Literary Inspiration: The Bazaar of Bad Dreams

Bazaar of Bad Dreams Collage

Stephen King has mortality on his mind in this 2015 book of short stories, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, that I read in service of my friends’ reading challenge for the theme of (no duh) short stories.  And now so do I; his creepy bleakness has a way of catching.  But I suppose I wouldn’t read King, and I certainly wouldn’t consider him my favourite author, were I opposed to being pulled into his twisted world of ordinary horrors run amok.

In this collection of short stories, some written in and around 2015 and others dating back much earlier than that, King’s preoccupied with those everyday horrors, particularly the fundamental unknowability of death.  You can tell from the bent of the stories gathered in this collection – chronic pain in The Little Green God of Agony, suicide in Herman Wouk is Still Alive and the reaper himself in Mr. Yummy, among many others – that the fallout from his 1999 car accident still weighs heavily on his mind.  References to chronic pain, illness and violent car crashes abound.

King also seems preoccupied with what I’d call everyday domestic horrors – your spouse abruptly dying while out running a mundane errand, your happy romantic partnership suffering irreparable harm, the loss of a beloved pet to accidental neglect.  Now in his early 70s, King seems more in touch with the real things that go bump in the night than ever before.

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Ah, but this is still the same man who writes about rains of frogs and killer time-munching fuzzballs and psychotic action figures come to life (well, that one’s Richard Bachman) and The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is no exception to King’s screw-with-your-head approach to storytelling.  Bazaar actually kicks off with a particularly gory little monster car tale (Mile 81), before veering into something very reminiscent of Heart of Darkness (The Bone Church) and concludes with an old fashioned, super bleak end-of-times tale (Summer Thunder.)

For these nails, I drew inspiration from four of Bazaar’s stories.  I thought they’d all make decent nail art, even if they weren’t necessarily my favourites (that honour goes to Ur, an Amazon-produced tale about a Kindle e-reader from another dimension.)  Here we have, from index finger to pinkie, my one-finger versions of Dune, a story about a supernaturally prescient beach (here I have it just beginning to spell out King’s own name), Blockade Billy, a slow burn tale of murder on-the-mound, The Little Green God of Agony, the story of a man seeking to physically exorcise his chronic pain, and Premium Harmony, a quietly devastating story about an unhappy married couple arguing their lives away.  Classic King.

Bazaar of Bad Dreams 2

12 thoughts on “Literary Inspiration: The Bazaar of Bad Dreams

      • I’m curious to know what you thought. 🙂 I think it’s my favourite story from the collection (also really like Mile 81) but that might just be all the literary stuff – what a cool concept, alt libraries.

      • Tbh, I really liked it to start off with (the alternate libraries, yep!), but thought it was all a bit anticlimactic… Almost felt like he’d built it up but ran out of time to write a worthy ending. I think I would have liked it more if somehow he ended up hitting the bus. My favs so far are probably Mile 81 and Morality. I’m halfway through Blockade Billy, which is interesting so far, even though I don’t understand a lot of the baseball lingo.

      • Yes, that’s a FAR better ending to Ur! In complete agreement, too – his endings either land so hard you’re devastated (Pet Sematary) or they just sort of dribble off the page (most of them.) The aliens seemed particularly weak. Bringing in the aliens almost seems like his shorthand tell for “I had just given up by this point, Constant Reader, no more gas in the tank” (see also Under the Dome, that weird short story about the bat aliens you can only see if you’re a smoker…)

  1. Oooooooo!! Stephen King short stories?! Nice!! I was wondering what to read for that particular category but this might be it. I love your nail art too. That green one looks like it would be a fun Halloween mani. Creeping ominous ooze.

    • Well, I highly recommend it, and it would indeed make a fine read for that particular theme. It’s a little more linear than some of his earlier short story works, although I’ll concede that that’s still not saying much!

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  3. More life confluence, let’s just use King’s word, we’re discussing him anyway. You posted this mani the day after I received a baseball-themed pedicure on July 23rd, which means you likely painted your baseball nail the same day my big toes were painted as baseballs. Admittedly for 2 different reasons (one literary representation, one fandom) but still, a spooky confluence!

    I am interested in a few of these stories; alternate libraries, end of days, couples arguing their lives away? yep, sounds promising. I think I shall take an SK break though, perhaps read him again in another 10 years rather than 20:P

    • This is really one of his more palatable collections of stories – he doesn’t get too gory or rain of frogs in this one, although some of them are quietly devastating in a way that lingers with you for days, whether you want them to or not. I thought you’d love Ur, the one that’s (nominally) about alt libraries; it was quite enjoyable.

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