact friends or family, Dinky works as a remote sniper for the organisation, creating his deadly letters on a computer and emailing them to the intended recipients. Elated by the sense power he derives from creating his letters, Dinky is, initially, content to live within the strict rules of his employment; rules which, he comes to realise, confine him and leave him completely reliant on the organisation. While he is aware of the purpose of his letters, the impersonal process with which he distributes them – no names or identifying information are provided – allows him accept Mr Sharpton’s assertion that, as an employment of Trans Corporation, he is working toward the ‘betterment of mankind’ and ‘getting rid of the world’s Skipper Brannigans’.324 Finally, he realises that he is ‘…just another tool, just the lens the real bombardier

324 King, Everything’s Eventual, p.267, p.266

71 looks through. Just the button he pushes.’325 On occasion, Dinky has to send his letters through the post, if the targets don’t use email, and this becomes the catalyst for his confession. Dinky receives a name and address to send his special letters by ‘snail mail’326, which personalises his target. Upon inadvertently seeing the face of one of his victims in the newspaper, he becomes obsessed with researching the two other named victims and humanising his prey. In his research into these individualised victims, Dinky discovers them to have been evidently ‘good’ people and he wonders who is making the judgement as to what is good or bad for mankind. While this realisation prompts Dinky to write his confession, he does not stop ‘working’, partly because of the satisfaction he still derives from his power, and partly because of the fear of what would happen when ‘they’ found out he had ceased. Nevertheless, he receives an anonymous note, offering him an ‘out’ from the program. He suspects there is only one way out and, in the final entry, he repents of his actions and composes one last special letter, to Mr Sharpton himself.

Overall, Dinky’s story represents another variation of King’s reiterated theme of the loss of childhood innocence. Led astray by a stranger who briefly offers him the male authority figure he has craved, Dinky, with child-like trust and expectation, trades his freedom, and, it is intimated, his life, for some of the creature comforts and prestige he had been denied while growing up. Through the personalisation of his victims, Dinky realises that, instead of ridding the world of people like Skipper, he is working for people like Skipper. This is one of the reasons the reader is encouraged to empathise with Dinky; although he is the story’s overt killer, he is portrayed as an innocent with a supernatural gift that, once its fatal potential is recognised, is exploited by external threats – deceiving adults, faceless corporations and impersonal, global communications. Indeed, the surreptitious nature of Sharpton’s approach and the mysterious Trans Corporation are characteristic of King’s recurring references to government organisations as the source of his protagonists’ troubles; for example, the ‘Arrowhead’ military project gone awry in ‘The Mist’, the US Army’s cover-up of alien invasions in , the government program trying to harness the telekinetic powers of a little girl in Firestarter, and various corrupt post-apocalyptic

325 Ibid., p.296 [emphasis in original] 326 Ibid., p.283

72 governing bodies in works such as The Stand and (1982). King also comments on the nature of technology and its impact on society generally and on warfare in the early twenty-first century. ‘Everything’s Eventual’ symbolises the increasing reliance on email and other such technology in the Western world and the dehumanisation of communication, as well as the dangers inherent in maintaining an online presence more generally such as the ease with which personal details can be accessed and shared outside of one’s control. The story is an example of King’s frequent depiction of the malevolent side of technology, ostensibly designed to make life easier, evident in many of his twenty-first century works, such as ‘’ (BBD), (2006), Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers and End of Watch.

King’s depictions of external evils are diverse. Often, the more apparently anodyne and familiar the threat, the more flawed are the human characters that are confronted by it. Stories such as ‘Children of the Corn’ (NS) depict seemingly innocuous things – such as cornfields, small towns and organised religion – that are combined with flawed human characters – fanatical children and dysfunctional adults – with an aspect of the supernatural overlaid. ‘Children of the Corn’, another doomed road-trip tale, follows a couple Burt and Vicky, on a long journey between Boston and the west coast, undertaken in an attempt to save their marriage. As they drive through the cornfields of Nebraska, they run over a small boy; upon inspection of the body, however, they discover that his throat had been cut and that he was dead before they hit him. The situation between them grows even more tense as they drive to the nearest town, Gatlin, seeking assistance. Gatlin, they discover, is bereft of adults and governed by the town’s children, none over the age of eighteen, who worship the Lord of the corn: ‘He Who Walks Behind the Rows’. In their search of the town, Burt ventures into the church and discovers that ‘Something had happened in 1964. Something to do with religion, and corn…and children’327; but that is all he learns as he and Vicky are descended upon by the children, the girls in long brown dresses, the boys dressed like Quaker parsons, all wielding rudimentary weapons. Vicky is taken as Burt flees through the town and into the corn; eventually he discovers Vicky, ‘…mounted on a crossbar like a hideous trophy […] Her eyes had been ripped out.’328 Shortly thereafter,

327 King, Night Shift, p.341 328 Ibid., p.350

73 Burt meets a similar fate. King’s distrust of organised religion and curiosity about the workings of remote little towns are recurring themes throughout his fiction and in this story, the ‘pagan devil-children’ and the isolation of Gatlin (an example of both Regionalism and place) represent the external evils that befall Burt and Vicky. The victims, Burt and Vicky, are not innocent in this story and are depicted as sacrificing their marriage to hatred and spite. The dysfunctional couple is another of King’s common narrative devices, the breakdown of communication between people ultimately leading to disaster. Reino examines this story in his study, First Decade, focussing on the religious aspect of the story and the significance of the children’s Biblical names; yet the religious connotations of the story are not what I regard as central to the moral of the story. Rather, I consider that King is suggesting that, if we make the choice to allow hatred to turn us against those to whom we are closest, external forces outside of our control will ultimately separate us.

King uses a similar tactic in the story, ‘’. The humans depicted in this story are portrayed as greedy, malicious and implacable characters, whose foul deeds are punished by an unlikely figure. Keeping within the theme of apparently innocuous external threats, this story is reminiscent of Poe’s ‘The Black Cat’ in that the seemingly harmless black and white feline is the undoing of protagonist. As with Poe’s second cat, black with an ominous white marking, King’s cat is symbolically marked: ‘Its face was an even split: half black, half white’. Looking at the cat, the protagonist, an independent hitman named Halston, feels uneasy: ‘…he felt that he knew this cat…’.329 Halston’s task is to kill the cat. He has been hired by an elderly, wheelchair-bound Pharmaceutical mogul, Drogan, who had become wealthy through the development of the drug ‘Tri-Dormal-phenobarbin’, designed to assist the terminally ill accept their imminent death. This drug, Drogan confides to Halston, was widely tested on cats, fifteen thousand of which were killed during its development. As though the cat had arrived to avenge its brethren, Drogan’s older sister Amanda, her lifelong-friend Carolyn and the hired-help Dick Gage had died – victims, asserts Drogan, of the cat. Drogan explains that Amanda had taken in the apparently destitute cat and coddled it until, rubbing against her legs, it tripped her

329 Stephen King, Just After Sunset, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 2009 (2008), p.342

74 down the stairs whereupon her neck and back had ‘shattered like glass’.330 Carolyn refused to get rid of the cat after her friend had died, but she too was old and suffered from chronic emphysema. While the doctor assumed death by natural causes, Drogan believed that the cat had lain on her chest, slowly smothering her.331 Both of these deaths are reminiscent of the fears Poe’s narrator expresses when he begins to loathe the second cat: he is certain that the ‘beast’ gets between his feet, intent on tripping him, and wakes in the night with ‘…the hot breath of the thing upon my face, and its vast weight […] incumbent eternally upon my heart!’332 The third victim in King’s story, Gage, had been killed while driving the cat to the vet to be euthanased; the cat had returned to Drogan on its own. Believing the cat intends to kill him next, Drogan hires Halston to dispose of it. Halston leaves with the cat asleep in a ‘double-thickness shopping bag, tied with heavy twine’, musing as he drives that he feels a strange kinship with the cat, insofar as cats are the ‘hitters of the animal world’.333 The cat’s attack is two-fold: attaching itself to Halston’s head, the cat blocks his view and the car plunges off the road. Halston awakes later, temporarily paralysed, and manages to shake the cat off. The cat returns and, after clawing at Halston’s lap, rams itself into his mouth, ‘a furry projectile’, suffocating him. The car with Halston’s corpse inside is discovered later that morning by a passing farmer who is, unsurprisingly, repelled when he witnesses the cat claw its way out of the corpse’s belly and escape through the grass. In Poe’s story, the first black cat, like the fifteen thousand in King’s story, is undeserving of its fate; the second cat, however, is loathed by Poe’s narrator, as a perpetual reminder of his ‘former deed of cruelty’.334 In King’s story the symbolism of the cat as the harbinger of vengeance is more overt, with Halston wryly insinuating at one point that the cat had returned to ‘get’ Drogan. In both stories, the reader is encouraged to lay blame upon the human characters, self-confessed killers that they are; yet, in Poe’s story, the second cat is guilty of nothing more than revealing the narrator’s crime with its ‘informing voice’.335 King’s cat is seemingly as guilty as its human counterparts; in fact, in this story, it is the only one who actually deliberately

330 Ibid., p.347 331 Ibid., p.349 332 Poe, ‘Black Cat’, p.51, p.52 333 King, Just After Sunset, p.354, p.343 334 Poe, ‘Black Cat’, p.51 335 Ibid., p.56

75 commits murder, but, arguably, the cruelty and remorselessness of the two men leaves the reader with little allegiance to either party.

King often employs unlikely creatures or objects to be the harbingers of evil upon his human characters. Yet there is a distinct difference between his portrayal of living threats, such as the cat in the previous story or the Saint Bernard ‘Cujo’ in the novel of the same name, and that of mechanical threats. Both the cat and ‘Cujo’ are dangerous by nature or as a result of disease: the cat is the ‘hitter’ of the animal world and ‘Cujo’ a rabid dog. King’s portrayal of mechanical threats, however, takes on a more supernatural tone, such as in the novel Christine and the short story, ‘The Mangler’ (NS). John Sears has remarked of King’s mechanical monsters that they are ‘…characteristically Gothic and uncanny: both familiar and unfamiliar.’336 In ‘The Mangler’ King transforms an innocuous industrial laundry machine, the ‘Hadley- Watson Model-6 Speed Ironer and Folder’, into an insatiable killing machine, ‘…a confused impression of something black and moving that bulked to a tremendous height […] something with glaring electric eyes the size of footballs’.337 The protagonist Police Officer Hunton, with the assistance of his friend, an English Professor338 Mark Jackson, investigates a mysterious death in the Ironer and Folder, known to the laundry workers as the mangler. Through a series of conversations between Hunton and other key characters, the reader learns that the laundry workers fear the mangler because of a number of serious inexplicable injuries inflicted on people working with the unpredictable machine. Initially dubious, Hunton is convinced by Jackson that the machine had been inhabited by a spirit of the South American voodoo mythos. Jackson, who had taken time to research the potential nature of the possession and ways to combat it, persuades Hunton that the only course of action is to tackle the themselves and that it will be a relatively easy entity to exorcise; Jackson remarks, ‘The thing in that machine is going to slink away like

336 Sears, Stephen King’s Gothic, p.92 337 King, Night Shift, pp.129-130 338 In Magistrale’s Second Decade he comments on King’s repeated depiction of his protagonists as writers; similarly, the English Professor character recurs in King’s early works and particularly in Night Shift, reflecting his own difficulty in securing a teaching position at the University of Maine when the collection was published. Before securing a such a position teaching position, King himself had worked in an industrial laundry for income support to a young family; it was during this period that many of the stories in Night Shift were originally published in men’s magazines, such as Cavalier. King, On Writing, p.30 and King Night Shift, p.xi

76 the neighborhood bully.’339 Thus Jackson is established as what Reino refers to as the story’s “knower”, yet, Reino observes, ‘…the one who “knows” is not always the same as the one who “learns”.’340 Indeed, the narrator reveals to the reader that the demon in the mangler is stronger than Jackson anticipated, and it is expecting their attack. During their exorcism attempt, the mangler pulls free of its bonds; Hunton flees to the sound of Jackson’s dying screams, bound for the only person he thinks will believe him, Roger Martin, who had inspected the mangler after the first murder and had also suspected it was possessed. Hunton faints after hysterically relating what had happened. Before Martin can call the police, he hears and smells the mangler approaching from the direction of the laundry. The suspected fate of Hunton and Martin makes them an example of what Reino identifies as characters who want to reverse time so that they may “unknow” or “unlearn”.341 Reino asserts that this ‘knowing’ in King’s fiction is generally associated with an evil entity that has ‘form and shape’ in metaphor only: not simply the ‘thing without a name’, but, more accurately, ‘the thing without a shape’.342 These are the external evils that dwell in dark places yet cannot manifest without a host, in this instance, a laundry machine. But, even then, once the mangler breaks free, it metamorphises, described by the narrator in metaphor: the ‘…glaring electric eyes the size of footballs, an open mouth with a moving canvas tongue.’343 Thus, King’s external evils, if not overtly supernatural in the form of tentacled creatures, vampires, cats, institutions or other human beings, are more metaphorical in nature; evils without shape that can, presumably, take the shape of something else to pursue their objective. Regardless of shape, the external evils necessitate a difficult moral decision to be made by human characters that will dictate whether the humans are victorious, or even survive.

