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text 2015-06-07 19:42
A Decade with King: 1995-2004

“But—this is important—tell me a story, one that has a beginning and a middle and an end where everything is explained. Because I deserve that. Don't shake the rattle of your ambiguity in my face. I deny its place. I repudiate its claim. I want a story.” From a Buick 8, by Stephen King

 

Welcome back, Constant Reader.

 

Prefatory Matters: Back in September 2014, I decided to reread Stephen King’s entire catalog, chronologically, by date of publication. Then, I went a bit further. I decided to complete this challenge in a single year. That’s a decade of King every three months. These posts will be a bit emotional, as they are my personal experiences with King’s work. For spoiler-laden reviews of each novel, you can click on the corresponding title. At the end, I will attempt to tie all books back into the Dark Tower using my own theories and facts King himself has verified.

 

Previous posts: 1974-1984 and 1985-1994

 

This, my fellow Constant Readers, is A Decade with King: 1995-2004

 

This is by and far my least favorite decade from Stephen King. Oddly enough, it was also one of the most tumultuous times in my life as well. King kicked cocaine and alcohol in this decade, but he also got turned into a speed bump/pretzel by a man who later overdosed on prescription pain medicine. He had a pretty shitty span of years there for a while, and so did his readership. I’m not going to bore you with why every book wasn’t up to par with his pervious two decades’ output. If you’ve read the last two posts, you know how this is done. I name a book and tell you the memory I have attached to that book. This decade isn’t pretty. King faced his demons and I faced mine. But through the best and the worst, he was a constant for me.

 

In 1998, a shitty friend introduced me to heroin. Yes, I have skeletons in my closet. No, I’m not sharing anymore than that about my habit. I made some bad decisions in my life and I’ve been trying to redeem myself ever since. During this time, I became friends with a man I would come to think of as a father figure. He mentored me and played editor and tried to fixed all my stupid mistakes both on and off the page (some of these mistakes I still make to this day), but I never appreciated him like I should have. He always said it was his pleasure, that I was going places, and the only person who would ever stand in my way would be myself. How right he was. If you follow me on social media you will know I’m prone to emotional outbursts and over-the-top reactions. Am I one-hundred percent mentally stable? Probably not. I’m sure I suffer from depression and several other undiagnosed neuroses I can’t pronounce properly, but I’m scared I’ll wind up like my father—doped to the gills on uppers so I can make it through the day and downers so I can sleep at night. I use the internet as my therapy couch. I rant and vent and make friends and enemies and it all helps me sleep at night.

 

Sadly, my mentor died in 2001, but I keep him alive in my heart. Every book is dedicated to him, even when it’s not.

 

In 2000, I decided to further my education, but heroin and college mix like oil and water, and I kept falling asleep in class. Finally, I dropped out. And then in May of 2001, I met a woman who would change my life. Suddenly I had a decision to make: this woman or the drugs. Some people claim that kicking heroin can be one of the hardest feats known to man. Love made it easy. I sweated and ticked and twitched and vomited for a solid week, but the thought of what I would lose if I kept chasing the dragon kept me from calling my connections. I married her the following May, 2002, and we’ve been together ever since. Our first child (our daughter Autumn) was born in April of 2005. I cut the cord and they placed her in the warmer and I reached in and she squeezed my finger and I was in love. My baby girl. My heart, taken from my chest and laid out before me. I’m not a religious man, but I finally knew what it was like to feel blessed.

 

And then we had an ectopic pregnancy in 2006. Some of you might know it as a tubal pregnancy. The baby doesn’t drop from the fallopian tube, and both the mother’s and the child’s lives are put at risk. That destroyed me. I knew that there was no choice to be made. Either they aborted the pregnancy or my wife would die. Still, it hurt. Holy fuck, did it ever feel like my chest was collapsing. I did my best to be there for my wife, but I still believe that we only made it through that patch because my wife is one of the strongest souls walking around on this revolving rock. Then again, I’m kinda biased.

 

In April of 2012, after six years of nothing, but not for lack of trying, my son Chris came along. I never wanted a boy. My relationship with my father was a terrible one, and I didn’t want my family name to live on and that was the only reason my own father wanted a boy so badly. Yeah, I realize how petty that sounds, but it’s the truth. I would have been perfectly happy with two girls. Christopher is a wonderful, bright, hilarious little man and I wouldn’t trade him for the world, but I look at him at least once a day and think: How much am I fucking up with you? My greatest fear is that he will someday grow to hate me like I hated my father.

