Why Is “Gray Matter” a Particularly Good Title for This Story?
It’s tight, psychologically complex, and heartbreaking. It does everything you could ask of a short story and then some. But then he follows it up with “Battleground,” one of the worst pieces of writing I’ve ever read from Stephen King. It’s genuinely awful; stock characters, a stupid premise, terrible execution, and a narrative with zero tension. Perhaps his editor thought they could sneak “Battleground” in behind the afterglow of “Gray Matter,” but regardless it’s a surprisingly large belly flop, placed at the literal heart of the book.
A story is told of a man who worked for the Bangor Public Works Department. He went down into the sewers and came out fifteen minutes later, his hair white. He saw a spider "as big as a good-sized dog sitting in a web full of kitties an' such all wrapped up in silk thread." He immediately quit with the Public Works Department. Our narrator says this about what his old friend saw: "I'm not saying there's any truth in it, but I am saying there's things in the corners of the world that would drive a man insane to look 'em right in the face." Bygum, is this story the springboard for It, a novel that wouldn't be written or released for a decade or so after this story's original publication? I think so. Super cool.
Indeed, there really isn’t much threat to Evie herself, which means the scares are safely contained inside the dollhouse and her experiences are more of an oddity than anything.