If you want to know more about me, this revelation will clear things up quickly: It comes as a (major?) surprise that it took until May 25th for me to read a Stephen King book. Over the last four years, I've devoured King’s work with an unending appetite. Good things come to those who wait, popular wisdom holds, and if that’s the case, my patience was rewarded with IF IT BLEEDS, the finest of King’s recent fiction.
IF IT BLEEDS is a natural successor to another collection of King novellas, DIFFERENT SEASONS. The dust jacket draws that connection explicitly, and while one would be wise to recognize the blurb for its marketing purpose, this time it holds true. While it contains no RITA HAYWARD AND THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION or THE BODY, an improbable ceiling for any collection to reach, the floor of IF IT BLEEDS is notably higher. MR. HARRIGAN’S PHONE and the eponymous title will likely receive film treatment, but THE LIFE OF CHUCK has arguably the most gripping section in the entire book. RAT, if Bobbi Anderson and Thad Beuamont narrated ON WRITING, represents the weakest story, but it’s not a clunker like THE BREATHING METHOD. Each individual story satisfies, but when taken together, they combine to form King’s strongest offering since THE BAZAAR OF BAD DREAMS.
We crave communion with the past. The human brain has difficulty comprehending the finite nature of relationships, experiences, and of existence itself. Losing a friend, failing to complete a project, and, of course, our own mortality, all plant seeds of grief deep within us. The past, however, cannot physically hurt us. Our memories are just that--pictures and words inside our heads that no longer exist in reality. It’s natural to want to live in those memories, to influence them, to change them, to pull out our cellphones and dial the number long since buried, but as IF IT BLEEDS shows, the past is often best left undisturbed.