Burnette Weighs In On THE OUTSIDER

Want a great, non-spoiler, honest review of King's new book, The Outsider?  Head on over to Bryant Burnette's great blog, thetruthinsidethelie.blogspot.com.  What I like about the review is that he's not King's hired gun.  The review is from a fan's point of view.

He declares, "Alas, in the end, I've got to mark it down as a misfire." But that's not quite the final take. Keep reading, because the comments section is just as fun as the article itself.

The Outsider, Lilja Speaks




My favorite Stephen King website has posted a great review of the upcoming Stephen King book, the Outsider.

"I love it," Lilja writes.

Check out the full review here: (liljas-library.com)


On Childhood


INTERVIEW: Stephen J. Spignesi




For Stephen King fans, the name Stephen J. Spignesi should be quite familiar. He’s written a slew of books about Stephen King, and has been noted as an authority on King and King’s body of work.

As I’ve said before, one of my favorite things to read is books about Stephen King. Go figure. Anyone who wants to know more about King and his work should take some time reading books by Stephen J. Spignesi. His passion for King and his work shine through his research. In The Shape Under The Sheet, Spignesi writes, “Stephen King’s work became something beyond entertainment for me; I realized that I was privileged enough to be witnessing the creation of a true American literary giant.”

One thing I appreciate about Spignesi is that he is factually correct – something not true of every book/work about Stephen King! I have often reached for The Shape Under The Sheet to fact check things before posting on the blog, or to fact check other authors who might say something that seems. . . iffy.

Spignesi is author of books like the massive Encyclopedia, The Shape Under The Sheet and the outright fun The Essential Stephen King , The Lost Works of Stephen King and The Stephen King Quiz Book. He has also written books about the Beatles, the Titanic, assassinations, recipes, the Beatles, ER, and even Native American History for Dummies – and so much more! He has also written fiction as well.

INTERVIEW



Talk Stephen King: Thanks for agreeing to answer some questions. Tell me a little about yourself.

Stephen J. Spignesi: I was born in a manger on a cold winter’s…oops…sorry about that.

I was born in New Haven, Connecticut and have pretty much lived here all my life. I graduated from Catholic grammar and high schools and then went on to graduate from the University of New Haven where I now teach. For 25 or so years I helped run a family jewelry business while also writing full-time. The business closed in 2001 and in 2005 I started teaching full-time while still writing around a book a year.

I’m the eldest of four siblings, a lacto-ova vegetarian, and I collect TV series on DVD (someday you can ask me about my collection, which I take great delight in). I always put copies of my manuscripts and published books on my Kindle, and I have a grey cat named Chloe who I love dearly. I also believe Wintergreen Altoids is one of the most under-appreciated candies of all time, and I can’t stop wondering what ever happened to Pudding Pops.

TSK: Please tell us a little about your novel. Most of us know you for your non-fiction.

SJS: I’ve written one novel so far that’s been published. (I’ve got five or six in manuscript currently making the rounds of publishers.) It’s called Dialogues and came out in hardcover from Random House in 2005, and is now in mass market paperback from Bantam. I teach it every semester to my Composition and Literature students. Rather than ramble on, here is what the publisher said about the book:

In this electrifying debut, Stephen Spignesi reinvents the psychological thriller with a chilling tale of mounting intensity. Ingeniously crafted and crackling with suspense, here is a puzzle within a puzzle, at the center of which stands a hauntingly enigmatic young woman whose story will challenge everything you think you know....

Six people have been murdered in the animal shelter in which they worked. One unlikely woman stands accused of the crimes. Her name is Victoria Troy, and she is the most improbable of cold-blooded killers. A lover of animals, petite, brainy, and gifted with a sharp sense of humor, she too worked in the shelter, in an anguishingly difficult job. What could possibly have provoked her to murder six of her own coworkers--some of whom were her friends.

Who is Tory Troy? It is up to Dr. Baraku Bexley to find out. An astute psychiatrist hired by the court to determine whether Tory is mentally competent to stand trial, Bexley must explore her complicated background and her unusual convictions as he interviews her in the Connecticut psychiatric hospital in which she is confined--and also talks to others who have known her.

What Bexley learns about this gifted young woman comes almost solely from these interviews...but is that enough to explain the divide between the person Tory seems to be and the terrible crimes she’s accused of committing? Others find her difficult to fathom too: her lawyer, her nurse at the hospital, her mother, one of her former teachers; but all seek the same objective, to learn the truth no matter where it leads--or what secrets it may reveal about Tory, about the nature of evil, about us all.

Fiercely engaging and morally provocative, Dialogues is a rush of adrenaline that will keep you riveted from the first page to the last.

With the daring immediacy that a novel-in-conversations can deliver, Dialogues will confound, conflict, and possibly convert readers to the heroine’s hauntingly disturbing point of view. Here is one of the freshest first novels of the year. In a mental hospital in Connecticut sits Tory Troy, a young woman facing six particularly grotesque charges of felony murder. Tory--bright, blunt, and empathetic--has spent the past year as a certified animal euthanasia technician; it was in the Waterbridge Animal Shelter that the police arrested her. As readers, we come to know her through the dialogues conducted with the doctor the court has appointed to assess her competence to stand trial--and through further conversations with the nursing staff, her mother, her one-time English professor, her lawyer, and others. Her singular perspective on the world--intricate, contrarian, deeply felt--makes Tory a fascinating but enigmatic guide to the darker regions of the human soul. In a novel that is distinctive not only for its subject matter but also for its unorthodox and riveting structure, author Stephen Spignesi leads us into Tory’s world and leaves us there to find our way out. Each dialogue reveals something new or confounds our assumptions about her. Each time we believe we understand what has happened, difficult questions and insights arise. Gathering pace as the case reaches the courtroom--and then far beyond it--Dialogues will leave us both breathless and deeply moved.

TSK: You’ve written a LOT of books. What’s your favorite?

SJS: There’s more than one, actually. I’ll give you my Top Ten (in no particular order):


TSK: When people find out about your work on Stephen King, do some people give you that look that says, “You read him?”

SJS: I sometimes get an “I can’t stand that stuff!” type of response, but I perceive that to mean a general dislike for horror. I also commonly get an “I love/hate his movies” response. When I explain that I write about his written work and his significance as an important American writer, suddenly they get interested. I’ll get asked questions and I have a few standard answers about the best of his work.

A very common approach that I use is to ask them if they’ve seen either The Shawshank Redemption or The Green Mile. Of course they have, and of course they loved them, so when I then tell them, “Stephen King wrote them,” they’re immediately amazed and usually won over as to my thesis of taking him seriously as a writer.

TSK: A lot of us have read with interest your books about Stephen King. In fact, my copy of The Essential Stephen King is worn to tatters! What books does Stephen Spignesi read about Stephen King?  Were there any particular works that have been helpful in studying King?

