Category Archives: Stephen King

An example of why Stephen King is brilliant

Their faces were different in all ways but similar in one: They looked oddly incomplete, like pictures with holes for eyes or a jigsaw puzzle with a minor piece missing. it was the lack of desperation, Richards thought. No wolves howled in these bellies. These minds were not filled with rotted, crazed dreams or mad hopes.

These people were on the right side of the road, the side that faced the combination marina and country club they were just passing.

On the other side, the left, were the poor people. Red noses with burst veins. Flattened, sagging breasts. Stringy hair. White socks. Cold sores. Pimples. The blank and hanging mouths of idiocy…

Here on the right, folks, we have the summer people, Richards thought. Fat and sloppy but heavy with armor [i.e. police protection]. On the left, weighing in at only a hundred and thirty–but a scrappy contender with a mean and rolling eyeball–we have the Hungry Honkies. Theirs are the politics of starvation; they’d roll Christ himself for a pound of salami. Polarization comes to West Sticksville. Watch out for these two contenders, though. They don’t stay in the ring; they have a tendency to fight in the ten-dollar seats. Can we find a goat to hang up for both of them?

Slowly, rolling at thirty, Ben Richards passed between them.

Stephen King, originally writing as Richard Bachman, The Running Man, pages 223 & 224 (bold added).

Rene Girard is all over that book.

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Mark Horne » Blog Archive » Run, Freeman, Run.

Run, Freeman, Run

The Running ManThe Running Man by Stephen King

This book was quite violent and gross and the protagonist was a stubborn rebel… who insisted on getting married for life rather than following the societal norm of a few year contract. It is his loyalty to his wife (who made extra income as a prostitute) and his sick baby girl who needed medicine–a need which motivates Ben Richards to volunteer to be a player for the Games Federation which more or less runs the former US.

I have to admit I loved this book. It is every bit as important as Bradbury’s Farenheit 451. At one point I started wondering if King had studied the works of Rene Girard. The America of King’s 2025 is a stratified society where peace is kept through sacrificial scapegoats seen on reality TV. The top show, The Running Man, involves hunting a man to his death. He gets money for every day he stays alive (assuming he sends in his videos) and even more for killing policemen who are trying to kill him.

There are a lot of times when I felt King was really not able to suspend my disbelief… except that I never wanted to stop reading. It is easy to see King’s book as prophetic (the rise of reality television for example) and also an expose (through hyperbole of US society now). I especially liked the subtle invocation of H. G. Wells’ Morelocks.

By the way, just forget about the movie when you read this novel.

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Really disappointed with King’s decision

ItIt by Stephen King

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I wanted to say how good this is. It started off amazing even if one scene was way more explicit than I wanted it to be. (Stephen King does not know the meaning of TMI). The narration of childhood and the attempt to grapple with suppressed memories of horror makes for an amazing novel.

And I wanted to mention that I think King bit off more than he could chew in this one. He created an unearthly, magical, super-powerful monster. So he had to come up with a way to explain how eleven-year-olds could fight It. The contrivances of magic and symbolism got to the edge of how much I could suspend my sense of disbelief.

But none of that really matters now. In King’s attempt to create a sense of primal magic, he inserted a scene in which the one female of the seven child friends does something totally wrong with all of them in a row (trying to avoid showing up in the wrong kind of searches here). It isn’t just evil and senseless, it actually makes the paranoid and perverse accusations of one of the villains in the story come true.

And I’ve just lost interest. I’m not reading about these characters anymore because they aren’t understandable persons anymore.

I’m not bothered as much by the fact that King wrote the story this way as that he did so after he had kicked his drug abuse and didn’t re-think the concept in the review process. And neither did anyone who saw the manuscript. And the reviewers all gave high marks to it.

Ugh. I’m done. Over and out.

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A report early in my Stephen King fandom kick

Until a couple of years ago I had read a total of two Stephen King novels, both in high school: The Stand and The Eyes of the Dragon.  He came into town when I was working at Davis Kidd in Nashville, Tennessee–back when it was an independent bookstore and King was doing his motorcycle tour of independent bookstores.  So at one time I owned a hardback of Insomnia and a matching T-shirt (but I didn’t go to his presentation). This would have been around 1993. I notice that now King is doing video interviews with Barnes and Noble and what was once the nation’s largest bookstore in Saint Louis, The Library Limited, stands empty last I checked.  So the borg won.

But I digress, and I still love Barnes & Noble.

Anyway, I picked up the hardback of On Writing on a remainder table somewhere and really enjoyed it–and appreciated him both as a writer and a human being.

So I checked out Cell from the library, which I would have enjoyed a great deal more if I had ever read Richard Mathison, but enjoyed anyway.  Then I read Salem’s Lot which was much better than Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  I moved on from there to The Dead Zone and then finally Carrie (“Finally” here means that he wrote about writing that book in his On Writing and I had been wanting to read it for some time to get a complete picture).  Recently I picked up Needful Things and It from the library.  But time and emotional drain simply didn’t give me the kick I needed to start making headway in those thick books.  So I have returned them for another day.  Right now I am about half-way through Firestarter.

Cell and Salem’s Lot have some similarities, but they both strike me as rather original productions.  Others are also original, but they more obviously come from Planet Stephen King, where raving lunatic religious women and powerful but uncontrolled girls roam the landscape, and God works in undeniable but senseless ways.

There seems to be, in other words, a few themes or characters that keep finding ways into many of King’s books.

If I recall correctly, The Dead Zone came after The Stand. Both are concerned with the problem of evil.  Specifically, how can God send anyone to meaningfully battle against evil if, in fact, he is omnipotent?  Why give Johnny Smith, for example, a brain injury that lets him see the future and not give the bad guy he must confront a brain injury that makes him no longer a danger? (I don’t know if King believes in a personal God, but he does seem to think there are mysterious forces at work beyond Newtonian cause-and-effect.)

Reading Firestarter I am obviously meeting Carrie again.  This time, however, she doesn’t have psychotic parents.  She has good parents who love her and are trying their best to help her.  And she still has problems!  (Of course, the psychotic fictional Intelligence agency does a lot of damage in the place of Carrie’s mother.)

There are passages about a psycho teen boy and his care in Carrie that I know are the seeds for the later book Christine.

Carrie’s mother is an insane religious fanatic.  At first, this seemed entirely arbitrary–a stupid stereotype motivated by need.  (The idea of Protestant religious believers that think sex is at best a necessary evil is a recurring myth that one has to try to believe in many of King’s books).  But as the story progresses one sees that King does work on developing a compelling history that explains her mentality.  In The Dead Zone there is another insane religious mother (who believes that Jesus rides in UFOs) but she turns out differently because she has people who love her and it helps her move in a better path.

So, rather than being boring, the similar characters in different circumstances are actually kind of thought-provoking.

King’s protagonists are not (often?) sexually moral.  And I often get almost a nihilistic vibe that bothers me.  There are also places in Salem’s Lot that make it clear that King is every bit as gifted as a writer as Ray Bradbury.  I’m tempted to say that he does for small-town Maine in the seventies what Bradbury did for Middle America small-town life in the 1930s or so.