I'm just finishing up The Stand in my chronological reading project and would rank what I have read so far, based purely on personal enjoyment:
1. 'Salem's Lot
2. The Stand
3. The Shining
5. Night Shift
1. 'Salem's Lot
2. The Stand
3. The Shining
5. Night Shift
In civilized society, we have an unspoken agreement to call our obsessions "hobbies". ... My obsession is with the macabre. ... I am not a great artist, but I have always felt impelled to write.Other people have written that in King's stories and novels, the true horror is always other human beings. King says: "Great horror fiction is almost always allegorical" and gives a few examples like Orwell and Tolkien.
When you read horror, you don't really believe what you read. You don't believe in vampires, werewolves, trucks that suddenly start up and drive themselves. The horrors that we all do believe in are of the sort that Dostoyevsky and Albee and MacDonald write about: hate, alienation, growing lovelessly old, tottering out into a hostile world on the unsteady legs of adolescence.That final example may be why King, in his early years, was so popular with teenagers. Many of his characters in his initial books were either teenagers or children, and he always portrayed them as full human beings.
When [the horror writer] is at his best we often have that weird sensation of being not quite asleep or awake, when time stretches and skews, when we can hear voices but cannot make out the words or the intent, when the dream seems real and the reality dreamlike. ...
I am firmly convinced that [the horror story] must do one more thing, this above all others: It must tell a tale that holds the reader or the listener spellbound for a little while, lost in a world that never was, never could be. ... All my life as a writer I have been committed to the idea that in fiction the story value holds dominance Over every other facet of the writer's craft; characterization, theme, mood, none of those things is anything if the story is dull. And if the story does hold you, all else can be forgiven.Some of the better stories in this collection:
She grinds and grinds and grinds, and she always beats you. ... And she's so mean and stupid, she drownded the kitty, just a little kitty, and she's so stupid that you know everybody laughs at her behind her back. So what does that make me? Littler and stupider. ... I don't think I'd mind if she snuffed it. I wish I had your stick, Charlie. If I had your stick, I think I'd kill her myself.The strength of Rage is in the students' recollections, their blunt honesty, their anger at the adult world, and the helplessness at being ground down by the adults around them.
Q: What's the greatest horror that you think high school kids face today?In reading about King's background as I begin this project, I have noticed several similarities between King and my favourite author, David Foster Wallace. The fear of being alone, the next-to-impossible task of forging an honest connection with another person, and the bedrock importance of fiction to communicate what it means to be a human being. (Wallace taught Carrie in some of his fiction classes and he once listed The Stand as one of his 10 favourite books.)
SK: Not being able to interact, to get along and establish lines of communication. It's the fear I had ... the fear of being afraid and not being able to tell anyone you're afraid. ... There's a constant fear that I am alone.
Getting It On was begun in 1966, when I was a senior in high school. I later found it moldering away in an old box in the cellar of the house where I'd grown up this rediscovery was in 1970, and I finished the novel in 1971.In 1971, he sent a query letter to Doubleday, addressed to the editor of Loren Singer's political thriller The Parallax View, thinking the editor of that book might also like his novel. That editor was no longer employed at Doubleday, so the letter landed on Bill Thompson's desk. Thompson agreed to read King's manuscript and later called it "a masterful study in character and suspense". Doubleday requested changes, which King duly made. However, Despite Thompson's efforts, Getting It On was ultimately rejected, "a painful blow", King said, "because I had been allowed to entertain some hope for an extraordinarily long time".
You try to make sense of your life. Everybody tries to do that, I think, and part of making sense of things is trying to find reasons ... or constants ... things that don't fluctuate. Everyone does it, but perhaps people who have extraordinarily lucky or unlucky lives do it a little more. ... Part of you wants to think that you must have been one hardworking S.O.B. or a real prince or maybe even one of the Sainted Multitude if you end up riding high ... But there's another part that suggests it's all a lottery, a real-life game show ... It is for some reason depressing to think it was all - or even mostly - an accident. So maybe you try to find out if you could do it again. Or in my case, if Bachman could do it again.King originally used his maternal grandfather's name - Guy Pillsbury - but that secret leaked at the publishing house. So he went with Richard Bachman, in tribute to Donald Westlake's long-time pseudonym Richard Stark and the rock band Bachman-Turner Overdrive.
So much of what King examines in [the Bachman books] is about people being disenfranchised of power on several levels: personal, familial, societal. ...It is worth noting that King grew up without a father. When King was only two years old, his father went out to buy a pack of cigarettes and never returned. It was as if he vanished off the face of the earth. King's abusive males often stand in for society at large, but he is also remarkably observant, and the confrontations between Charlie and his father seem remarkably on point.
Charlie Decker aligns himself with the oppressed - particularly his young female classmates, victims of sexual oppression - and their struggle against authority, specifically patriarchal authority....
As evidenced in works that follow Rage (most notably The Shining, Firestarter, and It), the real monsters in King's canon are always human, and more often than not, they take the form of adult males who erect and maintain elaborate bureaucratic systems of control. ... King's protagonists, especially in the Bachman books, view violence as one of their few remaining options. ...
Decker's own actions occur out of an insistence that the authorities confront the truth of their enterprise ... [The students] understand the spirit that has created the hostage situation. The students sympathize with Charlie because they sense intuitively that this is a conflict between the authorities and the disenfranchised.
