Monday, January 22, 2007

Cell. Best American Essays 2006.

Cell by Stephen King.473 pages.Hodder and Stoughton.
An event known as The Pulse infects cellphones and spreads virus like around the world.Cellphone users turn into murderous zombies or "phone-crazies".Only those without phones are unaffected-the so-called "normies".The novel focuses on a small band of normies and their flight from Boston.

Think of it as a mini "The Stand" with fewer characters and pages.As usual the mayhem and chaos is described in the way that only King can do."Her upper lip had turned completely inside out,revealing a pink velvet lining as intimate as a vulva"(page 9) or "She was splattered with blood,bits of cloth and globbets of smoking flesh"(page 247).

The book turns into a journey towards the inevitable final showdown much like many of his earlier works such as "It" and obviviously "The Stand".On the way there is time for the characters to ponder about technology,computers and madness.
In summary you know what you are getting with a Stephen King book.In this case its a pretty good read that kept me entertained for a week or so on my 45 minute train trips to work and back.

Footnote..I chanced upon a podcast interview with Stephen King on website of publishers Simon and Schuster).The interview is interesting as the author explains how he came up with the idea and why he choose Boston as the location.He also puts forth in the interview (February 9 2006) his views on cellphones and technology in general.Well worth a listen.

The Best American Essays 2006.Edited by Lauren Slater.Houghton Mifflin.264 pages.

In her introduction editor Lauren Slater writes that "The essays in this volume are powerful,plainspoken mediations on birthing,dying and the business between".
Unfortunately many of the twenty essays she chose deal with dying.Unrelentingly so.Death hangs like a pall of gloom over this edition.
The death of pet dogs and goldfish.The loss of a spouse.Cemeteries.Deaths of author friends and authors never met.Death of mothers and fathers.
Surely there were essays on other subjects equally worthy of inclusion in this volume.It was with a sense of relief then that an essay on lefthandeness,one on celebrity and another on grammar broke the morbid tone.Briefly.
As one of the authors,Eugene Goodheart, wrote"I told a friend that I was writing about aging and dying and he said you have to be funny or lighthearted otherwise who would want to read it?".
Indeed who.
As with this years Short Stories collection I read earlier this was also somewhat disappointing.In this case it was the lack of variety of subject matter rather than the quality of writing that turned me off.

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