As King’s external threats become increasingly fantastical, his human characters become more mundane, as though there is only room for one or the other in his short stories. In a story that is reminiscent of the most significant influencers of King’s work, overtly Lovecraft-inspired creatures from the abyss attack and separate

339 King, Night Shift, p.125 340 Reino, First Decade, p.101 341 Ibid., p.102 342 Ibid. 343 King, Night Shift, p.130

77 one of King’s few genuinely happy couples. The short story, ‘’ (N&D) directly imitates Lovecraft’s creatures and linguistic style and is part supernatural tale and part detective fiction. The framing narrative conveys the recollection of an American woman, Doris Freeman, who appears at the Crouch End Police Station dishevelled and with a wild story about her husband, Lonnie, having been taken by tentacled creatures from within the earth. Doris’ testimony depicts the journey of her and Lonnie as they holiday in London and venture to Crouch End to visit a colleague of Lonnie’s. A series of unfortunate events leads to their becoming lost and separated in what Doris learns is ‘Crouch End Towen’, a version of Crouch End in which the shopfronts are emblazoned with strange names – ‘CTHULHU KRYON’ and ‘YOGSOGGOTH’ – and the angles and colours are different, as though she is on another planet.344 Frantically searching for her husband, she is intercepted by a boy and girl (the couple had seen them when they first arrived in the real Crouch End) who begin to repeat a litany of inexplicable words and phrases. The boy begins to chant in an indecipherable language at which point the ground opens and tentacles emerge, with pink suckers, some of which look like faces, one looks like Lonnie’s. The next thing Doris recalls is emerging onto the sidewalk of the actual Crouch End and, after asking for directions, making her way to the police station. In the station, Doris recounts her story to PC Vetter, a veteran of Crouch End who had heard many similar stories, and PC Farnham, a new member of the local force who ‘…had ambitions of making sergeant soon, and that meant he had to watch every little posey’, and not put his name to reports of tales of ‘lunacy’.345

A third-person narrative, the story alternates between Doris’ and Farnham’s perspectives, moving between her tale and Farnham’s and Vetter’s subsequent private discussion regarding her sanity. Vetter suggests to the disbelieving Farnham that the earth is like a leather ball, and that some of the leather is worn in places; Vetter muses, ‘…wouldn’t it be a day if the last of the leather between us and what’s on the inside of that ball just…rubbed away?’346 He encourages Farnham to read over the notes he took during Doris’ interview, and to review the ‘back file’ that contains similarly

344 King, Nightmares, p.698, p.699 345 Ibid., pp.704-705 346 Ibid., p.674

78 implausible stories, and to reconsider his disbelief. There is a sense that the inhabitants of Crouch End who believe in the existence of the other dimension coexist with Crouch End Towen, albeit in a state of fear. While Vetter can walk the streets of Crouch End in the middle of the night and return intact, Farnham, still sceptical, is lured into ‘Crouch End Towen’ and he too disappears. In the last pages, King provides some closure to the story, describing in quasi-epilogue what happens to each character after this fateful day: Doris attempts suicide and leads an existence haunted by her experience; Farnham’s wife remarries a man in a ‘safer line of work’; Vetter retires early and dies of a heart attack six months later, a can of beer in his hand; and Crouch End – where ‘…strange things happen from time to time, and people have been known to lose their way’347 – remains. In this story, King’s human characters are relatively ordinary: the Freemans have a functional relationship with each other and their children (who are left waiting in a hotel room when the couple venture to Crouch End) yet they have a supernatural, ‘predestinate’, evil thrust upon them. Doris’ unlikely tale confirms the fears of Vetter and tests Farnham’s capacity to believe in things beyond his own career progression. The external evils in this story are portrayed through both place – Crouch End Towen – and supernatural creatures, which seemingly arbitrarily lure and attack humans. The human characters are more identifiable and the threat more incomprehensible to the reader, testing not only the human characters’ willingness to suspend reality but also the reader’s. ‘Crouch End’ is a distinct example of King’s appeal to the fear of the unknown and the potential forces and creatures that lie in the next dimension. Yet, these threats are, arguably, easier to forget or dismiss as mere fantasy than those evils that come from within the human psyche and that we can observe on a daily basis through current affairs.

Both in stories depicting the evil within and in those depicting external evil forces, King appeals to the reader’s fear of the unknown: the dangerous stranger, the mass-murderer-at-large and the nuances of mental illness, are just as threatening as dangerous animals, possessed machinery and creatures from the abyss. The difference is one of familiarity. Ironically, that which is more familiar – that is, arguably, dysfunctional human beings, not tentacled monsters – is actually more frightening.

347 Ibid., p.707

79 Again, King’s simple diction and style make it easy to follow the narrative of his stories; the reader is in no doubt of the evil perpetrated by human characters in these stories. This, in conjunction with the length of the stories, the lack of context and lack of closure, makes those stories regarding the evil within particularly resonating. As the threats become more external and more unusual, the less enduring is the impression on the imagination. Indeed, the inclusion of a quasi-epilogue in ‘Crouch End’ detracts from the power of ambiguity to make such an impression, resulting in this story seeming more absurd than terrifying.

80 Chapter Five

When the Monsters Get You

That instant of death is the only truly universal rite of passage [and that] moment has a way of catching folks unprepared.348

In the notes to his collection Nightmares and Dreamscapes King remarks that his preferred kinds of short story are those in which things happen ‘just because they happen.’349 This statement is indeed applicable to many of his twentieth century stories, reflecting on which King has stated ‘I was flying entirely by the seat of my pants, running on nothing but intuition and a kid’s self-confidence.’350 In Danse Macabre, King explains that if he had to summarise the horror genre in one statement it would be: ‘Death is when the monsters get you’.351 In other words, there is no philosophical speculation of the afterlife, just a meditation on the instant of fatality. However, reviewing King’s short stories of the twenty-first century, the careful reader can discern that King’s perspective on mortality changed with the turn of the century. The first contributing factor was the road accident that nearly killed him in June 1999 after which, he has disclosed, he did not want to return to writing.352 The second event, one by which he was ‘deeply and fundamentally affected’, was the terrorist attacks against the United States, the so called ‘9/11’.353 The influence of these two events is perceptible through the subtle change in the depiction of death in King’s twenty-first century short stories.354 King’s own near-death experience and the personal significance of 9/11 seems to have given him a different perspective on death355; it is

348 King, Danse Macabre, p.223 349 King, Nightmares, p.955 350 King, Just After Sunset, p.3 351 King, Danse Macabre, p.223 352 King, On Writing, p.322. King recalls the accident and his lengthy rehabilitation in his ‘postscript’ to On Writing; he remarks that, due to the amount of pain he was in and the difficulty he had experienced in completing his non-fiction work, he initially did not want to return to writing. Yet, he recollects how writing had assisted him cope with difficult situations in the past and, with the encouragement of his wife, he slowly began to resume his work. He states, ‘Writing did not save my life […] but it has continued to do what it has always done: it makes my life a brighter and more pleasant place.’ On Writing, p.326 353 King, Just After Sunset, p.520 354 In King’s four twenty-first century collections, all but three stories were written after the turn of the century. The older stories – ‘The Man in the Black Suit’ (1994), ‘The Little Sisters of Eluria’ (1997) and ‘Lunch at the Gotham Café’ (1996), from Everything’s Eventual – bear the ‘just because’ mentality of his twentieth-century collections. 355 There is one exception: King’s story ‘’ from his first collection, Night Shift (1978), depicts the struggle of a middle-aged man as he musters the courage surreptitiously to

81 no longer simply the ‘other’ that poses a threat, but the simple fact of our own mortality – we are victims of the arbitrariness of life and death. The stories explored in this chapter illustrate this twenty-first century shift and examine the circumstances of sudden death; prolonged suffering (through disease or old age); the potential to cheat or defer death; and the possibility of an afterlife. In some of these stories King employs supernatural themes to develop a situation and, in others, familiar settings. One element is common to all: the seeming injustice of mortality. Indeed, Whitely Strieber contends that all King’s works are largely depictions of injustice; similarly, Patrick McAleer notes that, in King’s fiction, there is no closure, ‘…no true ending or resolution – only the futility of hope.’356 In this way, it is the short story genre that best reflects the haphazard and ambiguous nature of life and, perhaps, that is why the form is so powerful when engaging with the topic of mortality, ensuring that an enduring impression is left on the reader’s imagination.

Reflecting on 9/11, King remarked that he was reluctant to comment on what he considered a ‘touchstone’ event in American history; however, a month after the event, he wrote ‘The Things They Left Behind’ (JAS), opining that ‘…writing is an act of willed understanding’.357 Because of the ambiguous nature of the short story, the lives of those left behind are usually left unexplored; however, in this story, the theme of mortality is explored from the perspective of those who remain, rather than those who pass away, and how they reconcile feelings of injustice and a lack, or futility, of hope. Indeed, this particular story reflects a post-9/11 American culture, both through the sense of loss and the need for catharsis that the protagonist experiences. ‘The Things They Left Behind’ is narrated by an insurance broker who had worked for a firm on the one-hundred-and-tenth floor of the World Trade Centre. On the eleventh of September 2011, Scott Staley had called in sick, preferring the

euthanise his terminally-ill mother in her hospital room. He eventually succeeds in slipping her a lethal dose of her pain medication before he sets the scene to suggest evidence of suicide. The portrayal of the woman’s sickness and her son’s dilemma is reminiscent of King’s description of his own mother’s death, only four years before this story was published. While King asserts that he is not in the ‘business of confessional fiction’ (Bazaar, p.363), this story resonates with his own experience of witnessing his mother pass away from terminal cancer; this event, like his accident and 9/11, arguably, informed his writing at the time. On Writing, pp.102-103 356 Patrick McAleer, ‘I Have the Whole World in My Hands…Now What?: Power, Control, Responsibility and the Baby Boomers in Stephen King’s Fiction’, The Journal of Popular Culture, Vol. 44, No. 6, Dec 2011, pp.1209-1227, p.1226 357 King, Just After Sunset, p.520

82 prospect of enjoying a sunny day in the park to the thought of going to work. Consequently, he witnesses the explosion from Central Park. Approximately eleven months after the terrorist attack – ‘…not quite a year since a piece of the sky fell down and everything changed for all of us’358 – seven banal items, that had belonged to Scott’s co-workers, materialise in his apartment. Confirming the material existence of the items with the hotel concierge, Scott eventually discards them in a downtown rubbish bin; when he returns to his apartment, however, they have already reappeared. Even with the items locked in a utility cupboard, Scott can hear them whispering during the night. Eventually he shares his story with a fellow resident of the apartment building, Paula, who does not accept the supernatural implications. She suggests that someone has played a cruel trick on him and that his response to the objects is a symptom of survivor guilt. She takes one of the items – ‘a steel penny suspended in a Lucite cube’ – believing that when it does not reappear in Scott’s apartment he will be able to part with the remaining items. Three days later, Paula appears at his apartment, dishevelled and shaken, and returns the cube, revealing that she now knows everything about what its owner, Roland Abelson, was thinking and feeling during his last moments. Paula leaves, desiring never wanting to speak with Scott again. Her experience makes Scott realise that the objects had appeared to him because he is meant to return them to the loved ones of the victims with whom he had worked, and with whom he believes he should have perished.

