Tag Archives: Stephen King

Addendum to Prior Post and more IT

Despite my prior post denigrating much of the 20th century literature, I must say that there is much that I did like. This didn’t really occur to me until further into the day after my doses of caffeine started to kick in. But most of what I did like was the second half of the twentieth century, the first half I still regard as pretty sad.

As a lifelong bibliophile who goes through books like Michael Moore goes through buckets of KFC, I simply forget a lot of what I have read. Because even more than the stories themselves, with exceptions, I enjoy reading as an activity.

I dislike intensely the icons of the early and mid twentieth century. Hemingway bores me to tears, as does Steinbeck and Lewis – Sinclair, not C.S. Even Ayn Rand (who I was an ardent fan of for years) is of this strict realism school. Her saving grace from the world of boredom was her attempt to produce the ideal man – indeed The Ideal.

So I did like Rand, and I still think that The Fountainhead was an excellently written book even if full of some heinous ideas (and some good ones). So there is her. And I like Flannery O’Connor. I remember liking Aldous Huxley’s After Many a Summer quite a lot. That book, however, was not full of your run o’ the mill characters, nor was the plot. There was some Australian author who I liked also from the mid 20th century whose name escapes me at the moment. I liked Margret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. I am sure there are others I am failing to drudge up.

But there was little that compared to 19th century literature. Much like painting and art in general, it just wasn’t as good. No one compared to Hugo and Dostoyevsky, nor Dickens or Austen. It is like van Gogh to Caravaggio – I mean, come on.

For the most part. But I am of the opinion that the twentieth century belonged to the genres. That is where the imagination, the speculation, went to live. And I got more reflection out of Frederik Pohl’s The World at the End of Time than in most anything else of the twentieth century literature I read.

That said.

I will sometimes scan reviews of books I am about to read or am in the middle of reading for curiosity at times. And I did that with Stephen King’s IT. Five star reviews I never read, what one loves another can hate. I always go for the one star reviews.

Among the complaints is that it is too long and that King goes into too much detail. It is a 1200 or so page book and at page 133, he is not yet done introducing the cast of characters. Not that there are an overwhelming number of them, nor is the character sketches entirely deep, but King likes to put a lot of concrete detail about one’s youth, family, childhood traumas, and what is in one’s medicine cabinet (not the most telling detail, but it can tell something, no?). It took about twenty pages to get done introducing one character only to have him slit his wrists in the tub upon receiving the phone call. Bye bye.

Now despite this it is Stephen King, people. He is my guilty pleasure read because I like horror and you can slam through one of his books (no matter the size) pretty quickly. After reading some esoteric chapter on ancient Jewish conceptions of the afterlife, or trying to figure out some Lafferty story I just read, King is a relaxation. And he has a way of connecting with a reader that almost never fails. They are usually through common human bonds that only a misanthrope would fail to register. I mean his book Christine (and for that matter, The Tommyknockers) is about friendship not really about some demonically possessed car.

But I cannot believe some people simper that the book is too long and King doesn’t “get to the point.” These kids (and I suppose they must be of the iPhone generation) would never be able to read, for instance, the unabridged Les Miserables. I think, if memory serves, there is even a thirty-some page description on glass manufacturing in it that has no bearing on the story itself. I think there were quite a few asides in there like that that I skipped over after awhile. Or the two and a half page paragraph, or seventeen pages of description (talking of books in general back then) with absolutely no dialogue.

They couldn’t do it. Could they keep reading long enough for Raskolnikov to commit his heinous crime? Or how about all that book that comes after? How boring! Oh shit, How about The Idiot? What the hell is that about when you are on page fifty? Anybody?

Tolstoy’s War and Peace? They would glaze over by page six, “Oh dear God! Will a Transformer please show up or something! I’m so bored right now!”

If Stephen King is too long and plodding for you, put down the book, go watch the movie. Leave the reading to the readers.

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IT

Alright, damn it, I am reading IT. For some reason the book never interested me even though I am on a “forever” end-of-time book project (that, at my pace, will be done at the end of time) that has villainous clowns. I just didn’t feel like reading a giant tome about Chester-the-molester clown which I figured it was. Turns out there is an inter-dimensional aspect to the story which I can get behind.