 

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I told you all that so that I could tell you about these other memories without going on too long. Anyway, here we are, starting with…

 

Rose Madder reminds me of my oldest sister. This isn’t the first King book connected to her that I’ve mentioned, but it is the first that connects to her personal life. Her second husband liked to tool up on her, and it was around the time that his fists started flying and the sunglasses started showing up at night and the makeup got thicker that I read Rose Madder and wondered if my big sis might be going through the same shit as Rose. She moved away to Alabama with that wife-beating motherfucker, and we followed shortly afterward. I read Insomnia on that trip, as you might recall from my last post, and Rose Madder came next.

 

Hurricane Opal came through and wrecked my fucking world. The Green Mile reminds me of that, and you can read about why in my review. All of my reviews for these books are linked toward the end of this post. Feel free to check them out as you hop along.

 

Desperation reminds me of the only year I went to Christian summer camp. Our youth group leader was a fat guy named Bill. He had an orange beard and kinky orange hair. He was one of those guys that yank up his jeans only to have them slide right back down again. The kind of guy who needs suspenders, not a belt. Anyway, Bill caught me jacking off in my bunk. I was thinking about the pretty lady who’d played guitar and sang for us after dinner that night. That Old Rugged Cross indeed…I sure as shit wouldn’t have minded getting nailed. Bill told me what I was doing was completely natural but not to spill any seeds on any stones. That shit might be the death of me. I had no idea what he was talking about. It wasn’t until years later that I found out why that was so goddamn funny. When I got home from camp, Mom had Desperation waiting for me. She was so happy that it would be the first Stephen King novel she could let her son read because it seemed King had finally found Jesus. Mind you, Mom didn’t know I’d been stealing her King books out of the mail every month, so this was a special time in our household. Behold, the first Christian-friendly King novel! PRAISEJESUSAMENANDTHANKYOULORDLETUSEAT! Any of you who have read Desperation will now how inappropriate it is for a teen to read, what with all the sexy-time stuff the statues make the characters think about, but there was a strong Christian message about the power of faith in that book too, and Mom felt that message overrode the naughtiness. Excuse me while I laugh my ass off…

 

Wizard and Glass was the first Stephen King book to make me cry because it was so fucking terrible. I would go on to hate three other books before this decade of King’s career was over, but W&G started it all. 600 pages of romance garbage with 50 pages of denouement. I was livid. I told my mother, her being the King aficionado of the family at the time, that I was done with King. Fuck him for making me read all that nonsense only to end by ripping off The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. What a hack! The nerve! Fuck. King. Of course we all know…

 

I read Bag of Bones and hated it. It’s now one of my favorite King novels after my 2015 reread, but back in 1998 I was too busy trying to find out if we all really float (heroin assisted floating of course) to be bothered with what might be some of King’s best writing. It’s the one shining gem in a pond filled with a decade of scummy water. Let’s face it, King was on his way out. This should have been his final novel. I think, deep down, he knew it. He poured his very heart into this book, but I was too high to appreciate it. The only thing this book was good for was chopping up lines to snort. I lost that copy when my storage shed flooded. That’s probably for the best. The front and back of the hardcover were sliced to shit under the dustjacket (razorblades, God love ‘em, can make a mess of a book). Hey, at least I thought enough to remove the DJ before cutting up what amounted to twenty bucks a toot.

 

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon slid under my radar. I would love to tell you a great little story about my time with this book, but the first time I read it was in May of 2015, the year I am writing this post. I do recall losing a good friend while reading this one. They didn’t die. They just showed their true colors. Anyway, I always thought The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon was a novella and I was waiting on King to release it in a collection. Even the best of fans drop the ball from time to time. My bad.

 

If you’re still reading this, you’re probably a King fan. Even if you’re not, you probably know that the man was hit by a van in 1999. After they scrapped him off the side of the road and he suffered the tortures of physical therapy, he went home, where he tried to rebuild his life, his craft, and himself. During this time, he filled ledger after ledger with text describing the silly antics of a group of man-boys plagued by shit weasels. There are over 200 pages of fart jokes in Dreamcatcher. It truly is the product of a pain-addled mind. King wrote that entire book at his kitchen table because sitting at his desk and working at his typewriter was too painful. The result was… well, it was terrible. I don’t attribute any memories to this awful book. I read it, and then I reread it in 2005. Because I’m fucking stupid, that’s why. But not as stupid as I was when…

 

I reread From a Buick 8. I don’t want to talk about this book. If you want to read my thoughts on it, click on the review downstairs. Fuck this book. Fuck King for submitting it and Viking for publishing it. King is the only author with books on both my Best of list and my Worst of list. In my opinion, It is the greatest horror novel ever written, and From a Buick 8 is one of the most terrible.

