The End of the Whole Mess is a first-person tale (I guess you could call it dystopian sci-fi) in which Harold is the only character the reader sees, although most of the story is dedicated to him talking about his brother Bobby, and what he did to bring about the end of the world.
If you enjoy listening to King ramble on in great detail and at great length (and I usually do) then you’ll get something out of this story, but most other people need not apply.
The End of the Whole Mess is far from the best short story King has penned, but it’s a worthwhile (albeit self-indulgent) read, if only to get to the final couple of pages which sees Harold ranting incoherent gibberish as he falls further towards his inevitable demise.
I lost my grandmother a few months ago to dementia so I knew if The Father pressed the right buttons it was going to be difficult to watch, and the way the movie chose to handle the disease had me intrigued.
Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman lead the very thin cast as father and daughter, and Hopkins in particular, is exceptional. The role – deservedly – bagged him another Best Actor Academy Award, and I found myself touched by his performance in a way that would likely not have happened in less capable hands.
The Father plays around with narrative structure and chronology in an effort to unsettle you and put you in the shoes of the title character, to the point where you, as the viewer, are unsure of exactly what is real and what is not. It’s an effective, albeit sometimes confusing device, but it succeeds in shining a light on a disease that we really don’t know too much about, despite it taking so many of our loved ones from us.
It’s a very good movie, but one that I probably won’t be going back to anytime soon. It just strikes a little too close to home.
And if you don’t have a lump in your throat at the end, you have no heart.
Dolan’s Cadillac is a simple story of revenge, but while the motivation of the protagonist is easy to understand – and is explained in the opening couple of pages – the execution of his plan to accomplish this is complex and detailed.
The beauty of the story is in the meticulous planning of the revenge plot, so much so that it almost feels unnecessary to find out if he is even successful… but we do eventually get to see how that plays out too. In less capable hands this story could have been a chore, but King does here what he does best, and this opening salvo is fun all the way through.
Dolan’s Cadillac is a lengthy but very good start to King’s third collection of short stories, and a high mark for the others to reach.
Justin Lee Collins was a television personality for a small window of time in a small corner of the world, and as such there will only be a small cross-section who are familiar with much of his work. If you were asleep between 2005 and 2010, and you didn’t live in the UK, you probably don’t know who the hell he is.
I really enjoyed the stuff that he produced – whether it was his on-screen rapport with Alan Carr, or his infectious excitement at meeting the heroes of his youth. He seemed to be a genuinely likeable guy. Of course, he has completely fallen off the radar in the last few years, but a lot of that is of his own making…
This is not a particularly well written autobiography (and you can certainly tell that he wrote it), but Collins does tell a few interesting and moderately amusing anecdotes in between detailing his rise to some kind of C-list fame in the early 2000s.
I don’t know if we’ll ever see Collins on our screens again, and – domestic problems aside – it would be a shame if he is gone for good, because as a face on our televisions, he was one of the best in recent memory.
Skeleton Crew came out in 1985 and was the second collection of short stories Stephen King published. Overall, it is a decent book, although if I had to put it side by side with Night Shift, it would probably come up a little short. It also feels less cohesive than that first book – more a bunch of stories put together than anything truly united. It’s subtle, but it’s there.
I recommended fifteen of the twenty-two pieces on offer in Skeleton Crew, and if you take away the two pieces of poetry (which probably shouldn’t count towards the total anyway) that’s fifteen out of twenty. 75% is a pretty good win rate, although it’s not quite as good a number as I posted for Night Shift.
Of the five pieces I didn’t recommend, Beachworld fared the poorest. Sci-fi is a tough sell for me, and this did nothing to change my opinion on the genre. I’m sure there’s something in here for those who enjoy that kind of thing, but that ain’t me.
If I had to choose, I would say the best stories here are The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet (which has the advantage of added detail, being a novella), The Mist (which is even longer), monster horror story, The Raft and the thought-provoking Survivor Type fighting it out for the top four spots.
So, the trend is slighty downward, but it’s a good read and still a lot better than a lot of other collections out there.
The Reach is about the narrow (and mysterious) stretch of water between mainland USA and the island where the story begins. Stella, an old grandmother nearing death, has never crossed it, but once it freezes over she decides it’s time to do so.
Along the way Stella meets various people from her past, and they help her transition from this life to the next. It’s all very deep and meaningful, but unfortunately I was neither engaged nor all that interested in what King was telling me.
Maybe that’s on me, or perhaps it’s the fault of the author. Either way, the final short story in the collection is not what I wanted it to be.
The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet is about a writer who has written the titular tale. The story that we read however, is about the author’s descent into madness, as told through the eyes of a magazine editor.
This novella is told campfire-style, a formula I am noticing that King employs a lot. It doesn’t always work, as it gives you a (potentially) unreliable narrator, and means you are once-removed from the action, but I have no complaints about it here. Besides, it’s an approach that has served him well.
If we take The Mist out of the equation (because that’s really a short novel in its own right), The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet is the longest piece in Skeleton Crew, but for all its length it’s also one of the most straightforward and engaging. It is slightly let down by the final few pages, but otherwise, it is a very enjoyable read.
Kelsey Grammer starred in two of the most successful sitcoms of all time, in Cheers and then its spin-off Frasier. He played the same character on TV for over two decades, and that is how the vast majority of us know the actor.
But this autobiography – which is fairly short and for context, was published not long after Frasier began – focuses mostly on his work prior to becoming the household name that he is today, and the relationships that he had along the way.
He details many of the hardships that he had to endure during the early part of his life, before anyone really knew who he was. When Kelsey was twelve years old his estranged father was murdered during a home invasion. When he was twenty, his younger sister (whom he was extremely close to) was abducted, raped, and murdered after being stabbed forty-two times. Five years after that, his two half-brothers died in a scuba-diving accident.
A lot of this is heartbreaking stuff, and it is no wonder that he suffered from substance abuse problems later in his life. But to his credit Kelsey makes no excuses for his much-publicised drug and alcohol addictions. Instead, he has used all of these touchpoints and tragedies in his life to become a better person.
If you pick this up hoping for some insight into the character of Dr. Frasier Crane, you may come away a little disappointed. There is some of that, with some backstage anecdotes, but that isn’t what this is about. Like Crane, Kelsey comes across as an intelligent, eloquent man, and this is an interesting read you can quickly tick off your list.
Gramma is about a young boy called George who finds himself looking after his elderly and infirm grandmother on his own, only to find that he is constantly spooked by her presence.
Halfway through the story it becomes clear that the old woman has died and George spends some time trying to figure out how he is going to explain this to his mother. Spooky goings-on ensue.
Ultimately, Gramma is too long and too little happens for me to care all that much about it. This is certainly all about the atmosphere, and King takes his time building that – so maybe the problem here is mine – but I can’t get behind a horror story isn’t scary, and where nothing happens.
Big Wheels: A Tale of the Laundry Game (Milkman #2), which is this story’s full title, follows on from the previous story in this collection, Morning Deliveries, but centres around a couple of laundry workers who go out in the middle of the night trying to find a place to inspect their vehicle and deem it roadworthy… all while they are both knocking back the beers.
As with Morning Deliveries, this story has been cobbled together from chapters of an abandoned novel that King was writing called The Milkman, but unlike that first story, Big Wheels meanders and ultimately doesn’t stand on its own. It also includes references which I am sure are intended to allude to other parts of the novel that he hasn’t included here.
So I will have to pass on this one. It may very well work as part of a larger narrative, but snipped out as a story in its own right, it falls a little flat.