I kind of feel ick today. I have an inkling what’s wrong which is kind of a total TMI so I’m not talking about it. But it involves antibiotics, I think. Now you think I have something gross, like maybe an abcess. I AM NOT TELLING YOU. Also, never put your symptoms into the internet. Because I could have anything from poor circulation to ennui to end-stage renal failure, THANKS GOOGLE YOU’RE A TOTAL PEACH.
Anyway, I REFUSE to let this get me down, because it is NEW STEPHEN KING BOOK DAY. Well, no. Not really. It was new Stephen King book day a few weeks ago. But for POOR people, new Stephen King book day is whenever your request number comes up at the library. And it’s ME! And it’s TODAY!
I still have to finish Chuck Palahniuk’s Damned, of course, because leaving one book unfinished before moving onto another book is like a cardinal sin of reading to me. I don’t like unfinished tasks. It seems messy. Also, it seems unfair to the book you’re working on. It’s like you’re cheating on the first book before you are finished with it, or have even broken up with it. And that’s just completely rude. That book deserves a full chance! So I have to finish one before the other. I WILL NOT CHEAT ON YOU, BOOK.
Even for Stephen King, I will not cheat on you. Even though I’m kind of WANTING to cheat on you. Damned! You are a VERY GOOD BOOK. And you are fulfilling ALL MY NEEDS. And Palahniuk! I love you to BITS. Also, SIDE NOTE! One time? I found out about this thing, where if you wrote a paper letter on real paper to Chuck Palahniuk, he would respond to you? And so I did it. Because listen, that’s awesome, and I love him? And he DID. But also, he sent me a CARE PACKAGE. With PRESENTS in it. Like Silly Putty! And a necklace that is pretty, and along the back it says my name and his name, as if we are in love! Because I’m pretty sure we kind of are, both being super-famous fancy people and all! But Damned, but Palahniuk, it’s King! We have HISTORY, Damned! So I’m sorry. Please prep yourself for the breakup. I have 150 pages left in you and then you’re gone. Didn’t mean to break your heart. Gypsy soul to blame; I was born for leavin’.
SO! In honor of it being NEW STEPHEN KING BOOK DAY, and also because I feel like the ick and this might make me feel better, let’s have an Amy’s Top Five Favorite Stephen King Books of All Time Countdown. If you don’t care, well, you’re wrong, but come back tomorrow, or Friday, because I have EXCITINGNESS planned. Even though I just got a call that I am the lucky recipient of work hours on Friday. Which is good – extra money! And also bad, in that it totally cuts into my loafing time I had planned! But I’ll deal. I’m bendy.
Also, probably doesn’t need to be said, but I’m a King groupie. Which you know, if you’ve been reading this for any length of time. Like, there’s King, then everyone else I read. Seriously. It’s almost a sickness. I adore him.
5. Carrie – 1974
“Red,” Momma murmured. “I might have known it would be red”.
I probably like this for all the wrong reasons. I should probably say that riiiiight up front. Because listen – is it completely 100% normal that when Carrie unleashed the wrath at Prom, I was all, “YOU GO CARRIE!!!” Probably not. Probably that was not the reaction that normal readers had, right? But reading this IN high school, as someone who was the Carrie OF her high school (no, my mom wasn’t a looney, and no, I didn’t get tampons pelted at me in the locker room, but I have stories, whoo, do I have stories), I was at the perfect age and the perfect time in my life that the novel completely resonated with me. Reading it now, I suppose I have a little more sympathy for some of the characters. Not all, though. Some of those bastards deserve to die. Bloodily. And in a lot of pain. And listen, this is his first real published novel. His first! You can do this? Right out of the gate? That is INSANE. Can you even imagine having that kind of talent right off the bat? Cuckoo-bananas, you guys.
There are some seriously creepy-ass moments in this. Carrie’s insane mom? The news stories about things that happened around Carrie’s house when she was a baby? Carrie’s house with the crazy Jesus crap all around? And the movie was pretty good, too, and has held up well, although Sissy Spacek was too pretty.
