The King and I
Stephen King’s been writing novels since long before I was able to correctly pronounce the word “horror” (to elaborate: not like the word “whore”).
From 1974 to the present day, King’s cemented a reputation as an intelligent, prolific, storyteller with a dead-on knack for being able to scare the bejesus out of us.
How, then, had I avoided his writing for all my life? I like scary stories with unsettling situations and desperate endings. I like yarns about demons, hauntings, and the dreaded unknown. The only reason I can think of for not reading King for so long is one I’m ashamed to admit: I was put off by his popularity. Without ever making the argument, I’m pretty sure this was my subconscious reasoning: What’s loved by the masses must not be good. It’s the same argument that makes indie hipsters so darn punchable. Except in the case of Nickelback. They’re right on the money there.
I started into the Stephen King library slowly, beginning with his masterful first published book, “Carrie.” I’ve never seen the movie, and I definitely don’t want to now; there’s no way it can hold up to the novel (although Sissy Spacek is admittedly a mega-talent). On a related note, I just watched “The Shining” on a plane trip back from Florida, which I hadn’t seen in probably 15 years. It was good, sure. I mean, Nicholson was…Nicholson. I couldn’t help thinking throughout the entire movie that the novel had to be better, though.
Post-“Carrie,” I went post-apocalyptic. I devoured “The Stand,” whose slow moments and literal Deus ex Machina moment were incidental when considered against the complex and epic story as a whole.
Now that I’ve started down the Stephen King path, I can’t stop. There’s no greater thrill than discovering an artist whose work you’ve largely ignored, and realizing that there’s a whole catalog of material waiting to be consumed. I have those moments with bands and musical genres all the time, and am having the same thrill of discovery with King. There’s a seemingly-endless well of written material to pull from. The iPad can’t come fast enough. I like to stockpile.
I read “The Running Man” a few weeks back (amazing for the first half, disappointing from that point on), and just finished “Thinner,” which was a total thrill ride with an unforgettably bleak conclusion. I’ve got “Salem’s Lot” ready to roll next, but after that…? I dunno. King fans: What’s my next move? What are your five favorites?