(“The Little Sisters of Eluria”, Everything’s Eventual)
Everything’s Eventual is one of those books that I like just as much for the notes King adds about each story as I do for the stories themselves. I always like to see that kind of information about his thought processes and story ideas. Hopefully, should I ever meet the man (or any other author I like) I will remember not to ask that question they all seem to dislike — “where do you get your ideas?” I feel like he does periodically explain that in notes like these, so there’s no real need to ask.
There are several stories in this book that actually appeared elsewhere first. I covered one of them — “Riding the Bullet” — a while back. Three others: “Lunch at the Gotham Cafe”, “1408” and “In the Deathroom” were released in the form of an audiobook called Blood and Smoke. I thought about covering that separately too — it is, in fact, another example of King releasing his work in something different than the usual format — but I want to do these collections, and I am not sure that it makes sense to cover so many of the stories separately and cover the collections, too. In the end, I skipped it. Really, all of these stories were published prior to this collection. In addition to the ones from the audiobook, and “Riding the Bullet”’s internet release, several of them appeared in an anthology called Six Stories, a handful were published in The New Yorker, and the rest appeared in some other magazines and anthologies.
The oldest of these seems to be “The Man in the Black Suit”, which is, I think, one of the scariest — if not the scariest — in the bunch. I don’t even believe in the devil, but this depiction of him freaks me out a bit.
“The Little Sisters of Eluria” is a Dark Tower story. If you’re wondering what kinds of things Roland got up to before he picked up the Man in Black’s trail, this is your answer. It also ties in with a fairly important scene in Black House. It’s not my favorite entry in the Dark Tower chronicles, but it’s certainly worth reading, and it pulls you in.
“L.T.’s Theory of Pets” is, according to Stephen King, the one he picks most often to read out loud when he’s called on to read a story out loud. Honestly, it’s amusing most of the way through, which gives the sad ending that much more of a punch when it hits. I’m with the narrator’s wife, though — I find that I don’t really like or trust L.T., and though the narrator denies it, I have to wonder if he may not have had something to do with his wife’s death.
I think that “The Road Virus Heads North” is maybe my favorite one. Apparently, the creepy changing painting that the main character buys is based on a painting that Stephen King actually owns. His kids didn’t like it — said the eyes followed them. No wonder it made such a creepy story.
“Lunch at the Gotham Cafe” is perhaps the most memorable of the bunch. According to King, he finds the creepy relationship between the divorcing couple possibly scarier than the murderous maitre d’. This is one that I’ve read a bunch of times looking for a deeper meaning — but I think now maybe I’m overthinking it. I don’t really understand what’s going on between the divorcing couple. These things don’t come out of nowhere, but in this story, Steve really does seem blindsided. And we don’t get much of anything from Diane to better explain what it is that she’s so angry about. King does write her as legitimately angry, you’d think there would be a reason, but it never really presents itself. Unless it’s at the end, where Steve seems to be contemplating whether snapping like the maitre d’ would be a relief for him. If that’s in him, I suppose that would be tough to live with.
“1408” is notable maybe most for its adaptation. I haven’t seen it (surprise). I’m a little suspicious of films based off of Stephen King’s short stories as it is (“Children of the Corn”, anyone?) but this one got decent reviews and has some big names in it. And it was a good story. As haunted hotels go, it’s not The Shining, but it gets a pretty serious creep factor going, and the climax comes at you fast and hard.
“All That You Love Will Be Carried Away” was more of a sad story than a scary one, at least to me. It’s really a story about being suicidal (well, that and bathroom graffiti.) If you’ve ever felt that way, you may recognize some aspects of this. The story ends ambiguously, and I can’t help but hope that the man in it finds his way out of the pit of sadness that he’s in. But I know that realistically, he may not.
The title story, “Everything’s Eventual” also ties into the Dark Tower in a way. We meet the main character from this story there. It’s another one of my favorites from this collection. I can’t help but like the protagonist and hope that he finds his way out of his predicament and to somewhere better, at least eventually (if everything is eventual, why not a happy ending for someone?). Like I said, I know he turns up in the Dark Tower series, but I’ve forgotten what becomes of him there (if we find out.)
All in all, this is a good batch of short stories. It’s maybe not my favorite of his collections, but it at least holds its own. There are none that I’d really consider stinkers, and many of them really hit you in the feels. There’s a feeling that sort of pervades the collection as a whole — as if you’re being led somewhere by a maitre d’ who seems a little off, maybe. So you feel a little apprehensive at each step. A little like something bad is about to happen. Maybe to you, maybe to someone next to you, or maybe out of your sight, but in a way that will nevertheless touch your life. That’s a good kind of way to approach a collection of scary stories, maybe.