Tag Archives: stories

Stephen King ponders death in new 21-story ‘Bazaar of Bad Dreams’

Stephen King has always addressed his “Constant Readers” in prefaces or afterwords to his books. He likes to share what inspired him or what he was thinking about when he wrote it.

But with the release of “The Bazaar of Bad Dreams,” King takes it to another level. Each of the 21 works of fiction in the collection features at least a paragraph, sometimes a few pages, from the author introducing it or sharing some detail to enhance reader appreciation.

Or as he writes in an invocation to his “bazaar”: “Everything you see is handcrafted, and while I love each and every item, I’m happy to sell them because I made them especially for you. Feel free to examine them, but please be careful. The best of them have teeth.”

The most toothsome of the bunch are “Morality,” an exploration of how far someone will go for a payday, and the longest of the lot, a 60-page tale called “Ur” that mocks today’s Kindle culture and contains more than a few veiled references to King’s beloved Dark Tower mythology.

This being King, there’s lots of death in these pages. And while there’s a smattering of the supernatural — n abandoned car on the Maine turnpike whose grill does more than catch bugs — there are also quite a few mediations on mortality. “Afterlife” tells the story of a man who dies from colon cancer and gets to keep living the same life; “Obits” mocks the TMZ-ification of media, featuring a columnist who can kill people by writing their obituaries in advance; and “Under the Weather” tells the story of an adman who can convince anyone of anything, including that his wife is just like the title says.

King fans will find a few clunkers here as well, according to their taste. I personally didn’t care for the two bits of poetry in the collection. King acknowledges in one of his intros that he’s a born novelist and that even short stories are a challenging discipline for him, so why bother sharing a few scraps of verse?

All in all, though, it’s a meaty collection with interesting insights into the creative process of a writer who caused many sleepless nights. Well worth keeping on your bedside table for those evenings when, as King puts it: “… sleep is slow to come and you wonder why the closet door is open, when you know perfectly well that you shut it.”

Reagan Foundation: Walker telling of Bible story is correct

An official at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library this week sought to clarify her account of how Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker came to handle a family Bible the late president used when taking the oath of office.

Library registrar Jennifer Torres said a “simple misunderstanding” left the wrong impression that Walker personally sought to hold the book. A spokeswoman for the Reagan Foundation says Walker’s retelling of the moment is correct.

Walker told the story of having his picture taken with the Bible at a 2013 Reagan Day dinner in Milwaukee. He described in his speech how he was surprised to see the Bible had been taken out of its exhibit case, so that he could pose with it for a photo.

In a series of emails with the liberal magazine The Progressive, Torres said that Walker had asked to see the Bible.

On March 16, Torres said that Walker’s advance team had indeed asked about Walker viewing the Bible, but that his surprise at being offered the chance to hold it was genuine.

“It was the Reagan Foundation’s request to actually pull the Bible from the case and allow Gov. Walker to hold the Bible,” Torres said. “It was not Gov. Walker nor his team’s idea to request that we remove it from the case or take a picture of the governor with it.”

In his 2013 speech, Walker also said he was told that former first lady Nancy Reagan wanted him to hold the book and pose for a photo.

Melissa Giller, a spokeswoman for the Reagan Foundation, said Walker likely got that idea because Nancy Reagan’s chief of staff had to give permission for the Bible to be removed.

“She knew Mrs. Reagan would also like the idea and we shared that with him,” Giller said in an email. “We aren’t sure how the other story got out (that it was his idea), and we feel badly about it because nothing about it was his idea.”

Torres, in an email she sent to Giller explaining what happened, called it a “simple misunderstanding.” Giller said that she, not anyone associated with Walker, sought out the additional information from Torres about what happened.

Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman for Walker’s political group, Our American Revival, said in a statement late last week that, “Gov. Walker was honored to speak at the Reagan Library and to hold his mother’s Bible. He was and continues to be one of his heroes, a president for the ages that accomplished great things for our country.” She said on March 16 that Walker’s group had no additional comment.

