Wednesday, August 04, 2010
I don't remember what age I was when I first read Stephen King. I'd seen bits and pieces of the Tobe Hooper-helmed Salem's Lot miniseries on TV several times (I think it was on every Halloween for a while there in the '70s) before I was 10, and I'd seen commercials for Kubrick's The Shining. But I don't think I actually read King until I was 13 or so. And boy, did I read him: I read all of him. Those early books--Carrie, Salem's Lot, The Dead Zone, The Shining, The Stand, Pet Cemetery, Christine--really fired up the imagination. King was good at writing ordinary people and dropping them into deep shit. And his terrors always came with quirky humor as a result.
But then I got to high school and King's imagination seemed spent. It was the stupidest, longest fucking piece of trash I'd endured, and as bad as It was, The Tommyknockers was worse. There was a time when King's ideas were ripped off from someplace else, but it was ok (Christine was better than that movie The Car after all). But scary clowns and alien invasion plots were second-rate rip-offs of old Outer Limits episodes. How could a guy capable of something so elegantly creepy as Misery write so much pure dreck?
So, even though King turned me into a big reader, I abandoned him more than 20 years ago. Occasionally I'd miss him, and would re-read something (I discovered in this way that The Shining is actually pretty bad too), and once I even bought a "current" King bestseller, called Desperation, for a long flight to Singapore. Desperation was a stinky turd of a novel, re-affirming my view that King was washed up.
And now, 13 years later, I pick up The Dark Half for the first time, and the old magic was there for at least a while. Yeah, King was ripping off old material again (the B-flick Basket Case and The Birds), but there's a certain depth to this work beyond the mere horror tale. King is struggling with his output, his material, his interest in the macabre, and the moral questions which inevitably come to a thoughtful artist's mind re: responsiblity to the public and society. I thought it was fun.
Why did I choose The Dark Half? Because I couldn't bear to read his latest, which is 1000 pages, and the plot idea is totally ripped off from The Simpsons Movie.