SJS: I’m a big fan of the others who have written about King, particularly George Beahm, Bev Vincent, Michael Collings, Rocky Wood, Anthony Magistrale, and Tyson Blue. I’ve read almost all of their books about King and loved them all. They’ve all been helpful in the sense of giving me insights into how other experts perceive King’s work, but my books about King are so thematically-focused that ultimately the books of others serve mainly as background research rather than influences.

Some memorable titles that stand out for me include George Beahm’s literary biography of King, as well as his Stephen King Country (not to mention his monumental look at the art of Stephen King, Knowing Darkness) ; Michael Collings’ literary analyses of King (his Starmont volumes); Bev Vincent’s Road to the Dark Tower and Illustrated Companion, and Tony Magistrale’s book about The Shining. Kevin Quigley has also been doing some really interesting King-themed chapbooks that I greatly enjoyed. Also, I’d be derelict if I didn’t mention one of the books (along with Beahm’s The Stephen King Companion) that started it all, Douglas Winter’s The Art of Darkness.

TSK: In your book The Essential Stephen King, you listed IT as the number one novel. Does this mean it is your personal favorite work of King’s as well?

SJS: Yes, it does mean that IT is my personal favorite. However, The Shining and Misery come in at an extremely close second for tie as personal favorites.

TSK: If you were writing TESK today, would IT still hold the top spot, or would it have to step aside for another work?

SJS: That’s a good question. I haven’t changed my mind about the placement of almost every other work on the list, so essentially I’d have to ask myself if anything he’s published since 2000 been of such excellence that it would kick IT out of the top slot. The answer, for me, is no.

I would, however, move things around a bit to get 11/22/63, Lisey’s Story, Duma Key, Under the Dome, and probably Cell into the Top 20, or maybe Top 25. If you study my ranking, you’ll note that novels are all in the top 50 or so, so those major works would have to be included. All the new Dark Tower books would fall under the one single Dark Tower ranking, which is number 10.

All bets are off, though, when Doctor Sleep is published. Considering the excellence of The Shining, I am greatly looking forward to it, but am very curious as to whether or not it will equal the literary merit of The Shining, which is the most taught King novel at the high school and college level. I taught The Shining when I taught my “New Gothic Horror of Stephen King” course at UNH. Hardly any of the students had read it, but they were all blown away by it.

TSK: Speaking of TESK’s rankings, did you get any reader feedback on slipping The Stand down to the lowly, humble second spot?

SJS:  I got some feedback, but I think most of my readers realized and understood that I was trying to focus on literary merit and the quality of the two most important elements of fiction: plot and character. IT excels in both those categories, especially plot. King writes two parallel novels — 1958 and 1985 — and switches back and forth, and the reader never gets lost. I think it’s his magnum opus.




Fan popularity wasn’t allowed to factor into my decision. My co-author and best friend Mike Lewis and I used similar criteria to rank the 100 best Beatles songs in our Here, There, and Everywhere. Musicality, Lyricism, Production, and Performance were the four criteria. Again, fan popularity did not matter. We get a lot of complaints about our ranking for that book. Fans get upset when their favorite isn’t on the list. It doesn’t matter to them that a song may be musically inferior (three chords) or lyrically simplistic (bland, one-dimensional lyrics), etc.

I always try to concentrate on the quality of the work. For many readers, The Stand is more fun, and I understand that and can relate to it. But I feel IT is a better novel and thus, its number one rank.

TSK: Both you and Stephen King have written quite a lot about the 60’s. King through fiction, you through non-fiction. What is so important about the sixties?

SJS: It was a seminal decade in the history of the United States and the world. It redefined everything: civil rights, voting rights, LGBT rights, and women’s rights. Art and popular culture were, in a sense, reinvented, and politics, freedom, and commerce all took on new meanings. Feminism was born, as were movements in support of Hispanic rights and African/American rights. The antiwar movement railed against the Vietnam War and we lost JFK, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, and others. It seems as though Americans woke up in the Sixties. Thus, it is fertile territory for an artist, no matter what area or element of the decade you want to study and write about.

TSK: You gave four years of your life to The Shape Under The Sheet. Did you feel like it was “complete” when you were done, or did you just decide “I’ve got to stop someday!” What was the signal for you that the work was whole?

SJS: The latter: I knew I had to stop. I knew the book would never come out if I didn’t set a stop date. King has never stopped publishing, so you have to set your sights on a specific year and say, “Okay, this is when it will be published; thus, I have to stop researching and writing here.” Which is what I did. Also, the publisher was getting a little anxious, considering the book had been announced. Plus, I had other books I wanted to write.

TSK: You indicated with The Shape Under The Sheet that you wanted to give the constant readers (and I guess the world) an “ultimate reference.” Of course, that was published over 20 years ago now. Any plans to update the volume – turn into volumes?

SJS: It’s highly unlikely I’ll ever be able to update the book. My life has changed drastically with teaching full-time and also maintaining a book-a-year schedule. The research alone would require a massive commitment of time, and frankly, there isn’t a publisher who would be able to pay me to do it. It would be great fun to do it, but I can’t see how everything could conspire to allow me the time and funds to do it. Maybe if I hit Powerball…

TSK: I loved all of The Shape Under The Sheet! One of the really unique points was the information gleaned from your interview with David King. What is he like?

SJS: Dave is a consummate gentleman. He had rarely (or possibly never before) spoken about his brother and their childhood and he went out of his way to provide me with items from their youth and to talk about the family.

Can you imagine what it must be like to be Stephen King’s brother? Anyone who finds out who your brother is, is going to immediately ask millions of questions (and possibly favors) and it has to be extremely difficult to be yourself, instead of “Stephen King’s brother.” Yet, Dave lives a quiet life, has a wonderful family, and is utterly normal. To this day, I am extremely grateful for all his help with Shape.

I know you’ve interviewed or spoken with Robert McCammon. What is his take on Stephen King? Is he offended or excited when fans and constant readers note the similarities in their work?

SJS: Rick is, likewise, a gentleman and a total professional. Some writers do not like to acknowledge influences on their work, or their particular genre. When I asked Rick if King had influenced his own writing, his answer was along the lines of, How could he have not? which is gracious, self-effacing, and yet completely recognizes the massive — and that is the appropriate word — influence King has had on both genre fiction and American fiction.

But McCammon is a brilliant writer in his own right. King has influenced us all, but the cream of the crop, the great American writers who have their own voice and something to say, like McCammon, have written works of art that are theirs and theirs alone in terms of artistic sensibility. Art is everywhere and artists everywhere are influenced by other artists.

Going back to the Beatles, think about how many bands and songwriters today have been influenced by the Fabs. The list is endless and ongoing. And look at King: he himself has acknowledged being influenced by Poe, Twain, Dickens, John D. McDonald, Richard Matheson, Don Robertson, and many others. This is what art is all about. And there’d be no Dark Tower series at all if King hadn’t read and been influenced by Robert Browning, right?

