It took me a long time to finally sit down and read The Shining. The Shining is a multi-layered tale about hauntings both in the ghostly variety and in the sense of the past and how its influences, its echoes, stay with us through the present. The Shining is Jack Torrance’s story through and through as the Overlook hotel’s ghosts and the ghosts of his own past conspire to send him spiraling down the path to madness. Doctor Sleep is Danny Torrence’s story. While in The Shining Danny serves a vital purpose in helping build tension while simultaneously providing a means through which we can get a glimpse inside both Jack and Wendy’s heads he doesn’t really take center stage. In The Shining Danny Torrance is an innocent caught up in the whirlwind of his father’s madness. Doctor Sleep deals with the natural progression of those elements and we see Danny stepping into the shoes of his father as he desperately fights the ghosts of his own past and the strain his abilities place on his conscious.
Another entry into Stephen King’s Hard Case Crime writing (the first was 2005’s Colorado Kid) Joyland was released in June of this year. Unlike other King novels Joyland leans a bit more heavily on the mystery aspects of the story rather than the horror though King does manage to toss in a touch of the supernatural. That being said this isn’t a horror novel, nor is it quite a mystery novel nor is is quite a thriller novel; instead the novel feels a bit more like a bildungsroman than anything else. Joyland is, above all things, a coming of age story. Perhaps, it might be better say that Joyland is a snapshot of a young man’s final days of youth. Joyland is Stephen King at his best. Sure it isn’t a novel full of the fear and dread of ‘Salems Lot or the wonder and the weird of The Gunslinger but it demonstrates King’s ability to capture the mood and energy of a place and a person.
Believe it or not my mother is the chief impetus for my decision to finally read Stephen King’s The Shining; it also doesn’t hurt that the sequel, Doctor Sleep, also just recently released. My mother has told me, repeatedly, that the book is much better than the Kubrick film so I figured now would be the time put that claim to the test. Over the years my stance on “the book is always better” has softened and all but melted away. Truth be told I’m more inclined to say (in 99.9% of all cases, I’m looking at you World War Z) simply that “the movie is different from the book.”
American Vampire Volume 1
Scott Snyder, Stephen King (writers)
Rafel Albuquerque, Dave McCaig (art/color)
Scott Snyder has become something of a household name in the comics world now that he’s taken the reins of one of DC Comics’ Trinity with the New 52 reboot of Batman. Before Batman though Snyder worked on a creation of his own: American Vampire. Published under DC’s Vertigo line American Vampire received the attention of veteran horror legend Stephen King who agreed to pen the origin story (a backup feature with each new issue) for the comic’s lead character: Skinner Sweet.
Stephen King’s N
Adapted by Marc Guggenheim
Art by Alex Maleev
I picked up a read the graphic novel adaptation of Stephen King’s N. some time ago and after digesting the work several diverging thoughts crossed my mine. The first was “this is awesome,” followed shortly by “if this was awesome was the short story awesomer”, and lastly concluded with “this would make a really neat short film or single episode of an anthology show.” N., published by Marvel as a four issue mini-series is adapated from the short story of the same name seen in Just After Sunset.
The story uses the classic horror mode of the confessional. Or rather several nested confessionals. This narrative device in which the author (or a fictional author constructed for the story) presents the fiction as truth goes as far back Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto (based on an “italian manuscript”) and employed authors like Edgar Allan Poe (The Narrative of Arthur Gordan Pyn of Nantucket) and H. P. Lovecraft (At the Mountains of Madness). This is the same narrative framework that, for better or for worse, has given birth to found footage horror films The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, and Apollo 18. I am rather a fan of this narrative device, no matter what genre it is used in (though I think it is at its best in horror), and N. cleverly nests several narratives within one another.
The titlular N. is an OCD patient of Dr. John Bonstraint whose encounter with a strange formation of rocks exposes either deeper levels of neurosis or some rather horrific truths about the nature of the universe. Apparently N. is heavily influenced by Arthur Machen’s The Great God Pan (which also inspired Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror) and, particularly in comic form, does a fantastic job of evoking an atmosphere of anxiety and terror. Maleev’s realistic pencils do not in any way hinder his ability to conjure truly horrific monsters and the heavy inks and muted colors used lend the images a palpable weight that really serves to enhance the atmosphere.
N. is complete but doesn’t provide answers to all the questions the narrative asks. Instead N. leaves just enough room to let the imagination of readers extrapolate the horror as far as their twisted minds will allow. If you are a fan of horror I highly recommend going out a grabbing a copy of N. or giving the 25-part motion comic a try.
The Drawing of the Three
Stephen King, read by Frank Muller
Recorded Books, 2003
I had initially started reading The Drawing of the Three but jumped over to the audiobook version when I finally decided to bite the bullet and get a subscription over at Audible.com. The Drawing of the Three continues Roland’s quest toward the Dark Tower picking up more or less immediately after the events of The Gunslinger. As a historical note I should say that when I initially started reading the Dark Tower series I actually started with The Drawing of the Three (as it was what was on my parent’s bookshelf) and read it and The Waste Lands before ever going back and reading The Gunslinger. It marks one of the few, perhaps the only instance, where I read a series out of its proper order.
There is, to my ear at least, a marked stylistic difference between The Gunslinger and The Drawing of the Three. The second novel takes a slightly more straightforward approach than The Gunslinger dropping some of the more florid touches. In truth it could just be Roland’s more direct involvement with the modern world has influenced my thoughts on the matter. Of course that isn’t to say that the prose I loved so much in The Gunslinger is gone completely but given the introduction of characters and ideas foreign to Roland’s world it is no surprise that there is a shift in style.
Plume, 2003 (nook edition)
First Line: The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.
Despite being the book that kicked off Stephen King’s Dark Tower series I originally read it third, during the long wait between The Waste Lands and Wizard and Glass, oddly enough I never felt that this spoiled my reading of the series; it marks the only time I know of that I’ve managed to read a series out of order. The Gunslinger is based loosely off of the Robert Browning poem “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came,” a poem based off of a line from Shakespeare’s King Lear, a line itself referencing a traditional fairy tale, a fairy tale which may have been inspired by an old Scottish ballad. Which is all fascinating, if slightly confusing, but perhaps more fascinating is that The Gunslinger, and the rest of the novels in the series, create something of a unifying mythology for most of Stephen King’s novels.