Chris Ware's artwork and book designs are never less than beautiful, but the emotional tone in his books is always so dynamically flat. The character is neurotic, then old and neurotic, and then he dies. And that's just about the size of it. I've always found that very off-putting, which I think is why I've preferred his short fiction. You can get away with that sort of thing in a shorter narrative, but in a long one like Jimmy Corrigan, it really grinds on you after a while.
Anyway, I just finished Different Seasons by Stephen King, which I loved the pants off of. King has a knack for developing well-observed characters and tense situations, but he's otherwise not known as the most skillful author. In the case of Different Seasons, he keeps things tight and brisk. It's a strong collection of shortish novels, three of out of four of which have been developed into the films Stand By Me, Apt Pupil, and the Shawshank Redemption. The non-movie story, the Breathing Method, is just as good, and the only one in which King uses his signature brand of horror-as-a-condiment.
Aside from On Writing, Different Seasons might just be my favorite Stephen King thing. As far as I know, Apt Pupil isn't a well-liked film (I haven't seen it), but the book is a good thriller about a bad seed who develops a codependent relationship with the most corrupting of influences. From what I've read, it seems that the weakest aspects of the film are the ones in which they took liberties with the book in the adaptive process. The Shawshank Redemption, the only one for which I saw the film first, is a mostly straight adaptation. The film is strong, and so is the book. I haven't seen Stand By Me, but the book it's based on, the Body, is where King really lets his guard down. I don't know how much of the story is true and how much of it is invention, but you get the impression that King is summarizing his youth in all its guilt and glory, for all to see.
Then there's the Breathing Method, which is a curious story-within-a-story about a doctor who counsels an expectant mother. There's a light glaze of the gothic on this one, but it's an ultimately sweet story that manages to inject a note of secure femininity into a collection that's otherwise about male bonding in various fashions.
Now I'm picking up Moby Dick. Again.