TSK: I know that you “study” Stephen King. When you read a King novel for the first time now, are you simply enjoying it, or does the research continue?

SJS: All of the above. When I read King, I cannot help but notice the literary skeleton of the story, the man behind the curtain, the shape under the sheet. I read him as a fan, a King researcher, and an English teacher. It’s an all-consuming experience.

TSK: What do you think of the King movies? Got any favorites?

SJS: The Darabont collection — The Woman in the Room, The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, The Mist — is extraordinary. Other standouts for me include The Dead Zone, Kubrick’s Shining, Misery, Stand By Me, Carrie Dolores Claiborne, Apt Pupil, and 1408. I’m also a huge fan of the short film Paranoid by Jay Holben (based on the King poem from Skeleton Crew) and the Golden Years TV series.

TSK: You said you are a Woody Allen fan. I loved Radio Days! What Woody Allen movies are you passionate about. . . or does being a Woody Allen fan mean by definition you like all of them?

SJS: I am a HUGE Woody Allen fan. I think he is a filmmaker and writer of, and for, the ages. And I’m not just talking about his films. I’m talking about his stand-up comedy routines (which I transcribed verbatim off his albums), his books, his plays, his essays, and more. He is the classic artist. His short stories and essays in Getting Even, Without Feathers, Side Effects, and Mere Anarchy are literally laugh-out-loud funny.

As for favorite movies, my number one is Manhattan, followed by Annie Hall, Hannah and Her Sisters, Midnight in Paris, Whatever Works, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Love and Death, Stardust Memories, and Mighty Aphrodite. I even love Wild Man Blues, the documentary about Woody touring Europe with his jazz band.

I love Woody one-liners (Did you hear about Cyclops? He got a middle-eye infection.”). I am currently in the ongoing process of replacing my VHS copies of his movies with DVDs. I also hope to someday update my now out-of-date Woody Allen Companion. As far as I know it’s the only book to completely deconstruct every comedy routine he performed and every short story he had written up to that time. Woody is a genius, a brilliant writer, and a supremely accomplished artist. And I like his glasses.

TSK: Wow, I could go on writing questions all day, because I really do enjoy your work on King! I’ll stop here, but is there anything you would ask if you were given permission to interview Stephen J. Spignesi?

SJS: Yes, there is something I’d ask Mr. Spignesi:

In your book, The Odd Index, in the chapter “39 Acts of Select Mayhem in 2 Three Stooges Films,” you write “Moe dials Shemp’s eyes, thinking his face is a phone.” Do you see a deeper subtext in the fact that the metaphorical instrument of abuse is a communication device — that Moe uses Shemp’s face as a phone?

To which I would answer:

The Three Stooges were notable for their allegorical, metaphorical, and symbolic use of communication devices in their work. In a scene in Brideless Groom, Shemp’s fiancĂ©e compresses his head in a letter-press, an older type of printing press.
 In Punch Drunk, the Stooges drive a truck with a PA system playing music through a wall at a prize fight at which Larry had been hired to play the violin ringside. Larry’s violin is smashed by Curly who, it turns out, goes nuts anytime he hears violin music.
 In Three Sappy People, the Stooges answer a phone call intended for three psychiatrists Ziller, Zeller, and Zoller and then assume the doctors’ identities. In They Stooge to Conga, Curly impersonates a telephone repair man to spy on spies.
 In Goof on the Roof, the Stooges attempt to install a television antenna on their friend’s roof and they ultimately destroy his house. Oftentimes, the mishaps involving communication devices result in eye jabs, punches, pokes, and other forms of retaliatory punishment, usually inflicted by Moe upon the other Stooges.
 What is this saying? That communication errors can result in “damage,” both metaphorical and literal? That effective transmission of whatever the message might be can assure a placid response? The semantic and semiotic impact of these scenes manifest a sociocultural paradigm that…what’s that? You meant a question about Stephen King? Oh. Sorry. Okay. I’m done.
THANKS STEPHEN! 



THE SHINING Spare Tire Cover



This is great!  I spotted this at the Stephen King Constant Reader club.  Reposted with permission from Michael Coon. He noted, "My cousins wife took this pic."  Imagine pulling in behind this!  You wouldn't drive too close to this guy, would you?

The Mist Unabridged



For years I have gotten emails and posts comments asking about the unabridged recording of The Mist.  I have audio tapes and the digital version of Frank Muller reading the Mist.  Turns out, for some reason that recording is  no longer in print.  That means that for years the only way to hear the Mist has been the 3D production.  The only problem is -- the 3D Sound recording just isn't the same as listening to the words themselves build the story.  It's like a radio play.  Super cool -- but just not the same.

I noticed today that audible has released an unabridged recording of Skeleton Crew.  And in the batch is The Mist.  It's not the Frank Muller recording, but it is The Mist unabridged.  Exciting stuff!

www.audible.com

Stephen King Cameos



This is a fantastic colladge by Dan Garcia of Stephen King cameos.

Dan writes, "I love how Stephen King is like Hitchcock, in that he frequently has cameos in his movies! This is not all of them, but what role of his is your favorite?"

11.22.63 episode 2: I'm Hooked


11.22.63 is quickly becoming one of my favorite Stephen King adaptations.  I’m almost scared to like it as much as I do.  Last time I really fell in love with a Stephen King series, it was Under The Dome – and that went LOST on us.

The required spoiler alert:

Hey, you, before you read this. . .
I talk about stuff on my blog.  Gasp.  So if you haven't seen 11.22.63, you should go watch it before you listen in on me talking about it, because it might "spoil" it for you.  I'm telling you this because some of you are rediculously sensitive about not having the storyline given away.  Hey, I have an idea: Don't read posts about stories you haven't read yet.  Glad I could help.  On with the discussion. .

A few quick observations:


The Trade:
The movie and the book trade slaps.  Track with me. . .
In the book, I was blown away when Jake first sees the “colored” bathroom sign.  You can read about that experience HERE.  But that scene did not have the same impact on me when it happened on screen.  In fact, that scene just kind of flowed by.

However, I still got slapped in the face by the television show.  It’s when the boys pin Harry down and spit on him. Something in me bristled; got angry.  (And anger is what I felt when I first read that scene where Jake encounters colored restrooms.)



Welcome to the 60's:
The CafĂ© Harry goes to is incredible.  I mean, it’s so authentic.  Once again, I feel like I’m there.  The counter, the wall paper, the comic book stand; it feels right.  And, Jake sticks out – it’s obvious he doesn’t belong to this world. It speaks volumes that they could recreate the world of 1960, because that world is gone.  Everyone in these scenes, they’re not really from 1960 – they’re from 2016.  (Well, 15) But all of them drop into character so well, that even as Jake tries to look the part, he still doesn’t fit in.  The very fact that Jake sticks out builds our confidence that we really have been taken back to 1960.

