Book In Common: Counting down to Halloween with Stephen King’s “Night Shift”

I caught the moon sneaking past my yard at about 4:30 yesterday afternoon.

I caught the moon sneaking past my yard at about 4:30 yesterday afternoon.  The light from the setting sun makes it look like an escaped balloon.

The moon rises in the afternoon right now, getting fatter and brighter every day. It looks very close and 3-D, like a paper lantern. At about half mast right now, it is supposed to be full by next Tuesday, and will probably still be bright for Halloween on Saturday.

I like to take time to read scary books this time of year. Last year I read an old favorite that I had read 100 times since childhood – Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

That’s a great read, and there’s a link to the unabridged version.

This year I want to read something more modern. Years ago a co-worker of mine shared his Stephen King books with me, but told me he thought “Night Shift”, a collection of short stories, was too scary. There were so many others, complete works like “Carrie” and “The Shining,” “The Dead Zone,” and finally, “The Stand” – I never got around to reading many of the short story collections. I’ve actually read “The Shining” a few times, it’s my fave. I also like to reread sections of “The Stand,” but it’s a long one, good for when you’re laid up in bed or stuck on a bad vacation.  I’ve always meant to get back to “Night Shift”. Halloween is when I like to make time to read. It’s dark and scary outside. 

And Stephen King is a better read than either of our local “newspapers”, that’s for sure. I decided to quit reading the “news” in the morning, and put that time into reading “Night Shift.” I want to read the whole thing by Halloween. 

Today I read the forward. I like Stephen King, I wanted to read in his own words his thoughts behind this collection of grisly tales. An interesting guy, his childhood similar to mine in many ways, he came of age in the same era that I did. He makes a lot of references that ring with me. And what he says about his writing “obsession,” I’ll say about my blogging – it’s not art, I don’t make any money at it – it’s really compulsive. I do it almost unwillingly at times, especially the bitching and moaning I post here:

I used to write a lot more letters to the editors of both our local cat box liners, but I came to find that people got sick of seeing my name, just bored. Some people admitted if they saw the same name more than twice they stopped reading that person’s letters.  I started to feel like I was wasting my time trying to start a conversation about the problems we have here – people think I just write letters to get attention? 

King complains people constantly ask him, “why do you write that stuff?” To which he replies, “why do people read that stuff?”   Good question – why do people continue to hit my blogs every day? Am I saying something that resonates with them? Are they waiting for me to say something that resonates with them? Are they mad too? Or like to garden, watch the sky, play with their dogs, etc?

King theorizes that people are obsessed with horror, that they can’t take their eyes from a car wreck, etc. I theorize that people are stunned by the stupidity of government – like a car wreck, some of us can’t take our eyes off it, because we don’t know what to do about it. We know something is wrong, but we are paralyzed with our shock and our disgust. When we try to do something, we are ridiculed and pushed off by the forehead. If we form a mob, we are left to the mercy of the mob ourselves. 

I write out of compulsion, but there’s still a little light in my head that beckons the like-minded – every now and then, somebody sends up a flag that says, “I give a shit too Juanita…” 

King finishes his forward with his thanks to various people that have put up with his “obsession” – at least he got paid for his “peculiar doings in the downstairs room…” My husband puts up with this stuff – our bedroom is just the other side of the wall from the computer, when I get mad, I type so hard it wakes him up. I call out to him when I read something particularly distressing – I forget the time, it might be 5 am. He moans back. Sometimes he says something intelligent. He never tells me to “shut up.” 

Thanks Honey. It’s going to be good to know, he’s just the other side of this wall, when  I start digging into “Jerusalem’s Lot.” This is a Victorian themed tale about a dark old house – oh yeah!  No better way to start the countdown to Halloweeeeeeen!




2 thoughts on “Book In Common: Counting down to Halloween with Stephen King’s “Night Shift”

  1. I read a lot of King early on, think the first was “Carrie.” He has a gift for exposing how people think & feel, and what motivates characters. I never finished “The Shining,” or saw the movie. I was reading it on a midnight shift in the control tower (yeah, I used to do that job) at Anchorage International. Slow night with a storm, snow plows going up & down the runways all night, barely keeping up. I was in a critical passage that was actually making my hair stand up, when there was a power fluctuation & every navigational aide monitor (bell, buzzer, horn, etc.) went off at volume 10 for a few seconds. I flew out of my chair & the paperback flew across the room. I never picked it up again.

    “The Stand,” was a long, early novel of his, very well done & my favorite. I’ve not read many since, nor seen the movies. I think sometimes I just fear to be disturbed at that level again.

    I visit your Taxpayers blog regularly. Thank you very much for all you do to inform & motivate the local public. But I think most remain oblivious (like they do when driving). Most of my work & living has been in Chico for nearly 30 years, but for the last 15 I’ve been living just outside the city limits. So, to my frustration, I cannot vote in Chico elections. On the other hand, I tell myself that I don’t have to take any of the blame.

    It has become pretty clear to me that government at every level in this country (local, state, and federal) is some combination of irresponsible, incompetent, and corrupt (usually all three). It’s sad & frustrating. But while I monitor & evaluate all that’s going on, I don’t let it interfere with my enjoyment of life.

    Still it’s my belief that anyone that votes for a Rep. or Dem. is just asking for MORE OF THE SAME. I became aware of that about 35 years ago & have rarely voted for either, & certainly not for a statewide or federal level post. I pursue 3rd parties, or write somebody in. I suspect many of my ballots just wind up in the round file, as I often have to make editorial comments regarding my choices. Oh well, it pleases me.

    Many thanks for your industry & integrity.

    • Thanks JB, I knew there are many others out there who enjoy Stephen King. You put it well – “He has a gift for exposing how people think & feel, and what motivates characters.”

      Great story about The Shining – these books do put a person on edge. I read The Shining and Carrie when I was working at my summer job, selling ice cream off a cart. My boss would drop me off on a busy corner in Downtown Sacramento at about 10am, he’d relieve me at noon so I could run into a building and use the bathroom, and then come back for me at about 2:30. People would rush my cart about once an hour, and then I’d be out there, alone with the daytime hookers and the residents of the “crazy hotel” across the street. I’d dive into my book – with one eye on my cash box. My customers – mostly state of California employees – would see the book sitting on the cart, and some would ask me how I could read them they were sooooo scary! But, yes, they’d read two, or four, or everything he’d ever written. A daytime hooker even approached me to say, “I see you’re reading those scary books!” She said she didn’t have time to read, but she knew all about Stephen King. That was when he had at least a movie a year at the box office.

      Thanks for paying attention to CTA – that is my horror story. “It has become pretty clear to me that government at every level in this country (local, state, and federal) is some combination of irresponsible, incompetent, and corrupt (usually all three).” Scary!

      King might portray our town as a ghost ship. When the sane passengers make their way through all the corruption, malfeasance, and bum poop to find the cabin, they discover the mayor and his crew have gone stark raving mad and given control of the wheel to Captain Ahab.

      thanks for the best advice I’ve had in a week – ” I don’t let it interfere with my enjoyment of life” – last night I stayed up late to watch Bela Lugosi in Dracula, with the “new” soundtrack – strange but so cool. Lugosi is the real thing, wow he was great. I overslept my reading time this morning, got to go clear brush in the hills today, but will be back at the book later this afternoon.

      When I’m reading King, I can’t stop thinking about it.

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