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Random Thoughts: The King

Credit: Amy Guip (2006)

Some may think that “The King” is Elvis. To me, “The King” has always been Master of Horror author Stephen King.

I can barely remember a time before I knew who this author was or had his words and worlds inside of my head. His imagination is legendary, he has such a wide variety of stories to tell and the umpteen characters he has created during his lifetime will always be a part of my memories.

From his simpler stories like Carrie or Christine to his more elaborate Dark Tower series, each story he writes is so different and so memorable.

I can pinpoint exact moments in my life when I first read each of his books and I would never have survived the long drive cross country without the company of his short stories.

Authors have always been my rock stars. I can pass a celebrity by in the streets with barely a nod, but if I see or meet an author I turn into a bumbling idiot. I think if I ever had the opportunity to meet Mr. King I would need an oxygen tank just to keep me from fainting.

When I was younger and thought I wanted to be a writer I knew I could never have even one-millionth of one percent the imagination or creativity of this author.

My very first Stephen King read was The Shining. My friend forced her library book on me saying I would love it. I wasn’t particularly interested.

At the time I had a somewhat diverse group of authors I  was reading – Agatha Christie, John Jakes, Danielle Steele, Colleen McCullough, Herman Raucher, Jean M. Auel, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Charles Dickens. I was 13. And as soon as I read The Shining I became obsessed with this author. I dropped all other authors for nearly a year so that I could read every single book I could by this amazing man.

I’ve since read The Shining three times and each time I fall back in love with the book as I watch the isolation combined with the evil in this hotel slowly begin to consume Jack Torrance. I know that the author was not a fan of the Stanley Kubrick version of the film, but now that I’ve seen it, I will never be able to picture the main character as anyone but Jack Nicholson. And if you have seen the movie, just know there is so much more to the book and it should not be missed.

Some of my other favorite books of his during this reading frenzy were Christine, Salem’s Lot, Pet Sematary and The Dead Zone and these weren’t nearly his best works. Critics often put down his writing, that is until Bag of Bones was released, and then they began to sing his praises. But for me that book doesn’t even make his top ten.

All things Dark Tower will always top my list, but for standalone novels, It will always be the most memorable and it is the only book of his that I’ve read only once. (I consider The Stand as a Dark Tower affiliate, just in case you were aghast at the fact that I didn’t say The Stand.)

I made the choice to read It only once, although I really feel as if I might cave very soon.

There was this wonderful element to the story that I hadn’t felt nearly as strongly in previous books of his that I read. It was the innocence and imagination of youth.

These characters had an experience as children that they blocked out and as adults couldn’t rationalize as being true. It was only after they began to accept the impossible as possible and opened their minds to these possibilities and begin to believe could they finally attempt to defeat the evil that was threatening their present.

My fear, of course, has always been that a re-read will spoil the magic I felt while reading this book and that the flaws will appear that I didn’t notice upon first read. And especially that I will have become just like one of those adults in the book that have closed their minds to imagination.

I also separate the Bachman books from my list of favorite Stephen King books, as Richard Bachman had a very different outlook on the world than Mr. King and I never like to lump their books together. As mentioned previously, The Long Walk is my favorite Bachman book. Unlike It, this is the book I’ve read most by this author.

But all roads will eventually lead to The Dark Tower. And by far, this is my favorite of Stephen King’s worlds with my favorite hero. This series has spanned the decades and at times it was uncertain if it ever would be complete, to my absolute horror. But thank goodness it was, although I did read beyond the portion where Mr. King suggested we stop if we want to tie a nice tidy bow around everything. I’m not one for bows so I kept reading and am happy and sad that I did. It ended exactly as it should have and all I’ll say is that I am still hopeful for my wayward hero.

I would love to have the time to sit down and read this entire series from beginning to end, plus the affiliated books like The Stand or Insomnia again. But I’m just happy that I was able to re-read my favorites of the series and especially Wizard and Glass which is my (and most everyone’s) favorite.

And although things got a bit odd with the series after Mr. King’s real life accident, they got back on track in the final book.

I haven’t read the books in awhile and I still miss Roland Deschain. It really never does get any easier when a series ends and though your characters lives may continue on in some universe their futures don’t co-exist with yours.

When Stephen King announced his retirement from writing I was devastated. I am so glad to see him coming out with new books and that for someone as creative as he is, the characters just won’t leave him alone to his retirement. I cannot imagine a world without Stephen King and although this will happen – even Mr. King’s book states that Everything’s Eventual – I at this point refuse to believe in such a world.

Whether a long-time fan or a new one, the many, many books that this author has written will be sure to introduce you to some of the most grotesque creatures you will ever meet, the largest selection of inanimate objects that are possessed and the most fictionalized towns in Maine than any other author.

Long live The King!

A quick (and final) note about the films: Many do not do justice to his works. Some of his earlier books into film are almost silly and the many that were made for television just didn’t have the budget to really make them amazing. Perhaps with today’s movie magic some of the more unusual creations of this author can be made believable on the big screen, so I am always hoping for remakes. And I am hoping with all my might that the Dark Tower series is even the littlest bit as special as his books.

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