Ash - you're 10,000% right. My brain is bad and dirty and should be changed. I made an edit. Thank you for saving me from myself!
Perene, I hate to be that guy, but Christine is in three parts, and while the first and third parts are in first person, the middle of the book (about 186 pages) is in third person, so I wasn't counting it. But I do agree with you otherwise - Christine is the only book of King's that I actually deeply dislike.
By the way - what's the CELL/SOUTH PARK connection? I haven't come across this.
Whoa - that's some extensive analysis and I'm really happy to read it. You know, I try to avoid going too far under the ice with King because I know that's where a lot of his Dark Tower stuff linking up a lot of his books and creating a "Steve-o-Verse" exists. But it sounds like I'll have to read the Dark Tower series after I finish this big re-read. I've only ever read the first one and had no interest in the rest, but I need to give it a shot.
"Everything's Eventual" is a fun story, but it didn't blow me away, so I love that you like it so much. Nice to have reinforced to me that it's all just, like, an opinion, man.
And thanks for the warm welcome back everyone. This oeuvre is going DOWN!
It won the Booker in 1982. Did England even exist in 1982? As far as I remember it was a brown island made of corduroy back then where news was distributed on tiny folded up bits of paper tied to pigeon's legs that you had to read with a magnifying glass, and every village only had one glass that was owned by the lord and everyone lined up at his gate to hear his footman read about who Margaret Thatcher had disemboweled and eaten in Regent's Park the night before.
I've always lumped Black Easter in as alternate history since it's about an alternate world where magic is real rather than Satan making an incursion into our world. But I may have disqualified it too hard.
There are horror paperbacks out there about every kind of child, from adopted to biological, from IVF to switched at birth, from aborted to in utero.
In terms of religion, I think it was THE EXORCIST and its knock-offs, powered by the massive celebrity of Pope John Paul II in the early 80s that made Catholicism the religion of choice for horror novels. There's a constant fascination with the vow of celibacy in these books (see DARK ANGEL, an earlier Freaky Friday) and an obsession with the virgin birth (see James Patterson's VIRGIN).
Method? I scoff at method! This is sheer madness.
Although, you’re hearing it here first, this column has been MIA because I got asked to write a book based on it. So expect a Big Gulp-sized toxic portion of this craziness coming your way, Halloween 2017.
I spent the last 3 months delivering a 240 page manuscript. Now we're doing the copy editing and fine tuning.
The cover's by Jeffrey Catherine Jones who is amazing and was definitely influenced by Frazetta. A trans artist who was the fourth member of the legendary studio space shared by Michael Kaluta, Barry Windsor-Smith and Bernie Wrightson. They were pretty much the Fantastic Four of figurative work-for-hire art in NYC from 1975 - 1979:
You can read more about her here:
Lots of images of her art:
No, it just drips. Purely gross-out purposes. It is low class puke.
Blumlein goes way beyond gender essentialism. Frankie says he's male, so he's treated as male, but by the end of the book I can't tell if he and Terry have evolved into completely other genders that may not be male or female, or if their rebellion against their biology has made them go insane, or if they are evolving towards some kind of pure hermaphroditism. I think your interpretation depends on what you're bringing to the party.
Aeryl - I'm a Dark Tower n00b so I appreciate you putting this in context. In fact, your context makes Buick look like even more of a signal flare King fired over the heads of his fans. One thing that's interesting in Buick is that it contains a few lines that are almost verbatim things King has said in interviews or written in essays basically telling his fans to chill out. On the one hand: those are rich author problems. On the other hand: I can't imagine the pressure he was under to deliver for his readers.
Chuck - I'm only doing novels and story collections that King wrote solo (excluding the Dark Tower books) for this re-read. But there's one more chunk of books to be read before I'm done with those, so maybe I'll go back to Talisman and Black House. Did you like them?
Aeryl - that's a good point, although I read it as less a message of hope King was sending to himself (although that's a cool take on it) and more part of the 16-car-pile-up of confusion that exists in the back third of this book. The way I read it (and I could absolutely have read it wrong), there are a couple of possibilities: 1) Mr. Gray is a mental construct that Jonesy creates, 2) There were no Grayboys and really it was byrus all along that caused people to "see" Grayboys, and so Jonesy is possessed with byrus, 3) There is a Mr. Gray but he's a purely telepathic being by the end of the book, the same way Jonesy is by the end, and they're fighting over that one body.
I read it as 3, but I think King probably intended 1 or 2. I was just never clear which, so I went with my favorite!
