Stephen King takes on cigarette prices, sin

Rebecca Lang

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For the second time, Stephen King finds himself getting comfy in the pages of Esquire magazine, after they published his "Gingerbread Girl" in 2007. This time, his story has the lofty title "Morality," and an excerpt is painted onto the naked body of Israeli model Bar Refaeli.

"Morality" isn’t necessarily a thriller in the traditional King vein. Esquire is more literary than that. Instead, "Morality" attempts to be a psychological take on the desperation the recession has caused individuals, throwing in a treatise on morality just because he’s Stephen King, and he can.

The basic plot is that an educated couple in New York wants money so the husband can finish his book. The wife works as a nurse for a pseudo-wise old man, who suddenly decides that he hasn’t sinned enough in life, and wants to pay the wife to sin for him: 200,000 bucks. King, crafty as he is, won’t tell the reader right away what the sin is. At this point, the story is already kind of stupid. The wife gets annoyed at the husband for spending money to smoke a pack of cigarettes a week (Really? A pack a week? That’s how desperate middle-class white people are these days?). The old man gets a multi-paragraphed speech that includes a vacuous denouncement of Freud (apparently he thinks the human mind is an ocean, but Freud only thinks it’s a puddle. Obviously King has never opened a page of Freud). But the reader must keep reading to find out what the sin is. Will it be family-destroying sex? Murder?

The theatrics of it all are enough to make any reader sitting with a cup of coffee and a magazine wonder if King is under the conception that the entire nation has ADD. They already made it through a long story about cars; they can also make it through this without far-fetched pulpy scenes of marital s&m. But the reader must keep reading on to find out what this sin could be. Spoiler alert: it’s a really stupid sin. A&E won’t say what, but obviously Stephen King wrote the story waiting for creative inspiration that never came.

"Morality" ends up being kind of condescending. It attempts to take on the struggles of the demographic who read the magazine, but it turns them into cheap puppet theater revolving around a crumbling center. Moral of the story: morality is impossible for most. We could learn that better in a story about evil clowns, thank you very much.