When I finish a book, I automatically give it a review. I suspect everyone does. You think about what you liked about the book, about the author, about certain phrasings that linger in your mind, and more often than not, you experience a mingling of satisfaction and regret — satisfaction to have read a good book, regret that it ended all too soon. So you take that pause after closing the book to remember and, perhaps, to pay a silent tribue to the author.
Which is what I did when I finished reading “The Green Mile” by Stephen King.
I had become so absorbed in the characters and in the story line that my eyes were quickly moving to the next word and then the word after until whole sentences were being consumed at a time, just as one would scarf down food without chewing, and yet knowing all the while that the faster I read, the inevitably sooner the novel would end. And the sooner I would be sitting there with a spent novel in my hands, thinking, “That’s it?”
No matter if the novel ended in due time, no matter if the climax has been reached, the symbolic meanings explored and implied from here to there, no matter if the hero or the anti-hero reached a pivotal life-altering moment or two…there must be more.
Upon reflection, I have realized that, as I grew out of adolescence, so did Stephen King. It used to be, or so it seemed, that his books were mainly geared towards pimply adolescents. At that time, I saw no adults carrying around battered, greasy copies of “Pet Semetary.” Not that there is anything wrong with writing for teens, for I was one of them (though maybe not as pimply).
But I digress. The point is, it did not appear that King had reached his place of established peerage amongst great American writers. He was the guy that wrote scary books feeding on childish fears of monsters in the closet and other such evils lurking, more often than not, on the horizon of Maine. He was the guy who wrote those cheap paperback bestsellers. He wrote about crazy clowns for goodness’ sakes. How could he be taken seriously or even compared to the likes of John Steinbeck, Edgar Allen Poe and Mark Twain?
Which is what I concluded after reading “It” by Stephen King.
I ravaged every one of his novels during long trips. You know, when you go to the gift shop at the bus station and grab mindless reading materials. My choice was always Stephen King, for I could rely on his books to be long enough for any plane-hopping across continents and yet still be engrossing enough to actually finish. But that was then. After the release of “The Stand”, which is rated as my all-time fave King novel, I was convinced Stephen King had nowhere to go but down, something I had determined after reading “It”. With a sigh and a “tsk”, I left King behind with my adolescence.
Which would be the end of my affair with Stephen King, wouldn’t it?
But no! A couple of years ago, I began hearing rumours. Rumours about “Dolores Clairborne”, the movie. It had been so long since I’d even thought of him that it took a notable movie to bring Stephen’s works of fiction back into my current state of affairs.
Dolores Clairborne is a story of a jaded New York city woman who comes home to the coast of Maine upon hearing of her estranged mother being charged with murder. Meanwhile there is a fervor arising over the death of Dolores‘s employer. Imagine my surprise when I found out that he wrote this book, for it is so unlike the Stephen King I knew, the God who ruled my teens and nourished my inner fears, the writer of crazed men, clowns, possessed cars and other things that go bump into the night.
And imagine my delight after I began reading “Dolores Clairborne”, to see his writings mature with time. (I always prefer to read the novel, not the movie based on the novel — there are too many Hollywood movies out there that have given fine literary works a bad name and it is painful to watch this sort of travesty.)
King has evolved, as if he grew up with me. His writing mannerisms, the basics of which are still thoroughly familiar - those italicized sentences, the internal dialogues of the characters, as well as the masterful development of their inner-working minds have Darwinized into a more serious and wise literary style that focuses more on the demons within people’s psyches rather than imaginary demons that hide in the closet. He has internalized the monster without into the monster within. He has changed the facade of the monster in the closet into a more subtle, and consequently, more disturbing voice that speaks to us from the depths of our mental realm… red rum, red rum.
From “Dolores Clairborne”, I went on to read another King novel, “Rose Madder”, about a woman on the run from an abusive husband, and then “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon”, of a lost girl in the woods whose sole survival tactic was a walkman with dying batteries. Those novels furthered endeared me to this writer who has proven himself to be a wonderfully and uncannily insightful portrait artist of the human mind, however flawed and however weak it may be.
My review? Welcome back, Stephen King.