It’s not every day you wake up with Stephen King in your bed. As fate would have it, yesterday was one of those days.
I woke up to find the remnants of last nights reading snuggled safely between two blankets – “On Writing”, the first of my 2012 resolutionary “5 Stephen King books I haven’t read yet” waiting to be discovered in its entirety. This is a read I plan to stretch out as long as possible, savouring every motif, analogy, heading, word, comma, full stop.
A book I would love to savour, but find simply impossible, is “IT” (1986). After spending every waking moment trapped in its musky pages, I closed the book a couple of weeks ago. IT is a story that profoundly effects me, and I’ve been trying to figure out why. It took some time, but after much reflection I’ve managed to come up with a few reasons for why I love IT.
Well, first off the bat – it’s brilliant writing – but it’s written by The Master Storyteller, so that’s a given. There are phrases here and there that particularly linger in my soul as an aftertaste for days, even weeks after being read, such as
“A silence fell amid the three of them. It was not an entirely uncomfortable silence. In it they became friends” p. 226
There’s the dynamic cast:
- the “Lucky Seven” or “Losers Group” as they call themselves. Each a convincing and heart warming character in their own right, with their own way of interpreting the world around them, each their own cross to bear and strained (aka strange) 1950’s relationship with their parents. These characters are so interesting and authentic, that I miss them as soon as the book is shut.
- Henry Bowers and his gang: great foes that play a vital role in knitting the Losers together as they unite to face a common enemy. Bowers is particularly creepy, and the most clearly developed (not to mention psychotic) of the group.
- The town itself, Derry, a prominent character with a dark history and sickening dependence on the evil that feeds off the town whilst simultaneously ensuring Derry’s posperity.
- And of course, there’s the ultimate anti-hero, Prime Evil itself, IT. IT is one scary piece of work, popping up every 27 years to feed on the innocent. A shapeshifting, telepathic, ancient evil that dwells in the bowels of Derry’s complex sewer system, IT can morph into whatever form is most terrifying or alluring to It’s intended victim. I find IT most horrifying (influenced no doubt by the outstanding performance of Tim Curry in the 1990 mini-series), as Pennywise the clown. IT also appears as a werewolf, giant bird, giant spider, voices of children emerging from drains and more. IT is brilliantly terrifying.
There are other reasons I love this book, the time frame spans across 30 years, shifting between 1985 and 1958 with an ease that isn’t disorienting. I very much enjoy the perspective changes, for instance, the adult life and death of Stanley Uris is told from the point of view of Stanley’s wife. An insightful narrative that tells us much about the man Stan grew to be. It’s interesting that despite Stanley’s untimely death in the begining of the story, the grief of losing him kicks in much later as we learn more about him as a child and friend.
All of the above is eerily wonderful. But there’s more – I love this book because it pays homage to kids. The story explores the profound power of childhood bonds and the things of being a child of the 50’s: Cowboys and Indians, building dams, riding bikes at deathly speeds, sneaking a cigarette when it’s safe, sticking together through thick and thin, coping with grief when none of the adults show you how. It’s a story about the heroism of childlike faith that enables 7 friends to face terrors that would drive adults mad.
Predominantly, I think one of the biggest things I love about this book is the reminder that sometimes, in order to face life’s darkest fears, we must remember and adopt the simple faith of a child.