 

Finally, we come to the last three Dark Tower novels. I used to be a Certified Nurse’s Assistant (more on that in my final post, coming in October), and I was working at Jackson Hospital in Montgomery, Alabama as a Nurse Support Tech (a fancy name for a CNA who’s been trained as a phlebotomist too). The night I heard about the final DT novels, I was on the floor, making my first rounds, getting vitals and tucking folks into bed, when my buddy Florence came bursting out of the break room. She hollered something unintelligible about Stephen King calling wolves, and disappeared back into the lounge. Of course I wanted to know why the fuck King was pulling a Jack London, so I left the Dina-Map (blood pressure machine) out in the hall and went in search of an explanation. The charge nurse on duty that evening—this was Foot, if you recall Foot from my first post—had come in with news about an interview she’d either read or seen (sorry, I can’t recall which) wherein King mentioned that the next book in the DT series would be entitled Calling Wolves, and would be followed shortly by two other books, completing the series. Well, we all know how badly Foot fucked up the name of Wolves of the Calla, but she was on point with the rest of her info. I reread the first four DT novels and bought each new book as they came out. It was grand. It was heartbreaking. It was the best series I had ever read. Too many horrible and happy memories of that time to mention them all (you’d be bored to tears if I did… hell, you might already be bored or gone off to read or review or play with your kittens and have left me sitting here talking to myself, but what’s new in my neighborhood, right?), but I will bring up one special memory. I was reading the coda in the back of The Dark Tower (I had also started a reread of Carrie in an attempt to do what I'm doing now; trying to read his entire catalog in a year, but I failed back then) when my wife told me she was pregnant with our first child. She was already two months along, but that did very little to dull my excitement. Also, I’d tried to tell her she was pregnant the month before (her breasts seemed to have grown by half, so I was either married to the Wonderful Inflatable Woman, or she was with child, because it wasn't plastic surgery), but she said she was still having her periods, so I dropped it. Then, about four weeks later, guess what? She told me I was gonna be a daddy. I knew it was a girl. I had always known it would be a girl. And I knew my life was going to change. Awesome, man. I could dig it. Then I hurt my back and some asshole in a gray dress shirt with black pinstripes and an ugly-as-balls charcoal-gray tie and a stupid beard told me I’d never be able to pick my daughter up out of her crib and carry her around or rock her to sleep. Hell, I might not even walk again, period, and I should be thankful I can still feel my legs and he’d see what he could do. He’d see… what he… could do…

 

But that’s a story for another time.

 

Ring Around the Tower:

 

This is where I will begin to repeat myself, so I will make it easy on all of us. All of the book reviews at the end of this post mention how each novel ties into the Dark Tower series. You can find even more information on my first two Decade with King posts (look upstairs, just after Prefatory Matters)

 

My theory is simple: King has stated that a certain number of his books tie into the Dark Tower universe. I say they all tie into that universe to create the King-verse. More exactly, every one of his books fits in with one of three works: ItThe Tommyknockers, and the Dark Tower series. The Grays, man. It's all about the Grays. I believe they come from the PRIM.

 

Some of you will notice that Hearts in Atlantis is nowhere to be found here. That’s because I still have no idea how to classify it. It’s not really a short story collection. It’s kinda a collection of novellas... kind of, but not in the same way books like Different Seasons and Four Past Midnight were. Hearts in Atlantis is a beautifully rendered masterpiece, and it deserves a special place in King’s catalog. I will speak about it one day. Until then, my apologies for not including it. And yeah, I know all the connections between it and the Dark Tower. That’s what makes it so damn special and magical. We'll talk on the subject eventually. 

 

Closing Thoughts:

 

I have received some questions as to why I’m not including any of the Bachman books in this project. I have a very specific reason for this. I consider the Bachman books to be trunk novels. They are books that King would have never released had it not been for this other personality he created. The tone of these seven novels is much different than King’s other work and they deserve their own project. According to King, all seven novels (The Long Walk, Rage, Roadwork, The Running Man, Thinner, and even the more recent Regulators and Blaze) were all written between 1966 and 1973. We’ll get to these, I promise, but they will likely have their own posts. Something like… Seven Years of Bachman. Or whatever.

 

Likewise, King's collaborations with Straub will be covered in a separate post once the third and final Jack Sawyer novel is released. If you're waiting for my thoughts on The Talisman and Black House, your waiting on King and Straub as well.

 

A final note on this project. I’ve said from the beginning that this journey has been about the novels. I have tried to keep up with the collections, but I’ve pretty much given up on getting through them all before October. I will, however, be finishing all King’s full-length ventures on time (ONLY 6 BOOKS LEFT!). If my King hangover is not too disastrous in size, I will finish and review all the collections by the end of the year (2015). I'm not fretting over the collections because not every story fits into my Dark Tower/King-verse theory. Many do, don't get me wrong, but there are ones where King simply wanted to stretch his literary muscles and does not mention anything from his other stories. I actually believe that Everything's Eventual was supposed to be his final collection, a scraping of the shit at the bottom of the barrel, as it were. The only good story in there is the Dark Tower tale, "The Little Sisters of Eluria", but that's just my opinion.

