Charlatan Magazine

If It Bleeds

ARTS & LETTERS

The title comes from a callous newsroom axiom “if it bleeds, it leads.” Contributor ANGELA GALA reacts Stephen King’s newest quartet of short stories and discovers technology’s dubious effect in life and death.



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via Simon and Schuster

2020-01-01

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Mr. Harrigan’s Phone is set in classic King territory; Retribution from beyond the grave, Old Testament justice, and the author’s fascination with the ways in which technology can mimic - or be exploited by - malevolent forces. It’s a straightforward story wherein wrongdoers are punished and kindness rewarded, and as such not especially scary. However, the ghost here is a deliberate misdirection; the truly terrifying element of the story, the one with the power to unleash all manner of horror into our lives, is not the corpse rotting in the grave, but rather the shiny little gadget with the Apple logo in our pockets.

The title alone sums up a prolific career. We want to discover monsters and the horrors that lie in the unknown, but King creates them only to show us the beast inside. Horror yes! But what horror here lies in the attachment to things? Perhaps they're merely the vehicles to discover the elemental burden? Thoreau’s old friend Emerson’s words bear more truth, “…my children, you will never see anything worse than yourselves.”

In utter simplicity and with such sweetness, King sneaks up on us to reveal the light and dark that exists in our hearts. Our souls are revealed through the eyes of innocence and love; and it is frightening to be sure. Insidiously sneaking in, we find ourselves in an unfamiliar darkness and wonder how we arrived there.

Loss, desire, grief, friendship, fear, hate, love… which of these bleeds most? All of the divine readings fall by the wayside and are rendered meaningless in a moment, in one so pure we never saw it coming; he never saw it coming. Perhaps the bite of the forbidden fruit has nothing to do with things, instead it lies much deeper…

You say to us “oh constant reader look inside!” Death, loss, and misfortune are part of the roller coaster of life, the only constant is within.

Thank you sir for plumbing the depths!

SSS dst

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