This was also published the year I was born. So I like to think that it was a GIFT. For baby AMY.
4. The Shining (1977)
“The manager,” Grady said. “The hotel, sir. Surely you realize who hired you, sir.”
There is nothing scarier than a haunted house. Except when it’s a haunted hotel. An entire HOTEL of rooms, each with ghosts. A hotel with a mind of its own. And a family that’s snowed in, with a son with a gift of seeing beyond. YOW. This was such a claustrophobic, terrifying book that I almost died while reading it. No, literally. LIT-ra-lly, to quote Chris Treager from Parks and Rec. My babysitter gave me her old copy to read, and we were driving her home (me with my nose buried in the book, oblivious to the outside world) when an old woman broadsided our car. Everyone on the right side of the car was fine. I wasn’t on the right side of the car. So, thanks, lady, for splitting my face open! I wasn’t at all sad when you died a few years later of being extremely old! (Calm down, people who think I’m a scary Frankenstein. I had an amazing ER doc and I was a young kiddo with all that healthy glowy young-person skin. Healed up beautifully. You can barely, barely see the scar, unless you’re all up in my face. And if you’re all up in my face, what the hell? Back off, bucko.) ANYWAY, after the bleeding and the stitches and my mom’s broken bones and whatnot, and my dad rushing to the ER, the minute we got home, I said, “Where’s the car?” and my dad said, “Towed to the junkyard, it’s totaled,” and I was SO UPSET and started WEEPING and my dad was all, HOLY HELL AMY IS BROKEN WHAT IS HAPPENING until I explained “My…book…is…in…the…car.” So my dad, who – listen, I will totally punch you in the face twice if you disagree with me on this – is the best dad in the history of dads took his PTSD’d kid to the junkyard to get her copy of The Shining from the demolished car where he almost lost his entire family. He pulled it out of the backseat and it was all covered in blood and he was like, “Um, Amy, let’s get you another copy of this at the bookstore tomorrow, because, gross,” and I was all, “No, don’t worry, I was halfway done anyway, and only the first half is gore-covered and it’s kind of appropriate, given the subject matter.” So. Yeah. I kind of have a soft spot for The Shining.
Also, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” And the ghostly parties. And the ghostly barroom. And the writer’s block. And the slow madness that starts seeping in. Just utterly, utterly masterful, all the way around. I’m sure I didn’t get it when I read it as a kid, but don’t you worry. I’ve read it numerous times since.
And I know King wasn’t in love with the movie adaptation, but I’m sorry, Steve, I am. Nicholson RULED that role. I know you thought he looked crazy going into it, but see, young Nicholson looks almost exactly like my beloved uncle? So I didn’t think that he started crazy. I think he started CHARISMATIC and AWESOME, like my uncle, and then that turned into madness. I love the movie. Also, those twins? UGH. LOVE.
3. The Stand (1978)
“Man may have been made in the image of God, but human society was made in the image of His opposite number, and is always trying to get back home.”
This is one sprawling, amazing, fantastic, heartbreaking series. I read it first in high school, then again in college, then a few more times since, and I discover more things every time I pick it up. I am, and remain, head-over-heels for Nick Andros. He is one of my long-term literary boyfriends. I’m going to spoil you here – because listen, you’ve read this, or you’ve watched the mini-series, and if you haven’t, well, what the hell’s wrong with you? And do it, already! – but when Nick died? The first time I read the book? I put it down. I put it down and I walked AWAY from it. I was so upset because it was like a FAMILY MEMBER had died. I didn’t pick it back up for days because I didn’t want to see the aftermath of that, and if I stayed in the dark, I didn’t have to. A BOOK. A BOOK did that. Can you imagine that kind of power? When people tell me that King’s a hack and they don’t read “that KIND” of books, I just laugh, because what KIND, exactly, are you talking about? The kind that make a person so upset they don’t want to pick it up because the emotions it causes are so painful they don’t want to have to experience them? Yeah, I can see why you wouldn’t want to read that KIND of book, too. Good. More for me.