 

This has been so much fun. Thank you all for joining me. One more decade to go, which should be out some time in or before October, and I can finally relax. I'm trying to decide if I'm going to do Dean Koontz of Robert McCammon next. If you have any requests, drop them in the comments below. Dean Koontz's catalog will be a chore, as he's been hit or miss (mostly miss) for the past twenty years, but his books are mostly shorter than 400 pages and can be read in a day or two. McCammon is far more long winded, but his books are better as a rule. Other authors I would consider would be Richard Laymon, Dan Simmons, or John Saul.

 

Cool little side note. If I published all these Decade with King posts along with the individual reviews of each book, I’d have a novel over over 100,000 words on my hand. That might be an option, but I wouldn’t do it without King’s blessing. We’ll see.

 

Until next time, Constant Readers…

 

Reviews:

 

Rose Madder - June 1995

 

The Green Mile­ – Release first in serial format March – August 1996

 

Desperation – September 1996

 

The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass – November 1997

 

Bag of Bones – September 1998

 

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon – 1999

 

Dreamcatcher – March 2001

 

From a Buick 8 – September 2002

 

The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla – November 2003

 

The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah – June 2004

 

The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower – September 2004

 

Short Story Collections:

 

Nightmare and Dreamscapes 

 

Everything’s Eventual - Review Pending

 

Novella Collection:

 

Hearts in Atlantis (if you can truly call it a novella collection) Review Pending

 

Shortest Novel:

 

From a Buick 8

 

Personal Favorite:

 

Bag of Bones

 

1,000 Page Novel:

 

The final three Dark Tower Books, as I believe he wrote them all together, meaning for them to be read as one volume. If you want to argue a single-book case, the paperback version of the final book The Dark Tower, is 1074 pages long.

 

Dark Tower Novels:

 

The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla

 

The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah

 

The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower

 

(I would like to mention my fellow King aficionados Ruth and Cody. If I ever get King's approval to publish these, I'd like your help filling in any blanks I might have created in my theories. It would be a pleasure and an honor to work with you.)

 

 

 

 

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text 2015-03-23 02:14
A Decade with King: 1985-1994

"You've been here before..." Needful Things, by Stephen King

 

Welcome back, Constant Reader.

 

Prefatory Matters: Back in September 2014, I decided to reread Stephen King's entire catalog, chronologically, by date of publication. Then, I went a bit further. I decided to complete this challenge in a single year. That's a decade of King every three months. These posts will be a bit emotional, as they are my personal experiences with King's work. For spoiler-laden reviews of each novel, you can click on the corresponding title. At the end, I will attempt to tie all books back into the Dark Tower using my own theories and facts King himself has verified.

 

Previous posts: 1974-1984

 

This, my fellow Constant Readers, is A Decade with King: 1985-1994.

 

I'd like to take a moment and bring to light some patterns I've found in King's career. Every ten years, King releases a novel over a thousand words, a short story collection, a collection of novellas, and at least one Dark Tower book. Sometimes, one book will fall into two categories. In his third decade, King didn't release a single thousand-page novel, but he did release the final three Dark Tower novels, which were, altogether, over two-thousand-pages long and written consecutively, like one big novel. I think this counts, but I will let you decide. Other than that, there has been no deviation to this pattern. Not saying there's some kind of conspiracy behind this, just saying it's interesting. And I have to wonder whether or not it's intentional on King's part.

 

With the decade of King's work spanning 1985-1994, we step into an era wherein I actually remember King's books being published and the hullabaloo surrounding their releases. I remember the nonsensical line inside Waldenbooks at the San Bernardino mall for the release of It . Crazed fans speaking loudly about how it was King's longest book to date (you have to remember that The Stand was originally just over 800 pages when it released in 1978; the Complete and Uncut version would not be printed until 1990, and It came out in 1986). I was six years old at this point, and I recall, most vividly, the lady in front of us. She had epic bangs (epic even by 80's standards), and she had to shit. She refused to get out of line unless someone saved her place. No one would, so she just stood there, passing gas, funking up the place, until someone passed a complaint along and she was escorted to the bathroom. She never returned to the line. Yes, this actually happened. I might pay the bills with my fiction, but this story is true. I also remember the insanity the week after The Tommyknockers dropped. People everywhere were hot under the collar. Nobody liked that book. People felt ripped off, even more so than they felt with It (which, interestingly enough, was one of the most expensive books of its time due to its length). The Tommyknockers left many a fan shell shocked, and King fans didn't fully recover until Needful Things. I think his success with the latter book came from his return to Castle Rock. 