Over Religious:



The lady interviewing Jake for a room is way over the top!  Maybe people were really like that back then – but she’s what Solomon was talking about when he said “do not be overrighteous.” (Eccl 7:16)   Bet-ja didn’t know that was in the Bible!  There seems to be one of these in every Stephen King book.

Does anyone like that picture of Jesus she has on her wall?  Apparently it was paramount to his mugshot for many years.

MASH:




Jake show quick thinking when asked what unit he served with in Korea.  MASH, 4077.  BRILLIANT!  I really like the old guys comment, “There’s no such thing as a war hero.”  It’s the kind of thing only a war hero can say.  “The last thing you can say about killing a man is that it’s brave.”  I like that line, not because our troops aren’t brave, but because it so perfectly describes how so many of them feel coming home from war.  Conflicted.  They were sent to do a job, and they did it. And they want to be recognized and honored by their nation for serving and doing a difficult thing.

Up Close And Personal:
I think the scenes with Frank – in fact the entire storyline with Harry – is far superior to the book.  There is a new layer of detail here that wasn’t in the book.  We get a lot more up close and personal with Frank.  There’s much greater tension.  And, Jake’‘s a lot dumber! – and that’s good  It feels more real because Jake is making bonehead mistakes any of us would make.

Repost: Stephen King Slapped My Face

(REPOSTED from my 11.22.63 journal, December 8, 2011.)

Stephen King slapped my face a few days ago.  It hurt a lot.

There I was, happily bopping through the late 1950's with Mr. King narrating away at about 80 miles an hour.  I'm loving 11.22.63, and the blast from the past is a joy.  Root beer, short hair, ties -- we'd all want to go back, right?  Even the cars are something to long for.  And about the time King has you totally off guard, thinking sentimentally about a by-gone era. . . WHAM!  King gives a big, open handed slap to the face.  Not a girly slap; a hard, "WAKE UP, FOOL!" slap.

I grew up in the 80's -- in California.  I was a white in a mostly black high school.  Race relations could be tense at times.  My senior year was the Rodney King riots, and it seemed like everything erupted in the Los Angeles area.  But my best friend was black, and somehow we navigated through some rough waters.  There was bad stuff going on around us, but for the most part we came out untouched.  My mom has said she was glad for my friend, because it protected me from bitterness.

Any tension in 1980's California cannot compare to what was happening in 1959.


As we bop happily along through the novel, King describes a stop at a gas station.  There's a men's and women's restroom, and then a sign for blacks with an arrow.  Follow the arrow around the corner, and you'll discover there are no indoor restrooms for blacks.  I'll not share the exact nature of the indignity, King does it better than I can -- but it made me angry.  Partly because it's not the world I come from.  And partly because it IS the world I come from!  Our entire nation has been touched by generations of racism.  When King describes the bathroom situation at the gas station, it evokes a righteous rage.  "That is SO WRONG!"

We exist in boxes; our eyes covered.  Racism is a thing of the past, it doesn't affect us -- right?  But when I felt that sudden anger at someone being forced to go to the bathroom outside, some things started to make sense.  The anger in the students around me as I grew up.  It didn't make sense at the time.  Why were they angry -- things were better for them than they had been for the last generation, right?  But the arm of injustice has a long reach.

Injustice, racism, hate can't be cut off in just one generation.  We live with the scars.

Out culture and teachers have tried to slap us, but usually it didn't sting as bad as it needed to.  Movies like "Driving Miss. Daisy" are painful, but sweet.  King doesn't give any sweet to his open handed smack.  I remember reading Native Son in high school about a black man who accidentally killed a white girl, burned her body, and went to the electric chair.  That novel provoked the desired uncomfortable discussions in English class, but it did not deliver the sudden, unexpected, slap that 11/22/63 gave me. Even movies that drive the point home, like The Help, don't really slap you.  Because you see it coming!  But King doesn't announce he's gong to slap your face.  Of course, everyone should know at some point he's going to edge up on racism -- but when he catches you off guard and causes emotions to rush, it's both painful and a joy.

Baptist:

King sometimes shows us things from our own culture we don't like so much.  The angry, cussing, racist Baptist landlord we encounter in Dallas disgusted me.  That's outside my experience with Baptist (for the most part.  Anyone who has done ministry for long has encountered some pretty angry people).  I go to a racially mixed church (whites, blacks, Hispanics Asians).  Baptist would be quick to point out that Dr. King was a Baptist, as were many civil rights leaders.  Billy Graham, who publicly took a stand against racism by personally removing the ropes that separated whites and blacks  in his meetings was a Baptist.  But that's not the whole story, is it?

I don't like the cussing, angry, nasty racist landlord being a Baptist. I would rather focus on the positives!  The MLK's, the Graham's and so on.  For a moment I found myself frustrated with King's writing.  It seems he often chooses the Baptist to be the racist (Reverend Rose in Needful things is an example -- only he hated Catholics).  And at least with rose, the character is not well developed.  He just hates.  But in 11.22.63, things feel a little more real.  These feel like people you might actually meet somewhere.  Not just a caricature -- but a true step back in history.  And if I could go back in time, I'd like to take a swing at that landlord!

Thank You

So I'd thank King for the slap in the face.  Thank him for making it hurt.  For stirring emotions I've actually never felt; not very deeply.  Because I don't live in a culture where racism is so openly practiced, but we do live with the scars.  But people respond to one another based on their scars, and we don't always understand why they act the way they do.

11.22.63, episode 1 More



Watched episode one again with my kids.  Of course, on second watch, noticed a few things.  I should note that I've not read anything others have said or written about the show.  So people are probably finding Easter eggs all over the place, and they're just whizzing by me.

First, this is just interesting: When Jake went into the closet and stepped into another world, my daughter looks up from the sofa she's laying on and says, "Wow, that's just like Narnia."  Narnia, I question.  "Yeah, you know -- the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.  They go through a closet into another world."

I also liked how Jake said he was the presidents number one fan.  Has Jake been reading Misery?

The movie does a nice job making time itself Jakes real enemy.  I don't know how to say it, but it seems time is an unseen shadow always lurking nearby.  Sometimes it takes on physical form to tell him to go away.  It's always there!  Time tries to mess up his plans, burn him or even run him over when he tries to call his dad.  Time protects itself from the time travelers.  Making me all the more curious -- how did the rabbit hole get created.  I really need to know.

Finally, all the work trying to figure out if Oswald is really one who wants JFK dead is pointless.  A lot of running around -- when there's a much easier way to figure it out.  Just kill Oswald in the airport, jump forward in time and see if JFK was still murdered.  If he lived. . . they got their man.  If he still died, then there's more to the mystery.  -- You're welcome.

