Stephen King’s hardcover adaptation of the Simpson’s movie arrives; I mean lands in stores all over the country this week. He’s also got a story in the New Yorker, arriving in your laps this week. Ray and Mary are driving along, going out for smokes, on the way to Wal-Mart, and King is trying hard to be Raymond Carver, he even sits in the car like Carver used to, or Richard Ford for that matter, (see Rock Springs, the first story in the collection) and tells the reader exactly what’s on the minds of his characters, and then has them speak it aloud. Its minimalist, this King story, and Mary and Ray are all surface. Ray is a janitor, and he loves to reflect, saying that arguing in a marriage is like a race at a dog track, but ultimately it’s swell. Who says swell anymore? Who ever said it? Don’t get me wrong, I loved Stephen King. When I did an oral book report on Pet Cemetery in the ninth grade it was greeted with a standing ovation. Kids followed me down the hall after class, begging me to tell them the end. The Shining, great movie, lousy book, and I mean the Kubrick movie, not that whale shit adaptation with Steven Weber.
This story, Premium Harmony, is really weird, and not just because it’s in the New Yorker. I know, he’s accepted high brow literature now, and I’m supposed to be cool with that. Their driving along a wasteland of bankrupt strip malls, Mary and Ray, he wants cigarettes, she wants him to quit, they want a kid, and they can’t have one, so they get a dog (in the car), now they have a baby-substitute. This is how this story goes, like short quick farts or belches, over and over, round and round. Ray thinks she’s fat; he makes fun of her, in reflection, and to her face. Oh, and they speak in cliché, “penny wise, pound foolish” but they are both dead set on oral gratification as a way out of their fat lives; Mary with junk food, Ray with cigarettes, and it’s a race to see who dies first. Then Mary has a chest-grabber, and drops at the gas station…oh, and they’re in Castle Rock, come on, can King place his stories in say…Idaho? I get the whole write what you know, but does it always have to be, writing where you know too?
Maybe this endorsement heavy story (one side character eats Bugles during the unhappy event, Bugles, who the fuck eats Bugles?) is supposed to appeal to the people who shop where Under the Dome is selling the best (code for cheapest), the chains, BJ’s, Costco, and Wal-Mart. I know that the intellectual northeast isn’t the breeding ground for Stephen King fans, and it certainly doesn’t surprise me to see this story in a magazine like the New Yorker. (I’m sure it sells in Chicago, LA and Seattle, but what about the fly-over states?) Stephen King appeals to everyone, so why not the people who read Pamuk, Lethem and AM Homes? Do we need more evidence that the Sarah Palin crowd eats, sleeps and breaths (sorry for the cliché) Stephen King-like stories? Entertainment that just entertains, and never makes you work, which sounds like a powerful laxative to me. King doesn’t really do Carver here, because Carver was doing Chekhov, and King is no Chekhov. So for that, he gets to be in the New Yorker.