 

Now we move on to the section where I insert my personal memories of each book. Most people can hear a song and be transported to a certain moment in their lives. Me? I'm that way with King books. 

 

It reminds me of being a kid. I had many adventures around my small hometown, and most of them included a band of friends I would come to lose, one by one, over the years to drugs, violence, or a combination of both. Of that group, I'm the last one standing. I consider myself more the Ben Hanscom type, but there's a little Mike Hanlon in me as well. If anyone needs me, I'll be at the library. I've come to believe that every single Stephen King book can be explained using the Dark Tower series, The Tommyknockers, or this novel. But we'll talk more about that later. 

 

The Eyes of the Dragon is one of those books whose fans I will never understand. I honestly don't see what other Constant Readers see in this one. It's a stinker. One of King's worst. The writing is sophomoric. The plot is stolen from far greater tales. And... *sigh* ... never mind. If you want my review, click the link at the end of this review. Even though I hate this book with every thread of my being, it reminds me of my niece, Alana. Alana, if you ever read this, Uncle E. was reading this the night you were born. You were a very welcome distraction. I ended up finishing this book while at Glamis with your father. They made a bonfire out of Christmas trees. The resulting fireworks were amazing. This one ties in very loosely to the Dark Tower universe. More can be found out in my review. Links below.

 

The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three reminds me of the time we found out we had a pedophile living on our street and he finally went to jail. I had not read this book, but during this time in my life, I used to enjoy flipping through the pictures. Same goes for The Cycle of the Werewolf. I flipped through those two books so much that by the nineties they had pages falling out of them. Anyway, I attribute this one to the pedo because, after he was caught, his wife sold off all of his books. I bought this one with the money I'd been saving in my Folger's can. My mother had it already, but it was in the Great Book Closet due to the scene in Balthazar's office. Obvious Dark Tower tie-in is obvious.

 

Misery reminds me of a hilarious fangirl conversation that occurred between my mother and her best friend Andrita. My mother, being the go-with-the-flow gal that she's always been, was not upset in the least that they changed the hobbling scene from ax to sledgehammer for the Rob Reiner movie. Andrita was. They argued over this for almost two hours. I recall sitting on the porch steps of Andrita's home (she was a fan of Virginia Slims and chained smoked; I couldn't stand cigarettes back then because they made me sick to my stomach. Funnily enough I grew up to be a two-pack-a-day smoker. I quit last year). Andrita's son and his partner were barbecuing in the front yard, and I was watching them while listening to the jovial argument in the house. This was in the late 80s, maybe even as late as 1990, and I remember quite vividly, even then, thinking there was nothing wrong with two men being "together". Those two guys seemed so happy. My father made sure to tell me they were "fags" and "queers" during the car ride home, and how he'd kill me if I ever loved a man. Sometimes I wish I had been born gay just so I could have rubbed that shit in dad's face before he died. If you think me a horrible person for saying that, you didn't know my father. There's a Beam reference in Misery. Challenge yourself. See if you can find it.

 

The Tommyknockers was the last thing I watched with my middle sister before she moved to Illinois. I didn't see her again for ten years, and when we did reunite, we were, of course, completely different people. We don't get along so well these days. This totally-shit movie adaptation makes me remember a time when I was too young to understand just how much religion can change people... for the worse. More on Dark Tower tie-ins in the Ring Around the Tower section below.

 

The Dark Half brings to the mind the moment I realized my mother was not the infallible fountain of knowledge and experience I believed her to be. When it was revealed that King was Richard Bachman, my mom must've taken a sick day. I knew, my sisters knew... shit, I think even my dad knew. It was on the news every night for a week. It was the big controversy on everyone's lips. Remember when the literary world found out that Robert Galbraith was actually Rowling? Well, that didn't hold a candle to this. People felt wronged, slighted, betrayed. My mother kept right on going in blissful ignorance. Then she read this book. I was nine at the time. She closed it and proceeded to tell me and my father what a load of crap it was. No famous author could ever hide their identity so well. I couldn't believe it. Did I actually know something Mom didn't know? For real? For really real and realsies? When I told her, she balked. This was before the internet, so I had no proof on hand. Luckily, Andrita finally informed my mother I was right. It was a small victory, but a victory all the same. I do not tell you this to make you think I gloated over being smarter than my mother or any other nonsense like that. I tell you because, for the longest time, I thought my mother was perfect, godlike. I think I loved her even more when I found out she was human, just like me. This book is the beginning of an unofficial trilogy: The Dark Half, The Sun Dog, and Needful Things. If you plan on reading all three of these, I suggest doing so in order, you know, for maximum nerdy effect.

