BLIND WILLIE (1983)
4 out of 5 stars.
Well-to-do Vietnam veteran Billy Shearman goes into the city each morning to beg for money as poor Blind Willie.
“Blind Willie” is the strongest (and, at fifty pages, one of the shortest) stories in Hearts in Atlantis. It’s haunting and evocative and leaves us wondering without feeling cheated.
The connections King has been building between these stories finally pays off. In “Hearts in Atlantis,” Carol Gerber (and mentions of Sully-John, Bobby, and Rionda) connected back to “Low Men.” Now, the main character in “Blind Willie” is shown to have played a pivotal role in “Low Men” and also served in Vietnam with a character from “Low Men” and a character from “Hearts.”
These links are made without leaning too heavily on the previous stories and without seeming too coincidental. This sort of thing could easily feel soap-opera but King has created a solid reality.
King also plays with different narrative styles through Hearts in Atlantis, which helps distinguish each story while they work to make a whole. “Low Men,” “Why We’re In Vietnam,” and “Heavenly Shades of Night Are Falling” are in 3rd person, past tense. “Hearts in Atlantis” is in first person, past tense. “Blind Willie” is 3rd person, present tense. (As a rule, I’m not a fan of present tense, but King is the best at it of any author I read. He uses it so unobtrusively that it usually takes me twenty or thirty pages to even notice.) Continue reading