Scott, as one of the people ‘left behind’, narrates his story seemingly as an act of his own willed understanding, acceptance and atonement for what had happened. The appearance of the seven items prompts Scott’s journey of acceptance of his decision not to work on that day; he had been trying to forget ‘a lot of things, including about two dozen faces’, but experiences a change of perception when he realises the ‘things we thought we were holding are actually holding us.’359 Through his admission to Paula, Scott realises his sense of survivor guilt has been preventing him from accepting the arbitrariness of life and death and the apparent lack of justice in his having survived. Thus, he represents the comprehension of human mortality that emerges not when we die, but when we survive and others do not. Scott reflects on the

358 Ibid., p.214 359 Ibid., p.213, p.214

83 unfairness of the event, recalling that he had maintained his usual morning routine until he saw the news: A day like any other day, that was what I had in mind. I think that is what Americans had come to expect as their right. Well, guess what? That’s an airplane! Flying into the side of a skyscraper. Ha-ha, asshole, the joke’s on you, and half the goddamn world’s laughing!360

For Scott, the injustice was of National as well as intimate significance; his recovery, however, is an act of personal catharsis and he experiences what he calls the ‘compensations’ of returning what is lost to its ‘home’.

The question of fairness in life and death has always been a preoccupation of King’s, but, in more his recent stories, death takes on a slower, more deliberate and languishing quality. The examples are too numerous for the scope of this study, therefore, one such story will be considered, selected because of its complete avoidance of supernatural themes. The story ‘Batman and Robin Have an Altercation’ (BBD), depicts sixty-one-year-old Doug Sanderson visiting his eighty-three-year-old father, known as Pop, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. On one of their weekly Sunday lunch outings, Doug and Pop are involved in a car accident. Doug is violently beaten by the stereotypical Texan driver of the other vehicle before his Pop stabs the Texan in the stomach and then lodges a steak knife – stolen from the diner where they had lunch – in the assailant’s throat. Doug returns his father to the passenger seat and goes to collect his licence and registration while the police approach the scene. This story exemplifies King’s penchant for depicting the fragility of memory. Pop unwittingly mentally tortures Doug, alternatingly remembering and forgetting important and painful facts, such as Doug’s own identity and the death of his older brother. Pop also discloses details of long-term memories, simultaneously pleasing and hurting Doug with the particulars of the night in which they dressed as Batman and Robin and his confession of having been unfaithful to Doug’s mother with a neighbour. It is this last revelation that distracts Doug as he is driving. Besides Pop’s unpredictable memory, he has developed other symptoms such as kleptomania and what Doug suspects is diabetes. He also relapses into a younger version of himself, back when he was a ‘roughneck in the Texan oilfields’, which causes him first to steal

360 Ibid., p.238

84 the steak knife and subsequently to use it to defend Doug. Just as many of King’s characters are helpless to prevent the threat of, or defend themselves against, supernatural foes, Doug is powerless to do more for his ailing father than cut up his lunch; in fact, it is feeble Pop who rescues Doug from danger. The subject of this story is disturbingly familiar, and I consider it one of the most powerful examples of King’s successful foray into more mainstream narratives. Without ghosts, haunted spaces, wilderness, possessed machinery or other-worldly creatures, King offers a story that is enjoyably brief; that discusses contemporary and relatable issues and through these connects the writer and reader; and, through its realism, creates an enduring impression on the imagination.

The arbitrariness of the circumstances of life and death is also overtly portrayed in the short story of the same collection, ‘Herman Wouk is Still Alive’ (BBD), in which the narrator depicts the concurrent storylines of two groups of people with contrasting expectations of life. As with ‘Batman and Robin’, this story depicts scenes, characters and relationships that are all too possible. Brenda and Jasmine, two high-school friends who are now impoverished single mothers with seven children between them and a sordid history of male partners, take off on an impromptu road trip with Brenda’s small lottery winnings. On their way to visit their respective parents in the hope of acquiring further funds, Brenda and Jasmine have a catastrophic accident, killing everyone in the vehicle. Contrasted with these characters are Phil and Pauline, two retired professional poets, both in their seventies, who, having lived their respective fruitful lives, have found enjoyment and fulfilment in each other’s company. They stop over at a for a picnic lunch en route to a poetry festival. The disparity between the two pairs is detailed, from their experiences and opinions of relationships and sex, to the kind of food they can afford. The ‘beige’ food Pauline expects to be served at the festival is still more appealing than the ‘noodles and Pepsi’ on which Brenda and her children survive. Even the disparity between the make and model of car both parties can afford to hire from Hertz is described, Brenda and Jasmine marvelling at the technology and newness of the Chevrolet nine-seater van they hire, Pauline jeering at the Cadillac Phil selected, calling him a ‘plastic hippie’.361 Young, uneducated, poor

361 King, Bazaar, p.268

85 and responsible for small children, to Brenda and Jasmine ‘the world is gray.’362 While they speed down the motorway, recounting stories and drinking alcohol, the relatively wealthy, accomplished and unencumbered Pauline and Phil are reading poetry to each other in the sunshine on a grassy slope. With seemingly no way out, like Thelma and Louise363, Brenda and Jasmine reach a wordless agreement and drive into a tree in front of the same rest stop at over a hundred miles an hour. Phil and Pauline witness the crash and are the first at the scene, Phil covering the bodies of dead children with his clothes.

In this story, old age does not condemn as it does in ‘Batman and Robin’. Rather, a perceived lack of hope pervades the story. As if to reinforce the arbitrary nature of the way things are, the narrator remarks of Brenda’s and Jasmine’s situation: They went to school together in Mars Hill and now they’re downstate and they help each other when they can. They are the fat women nobody wants to see, they have a litter of children between them, and they are chanting road trip, road trip like a couple of cheerleading fools. On a September morning, already hot at eight-thirty, this is the way things happen. It’s never been any different.364

Phil and Pauline, although elderly, are enjoying retirement and relative fame. Apropos of that, the title ‘Herman Wouk is Still Alive’ is a loaded statement. While enjoying their picnic, Phil offers Pauline the Time Magazine Arts section, in which is an article about Herman Wouk who, at ninety-five in 2010, when this story is set, is about to publish a book-length essay entitled The Language God Talks. As to whether or not this will be his final publication, Wouk is quoted as having responded, ‘The ideas don’t stop just because one is old. The body weakens, but the words never do.’365 Herman Wouk is still alive and The Language God Talks remains his most recent publication. Why some live long, fruitful lives and some commit murder-suicide are unanswerable questions. In the preface to this story, King explains that he wrote it in an effort to find closure, to attempt to understand, as he indicates in the notes of Full Dark, our existence and the terrible world we live in.366 ‘Only fiction’ asserts King, ‘can

362 Ibid, p.274 363 Thelma & Louise, directed by Ridley Scott, motion picture, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Hollywood, CA, 1991 364 Ibid., p.267 365 Ibid., p.270 366 King, Full Dark, p.428

86 approach answers to these questions. Only through fiction can we think about the unthinkable, and perhaps obtain some sort of closure.’367

An aspect of this unthinkable is explored in the story, ‘’ (FDNS) in which King revisits the theme of cheating death, or, at least, prolonging life, at a price. ‘Fair Extension’ depicts the motifs of narcissistic love, the human desire for immortality and the Faustian bargain. King remarks of this story, and the three others in this collection, that they are ‘harsh’; stories in which he has tried to ‘…record what people might do, and how they might behave, under certain dire circumstances.’368 ‘Fair Extension’ depicts the protagonist, Dave Streeter, as he seizes the opportunity to transfer his illness – terminal cancer – onto an old rival while he himself prospers. Streeter makes his deal with the devil, portrayed as a stall keeper named George Elvid, on the side of the Harris Avenue Extension; Elvid’s stall was advertising a ‘Fair extension’ for a ‘fair price’. Elvid, the name an anagram of ‘devil’, explains that he has sold many ‘extensions’ – a very American product, he suggests – from love extensions, to loan extensions, time extensions and even sight extensions, all for a ‘fair price’. Elvid’s fair price for Streeter is fifteen-percent of his wage for fifteen years and the transfer of his misfortune onto someone he hates. The hatred must be personal – Elvid scoffs at Streeter’s flippant suggestion of Kim Jong-il – and eventually Streeter names his putative best friend since school. Initially dubious, Streeter is convinced during the ‘trial period’, justifying his decision to himself through recalling the hatred he has harboured for his prosperous and healthy ‘best friend’, Tom Goodhugh, and the injustice of his situation compared to Goodhugh’s. As a result of his ‘deal’, Streeter observes the hitherto eminently fortunate Goodhugh lose his family, his wealth, and his quality of life, while Streeter enjoys the indirect vengeance: the story ends with Streeter and his wife happy, healthy and thriving. Having led an apparently ideal existence, Goodhugh is incredulous when his life begins to deteriorate; he confides in Streeter, ‘I don’t understand what’s happened to me! […] I feel like…I don’t know…fucking Job!’369 Some years later, as Goodhugh’s circumstances continue to decline, he exclaims to Streeter, ‘I have offended God […] I don’t know how, but I

367 King, Bazaar, p.261 [emphasis in original] 368 King, Full Dark, p.430 369 Ibid., p.322 [emphasis in original]

87 have.’370 Streeter, ever the supportive friend, assures Goodhugh that he has not offended God, knowing that it was he – Streeter – who had played the role of God and enabled the devil to meddle in Goodhugh’s life, much as in the story of Job. King has repeatedly evoked the Biblical story of Job because, as he states in Danse Macabre, ‘The most classic horror tale of [predestinate horror is] the story of Job, who becomes the human Astro-Turf in a kind of spiritual Superbowl between God and Satan.’371 At the end of ‘Fair Extension’, Streeter’s wife, thinking of the Goodhugh family’s misfortune, remarks to Streeter, ‘Life’s not fair.’ Streeter earnestly responds, ‘Life is fair. We all get the same nine-month shake in the box, and then the dice roll. Some people get a run of sevens. Some people, unfortunately, get snake- eyes. It’s just how the world is.’372

In King’s multiverse, the failure of human morality invites evil to take its place, and only the characters who maintain their moral compass and courage become heroes and triumph. In ‘Fair Extension’, King’s devil is a ‘businessman’, who opines that ‘The souls of humans have become poor and transparent things’.373 Indeed, the interaction between Elvid and Streeter suggests that true evil is human and that the devil is merely a facilitator. Of the characters in all the stories in Full Dark, No Stars, King considers them not to be without hope, but that they acknowledge that even ‘our fondest hopes […] may be in vain.’ King further asserts, ‘…nobility most fully resides not in success but in trying to do the right thing…and that when we fail to do that, or wilfully turn away from the challenge, hell follows.’374 Magistrale suggests that both King and Hawthorne tend to place their protagonists in complicated circumstances in which they cannot exert full control and that their choice of behaviour determines their fate; he submits there is ‘…the potential for heroic action so long as characters refuse to surrender themselves to despair.’375 The other three stories in this collection are longer than 20,000 words and, therefore, outside the scope of this study, yet their greater length does not make them more powerful than ‘Fair Extension’. Indeed, this story, by the nature of its brevity, transports the reader through Streeter’s narrative at a pace that does not encourage the reader to question the morality of his choices. In this particular

370 Ibid., p.323 371 King, Danse Macabre, p.79 372 King, Full Dark, p.327 [emphasis in original] 373 King, Full Dark, p.315 374 Ibid. 375 Magistrale, Landscape of Fear, pp. 38-39

88 story, King appeals to the fear of a common ‘known’, that is, terminal cancer, and elicits support for Streeter’s immoral decision to transfer this misfortune to Goodhugh, potentially leading the reader to wonder what they might do if offered such a choice.