 

The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands reminds me of crashing a moped. I should never have been on the fucking thing. I crashed it straight away, no fucking about. I threw my leg over it, started the engine, pressed the gas, and drove right into the rear end of my neighbor's Oldsmobile. I was thrown up and over (imagine a stunt man rolling over the top of a vehicle in an action film, now take away all style and grace; that was me), but I managed to land on my feet at the front of the car; sprained both ankles in the process. Mom ran me to the ER, where I was significantly braced and reprimanded. During this time, one of the emergency room RNs asked my mother if she'd read King's newest book yet. She said, "No, I didn't even know it was out." The nurse, who knew my mother from her stint in maternity (in case you don't know, my mom is, was, and always will be a nurse; she's worked just about every position a person in that profession can) said "It's one of those Dark Wanderer novels." (Funny the shit you remember word for word, huh?) Afterward, I had to wait in the car outside of the San Bernardino mall while my mother ran in to grab The Waste Lands. Boy, was she fucking pissed at Blain. I think my mother could have boiled water on her cheeks after she finished that one. Once again, obvious Dark Tower tie-in is obvious...

 

Needful Things is probably the last Stephen King book I read when I started back through his catalog. The idea of Needful Things never really gelled with me. How could a book about a shop in a small New England town possibly warrant over 700 pages? I mean, how much fucking story can you shove into a premise like that? I was stupid, okay. Plum brain-damaged. Anyfuck, this book signifies my completion (the first time, anyway) of King's full catalog. After reading Needful Things in 2005 (2006?) I had successfully read everything the man had published, and vowed to never fall behind again. This is the first time King mentions "fifth business", which is a term he borrowed from another author. He returns to the idea of a character's "fifth business" in his 2014 novel Revival.

 

Gerald's Game. Oh, this one. I stumbled upon this one and fell in, pubic region first. This was another score from the King book club that my mother didn't know about me reading. I can remember reading whole sections of this book with an expression of WTF on my face. I was around 13, and though I'd become acquainted with my trouser buddy, I didn't really know what he was used for, other than shaking hands with... vigorously... four to twelve times a day... I certainly couldn't understand why anyone would want to be handcuffed while they... did it! The ending scared the bejeebuz out of me simply because I thought all that shit was in the main character's head. When I finally reread this one at the beginning of 2014, I realized that the novel has a bit of genius hidden inside. I also noted the various tie-ins to Dolores Claiborne, which went far over my head when I first read it. In case you don't know, Dolores Claiborne and Gerald's Game are siamese twins connected at the middle. Read both, back to back, starting with Dolores Claiborne for the best experience possible. This is strange, too, because Gerald's Game was published first. Oh, yeah, what does it remind me of? Well, in case you haven't figured it out yet, it reminds me of the time I figured out how to masturbate... It reminds me of masturbation... Yep. I was a very dehydrated teenager.

 

Dolores Claiborne held the spot of Scariest Novel E. Had Ever Read for quite some time. To this day, I can't think of many scarier circumstances than Dolores's husband trapped in that well. I've told the story about how I came across this book more than three dozen times in interviews and blog posts, so I will not reiterate it here. The short of it is, this book started me on my journey. It started my King fandom. I don't care if you don't consider it horror. It scared the shit out of me, and I loved every minute of it. I believe the moment Dolores and Jessie share is a connection allowed to them by the Beam, and I believe that is due to the Beam-Quake that partially destroyed Gilead. I have proof to back that up, but not until the final decade, friends and neighbors. Patience...

 

Insomnia. In 1994, my oldest sister moved to Alabama. A year later, she talked my mother into moving there too. I was uprooted, taken away from my school, my friends, and my much traveled city, to live in a new city surrounded by ignorance. I was actually made fun of by the rednecks in my new school because I loved reading. A group of corn-fed motherfuckers jumped me after class one time because I voted that we read over the weekend instead of taking homework home. My ribs were sore for three weeks. I'm lucky they didn't break them, considering I was too ashamed to tell my parents I'd gotten my ass kicked over goddamn literature I might never have seen a doctor. I hated Alabama and all it stood for. I still, to this day, hate living here. But I do. I do because my family is now "southerners". I do because my mother wants to be around her grandkids. I do because I don't know anything else. Anyfuck, I was reading this book when we moved. I read it during the drive across country. It's one of the most powerful memories I have of my youth. My life changed forever after this book. I grew up and hated every minute of it. This book reminds me of how my childhood died. 

 

 

Ring Around the Tower:

 

Spoilers throughout, possibly for every book King has ever written. You have been warned.

 

Fact: The Dark Tower is referenced in It and Insomnia. The Turtle and Roland, most notably. Thomas and Dennis of The Eyes of the Dragon are mentioned in The Waste Lands. There are references to things being "off the Beam" in Misery, Needful Things, The Dark Tower, and Insomnia.

