If It Bleeds by Stephen King [7/10]

Stephen King polarizes. His deft, detail-ridden, smooth-as-silk writing style is derided by some of my friends as trite airport quality, but I, along with his legions of fans, readily fall under the spell of his capacious narrative skills. I especially admire how rapidly he launches stories or books, with a minimum of fuss but instant immersion. “If It Bleeds,” four disparate novellas, showcases his stylistics in the service of nifty but unspectacular story ideas. “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” messes with that hoary idea of the voice from the grave, “The Rat” is a riff on the pact-with-the-devil trope, and the fantastical “The Life of Chuck” zaps backwards in time. The longest novella, “If It Bleeds,” gives a character from “The Outsider” her first solo starring role, in a story of mind-tripping societal monsters. All of them held me in awe – I could imagine being told each story by a soft-voiced narrator – but none offers lasting gravity (which I guess is why they were spat out as novellas). Overall, probably one for the completists, but King always entertains, in a classic sense, something we can all do with right now.

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