Cover of "Under the Dome: A Novel"
Cover of Under the Dome: A Novel

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.

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Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson is the CEO of RedLink and RedLink Network, a past-President of SSP, and the founder of the Scholarly Kitchen. He has worked as Publisher at AAAS/Science, CEO/Publisher of JBJS, Inc., a publishing executive at the Massachusetts Medical Society, Publishing Director of the New England Journal of Medicine, and Director of Medical Journals at the American Academy of Pediatrics. Opinions on social media or blogs are his own.


13 Thoughts on "Rediscovering Stephen King — Two Thousand Pages of Exhilaration"

I don’t know about e-readers, just can’t take to them, but S. King? To me, his greatest work will always be the Black Tower series.

“The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.” Is a sentence which drew me back into King’s world after many years away. Excited to hear “Under the dome” is being adapted for TV, with Brian K. Vaughn (writer of “Y the Last Man” and “Saga”) involved.

I read Under the Dome from an actual book that I had to rest on a pillow! It was huge. I thoroughly enjoyed it though. They are making it a television series too, I hear. Thanks for the post!

This post could have been written by me, except for a couple of small differences. I was a fan of Stephen King many years ago but hadn’t read anything by him in close to 20 years. Then a long commute made tolerable by long audiobooks made me give “Under the Dome” a try; “11/22/63” followed. I couldn’t “put them down,” and would find myself taking the long way to work and home. I too have a renewed appreciation for King!

Because I don’t often enjoy fiction, the only Stephen King I have read is _On Writing_. It is a charming little book, both memoir and advice, and in it he talks a bit about growing up, his family, the accident, his alcoholism, and more. I may never read his novels, but in reading this book I came to appreciate the man and the writer.

FWIW, “Misery” is absolutely full of meta-writing and meta-fiction; that might be interesting.

I’m in a similar boat, having read a lot of King in my youth, but have had a hard time going back. I had to drop “11/22/63” about halfway through–not from lack of interest but because it hews too closely to King’s standard formula, creating rich characters, making the reader care about the characters, then doing terrible, terrible things to those characters. His skill remains evident, I just no longer enjoy being a spectator to all the suffering. Makes me too tense.

I will though, echo others here and proclaim my allegiance to King’s masterwork, The Dark Tower series. It’s been a steady companion in my life (apart from a few gaps), from the very first book read as a teenager in the early 1980’s through the latest book just last year. It’s epic on the scale of something like the Lord of the Rings and highly recommended.

I have two left to go in the Dark Tower series but this blog post has likely catalyzed me picking them up (on the shelf waiting since before my Kindle arrived)….

I too was a fan of the Dark Tower series but there are two on my shelf that I have not yet read…received before the Kindle ended up in my bag. This post prompts me to return to them and finish the series….

Just yesterday stephen king’s ‘the green mile’ – the movie – was on tv here in Burundi. Have not read the book, but the flick was very good and would be nice to have access to his ebooks …

As with John Le Carre, the pleasure people take in King’s books causes us to overlook his mastery of writing.

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