As if to mitigate the reality of arbitrary mortality and negate the need for unconscionable decisions, many of King’s twenty-first century explore the concept of an enticing afterlife. In 2005, Heidi Strengell notes that King had rarely offered ‘glimpses’ into his version of an afterlife.376 She considers the short story ‘The Reach’ (SC) as one of King’s rare portrayals of the afterlife before that time. The elderly protagonist, Stella Flanders, crosses the stretch of frozen water between her island home and the mainland – known as ‘The Reach’ – and, after dying of exposure, is reunited with her dead relatives. Indeed, King has remarked that, as he gets older, he tends to ‘meditate more on What Comes Next.’ He further asserts, ‘The reason fantasy fiction remains such a vital and necessary genre is that it lets us talk about such things in a way realistic fiction cannot.’377 Interestingly, King’s depiction of the afterlife is relatively harmonious, as if horror is associated with life and death, but not afterlife. For example, the story ‘’ (JAS) depicts a group of passengers waiting for a train to arrive at the Crowheart Springs station in Wyoming and their gradual realisation that they had all died in a train derailment many years before. Yet, the story is not about the accident and subsequent death, but about the reconciliation of a couple, David and Willa, amidst the barrenness of the desert and the unfriendly disposition of their fellow passengers. Willa, having realised the truth long before the rest, leaves the group without explanation. David, telling himself that they can catch the train the following day, leaves to search for her and eventually finds her at a truck stop on Route 26, concluding that the music playing there would have attracted her. He finds her in a booth alone: the table before her is bare. After listening to the Derailers’ first set (an apt name for a band in this story), David urges Willa to return to the station; instead, she has him observe their lack of reflection in the mirror on the wall. David exclaims that he had managed to kick a can and scare away a wolf on his way to the truck stop and Willa explains to David the power of perception and expectation378, that he

376 Strengell, Dissecting Stephen King, p.67 377 King, Bazaar, p.187 378 King, Just After Sunset, p.22

89 perceived he had done those things because he expected to do so. After the band finishes their second set, David and Willa return to the station to explain to the others their situation. David notes that the moon is high, yet he had not been in the bar long; concerned, he questions Willa about the year, which neither of them remembers, but would guess at 1987 or 1988. Yet David had noticed a girl wearing a ‘Class of ‘03’ T- shirt in the bar and, deducing that she must have graduated at least three years earlier, they conclude that it is now actually 2006. Upon returning to the station, David and Willa attempt to convince their fellow ghosts that they are dead, urging them to actually see the signs adorning the disintegrating station walls that declare the site is scheduled for demolition in 2007. While some of the passengers realise, most refuse to accept their fate, ostracising David and Willa from the group and choosing to stay in the derelict station, awaiting their train. David and Willa, their relationship made stronger through shared adversity, return to the Route 26 bar; with their love and passion rekindled, they revel in their afterlife wilderness, and take to the empty dancefloor.

In another story from the same collection, King explores similar themes of reconciliation and opportunity in the afterlife. In the story ‘ at Special Bargain Rates’ (JAS), Anne, the protagonist, receives a phone call which only she can hear. The caller is her deceased husband, who had died two days earlier in a plane crash in Brooklyn. While her relatives plan a funeral downstairs, Anne has a final conversation with her dead husband in her bedroom above; a touching exchange that provides an opportunity for Anne and her husband, James, to say farewell. James also leaves her with two cryptic warnings, which turn out to be premonitions of future fatal accidents. After the second premonition comes to fruition, Anne returns to her sister’s home only just to miss another phone call. Convinced that the caller is James, she dials star-sixty-nine and calls the last number recorded, receiving an automated message offering her the ‘…New York Times at special bargain rates that won’t be repeated.’379 ‘Special Bargain Rates’, like ‘Willa’ and ‘The Things They Left Behind’, reflects King’s preoccupation not just with death per se, but with death that is sudden. While the characters in ‘Willa’ – at least, the ones who accept that they are dead – are

379 Ibid., p.377

90 unable to communicate with the living beyond just creating an uneasy feeling in the room, the deceased in ‘The Things They Left Behind’ and ‘Special Bargain Rates’ are able to contact the living and send a message to help or protect those whom they contact. While the nature of James’ death – his plane crashing into an apartment building – is reminiscent of 9/11, the story focusses on the concept of the afterlife, on the question of whether the dead can contact the living and the human capacity to ‘move on’. In King’s envisaged afterlife, many of the dead will not, or cannot, accept their fate, unable to move on from the ‘purgatory’ that, in this story, King describes as a movie-set version of Grand Central Station.380 Through the dialogue between Anne and James, the reader learns that Grand Central Station mock-up is a kind of waiting room where the dead accept their situation and then choose to leave through one of many doors leading out of the station. James also remarks that time is ‘funny’, as though it has taken on an elastic quality, and, despite being dead for two days, he feels as though the plane has only just crashed. The breakdown of linear time is one of King’s repeated descriptors of afterlife. James attributes his ability to contact Anne after the crash to the fact that he had dialled her number just before impact, and so had already established a connection, whereas the others who were with him were unable to use their mobile phones. While King more commonly exploits technology as a harbinger of evil or destruction to his human characters, for James and Anne it is the benign means by which they can effect a final communication. Anne muses that neither her nor her family have any qualms with flying, both immediately after the accident and in later years, as if, as she supposes, ‘…James had used up all the family’s Destruction Points…’.381 As King conveys in ‘The Things They Left Behind’, the world moves on, and the human capacity for compartmentalising the suffering of others and returning to the mundanity of normal life is commonplace.

This concept of ‘choice’ is a recurring theme in King’s depiction of the enticing afterlife. In the short story ‘Afterlife’ (BBD) the recently deceased William Andrews arrives in purgatory and enters the office of ‘Manager’ Isaac Harris, with whom he undertakes a kind of interview. Harris explains to Andrews: ‘You’re the pilgrim, not me. You and the other bozos who parade in and out of here. You’ll use one of the doors and go. I stay. […] You come in, you ask the

380 Ibid., p.369 381 Ibid., p.372

91 same questions, and I give the same answers. That’s my afterlife. Sound exciting?’382

Harris explains that he is in purgatory as the result of an unfortunate accident that occurred in a factory he owned and operated in 1911; he and his business partner escaped, but one hundred and forty-six women died in the fire, either from jumping out of windows, or by suffocation or burning. Andrews, having died in September 2012, remarks, ‘Like nine-eleven with fewer casualties.’383 We learn that Andrews has been in Harris’ office many times before, has asked the same questions, been given the same options – the door on the right, or the door on the left – and has always chosen to take the door through which he repeats his life, exactly as he has before. Harris, having been in purgatory for 101 years, does not expect Andrews to change, despite the sense of déjà vu Andrews will experience that indicates he has lived his life before. Harris advises Andrews to ‘use the other door and have done with it…’.384 Andrews queries the point of repeating the past if there’s no possibility of improvement; he asks, ‘why are we even here?’ Harris suddenly shouts as if referring Andrew’s question to an omnipotent presence for explanation, of which none is given. Hence Harris responds instead, remarking to Andrews, ‘When Job wanted to know that, Mr Anders385, God asked if Job was there when he – God – made the universe. I guess you don’t even rate that much of a reply. So let’s consider the matter closed. What do you want to do? Pick a door.’386

Andrews, believing he can hold on to at least ‘one thing’ that will remind him to live his life differently, takes the door on the left, and is subsequently reborn into 1956. Both ‘The Things They Leave Behind’ and ‘Special Bargain Rates’ are stories of wish- fulfilment; unlike the horror stories for which King is stereotyped, these two stories offer a version of an afterlife in which we have choices, in which we are able to contact the living, and in which there is the potential for renewal.

382 King, Bazaar, p.193 383 Ibid., p.195 384 Ibid., p.198 385 And yet, Harris repeatedly refers to him by the wrong name, using Mr Anderson, or Mr Anders, a comment, perhaps, on the potential lack of individual importance after death. 386 King, Bazaar, p.199

92 As with the stories considered in Chapters Three and Four, the stories examined in this Chapter embody a recognisable and common fear: that of the unknown. Indeed, mortality and the mystery of what comes next are fundamental aspects of the unknown. Death, ghosts, the afterlife and resurrection are all themes of the traditional Gothic mode, and, arguably, in his twenty-first century stories, King considers these themes from a more personal perspective than that conveyed in his earlier works. The arbitrariness of life and death; the chance to prolong life, circumvent ill-health and defer death; and the possibility of an afterlife in which relationships can be reconciled and loved ones reunited, are the distinct marks of King’s more recent depictions of the traditional Gothic themes of mortality. I consider these concepts to be best demonstrated through the short story genre, the deliberately brief and ambiguous nature of which resonates with the reality of human life.