"Reviews used to involve a slight brief overview of subject being reviewed." I remember those good old days, too! But do you remember even before that? Before The Great Destruction? Back when reviews used to involve a slight brief Lebanese seal who came to your house in an ice wagon and sat on the front porch, sipping rosewater tea and discussing not just the subjects being reviewed, but other issues, both great and small, that concerned the world around us? I look at Tor and I see the absence not just of tiny seals, but of everything that made the world you and I once inhabited so great and I lose interest too. I would ask if there's anything I could do to pique your interest again (A sausage dance? Puppy massage?) but then I see this fallen world we live in and...woo boy! My friend, may you walk the many highways that lead to all the alternate realities and one day I hope - I pray - the magnetized Dome leads you to one where you find all the satisfaction that we cannot provide you with here. Vaya con Domos!
Dog politics? What about Alien Sex Lady politics? Eva says, "I always thought the end [of the world] would be caused by us. Nuclear war, global warming..."
Eva believes that mankind caused global warming!
Dogs = conservative
Aliens = liberals
Butterflies = ?
I am going to cover ON WRITING. Right here in this comment section:
It's pretty fucking great.
King’s God seems to be an alien intelligence, almost like something out of Lovecraft. Its motives and reasons are so alien to us that we can’t understand them, and they often come across as cruel and believers must have faith that they serve a greater purpose. And while they may not demand blood sacrifice, they do demand great sacrifice. Someone who feels compelled for religious reasons to go to a war zone and deliver aid, to engage in non-violent resistance in the face of violent opposition, to kill themselves as a sign of protest, or to give away their kidney (or money) to a total stranger are the kind of people who I think hear this message.
I agree that the Higher Power AA describes in its material isn’t this God, but at AA and AlAnon meetings I’ve attended, this is the Higher Power I’ve heard people talk about. You can drink, or not drink. The Higher Power isn’t going to be pleased or disappointed – it’s your choice. The Higher Power I’ve heard many successfully recovering addicts talk about is almost like a whetstone: it grinds away their lives and is sometimes painful, but leaves the edge sharpened and new.
But that is honestly just my personal experience and perspective.
Rose Madder is coming up next week. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing...
The only bummer about the current edition of WHEN DARKNESS LOVES US is that the cover is NOT a foil-embossed painting with a stepback.
I actually think that this is his best recent novel. I thought DOCTOR SLEEP was great when it was about Danny Torrance, but a bit Mary Sue-ish when it was about the other character. And MR. MERCEDES didn't feel like a 100% comfortable fit for King. I liked JOYLAND but didn't love it. But REVIVAL has parts of each of those books in it, and it's (in my opinion) better executed than all three.
I haven't read the book, and loved the movie although it feels like it ends prematurely. Knowing now that the book lets Mixmaster go on a rampage makes it a must-read for me.
We call it "sleaze" because it alliterates nicely with "Summer of" but also because, as Will says, most horror paperbacks from the 70's and 80's are lumped into the category of "sleazy" these days unless the names King, Koontz, Straub, or Barker features prominently on them. Like we say in the subhead, we're unearthing trash and treasure in equal measure.
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!!!
I did not get to attend the panel, which was fine because if I was in the same room with Julia Shumway I would feel compelled to touch her fabulous hair.
The writing is definitely getting worse with each passing episode, but I think they've hit bottom now, haven't they? HAVEN'T THEY????? HOW CAN IT POSSIBLY GET ANY WORSE???? OH, PLEASE DEAR GOD IT CAN'T GET WORSE!!!! THERE IS NO WAY THAT IS POSSIBLE, RIGHT? RIGHT? RIGHT???!??!!!!!???
Why did they have to change the title? WHHHYYYYYYY?!?
THE FUNHOLE is such a better name for that book.
Damn you, publishers. Damn you all to hell.
Rebecca Pine, high school science teacher, has ensured that they are loaded with both cholesterol AND influenza. She's a belt and suspenders kind of woman.
I worry about what might happen to your brainwaves if you watch this show. I consider myself The Guardian of Your Brainwaves because I am willing to damage my brainwaves to watch it for you.
That said, Under the Dome has never failed to leave my jaw hanging at least once per episode by airing moments that most other television shows would leave on the cutting room floor.
If you enjoy high school theatrical productions, actors with gorgeous Pantene hair, butterflies, magnetic stuff, people who spell out everything they're thinking through their mouth holes, and the sight of Dean Norris impressively slimming down from his Breaking Bad weight right before our eyes, then Under the Dome is for you.
jmurphy - you got me! As I was reading this I was totally thinking that all it needed was for the killer to be a birthday party clown like John Wayne Gacy. The fact that he wore a clown mask when he drove the car totally slipped past me. And now that you remind me, I remember coming across that Pennywise reference and smiling since King loves referencing his other books these days.
