Monday, November 19, 2012

Stephen King's Influence

They all float down here.
- Pennywise

A fellow blogger got me thinking about Stephen King this morning and how influential his work has been in my life. Whether movies, books, or television, King's visions have seeped into my subconscious and intertwined with my memories. His imagination is one to admire, even if you're not a fan, and his skill in the craft is one I hold on a pedestal, especially when I consider how prolific an author he is, producing a book every few months (take note George R.R. Martin). My copy of On Writing is battered from referencing it, and I've always aspired to write characters as fleshed and interesting as Flagg or Father Callahan. Even when King drops a corny line or a goofball joke, I enjoy it.

Fun fact: King's wife pulled a half-finished "Carrie" out of the garbage and urged him to finish.

I started reading King in high school, when I received a paperback edition of The Shining for Christmas. Until then, I had only experienced his movies, and as a kid, some of them downright terrified me. As someone that was already terrified of lakes and oceans, the part in Creepshow 2 about the oily blob in the lake that picked off swimmers one by one as they were stuck on a dock left me petrified. Then there was The Shining; though Kubrick took liberties with the source material, I'd be a liar if I said the twins didn't give me chills to this day. My mom still has trouble watching anything with Jack Nicholson. She says it has to do with his eyes. She has also mentioned that she had to leave the room during the maze scene and doesn't know how the film ended...thirty years later.

Currently, my three favorite King movies are The Mist, Shawshank Redemption, and 1408, which are all based on novellas. I find his shorter works translate better to film because there's no need for them to be trimmed. They manage to capture the characters and story and have room to be expanded upon, whereas the 1,000 page The Stand would be a nightmare to fit into two hours. I've read that's exactly the problem Ben "You Were the Bomb in Phantoms" Affleck is having, and I don't blame him.

I can't say everything I've read by King was a home run (I used Bag of Bones as an Ambien), but when a novel of his hits me, it's out of the stadium. For years, I gobbled up anything related to the Dark Tower series, including short story collections. There were a lot of spin-offs and crossovers. In college, I read The Gunslinger for a third time, as it was required for a course, and like any good book, each read is different. Each time I sat down and ventured with Roland Deschain I was a different person. I'd changed, thus what I took from the story changed. That's not to say I didn't struggle through some of the Dark Tower novels in the series. Some were stronger than others--I detested King putting himself in the story, and I wasn't keen on the overall climax. A Drawing of the Three wasn't to my liking either, yet Wolves of Calla, which was a King version of Seven Samurai/Magnificent Seven, Wizard and Glass, a glimpse into Roland's past, and the original Gunslinger were top notch.

Every bit of his extensive work is tied to a memory: rewinding Halloran taking an ax to his chest over and over in high school, because it made the girls we were with scream and grab onto us, making stove-top popcorn in anticipation of the new installment of It, covering our buddy with popcorn when he fell asleep during the midnight showing of Apt Pupil, gawking and rummaging through my neighbor's bookshelf with the glass door that contained a Stephen King collection, sprinting home in the dark after watching Cujo, reading The Talisman by the heating vent in my Somerville apartment.

So many memories; too many to fully list.



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