Monday, October 30, 2006

Happy Halloween!

Since I am not a fan of horror films (too scary!) I've decided I'm going to instead make my Halloween post about the creepiest person I can think of. Stephen King. Not only does he write eerie books, but he looks rather spooky himself. Or is it just me? I tend to go through spurts where Stephen King is concerned. I'll read something like 10 books in a row and then completely burn out for the next 10 years. You probably think I'm kidding, but reading 10 Stephen King books in a row is a LOT of Stephen King since the man often averages over 1000 pages a book. I do think he is a great writer when it comes to metaphors and analogies. The guy is nothing if not inventive. Though after reading about 10,000 pages, any sane person needs a break. I think the first of his books I picked up was Misery. This was before the movie came out and I didn't know what to expect. Misery isn't fantasy or sci-fi, though it is darned tense. But it generated an interest in me to continue reading his books. The first supernatural thriller of his that I read was IT. If you have only seen the movie, then you have a good idea how scary the book is. Tim Curry as Pennywise the clown is terrifying. But the movie actually cuts a lot of the story out, as can only be expected by a book that's over 1000 (1004 paperback) pages, so a lot of the story is missing.((Spoiler warning)) One question I do have for the readers who have read this book is whether or not IT was actually a spider or not. Perhaps I was too literal minded when I read the book, but it sure sounded like a spider and I don't recall any allusions that it was a metaphor of some kind. But I have had people get very snippy if you say that IT was in fact, a spider. So please, help me out here. ((End Spoiler)) If you haven't read the book, the only thing you need to know is that the scary monster in the book is a clown much of the time. A creepy, sharp toothed clown. Between this book and the movie Poltergeist, clowns scare the crap out of me. One of my favorites is Needful Things, which is the name of a store that is opened up in the town of Castle Rock Maine. (Most of King's stories are set in Maine, with Derry being another common location) The proprietor of the shop is named Leland Gaunt, a seemingly harmless old man who offers the townspeople objects of their desire, such as rare baseball cards or jewelry, in exchange for "pranks" to be pulled on other people in the town. It is implied throughout the book that Leland is Satan, though it's never directly stated. The pranks increase past the "harmless" stage and mayhem ensues. Normally I am not a big fan of short stories for some reason. But I do make an exception for Stephen King. I don't know why, but his appeal to me. In fact, I often enjoy the short stories a little more. If there are die-hard Kings fans, they may not like me for saying it, but I often feel as if his books fall apart at the ending. It's as if he spends a thousand pages building up the story but doesn't quite know how to wrap it up. I tend to think the endings are too abrupt and sometimes disappointing. So books like Four Past Midnight and Nightmares and Dreamscapes are ideal for me. They have the great fantasy elements I like without feeling as if I have invested so much time that anything less than spectacular will be satisfying. But even though I sometimes don't always like the endings, I still have read lots of his books. I've read The Stand which I think is one of his best. It's another long one, with the uncut paperback running 1168 pages. This one is basically about the near annihilation of the human race due to a "superflu." Over 99% of the population end up dead. The rest of the book kind of ends up as a battle of good vs. evil with and Antichrist type character and another who is the basic personification of good. That's a gross over-simplification, but hey, space is limited. There are a ton more I could mention, like The Shining, Carrie, Cujo or Christine. But I'd like to give the rest of you a chance to tell me what you think about this master of the macabre. Tell me what your favorite books are, or your favorite Stephen King movie. Though taking on movie adaptations could easily be the subject of a whole new post seeing as some really suck, though there have been a few good ones. But anyway, tell me what YOU think. Oh, and recommendations would be great. I haven't read one of his books in awhile.

21 comments:

Crunchy Carpets said...

Have you read the Dark Tower series...I read the first few and kind of got lost and should really try to catch up...

He is tying them into the same universe the The Stand and other books are in.

SQT said...

I did try to read the first one, The Gunslinger, but didn't really get into it. I know there are people out there who just love that series. Knowing that it ties into The Stand does make it more interesting. I'll probably go back to it at some point. But I do tend to prefer his stand alone books.

Hey there, Skippy said...

we think dakota fanning is creepier...

SQT said...

we think dakota fanning is creepier...

Yeah, the only thing that can top that is Dakota, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. Then you have the perfect creepy trifecta.

Crunchy Carpets said...

Oh and don't forget The Talisman

Stewart Sternberg said...

I am going to say something that will make me unpopular. But bear with me. Stephen King needs an editor with guts; someone who will take a big fat red pen to his work. Unfortunately, no one is going to risk offending the franchise that King has become.

I'm not sure when it happened. I think around the time of "The Stand". This book, although absolutely compelling at times, cried out for cuts to tighten the plot and the characters. At times the book almost seemed bloated. And the end. Good lord. I remember chewing my way through the thousand pages only to come to the end to exclaim: "Deux E Machina??!!!!"