Nick. Flagg – ugh, seriously, the scariest. Larry and his guitar. Effing Nadine and her hair turning white. Poor Harold, who I hated so much the first time around, then, on the re-read, I had a lot of sympathy for, because he was so SAD and so PATHETIC and just so goddamn LONELY that it turned him bitter and twisted. Tom Cullen and his M-O-O-N. The Trashcan Man, and his “all for you!” Sweet Stu and Frannie. Nick, my wonderful and selfless and beautiful sacrificial lamb. Goddamn, but I love this book.
2. The Dark Tower Series (1982-2004)
The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.
I know. This is kind of cheating. But you can’t name just ONE Dark Tower novel. That’s like naming one chapter out of a novel as your favorite. It wouldn’t make sense without looking at it as a whole. This is one hell of a series. Are there some weird missteps? And some things I would have done differently? Sure. But overall? It’s just about one of the most successful series of novels I’ve ever read.
I love westerns. I love sweeping sagas. I love recurring characters. I loved how things would randomly fit into the Dark Tower-verse from other King novels here and there, and you felt like you were in the know if you caught them. I equally loved and hated that King inserted himself into the series – equal parts awesome and hubris-filled. But did it make me cry? Yes. Absolutely. Who WOULDN’T want the chance to play with their most beloved characters?
And Jesus, but Oy. (I have one friend who’s just now reading the last book. @nikkisticks! STOP READING THIS NOW!) OK, I knew people were not going to come to a good end in this book. I steeled myself for deaths. Jake’s death – ouch. Then Eddie’s – oh, man, that was not an easy one. But I did it. I kept on keeping on. Then King KILLED me. He killed off my favorite character in the series. Oy. You don’t kill an animal in a bloody, horrendous, self-sacrificing way and not expect me to react. I was reading the end of the book in my car on my lunch break and when I read that I SCREAMED. Then I sobbed. For about ten minutes. I know. I might be a little unhinged. I totally own that.
I don’t hate the end of this book as much as some people. I don’t love it – I think it was about 20% copout and 80% inspired – but I don’t hate it as much as some people who just went banana-cuckoo over it, screaming all “we’ve been CHEATED what the FUUUUCK” when it was published. I trust King. He can lead me into the dark anytime.
1. It (1986)
“…we all float down here…”
I have never, and will probably never, in my whole life, be as scared by anything as I was reading this book. Freshman year of high school (I didn’t discover King until later in life, so I was a little late reading it.) Under the covers in my room. Reading with huge eyes. Sure every shadow was that effing sharp-toothed clown. Oh my God just the WORST. I had to leave the lights on when I was reading. ALL the lights. I was PETRIFIED. But GOOD petrified, you know? Like, scared, but AWESOME scared. Not, I’m in a haunted house and some goth kid with mint-flavored fake blood’s going to pop out at me that little bastard scared, but THIS IS SO AMAZING I CAN’T LOOK AWAY scared.
I loved the Loser’s Club. (Ironic I’m at the Loser’s Table now, no? Oh, actually, no.) I loved each and every one of them. Especially my sarcastic, redheaded Richie. (You know me and gingers. Add “funny” to the ginger and I am GONE.) I read that book like it was my JOB. I’ve re-read it, too. I’ve actually read through two paperback copies. Like, read them to tatters, had to replace them, re-read them. My brother, who isn’t a reader, loves this book, even. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Frightening and heartbreaking and funny and warm and disturbing. Absolute tour-de-force.
I don’t know what to expect from 11/22/63, which is now in my grubby little hands getting inappropriately fondled and MAN is it huge, and listen, contrary to popular belief? Size matters, kiddoes. I have purposely been staying away from reviews, because I like to go in knowing as little as possible. It’s about the Kennedy assassination. And time travel gone wrong. So if I go missing over the next week or so, I think you know where I’ll be. Couch, afghan, book, utterly lost. Thanks, Steve, in advance.
(Much love to my honey badger Cara – title’s in honor of you, babe!)