04 November 2006

Books of 2006, Part 14: Lisey's Story by Stephen King

I still remember where I was when I picked up my first Stephen King book. It was summer, if I remember right, but it was 1980, that I’m sure of, and was shopping with my mother at the Eagle grocery store in Hoffman Estates (which, sadly, has gone the way of the Dodo, but the building remains, and I think a furniture store is now in residence there). As a matter of fact, the book was still in it s box on the floor, for the clerks had yet to put the mass market paperback in the plastic coated shelves. It was The Stand, and I think it was the first time it was out in that format, even thought the hardcover came out in 1978.

I though it would a challenge, for many reasons. I was 17 that summer -going to 18 in the fall - had only been reading books on a regular basis for about three and half years, having picked up Agatha Christie novels during my freshman year of high school. Most of her novels did not more than 300 pages, but as I looked through this new tome, I saw it was 817 pages. It would be, if I could finish it, the longest book I had ever read at the time. Of course, while it took sometime to finish it, I loved the book. I would re-read it (that would be the first for me) at least three more times before King put out the expanded edition in 1991 -which I’ve also read several times. Like many King fans, The Stand remains one of most iconic works.

After The Stand, I spent a good deal of time catching up with The Shining, ‘Salem’s Lot and eventually, Carrie. I would read most of his books he published in the eighties, though I have passed on his Bachman books and to this day, cannot even read The Tommyknockers -it’s just plain horrible.

The last half the 1990's and the first half of the 21st Century, King finally finished his epic The Dark Tower series -his combination of director Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns and The Lord of the Rings. And we learned that most of the books he had published since 1974, was connected to the mysterious world of the Dark Tower -whether it was intensional or not, seemed not to bother me.

After proclaiming that the final tome in that series would be his last book -after all he wanted to do other things - he none the less, could not stay away from the genre that has made him richer than any writer should be. This past winter he returned to the gory, horror genre with Cell.

Now this past October, he returned again with a novel of the supernatural that also is a heartfelt love story, called Lisey’s Story.

Once again, King takes on a bizarre trip into the mind of a widow, who after two years, has decided to go through the files of her late, best selling author husband. But as she goes through the manuscripts, memories of their marriage (and despite his death, Lisey remains deeply in love with him) and where Scott Landon got his ideas begins to scratch at her, and slowly she begins to realize that the past is about to back, and its as mean as a dog named Cujo.

While Stephen King has his critics, I think some just rant on him because he is so prolific -of course, not as busy as Nora Roberts or Joyce Carol Oates -and that it takes a “real” writer years between novels.

Plus, I wonder, how many just buy his books to say they have them?

Then there are the ones who won’t read them because they are scary. Personally, only one King book scared me -The Shining - and one really creeped me out -It - but I’ve always sort of blocked out the gore stuff, which may explain why I do not watch horror movies.

King can be a bit a freak with the gore, but its characters that speak to me, for they act and do things in the most normal sort of way. Sure some of them posses supernatural powers or travel too parallel worlds, but deep down, they are regular people.

And that makes up for his sometimes bizarre love of gore.

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