seeking knowledge and laughter, putting a bullseye on inaccuracy

Good Short Fiction - Stephen King

The May 2011 issue of The Atlantic featured some short fiction, included pieces by Stephen King and Mary Morris (I had not yet read anything by Morris). Stephen King's piece was great fiction, but is not a happy read (shocker).

The story behind the theme of the May issue actually came from a critique by Stephen King:

Almost four years ago, in The New York Times Book Review, a celebrated writer lamented the decline in the publication of short stories, and with it, a decline in the quality of the short story itself. Too many of the stories that still threaded the needle to publication, he wrote, felt “not quite dead on the page, I won’t go that far, but airless.” They seemed “show-offy rather than entertaining, self-important rather than interesting, guarded and self-conscious rather than gloriously open, and worst of all, written for editors and teachers rather than for readers.”

We found that writer hard to ignore, in part because he kicked us in the teeth. (“No need to check out The Atlantic Monthly; its editors now settle for publishing their own selections of fiction once a year in a special issue and criticizing everyone else’s the rest of the time. Jokes about eunuchs in the bordello come to mind, but I will suppress them.” Thanks!)

We also found him hard to ignore because he was Stephen King, and we thought he knew something about entertaining readers rather than merely furrowing the brows of a writers’ group.

...

King’s short story, for example, originated with a bet he lost to his son Owen over the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The loser had to write a story to fit a title invented by the winner. Stephen King, being Stephen King, set out to write “Herman Wouk Is Still Alive” as a funny story set in a mental hospital.

The result is Herman Wouk Is Still Alive. Well written, on a topic few would dare attempt.