Tuesday, May 27, 2008

THE STAND by Stephen King

The Book: Stephen King, THE STAND: The Complete and Uncut Edition. Doubleday, 1990 (third printing). Good book in good dust jacket; spine is cocked, jacket is creased, book shows signs of exposure to damp.
First read: 1990 (this version)
Owned since: 1990

You have your ideas about vacation reading, I have mine: a 1,140-page epic about a deadly virus and the end of the world. Read today, elements of THE STAND are eerily prescient; a mutating virus wipes out most of the world's population, and those who remain separate themselves into communities representing good and evil. Although most of the country is empty, it's still not big enough for the two of them. THE STAND takes its title from Bruce Springsteen's "Jungleland": "And in the quick of the night/They reach for their moment/And try to make an honest stand..."

I bought this book specifically to take on vacation, a week I spent on an island off the southern coast of North Carolina. The man I was dating at the time was unfamiliar with the jargon of beach rentals. He nearly blew a gasket when he discovered that "ocean view" did not mean "beachfront;" but we were across the street from the beach, which as far as I was concerned, was even better. Not as damp. People who grow up by the water don't feel romantic about it; I can't stand the smell of mildew or that feeling of constant damp and salt scum.

But I digress. Many Stephen King fans consider THE STAND his finest work. I'd have agreed with them, if he'd never published this version. I keep this copy to remind me that, quite often, less is more.

King explains in the foreword to this edition that it is an expansion of the version first published in 1978. Four hundred pages of the original manuscript were cut from that version, not for editorial reasons but because King's publishers felt that readers wouldn't buy a book that cost as much as they'd have to charge for it. For this edition, King put those 400 pages back, and made a few changes to update the story, which was set (at the time) in the near future of the early 1990s.

I bought this edition, I read it and I kept it and I don't begrudge the time or the money, because I admire Stephen King, and he's given me many hours of pleasure -- but if you haven't read this book, my advice would be to visit www.abebooks.com in search of the 1978 edition. It's long enough, at 700+ pages, but feels leaner and faster, and is not missing anything major. If you love it as much as I did, you might want to read this version later, in the same way you'd watch "Deleted Scenes" on a DVD.

In any event, read either version of the book before you watch any of the TV versions. The only reliable adaptor of Stephen King's work is William Goldman; if and when he decides to tackle THE STAND, I'll watch that one.

1 comment:

Anna said...

I loved this book! But I thought I bought it the year I graduated from college, which would have been 1987.I have long since given my copy away. I keep very few books because I seldom reread them. But I have every travel book I ever bought - even if it's hopelessly outdated (like Europe Through the Back Door by Rick Steves, printed in 1980 - which suggests only travelers checks and cash - no ATMS!). Everyone collects something!