The idea came to me when I was considering the short story. This ditty may be nothing more than a manifestation of my mind’s odd need to make comparisons, no matter how absurd. But bear with me for a moment:

When I ask you to think about John McEnroe (let’s assume here that you have at least a mild acquaintance with professional tennis), you no doubt picture him as a singles player: three Wimbledon titles, four U.S. Opens, showdowns with Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors and a predilection for berating chair umpires. And why wouldn’t you remember him that way? That’s what made him famous.

Similarly, if I ask you to think about Stephen King, the novels come to mind: Carrie, The Stand, Christine, Misery, Cujo, Pet Sematary — on and on (the guy is ridiculously prolific, so I’m not naming them all). Again, perfectly natural. The novels made the man famous.

But here’s the thing about John McEnroe: For all his wondrous talents as a singles player, he may be the greatest doubles player ever. During his heyday, in the ’80s, the best doubles team in the world was McEnroe and whomever he deigned to play with (Peter Fleming mostly). The guy was ranked No. 1 in doubles for 257 weeks, a record. He’s so good at it that he won a doubles title in 2006, at the age of 47.

So it is with Stephen King. The novels made him famous and fabulously wealthy, but his prolific writing of short stories and their unflagging excellence make him as good as we’ve seen at the form. Check out the list, and if you have a spare weekend, grab a collection (I’m partial to Night Shift and Skeleton Crew, but that’s just me) and disappear inside it. You won’t be sorry.

Advertisements