On Second Thought

There’s an interesting interview with Stephen King by John Marks over at Salon. It’s inspired by the 30th anniversary of The Stand this year, which Marks says was a hugely influential book for him, and so they talk a lot about that, and a lot about doom and religion. Here’s a snippet of King on a possible afterlife:

Think of it this way. I think of the brain as this great, big, crenelated library with many rooms, billions and billions of books, rooms without number, but at the very end of all those rooms, there’s a little tiny box that says "pull lever in case of emergency,"  because that’s the door out, and when you go out, you get pretty much what you expected, because some chemical in your brain is programmed to give you that particular dream at the very end. If you’re expecting [H.P. Lovecraft’s] Yogg Sothoth, there he’ll be, along with the 900 blind fiddlers, or whatever it is.

Note to self: Do not think about Yogg Sothoth during the for-good lights out. Also, I’ve never actually read The Stand, though I read a lot lot lot of King growing up. Should I read it?

p.s. I’m currently reading Majorie Liu’s The Iron Hunt, and enjoying it greatly. I’m pretty sure I’m only reading mass markets where good vanquishes evil until the election’s over. And sometime after that I’m going to do a round-up of which of the urban fantasy/paranormal romance stuff I’ve liked best… I definitely don’t feel that the best of these books are getting their due. Feel free to leave your own recs along those lines in the comments.

11 thoughts on “On Second Thought”

  1. What lovely synchronicity. I just finished “Pet Sematary” today, my first Stephen King novel, and now here’s this interview. My favorite bit, I think, was the way he spoke of myths suggesting a difficult moral path through life.

  2. The Stand is good, and in parts, it’s great — when it works best, it’s as good as he’s ever been (which I think is really damn good). I would recommend reading the original shorter version, though — while the uncut version adds one really interesting character, overall it’s a flabbier, less well-paced book. (Or be like me and read both versions for compare and contrast!)
    But when you get to the ending… Well. It’s a Stephen King novel, and his strength has never been endings.

  3. Yes, yes you should read it. The uncut version doesn’t add enough to make it worthwhile. In high school I read this and “The Shining” with Niven and Pournelle’s “Lucifer’s Hammer” in between. Then Reagan was elected and, hell, we were sure the world was going to end one way or another so these books ceased to be scary!

  4. Marjorie Liu is my favorite paranormal romance author – maybe because she started out in sf/fantasy (and went to Clarion) before going into romance, so there’s more of a fantasy mindset behind her books than is the case with most of them? In a lot of the other parranormals I’ve read (although definitely not all), the fantasy element seems like just an excuse for the romance, but in her books it feels just as important and well thought-through as the relationships between the characters.

  5. I went on a huge King kick in middle school (I am from Maine, after all!) and I remember faking sick one day because I was 100 pages into The Stand and I wanted to keep reading.
    I’m with Tim — stick with the short version and the ending is weak. (But, yeah. That’s usually the way it goes with SK.)

  6. I’ve noticed that too, Steph. When it’s handled well, it doesn’t bother me (when it’s not, I keep trying to figure out why they did it _that_ way) — ala the Ilona Andrews books, which have the best world-building of any I’ve read so far. And I think you’re absolutely right about Liu; this one’s wonderful thus far.
    Thanks for The Stand recs, guys. It turns out C has read it a bunch of times too, and the unedited version. What did you think of Pet Sematery coming back to it, Chris? The first King I remember reading was the story collection with The Mist in it. I always found the endings to the best of the short stories better than the ones to the best of the novels. (He’s like Jonathan Carroll in that way, isn’t he? There’s someone else I want a new novel from ASAP.)

  7. Actually, there was no coming back to Pet Sematary, this was the first time I’d read it, or any other Stephen King novel. Growing up, King was the only author my mom came near to banning(she dislikes being scared) and I guess because of that, and my own tastes for the longest time shying away from horror–except when it was called Buffy–I just never got around to King besides reading a few short stories and loving his novellas in “Different Seasons.”
    What you and Tim said about his endings is basically how I felt about the book. King writes so well of childhood, grief, and death, and there’s some truly scary stuff attached to these things, but once he got to the end and the monster came on stage, everything had a bit more perfunctory air to it, like yes, here’s the bit where we kill this one and now we kill this one and cue the ominous ending. But all the bits before those final ones, when King just wrote about family and fatherhood and the evil stayed more or less shadowy, it thrilled me. Also, that cat was damn creepy.

  8. Gwenda, you do know that Jonathan Carroll’s new novel is out this month, right? “The Ghost in Love.” Not his best, but serviceable. There’s a review of it at the end of this column.
    As for “The Stand,” I’ve read it cover to cover at least four times. I’m not sure I’ll ever do that again, but there are scenes I will go back to every six months or so, just to marvel at them and wonder “How the hell did he do that?” I’m thinking of Frannie and her mom, Larry in the tunnel, the introduction of Randall Flagg, Mother Abigail and the weasels. You’ll see…

  9. I kind of think reading “The Stand” is just one of those things you have to do in life – if you want to be a good American and all that. (Forgive my election humor… 🙂
    I read it years ago and thought it was fine (bits of it truly fantastic as others have said) but it was “It” that really made me love King. And the ending of that one was/is one of the greatest literary disappointments of my life. But there are parts in there that are truly spectacular and I return to it every year just to remind myself of how good a writer can be.
    Also I loved “The Shining” and thought that ending was actually okay (and the book was better than the movie which is saying alot.)

  10. Thanks for the reminder about “The Ghost in Love” — I’d completely forgotten it. Oh, for another “Bones of the Moon.”

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