Tuesday, November 11, 2014

An Ode to Stephen King

I confess it...I love Stephen King.

Ok, maybe not luuuv. (No worries for the Brick, who is firmly stitched into my heart of hearts.) But ever since I wandered into The Stand decades ago, I have been in awe of this man, who can scare the bejeebers out of you one moment, and make you want to laugh or weep the next.

King spent some time in Colorado at one point -- which The Stand and his book Misery reflect. I began reading Misery at the time Daughter #1 was born, without realizing that Annie Wilkes, the killer nurse, was killing babies at Boulder Community Hospital.
   In Boulder.
   Where Daughter #1 drew her first breath.


King went through a lot of hard times as a kid, something covered unflinchingly in his sterling book On Writing. (One of the most honest and realistic 'how to write well' books I've ever read, by the way.) He talks a lot about being an unpublished and rejected writer too, something that gives his fellow writers added resolve. (Including submitting a story that was rejected before he became well-known...retooling it slightly...and having it magically - and quickly- accepted!)

Some of his books end far too quickly - as if the maximum pages are looming, and the editor just cuts the flow off. And he tends to enjoy being a potty mouth a bit too much for my taste. (After a while, the word 'fuck' and its endless variations lose all shock value, and just tend to be obnoxious.) 

   But his characters -- oh my. They live in my imagination as strongly as King himself.

    My favorite books:

Danse Macabre  (especially good if you want to know why King does what he does)
The Stand  (I went back and reread this after the Ebola scare became national news)
The Dead Zone
Misery (especially good, if you are also a writer -- Hemingway would have loved this one)
Needful Things (a lot about whether getting what you want is really that good for you)
Four Past Midnight (gives you a whole new approach to airports and libraries)
The Long Walk (try not to think of this while you're watching the Hunger Games movies)
The Dome (until its incredibly stupid ending)
11/22/63  (also not thrilled with its ending, but up til then...)
On Writing (if you want to know how he does it...and how its connected to his past)

His short story collections are interesting, if somewhat uneven. Some are memorable -- some seemingly calculated on the schlock factor. Kind of like the little boy whose great aim in life is to gross everyone out.

You'll find his full library here...make your choice!

Movies based on his books are also all over the place, quality-wise. And opinions vary.  I was intrigued by The Mist (wonderful, until its ridiculous ending) and The Stand (the one with Gary Sinise). Ed Harris was perfect as the sheriff in Needful Things -- though I thought the movie was generally too frantic. And The Shining? In spite of the hype, it doesn't have anything to do with Colorado. (Really.) Some interesting ideas...but all the whining! (And not just by Shelley Duvall, either.)
     I actually liked Secret Window, too, though many think it one of Johnny Depp's sillier movies. And the Shawshank Redemption? One of my favorites...but not typical of a King horror flick. (Unless you have bad dreams about crawling through a sewer during a thunderstorm.) It was a box office flop, but has since gained a lot of respect.

It's fun to spot King in movies made on his books. He has a habit of appearing in bit parts, a la Alfred Hitchcock - his hick goofus in Creepshow was actually quite funny. But most of the time, I shy away from watching a movie based on his work...I was far too terrified by Misery to take a chance on watching the movie!

    One warning: Run screaming from any any of the Children of the Corn flicks, and not because of the terror factor. You'll regret it. The original Corn (in more ways than one) was one of the few movies I was actually rooting for the hero and heroine to get mowed down/chewed up. Anyone that irritating deserves to die. In Movieland, at least.

King is up to some new stuff, including a musical (???) with John Mellencamp. He has a tendency to show up in movies and miniseries based on his books - I wonder if he insisted on being in the musical, as well? (He does play in a band called The Remainders, made up of authors who are Famous for Something Else, including Amy Tan and Dave Barry.)

Find out more about him here, too.  
Plus an interview where he explains the inspiration for Cujo...and other books.

   May you keep writing for a long time to come. 

"I’ve always thought that the sort of book that I do—and I’ve got enough ego to think that every novelist should do this—should be a kind of personal assault. It ought to be somebody lunging right across the table and grabbing you and messing you up. It should get in your face...I mean, if I get a letter from somebody saying, I couldn’t eat my dinner, my attitude is, Terrific! "
                              -- Stephen King 

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