I recall my first foray into adult fiction. It was summer break, sometime in my middle school years. Shortly after devouring the Dragonlance: Chronicles series, I found myself at a used bookstore with my friend, Matt. We had ridden our bikes to a nearby strip mall that connected Cub Foods to Target in this long, serpentine pattern. Midway between the two anchors was this tiny shop that must have had but a few hundred books.
Matt was telling me about this cool horror writer named Stephen King. He was familiar with his works at the time and snagged The Shining and Pet Semetery off the shelf. There were a handful of others and I ended up purchasing Cujo and Firestarter.
I still remember the fascination I had while reading Firestarter. The suspense. The magic. The love and fear of a young girl who was coming to grips with her newfound power. I was instantly hooked. Cujo had a less memorable impact, but I found myself venturing on to Pet Semetary and a few other King novels after that.
I’ve probably read about twenty Stephen King novels over the years. Some left memorable impressions on me (The Stand, Pet Semetary); others, not so much (Gerald’s Game — ugh, that was awful).
It has been several years since I picked up a Stephen King novel. Then, last week, at our library’s book sale, I found myself struggling to find something to read. It must have been that used book scent that gave me a sudden sense of nostalgia. I meandered over to the horror section (which can generally be described as a few cardboard boxes filled with King, Koontz, and Anne Rice). Desiring to rekindle that love of fiction I had discovered at an early age, I picked up Carrie, The Shining, The Dead Zone, Salem’s Lot, and Four Seasons.
I just finished Carrie, a book I never actually had read, but had seen the movie on numerous occasions. This was Stephen King’s first novel, salvaged by his wife from a waste basket. It tells of a high school misfit who has telekinetic powers. Her mother is a quacky religious fundamentalist who views Carrie as the product of her sin. Carrie is ridiculed by classmates, pushing her to the brink of destruction. A popular girl, Sue, tries to reconcile with Carrie by hooking her up with her boyfriend for prom. Things appear to be turning around for Carrie until a few bad-intentioned peers devise a plan to expose her to the ultimate ridicule.
I was a little surprised at the disjointedness of the novel. It reads like a patchwork quilt, non-linear narratives told from multiple viewpoints and snippets of news articles reflecting on the cataclysmic events. In a novel that deals with chaos, the disjointedness fits, but is a bit overwhelming. King’s raw approach to fiction works — and I think it is what has made him so successful. He makes no attempt to be polished or literary and expresses emotion with an authenticity that is difficult to match. Carrie is not King’s best novel, but it is a good place to start.
I don’t think I will ever read Stephen King’s complete works — I think he writes faster than I can read — but I still enjoy going back and catching up with some of the books that drew me into fiction.