That and I can’t answer the question: “you haven’t read IT? Really?” again. On top of that the question: “You haven’t watched the original IT with Tim Curry?” And soon to be added, “You haven’t watched the new movie version of IT?”

Most people can accept I haven’t read the book. But you haven’t seen the movie? As a general rule if a movie is based on a book, and there is a chance I will read the book in the future, I will not see the movie until the book is read. And even then perhaps not. The book is primary for one. And for two – it is much easier to wade through a movie whose book you have read than a book whose story you have seen.

Coming in at 1138 pages, I would definitely not read it after seeing the movie. It’s King not Dostoyevsky for Pete’s sake.

And these questions are usually asked of me by people that were 3 or 4 years old when King’s novel first came out. Look, I was reading King before your daddy got a randy idea one night, alright? But one can’t keep up with such a prolific writer unless one shuns a great deal of others. So, sometimes King just has to wait. This is the same reason for which, even though I acquired his collection over a year ago, I have only read a few of the item from the Lafferty collection thus far.

The best reader, the best experience of being a reader, is the nomadic reading experience. I do not believe in sticking to one genre anymore than I believe in sticking to no genre (the mainstream literature reader). And no writer should dominate to the exclusion of other writers in the readers occupation.

Now I cheat a bit as I really just can’t read modern or current literature. I like my 19th century literature just find, my two favorites being Dostoyevsky and Dickens. The first half of the twentieth century puts a bad taste in my mouth.

In fact, this just occured to me. The first half of the twentieth century literature is like that salty, sickly taste you get in your mouth that is the precursor to vomiting all over the place. The second half of the twentieth century is pretty much the equivalent of shitting and barfing constantly after barely making it to the bathroom.

In fact, I remember in 1993 I had my last bout of the flu. And thank God the bath tub is right next to the toilet in almost all apartments. Because while I was hitting the surface of the water with enough force to splash up and wet my butt cheeks, I was making gore on the white plastic of the shower bed. That is the equivalency there.

Except for some books they had you read in school, I really can’t name a book of “literature” from the second half of the twentieth century that I have read to finish. I’d prefer to read the adventures of Pippy Longstocking again (yeah, I read those as a child, you want some of this shit?!). Hell, maybe I will, I seem to recall they were quite fun. Ooo! and Encyclopedia Brown as well! Well, I graduated to Chesterton’s Father Brown anyway.

The genres kept their head above water until recently, but literature, as they call it still, I cannot stomach. Genres are the literature now, I don’t know what the literature even is.

Boy, what a rant. Anyway. It has taken me thirty years to get to Stephen King’s IT.

And it starts off rather well. I was actually creeped out by the first scene.


Yet Another Acquisition and Tommyknockers Knockin’ at my Door

This one I had to get because, at the time, it was the only available copy on the internet and I already had number two. You never know if the one on the internet is the first of forty to show up tomorrow or the only one that is going to show up for forty years. So I bit.

I have to put a temporary halt on book buying. I can no longer even pretend that I am keeping up. Hell, last Friday I decided to reread The Tommyknockers by Stephen King on a whim.

Not totally a whim. It is one of my favorites. For one it was the first book I read in my very first place on my own. No television. Just beer and piles of books. And that was when I could read for 6 hours at a spin. Now I have to start fighting a nap within a half hour. That may be because I wear x3 magnification and hold the thing up to my face.

No television, no internet, no computers. Ah, those were the days, brother, those were the days.

Another reason I like it is it is a good story. Stephen King said in an interview it was his least favorite book and he doesn’t remember a lot of the writing. It was at the height of his drinking and cocaine days. And there are places in the book where you think, “ah, man, this was an eight-ball night for him for sure.” By this time he was a lot like Lucas I would imagine – editors as yes-men.

King’s strongest story-telling has always centered around friendship and this one is no exception. That, and the man knows the throws of alcohol abuse – quite intimate on that he is.

Anyway, it is one of my favorite science fiction / horror stories. Those are two genres that haven’t always mixed well, or believably. This one is a gem in my book. Love it. And it’s fast too. There is no hidden symbolism in King’s work, no meta-anything – just straight forward storytelling, contemporary Americana, and some shots of terror.

Hey, I just started a book called The Resurrection of the Son of God – go look up the table of contents. I need some rest after some of my reading!


