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.
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.