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.


Anonymous said...

What's going ahn man? Ironically for me, The Dark Half was where I gave up on him BITD. But....I can't remember--didn't I wholeheartedly rec THE DOME to you? Way better than the movie and supposedly a germ of an idea back in the 70s for him. Stupid me, I didn't even make the connection just thought it was a killer idea. Either way, could not put that sucker down--loved it.

ps Tien read the first two Larsson and I'm starting them myself. Whoop de doo!


Shelley said...

Well, at least I never have to worry about being accused of having my plot ripped off from Homer and Marge! What a barb! D'oh!

Nyarlathotep said...

Yeah, Nick, you did recommend The Dome-my Mom liked it a lot too! I don't doubt it's good and interesting, but can't hack the 1000 pages right now. Maybe next summer!

Dark Half--funny, I picked that one up because you recommended it to me back in the early days at Borders when I was thinking of reading a King again. It's just OK, but it was refreshing in the middle of Larrson to read about a supernatural killer as opposed to "real" killers with supernatural abilities.

Hope all is well!

Anonymous said...

I read the dark Half when I worked at the library in High School. I liked it, but it was one of the last ones I read from him for years and years and years. He had a collection of shorts that came out a few years ago (Hearts in Atlantis, I think), and I picked it up for a long flight too (ha!) and actually really did enjoy it. I regretted passing on so many of them in the meantime, but they were so long and lumbering, and usually WERE so dumb. But MAN, the ones that scare me, still scare me to think about to this day. Sometimes DEAD is Better.

:) jv