Saturday, September 16, 2023

Stephen King's If It Bleeds Read-Along - Mr. Harrigan's Phone

This is a read-along so be aware of spoilers ahead.

One of the things Mr. King does best, besides the chilling and creepy, is coming-of-age themes. This theme is very clear in Mr. Harrigan's Phone. The befriending of Mr. Harrigan at first leads one to believe that something creepy is going to happen in that house (as Craig waters plants and reads to the old man as a job). And what about that phone? I liked how the story was set around the time iPhones started to appear (though I hate iPhones lol), and so when Craig gets one, he is learning, and when he gives one to Mr. Harrigan, they sort of learn together. Mr. Harrigan's reaction and subsequent liking of the phone is truly entertaining. Craig was a genius pulling off sparking the old man's interest by showing him how to easily look up the stock market standings. Something Mr. Harrigan is very interested in due to his riches. All the while, we're wondering what this all means. Why is Mr. Harrigan, a self-proclaimed "ruthless tycoon" so interested in Craig? Personally, I think as we age (especially at Harrigan's advanced age), we start looking back at our innocence as we grew up, and so Harrigan spending time with Craig is a comfort, and he is reminded of his own more innocent days. 

The more supernatural side of the story comes about after Harrigan dies and Craig slips the old man's iPhone in his pocket in the casket. And so, he is buried with the phone. When Craig has hard times in life (being beat up by a bully, the loss of a beloved teacher, etc.) he calls Harrigan's phone for comfort and leaves voice mails about the occurrences. For some reason, the phone continues working, even after years have gone by so we know that is definitely supernatural. The chilling part comes in when the bully, and the drunk driver who killed the teacher, both come to suicidal endings. 

Ultimately, the friendship wins out and Mr. Harrigan sends the cryptic text that can only mean he's telling Craig to stop. I genuinely feel that Mr. Harrigan knew that these continued revenge scenarios would take a very negative toll on Craig, and so he is still a mentor and a friend even after death. Craig complies and throws the phone in the lake.

Share your thoughts on this novella in the comments, or leave a link to a post. We'll be back October 1st to discuss the next novella, The Life of Chuck. If you need the reading schedule, find it here.

There is a Netflix film based on this (with the same name) that I thought was done well. Donald Sutherland as Mr. Harrigan was the perfect choice, and Jaedan Martell put in a great performance as Craig. If you haven't already, you should give it a watch. Here's the trailer...

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  1. This was a great story! I liked that the supernatural elements were rather subdued. Like one death could be a coincidence, and two a weird fluke but all of them? Like right after the messages were sent? It's definitely one of King's more wholesome tales...I was waiting for some wicked twist about Harrigan but it just turned out he was a lonely and nice old man. I can't wait to get into the rest!

  2. I enjoyed Mr. Harrigan's Phone and I hope to watch the Netflix movie today. I liked how it wasn't in-your-face supernatural, it was more magical realism. I'm glad King didn't drag it out and have Craig request to do away with more people. Just a couple of highlights and Craig learned that this was not a wise tool/power to have.

  3. I liked this one! Not super scary...more like a morality tale. One for the modern-day. I thought it was interesting they changed how the bully died in the movie as opposed to the book...

  4. I am using your read-along as a way to get back into reading again. I have had such a heavy load going on and I have missed reading a lot. I am a bit behind the schedule but I'm happy to plod along.
    I really enjoyed this story. Usually it's Dean Koontz warning us of the dangers of technology. This is subtle but some of Mr Harrigan's speeches warn us of what is to come and here we are living it. The age of disinformation.
    I think that Mr Harrigan is a much more complex character than just a nice old man. He was so ruthless when he was younger that he is dying alone. If Craig wasn't such a great kid, then he would have noone. As such, he only had the company of people he must pay to help him. He is a warning himself to Craig about vengance, power and greed. Craig could easily have used the power that Mr Harrigan harnessed which was now manifesting in a supernatural way. Instead Mr Harrigan warned him to stop because he knew it was the wrong path for Craig.

    1. Glad you're joining us! Hope it's helping with your reading mojo. That is such a great analysis of Mr Harrigan and his motivations. Spot on!

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