Thursday, January 17, 2008

IT by Stephen King

The Book: Stephen King, IT. Viking, 1986. Book is missing dust jacket; fair condition, spine faded and slightly cocked, book shows signs of being exposed to damp.
First read: 1986
Owned since: 1986

I have never considered books a luxury. Even when I had no money at all -- as in 1986, when I lived in a basement and dined on homemade hummus because chickpeas were 65 cents a can -- I had enough to buy a book if I really wanted it. I really wanted this one, and although I don't remember buying it, I remember reading it at least a dozen times.

It's the epic story of seven friends who, as children, fight an unspeakable monster beneath the streets of their small Maine city, and grow up to fight the monster again when it returns 30 years later. It is a book about the loss and rediscovery of childhood friendship and imagination, about the power of believing in yourself and your friends and possibility itself.

One of the most memorable scenes in this book takes place in a Chinese restaurant, where six of the friends reunite as adults. At the end of the meal they each get a fortune cookie, and as they open the fortune cookies, each one finds the thing they fear most: a geyser of blood, a huge cricket, a giant eyeball, a mutant fly. It's a powerful scene not only because the characters themselves are scared, but because they see what scares their friends -- the point being that the worst fears are always and essentially personal.

People read horror novels for all sorts of reasons. I read them, I think, with the obscure idea that if I imagine something terrible, I can also imagine how I might react, and thus mentally prepare for whatever life might throw at me. You know, like evil clowns. Rabid St. Bernards. Giant prehistoric spiders living in the sewers...

Today's post is late and will have to serve for tomorrow's as well, because I'm off to Boston before the crack of dawn. Back Saturday.

What I Read This Week

Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, THE WHEEL OF DARKNESS. This thriller is an example of what I was just talking about. If I am ever on a luxury ocean liner with an ancient Tibetan demon, I will have a much better idea of what to do. Of course, I will never be as suave and debonair as Preston & Child's hero, the mysterious FBI agent Aloysius Pendergast.

P. G. Wodehouse, THANK YOU, JEEVES! I didn't even know this first Jeeves novel existed. This copy was Mom's, and Dad sent it to me a couple of months ago. Halfway into it, I discovered why it had fallen into obscurity: a major plot development finds Bertie Wooster and Sir Roderick Glossop running around a small English village in blackface, disguised as Negro minstrels. Even tolerance for other times and other customs makes that hard to laugh at, I'm afraid.


norby said...

Ah, IT, one of my favorites. I don't know how many times I've read this book. The pages of my paperback copy are a little soft around the edges.

Personally, I found the tv movie a little disappointing. But the book, oh yes.

Moira said...

Congratulations, Clair! You've been tagged with "The Thinking Blogger Award." Check it out at my site...

Anonymous said...

There is a moment in "Salem's Lot" where a young boy, half asleep, is confronted late at night by his bestfriend (now vampire) floating outside his window and pleading to be let in. Because the kid is a horror movie nut he knows what to do. He breaks a cross off one of his monster models, puts it up against the window and forces the evil creature to leave. He then crawls back into bed and goes back to sleep. Knowledge is power.

Richard B.