Storymatic

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[1st Note: If I had enough readers, I’d ask them whether they thought my method of starting posts with background story was annoying or boring. I find dry entries to be boring. Or the really short ones: “Found this [picture] cool.” Well, I hope the thing they are referring to is cool because their blog post is a twitter entry. I HATE TWITTER! On that note: I HATE FACEBOOK! We should have more to say than 100 characters or whatever it is (yes, I agree, some should be restricted to 2 to 3 characters) and so I hope the background story is not boring, and I do try to make them short.]

[2nd note: I reserve the right, in the future, upon having a book or story to sell, to reverse this hatred of Twitter and Facebook and shamelessly use it to sell my wares!]

{3rd Note: But that is all, I am too prolix a writer, perhaps even garrulous, for such restrictions as one can tell just from this post. GET TO THE POINT ALREADY!!!]

{4th Note: Actual subject of this post starts 10 paragraphs down!]

So we’re at the Bellevue Square Mall today to have my iPhone repaired as I cracked the screen at work. We had 45 minutes to kill. Unlike the Christians, who have 12 days of Christmas starting on the 25th, there are four to five days of Christmas in the secular calendar consisting of Christmas itself followed by four to five days known as The Great Return (where, I suppose most people return the shit they received for shit they really want – I never return – it’s rude). And I suppose they’ll have to change it to the great “buy my own shit days” because a lot of people merely buy each other cards.

Yes, I find our modern, secular Christmas to be frivolous at best, a recipe for despair at its worst.

I am not a secularist. I am also not a Christian (I lack faith in the resurrection of Christ, and that, as they say, is to lack it all) but I am a mystic.

And by that diatribe above I mean to say the mall was BUSY.

So we had time to kill because the mall was packed. Most of the stores are (way!) overpriced garment shops for women with a dress size of 2 or below and men unsure of their sexual orientation. I mentioned to the wife that what the mall needed was a really cool store. Then we turned a corner and found a really cool store called MARBLES: THE BRAIN STORE.

Although the home screen of the web page doesn’t really show it off, Marbles has all sorts of brain games. Uno can be fun if you have a child in the house but gets boring really quick. They have everything: Solitaire Chess where you learn the game in smaller pieces before you apply it to the full format. That I will probably buy in the future. Always wanted to be a decent player but never found a good strategy for improvement. Breaking something down into manageable pieces is a proven method for skill development.

There is the super trivial pursuit style game: Mindstein. Each card has five questions, multiple choice, each answer has a letter, the combination of correct answers spells out a word, you have to get the answers right to spell out the word (I suspect after 3 questions you could guess like on Wheel of Fortune). I was impressed with the questions – they were not dumbed down.

And then they have books of puzzles, the graphic logic puzzles, the hierarchical, or ordinal logic puzzles (Harry was 1 inch taller than Suzy who was taller than Gary, etc,) one book had a regular search a word that, when completed, was a summary of a literary work, and to finish you had to deduce the literary work.

I mention these because they are fun and I feel too many people nowadays focus on the body to the exclusion of the mind – and the exclusion of the soul. It is not true, is not freaking true, that to Continue reading


Writing Just to Write

And that is just what this post is.

I got back last week from a two week trip to Tucson AZ. I think I may have picked up some bug from a hotel on the way there or back. I’ve felt like crap. Another cause could be the crappy diet a road trip usually entails if you are not careful. I ate a lot of take-out and drank copious amounts of coffee and soda. I also quit smoking (again, Bob, sheesh we’re bored by this one!); 23 days so far and that could have me feeling like crap. My lungs sort of hurt. Or its indigestion. Or I’m sick. I’ll wait a few weeks, if I’m not dead, then I should be fine!

I am quitting for real this time. I have been experiencing shortness of breath over the last year. I shouldn’t be winded going up a single flight of stairs. I’ll miss you, love. But like a crazy woman, you may stimulate me but you’ll kill me.

Reading Stephen King’s Lisey’s Story at the moment. I always read King when traveling, they seem to go together for me. Having a little trouble getting through it which is an odd experience for a King book. I usually smash through them fast. This one is giving me trouble. I’m not connecting with the characters at all. The dead husband I am not buying as a (former) writer. Also King does not make at all clear what the Continue reading


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 Continue reading