"The Red Lodge" is one of those stories I always skipped in anthologies for some unknown reason, but I'll definitely be checking it out. And thanks for the link correction!
I was really, REALLY bummed not to have read enough EF Benson to include him here. I've actually picked up a few of his collected ghost stories and plan on diving into them in the new year. I'm a huge fan of his Lucia novels, so I'm excited.
Also, if you haven't read any WF Harvey...go for it. I'm slackjawed I'd never read his stories before. They run about 3000 words on average and are incredibly varied and imaginative. There's one about a housekeeper who is terrible at her job, but contrives to hold onto her position by arranging for her employer to "accidentally" run over her child so he keeps her on out of guilt. He's like Robert Bloch before Robert Bloch.
And what is up with all these initials-only first names? M.R. James, H.P. Lovecraft, W.F. Harvey, E.F. Benson?
I chose to leave out "The Yellow Wallpaper" because it's so well know, but yeah - it's a great story. That and "Turn of the Screw" are pretty much the ultimate achievement of the 19th century ghost story, I think.
Out of everyone I've come across reading stories for this series, Vernon Lee is the one who blows me away the most. I'm amazed "The Phantom Lover" or "Oke of Okehurst" isn't better known.
Actually, the other writer this led me to fall in love with is F.W. Harvey, but more on him next time.
I still love Carnacki! He's great. You should check out Flaxman Low - it's all the hilarity of Carnacki, minus the surrealism, plus added kneejerk reactions and violence.
Actually, that's true in Kore as well when Summer is the season for truly terrible horror movies aimed at roving packs of teenagers.
Yep! I just finished DOCTOR SLEEP and hope to have a review up by Monday. Best thing by King in a long time, but then again the last thing to have his name on it was the UNDER THE DOME tv series so a kick in the face would have been a sign of progress, too!
- ya got me. You're right. My brain had been so colonized by Pet Sematary
that I had Indian burial grounds on the brain. But you're 100% correct: it's the movie of The Shining
that says that, not the book.
Also, I agree that Louis really does have to do a lot of heavy lifting to find his fate, but something in Pet Sematary
that I'd forgotten before this re-read is the idea that the burial ground is reaching out and causing these things to happen (an idea I don't love). Jud talks about how the burial ground has a hold on him and makes him show it to Louis, the truck driver claims that his foot went down on the gas against his will before he runs over Gage, and Louis mentions a few times that he feels a power pulling him to the burial ground. In a way it makes the book weaker since the things that happen are caused by an outside force, not the characters's decisions, but I think the bigger point is that the burial ground, like death itself, can reach out at any time and take someone, even if we don't want it to.
Lsana - thanks for the comment. Ellie does start to hate Church in pretty short order, but she is dying to see him when she comes back, and the first thing she does when she gets home is call him and scoop him up and hug him. After that she cools. I didn't feel like I had room to get into her cooling affections since the important thing for the story is that the crisis of the dead cat is averted. And you're totally right that Louis has to ignore this and a lot more to do what he does with Gage and especially with Rachel. I like the idea that he's deluding himself, but King also drops in the idea of the burial ground compelling him to do this stuff.
The Wendigo definitely wanted to focus on the bad and ignore the good, and while both marriages probably would have survived the revelation of the secrets, the people keeping the secrets didn't feel that way. They think that their marriages will change permanently for the worse if their secrets are revealed - Jud says as much, and so does Rachel. But that's the power of secrets, they always seem so much worse to the people keeping them.
The land "souring" isn't explicitly linked to the arrival of colonists, but it's linked in the book to the starvation the Micmac experience, and there is really only one famous bout of starvation by the Micmac. It started in 1763 and lasted until the middle of the 19th century (and in some ways it was only alleviated by great numbers of them dying), and its causes were all linked to the arrival of colonists. I'm reading between the lines a bit, but I think it's a fair stretch.
It's something I have to imagine King was aware of, given the research he did for the book, but I am wrong about 99% of the time!
XenaCatolica - You're right. "The Breathing Method" is set in 1935 and totally deserves more credit for Sandra Stansfield, the woman whose pregnancy is the focus of the story. It's rare that a woman comes across as this heroic while sticking to historically accurate behavior, without shooting anyone, without snarling "This ends now," and without challenging the patriarchy, Stansfield comes across as one of King's best and most complex tough women while doing little more than giving birth.