93 Chapter Six

Made for the Screen

…it will be the Stephen King films, even more than the novels [sic] that have inspired them, that will eventually crystallize into King’s greatest artistic legacy.387

The intention of this chapter is to examine the scope of popular opinion of the screen adaptations of King’s oeuvre and to ascertain what effect, if any, this has had on King’s reputation and the reception of his written works. According to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), there are, to date, two-hundred and fifty-eight adaptations based on Stephen King’s written works.388 These comprise feature films, made-for- television films and series, mini-series and short films. There are currently also fourteen adaptations listed as being in pre-production, post-production or ‘announced’. The Official Stephen King website lists only forty-three film adaptations, one of which is due for release in 2019, and twenty-three made-for-television films and series.389 The Official website omits many of the adaptations and the numerous unofficial sequels of some films, listing only the feature length films and television series. Whatever the reason for the latter’s more selective list of adaptations, both websites demonstrate the significant number of screen adaptations in existence and the many more to come. The continual adaptation and, indeed, re-adaptation of King’s written works over the past four decades testifies to the adaptability of his stories. The scholars who have commented on the films and television series based on King’s fiction seem to agree that his works are well suited to such adaptation. George Beahm contends that, because King’s stories ‘…play well in what King calls “skull cinema”’ – that is, ‘the movie projector inside your head’390 – they are tailor-made for film or television adaptations.’391 Beahm suggests that King’s own love for cinema when he was a boy was the predominant influence over his writing; it was the screen – the ‘…oral tradition of storytelling and the cinema’ – rather than literature that captured

387 Tony Magistrale, The Films of Stephen King: From Carrie to Secret Window, Palgrave MacMillan, New York, 2008, p.2 388 Internet Movie Database, Stephen King, Writer, Producer, Actor, updated Jan 18, viewed 02 Jan 18, 389 Stephen King.com, op.cit. 390 Beahm, From A to Z, p.251 391 George Beahm, Stephen King Country: The Illustrated Guide to the Sites and Sights that Inspired the Modern Master of Horror, Running Press, Pennsylvania, 1999, p.129

94 the young King’s imagination.392 Tony Magistrale, a firm advocate for critical and academic attention of the screen adaptations of King’s oeuvre, asserts that ‘Stephen King’s literary vision intersects with the possibilities for film in allowing for a kind of cross-pollination with talented screenwriters or directors [and that] King’s fiction uniquely lends itself to such cross-pollination.’393 As will be explored in this chapter, this ‘cross-pollination’ – that is, the careful selection of producer, director and screen writer – is one of the contributing factors to the ‘success’ of adaptations of King’s fiction. This chapter will focus on film adaptations (with reference to television series of particular relevance), because, historically, film appears to be the medium against which successful adaptation is judged.394 The films considered in this chapter have been selected for their relative ‘success’ with a general audience; this will be measured by trends observed between results at the box office, official recognition in the form of creative industry awards, and popular opinion in the form of internet reviews.

King’s novel Carrie was published in 1974 and subsequently launched Stephen King’s prolific career. It was also the first of his works to be adapted to screen. The film Carrie was released in 1976, directed by Brian de Palma and produced by Paul Monash, with a screenplay by Laurence D. Cohen. Beahm remarks that the choice to adapt Carrie can be regarded, retrospectively, as an obvious one: ‘King’s emphasis is on story, on the people, and is told in a straightforward plot.’395 The film was considered a success in terms of box office earnings, costing an estimated $1.8 million US dollars to produce and grossing $34 million396, and was recognised through a number of awards and nominations in 1977.397 A simple Google search will demonstrate that the popularity of the original Carrie398 endures with the viewing public, receiving 7.4/10 on IMDb, 5/5 from Empire Online and 93% on Rotten

392 Ibid. 393 Tony Magistrale, Hollywood’s Stephen King, Palgrave MacMillan, New York, 2003, p.xvii 394 The prominence of television series appears to have increased with the emergence of streaming media and on-demand companies, with series such as Game of Thrones seemingly reinvigorating the age of television. An examination of the potential dominance of television series in the twenty-first century is outside the scope of this study. 395 Beahm, Stephen King Country, p.129 396 Internet Movie Database, Carrie, updated 2018, viewed 17 Nov 17, 397 Internet Movie Database, Carrie, Awards, updated 2018, viewed 17 Nov 17, 398 There have been two other adaptations: The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999) and a remake of the original film, Carrie (2013)

95 Tomatoes. Andrew Collins, a reviewer with Empire Online, proclaims, ‘The reason Carrie is still held in such high regard as a horror classic is very simple: it’s all in the sheer directorial bravado. De Palma at the top of his game.’399 According to Collins, De Palma’s directorial influence is the determining factor in the film’s longevity; nonetheless, compared to the visual effects made possible by advancements such as computer-generated imagery (CGI), Carrie shows its age. Collins goes on to assert that: The film’s $1.8 million budget prevented De Palma from depicting Carrie’s walk home as it appears in the book (by the time she gets there, half the city of Chamberlain is ablaze), but the route from King novel to the screen would not be as carefully trodden again until went to work.400

Magistrale notes that, since the release of Carrie, Hollywood’s involvement in adapting King’s work has become ‘obsessive’: just as King’s fiction has inspired a generation of young writers, so too has his writing ‘…birthed a phenomenon unique in the long history of Hollywood’s efforts at adapting literature into film.’401 According to Greg Smith, it was the financial and critical success of the film version of Carrie that ‘…catapulted King’s name into the public eye, drawing more attention than the two novels402 he had published at the time.’403 Smith contends that while Carrie catalysed the King phenomenon, it was The Shining (1980) that made King a household name.404 The film The Shining received a rating of 8.4/10 on IMDb and 87% on and has been one of the few adaptations of King’s writing to receive relatively significant critical attention. According to Magistrale, only Carrie and The Shining have received ‘considerable and consistent’ critical consideration because their directors, Brian De Palma and , respectively, automatically include them as ‘…part of larger directorial oeuvres [sic] that have nothing to do with Stephen King.’405 Magistrale asserts that any film directed by

399 Andrew Collins, Carrie Review, Empire Online, published 01 Jan 00, updated 28 Oct 15, viewed 17 Nov 17, 400 Ibid. Collins refers here to Frank Darabont, a long-time friend of Stephen King and director of some of his more successful adaptations, such as The Shawshank Redemption and The Mist, as will be discussed later in the chapter. 401 Magistrale, Films of Stephen King, p.1 402 Carrie (1974) and ’Salem’s Lot (1975) 403 Greg Smith, ‘The Literary Equivalent of a Big Mac and Fries?: Academics, Moralists and the Stephen King Phenomenon’, The Midwest Quarterly, Vol. 43, Issue. 4, Summer 2002, pp.329-345, p.343 404 Ibid. 405 Magistrale, Hollywood’s Stephen King, p.xii

96 Kubrick demands critical attention406; yet, as Smith observes, following the success of these two films, adaptations of King’s works increased in number while simultaneously decreasing in quality.407 Many of King’s short stories were sold to ‘second-rate’ production companies in the late 1970s and were very loosely adapted into feature films during the 1980s and 1990s, bearing King’s name in the title but little resemblance to his original work408; such as Stephen King’s Children of the Corn (1984), Stephen King’s (1991) and Stephen King’s The Night Flier (1997). The more mainstream films, however, such as Stand By Me (1986), The Shawshank Redemption (1994), and (1999), acknowledge King more subtly in the credits, so much so that they seem largely unknown as King adaptations at all. Indeed, Smith argues that it is the more mainstream adaptations that have done much to reconcile the poor reputation which the innumerable examples of what he calls ‘schlock horror’409 adaptations bestowed on King; yet, as Magistrale notes, often the producers would downplay King’s connection to these mainstream films so as to avoid their being typecast as ‘horror’.410 Many of the films adapted from King’s works have spawned even more lacklustre permutations, with plotlines recycled but not refreshed in sequels such as A Return to ’Salem’s Lot (1987), Pet Sematary 2 (1992), Sometimes They Come Back…Again (1995) and the seemingly endless number of Children of the Corn sequels. Magistrale attributes this to the exceptional monetary value of King’s name, remarking that it is because of the selling power of his name alone that King is the United States’ most adapted horror writer, notwithstanding the success of authors such as , Clive Barker, Anne Rice and Dean Koontz, who have not received a similar level of attention from Hollywood.411

In 2017 alone, four films and two television series adapted from the works of Stephen King were released. The film IT Part One: The Loser’s Club was a long- anticipated remake of the two-part of 1990; The Dark Tower was a film that failed to meet high expectations; Gerald’s Game and 1922 were films released directly

406 Magistrale, Films of Stephen King, p.6 407 Smith, ‘Literary Equivalent’, p.343 408 Ibid., p.334 409 Ibid., p.333 410 Magistrale, Hollywood’s Stephen King, p.xiv 411 Ibid., p.xv

97 to ; and Mr Mercedes and The Mist were television series aired on channels only accessible in the United States. As if celebrating the influx of King adaptations, various online articles were published late in 2017, ranking the best and the worst adaptations since Carrie. , Variety and were three of the many who released lists ranked by their own staff; the films Carrie; The Shining; Stand By Me; The Shawshank Redemption; and Misery (1990) were listed in the top ten of all three lists, with (1982); The Dead Zone (1983); Christine (1983); and The Mist (2007) appearing in two of the three lists.412 Rotten Tomatoes invited visitors to their website to rank the ten ‘best’ Stephen King film adaptations themselves; from one to ten they are as follows: The Shawshank Redemption; The Shining; The Green Mile; Stand By Me; Misery; Carrie; The Dead Zone; The Mist; 1408 (2007); and (1995).413 There is consensus, then, in regard to the popularity of seven particular film adaptations: The Shawshank Redemption; The Shining; Stand By Me; Misery; Carrie; The Dead Zone and The Mist. In terms of box office success, the ten highest grossing film adaptations of King’s fiction, based on US box office earnings (adjusted for ticket price inflation), are: IT Part One: The Loser’s Club; The Green Mile; The Shining; Carrie; Misery; Pet Sematary (1989); Stand By Me; 1408; The Running Man (1987); and, The Lawnmower Man (1992).414 In terms of significant official recognition, The Shawshank Redemption was nominated for seven

412 Variety, The Best and Worst Stephen King Adaptations Ranked, published 05 Sep 17, viewed 20 Mar 18, ; Rolling Stone, Top 30 Stephen King Movies, Ranked, published 02 Aug 17, viewed 20 Mar 18, ; Entertainment Weekly, The 10 Best Stephen King Movies, published 04 Aug, 17, viewed 20 Mar 18, 413 Rotten Tomatoes, Total Recall: Rank the 10 Best Stephen King Movie Adaptations, published 06 Sep 17, viewed 20 Mar 18, 414 Box Office Mojo, Franchises: Stephen King, Grosses adjusted for ticket price inflation, updated 19 Mar 18, viewed 20 Mar 18, The monetary success of the first eight of these films came as no surprise to me during my research as I consider them authentic adaptations and enjoyable films in their own right; however, The Running Man and The Lawnmower Man ranking in the top ten was unexpected. Upon reflection, I would contend that The Running Man attracted significant attention in American cinemas because it was advertised as based on a Stephen King novel, was directed by Paul Michael Glaser, of Starsky and Hutch fame (he plays the original Starsky), and starred in the lead role; in 1987 these three names were presumably well-known. However, the film The Lawnmower Man was directed by Brett Leonard and starred Pierce Brosnan and bears so little resemblance to the short story of the same name that Stephen King filed a law suit to have his name removed from the title (Magistrale, Hollywood’s Stephen King, p.xi); indeed, critic, Richard Harrington, remarked that the film was so loosely adapted from the original story as to ‘constitute fraud’. (Richard Harrington, cited in Smith, ‘Literary Equivalent’, p.334)

98 and two Golden Globes, as well as obtaining seventeen wins and twenty-nine nominations for more obscure awards in the United States.415 Stand By Me was nominated for one Academy Award and two Golden Globes, and received four wins and ten other nominations, predominantly for best screenplay and production.416 Kathy Bates received a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for her performance in the lead role in Misery and she and her co-star, James Caan, received various nominations for their performances in the film.417 Both The Dead Zone and The Mist received several wins and nominations for excellence in direction and acting from various festivals and American academies.418

When these three determining factors – popular reviews, box office earnings and official recognition – are taken into account, Carrie, The Shining and Stand By Me are the most ‘successful’ film adaptations of King’s fiction. Arguably, this can be attributed to well-known and able creative teams (directors, producers and writers), casting and subject matter. The directors, producers, writers and cast of both Carrie and The Shining were renowned in their field, and as such, presumably received a budget commensurate with their track records. And, of course, The Shining benefited from the success of Carrie and the strength of Stephen King’s reputation in the late 1970s. The novels are distinctive, hence so too is the subject matter; both films employ supernatural themes to communicate human weakness, desire and power and are, arguably, more about the motivations and decisions of the human characters than the supernatural elements which alienate those characters from their respective societies. Similarly, Stand By Me profited from the experience and reputation of the director , as well as its subject matter. Stand By Me is a film based on the ‘The Body’ from Stephen King’s collection entitled Different Seasons. It is a coming-of- age story about the loss of childhood innocence ensuing from the first real encounter

