Joyland

Mar. 5th, 2017 10:00 pm
alfvaen: floatyhead (Default)
[personal profile] alfvaen
I avoided horror movies and books when I was younger.   I had no particular urge to scare myself on purpose; my imagination could conjure up enough monsters hiding in the dark of my bedroom at night, thank you.  And mainly what I knew about Stephen King was that he was a horror writer, so I knew I was going to avoid him.

I can't quite remember which came first.  At some point I received a paperback copy of The Bachman Books, and at some point my mother had a hardcover copy of the unabridged version of The Stand.  I think it was the Bachman Books I read first, having been assured that they weren't horror.  Also, I was a teenager by this point, so maybe I thought I could handle it if they were.  Anyway, I started reading "Rage", the first story/novel/novella/whatever in the book, and was immediately sucked in.  It still sometimes happens to me if I happen to open it up, and now it makes me want to reread it again.  I was similarly, if less extremely, captivated by "The Long Walk", and to a lesser extent "The Running Man".  "Roadwork" was okay, but not really a standout.

And as for The Stand...well, I read that one too, and discovered that it also wasn't really horror but really some sort of science fiction, really, with its bioengineered virus...but there was something else to it, that weird Flagg guy and the way that the forces of good and evil seemed to align themselves, as if there was something supernatural going on as well.  I enjoyed it mightily, but I was still pretty sure that all those other books of his--Cujo, Christine, Carrie (the three C's, as I always thought of them), The Dead Zone, It, Pet Sematary, Firestarter, etc. were all definitely horror and to be avoided.

Oh, yeah, and I guess I did read one of his short stories at some point, "The Monkey", which was in some Fantasy Annual anthology edited by Terry Carr.  Creepy windup monkey toy that killed people.  I supposed that it was technically fantasy, but not the interesting kind, like Tolkien or Piers Anthony or Glen Cook or anything.  And didn't do much to disassociate him with horror in my mind.  I believe I also read The Gunslinger when I was in high school, but I didn't think much of it at the time.

Then I started dating this girl (whom I later married) who was also big into books, and not really into horror, and she encouraged me to read The Dead Zone and Firestarter.  After that I realized that maybe this King guy was okay after all, because I'd pretty much liked everything of his that I'd read.  And so I went on to read everything of his that I could get my hands on.

I always read lots of fantasy & science fiction, which as genres were at least reasonably clear-cut.  It was just a question of how you explained it.  Horror I had trouble with for a while, until I realized that part of what makes the genre is the fact that it's not clear-cut.  In horror, you may not know for a while, if ever, whether or not the killer is doing it because aliens are beaming signals into his brain, or he's possessed by a demon, or because he's just a regular psychopath.  That frustrated me for a while, particular when the explanation was purely mundane (he's just crazy!), but I think I've got a handle on it now.  So I enjoyed some of the more psychological books, like The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon and Gerald's Game.

I'm not a fan of the downbeat horror, where the protagonist comes to a bad end, which is more found in his earlier works.  'Salem's Lot, Pet Sematary, The Shining, none of them among my favourites.  And some of the others just seem a little limp, like around the time he was considering retiring--Dreamcatcher, for instance, or From A Buick 8The Talisman didn't really work for me either, but I can blame Peter Straub for that if I have to.

I recently finished up a reread of the Dark Tower series.  I did eventually go on to The Drawing of The Three, in like 2004, when the series was practically done, and after that gobbled up the rest of them.  It's sprawling, it's indulgent (after all, saving the author's life is the goal of the characters at some point, even if they don't personally like him that much), it may even get a little repetitive, but it's great.  It was interesting on reread to note that while I bogged down in the long flashback in Wizard And Glass the first time through, it didn't bother me nearly as much the second time, and instead I found that Wolves of The Calla dragged a bit in the middle.  Those and the Bachman Books are the only books of his that I've reread to this point.

So King had a certain amount of a head start, and he's still churning them out, so I've got my work cut out for me trying to catch up to him.  I've read most of his books up to The Dark Tower, with the exception of Thinner, The Eyes of The Dragon, Dolores Claiborne (though I've seen the movie), Black House (as I mentioned, I wasn't a big fan of The Talisman), and a lot of his earlier collections (Skeleton Crew, Night Shift, and Different Seasons), or Everything's Eventual either.  So I'm getting there.  He seems to produce one or two books a year, and I read about two or three of his books a year, and I'm about 23 books behind...so I may not catch up with him before he dies, but maybe before I do.

There have been a lot of movies made from his books and stories, of course, but I haven't seen that many of them.  I did see "Dolores Claiborne", as I mentioned, though I'm not sure I was even really aware it was Stephen King at the time.  I saw "The Stand" TV miniseries, as well as "The Green Mile", and...maybe "The Dead Zone"?  (If I had, it would be the movie with Christopher Walken, not the later TV series with Anthony Michael Hall).  I'm still pretty dubious about horror movies, because the scary visual images are much more likely to torment me than textual ones.   I am curious about "The Shining", though, which seems to have become a classic, and definitely if there's a Dark Tower adaptation...

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