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#40: We might have to work the dark side.

0451167317I've lived in Maine for a while but have had only a passing acquaintance with Stephen King. I've driven by his house, at a family member's urging, and spotted King's corgi Marlowe on the front steps - whereupon the family dog decided to get into a barking war, Marlowe rushed the car, and Tabitha had to come out to retrieve him. But I'd never actually read a Stephen King book - so after viewing a Let's Play of a less-than-stellar King adaptation, I decided to rectify that.

You probably know the plot to The Dark Half: upscale novelist's wildly-successful pulp-trash alias is exposed, whereupon said novelist decides to bury his alter ego and never again write his violent, sleazy books. At the same time, however, a malevolent being who calls himself by said alias appears and starts slicing his way through the novelists' neighbors, coworkers, and friends. His demand? For the novels that were written in his name - that gave the author's dark half life - to be resumed.

It's hollow praise without examples (I brought the book back to the library; sorry), but King is indeed an talented wordsmith; he knows how to explore and illustrate his characters' inner thoughts with verbiage that's vivid and intelligent but not unnecessarily obfuscatory. From a local standpoint, it was fun to find parallels between King's Maine and the real-life state, oddities like how UMaine's English and math departments share a building. (I assume the real-life parallels of all the towns have been drawn by avid fans? I realize Derry = Bangor, but I'd like to know the rest.) One thing, though: while I was often disgusted by The Dark Half, I was seldom scared. I found the premise interesting and the imagery of the sparrows arresting, but the slasher execution rather lacking. The pacing is also problematic (the middle's a big stall), and King finds ashcan characters and abusive alcoholics considerably more fascinating than I do. (Not everyone in Maine talks like they're from Dogpatch by way of Tarantino.) I also thought the decision to prioritize the relationship between the protagonist and the investigating sheriff was curious considering that the spotlight should be on the author's marriage and his wife's dawning discovery of the true nature of the man she married; treating her like a shrieking, useless ninny in the denouement was quite aggravating to me. I'd still like at least to try King's Dark Tower series, but from this outing, I don't think his pure horror is quite for me.

Comments

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bardhlul
Dec. 29th, 2012 02:31 pm (UTC)
The only King I've read is The Dead Zone which was laying around at my dad's house one summer many years ago (pre-Internet). I was skeptical, but I found that once I started I couldn't put it down until I finished it. Not "horror" exactly, but very suspenseful.
indigozeal
Dec. 30th, 2012 04:09 pm (UTC)
I'll have to keep that in mind, considering that the subject matter lends itself less to gore and more to plot and character. I enjoyed the TV show and seem to remember the movie favorably (though that's not a watertight indicator of these things, obviously). Thanks.
audrey_e
Dec. 29th, 2012 10:02 pm (UTC)
I've only read four of his novels but I've come to understand that he is so prolific that it's not easy to pin-point him.
I was very impressed by It, which is mainly a beautiful and slow-paced story of childhood and friendship sprinkled with moments of true horror. The much shorter Misery also impressed me. This one is horror and suspense at its most realistic.
On the other hand, I found Pet Sematary slightly uninspired, and more sad than scary. As for The Stand, it was well-written but disappointingly anti-climatic.
With King, you never know what you're going to get, which is why it's important to try several times.
indigozeal
Dec. 30th, 2012 04:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the input. I'm familiar with the premises of Misery and It, but I'm not sure they'd be my cup of tea; I have a relative who's a King devotee and swears by The Stand, but that's a bit lengthy to tackle. I will indeed keep it in mind that I probably won't be getting the same if I opt to read Dark Tower; I appreciate your going to the trouble to inform me here.
audrey_e
Dec. 30th, 2012 07:24 pm (UTC)
You're welcome!
I also intend to read the first volume of the Dark Tower. Hopefully next year.
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