11.22.63 Takes Off



I got HULU today for one reason: 11.22.63.  And I love it.  The movie, not HULU.

The movie brings the book to life in brilliant color.  There are some things that can’t really be brought to the screen.  Jack can tell us food tastes better, but King made me taste the root-beer float.  I don’t know how; but he touched my senses beyond just seeing it in my minds eye; I tasted it.  All they can do on TV is tell us that food tastes better.

Whit the television show accomplishes is it takes us back to the 1960's with amazing detail.  Like the novel, I “buy” it because it feels right.  This isn’t a plastic version of the 60's; a cheap set to move actors around on – this actually feels like the world of the 60's.  (Well, late 50's.)

What the movie can do that the book couldn’t is more than just visual No doubt, they have done an outstanding job visually.  But a book can’t really have a sound track.

I am still struck by the unimportance of the “HOW” for Stephen King – or this story.  HOW does a closet send you back in time?  King is interested in the “what if” not one bit in the how.  King, and the writers of the script, seem to say to us, “yeah, yeah, yeah, so what if we don’t know anything about how this closet sends you back in time.  Just suppose it did, then what?”


  • But why does it go back to that date?
  • What was in that space previously?
  • What caused that spot to become a time portal?
  • Has it always been a time portal?
  • Did it used to go back to a different date?
  • Are there other time portals?


None of these questions are of any interest to Stephen King.  But shouldn’t . . . someone . . . be asking this?  Maybe Jake?  Before you go diving a time machine, shouldn’t you ask how it works?  Some basic rules are given to us.  For instance, every time you go through again, you re-set everything you previously changed; suggesting that there is a “true” timeline that everything actually adheres to.  There are not endless timelines.  There is standard time – and it is possible to deviate.  However, things always return to standard time.

My favorite line from episode 1: Time pushes back.  (The book used the word obdurate.)  And, "You don't belong here."

Is it worth a HULU subscription?  Well, for me, yeah.  Absolutely.
Episode 1 is titled: The Rabbit Hole
11.22.63 plays every Monday.

11.22.63 Behind The Scenes


I like this line, "It's like the furnishings of your head brought to life."

10 Best Stephen King Books



Rolling Stone did a poll, asking what the 10 best Stephen King books are.  The answers -- a little ridiculous.  (www.rollingstone.com) I am glad they allowed novella's to count.

Here is the Rolling Stone line up:
10. Wizard and Glass. (REALLY?!)
9. Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.
8. The Dead Zone
7. The Green Mile
6. 11.22.63
5. Misery
4. Salem's Lot
3. The Shining
2. IT
1. The Stand

I wonder if Shawshank might be getting a huge boost from movie memory.  I read the novella recently, and was struck by how much butter the movie is.  In fact, the same is true of The Body, which was turned into Stand By Me.  I liked the movie better.  In turn, I wonder if books like Bag of Bones might be overlooked because of the poor performance of the mini-series. Notice all the books selected were adapted nicely to screen, with the exception of Wizard and Glass.  In fact, The Deadzone and The Shining have both been given multiple treat

And I'm glad a Dark Tower novel made the list. . . but Wizard and Glass?  My favorites of that series were Drawing of the Three and Wolves of the Calla.

What would a correct list look like?  Glad you asked. . .
10. Christine
9. The Green Mile
8. Joyland
7. Salem's Lot
6. Dolores Claiborne
5. 11.22.63
4. The Shining
3. Pet Sematary
2. IT
1. The Stand

So I chose a lot of books people tell me they don't like.  (Pet Sematary, Christine, Joyland, Dolores Claiborne.)  But in many ways, these novels are much stronger than they are given credit for.  Dolores Claiborne in particular is an incredibly intense novel that is driven by both character and plot.  In fact, there are two plots moving through the book, and a connection point to Gerald's Game.  Frankly, it's brilliant.  Why is it so easily overlooked?  Because it was written in a period that was experimental for King.  So books like Needful Things, Gerald's Game, Rose Madder were not as strong and to some degree, I think, caused Dolores Claiborne to be lumped in with them.

Also, Pet Sematary is a dark, terrible novel.  (Expect a similar darkness to loom over Revival.) But it is also a strong novel.  In fact, I think it is better -- even scarier in theme --than The Shining.  Think about it, the guy digs up his dead sons body!  King takes you there!  The Shining is an exceedingly closed in novel; at points it's a tough read.  The Shining has been romanticized, so people give it a little more grace than they might otherwise. The thing is, The Shining is very closed in; almost claustrophobic.  In fact, note what reviews at the time said compared to modern readers.  The story is almost solely carried by three characters trapped in a hotel.  It is slow going for a few pages.  Yeah, when it starts rolling, it's good stuff!

I also think Joyland is too easily skipped over. What's great about that book is not the plot;  the mystery is secondary.  What makes the novel really strong is King's ability to take us back to 1973 and to the feelings of first love.  It's one thing to read a book King wrote in the 70's and think, "wow, this feels like the seventies alright."  Try reading the original edition of The Stand.  In fact, the revised version of The Stand still has flavors of the seventies.  But with Joyland, King wasn't writing during the period; but he perfectly recreated it. He did something similar with both IT and 11.22.63.

Does Christine deserve to be on a Stephen King top ten list?  I think so.  Not only is the novel a good one, but it represents the young Stephen King anxious to just drive the horror home.  It's a bloodbath; and unapologetically so.  The reader can feel King's joy.  Cars, rock and roll, and girls -- oh, and a ghost. It's not "deep" -- but it is a delight for the horror fan. King got himself into a hole when he wrote his narrator into a hospital bed.  So mid novel, he switched to third person!  I'm surprised he didn't rewrite the novel to stay with one perspective; but ultimately it is fine with me.  Who really cares if a writers switches between narrative styles?  Only my English teacher; and she's dead.

Don't you hate top ten lists?  Me too.  Good,  now give  me yours. . . 

Far more fun than a 10 Best list is a 10 worst list. And the funny thing is -- I still read and enjoy several of the books off this list.  They're just not King at the top of his game.  But, unable to come up with TEN -- here's five.
5. Gerald's Game
4. Insomnia.
3. The Tommyknockers
2. Dreamcatcher
1. Cell

The Stephen King Companion: Four Decades of Fear from the Master of Horror



First the confession:

I dropped out of the Bazaar of Bad Dreams.  Stopped with Bad Little Kid.  This is not a complaint about Stephen King.  This is my difficulty with reading books of short stories.  Not short stories.  Books of short stories.  On audio.  Each time I start to feel slightly committed -- if those feelings ever come -- the end jumps out at you and it's all over.

Batman and Robin have an Altercation was awesome.  But there were others there that I just didn't get.  A man and woman have an argument.  The woman dies.  That's all.  On to the next story.  . . . HUH?  What was this story about?  Reading books of short stories makes me feel like a golf ball hit full swing in a tile bathroom.

