Just After Sunset is a collection of short stories SK wrote a couple of years ago. I got the book last year, either for Christmas, birthday or Mother’s Day. It’s a sad statement on how busy I’ve allowed myself to get that it takes me this long to get around to reading a book. I think it’s only about the fourth book I’ve read this year. Maybe fifth. I used to read voraciously, one or two books a month. (That’s voraciously for me.) Now, if I manage to get 1/2 an hour a night before I go to sleep I’m accomplishing something.
Anyway . . . whining about my poor time management skills isn’t what I started this post about. It’s supposed to be about Just After Sunset.
In the preface SK says he wrote these stories after being asked to judge a short story contest. He says doing that re-awakened in him a desire to write short stories as he once had — with passion and a sense of urgency for getting the story told. In his younger days, when writing meant feeding the kids or putting gas in the car, short stories were his stock and trade. They paid the rent while he was working on the big stuff.
I can remember literally devouring his collections of stories when I got my hands on them. They were like a special treat and I would read them like I would occasionally binge on chocolate. These days I don’t have time for binge-reading, and maybe that’ s a good thing. I’ve also got a few years of University lit classes under my belt, so I’ve got a somewhat more refined skill-set in use when I’m reading now.
When I used to read, I read strictly for pleasure, now I read with a more critical eye — I’m looking for plot, construction, reference, tone — all the boring stuff they teach you about in school, or try to at least. I’m just lucky enough, or geeky enough — have it your way — to find that stuff not boring at all, but fascinating. And when I’ve applied my newly acquired critical eye to a few of Stephen’s latest books I’ve come away a tad disappointed. They all seemed to be lacking something, seem to be forced in some way that when I finished I felt a little sad, a little disappointed, because the man seemed to have lost his way. But I’m a devoted fan, so I’ve hung in there, waiting. Hoping. Praying he’d get the ‘feel’ back.
Well, I think he has. Just After Sunset is a fun read. The stories roar along like a freight train and when I’m reading them I’m gone. That’s what SK used to do for me, he’d transport me right the hell out of where ever I was, and take me on crazy ride. I’d be jammed into some small compartment with people I didn’t know, some of whom I really came to care about, others whom I wanted to hide from, others whom I’d weep over as they fell or were pushed from the open doors of the speeding cars. And to come back from that ride was agony, all I wanted to do was stay there and see it through to the journey’s end. And when the book was finished? I felt the way you do when you just don’t want to leave the party even though you know it’s over, that the door is closing, you’re waving goodbye, but you wish, real hard that the host will say: “Aww, what the hell! Let’s keep’er going!” And I’d put the book away on my bookshelf with my growing collection of Stephen King’s books and I’d start waiting, right there, right then, for his next one to appear.
Of course, I’m reading this one a story at a time, a few pages at a time. The cool thing is, I can’t wait to get back to it every evening before I turn in for the night. The other cool thing, my critical eye hasn’t found anything to bitch about. So far, it’s all good.