Doctor Sleep

Took some time out of reading Gene Wolfe’s The Knight/Wizard and Fulton Sheen’s Life of Christ (a good read actually) to read King’s sequel to The Shining. In all honesty I didn’t seek the book. On the night of my flight out to Tucson to visit family I left my Kindle at work and desperately needed something for the flight(s). You are not likely to find the sort of stuff I normally read at the airport as they stock mainly Patterson level sellers.

So there was King’s Doctor Sleep. I thought, “why not visit an old friend?” When I was growing up Stephen King was it, he was the author. This was around the time of The Stand, Salm’s Lot, to Night Shift, Cujo, Christine, and onto Pet Cemetery and Tommyknockers – late seventies to early nineties.

I devoured them all.

I moved on to “weightier” stuff after I got married and read maybe two of his novels in the intervening years. I think they were Hearts in Atlantis and Bag of Bones (I have little recollection of the former).

I’m glad I stopped in to visit. A new Stephen King book is similar to a new AC/DC album (sorry non-fans, but I am a philistine and I do not apologize!) . You can be pretty sure of what you are going to get, but damn it feels good to go there. There is a comfortable familiarity in the King formula (which he varies to an extent as to not rewrite himself). Maybe it is not so much a formula as it is the familiarity of the guide, the author, himself. The small, cold, claustrophobic  Maine towns, the Americana, the small town folk as presented by King make for fast, enjoyable, reading.

King states, correctly, in the afterword that the author who wrote Doctor Sleep is very different from the author that wrote The Shining. Although it has been some time since I have read The Shining (I confess I remember more clearly the Kubrick movie now) there is a difference between the two novels. The writing, structurally, is tighter in Doctor Sleep. And although the horror is lighter, King can access a level of feeling and sentiment that was absent from The Shining. And, if memory serves again, from most of the books he wrote from that time.

I felt an uncanny sense of familiarity and unfamiliarity.

I say the horror is lighter… hmm. I am not sure about that one now that I think of it. I was perhaps 12 or 13 when I last read The Shining. I am now 43.  Not so sure I can be scared that way anymore. I fear very real, mundane, things now. Getting shot to death at work – stabbed – or beaten to death. Getting robbed. My parents approaching their 80’s. The supernatural? Ghosts? Not so much.

Perhaps I am still functionally an atheist. I don’t think my God (or his enemies if there were such) moves around very much. And, if there is an afterlife, I just don’t think they are vulnerable to the “beckoning” of a John Edward (of Crossing Over fame – not the American congressman who runs for president while cheating on his cancer stricken wife – that’s John Edwards).

I am sometimes out at night, by myself, sometimes on a side street, sometimes in the woods. I don’t fear a ghost, or a monster, but a human. Perhaps there is something sad in that?

Btw, this was never intended as a book review, but a ramble. I liked Doctor Sleep – there you go.

I had wanted to be a horror writer when I was growing up. Stephen King was one of my first heroes. That is until I got involved in all that Objectivist stuff. I even remember my last “horror” story a little. It involved a mentally challenged kid, a public pool, and turtles. I think the child communicated with the turtles or something and something bad was going to happen to the kid. Ah, hell, it was over 20 years ago, and I had A LOT of booze to still go through.

I sometimes wonder where I would be if I had continued on that path.


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