 

Theory: So, how do The TommyknockersGerald's Game, and Dolores Claiborne factor into the Dark Tower? Well, let's play a game of Speculation, shall we?

 

I believe the aliens in The Tommyknockers (Pennywise is included with these, as he introduces himself as Mr. Gray in It) are actually an advanced race of beings that originated in the Prim, they were also referred to as the Great Old Ones, the beings that gave Mid-World the technology it once enjoyed. For more on the Prim and other Mid-World mythology, click HERE. In the Dark Tower series, the Crimson King wishes to release the creatures of the Prim once and for all to bring about destruction. I surmise that, from time to time, something escapes the Prim. Pennywise is one of these creatures, as are the little bald doctors from Insomnia. Now, Tower Aficionados will know that a Beam-Quake was responsible for the destruction of Gilead, and there is another one that occurs in Song of Susannah. Now, other beams snap in between, so why not during the eclipse that occurs during which Dolores Claiborne and Gerald's Game take place. When Dolores looks into the sky and makes the connection with young Jessie in Gerald's Game she sees a ripple in the sky, a section of unreality (not unlike what the sleepy passengers of flight 370 travel through in The Langoliers) in which she glimpses a young girl on her father's lap. What possible connection could these two have? None. They are just two people who happen to see each other through a momentary tear in reality. Bit of a stretch? Maybe. But I have more proof to come in later posts. 

 

Well, that's its for this decade. Thanks for travelling with me. Until next time, Constant Reader, this is where I cry off. Say thankee sai and goodnight.

 

Novels:

It - September 1986

The Eyes of the Dragon - February 1987

The Drawing of the Three - May 1987

Misery - June 1987

The Tommyknockers - November 1987

The Dark Half - October 1989

The Waste Lands - August 1991

Needful Things - October 1991

Gerald's Game - May 1992

Dolores Claiborne - November 1992

Insomnia - September 1994

 

Short Story Collection:

Skeleton Crew 

 

Novella Collection:

Four Past Midnight

 

Shortest Novel:

The Eyes of the Dragon

 

Personal Favorite:

It

 

1,000-Page Novel:

It

 

Dark Tower Novels:

The Drawing of the Three

The Waste Lands

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review 2015-02-21 03:46
Insomnia Review
Insomnia - Stephen King

You may skip ahead to Actual Review if you haven't a fuck to give about my experience while reading Stephen King's Insomnia and only want to hear about the book. Yes, I put personal shit in my reviews. I won't hold it against you if you want to get down to brass tax... tacks... screw it, you know what I mean. 

 

Prefatory Matters: I lost a twenty-year-old book during this reread. Most of you have the seen the picture of my gutted hardcover copy of Insomnia. If you haven’t I’ll include it at the end of this post as well. Total loss of containment, folks. About thirty pages loosed themselves from the glue and became individual souls. I have a 284 page section, and another section of about 400 pages, and a little bit in the middle that just said “Fuck it” and struck out for the territories. All in all, a sad day. Luckily, I have another one. Same edition. Same year. All’s good. Oh, and a quick warning to owners of first edition Insomnias: the glue the printing press used back in 1994 is faulty. This separation is a common problem with this edition of the book. Keep your copy on a shelf. Do not touch. This has been a public service announcement brought to you in part by the letter E.

 

This reread brought back loads of memories concerning a tumultuous time in my life. I'll explain more in A Decade with King: 1985-1994. I'm planning to create something timeless out of the remains of my copy. I'll share what comes of it. 

 

Actual Review: Insomnia is a difficult book to review without spoilers. Hell, the publisher didn’t even know what to do with the cover of this one so they just put King’s name on the front along with the title in alternating red and white. It’s even a difficult novel to categorize. I guess it’s horror. Maybe it’s speculative fiction… or perhaps lit fic… or maybe bizarro… Fuck if I know, dude. I will say this much, it’s a fun ride.

 

The only problem with this book is the requirement that you must have read the Dark Tower series to fully understand some of the plot. I mean, you can get through it without such knowledge, but it’s a bit confusing in places if you don’t have said knowledge. Roland Deschain is mentioned three times in this book. I tried to look at these sections as an outsider, as someone who has not read the DT books even though I have (numerous times), and I feel comfortable saying that the sections which mention Roland and the Tower would make zero sense to someone who is new to the King-verse. There is no context, nothing to draw off of. In fact, there is a paragraph toward the end of the book that says: “Worlds which had trembled in their orbits now steadied, and in one of those worlds, in a desert that was the apotheosis of all deserts, a man named Roland turned over in his bedroll and slept easily once again beneath the alien constellations.” Imagine, if you will, that you’ve never read a Dark Tower novel (or, shit, maybe you haven’t) and you just happened to pick up Insomnia because your buddy said, “Yo, kid, peep this thick-ass book. Looks legit good, right? I mean, who the fuck doesn’t love 800 pages cloaked in a sexy-as-fuck red and white jacket!?!?!?!?” If you’re that “kid”, that Roland fucker means absolutely nothing to you. It seems pointless. Sad panda.