I feel bad.  Like I did when I gave up on Insomnia.  Am I still a constant reader if I drop out on the latest book?  Of course.  I just don't do as well with those short stories.

By the way, a word of parting on Bazaar -- I really like the introductions King does to each story.

The Stephen King Companion:

Setting Bazaar aside, I've started reading the new George Beahm book, The Stephen King Companion.  I think this would be companion book number 3 for Beahm, but I'm losing track.  He is also author of America's Best Loved Boogeyman and several other King books.

The book does two things in the early biographical portions --
First, Beahm does an excellent job introducing new biographical material that was previously absent from other works.  Drawing on PBS' investigation into King's past, we learn about King's father, Donald King, and where he went after he left the family.

Second, most of what Beahm introduces thus far is not really new.  Meaning: He doesn't seem to have gone and done new interviews -- he is pulling already published materials together into a single source.  That's okay, because I like it.  But I am starting to cringe at the sheer number of times The Stephen King Encyclopedia is mentioned.  I read that book, and loved it!  And I'm enjoying Beahms book.  But (BUT!) this is starting to feel like an updated version of the Encyclopedia with a new format.

WAIT -- I was wrong.
It would be easier to just erase the above.  The danger in blogging as I read is that I complain and then get proven wrong.  There's plenty of new stuff here.  Just read a great (GREAT) interview in the book that is with one of King's childhood friends.

Whining aside, the book really is very good.  Beahm is my favorite King biographer, and his insights are always sharp.  Besides, he holds a special place in my heart because he once confessed (I think in the first Stephen King Companion) that he just couldn't get into the Talisman.  I felt such sweet comfort when he said that.

Strange, isn't it, that I would go from reading Stephen King to reading about Stephen King.  I'm sure I'll return to the Bazaar, but for now, George Beahm has me pretty engrossed.

By the way, the introduction by Stephen Spignesi was worth the price of admission.

11.22.63 trailer


One of my favorite books is coming to Hulu as a television series.  I'm really excited!


Bad Dreams Journal #1: Mile 81



I'm reading the Bazaar of Bad Dreams and liking it very much.  I'm not a huge fan of Mile 81, but enjoying it just the same.  It's corny, okay?  But the nice thing about a short story is that it gives the writer opportunity to play and be goofy without committing himself or the reader to hundreds of pages.  It can just be a "hey, what if. . ."  What if a car ate people?  Not ran them over, like Christine -- what if it actually ate them?

Many of these stories are what we just love about King -- raw, fun horror.  He's not trying to be "deep" in Mile 81; though he can't help but be perceptive concerning human character -- he's just having fun.  And for that reason, we have fun with him.  The reader feels his joy as he tells us a quick story, whispering it in our ear before we get caught.

Mile 81 is a bit ADHD for a short story.  What I mean is that there is a lot of character shifting to keep up with.  Because King means to pile the bodies up, he wants to first introduce us to each victim.  Of course, the advantage of that kind of story telling is that it causes the reader to be screaming at the characters, "Don't touch the car!"  Because w know what they know.

I do like it that in Mile 81, King does something that horror writers usually avoid -- he calls the police.  King himself has said that one thing every writer has to address is: Why not just call the police?  Well, in Mile 81, he brought them right onto stage.

I've heard some whining in the Stephen King community that these are all -- mostly all -- stories previously published.  I like having them all together (with the exception of Blockade Billy, once was enough for me on that one.)  But, what's really nice is that King gives a chatty introduction to the stories, and I like that very much!  I now know that Mile 81 was written twice.

Tim's Stephen King Collection

I'm enjoying reading my friend Tim's new Stephen King blog.  Check it out at timsskcollection.blogspot.ca/.

It's like sitting in the library of a super serious collector as he takes his prized pieces off the shelf and lets you have a look.  I love it!

Not convinced he's serious about collecting?  Check this photo out:


Would you like to hang out in that room?  Of course yo would!  I may need to drive to Canada some time just to wander around this room.  Wall to wall Stephen King.  And, in a way, by starting the blog, Tim is letting us all in to play with the toys.

By the way, Carrie in "doll house size" is pretty cool.  -- just check it out, I liked it.

Oh, wait, before you go, I've got to tell you that Tim has been a huge encouragement to me personally over the years.  When a blog article hits him right, he's known to email me and tell me it's right on.  Always upbeat, always a joy to talk Stephen King with, I thankful he is now adding his voice to the Stephen King community.  Welcome my friend!

Dollar Deal and A Face Among The Masters SALE



Greetings gunslingers!

Thou art invited to dig a little deeper into the Stephen King graveyard this Thanksgiving.

Good news, I got word from Shawn Lealos that Amazon will be doing a countdown promotion of his book, Dollar Deal from Tuesday through Friday of this week. (No rush, but the best price is Tuesday, at $2.99.)

And inspired -- I decided to follow suit and offer a countdown deal on my book, Stephen King, A Face Among The Masters. My countdown deal goes from Wednesday November 25 -- November 29.

Here's what's cool: Both books look at a part of the Stephen King universe that's often overlooked. Dollar Deal focuses on oft unknown movies based on Stephen King's work. Stephen King, A Face Among The Masters looks at the literary works that infuse the Stephen King universe.

Each of the books has 4 amazon reviews, all giving them 5 stars.
(If you like the books, rate them.)

DOLLAR DEAL: amazon.com/Dollar-Deal

A FACE AMONG THE MASTERSamazon.com/Stephen-King-Face-Among-Masters

NINETEEN SIXTY THREE: The Day Kennedy Was Shot

One of my favorite books is Jim Bishop's "The Day Lincoln was Shot" by Jim Bishop.  He also has a wonderful book titled "The Day Kennedy Was Shot." 

In honor of the release of 11/22/63 , here is a taste of what that day was like. . .









YAHOO gives us: An Oral History of 'Stephen King's It'

This article from Yahoo is a great insight into the making of the mini-series, IT.  (www.yahoo.com/tv)

Ethan Altar writes in his introduction to a series of interviews, "Twenty-five years later, Stephen King’s It still has the power to push its way into your slumbering mind in the dead of night, filling it with nightmarish visions of fortune cookies stuffed with eyeballs, balloons filled with blood and clowns with razor-sharp teeth."

Well, unfortunately -- not really.  But I wish that's how it was, so let's pretend that's reality.  (The truth is, the second half of the film is terrible.)