Book delves into lives of gay Indiana steelworkers

Two women who worked at a local steel mill hid a secret from their co-workers — they lived together and were romantically involved.

But one sunk deeper into depression until her partner returned home one night to find her with a gun in her mouth.

She pulled the trigger.

The steelworker frantically tried to resuscitate her partner, but it was too late.

Though grief-stricken, she still had to show up for her shift the next day because no one at the mill knew they were a couple or even that they were lesbians, and she feared being exposed. She could not let on that anything was wrong.

That was one of the stories Indiana University Northwest English professor Anne Balay gathered while interviewing 40 gay steelworkers for her book, “Steel Closets: Voices of Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Steelworkers,” which was recently published by the University of North Carolina Press.

The first-of-its-kind book was written for a wide readership, and has won praise. Author E. Patrick Johnson, who wrote “Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South,” called it “a fascinating and insightful look into the lives of queer steel mill workers.”

Balay, who lives in the Miller Beach neighborhood of Gary, Ind., had been a car mechanic before she became an English professor and knew what it was like being gay in a blue-collar and traditionally male workplace. When she started to teach in Gary eight years ago, she became fascinated by the steel mills — by how they hulked majestically like prehistoric dinosaurs and yet were mysterious. She wondered what it was like for gay and lesbian steelworkers who toiled inside.

She could not find any academic literature on the subject. She scoured local libraries and a Pittsburgh library with an extensive collection of research on the steel industry, but to no avail.

Since Balay could not find any book on the subject, she decided to write one herself.

Balay wanted to let people know that gay steelworkers exist and suffer harassment, ostracism and isolation despite progress made with gay rights. She also wanted to let gay steelworkers know they are not alone.

“We have a picture of what it’s like to be gay in America and often perceive gay people as affluent, as white architects who live in Boystown,” she told The Times. “But there’s a growing body of scholarship that shows what it is like to be gay wherever you are, in rural areas or elsewhere. Not everybody moves to the city. They might be attached to the area or their family might all live there. It’s hard not to go to a city where it’s easier for gay people to live, but they should be able to figure out who they are wherever they are.”

Clad in her auto mechanic jacket, Balay sought out subjects to interview in steelworker bars and gay bars throughout northwestern Indiana. The university required they sign consent forms even though she protected them with aliases and by avoiding any identifying details, such as race or which mill they worked at.

“It was hard. It’s not like they have rainbow stickers on their cars,” she said. “They were trying to be invisible. I was looking for people who were trying not to be found.”

The steelworkers were used to hiding their sexuality but wanted to be heard after years of silence, Balay said.

“I showed up to one steelworker’s home and he just hemmed and hawed, and asked me to tell him what he was supposed to say,” she said. “I asked him just to talk about what the job is like, and he talked about his life for eight hours. The thing about the steelworkers is that they’re storytellers. They live exciting and dangerous lives. It isn’t boring – there’s always something happening, always danger and excitement. Being gay isn’t boring. There’s love, excitement and fun.”

Steelworkers opened up about how they were alienated at work, and about how they had to be careful about what they said and watch what pronouns they used if they were asked about their weekends. They talked about how they were harassed, beaten up and sexually assaulted. They recounted how they would find their tires slashed or their lug nuts loosened.

The steelworkers told Balay about how they fended off abuse, such as a woman who swung around and knocked off her harasser’s hat with a pipe, telling him next time it would be his head. Another got up on a catwalk, lowered a noose around a man’s neck, pulled him up on his tiptoes and told him she would pull tighter if he ever bothered her again. He didn’t.

They talked about the stress of being guarded all the time at work and how hard it was on their partners.

“It’s a dangerous, stressful job,” she said. “The partner knows the risk, but wouldn’t get notified if anything happened because they’re not legally recognized. What would that feel like, if your partner just didn’t come home and no one called to tell you what happened?”

Information from: The Times, http://www.thetimesonline.com