31 Shots of Shock #9: ‘Pop Art’ by Joe Hill

*Title: ‘Pop Art’ by Joe Hill.
Date Read: 09 October 2011
Available Online?: NO, taken from, 20th Century Ghosts (PS Publishing).
Briefly: The narrator has a best friend called Arthur Roth, who is a little different than most. You see Arthur isn’t human at all, rather he’s an inflatable balloon, very much in the shape of a human and coming with certain human characteristics. The narrator tells us something of their life together
Afterthoughts: From Joe Hill (son of the great Stephen King), comes a story that’s as imaginative as anything I’ve ever read. A ‘shot of shock’ this one definitely isn’t (I even fail to see how it’s found its way into Hill’s ghost story collection), but it remains a beautifully crafted tale, and it’s one which sticks in the mind well after reading it.

As I briefly explained this story features an inflatable balloon in the shape of a person, and thinking about it one can look at this storyline in two ways: 1) Hill has created a world where the occasional inflatable ‘person’ is floating around 2) The fact that this inflatable ‘balloon’ engages in certain human acts, is a figment of the narrator’s imagination. I like to think of it as the former (especially when Arthur in this story has bona fide parents – ‘filled with blood and not air’ (Arthur’s condition is described as genetic) – so difficult to imagine that too), because the idea of having prospective companions floating around is a warming one. Trouble is, even thinking such a thing after reading this story, only reinforces the fact that Pop Art is about as scary as an episode of My Little Pony :). So, not a perfect choice for a tale of terror, but enjoyable all the same.

Notable Quote: When I tell you we talked, I mean only to say we commu­nicated, argued, put each other down, built each other up. To stick to facts, I talked – Art couldn’t. He didn’t have a mouth. When he had something to say, he wrote it down. He wore a pad around his neck on a loop of twine, and carried crayons in his pocket. He turned in school papers in crayon, took tests in crayon. You can imagine the dangers a sharpened pencil would present to a four-ounce boy made of plastic and filled with air.

Rating: ★★★★☆

*Story read as part of my 2011 31 Shots of Shock reading project.

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).


  1. Every year at this time I think I will finally crack open 20th Century Ghosts but then the season passes and I put it away for next year. Same this year. 😉