Monday, March 9, 2020

Black House by Stephen King and Peter Straub

I don’t remember much about this one. No dogeared pages and nothing scribbled in any of the margins -- so I guess I didn’t find much either remarkable or objectionable.

I do remember trying to figure out which parts were written by Stephen King and which parts were written by Peter Straub. And although I’ve read plenty of King, I don’t think I’ve read any other Straub; so eventually, I think I gave up the quest. Whatever didn’t seem King-like, was probably Straubian.

But what parts didn’t feel King-like? Well, the opening two paragraphs, for one.

Right here and now, as an old friend used to say, we are in the fluid present, where clear-sightedness never guarantees perfect vision. Here: about two hundred feet, the height of a gliding eagle, above Wisconsin’s far western edge, where the vagaries of the Mississippi River declare a natural border. Now: an early Friday morning in mid-July a few years into both a new century and a new millennium, their wayward courses so hidden that a blind man had a better chance of seeing what lies ahead than you or I. Right here and now, the hour is just past six A.M., and the sun stands low in the cloudless eastern sky, a fat, confident yellow-white ball advancing as ever for the first time toward the future and leaving in its wake the steadily accumulating past, which darkness as it recedes, making blind men of us all.

Below, the early sun touches the river’s wide, soft ripples with molten highlights. Sunlight glints from the tracks of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad running between the riverbank and the backs of the shabby two-story houses along County Road Oo, known as Nailhouse Row, the lowest point of the comfortable-looking little town extending uphill and eastward beneath us. At this moment in the Coulee County, life seems to be holding its breath. The motionless air around us carries such remarkable purity and sweetness that you might imagine a man could smell a radish pulled out of the ground a mile away.

That ain’t any kind of Stephen King I ever read. Ayuh.

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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