The Participants (In Alphabetical Order)
Dennis Christopher (Eddie Kaspbrak)
Larry Cohen (Screenwriter)
Stephen King (Author)
Bart Mixon (Special Makeup Effects Supervisor)
Annette O’Toole (Beverly Marsh)
Emily Perkins (Young Beverly Marsh)
Tim Reid (Mike Hanlon)
Marlon Taylor (Young Mike Hanlon)
Tommy Lee Wallace (Director)
Gene Warren Jr. (Special Visual Effects Supervisor)

A few of my favorite insights:

  • ABC was always nervous about It, primarily the fact that it was in the horror genre, but also the eight-to-ten hour commitment. They loved the piece, but lost their nerve in terms of how many hours they were willing to commit. Eventually, they were agreed to a two-night, four-hour commitment and at that point, a couple of things happened. 
  • His script for Night 2 wasn’t nearly as successful, in my opinion. For reasons of his own, he had completely moved away from the plotting of the book, and created a much smaller story, a very interior melodrama focusing on Beverly’s husband as the ultimate bad guy, or something to that effect. (That explains a lot)
  • Most of the adult casting was “telephone” casting, which is, “No need to audition so-and-so for the role, they’d be brilliant.“
  • Casting the kids came after casting the adults.
  • Obviously the piece of casting that worked the best in the show was Tim Curry as Pennywise. (King)
  • The movie, really, is only as good as its villain, and Tim carved out a place for himself as one of the great movie villains of all time.
  • Filmed over two to three months on location in Vancouver, It proved a demanding shoot
. . . a lot more interesting stuff here.  Check out the article.  You'll like it.

Lealos Delivers DOLLAR DEAL



Think you know every dusty corner of the Stephen King universe?  You don't.  And I'll bet I know at least one dark corner you know very little about -- the Dollar Baby.

I'm really enjoying Shawn S. Lealos' book, Dollar Deal: The Stephen King Dollar Baby Filmmakers.  This is a project I've been following for some time, so the finished product is a real treat for me.  I interviewed Shawn a couple years ago, and I'm really happy to say that the finished book is a slam dunk.  I love it!

What's a Dollar Baby?  It's a Stephen King film that is made for purposes other than profit.  That's right -- they are made not to make money.  They are sheer art.  A story is given away (sold for one dollar) and the artist is allowed to work with the story all they want to make it the best movie they can.  But the movie will not appear on DVD or digital download, as the filmmakers agreed from the get-go not to make it a money making enterprise.

Those of us that have seen Dollar Babies know they are a special brand of film.  They are actually an uneven lot.  Some are great.  Some aren't.

In July 2012, Shawn told me,
The book will be formatted to allow each chapter to focus on a specific filmmaker. While I cannot see their movies (unless I already saw them at a film festival), I am interviewing each filmmaker about making their movies and will tell their stories, including what the dollar baby led to in their careers. 
I’ll also be talking to Bernd Lautenslager, who runs stephenkingshortmovies.com and maybe one or two other people outside of the regular filmmakers. This is not a book so much about the movies as it is about the fans who made them. I hope to give regular fans who never got a chance to see a dollar baby a chance to see inside the making of them. While I cannot ask to see the movies, Mr. King’s attorneys have let me know they don’t mind the book written in this format.  (talkstephenking: interview-shawn-s-lealos
Lealos writes in Dollar Deal, "This book includes stories of people who used their Stephen King Dollar Baby films to launch successful careers as a sci-fi film director, a television showrunner, a published true crime author, a stage show performer, an actor, and much, much more."

Here's an insight I never picked up on until Peter Sullivan (Night Surf) pointed it out in chapter 9:
Stephen King’s writing style sort of started to evolve after The Stand ,and a lot of his books afterwards became less and less about one or two characters and more about this big huge cast of characters, much the way The Stand was.
Table of contents:
Chapter 1: Frank Darabont, “The Woman in the Room”
Chapter 2: Jeff Schiro, “The Boogeyman”
Chapter 3: Jim Gonis, “The Lawnmower Man”
Chapter 4: James Cole, “The Last Rung on the Ladder”
Chapter 5: The Good and Bad of Film Adaptation by James Cole
Chapter 6: Jay Holben, “Paranoid”
Chapter 7: Shawn S. Lealos, “I Know What You Need”
Chapter 8: Doveed Linder, “Strawberry Spring”
Chapter 9: Peter Sullivan, “Night Surf”
Chapter 10: Robert Cochrane, “Lucky Quarter”
Chapter 11: Nick Wauters, “Rainy Season”
Chapter 12: James Renner, “All That You Love Will be Carried Away”
Chapter 13: James Cox, “Grey Matter”
Chapter 14: Mikhail Tank, “My Pretty Pony” and “Willa”
Chapter 15: Rodney Altman, “Umney’s Last Case”
Chapter 16: Juan Pablo Reinoso, “Flowers for Norma”
Chapter 17: Warren Ray, “Maxwell Edison”
Chapter 18: J.P. Scott, “Everything’s Eventual”
Chapter 19: Derek Simon, “A Very Tight Place”
Chapter 20: Damon Vinyard, “In the Deathroom”

Lealos describes his journey:
Not only am I a Dollar Baby filmmaker, as well as a huge fan of Stephen King and movies, but I have become a big fan of the men and women who have made Dollar Babies. These filmmakers know they may never have a chance to screen their movies for a large audience, but they made their films because they love King’s works, and wanted to create something of their own based on the worlds that he created before them.
What's fun is the behind the scenes glimpse at movie making.  It's a fast read, with each chapter offering an introduction and then interviews with the films directors.

By the way, I'm so enthusiastic about this book -- I should tell you up front: No one pays me anything to run the blog.  I did not get the book for free, I purchased it.  No one pays me to say nice stuff about their book -- I could write nasty stuff if I hated the book.  So this is the truth: Dollar Deal belongs in your Stephen King collection. It's about a part of the Stephen King universe most of us know very little about.

amazon.com/Dollar-Deal

A Possible Inspiration for The Mist?

by Chris Calderon

I don't know what influenced Stephen King to write his much liked novella The Mist.  By his own word, the idea almost seemed to spring whole in his mind while he was out shopping one day and wondered what would happen if a pterodactyl were suddenly to come flying over the food aisles.
However that hasn't stopped some from speculating.  For instance, an earlier entry in Wikipedia once noted "The Mist bears resemblance to the earlier H.F. Arnold short story "Night Wire," in which a radio operator details how a malevolent mist falls over a city, containing creatures that consume townspeople "piecemeal."  The page also contains a link to a copy of the Arnold story.
Whether or not there is any truth to those speculations, I don't know.  This is just something I ran across from someone I don't know and is probably just a wild guess on their part in the first place.  That said, even for a wild guess, I have to admit, it's pretty entertaining.
As it happens, the H.F. Arnold story was anthologized as part of a YouTube audio series called Chilling Tales for Dark Nights, a series of narrated (sometimes dramatized) short stories in a similar vein to those quasi-camp fire stories from the golden age of the audiobook era.  Watch and listen to Arnold's story in the clip below, and judge for yourself whether or not King may have subconsciously remembered such a story from his past.  Even if such an idea is unlikely, I have to admit, the Arnold story still makes for a very entertaining October read.



