Button, Button by Richard Matheson

A collection of short stories by a preeminent contributor to “The Twilight Zone.”

Button, Button is an uneven bit of business, purporting to highlight the very best of Richard Matheson’s “Uncanny Stories.” Some are good, one is spectacular, but others have not aged well.

First, the good:

“Button, Button” exhibits a flawless “Twilight Zone” concept and execution. Apparently a Cameron Diaz movie based on it is coming soon. Seems like a bad idea to me. The genius of the story demands a smallness not readily translatable to the big screen.

“Dying Room Only” is a quick and dirty thriller with great atmosphere, but a weak ending.

“A Flourish of Strumpets” seems more suited to the talents of Shirley Jackson, with its priggish couple assailed by a gang of prostitutes with the tenacity of door-to-door Jehovah’s Witnesses. Jackson would’ve mined the story’s full Gothic potential. Matheson keeps it clean but I wanted more quirk.

“Pattern for Survival” is a funny little tale about a most successful author. It took me a few reads to get the joke, which is quite subtle but highly rewarding.

The not-so-good:

“Creeping Terror” takes an amusingly sociological look at the spread of Los Angeles. It’s written like a research paper, a gimmick that doesn’t do it for me.

The outstanding:

“Girl of My Dreams” is a noir version of a gothic premise: a young woman who can see how people may die, and her blackmailing boyfriend have a disagreement over a mark. I loved the tone he maintains throughout. This is the one I’d most like to see as a movie.

“Mute” is quite different than the other stories, lacking either a gimmick or a stylized tone. It’s the story of a young man who can’t talk, and the people who are trying to usher him into the world of language. Ferocious and mysterious, this is the story that most sucked me in.

6 thoughts on “Button, Button by Richard Matheson”

  1. That sounds interesting. I’m a huge sucker for Twilight Zone reruns! 😉

    Maybe I’ll get this from the library for some Halloween reading.

  2. I have not read “Button, Button” yet, but I definitely will if he is even closely related to what the Twilight stories are about!

    Nice reviews!

  3. im wanting the button button story for a paper i have to write for college but i dont want to buy the book is there a website that just lets me read it ? my teacher in high school somehow printed it off and i cant find any sites that will let me do it. any pointers in helping me find it?

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