I grew up reading Stephen King on summer nights, a guilty pleasure for a future English major. The stories were gripping, the pacing relentless, and the terrors real and lasting.
Then, I stopped reading Stephen King. Sure, occasionally, I’d run into his works in the bookstore, but I figured he had been a phase for me, so I didn’t revisit. Then, I started to catch the column he wrote for years in Entertainment Weekly, and it was always good and honest and smart.
But, still, I didn’t read Stephen King anymore.
I heard on the news when he was hit by a car walking alongside the road. I knew he had morphed into Richard Bachman for a time. I knew his books were still being turned into some great movies. But, still, I didn’t read Stephen King.
Until last week, when I devoured two Stephen King novels greedily.
The first, “11/22/63,” came over me slowly but inexorably. The premise seemed trite at first — time travel, back to save Kennedy — but clever little conceits and details and paradoxes made it feel incredibly fresh and real. Then there were the characters, who were earthy and complex, and who developed along with the story. And finally, there was the writing, pinging between stylized vernacular and literary phrasing effortlessly, an experience not unlike reading Plato and Dashiell Hammett after they’ve been put through a blender. Soon, I was staying up late, getting up early, and making little reading nests throughout the day.
And thank heavens for e-books, because once “11/22/63” was done and I’d spent a few hours coming down from the high it created, I had the equivalent of the DTs for readers. But, with only a few clicks, I was into “Under the Dome” in a matter of minutes.
Aside — it’s funny reading on an e-reader because nobody knows how big the book is, even you. Others in my family were reading books at the same time, and I looked like a plodding fool as my percentage-complete stayed on the low side of 50 while they sprinted through their novels. When I looked up to see that “11/22/63” comes in at 849 pages and “Under the Dome” at more than 1,100, it suddenly made sense why those with 200-page books were lapping me.
Sometimes, the fun of having a blog is that you get to write something spontaneous. I’m indulging myself today. Sue me. But I’m reading Stephen King, and I might not get around to answering your summons for a while. Sorry.