 

But for me? Son, I live for that shit. I love the DT references, all of them. I dig that shit in my heart of hearts. I’m the asshole in the coffee shop that won’t shut up with the “Yeah, but did you catch this bit?” comments. I know, I know, I hate me too, but it’s the truth. As far as I am aware there is no other author who has created a vaster universe, one that crosses every genre line in the business. King has written it all, and everything he writes puzzle-pieces back together in some way. Dig it, man. Or, you know, don’t dig it. But I’m still going to nerd out whenever I stumble across the Beam.

 

Yes, this book is a little longwinded in spots, but what King book isn’t? (Dolores Claiborne) Yes, it references the Dark Tower, but what King novel doesn’t? (Mr. Mercedes … seriously, so far it’s the only novel of his that doesn’t reference Mid-World in some way.) But it’s also one of his most imaginative stories. I kinda feel that Insomnia is an 800-page wink-and-nod to the King-verse fans out there. Shit, dudettes, even the shoe Gage loses in Pet Semetery is in this book, not to mention entire ass-loads of It, Derry, and Pennywise references. Does all this bog down the story? No. Are there going to be parts you don’t understand if you haven’t read Roland’s quest or trip-trapped through the story of The Loser’s Club? Yes. Does any of this detract from the fun of this book? Nope. Not in the least. There is a well-plotted, expertly-honed story under all the referencing and fan service. This is King doing what King does best. Entertaining the people who bought tickets to see him in concert.

I will be skipping my normal Hidden Gems and Obvious Tie-Ins sections because I’m saving them for my A Decade with King: 1985-1994 post, which will be out April 1, 2015. There’s a lot this time around, and I don’t wanna type it twice. But I will leave you with this food for thought:

 

Spoilers for several King books. Click “view spoiler” at your own risk:

Are the likes of Abra Stone and Dan Torrance and Johnny Smith on the same level of the tower that Ralph and Lois visit in Insomnia? Does Danny help people die in Doctor Sleep by allowing their aura to pass into him? (I just got goosebumps. You didn’t need to know that, but that’s how hard I fanboy.)

(spoiler show)

 

In summation: A King novel for King fans. I don’t suggest anyone start with Insomnia, but I recommend it to all fans of the Dark Tower series and It. A mashup of everything fans love and hate about King rolled up in a Derry burrito and seasoned with Mid-World.

 

Final Judgment: Worth losing sleep over.

 

 

 

 

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text 2015-02-20 22:46
Reading progress update: I've read 787 out of 787 pages.
Insomnia - Stephen King

Well that's another decade of King novels down. From It to Insomnia in 51 days. Now, to see if I can fit in Skeleton Crew and Four Past Midnight before April 1. Shouldn't be a problem, but I have at least six other books I want to read before I tackle those. 

 

I'll review this one later. For now, I have supper to cook. See you guys after a while. 

 

 

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review 2015-01-12 13:32
The Eyes of the Dragon Review
The Eyes of the Dragon (School & Library Binding) - Stephen King

I understand that this was many readers' first King book. I understand that this book rests in the hearts of thousands. I understand this is meant to be a fairytale, and that I am not the target audience. I understand all that and I still choose to hate this book. How'd Bobby Brown put it... "It's my prerogative."

The Eyes of the Dragon was slightly more bearable this go around because Laddie from Perfect Strangers read it to me, and I highly suggest you take the same route when/if you decide to tackle this lesser-known fantasy novel. Bronson Pinchot's performance is fantastic, and lends entertainment value to some of the most boring shit King has ever written. There are only three major scenes in the book, and the plot doesn't even begin until a hundred pages in. That would be fine if this book was six- or seven-hundred pages long. But no. It's 380 pages long, with artwork and big-ass font to make the book seem thicker than it actually is.

This book ties in very loosely to the Dark Tower books. Delain is mentioned in several DT novels, and Thomas and Dennis's names are dropped in The Waste Lands, but overall, I feel that this one happens outside of Mid-World, in perhaps another inscape that resides off to the side, much like our own whens.

In summation: Not quite Young Adult because there's no trials-of-youth theme and nowhere near the quality of King's adult fiction, The Eyes of the Dragon is pretty much impossible to categorize in the King-verse. Recommended to King completionists only.

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