Raskos - thanks for pointing out King's story, "Secret Window, Secret Garden" in Four past Midnight and its take on plagiarism. I should have mentioned that. There's also "The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet" from Skeleton Crew about the paranoid writer Reg Thorpe and the Fornits who live in his typewriter and create his stories. King often speaks and writes about how stories do what they do and their authors are thus absolved of responsibility for their content. See also The Dark Half and his comments about Tad's death in Cujo ("I didn't know it was going to happen until I wrote it," he says in an interview).
"If Carrie, Mark, Danny and Charlie had joined forces . . . well, I'd read that book."
Would someone write this, please?
King once said in an interview that the second inspiration for Firestarter was him wondering what would happen if Carrie White and Danny Torrance got married and had a kid. So maybe he'll wind up writing it himself...?
Sorry! Thanks for the correction - I meant to type THE MIST and typed THE STAND instead. Will see if the editors will fix. Good eyes!
Thanks for that correction, Amy!
As for the brand name thing, I'm too tired to hunt up old copies of the New York Times right now (which used to revel in takedowns of King whenever he published a new book) but King himself talks about the issue in this Paris Review interview:
Just scroll down to the question that begins:
"The use of brand names in your novels especially seems to irk some critics."
I'd encourage people who were disappointed by the movie to give it another try. Try to ignore the Stephen King novel it's based on because it's a pretty stunning achievement on its own terms. I think history is bearing that out as the critical re-evaluation has been massive, and the way it's infiltrated pop culture is impressive.
Watching Room 237 you'll see that a lot of the people the documentary interviews had the same initial negative reaction but the movie got under their skin and they found themselves returning to it over and over again. I felt the same way. I saw it when I was really young and was terrified. Then I watched it as a college student who felt like it was my duty to have an Important Definitive Opinion about everything and found it pretty blah. But as an adult I keep going back to it.
It's definitely one of those movies that has stood the test of time.
He seems to be easing up on his adverbs starting with The Stand, and his writing gets so much better with The Dead Zone and Firestarter. And I also think The Stand marks his last use of the word "heliograph" which he has used in almost all of his previous books except Carrie and The Shining (it's used the most in 'Salem's Lot and Night Shift, then at least once in The Stand).
I'm psyched about this! John Milius has had a King Conan: Crown of Iron script circulating for years, focusing on a middle-aged Conan full of regrets over his life and in conflict with his estranged son. This won't reference that (different studios) but the idea of a middle-aged Conan is a great one, and Milius's project had been chewed over by so many directors (from Boaz Yakin to the Wachowskis) that it was pretty bizarre at this point (including a part where Conan is killed and resurrected as a zombie). A fresh start is probably a great idea.
What Herbert would you recommend? I've always wanted to like him more than I do, but have only read The Secret of Crickley Hall (recently) and The Fog when I was a kid. Neither made a huge impression on me (I was a King fan, through and through) and I'd love to know what's considered his best.
It's an interesting theory about privation inspiring horror writers, but I think that people like Henry James, Edith Wharton, and M.R. James all had comfortable lives, and they've turned out some of the most famous ghost stories of their time. But maybe the difference lies in the fact that James, Wharton, and James all wrote more about ethereal ghosts and spirits, and writers like Le Fanu, Lovecraft, King, and Herbert wrote about a more physical, visceral horror?
Hey EliBishop and DougM - the priest in question is Rev. John Groggins of the Jerusalem's Lot Methodiest church. I'm not sure about you, but after reading about his "dreams in which he preaches to the Little Misses' Thursday Night Bible Class naked and slick, and they ready for him..." I figured that there might be grounds to call him a pedophile.
You're welcome to enjoy 'Salem's Lot, but that doesn't change the fact that it's just not a good book. However, a book's artistic quality isn't the only factor in its worth. I mean, there are plenty of books I love that aren't good, and vice versa. But for this re-read I'm trying to be honest in my assessments of King's books and not letting personal feelings such as "I liked it" or "It's popular" affect my judgment.
Glad people are chiming in and I just wanted to say that you guys are right: Mark Petrie is skinny. All my life I've pictured him as a chubby kid (which is one of the reasons I liked him) but I went back and re-read some of the book (haven't read it in about two months) and there he is, described as "slender." So that's my memory trumping my reading comprehension.
I do stand by the assertion that he's a proto-nerd, however, since his large collection of Aurora models are his hallmark toy (the only possessions he has that are described, and he saves his own life with them). Although later he saves his life with a technique he learned in a book about a magician, which is a pretty deep nerd signifier (although nerd meant something different then than it does now).