But if I told them anything, it would be that they've forgotten what it is to be a kid, to live cheek-by-jowl with violence ... I'm telling you that American kids labor under a huge life of violence, both real and make-believe.***
[A] great many parts of American society have contributed to creating this problem, and that we must all work together to alleviate it...and I use the word "alleviate" rather than "cure" because ... I don't think that sort of cure is possible. ...King, revised introduction to The Bachman Books:
America was born in the violence of the Boston Massacre, indemnified in the violence of Bull Run, Gettysburg, and Shiloh Church, shamed by the violence of the Indian Wars, reaffirmed by the violence of two world wars, a police action in Korea, and the conflict in Vietnam. Most of the guns carried in those armed actions were carried by boys about the age of the Littleton killers and not much older than Thomas Solomon, the Conyers, Georgia, shooter. ...
I sympathize with the losers of the world and to some degree understand the blind hormonal rage and ratlike panic which sets in as one senses the corridor of choice growing ever narrower, until violence seems like the only possible response to the pain. ...
I can't say for sure that Michael Carneal, the boy from Kentucky who shot three of his classmates dead as they prayed before school, had read my novel, Rage, but news stories following the incident reported that a copy of it had been found in his locker. It seems likely to me that he did. ... I asked my publisher to take the damned thing out of print. They concurred. ...
Do I think that Rage may have provoked Carneal, or any other badly adjusted young person, to resort to the gun? It's an important question, because it goes to the very heart of the wrangle over who's to blame. ... There are factors in the Carneal case which make it doubtful that Rage was the defining factor, but I fully recognize that it is in my own self-interest to feel just that way; that I am prejudiced in my own behalf. I also recognize the fact that a novel such as Rage may act as an accelerant on a troubled mind ...
My stories of adolescent violence were all drawn, in some degree, from my own memories of high school. That particular truth, as I recalled it when writing as an adult, was unpleasant enough. I remember high school as a time of misery and resentment. ...
I don't trust people who look back on high school with fondness; too many of them were part of the overclass, those who were taunters instead of tauntees. These are the ones least likely to understand the bogeyboys and to reject any sympathy for them (which is not the same as condoning their acts, a point which should not have to be made but which probably does).
The fury and terror and jagged humour found in that story had only one real purpose, and that was the purpose of all my early fiction: to save my life and sanity. What made me feel so crazy so much of the time back then? I don't know ... and that's the truth. My head felt like it was always on the verge of exploding, but I have forgotten why.King, Entertainment Weekly, April 2007:
Certainly in this sensitized day and age, my own college writing - including a short story called "Cain Rose Up" and the novel Rage - would have raised red flags, and I'm certain someone would have tabbed me as mentally ill because of them.Next: Night Shift.
We were the only guests as it turned out; the following day they were going to close the place down for the winter. Wandering through its corridors, I thought that it seemed to be the perfect - maybe the archetypal - setting for a ghost story. ...King had begun a novel entitled Darkshine in 1972, about a psychic boy in an amusement park, but the idea never took off. He used some of those ideas for this new project. The first draft took a mere three or four months to write, "a very erotic experience" in King's words.
That night I dreamed of my three-year-old son running through the corridors, looking back over his shoulder, eyes wide, screaming. He was being chased by a fire-hose. I woke up with a tremendous jerk, sweating all over, within an inch of falling out of bed. I got up, lit a cigarette, sat in a chair looking out the window at the Rockies, and by the time the cigarette was done, I had the bones of the book firmly set in my mind.
For much of the three or four months it took me to write the first draft of the novel I was calling The Shine, I seemed to be back in that trailer in Hermon, Maine, with no company but the buzzing sound of the snowmobiles and my own fears, fears that my chance to be a writer had come and gone, fears that I had gotten into a teaching job that was completely wrong for me, fears most of all that my marriage was edging onto marshy ground and there might be quicksand any place ahead. ...Jack Torrance is haunted by the past - his termination from the Vermont prep school is why he is semi-forced to take this winter job - and terrified that it will doom his future. His father was an abusive drunk who beat his wife and children, and while Jack is a recovering alcoholic, he wants to be a good father and husband, and meet the expectations of a "breadwinner" in modern society; he is working at controlling his darker side. But he cannot escape the past. He discovers boxes and boxes of old receipts and ledgers and newspaper clippings about the hotel in the basement. He becomes disgusted with, and soon abandons, his play (the future of his writing career) and immerses himself in the Overlook's past. King leaves the narrative open so that we are never clear if Jack's decision is made freely or whether the hotel is subtly controlling him. As Jack absorbs (and is absorbed) by the hotel, he begins to rationalize, and then emulate his father's abusive behaviour.
Sometimes you confess. You always hide what you're confessing to. That's one of the reasons why you make up the story. ... [T]he protagonist of The Shining is a man who has broken his son's arm, who has a history of child beating, who is beaten himself. And as a young father with two children, I was horrified by my occasional feelings of real antagonism toward my children. Won't you ever stop? Won't you ever go to bed? ... So when I wrote this book I wrote a lot of that down and tried to get it out of my system, but it was also a confession. Yes, there are times when I felt very angry toward my children and have even felt as though I could hurt them. ...
I had written The Shining without realizing that I was writing about myself. I've never been the most self-analytical person in the world. People often ask me to parse out meaning from my stories, to relate them back to my life. While I've never denied that they ... have some relationship to my life, I'm always puzzled to realize years later that in some ways I was delineating my own problems, and performing a kind of self-psychoanalysis.
In King's still tentative plan for the novel, Danny is now 40 years old and living in upstate New York, where he works as the equivalent of an orderly at a hospice for the terminally ill. Danny's real job is to visit with patients who are just about to pass on to the other side, and to help them make that journey with the aid of his mysterious powers. Danny also has a sideline in betting on the horses, a trick he learned from his buddy Dick Hallorann.A later report states that a traveling group of vampires called The Tribe is also somehow involved in the story. The novel is entitled Dr. Sleep and is scheduled to be published in 2013. King reads from the work-in-progress here.