Friday, August 4, 2017
Stephen King is not my favorite author; that honor goes to Lois McMaster Bujold or Orson Scott Card, with Dan Simmons not far behind. I'm essentially a fan of science fiction. I've read the Vorkosigan series and the Ender Wiggin series more often than I can recall. That said, I felt compelled to write about Stephen King today.
I used to read a lot more often than I do now, but my life has changed drastically over the past few months and reading has assumed greater importance once again. After going to hospital for what I thought was a fairly routine test, I was told that I had a serious heart condition. Two days later I was sitting in bed after undergoing a quadruple bypass. One of the consequences of that rapid series of events is that I was forced to miss work for three months. However, it also allowed me additional time to read. Friends bought me a copy of Mr. Mercedes to entertain me while I was recuperating and I read it in less than two days. I had almost forgotten how enjoyable it could be to read a truly engaging story so I quickly picked up the other two books in the Bill Hodges trilogy and read them within a week of opening the first book.
I'm also waiting to move to a new apartment, but it isn't quite ready. All of my existing books and other possessions have been placed in storage while I continue to wait, so I am staying with the same friends who bought me Mr. Mercedes. Since reading that, I have bought another 12 Stephen King books. The spare bedroom in my friends' house is starting to resemble a library.
I wouldn't claim to be Stephen King's biggest fan; I own perhaps 40 of his books and have read about half of them so far. I'm not really a fan of horror at all, but I am open to any book or movie genre if the story is well-written. If you are somehow new to King, I also want to point out that only a small percentage of his books are horror; most have supernatural elements, but the stories have so much more depth than most books in those genres. They are not vehicles intended to simply scare the reader. That's partly why I am bothering to write this post because I wanted, no, needed to tell you how much I have been enjoying and appreciating King's writing in the past few weeks.
Although King has received plenty of recognition, there are still a lot of people who can't take his work seriously because it is fiction. Others want to label him as a horror writer or too weird. That's a pity because there is so much more to his writing than what genres he happens to operate within. I think he's successful because the roots of his stories are situations which exist in the real world. His characters and the situations they find themselves in are usually easy for us to recognize because we have experienced similar thoughts and problems in our own lives. I don't mean that I have ever been possessed, or that I have supernatural abilities, but haven't you ever found yourself agreeing with one of King's characters when they decide upon a course of action? The logic and reasoning works. I often become that character when I read whatever book it happens to be.
Like David Lynch's films, King's work is composed of normal everyday elements with a small twist or addition that changes everything. King understands what makes us tick and could probably write a wonderful book on human behavior.
My own experiences reading Stephen King's extensive bibliography have always been extremely positive. I love how normal the world of Needful Things is when the story begins and how things slowly escalate until there is utter chaos; every step makes sense. In The Dark Half, Thad Beaumont has such a believable ordinary life until his imagination creates physical manifestations. You can imagine yourself facing those problems and making similar choices to those of King's characters.
Two of my favorite movies are based on Stephen King stories; The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile make us think and feel. Sometimes I watch Shawshank and feel like I am Andy Dufresne. I would try to survive by creating meaning in my enforced surroundings and music would definitely be one of the tools that would keep me sane. Another common theme in King's writing is coping with adversity. How would society adjust if all the rules no longer applied? The Stand is the supreme example because of the sheer depth of the story. It's more than a simple good versus evil yarn.
After racing through the Bill Hodges trilogy, I decided to buy more Stephen King books so that I could read them before returning to work. I finally decided it was time to read The Dark Tower and I picked up the first two books. Three days later I went to buy the remainder of the series after loving the first two installments. I was easily able to locate five of the six, but The Waste Lands was out of stock everywhere within 30 miles, so I started Doctor Sleep and ordered The Waste Lands from Amazon. Now I have The Waste Lands, but Doctor Sleep is too good to put down. First world problems?
To complete my recent obsessive behavior, I bought a ticket for an evening with Stephen and Owen King, discussing their upcoming book, Sleeping Beauties. Something told me I should seize such opportunities because they don't come along very often.
I'm sure most of you already understand the brilliance of Stephen King's writing or you wouldn't still be reading. In today's world, I think it's increasingly rare to set aside the time to read a lengthy novel. There are so many things competing for our time and focusing on one thing for more than ten minutes can be a challenge. I think I wrote this because I haven't felt so enthusiastic about reading for several years. I feel like I just discovered it for the first time. I may invent fire tomorrow.
Thank you Mr. King. See you in Toronto in a couple of months.
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