Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Few Favorite Kings

So Stephen King is releasing two new books this year; Mr. Mercedes arrives June 3rd and Revival releases November 11th.  As one moderately dedicated readers (I say this for good reason considering the intensively of his readership), I'm excited to have my yearly reads stretched by two new King novels.  Especially after the fun of last September‘s Doctor Sleep, a book I followed immediately after my complete reading of King‘s classic, The Shining.  One day, after I manage to read all of King’s 60+ stories, I’ll be able to fully construct what appeals to me about his books just as effortlessly as his thorough readers.  Until then, there’s a jumble of thoughts clouding my head as I type this.  At least that’s what I tell myself.  Nonetheless, I delved into King at the unappreciative age of 12/13 when my aunt lent my copies of The Green Mile and Rose Madder.  So I started young--like many of his readers--but ultimately didn't hold tight to his stories until my early twenties.  Actually, it was Lisey’s Story that anchored me deep into King.

Before I go on I have to stress that this list isn't in any rank or order.  Nor can I press on the details that make up each book.  Also, some of the classics I haven't read or choose to skip because they're always mentioned in King listings.

Lisey's Story

I think Lisey’s Story is a great start because I’ve always liked King’s female protagonist over his men.  That’s kind of a general endorsement of mine, as there’s always been something special about literary women defying circumstances.  Especially those circumstances known to plague men protagonist.  Nevertheless, Lisey’s Story served much of what I love regarding King’s female protagonists.  Lisey is intelligent, resourceful, brave, and human.  And while she is nowhere near weak in the beginning of the novel, she organically blossoms into her true strength and out of that sort of wife-nizing (yes, I make up words here) shadow she held underneath her late husband Scott and his success as a troubled, bestselling writing.  With all that said, you can tell how incredibly personal this novel is to King and his relationship with his wife--especially considering it’s a love story Stephen King style.  Still, I wouldn’t doubt that she [Tabitha King] wouldn’t hesitating to chase King’s demons off in a terrifying place such as Boo’ya Moon.

Salem's Lot

I love old, old horror films.  I grew up watching scary movies with my mom, which developed my specific love of 80's slashers.  Seriously, Friday the 13th movies used to babysit me.  Anyway, while the original Night of the Living dead done untold things to my childish imagination, I would have to say that one of my favorite horror movies above even that was Horror Express.  Not too many people talk about that film, but it terrified the shit out of me as a kid.  Yet, I indulged in it every time I popped the cassette in.  Bleeding that film with films like 1977’s The Sentinel, and there’s no other way to express the creepy horror I received from reading Salem’s Lot.  It’s a combination of straight up horror, subtle horror, blood and guts, and that mystic religiously-themed (or occult-themed) psychological horror.  Then there was the vampire, Barlow, himself that King illustrated so beautifully that I was almost positive that nobody was going to make it out of that book alive.  Which I should add that I actually lost a tear when Susan and Father Callahan fell to Barlow.  Salem’s Lot had all the flavor I grew up loving about horror films.  And it is probably one of the few King books that I could say actually kind of scared me.


For some reason Stephen King’s Cell gets a lot of good and bad reviews.  Mostly bad I believe.  Something about his version of playing into zombie apocalyptic horror didn’t seem to move some readers.  I didn't care because I loved the book to pieces, mainly because it did a great job of conveying suspense and mystery.  And of course horror when you factor in "The Raggedy Man" and his plague of industrial science-twisted techno zombies.  Second to that is King’s cast of characters carrying the story.  While they were all capable and witty when it came to their survival, they glowed even more as doomed, cynical survivors.  That leads me to the most memorable character of the book... Alice.  Every once in awhile you come across a book where you’ll absolutely never forget a certain character and his or her exploits during the story.  For me, that character would be Alice.  Some may disagree, but I regard her as the true hero in Cell.  King gave her the spirit to be so.

Gerald's Game

If I ever make a comprehensive list of my favorite Stephen King books from Carrie to 60-something-plus Revival, the often underappreciated Gerald’s Game would easily land in my top three favorites.  Yes.  You heard me.  Gerald’s Game.  A book revolving around a single bedroom setting.  A narrow cast consisting of a dead body, a dog and a difficult woman handcuffed to a bed.  This was one of those early 90s books like Misery, yet it’s linked directly with Dolores Claiborne in which they both share the themes of abuse.  Nevertheless, this particular period seems to me where King sucked out many of his monsters from the past and placed them inside of his characters.  And tackling that on top of conceivable situations only heightened the intensity in those books.  Gerald’s Game was a good display of that intensity, as Jessie Burlingame, handcuffed to a bed, went to the rawest of human desperation to break out of her helpless situation.  That’s not to say that she didn’t have any motivation by a lurking presence known as "The Space Cowboy".  On so many different levels can I express how I found Gerald’s Game to be troubling, uncomfortable, and creepy.

On Writing

As much as I wanted to share how I felt about the Jockey in Duma Keys and how that book seems to bounce back to Bag of Bones, I’m not.  I made this list and will stick to my initial idea to add On Writing.  It is one of my favorite King books after all.  Besides, what better book to mention that encompasses where all the previous books listed have come from?  On Writing is part memoir part writing course--according to how you approach it.  I certainly took it from both standpoints considering I wanted to get near King’s inspirational story as well as his craft.  The book is really that intimate.  My favorite quote from the books states:

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.  There’s no way around these two things that I'm aware of, no shortcut.”

That’s all I got for today, folks.  I just wanted to share five King books that I really enjoyed while it’s on the top of my mind.  We're less than a month away before Mr. Mercedes releases and hopefully I can swallow it and throw my thoughts together in a blog post dedicated to the book--as well as Revival later this year.  I got this good mind to re-read some of my older King books (Gerald’s Game is suddenly looking really good) and post “final thoughts” on each.  In the meantime share your top five favorite Stephen King books or your favorite King book as a whole.  I’m interested in learning what and why a certain book appeals to different King readers.

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