I thought quality of "The Stand" might be an aberration, but then came "Tommyknockers" "It" "Dreamcatcher" "Needful Things" and a few other novels that were great for people shopping literature while waiting to make purchases in their local grocery. However, to the serious student of dark literature, these scarred King's reputation.

In the next few years, he would redeem himself from time to time. "Misery", "Pet Semetary", "Dark Half"; but picking up a King novel one never knew which writer one would be reading.

So it's Halloween. Here's to Stephen. He's not perfect, but he's worth the experience.

SQT said...

Stewart

I think I'm basically on the same page (so to speak) that you are about King. I think he's got creativity in spades, it's focus that's lacking.

There were elements in books like "Needful Things" that I liked, but I still felt the ending, and therefore the whole book, was disappointing on the whole. But there's still something that makes the read worth it. The idea or something...

I wouldn't mind a peek into his mind though, just to see how it works.

Neila said...

I have never read a Stephen King book, but the movies creep me out enough.

I saw Stephen King on Good Morning America the other day promoting his new book (I forget the title), but apparently it's a romance novel?!!! That one, I might have to read!

SQT said...

A Stephen King romance??! Now that ought to be scary. (Har Har I crack myself up) But seriously, where on earth did that come from?

He has written a few books that weren't supernatural in nature, "Misery," "Stand by Me" (aka "The Body") and "Shawshank Redemption" come to mind. But none of those have any romantic elements.

Wow. What will a Stephen King romance look like?

Crunchy Carpets said...

Stewart ..I am not a big fan of King but i also think that his quality of work waxed and wained depending on how drunk or stoned he was...the work was better when he was 'on' something.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

I think a lot of people don't like clowns because of 'It'.

SQT said...

Poltergeist is what really started my whole clown issue, but "IT" was like the coup de grĂ¢ce. Clowns give me the heebie jeebies.

Steven Novak said...

I don't know...I think he looks like like a harmless dork to me...but then, so did Jefferey Dahmer I suppose....

Look how that turned out. ;)

Steve~

Allie D. said...

Well the original Stand that came out was edited... he later released an unabridged, longer version.

I am a MAJOR King fan. In fact, I'm going to see him tonight. He's giving a reading from his new book Lisey's Story, and I'm SO excited!! Lisey's Story isn't exactly a "romance", but there is definitely a love story there. that's not new territory for him, however, since Bag of Bones, Wizard and Glass, and a few others all have a central love story.

"It" and The Stand are among my favorites. But The Dark Tower series is his opus. I highly highly recommend it. It not only ties into The Stand, but also It, Insomnia, The Talisman, Black House, and several of his short stories.

I like his versatility as a writer. He's been able to go from classic pulp horror (Carrie, Cujo, Cell, etc) to profound (Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile), to more literary (Lisey's Story), and he has never failed to fascinate me. And while a lot of his best works were done while under the influence, I think his body of work has become more complex. He's certainly not a one-trick pony.

Although if I have one recommendation for him, it would be to stay the hell away from writing screen and teleplays.

SQT said...

It's been a few years since I've read "Bag of Bones," though I do remember that it did focus on a relationship between the main couple more than any of his other books that I've read. But I guess I have a hard time thinking of it as a 'love story' in the traditonal sense. But then it wouldn't be Stephen King would it.

Empress Bee said...

now finally something i know a little about, i really liked his early stuff, he lost me after it. i just got over him after that i think, don't know why, maybe stewart is onto something. but carrie, christine, pet semetary, even the shining, then, nothing.... blah blah blah, i don't know what anyone sees in him anymore. and yes i think he is creepy..... bee

Asara Dragoness said...

Huh.. nobody has mentioned a couple of my favorites, Desperation and The Regulators. Both are pretty weird, but the kicker for me was that the main characters are all the same, though the two stories seem to have no other connection. As someone who has read quite a bit of Mr. King, I do have to say how much I enjoy the way his stories often incorporate characters from other novels (if you read Rose Madder before you read these 2, you'll see what I mean). I'm also a big fan of the Dark Tower series, if you've got the time, do read them all from beginning to end, and let me know what you think!! :)

Asara Dragoness said...

oops.. I forgot to say thank you for the author links! I grabbed a few of my favorites for my own blog :) So thanks!!

SQT said...

oops.. I forgot to say thank you for the author links! I grabbed a few of my favorites for my own blog :) So thanks!!

You're welcome! Thanks for stopping by.

I haven't read Desperation or the Regulators (it really has been something like 10 years since I've gone through my last Stephen King spurt) so I appreciate the recommendations.

Christina_the_wench said...

I am his biggest fan!

*clue 'Misery' music*

Matt said...

Wow, I like the King attention! I really enjoyed The Stand and it's probably up there on my favorite books list. I was ultimately disappointed with the Dark Tower series but it was superb storytelling for much of the time and literally made me feel part of a much larger, crazy, and all too possible story. It's an awesome feeling and I think Stephen King is a rare author who can achieve this.