415 Internet Movie Database, The Shawshank Redemption Awards, updated 2018, viewed 19 Mar 18, 416 Internet Movie Database, Stand By Me Awards, updated 2018, viewed 19 Mar 18, 417 Internet Movie Database, Misery Awards, updated 2018, viewed 19 Mar 18, 418 Internet Movie Database, The Dead Zone Awards, updated 2018, viewed 19 Mar 18, ; and Internet Movie Database, The Mist Awards, updated 2018, viewed 19 Mar 18,

99 with death. Gordie Lachance and his three best friends live in the shadow of the older boys of Castle Rock; however, when they hear that the body of a boy their age has been seen outside of the town, they decide to walk to the location to see it for themselves. The film is a faithful adaptation of the novella, maintaining storyline, climax, characterisation and even some dialogue. There are no supernatural themes in this story, which merely depicts the journey of discovery of four twelve-year-old boys who leave the relative safety of their backyards to encounter death. There are no explosions, no car chases, no large-scale battles or impressive visual effects, yet, according to the IMDb list of Most Popular Feature Films of 1986, Stand By Me ranked third in that year after Top Gun and Alien.419

Similar causal factors can be surmised for the popularity of the other more successful adaptations. The Dead Zone was directed by David Cronenberg, starring , Tom Skerrit and Martin Sheen. Walken plays the protagonist, , who spends five years in a coma as the result of a car accident. He awakes from the coma to discover he has a psychic ability which he calls visiting ‘the dead zone’. Drawing upon this ability he assists police in uncovering a mass murderer in their midst and reveals up-and-coming politician and Presidency candidate, Greg Stillson, as the President who would provoke World War Three if elected. The novel is a combination of psychological thriller, detective story and political commentary, and yet the film version is more of a love story gone awry than a thriller. The Dead Zone ranked twenty-eighth on a list of top films of 1983, competing with such films as The Outsiders, Scarface and : Return of the Jedi; interestingly, it even ranked lower than the two other King adaptations of that year: Cujo and Christine.420

Misery was also directed by Rob Reiner and benefited from the casting of Kathy Bates and James Caan. The story depicts a famous writer, Paul Sheldon, who is rescued from a car accident by an avid fan of his book series, ‘Misery’. Rather than taking Sheldon to a hospital, takes him to her home and cares for him

419 Internet Movie Database, Most Popular Feature Films Released 1986-01-01 to 1986-12-31, updated 2018, viewed 19 Mar 18, 420 Internet Movie Database, Most Popular Feature Films Released 1983-01-01 to 1983-12-31, updated 2018, viewed 19 Mar 18,

100 herself. Sheldon is most renowned for his series ‘Misery’, but, having become disenchanted with the series, he had recently killed off the protagonist, named Misery, and thus concluded the series. Having been a nurse, Annie is able to provide Sheldon the care he needs but, as a disappointed enthusiast of the ‘Misery’ series, she is also able to inflict considerable pain and injury on the man who ‘killed’ her favourite character. In return for his life, Sheldon agrees to write another Misery story, just for Annie; however his reluctance and his escape attempts cost him dearly. As with Stand By Me, Misery does not contain any supernatural themes, it is focussed on the interactions between Sheldon and Annie. The Gothic nature of this story is manifest in the claustrophobic nature of the plot: Annie’s home is isolated in the New England woods and secluded from the local community, Sheldon is Annie’s prisoner and she appears to have no intention ever to release him. Misery rated ninth on the IMDb top films of 1990 list, after such films as , Part III, Pretty Woman, Total Recall and Home Alone.421

The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and The Mist are three of King’s favourite adaptations of his own works.422 All three screenplays were written and directed by Frank Darabont, a long-time friend of King, and to whom King dedicated his collection, Stephen King Goes to : ‘For Frank Darabont, who made my dreams real’.423 The Shawshank Redemption is arguably the most popular Stephen King adaptation that is not widely recognised as such. As with Stand By Me, the involvement of King was downplayed, with only a reference to its being ‘based on’ the novella ‘Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption’ in the opening credits and a ‘special thanks to Stephen King’ at the end of the closing credits. Also, like Stand By Me, The Shawshank Redemption contains no supernatural elements and is based on a novella from the same collection, Different Seasons. The protagonist, Andy Dufresne, has been wrongly indicted for the murder of his wife and her lover and placed in Shawshank Prison for two life sentences. Both the novella and the film are realised through the first-person narration of Dufresne’s fellow Shawshank prisoner

421 Internet Movie Database, Most Popular Feature Films Released 1990-01-01 to 1990-12-31, updated 2018, viewed 19 Mar 18, 422 Stephen King, Stephen King Goes to the Movies, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 2009, p.579 423 Ibid., p.vii

101 Ellis Boyd ‘Red’ Redding, who is the man in Shawshank who can ‘get things’ and is Andy’s closest friend during his imprisonment. The story follows the experiences of Andy in the prison, from his relationship with some other , to his being ‘employed’ by the warden and other guards as an accountant (he was a professional accountant before he was imprisoned), to his eventual escape. Ultimately, the story is about hope, something which Red is convinced does not belong in Shawshank but something Andy will not relinquish. The film was described by the Empire Online reviewer, Ian Nathan, not as a , but ‘…a thumpingly good ode to friendship, hope, wit, wiles and wisdom’.424 The Shawshank Redemption starred two established actors of the 1990s, as Andy and as Red, and was Darabont’s first feature film adaptation of King’s fiction. It was released in 1994, along with Quentin Tarantino’s and Robert Zemeckis’ , and initially seemed to go unnoticed. As Robbie Collin asserts in his review of the film, The audiences who went to see Forrest Gump and Pulp Fiction at the cinema spent 1995 catching up with The Shawshank Redemption on video […] Few of us can remember ever being sold The Shawshank Redemption: we mostly discovered it under our own steam, which makes our relationship with Darabont’s film feel more precious and personal than, say, Forrest Gump, the release of which was a media event measurable on the Richter scale.425

Nevertheless, according to the IMDb’s list of Most Popular Feature Films in 1994, The Shawshank Redemption ranks number one, followed by The Lion King, Pulp Fiction and Forrest Gump.426 Indeed, IMDb lists The Shawshank Redemption as the second Greatest Movie of All Time, after The Godfather; the third is Schindler’s List.427 King notes that Darabont took creative licence with elements of ‘Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption’ and added scenes that were not in the original text, such as when Andy plays the soprano duet from The Marriage of Figaro through the PA system across the entire prison, jeopardising his own safety but providing a few

424 Ian Nathan, Empire Online, The Shawshank Redemption Review, published 17 Feb 94, viewed 20 Mar 18, 425 Robbie Collin, The Telegraph UK, The Shawshank Redemption, review, published 21 Dec 13, viewed 20 Mar 18, 426 Internet Movie Database, Most Popular Feature Films Released 1994-01-01 to 1994-12-31, updated 2018, viewed 19 Mar 18, 427 Internet Movie Database, Top 100 Greatest Movies of All Time (The Ultimate List), updated 2018, viewed 19 Mar 18,

102 minutes of the forbidden pleasure of music to his fellow inmates. This scene further endears Andy’s character to the audience and establishes him as a man of independent thought and action, rather than a pawn for the prison staff. Of this film, Stephen King has remarked that It’s a film about human beings – and human beings are not secondary to the theme of horror. […] You cannot scare anyone unless you first get the audience to care about these make-believe characters. They have to become people with whom you identify.428

Arguably, one of King’s talents as a writer is creating characters in stories with whom the reader is encouraged to identify, regardless of that character’s or motivations. Presumably, then, one of the difficulties in adapting King’s stories is the challenge of authentic depiction of that character on the screen.

The film The Green Mile is based on a novel of the same title and stars , David Morse, Michael Clarke Duncan and James Cromwell. Both the novel and the film employ the first-person framing narrative of the protagonist Paul Edgecomb who in 1996, as an old man in a nursing home, recalls to a fellow resident the remarkable story of his time as the Block Supervisor of the Cold Mountain Penitentiary Death Row, nicknamed ‘The Green Mile’. In the year 1932, Edgecomb and his fellow guards receive an African-American inmate, John Coffey, who has been convicted of the rape and murder of two young girls, for which he is sentenced to death in the electric chair. Over the course of the story, Edgecomb learns of, and benefits from, Coffey’s supernatural gift of healing and increasingly suspects that the man is innocent. Despite confirming Coffey’s innocence, Edgecomb is unable to have his sentence rescinded and, in the film version, Edgecomb supervises Coffey’s death sentence being carried out. Of the film, Stephen King has remarked that he was ‘delighted’, but that he thought it a little “soft”: I like to joke with [director] Frank Darabont that his movie was really the first R-rated Hallmark Hall of Fame production. For a story that is set on death row, it has a really feel-good, praise-the-human-condition sentiment to it. I certainly don’t have any problem with that because I am a sentimentalist at heart.429

428 Stephen King, cited in Magistrale, Hollywood’s Stephen King, p.12 429 Ibid.

103 The Green Mile scores 8.5/10 on IMDb and 80% on Rotten Tomatoes; in the year 1999, it ranked as the third most popular film for the year, behind Eyes Wide Shut and The Matrix.430 Stephen King is recognised in the closing credits as the author of the novel on which the film is based; however, this film, as was the case with The Dead Zone and The Shawshank Redemption, is not commensurate with King’s reputation as a horror writer and is thus generally not known as an adaptation of his works.431 One reason for this, notes Magistrale, is that the supernatural element of The Green Mile bears a greater affinity with ‘religious, mystical, and folkloric phenomena than with the abject monsters of horror.’432 Magistrale asserts that The Dead Zone is more a ‘tragic love story than it is a tale of terror’ and that both The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption are more prison narrative than horror film; yet all three films depict ‘prototypical Stephen King heroes’ as their protagonists.433

The film The Mist is immediately more recognisable as a ‘typical’ Stephen King adaptation and, indeed, more commensurate with the general tone of Darabont’s work also.434 In the film, based on the short story of the same name from the collection Skeleton Crew, King expresses his distrust of military operations through the depiction of an experiment, the Arrowhead Project, gone wrong, resulting in the whole town of Long Lake, Maine, being enveloped in a thick mist that harbours aggressive prehistoric creatures. Several of the townsfolk take shelter in a supermarket and attempt to work together to understand their situation and discover a solution. Eventually, as the relationship between the social groups that have formed within the supermarket becomes untenable, the protagonist, David Drayton, abandons the supermarket hideout with five others, including his son, and drives them through the mist, hoping to reach the end of it before the tank of fuel runs out. Drayton and his five companions have no concept of how the mist started, what exactly lurks in it, or if they will ever escape it. The end of the story depicts Drayton and his passengers driving away in the hope of

430 Internet Movie Database, Most Popular Feature Films Released 1999-01-01 to 1999-12-31, updated 2018, viewed 19 Mar 18, 431 Magistrale, Hollywood’s Stephen King, p.117 432 Ibid. 433 Ibid., p.117, p.118 434 Indeed, in the same year Shawshank was released, Darabont directed an adaptation of Mary Shelley’s . He is also the creator and director of the popular television series The Walking Dead, for which he seemingly used The Mist as both practice for gruesome scenes and an audition process for certain actors who appear both in the film and the series.

