(from The Paris Review, Fall 2007)
I didn’t think I would ever tell this story. My wife told me not to; she said no one would believe it and I’d only embarrass myself. What she meant, of course, was that it would embarrass her. “What about Ralph and Trudy?” I asked her. “They were there. They saw it too.”
“Trudy will tell him to keep his mouth shut,” Ruth said, “and your brother won’t need much persuading.”
This was probably true. Ralph was at that time superintendent of New Hampshire School Administrative Unit 43, and the last thing a Department of Education bureaucrat from a small state wants is to wind up on one of the cable news outlets, in the end-of-the-hour slot reserved for UFOs over Phoenix and coyotes that can count to ten. Besides, a miracle story isn’t much good without a miracle worker, and Ayana was gone.
I’m having trouble describing this one, why it worked. It was sort of hazy. Its intentions weren’t really evident except to tell a good story and make you think. Good enough.
Read the beginning here.
Update! Update! (12/11/2007)
Not long ago I sent a pdf of the above story to a guy named Peter Hansen in Denmark. He is a dedicated Stephen King fan who was having trouble getting a copy. In exchange, he agreed to write up his thoughts on the story. I’m extremely pleased to present the following epic:
On Stephen King
By guest writer Peter Hansen
a Stephen King fan from Denmark
I’ve just read ”Ayana,” a new short story by Stephen King, and which appeared in the literary magazine The Paris Review (thanks to Patrick Rapa for providing me a copy — of the story, not the magazine, I’m one of those King fans who just wants the King story, the rest doesn’t really matter).
However, I also just got the December issue of Playboy
I got the actual magazine, so there were other kinds of eye candy to enjoy, if you know what I mean. Oh, well…Where was I? Ah, yes. “Ayana.”
This isn’t an actual review, so I won’t detail too much of the plot. This is more my opinion and musings. If you find it too rambling and incoherent, I’ll say — so what? Deal with it.
I’m a big fan of Stephen King, see? Have been so for many, many years. Love his novels (the longer, the better), short stories, novellas, screenplays, non-fiction, etc. He never fails to please me.
Maybe I’m too easy to please, or too loyal a fan, but he has really never let me down. That also goes for his baseball writing, because even if I don’t understand baseball (I’m Danish, go figure!) King’s voice and force is still there, pulling me into the pages. King could write about the manufacturing of curtains, and it would still be a reading experience. No kidding.
Sure, some of his works are better than others (not to mention the movie and TV adaptations, but that’s another story for, perhaps, another day).
But all us fans know that he’s the man when it comes to horror, suspense, but most importantly, a story well told, or, at least, honestly told. Even if a story is a tad unoriginal and predicting, King still delivers. As the covers of the good old NEL (New English Library) paperbacks informed us back in the days, words are his powers. Yup, couldn’t agree more.
I’m not alone on this, but King is really the King when it comes to short fiction. He has written lots and lots of them, and some of the best has been collected in his own collections over the years: Night Shift, Skeleton Crew, Nightmares & Dreamscapes, and Everything’s Eventual. Not to mention some other more innovative collections like Creepshow (a comic adaptation of his movie screenplay of the same name; love the movie, by the way). More recently, there was The Secretary of Dreams, a limited “graphic novel” collection, containing some tales (picked by King himself) which have been richly illustrated, and some even done as comics. This being a limited edition only, it’s an item I don’t have in my collection. Being a fan and collector can often be frustrating. That’s also another story for, perhaps, another day.
So, as much as I love King’s fat, meaty novels (those that some critics claims overwritten; to hell with them), I have a special affection for his short fiction. He’s often more experimental with this particular form.
After his recent collection Everything’s Eventual: 14 Dark Tales (2002), King’s short fiction has grown more experimental than before. They are still typical King, yet they seem to be more focused on other stuff than things that go bump in the night. I’m fine with that. King could write a story (or a novel) about a banana running for President, and I would buy it and read it. And enjoy it.
Because King isn’t really just a horror writer, don’t you know?
King has always been literary, whatever you might think of the word, but he has become somewhat more subtle and, to some extent, more gentle in his approach, so a great deal of this later stuff seems more literary than the older stuff. Again, it depends on your viewpoint. To me, King has been literary since Carrie (1977).
King’s short fiction output since that collection in 2002, has been regrettably short, but hey, he’s slowed down a bit, and he’s working on novels in between (plus, he’s got a regular column in Entertainment Weekly and is working on a musical/play with John Mellencamp. Wow!). However, the stories have, to me, at least, become more fascinating. There’s still some supernatural yarns, although they rely less on scares and more on deeper stuff.
I’m psyched that King still writes short fiction, especially since these will result in a future collection (untitled for now, but was tentatively titled Pocket Rockets, a neat, yet odd title, given what you associate that title with). I’m like a little kid whenever I read news about a new story or novella (always on Lilja’s Library, the best King site on the Net — ever!), and it seems more are emerging.
Bring ’em on.
One brand-new story is “Ayana.” (I finally got to the point, huh?) It’s one of the gentler tales, with supernatural elements, sure, but not relying on it, or delving into it. It’s a story that echoes elements from his early story “The Woman in the Room” (in Night Shift) and his 1996 serial novel The Green Mile. It’s a story about miracles. It’s a story that King apparently needed to write because of a death in his family; his mother-in-law. “The Woman in the Room” was King’s way of dealing with his own mother’s death from cancer, and it was sad and emotional. “Ayana” has a bit of the same feeling, but the approach and execution is different and lighter. Lilja reviewed it on his site and claimed it made him feel good. It also made me feel good, but I also agree with another gentleman who felt that King has covered the grounds before. But then again, he does that now and then, especially with his recent short fiction, and I’m still the pleased fan-boy.