Sunday, March 23, 2014

Big Driver & Fair Extension (from Full Dark, No Stars) by Stephen King + a few links


First of all, I think Full Dark, No Stars is right up there with the bests of Stephen King. Not for the first time, he's proved that ghosts don't have to be translucent white spirits that lurk in and around abandoned houses. These are stories about the terrible frightening ghosts in our minds. 

I read and reviewed 1922, the first novella, last week. I had to wait an entire week before I could read another King. I don't see myself reading the last two stories quite just yet, either. Not till I'm done digesting these.

Big Driver: This is the second story in Full Dark, No Stars, a roughly 130-page novella. When Tess Jean, a mystery writer, is raped and dumped on the side of a road stuffed in a pipe, she plots revenge against the giant of a man who's destroyed her life. Big Driver is the owner of Red Hawk Trucking and Tess, haunted by his comically nightmarish image, sets out to kill him.

This story is creepy, and as booksaremything had commented on my review of 1922, very difficult to read. The end seems convoluted and a bit ludicrous, but that apart, to me, the story makes sense. What happens to her drives the cozy mystery writer crazy. Nightmares, insecurity, voices in her head - the whole thing. Contemplating murder has been her profession, she knows revenge is not the answer, a whole part of her knows she should go to the authorities instead; but that's the old Tess. The new Tess dismisses the idea of police, wondering "What's in it for me?" Disclosing her attack is out of the question. She imagines people's reactions to her rape.

One thing she did know was that she would get the sort of nationwide coverage every writer would like when she publishes a book and no writer wants when she had been raped, robbed and left for dead. She could visualize someone raising a hand during Question Time and asking, "Did you in any way encourage him?"
That was ridiculous, and even in her current state Tess knew it... but also knew that if this came out, someone would raise his or her hand to ask, "Are you going to write about this?"
And what would she say? What could she say?
Nothing, Tess thought. I would run off the stage with my hands over my ears. 

The back cover of the book asks you "What tips someone over the edge to commit a crime?" Big Driver answers the question in blatant uncompromising detail. And unlike the evil narrator of 1922, Tess doesn't ask you to understand her, she doesn't beg for sympathy, she knows you would hold her guilty, but she simply doesn't care about you.

She was too tired to consider what might or might not be her moral responsibility. She'd work on that part later, if God meant to grant her a later... it seemed He might. But not on this deserted road where any set of approaching lights might have her rapist behind it. 
Hers. He was hers now.

Big Driver, which I read in one horrific sitting, made me feel ashamed of the world we live in.

Fair Extension: Fair Extension is a short story, the third in this collection. When Streeter is puking on the side of the road, the cancer now making his life more miserable than ever, he spots a pudgy man sitting on the other side, with a sign that reads 'Fair Extension'. Elvid turns out to be a strange man who offers people all kinds of extensions, hair, height and in Streeter's case, life extension. Elvid sells Streeter fifteen more years. But there's always a catch and it goes something like:

You have to do the dirty to someone else, if the dirty is to be lifted from you. 

Streeter confesses to Elvid that he hates his best friend for life, Tom Goodhugh and has no qualms transferring the 'dirty' to him. Streeter expects Tom to get cancer, and is quite okay with it, but it turns out that he's destroyed his life in quite other ways. With every new extra day that Streeter lives, something goes terribly wrong in his friends once perfect life, much to Streeter's delight.

This story is ridiculous to the point of funny, it is written the sort of dry dark humour that is characteristic of SK, anyway. It's about greed and ruthlessness of the kind that only a Stephen King story can pull off. What I love the most is that Fair Extension is set in Derry, Maine. Remember Derry? The last time I visited it was with Jake Epping.

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Now to the links I promised:

Last week Anne Rice posted a link to OpenCulture's Stephen King's Top 20 Rules for Writers, which you should have a look at, even if you have already read the fabulous On Writing. And if you haven't read it, just what are you waiting for?

In related stuff, I found a list made by SK of 96 Books For Aspiring Writers to Read. I've read: Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, Hannibal by Thomas Harris, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Harry Potter by J K Rowling Parts 1, 2, and 3. Six: which must be pathetic by Stephen King standards. How many have you read?

Flavorwire posted this amazing thing yesterday: Artists Pay Tribute to the Work of Stephen King in Exhibition 'King for a Day'. God, I would have loved to be there. The artwork is gorgeous and interesting, some based on the movies, and worth checking out.
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So far, even though I haven't got around to reading a lot, King's March hosted by Wendy and Rory has been awesome, and I've enjoyed reading all the posts by fellow SK maniacs. I do hope to finish Full Dark, No Stars and at least a couple of stories from Different Seasons in this last week of the month, can't say that I actually can. What have you been reading?

8 comments:

Kelly Steel said...

Thanks for this review and the links.

DMS said...

Yikes- I have only read 11 books on Stephen King's list. I better get reading. I love his books! It was great to read your review. I must read this collection- your thoughts made me so curious! Stephen King is a master storyteller and I am glad to hear these stories are so fantastic. :)
~Jess

Priya said...

Kelly - Thanks for stopping by!

Jess - I know, I've probably read roughly just as many, he writes too many books, doesn't he? Hope you get around to reading this collection, it'a really good. Glad you stopped by!

honeyimreading said...

I noticed that a few people are reading this collection for King's March. It sounds delightfully creepy! I probably won't get to read it for this event, but maybe soon.

Priya said...

honeyimreading - With the last story and the afterword finally done, I am not so sure about "delightful", but it is definitely creepy. Thanks for stopping by. I do hope you get around to reading it sometime, I think it's one of his most memorable books!

booksaremything said...

Thanks for the shout out! I'm amazed you were able to read all of Big Driver in one sitting, I couldn't do it. I was thankful that SK included the Fair Extension "lighter" story after it.

Priya said...

booksaremything - I know, I think I should have paced it out a bit more, so maybe I wouldn't have been as 'done' with horror fiction as I am now. Either way, if Fair Extension is as "light" as SK can get, I need a break! I liked the stories, but they were a bit too much, too...

Viktoria Berg said...

Your King-reviews always make me put him on top of my reading list. Hope nothing gets in the way this time! ;-)

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