104 discovering an end to the mist. The film adaptation offers what is, to me, a most brutal climax. True to the original story, Drayton and his passengers drive through the mist until the car runs out of fuel. Drayton has a hand gun, and five rounds of ammunition. As the film’s hero, Drayton shoots his five passengers before leaving the vehicle and attempting to attract one of the creatures in the mist to end his own life. A loud rumbling stops his shouting as US Army trucks and soldiers emerge from the suddenly dissipating mist, the soldiers shooting the fleeing creatures. Drayton is left sobbing by his vehicle, now full of corpses, as the Army trucks drive past him. The addition of this climax as an alternative to the ambiguity of King’s story arguably contributes to the overall impact of the film. Whereas the ambiguity would have left the film unfinished, the brutal ending offered closure, at a price. As Magistrale has noted, …the deft hand of a director or screenwriter better acquainted with the pacing required in the art of filmmaking often appears to enrich Stephen King’s work; there are numerous instances where the collaboration between a creative screenwriter and a director has actually embellished the original King bestseller.435

Arguably, the most successful example of this is the Darabont-King collaboration as Darabont seems to understand the nuances of King’s stories and thus adapts them in a manner consistent with King’s modus operandi.

The number of adaptations released in 2017 warrants specific consideration. Beahm has contended that King’s ‘…supernatural stories [of the 1980s] suffered the most in ’, and that his more mainstream stories ‘survived’ the adaptation process ‘virtually unchanged’.436 Yet the success of the most recent adaptation of the novel IT suggests otherwise. The film, It Part One: The Loser’s Club, is directed by Andy Muschietti with a screenplay by Chase Palmer, Cary Jogi Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman, and is overtly supernatural in nature, portraying the battle between the members of the ‘Loser’s Club’ and the evil that lurks in their hometown, Derry. Often perceived as a clown named Pennywise, this evil can transform into the deepest fears of its victims and has haunted Derry for decades, returning every twenty-seven or so years to ‘feed’. In the summer of 1958, the seven young members of the Loser’s Club confront It in the sewers beneath Derry and believe they are victorious. Twenty-seven

435 Magistrale, Films of Stephen King, p.4 436 Beahm, Stephen King Country, p.28

105 years later, in 1985, however, It has returned and the Loser’s Club must revisit Derry and their childhood fears as adults. The novel depicts the events of 1958 and 1985 concurrently, moving back and forth between these years so that both confrontations with It occur at the end of the novel. The film, however, has adapted the entirety of the novel set in 1958 as ‘Part One’; presumably, the film IT Part Two, scheduled for release in 2019, will complete the adaptation with the journey of the Loser’s Club as adults. It Part One had a $35 million budget and received over $123 million over its opening weekend, making it the highest grossing opening for a horror movie on record.437 The film has won four, and been nominated for twenty-three, awards from a number of obscure sources (nothing of the Golden Globe or Academy Award calibre)438 and scores 7.5/10 on IMDb and 85% on Rotten Tomatoes. Whether the film’s apparent success is a result of its being a remake of the 1990 TV miniseries (directed and written by Lee Wallace and starring as the memorable clown), an association with Stephen King, or a reflection of effective marketing – or a combination of all three – can only be speculated. Certainly, the budget, visual effects and calibre of acting correspond with what can be expected from twenty-first century big-budget productions, which, I consider, has given this film an edge over the original adaptation of 1990.

The film 1922 (2017) is a bespoke Netflix production, directed and written by Zak Hilditch, and based on the long story of the same title from the collection Full Dark, No Stars (2010). The story itself is written as a letter of confession from the protagonist, Wilfred Leyland James, who is haunted by the events of the year 1922 in which he coaxed his son into assisting him to murder his wife, resulting in the progressive disintegration of his life and (it is intimated) suicide. It is the first-person narration, providing explanation and insight into James’ fears and motivations, which conveys the most poignant aspects of the horror of the story. Indeed, the real horror in this story, as in so many of King’s, is the capacity for human evil, rather than anything supernatural. The presence of the ghosts of James’ wife and, at the end of the film, his

437 Frank Pallotta, ‘CNN Money, “It” breaks box office records with monster opening weekend’, published 11 Sep 17, viewed 02 Jan 18, 438 Internet Movie Database, It Awards, updated 2018, viewed 19 Mar 18,

106 son and his son’s girlfriend, is the extent of supernatural influence in the film and even then, it is unclear whether these ghosts exist or are simply figments of James’ imagination. The film did not open in the box office, so there are no earnings to consider. Frank Darabont received some obscure nominations for directorial awards439 and the film scored 6.3/10 on IMDb and 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. For this viewer at least, the film 1922 maintained the integrity of the original story and conveyed authentically the most frightening aspect: the matter-of-fact and reasonable confession of James, reminiscent of that of Poe’s narrator in ‘The Black Cat’.

King’s eight-part fantasy epic, The Dark Tower series, was ambitiously adapted into one feature-length film in 2017. Co-written and directed by the Danish director Nikolaj Arcel, best known for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009), this adaptation attempted to fit elements of seven of the novels into ninety-five minutes, drastically altering the motivations and characterisation of the protagonist, , and concentrating the story more on the teenage character, Jake, in a kind of multi-dimensional coming-of-age tale. The Dark Tower novels depict the journey of Roland, the last ‘Gunslinger’, as he pursues the ‘Man in Black’ and attempts to prevent the ‘Dark Tower’ from falling and all worlds connected to it (including our Earth) from being destroyed. Involving vampires, mutants, zombies, ghosts, demons, time travel and post-apocalyptic worlds, this series is overtly and complexly supernatural, arguably necessitating a film trilogy or television series to capture King’s vision accurately. Thus, with this film, Beahm’s comment regarding the translation of supernatural themes in adaptations of King’s fiction resonates strongly, as The Dark Tower has suffered in translation, rating 5.7/10 on IMDb and only 16% on Rotten Tomatoes. It was also largely a financial failure, costing $60 million to produce and earning just over $50 million gross in the United States.440 Having had no involvement with the production of the film, King attributes the failure to the 3,000 or so pages of material to work with and the PG-13 rating, making the film suitable for a younger

439 Darabont was nominated for a Best Director Award by ‘The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films USA’, and the ‘Fright Meter Awards’. 440 Internet Movie Database, The Dark Tower (2017), updated Jan 18, viewed 02 Jan 18, < http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1648190/?ref_=nv_sr_1>

107 audience at the expense of much of the grit that makes the novels so enjoyable to those whom he terms ‘the purists.’441

Reflecting on the success or failure of various adaptations, King has stated, ‘…my idea is always to give a director the chance, because I am not very personally invested in these things once they are out of my word processor and downloaded from my head and onto the page.’442 He goes on to describe the difference between the ‘single artisan’ writing a story and the ‘four hundred artists’ in the filmmaking process: ‘…it becomes a lottery. All you can do is try to pick the best people possible; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.’443 Even when King does invest himself beyond his word processor, the gamble still applies. Indeed, Magistrale has asserted that the best adaptations of King’s works are ‘…born from the art of other writers (and directors) interpreting King for the screen’ and that screenplays of his own devising have ‘…problems with pacing and focus […] lingering too excessively over issues perhaps better suited to novels rather than motion pictures.’444 Considering the examples, I agree with Magistrale’s assessment. One such adaptation is King’s remake of a Danish television miniseries, (1994), which he released as (2004) with the American Broadcasting Company (ABC). King has remarked that he expanded the original story, creating fifteen episodes out of what had been an eight-episode series.445 The producer of The Kingdom, Lars Von Trier, contributed as a writer and producer to King’s adaptation; another example of the collaborative creative process King appears to prefer in his filmmaking endeavours. Yet, despite all the production aspects of the series being unusually well planned and the general agreement between producers, director and the ABC that the series would be ‘a roaring success’, Kingdom Hospital flopped, with ratings so low in the final few episodes that King likened it to ‘…the ratings equivalent of black death.’446 Similarly, the film Cell

441 Jack Shepherd, ‘Independent.co.uk’, ‘The Dark Tower’: Stephen King explains why the movie adaptation struggled to work, published 27 Sep 2017, viewed 02 Jan 18, 442 Magistrale, Hollywood’s Stephen King, pp.10-11 443 Ibid., p.11 444 Magistrale, Films of Stephen King, p.3 445 Magistrale, Hollywood’s Stephen King, p.9 446 King, Stephen, ‘Entertainment Weekly’, Stephen King on the failure of ‘Kingdom Hospital’, published 01 Feb 07, viewed 02 Jan 18,

108 (2016) was a particular disappointment, having been adapted from a 2006 novel of the same name which explores the dangers of global mobile communications in the twenty-first century. The novel depicts the protagonist, Clay Riddell, and his attempt to reunite with his son after a mysterious mobile signal has been broadcast globally, turning anybody who attempts to use their mobile phone into a violent -like pack animal. Despite the screenplay being written by King, the film dropped many crucial aspects of the original storyline; even the performances of well-known actors John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson447 in the two leading roles did little to improve the calibre of the production and the film scores poor ratings of 4.3/10 on IMDb and a mere 10% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The television miniseries (1999) is a marginally more successful production of a screenplay written by King and contains King’s classic tropes of small-town mentality, questionable human integrity and the ethical dilemmas people face in times of adversity; in this case, the townspeople must decide whether or not to sacrifice one of their children in order to save the rest. Magistrale has asserted that the teleplay’s ‘bloated midsection’ could have been streamlined to ‘sustain a television audience’s restive attention’,448 yet the miniseries received relatively good reviews and, for this viewer at least, represented some of the best of King’s observations of human beings, their relationships and their ability to deal with conflict. King also wrote the screenplay for the film The Stand (1994), based on an extremely long novel depicting the dichotomy of good and evil in a post-apocalyptic world in which a virus has wiped out most of the human population. The adaptation maintained a six-hour miniseries, which enabled much of the epic story to be included. Rating 7.2/10 on IMDb, 8.3/10 on TV.com and 86% on Rotten Tomatoes, it seemed to be well-received by viewers and contributed to King’s reputation as more than just a horror writer.

Considering the earlier adaptations of King’s fiction, Beahm has asserted that the quick succession of the releases of Christine (1983), Children of the Corn (1984),

447 Cusack and Jackson also played the characters of Mike Enslin and Mr Olin, respectively, in the 2007 film adaptation of 1408. 448 Magistrale, Hollywood’s Stephen King, p.211

109 Firestarter (1984), Cat’s Eye (1985), Silver Bullet (1985), and (1986 [written and directed by King]), ‘…tarnished the once shiny luster of King’s name in the film community.’449 Following the success of Carrie and The Shining, Beahm contends that Hollywood, in effect, had killed the goose that laid the golden eggs by flooding the market, eager to capitalize on King’s good name, which obviously worked wonders in bookstores worldwide. But as King fans knew, whatever it was that they found in his books, they seldom found in his movies.450

Greg Smith contends that the success of Carrie and The Shining brought considerable attention to King as a writer, arguing that ‘…word had spread among the reading populace that it was the fiction […] that really warranted attention – and by the end of the 1980s King was the bestselling novelist in the world.’451 The problem with this, according to Smith, is that the majority of adaptations of King’s fiction have been ‘awful’, which has resulted in those unfamiliar with King’s works assuming that his prose ‘manifests a similar lack of quality’.452 Smith opines that, of the twenty-one film adaptations released between 1986 and 1996, nineteen were ‘at best typical schlock horror fare’453; this combined with King’s reputation as a bestselling novelist resulted in King being ‘permanently and publically pigeonholed as just a trashy horror writer.’454 In the more than twenty years since the period on which Smith was commenting, seventeen feature films and sixteen made-for-television films and series have been released; yet, as has been explored in this chapter, quantity does not equate to quality. However, the sheer volume of adaptations to date, not to mention the number in development, would appear to suggest that Stephen King is one of the most adapted living authors of the Western world. With future film adaptations of the novels Sleeping Beauties (2017) and Doctor Sleep (2013), a new television series, Castle Rock, in production, and a remake of The Stand announced, it is clear that not only will King’s more recent work be adapted, but his previous work will continue to be revisited and readapted. With the proliferation of material, and the burgeoning world

449 Beahm, Stephen King Country, p.27. Interestingly, these six films are all overtly supernatural in nature. 450 Ibid. 451 Smith, ‘Literary Equivalent’, p.344 452 Ibid., p.332 453 The exceptions, according to Smith, were Misery and The Shawshank Redemption. (Ibid., p.334) 454 Smith, ‘Literary Equivalent’, p.335

110 of on-demand internet streaming media providers such as Netflix, it is hard to imagine there ever not being a King adaptation in circulation.

