reading stephen king

It’s been more than ten years since I’ve read a Stephen King book. Granted, this fantasy-ridden story is a departure from his norm (or at least from the horror and more real world based “twisted and horrific”) stories, but I remembered what I love about his tone. I believe his style is quite vulgar.

This isn’t to say it’s gross, or tends to be silly by any stretch of the imagination. What I mean is that he artfully crafts what we can think of as spoken language in a truly great way. I wonder if people of the day looked at Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales the same way.

Some folks don’t take King’s writing seriously. I imagine many folks didn’t take Chaucer too seriously either. Both are superior storytellers.

I started reading King’s books when I was twelve. I remember the first I read was Cujo. You may think this was too young to read something so violent, horrific, and macabre. It seemed in keeping with what I was paying attention to at the time. I grew up watching horror and sci-fi movies with my mom and brother. The first movie I actively remember is Poltergeist. My favorite cars as a child were Christine and Herbie, though Christine was much cooler.

I had out read my school’s library by age eleven, and Stephen King’s books-made-movies were something I had seen often enough to know the name. The books seemed like the next natural step, and my Christmas wish list was filled. I received every Stephen King book published up until 1989. Five pages proved Cujo immensely better than the movie, and I devoured the book.

Right after I finished reading the book, my classmate John Fitzgerald borrowed it. He was brilliant but very flippant and always in trouble. Mr. Hanlon would always ask him to go take a walk just so the rest of us could get through class. I loved getting into arguments with John because he always had something good to say. He stole a lot of things that year, but mine were the only books he stole. Guess he was a King fan too.

I spent a lot of energy reading those books. I didn’t start reading fantasy books until much later. It became a test to see if the celluloid could live up to the vivid and chilling nature of the story. There are only two that have ever come close. One was Misery, the casting and setting lived up to the chilling nature of the story. The other was the tv movie IT, though the ending was a bit bland (did anyone else realize that’s Seth Green playing Richie?). Again, that was thanks in great part to the magic of Tim Curry as the monstrous Pennywise. I taped it off of tv when it ran, and it’s still in my parents’ worn video collection with it’s painted on white-out label. The tape quality at this point is horrible from re-watching, but it can still make my skin crawl. Anyone who finds clowns scary is well justified by the story.

Meanwhile, despite my admiration and utmost respect, I haven’t found myself able to write horror. My thoughts just haven’t gone that way. Stories seem trite and fade away into blank pages. This from a chick who loves darkness: Poe is probably my favorite storyteller ever. I think it may be an area I am better suited to critiquing and editing. Maybe I just haven’t found the right setting to write this kind of stuff. It may be time to revisit some old ghost stories again.

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