You Like It Darker by Stephen King

Reviewed by Ian Lipke

I was quite disappointed in this latest publication by Stephen King. This author has created a reputation for fine, extended writing, of best quality, and of mind-blowing uniqueness that is not represented in the present volume. One can speculate over reasons why these stories fail to meet the level of satisfaction normally associated with King’s name. Perhaps short story writing is a whole new art. King has a reputation solidly founded in novel writing; that his short stories fail to meet his usual standard seems an inadequate explanation and requires little more speculation than wondering over reasons why.

In You Like it Darker he has attempted to produce a series of 12 short stories which in my opinion has been achieved with varying degrees of success. The opening story offers little in its story of two talented “bastids”. This clipped form or euphemised version of bastard focuses on the author’s ancestry but offers little of interest to those who care about American heritage. Most of this story is told in coarse language so that when the 59 pages of narration are completed one wonders why one ever bothered following the story at all.

The second story has one powerful aspect, namely that it is short. Any longer would have been too long. One could agree that, charitably speaking, the story favours the American ethos. I could not imagine who else might be interested. Willie the Weirdo, the third story, is a lad who is regarded as strange by both of his parents on the grounds that his bird selection is dead, his bugs are similarly stricken, and the boy himself looks at drifting clouds for an hour or more. At age ten Willie made a clown out of mashed potatoes and gravy, while at twelve, he had developed an interest in his sister’s growing breasts.

Willie the Weirdo, like so many of King’s stories, suffers from an overindulgence in ‘the petty image’. He stands in the doorway, watches the forensic guys go through his private space – his fridge, his oven, his microwave all of which he finds infuriating. He has not heard Jalbert creep up on him. He’s a quiet son of a bitch. In the end all they take is a gun and his butcher’s knife.

A further story is simply called Finn. Once again Finn has a number of unusual characteristics. And once again they are listed as a series of oddities. ‘He had a hard go of it from the very beginning. He slipped through the hands of a midwife who had delivered hundreds of babies and gave his birthday cry when he hit the floor. On the occasion of his fifth birthday a cherry bomb thrown by an exuberant party goer flew up, arced down, and blew off the baby toe on his left foot’ (227). Again, we are presented of a series of odd events none of which are developed further. Another characteristic of King’s writing appears quite clearly in this particular anecdote. Vulgarity appears with great regularity.

The remaining stories of which there are many, vary little from the earlier tales. There is for example the tale of Laurie on page 293. It is an odd story representative of the very vulgarity we spoke of earlier. Its odd-ball nature is readily seen. ‘Beth was pushing for a commitment Loyd was unwilling to make. He looked around, as if for inspiration, and spied a turd – one single small sausage-exactly where the puddle of pee had been, six inches from the nearest puppy pad’ (299). The invocation to vulgarity is manifest. 480 pages, telling twelve stories of material substantially similar, becomes somewhat overwhelming.

Perhaps one should leave aside these tales for the present and wait for the next masterpiece.

You Like it Darker


by Stephen King

Hodder & Stoughton



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