Largely it appears as though the screen adaptations of King’s written works are as susceptible to the idiosyncrasies of production and the individual preferences of the viewer as his stories are to the publisher and the reader. King has contributed to his inconsistent reputation, both with his published fiction and the adaptations thereof, through his own filmmaking journey and through his openness to others who adapt his work. Nonetheless, as more adaptations of King’s works emerge and modern audiences enjoy them, it may be that the older adaptations develop an attraction of their own and that his early books will continue to resonate with younger readers. Through this self-reinforcing marketing cycle it is reasonable to propose that the works of King will maintain a level of popularity that will ensure the longevity of his works, including his short stories, subsequently contributing to the popularity and importance of the short story, the Gothic genre and screen adaptation.

111 Conclusion

The short story has been described in various ways based on the predominant norms of a particular era and, often, the whims of critics, scholars, publishers and writers. This seemingly frustrating fluidity is, arguably, the short story’s greatest asset. Its versatility of structure (adhering consistently to restrictions of length only), content and means of dissemination suggests that it can adapt to the frequent and significant developments of the era in which it is written, yet retain the simple pleasure it affords by its very nature of connecting writer and reader in a transcended time and place. The challenge for the genre, as explored in Chapter One, is how it reaches the reader in the first place. Aside from publication in ‘little’ magazines and anthologies – arguably only read by editors, academics and hopeful writers – and through e-publishing – through which stories are purchased but not necessarily read – the endurance of the short story genre and its attractiveness to the general reader may rely on the popular reputation of writers. I consider the most apt definition was that offered by Valerie Shaw, who, like Poe, defines the short story in terms of fictional subject matter, controlled length and, most importantly, the ‘pleasing, unified impression’ it creates in the reader’s imagination.455 The definition against which I considered the texts in this thesis attempted to reflect both these views, as well as my own. Similarly, Bryllion Fagin’s description of the short story as mirroring the values of American culture, although he was referring to the culture of 1936, still applies today, in a Western culture that appears predisposed to the shorter, more intense experience.

Similarly, the Gothic mode has evolved to encompass a vast range of texts, films and television shows, so much so that I relate to Allan Lloyd-Smith’s query, ‘What, in the modern world, it not Gothic?’456 Thus, it seems more appropriate to consider the Gothic as a hybrid, a mode that assimilates various genres into specific combinations.457 The Gothic mode, with such diverse iterations, will arguably endure through the deliberate or coincidental employment of it across a range of mediums, from art and architecture, to literature, film and popular culture. Stephen King’s brand

455 Shaw, A Critical Introduction, p.21 456 Lloyd-Smith, American Gothic Fiction, p.135 [emphasis in original] 457 Sears, Stephen King’s Gothic, p.84

112 of Gothic is comfortably situated within the larger mode because it too combines genres and forms and is defined more by common themes and images than by strict guidelines.

Stephen King’s oeuvre appeals to readers from various generic persuasions; Gary Hoppenstand and Ray B. Brown attribute this to his storytelling ability – what they term the ‘dazzle effect’ – which is, essentially, his ability to entertain his readers.458 Heidi Strengell observes that King possesses an ‘intimate understanding’ of what his readers expect and, without altering the foundations of a horror story (supernatural themes, vampires and haunted houses), he is able to adapt to the ‘emotional needs’ of his readership and appeal to readers who would ordinarily never select a horror story.459 Furthermore, as Tony Magistrale asserts, Stephen King’s reputation traverses ‘cultural and chronological differences’ and his name is …synonymous – at least as much as […] ubiquitous elements of American popular culture, like Coca Cola, that have found their way across the globe – with what [foreigners] know of America and the extent to which they can identify with it.460

Thus King’s works are accessible and attractive to the general reader; the foundational inspiration of great American writers, such as Poe, Hawthorn and Lovecraft, is evident in King’s fiction and thus he provides a conduit between contemporary fiction and classic literature.

Tim Underwood has indicated that King’s ‘work probably won’t last’; that his stories, ‘may have the power to disturb, but their effects are ephemeral’.461 Underwood bases this prediction on the ‘visceral’ effects of King’s fiction462; however, Magistrale has countered this argument by suggesting that visceral effects are evident in enduring literature, such as Shakespeare’s plays.463 Indeed, these visceral effects are crucial to

458 Gary Hoppenstand & Ray B. Browne, ‘The Horror of it All: Stephen King and the Landscape of the American Nightmare’, in Gary Hoppenstand & Ray B. Browne (eds.), The Gothic World of Stephen King: Landscape of Nightmares, Bowling Green State University Popular Press, Bowling Green, 1987, p.2 459 Strengell, Dissecting Stephen King, p.262 460 Ibid. 461 Tim Underwood and Chuck Miller (eds.), Kingdom of Fear: The World of Stephen King, New American Library, New York, 1986, p.255 462 Ibid., p.257 463 Magistrale, Moral Voyages, p.iii

113 the connection between the writer and the reader in the short story, ensuring the reader cognitively engages with the story, encouraging an enduring impression on the reader’s imagination. According to Strengell, King’s work will endure because he promotes burgeoning authors; is generous with his time and money, making considerable donations to libraries and schools; he is able to write stories that attract ‘a multitude of readers’ by exploring the human condition and moral responsibility; he respects the craft; and, simply, because of his love of writing.464

Like the short story genre and the Gothic mode, Stephen King himself cannot be neatly defined by a consistent set of criteria. Through the flexibility of both the short story genre and the Gothic mode, King creates stories with the general reader in mind. This means stories that depict familiar places, people and commodities; stories that follow the journeys of ordinary, identifiable characters into extraordinary situations – not necessarily horrific or supernatural; stories written in language that is comprehensible and easy to follow; stories that leave a lasting impression on the imagination; and stories that are readily accessible in a range of mediums, in almost any bookshop, online store or streaming service. If the short story genre is going to endure beyond the realms of academic consideration and in the hands of the general reader, popular writers such as Stephen King have the most important contribution to make: they give the genre life outside the classroom.

There is only so much that can be discussed within forty-thousand words; thus the scope of this thesis has precluded discussion of a number of topics that could be examined in future study in all the areas which I have considered. The short story genre could be explored more in depth in terms of its differentiation from the novel; its success in the online market, including e-publishing and even the more recent advent of ‘ stories’ compared to more traditional publication avenues; differences between contributions to the genre from nations outside of the Western demographic; or the contribution of other contemporary popular writers, perhaps from other modes or styles. The Gothic mode could be analysed more broadly in a contemporary context, in an exploration of how this malleable form manifests in modern media, including film, television, plays and even on social media. In fact, the effect of global

464 Strengell, Dissecting Stephen King, p.265

114 communications and online connectivity – specifically social media – on both the short story genre and the Gothic mode could be the subject of an intriguing study. As for Stephen King, the existing scholarship provides a foundation for further analysis into his earlier works, providing opportunity for comparison with his more recent publications. Certainly, his engagement with popular culture, music-related references, commercial consumerism and political and social commentary warrants a focussed study on their own; so, too, his frequent Biblical and intertextual references offer an opportunity for a detailed exploration into the whole of his oeuvre. While King’s portrayal of women and children has formed the basis for several studies, his depiction of animals as victims, heroes and villains is worthy of particular attention, potentially in the way these animal characters interact differently with male, female and child characters. Consideration of King’s recent trilogy – Mr Mercedes, Finders Keepers and End of Watch – three novels in the crime fiction tradition; or an examination of his recent sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep; or, indeed, an exploration of his latest novel, Sleeping Beauties, co-written with his son, Owen, are specific examples of possible topics for future research. King’s film and television adaptations have received relatively little critical attention, despite their abundance. With so much material in circulation the options for the analysis of Stephen King’s oeuvre are vast.

115 Bibliography

The Collected Short Stories of Stephen King

King, Stephen, Night Shift, New English Library, London, 1991 (1978)

_____. Skeleton Crew, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 2012 (1985)

_____. Nightmares and Dreamscapes, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 2012 (1993)

_____. Everything’s Eventual, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 2012 (2002)

_____. Just After Sunset, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 2009 (2008)

_____. Full Dark, No Stars, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 2011 (2010)

_____. The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 2015

Other Works by Stephen King

King, Stephen, Carrie, Pocket Books, New York, 2005 (1974)

_____. Christine, Viking Press, New York, 1983

_____. Cujo, Viking Press, New York, 1981

_____. Danse Macabre, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 2012 (1981)

_____. ‘Entertainment Weekly’, Stephen King on the failure of ‘Kingdom Hospital’, published 01 Feb 07, viewed 02 Jan 18,

_____. Different Seasons, Warner Books, London, 1995 (1982)

_____. End of Watch, Scribner, New York, 2016

_____. Finders Keepers, Scribner, New York, 2015

_____. Firestarter, Viking Press, New York, 1980

_____. , Hodder & Stoughton, London, 2012 (1990)

_____. , New English Library, London, 1999

_____. ‘Introduction’, The Best American Short Stories 2007, in Stephen King (ed.), Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 2007

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Screen Adaptations

1922, directed by Zac Hilditch, motion picture, Campfire Productions, USA, 2017

Carrie, directed by Brian de Palma, motion picture, Red Bank Films, USA, 1976

Cell, directed by Todd Williams, motion picture, Benaroya Pictures, USA, 2016

The Dark Tower, directed by Nikolaj Arcel, motion picture, Imagine Entertainment, USA, 2017

The Dead Zone, directed by David Cronenberg, motion picture, Dino De Laurentis, USA, 1983

The Green Mile, directed by Frank Darabont, motion picture, Castle Rock Entertainment, USA, 1999

IT, directed by , mini-series, Lorimar Productions, USA, 1990

It Part One: The Loser’s Club, directed by Andy Muschietti, motion picture, , USA 2017

Kingdom Hospital, directed by Craig R. Baxley, television series, Touchstone Television, USA, 1994

The Lawnmower Man, directed by Brett Leonard, motion picture, Allied Vision, USA, 1992

Misery, directed by Rob Reiner, motion picture, Castle Rock Entertainment, USA, 1990

The Mist, directed by Frank Darabont, motion picture, , USA, 2007

The Running Man, directed by Paul Michael Glaser, motion picture, Braveworld Productions, USA, 1987

The Shawshank Redemption, directed by Frank Darabont, motion picture, Castle Rock Productions, USA, 1994

The Shining, directed by Stanley Kubrick, motion picture, Circle Company, USA, 1980

The Stand, directed by , motion picture, Greengrass Productions, USA, 1994

118 Stand By Me, directed by Rob Reiner, motion picture, Act III Productions, USA, 1986

Storm of the Century, directed by Craig R. Baxley, mini-series, ABC America, USA, 1999

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