9/11 The Things They Left Behind

Stephen King's short story, "The Things They Left Behind", recounts a young man who escapes the terror attacks on September 11.  He is plagued by survivor's guilt.  Things come to a head when objects that once belonged to people in the towers begin to appear in his apartment!  Creepy?  Indeed.  But also wonderful.

9/11, Our Choices, and Making a Stand

I really enjoyed Julie Davis' insightful article at Patheos titled "9/11, Our Choices, and Making a Stand."  She graciously gave me permission to repost it here.  Note her insights on The Stand and faith. 

9/11, Our Choices, and Making a Stand
by Julie Davis


Two days after 9/11, my father-in-law had a massive stroke. My husband and I drove from Dallas to the hospital in Houston. Largely in shock between the double burden of terrorist attacks and personal tragedy, we were nevertheless stirred with pride at the many flags and hand-made signs we saw along the road. Tears sprang to my eyes when we passed a battered pick-up truck complete with obligatory shotgun rack and "We are all New Yorkers today" written on the rear window.


My husband said, "Those terrorists don't know what they have done. This guy would've spit on a New Yorker last week. And now he'd fight for them."

We were lucky. We didn't know anyone, then, who had died or been in the attacks. But we still suffered with the rest of the nation. It changed us as a people and as individuals.

It taught me a big lesson in forgiveness; as I expressed my forceful wish to see the people behind this attack "killed," a gentle friend from our parish looked at me with a troubled face. "I don't know," she said slowly. "But that doesn't seem right either."


I was taken aback and began to pray, even as I expressed anger. Gradually, the anger faded and the ability to forgive crept in.

Ten years later, I mourn the 9/11 attacks as much as ever. Easy tears still spring to my eyes when I look over the old pictures, video footage, and exchange "what I was doing when I heard" stories with others.

I also think about the opportunity that we had to go forward as a people united—to bring something good out of the evil. We are more divided than ever, and ruder than ever. We squabble and complain about the red states, the blue states, the liberals, the conservatives, the Muslims, the Catholics, and on and on it goes.

Some of this is basic human nature, as old as the stories in Genesis, of brother striking brother. It seems to me, though, that some of it is Evil pushing its way into the world, and we are failing to push back for the common good. We listen to the siren call of "my way," which goes hand in hand with pride.
As always, when it comes to thinking things through, I find that others have pondered the matter so much more thoroughly than I could. Recently I picked up one of my favorite "good versus evil" books and found the words defining my thoughts.

It is said that the two great human sins are pride and hate. Are they? I elect to think of them as the two great virtues. To give away pride and hate is to say you will change for the good of the world. To vent them is more noble; that is to say the world must change for the good of you. I am on a great adventure. (Harold Emery Lauder, in Stephen King's The Stand)
Twenty-three years before 9/11, Stephen King published one of his best-known and best-loved books, The Stand. It tells a tale of the United States, laid to waste when a biological weapons-grade virus inadvertently gets loose. As survivors roam the post-apocalyptic ruins, they begin to have dreams about an incredibly old holy woman, named Mother Abigail, or of a supernatural entity—Randall Flagg—who is her opponent.

Following their dreams, two communities begin to form—Mother Abigail's in Boulder and Flagg's in Las Vegas—and the stage is set for a final "stand" between Evil and God.


King has expressed frustration that so many fans call The Stand their favorite work, even though he has written scores of books since its publication.

Well, it's a heck of a book for one thing, so it's no wonder people love it. And although this is a horror novel, it is very translatable to our own lives. We no longer worry about bio-terrorism the way we did back then, but we can still relate to the scenario King paints.

In The Stand, King holds up the mirror to us. God and evil are present, of course, but they work through men, as ever, and we recognize ourselves in the pages.

Harold Emery Lauder was the quintessential misunderstood nerd, picked on in school, crossed in love, and finding power in hatred. His note could have been written by any of the terrorists who flew those planes into the World Trade Center. I imagine that, like Harold, their betrayal of innocents was the culmination of a long trail of choosing their own desires first. King shows us enough of Harold's choices—sometimes made despite the screaming of his own instincts—so that we can see a little of him in every selfish choice we make.

Harold's end is not a good one, and it is made pitiful by the fact that he is tossed aside like a worn out doll when evil is done using him for its own purposes. We cannot hold onto our anger at him because he has been misled so completely. In a similar way, when I think of those terrorists and their deliberate evil, I have a bit of that pity for them as well.

Once they were somebody's babies. I don't know what led them astray, but I lament the loss of the people they could have been.

King directly juxtaposes a rock star, Larry Underwood, against Harold.
"You ain't no nice guy!" she cried at him as he went into the living room. "I only went with you because I thought you were a nice guy" . . . A memory circuit clicked open and he heard Wayne Stuckey saying, There's something in you that's like biting on tinfoil. ~ The Stand
After the plague, Larry is haunted by those words, "you ain't no nice guy"—they jump to mind whenever he contemplates a selfish or cowardly act. Ultimately, he actually becomes a "nice guy" by consistently choosing the nobler act, if only to prove those words wrong.

Larry is no different than you or me, or anyone who can see themselves with a modicum of self awareness. None of us are "nice guys" deep down because we are all stained with Original Sin. And we know it.

We have help, though, that Stephen King didn't give Larry Underwood. We have the grace of Christ, the sacrament of reconciliation, and our faith to strengthen us. Like Larry, though, we have to keep picking ourselves up and trying again. We must practice until we are more perfectly "nice guys."

9/11 has presented us with a chance to practice forgiveness over and over again. We're all in this together and lifting our thoughts (or hands) in hatred belittles us and our targets. We are Christ’s followers, charged to see Him in everyone they meet. We all have the same choice. Do we embrace Harold's way, or Larry's?
There's always a choice. That's God's way, always will be. Your will is still free. Do as you will. There's no set of leg-irons on you. But . . . this is what God wants of you. ~ Mother Abigail, The Stand
__________________________________________


Julie Davis blogs at Happy Catholic and discusses both books and movies at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast. Her new book is Happy Catholic, published by Servant Publishing.




VIDEO: The National Medal Of Arts Awarded To Stephen King



President Obama awarded Stephen King the National Medal of Arts at a White House ceremony today.  

news.mpbn.net cites president Obama saying, "Without them there would be no edible schoolyard, no ... really scary things like 'Carrie' and 'Misery.

The article also stated:
The official citation, read by the president's military aide, cited King as one of the most popular authors of our time and praised his work, saying he has both delighted and terrified audiences around the world. 
Which is pretty close to the White House statement:
"Stephen King for his contributions as an author. One of the most popular and prolific writers of our time, Mr. King combines his remarkable storytelling with his sharp analysis of human nature. For decades, his works of horror, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy have terrified and delighted audiences around the world."