As for the Lovecraft influence, there doesn't seem to be anything more than a general influence. King cites Thornton Wilder, Grace Metalious, Shirley Jackson, and Bram Stoker as influences on SALEM'S LOT, but not Lovecraft beyond one sentence in the book, "There have even been whispers that Hubert Marsten kidnapped and sacrificed small children to his infernal gods." King took that sentence and ran with it when he wrote "Jerusalem's Lot" for NIGHT SHIFT, but that was later.
And while there is a briefly mentioned correspondence between Barlow and Marsten, it is literally one sentence in the entire book. I feel that if King actually cared much about the "why" he would have given it a little more space since he's one of literatures great over-explainers.
But keep the comments coming. Right now I have to go re-program my mental image of Mark Petrie that I've had since I was a teenager.
Ben Kingsley...IS...the Under Secretary of State for Natural Environment, Water and Rural Affairs.
"I am not a terrorist...I am a teacher...of rural land management strategies and water partnership opportunities."
The Mandarin's origins explained: a racist stereotype!
I'm sorry, but The Mandarin is beyond redemption. His roots are so polluted by race-hate that you cannot rehabilitate him. It would be like trying to rehabilitate Stephin Fetchit.
The Fu Manchu stereotype was born of white hatred and fear of Chinese immigration and geopolitical power, and that's as deep as it gets. You cannot pretend it's something else.
There were an unlimited number of bad guys who could have been used for this role: not sure why Marvel went for its most racially charged and unappealing.
(It took me about five seconds to think of any number of even cooler bad guys who could have fit this role: Count Nefaria and the Maggia along with his daughter, Madame Masque, have been huge parts of Iron Man's history, as have AIM which would have given us a big-screen MODOK which I think everyone can agree would be awesome. The Controller has never been used that well but is ripe for a revamp, and The Ghost has become a big part of the Marvel Universe recently, plus he'd look awesome onscreen. And why not the most recent evil genius bad guy, The Hood? Or Sunset Bain? Or a revamped Spymaster? The point is, it didn't NEED to be The Mandarin.)
Thanks for jumping on board, everyone! I think this is going to be fun. I was a big King fan, and it's REALLY strange to re-read his books as an adult. Some of my favorites turn out not to hold up very well, some of my least favorites (I'm looking at you The Shining) turn out to be downright amazing.
I wanted to respond to two things people are saying:
I want to do the Bachman books, too, and I want to do It and Skeleton Crew, but this is daunting enough with 5100 pages to read! I have to draw the line somewhere. But maybe if I get a second wind...?
My comment about Carrie and The Shining being the two classics comes from my years as a film critic. I think there's a huge difference between things I like, and things that are good, and I think there is such a thing as an objective measure of quality (whether I'm the best person to apply that measure is another matter!). The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile and also Stand By Me are enormously popular movies, and great entertainment. But so were Eddie Cantor's Whooppee! and Janet Gaynor's Sunny Side Up and no one remembers them 80 years later.
The Shining on the other hand, seems to grow in strength, it's technically innovative, it's given pop culture lots of tropes and catch phrases, and it's slowly becoming more and more acknowledged as one of the great horror movies of the 20th Century. Carrie, while not enjoying the same kind of priveleged position, is a major director's first mainstream film, is extremely innovative for its cinematography (use of split screen in particular), gave De Palma and Spacek celebrity clout, invented the final image jump scare for American horror movies, and has inspired numerous sequels, remakes, and musicals.
These two movies are original in a way that The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption, and Stand By Me (as much as I love two out of three of those movies) are not.
As the co-author of the Dirt Candy
cookbook -- thanks! It was a hell of a job to put this book together, and it almost killed the three of us, so I'm glad it's finding readers. This gif
that Ryan Dunlavey made for my wife pretty much sums up how we all felt when it was over.
Hey Elibishop - just wanted to chime in and say that you're right that the two books aren't the same, but they are both more novels of ideas than books driven by character or plot. That might be my personal prejudice, but LeGuin's sci-fi always seems to have long pages of people explaining theories and concepts to each other, and Clarke's book is really about the mysteries of Rama, more than anything else, and the exploration of it is just a lens through which we can ponder its majesty.
My bigger point, and I may have made it badly, was that the sci-fi that was getting attention and awards at the time was more about ideas and concepts than anything much resembling real people dealing with real problems. I like The Man Who Folded Himself, and The Dispossessed, but to me they seem to be about ideas and concepts, rather than human behavior.
By contrast, Rosemary's Baby was about a woman coping with her pregnancy, The Other was about the relationship between twins, and The Exorcist is, at heart, about a mother and her sick daughter. It's a far cry from where science fiction in general seemed to be, although I'm sure there are exceptions (JG Ballard's Crash is one that springs to mind).