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Reading Stephen King

Stephen King really got to me with the first book of his I read, Night Shift.  For a while after I was an incredible fan as I worked through Salem's Lot, The Dead Zone, Carrie (which I liked least of his early books),The Shining (that one really worked for me--I wonder if the Colorado setting helped?), Firestarter, Cujo, Christine and Pet Cemetery.  Finally, the culmination, The Stand.  It used to be when I met other King fans that if I asked them their favorite King book, they would always say, "Besides The Stand?"  And I knew what they meant.  "The Mist," "The Woman in the Room," "The Last Rung on the Ladder," and a handful of other short works were totally effective for me too.  I'm leaving out titles here, like the very well done Eyes of the Dragon, but I don't want to list everything!

I didn't get into the Dark Tower books, although I found parts of the first three amazing, and I really lost interest during the period that produced The Regulators, Desperation, Storm of the Century.  Even Tommyknockers felt less vibrant.  I don't know if the problem was with the writing or if I'd moved on as a reader.

So, it was with trepidation that I picked up Lisey's Story.  I finished it drained.  Man, when he's on, he's on.  He takes forever to get where he's going (which may be what is necessary to make where he gets to so interesting), but it's worth the wait.

Lisey's Story earns a thumbs up from me.



( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 3rd, 2007 08:34 pm (UTC)
I think my reading experiences with King have mirrored yours, although there was something about The Stand that always left me feeling a vague sense of dread. I suspect That it was the slow introduction of the supernatural after a standard biologically-based apocalypse that did it. Either way, it was successful.

I was surprised to hear that he has a new book out. I thought he retired?
Jan. 3rd, 2007 09:51 pm (UTC)
The Stand is such an artifact I sometimes mix scenes from it with scenes from McCammon's Swan Song, which was pretty good in its own right. Several that stand out are the Kmart survivors (which evokes King's The Mist) and the scab masks some survivors grew that, when each reached its maturity, fell off to reveal a face crafted by their spirit rather than their flesh.
Jan. 4th, 2007 12:43 am (UTC)
I'd heard he'd said something about retirement too (he was doing a sports column?), but the new book is out. He's been a pretty compulsive writer, as far as I can tell. He might announce more retirements than Michael Jordon.
Jan. 3rd, 2007 09:03 pm (UTC)
He definitely hit a low point from my perspective, from the mid-1980s onward. There were gems, though, and what wasn't excellent (Christine, Pet Sematary, The Regulators) still had moments within that could recommend them.

While I could make the same comment about The Stand, the one I remember best and consider a high point was The Shining. I think that one, more than any other, will last for a while. (I haven't read Lisey's Story, yet, but it's on the short list for the new year.)

There was an essay several years back that ran in F&SF. Can't remember who wrote it, exactly. (I think it ran in 1989 or 1990.) But it made an excellent case for King as the greatest American writer of the 20th century. The Dark Half came out around the same time and the essay looked at King from the perspective of that novel, citing how there was a literary King and a popular King. In the real world, apparently George Stark won. :-)
Jan. 4th, 2007 12:45 am (UTC)
I thought going over the deadfall and the path to Pet Cemetery in that book was flat out beautiful. Very compelling description. I've always described the plot movement in Pet Cemetery as a book that starts out with the worst possible thing you could imagine, and then goes downhill from there. It's in unrelentingly grim read.
Jan. 4th, 2007 02:20 am (UTC)
It's one I find difficult to go back and read again, and Cujo was a bit of downer as well, while Christine is one of the books I really didn't like.

I understand he had a good time writing the latter, from what I've read, but it's one of me least favorites. Felt just as ambivalent about From A Buick 8. So it must be me and cars. :-)

Hmm ... I think I'm going to need to make a post listing moments I found beautiful in King's novels.
Jan. 4th, 2007 06:17 am (UTC)
I haven't finished A Buick 8, but there are a lot of books I haven't finished lately. It takes an awfully good book to reach my can't-put-it-down stage anymore.
Jan. 4th, 2007 01:11 pm (UTC)
Same here. I've currently got four books started and at varying stages.
Jan. 4th, 2007 01:38 am (UTC)
I just heard an interview on NPR done with King in San Francisco last Halloween (City Arts and Lectures). He was asked about his "unretirement." He says he's got the kind of muse that tells him, "You don't say when you're done. *I* say when you're done," or words to that effect.

He's still writing because he can't quit.
Jan. 4th, 2007 03:16 am (UTC)
Have you read 'Bag of Bones'? That had the same feeling of dread that Lisey's Story works up.
Jan. 4th, 2007 06:19 am (UTC)
I did read "Bag of Bones," and I can't remember much from it. That should tell me something. I don't think I'll forget Lisey's Story as easily. I remember enjoying Bag of Bones, though.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )