31 Days of CeeCee-o-Ween: Stephen King’s ‘IT’

We did it! CeeCee and I tackled the Mt. Everest of horror stories! It was a little touch and go there, but we climbed that dark mountain and made it out unscathed…well, for the most part. Did this massive monolith give me the willies? Yes. Did Stephen King take this story to dark places where no other author would dare venture? Absolutely. Did it need a ton of editing? OMG YES! Here’s my short assessment for a VERY long book.

Synapsis: If you haven’t already seen the movies (which I doubt!) here’s the gist. A bunch of misfit kids are terrorized by a demonic force in a clown getup. The force possesses the entire town in various way, yet the gang of kiddos (known as the “Losers Club”) are mostly immune to its powers. Only they can stop Pennywise the Dancing Clown with sheer bravery and goodness!

What worked: I’ll start off  by saying that the new movie is the perfect blend of camp and cheese, yet it doesn’t hold a candle to this massive tome. I mean, how could it? Stephen King took his sweet time with every character, allowing me to almost become one with all the kiddos. In horror stories, this is crucial because the fear isn’t real unless you can truly get inside the characters’ minds. And trust me, there are some truly frightening scenes involving oodles of monsters and ghoulies. Just to name a few, we’ve got Frankenstein’s monster, a man-eating bird, a pervy homeless leper — even an animated Paul Bunyan statue. Mister King really pulled out all the stops on this one!

Perhaps the most frightening villains were the ones without fangs and fur. The ones who could’ve intervened but chose to cower inside their dingy little houses. And then there’s the bullies—holy cow! When the kiddos weren’t being chased by psychopaths with switchblades, they were verbally or physically assaulted by their parents. It’s pretty sad when your only refuge is a creepy place in the woods near the sewage treatment plant. And I thought junior high was rough. Wow.

But I digress…were these living, breathing monsters truly evil? Or was a sinister force pupeteering their every move? You see, it’s not just about a creepy ass clown going gangbusters on the local kids. It’s about the evil that lurks within all of us. Imagine a world in which our inner demons overshadowed our goodness.  A world orchestrated by a nefarious entity that feeds off of weaknesses. Without Pennywise’s influence, would the schoolyard bullies resort to cold-blooded murder and animal torture?  Would the parents turn into belligerent tyrants? Would the entire town succumb to the bystander effect? Guess you’ll have to read the book to figure it out!

What didn’t work: This book is LONG! And sadly, in many parts, it felt tedious. Did we really need an hour-long character sketch of Stan’s wife? Considering that she had nothing to do with the story, probably not. In fact, all the subplots  involving the spouses seemed like a lot of filler to me. Also, I could’ve done without that chapter involving a periphery character and animal torture. I want a nightmare-inducing horror story, but not in that way.

And then there’s the super taboo ending that will forever haunt my dreams, again, not in a good way. A friend of mine warned me about this, but I had no idea it would be so disturbing! It’s hard to bemoan my disappointment without giving away spoilers, but I will say that Mister King must’ve been on some bad 80s cocaine to write such an outrageous scene involving 11-year-olds.

Since I’ve read his memoir On Writing (amazing book, by the way), I know he was in a dark place back then, so I’ll just chalk this up to a bad trip and leave it at that.

Side note: I “read” all 48 hours of this via audiobook, which I highly recommend! Stephen King fans will appreciate that the narrator, Stephen Weber,  had a cameo in the new movie (Bill and Georgie’s absentee dad) and he also starred in the TV remake of The Shining. There’s a fun trivia fact to know and share!

Audiobook Pick of the Month: On Writing by Stephen King

10569From the publisher: Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999 — and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, “On Writing” will empower and entertain everyone who reads it — fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

Why I LOVED it: I’ve got a stack of writer’s reference guides on my shelf, and this one is – by far – the most inspiring. I have always admired Stephen King’s God-given talent for storytelling, but now I have a deeper appreciation for his work. This book isn’t about writing and selling books per say; it’s more about writing with joy and authenticity. This quote from the tail end of the book pretty much explains it all.

“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.”

On Writing is also somewhat of a love story between King and his wife, Tabitha. The first half chronicles his early years as a fledgling writer, including that fateful day when he fell in love with Tabitha in a creative writing class.  He was mesmerized by her lyrical poetry and it was love at first sight. Oh swoon! Does it get any more romantic than that?!? Stephen King fans have a lot to thank Tabitha for supporting his writing even while they were on the verge of collecting food stamps. She also saved Carrie from a landmine. Who knows what would have happened if his first bestseller never came to be?  Throughout the book, he waxes poetic about his literary soul mate, and it just made me love him more and more!

This book is not, by any means, a quick writer’s reference guide, but he does throw in some of the most valuable writing tips. One crucial piece of advice: If you consider yourself a writer, you must be an avid reader. I wholeheartedly agree that those who rarely read have no business writing.

 “Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot. It’s not just a question of how-to, you see; it’s also a question of how much to. Reading will help you answer how much, and only reams of writing will help you with the how. You can learn only by doing.”

Also important: You must write for yourself. If you’re trying to please others – or to just make money – you should find a different path to notoriety.  

“If you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second-to-least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.” 

And whatever you do – stay away from those darn adverbs! Adjective modifiers are for lazy writers – and Stephen King hates them with a burning passion.

“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day… fifty the day after that… and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it’s—GASP!!—too late.” 

Most importantly, believe in yourself. Ignore the naysayers and keep pushing forward.

“I have spent a good many years since―too many, I think―being ashamed about what I write. I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction or poetry who has ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent. If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that’s all.” 

The narrator: Who better to narrate this book than Stephen King? While listening to this book, I closed my eyes and imagined myself sitting across from the world’s greatest horror writer and learning the ropes from the dark master himself! My only complaint is that I can’t highlight or bookmark an audiobook, so I’m going to have to buy the hard copy as well. This is definitely a book that I will revisit often.

Summed up in three words: Inspiring, authentic, fascinating.