I started reading Stephen King in my 20’s, when I was old enough to stop getting dirty looks from my mother, who despised horror. “You’ll get nightmares.” She warned, recalling my Goosebumps days when my nightmares would soon invade their bedroom in the middle of the night, armed with my stuffed rabbit, a sleeping bag, and a pillow thrown over my shoulder.
It wasn’t just my mother who tried to stop my horror reading fetish. My dad was behind the whole plan. You see, my mother had nightmares of her own. Our family has a dream that’s passed down with each generation. My mother has a dream of a shadow man standing over her bed, watching her sleep. So when we would sneak into their bedroom at night, we would stand over my mom’s side of the bed. Our dreamy silhouette casted over my mother’s sleeping face, only to wake up and see not us, but the Shadow Man standing over her. She would wake up, screaming, so you can understand my father’s need to stop my nightmares. He would lose sleep, consoling my mother back to sleep and her torturous firstborn who love reading horror.
As an adult, I now empathize with my parents. But when I was a kid, it sucked.
In an age where peer pressure was at its height, there was no greater fear than left out, seeing R.L. Stine’s book number increase to the sixties–of course, not including his “Fear Street” Series. Kids around me were reading about the Horror at Camp Jelly Jam, or the Cuckoo Clock of Doom (my personal favorite). My one solace was found stealing away to the library, only to discover something more than Stine. I found Shelley, Stevenson, and Poe.
My mother always encouraged us to read classics. Her understanding of classics were limited to Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, and Jules Verne. I found a fine loophole between Stine books. I would still read them at the library, but I learned I can also read classical horror authors within the 19th century, Post-Modernism movement, and Romantic period. “As long as it wasn’t Stephen King…” she resigned when she saw my copies of “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Ten more years passed before I cracked open my first King book: The Tommyknockers. Not his best work, with the exception where a Jesus painting tells a woman that her husband is cheating on her, but the same can be said when I first lost my virginity. Is this what the hype is all about? I found myself thinking in both instances.
You can never be too sure with your first time, which is why you should do it again. AT my local library, his books were selling for a dime, all first editions. No better excuse than getting a rare book at such a bargain. I devoured his books, falling in love with the artwork and his amazing prose.
King’s work is written via stream-of-consciousness. He would break entire passages of thought to bring up how a misshapen penny was the reason why a character feared going to the fair. Ten pages would pass before you found yourself back at the entry gates of the fair, no longer seeing a happy place of wonder, but the very gates of hell. His stream-of-consciousness prose really helped with developing truly unique characters. Among my favorites is Dolores Claiborne. She was/is a no-bullshit gal, confessing to killing her husband on the night of the eclipse, but not that old bitch patient of hers. It redeemed whatever bad vibes I had from Tommyknockers. King’s work helped me advance into understand one key element. Stories like “The Body(aka, “Stand By Me”),” or even my personal favorite series, “The Dark Tower,” King showed his strength in coming-of-age tales and numbers: no, not pages, a character ensemble.
Seven kids unite around a circle in the middle of the a place they knew as the Barrens. It was their playground, but it was also a place where they changed from children into adults. However, in order for that change to occur, they needed to be outcasted one by one by their peers. Each one of them was out of place in their worlds, but when they all got together, they found the Barrens, their escape, where they can be whoever they want. It was a summer, where we return to that circle, with blood dripping from the palms of their hands, making a pact to return and stop whatever was killing the children in their town.
Now that the dust has subsided with my intense week of rejection, I am slowly rebuilding momentum. I stopped writing to focus on getting a new car (mission accomplished, see last entry). I started to pick blogging back up in order to rediscover why I like writing in the first place. What makes me a Loser among peers and a Lover among friends. I write to reach out to my fellow Lovers.
I may not be understood, and this rejection from normalcy is what I need to find my own Barrens. When picking up my hopes and expectations off the floor, I found myself to embrace the rejection. In times of sorrow, what other choice do you have? If you wallow in it, it is bound to swallow you up, like Bill’s parents. Overcome with grief, they forget all about Bill.
You can’t wallow things that are not in your control. You have to move on, you don’t have time for this sad Dawson’s-Creek-like bullshit. Sure, enjoy a montage, a Paula Cole album even, but you must get back to your groove. There are other Losers out there who depend on you.
Jake Chambers, The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger. p. 205.