Friday, January 3, 2014

Stephen King Plays with Sharp Pencils


Taking a vacation gives me the time and a calm mindset to read.  It’s not always an escape I use, but this break led me to take up Stephen King’s The Dark Half.  It was a second attempt and I’m proud to report I finished it.   Why did it take two attempts?  It could be a number of reasons, my mind was not prepared for a King adventure, the story did not grab me, but the second attempt clutched me early to keep me turning the pages and appreciating a master story teller.  The Dark Half is one of his older works, but it’s amusing to think what gave him the idea to write it.  If you’re not a King fan you can skip down a couple of paragraphs.  If you have not read it and want to read it, stop reading from this sentence and pick up the book before you have to go back to the daily grind of work or school.  King wrote and published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman.  Back in the seventies he wanted to see if the Bachman books would sell without have King attached to it.  The first book in his estimate sold “poorly, only twenty thousand.”  Which is not bad, but far off the mark of a King novel.  I think his point was to prove success is plain dumb luck.  I heard Carver mention the same, if it was not luck when the editor for Esquire picked up his short at that right time, in the right frame of mind, his life may have turned out differently.  Eventually Bachman was discovered and King admitted he was RB.  The Dark Half has some incredible passages and as a so called writer myself I find myself thinking, I could use this trick or here he goes again, introducing another character, why?  Spare me.  The ending of book is freakish.  He lost me to that point when I was thinking this book will go down as a favorite.  There was another scene which had me scratching my head (not my forehead) when Thed’s wife thinks of the potential of his husband and Starks writing another book together, instead rationally her first thought would be, this guy can kill me and my twins.  But to have such a gift to carry the reader and Mr. King truly appreciates the reader’s time – he values it – is like watching a master at work.  The book flows from scene to scene effortlessly, and the brutality is; disturbing.  I hope you read it when you have the time. 

This is the second paragraph, thanking you for skipping down.  I’ve always felt a twinge when I am reading a King book.  Why?  It’s the literary snob in me.  But to be blunt, I have that inner appreciation for King and tell myself - fuck the snob, learn, appreciate and take notes, King can write.  When I was working on a merchant ship - way back when - I read many books which Ali would send to me.  Celine, Miller, Selby, and others, but I had nothing else except for King’s Misery which was going to be published as Bachman.   Reluctantly I picked it up, it was a beat up copy, worn pages, creased spine. The book was an eye opener and since then I’ve read Carrie, Cell (not great) Blaze (Bachman)  King wrote the introduction and what else, oh yeah, Ma bought me a copy of his book On Writing which inspired me to get back to writing. If you’re considering writing, please run to the nearest book store and buy a copy or download it on your device.  I like to read books not machines.   I know there’s more.   This past summer I picked up his book, The Colorado Kid and have to say was not impressed with the master.  It’s going to happen from time to time.  The story was told through dialogue and I felt he was being smug with the reader.  Duma Key was lent to me and I understand is great, and which I will start after I post this is another second attempt. I looked, and can see I pushed the dust jacket in on page 7 and left it there.  I’ll let you know how it is.  For Christmas Ali bought me a copy of Doctor Sleep, but I want to read The Shining first.  I have my work cut out for me this year. 

Typically when I appreciate a writer or band I try to learn more about them and especially their influences, I really don’t know who influenced King though he mentions the writer Shane Stevens in the credits at the end of The Dark Half, might be worth looking into his work.  I also want to hear the Dylan song which was referenced in The Dark Half; John Wesley Harding and suddenly have a strange aversion to sparrows.  You’d get it when you read The Dark Half.  Here’s to pencils, displaced twins and decayed flesh.

                What are your favorite King books and can you tell me who are his influences?

Thank you for reading this.  Happy New Year!

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