Why I Love Stephen King (Happy Birthday!)
Today, we celebrate the birthday of, arguably, one of the greatest authors alive: Stephen King! My favorite writer, widely regarded as the “Master of Horror,” turns 68 today. Since the publication of his first novel, Carrie, in 1974, Stephen’s books have sold more than 350 million copies worldwide.
I guess Carrie is the main reason I am a Stephen King Fan. And I have my mother to blame. She loved horror movies. I had early exposure (probably much earlier than would be deemed appropriate by today’s standards) to Rated PG/ Rated R movies… the original 1976 movie, starring Sissy Spacek as telekinetic teenager Carrie White, is one of my all-time favorite flicks. (The movie was unnecessarily remade in 2013.) Ironically, Stephen has said that Carrie is one of the characters of his own creation that he dislikes the most. Thank God that his wife Tabitha fished the crumpled pages of the first draft out of the wastebasket and insisted that he complete the story! I think this is the only case where I prefer the movie over the book.
The Shining is another of my favorite King novels. I thought the movie was great, too. Who can forget the crazed grin on Jack Nicholson’s face as he uttered the famous line: “Heeeere’s Johnny!” as he peered through the axe-hacked bathroom door? Or the creepy ghosts of the murdered twin girls who scare the Bejesus out of little Danny? Or the horrid sight of the demented Jack Torrence, dead and frozen like a human icicle at the end of the movie? Stephen, however, has always been vocal about his hatred of the movie. He disapproved of its portrayal of Wendy Torrance as a “screaming dishrag,” in the author’s own words. (He seems to blame director Stanley Kubrick more than actress Shelley Duvall for this.)
WARNING: THE NEXT PARAGRAPH CONTAINS SPOILER ALERTS ABOUT THE SHINING AND CUJO! SKIP, IF YOU’VE NEVER READ THEM, BUT PLAN TO!
It is interesting how many liberties directors take when converting King’s tales to the big screen. For instance, in The Shining, the old hotel explodes at the end of the book; in the movie, it’s left standing. The character Hallorann dies in The Shining movie, but lives in the book. Conversely, the character of Tad dies in the Cujo book, but lives in the movie. I guess when Stephen sells the movie rights, the directors can do whatever they want.
Other Stephen King books I love, in no particular order…
IT A group of childhood friends reunite to confront a terrifying past that they’ve forgotten. I’d want to forget my past, too, if it involved an evil clown that dwelled in a sewer. You’ll never look at Bozo the same way again! See also: Coulrophobia.
Thinner and The Running Man Both books were originally released under Stephen’s pen name, Richard Bachman. Thinner is about an unfortunate man who accidentally kills an old gypsy woman when he runs her over with his car. A curse is subsequently cast upon him by her elderly father. Hellish havoc ensues! The Running Man’s protagonist is a contestant on a futuristic, morbid game show in which he is being pursued by “hunters” who want to kill him, while the whole world watches the ordeal on live TV. (Sound familiar, Hunger Games fans?)
The Green Mile is different than most Stephen King books, in that it relies more on evoking deep emotion and empathy from its readers (as opposed to chills and thrills). It tells the story of a black man on Death Row for a crime he didn’t commit, as told by a prison guard, decades later. It was eventually made into a film starring Tom Hanks.
11/22/63 is the one Stephen King book I am dying (no pun intended) to re-read. But, do you think I can find the blasted thing? Of course not! Anyway, the book’s title refers to the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. A modern-day man is assigned to go back in time to prevent the tragedy from occurring. He soon finds out that when you mess with the past, you can potentially screw up the future.
On Writing This is Stephen’s kinda, sorta, not really, but close to an autobiography, and an informal guide for those brave, crazy readers who want to write. He reflects on the roots of his creativity, and gives pointers on how to write well, and how to avoid bad writing. “The road to Hell is paved with adverbs,” he says sarcastically. (See what I did there?)
Revival I wasn’t sure whether to include this book in my list of faves, because it disturbed me so much. I don’t think I could read it again. It made me want to run to a church and get saved. Then I reminded myself that this book involves a minister that goes completely PSYCHO and tricks our story’s hero into opening the floodgates to Hell! Nooooooo!!!!!!!!
I wonder if Stephen King’s birthday cake is shaped like a tombstone. A noose? An axe??
Happy birthday, Steve!