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Beautiful King

jimvanpelt made some interesting observations after recently completing Lisey's Story by Stephen King and the comment thread reminded me about some of the high points I've encountered through the years while reading his books. So I thought I'd list a few that came to mind:

1) The Shining -- I went all the way through to the big reveal before learning what "redrum" meant the first time. I think it was because Jack Torrance, as a recovering alcoholic, kept thinking about drinking and the Martians (martinis).

2) The Shining -- I'm a geek when it comes to redemption themes. The confrontation between Jack and Danny is unforgettable. Anyone who's only viewed the film and TV interpretations (Kubrick's travesty or the more faithful ABC miniseries) really owes it to themselves to read the book. I know I've mentioned this elsewhere before, though I can't recall specifically when or where, but I believe The Shining is one of the best novels written in the last 30 years. Set aside the supernatural aspects and it shows the death of the traditional American family.

3) The Dead Zone and Insomnia -- I'm also a fan of self-sacrifice as much as I am of redemption themes. Johnny Smith and Ralph Roberts are two sides of the same coin. I know they're fictional characters, but what King can imagine, other men can accomplish. I know there are Insomnia detractors, but its final pages ran my emotions through the wringer.

I'm sure others will come to mind the longer I think about them. First, I'm placing Lisey's Story at the front of my 2007 reading list. There are 120 pages left in the book I was reading before 2006 came to a close, so I should tackle the latest King book over the weekend or early next week.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 4th, 2007 03:09 am (UTC)
Okay, that's weird -- I just finished reading The Shining tonight. I was working on it for the past few weeks, and I too was amazed at the quality of the writing and the way he gets into his characters' heads. And yeah, that last scene with Jack and Danny, right before Jack literally bashes his own face in, was painful. He's a very good writer (takes him a while to get going sometimes, as Jim said).
Jan. 4th, 2007 04:15 am (UTC)
Jim pretty much hit the right note; when King is on, he's on.

I wish I could recall who wrote the essay I cited, because It summarized some elemental differences between genre and mainstream. Using The Dark Half as its springboard, it made a good point that King chose genre over mainstream, and when you consider some of his really best pieces rest on a "real" foundation -- The Shining, The Dead Zone, Misery, The Stand -- where the relationships between characters drive the narrative rather than the supernatural trappings, its easy for me to give his writing more credit than critics.

I'll be honest. I'm a fan. King is one of the reasons I write. Which is why I can come up with beautiful moments like those above. I'm probably going to post other moments from each of the books (even the ones I don't especially like, such as Christine). That I can do that for books I don't especially favor says a bit about his work. I hope someone can say the same about my writing some day. Even if it's just my youngest, who definitely got the writer gene.
Jan. 4th, 2007 02:51 pm (UTC)
I'll always love Christine because the first viewpoint narrator loved Springsteen, and that got me hooked on the Boss.

I'm hoping to read The Dead Zone again, and maybe the bloated version of The Stand (I can't believe he wrote all of these books when he was in his late 20s/early 30s. Talented bastard.)
Jan. 4th, 2007 03:09 pm (UTC)
The first-person viewpoint is what turned me off on Christine. I didn't connect with the character and then knowing he survived to some extent stole a lot of the anticipation you get not knowing what's going to happen.

The expanded version of The Stand is pretty good. Didn't feel like bloat as much as ... smoother. It seemed to take on the aspects of a campside story whereas the original, by comparison, is jumpier. The ABC miniseries used scenes from the expanded version, which is probably why I liked it.

As for King being a talented bastard, I think it's more a situation of his being obsessive compulsive. Talented, too, but definitely obsessive compulsive.
Jan. 4th, 2007 06:27 am (UTC)
My list of King high points would be pretty long. Here's a quicky look before I go to bed:

1) The rat as big as a pony in "Night Shift."
2) The devastating closing lines to "The Last Rung of the Ladder."
3) The opening chapter of IT.
4) The bomb in the closet in THE STAND.
5) Every single moment in "The Mist," which word for word did more for me (and to me) of any horror story I've read.
6) The completely hysterical vomit story in the middle of "The Body."
7) Climbing the deadfall in PET CEMETERY.
8) Jack coming after his son with the mallet in THE SHINING.
9) The view below Blain the Train in THE DARK TOWER (I don't remember which one).
10) The sex/death scene in "The Raft."

That's not a top ten. It's just the most immediate to mind ten.

I can't believe I left out the last paragraph of THE DEAD ZONE.
Jan. 4th, 2007 01:35 pm (UTC)
My list of King high points would be pretty long.

Again, same here. Which is why I only listed a few for now. A complete post could fill a non-fiction book. I'll second number 6. And I was glad they kept that for the movie. :-)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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