ljgoldstein (ljgoldstein) wrote in theinferior4,

Novelette: "Obits"

Sometimes I think that Stephen King is too skilled a writer for his own good.  No, wait, hear me out.  “Obits” is about an obituary writer who discovers that when he writes obituaries about live people, they end up dead.  It’s not an earth-shattering idea, and I’d bet that any number of writers have come up with something similar.  Other writers, though, would try to figure out where the story should go, how it should end, if it would be too predictable — and when they finished with all of that, they’d decide that the idea wouldn’t work, that it’s just not a very good concept for a story.

King, on the other hand, is off and running.  He imagines the kind of character who would write the obituaries, a journalism grad named Michael Anderson, who wants to work in the dying field of print news but can’t get a job and so is forced to live with his parents.  He puts Anderson and obituaries together by having him, in desperation, send a sarcastic celebrity obituary to a webzine and then getting him hired there.  He gives Anderson a voice that fits his character (snarky, young, but still compassionate) and a reason to do something as odd as write an obit for a living person (he wants a raise and his boss is being a jerk).

For anyone else, in other words, the story would be lifeless, inert.  But King, with his talent  for characterization, for story-telling, manages to strike it with lightning, enough so that it wakes up a bit and shambles around.  For the first half, the story works.  Unfortunately, King is still stuck with his original hackneyed idea, and it still has no real place to go.  King even seems to realize this; he mentions that you might “find the end a little flat.”

But if you have Bazaar of Bad Dreams, the collection that “Obits” appeared in, and if you want to read a story that will send chills down your back, try “The Dune.”  Wow.  The guy’s still got it.
Tags: hugo awards, novelette, obits, stephen king
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