My summer reading – part one

11.22.63 by Stephen King

518yqsjxtblI’m a big Stephen King fan and after the terrific James Franco adaptation of this book earlier this year, I finally got round to reading it.

Although its 750 odd pages were initially daunting, I’ve read other long King books (such as IT, a personal favourite) and once you’ve started they are always richer and more engrossing for their length.

11.22.63 initially sounds totally different to King’s usual thing – more rooted in history, though with an obvious element of the supernatural with the intrinsic time travel, it follows Jake Epping as he accepts a dying man’s challenge to travel back and attempt to save JFK from assassination. They hope it will improve the world for the better if JFK lives – but these are high stakes.

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What I’ve been watching in April/May…

TV

11.22.63

I’ve been a Stephen King fan for many years, but I haven’t actually read this book yet (there’s a copy from the Waterloo book market in a pile next to my bed). I unusually decided it would be fine to go ahead and watch the TV show first, mostly because I’d heard good things coming over from America and also because of the involvement of James Franco, JJ Abrams and King himself.

The show follows Franco as he goes back in time through an anomalous time portal to try and save JFK from assassination and hopefully change the world for the better. I’m happy to say I found it totally gripping and addictive, unbelievably tense in places, and also incredibly well acted. I loved it so much that now I really want to read the book just so I can live through that intense plot again.

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Book Review: Stephen King’s Joyland

Stephen King is, by me and many other readers, a hugely celebrated and popular author, and for good reason. He long ago mastered the horror genre in all its forms, from human psychological matters to supernatural happenings and then to a combination of both. Joyland is one of the latter, and although the ghost element isn’t as heavy as you may expect from the cover and from King’s reputation, the book should be a successful read for all and especially for young adults.

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On Stephen King Versus “The Classics”

When I was sixteen and just starting my A levels, my English teacher- who I normally loved for her snarkiness and no-nonsense attitude- rubbished my declaration that Stephen King was one of my favourite authors, insisting that it was too “lowbrow” and I ought to be reading the serious classics, and only the classics, in order to be properly influenced for our course. Whilst I agreed with her that those books are essential, I took great offense to the idea that King’s books were any less important than others, as I had always considered him to be a tremendously clever writer.

See, for example, Under the Dome, in which a semicircular dome cuts off an American town from the rest of the world with no explanation, leading to air pollution as a metaphor for climate change, the breakdown of authority figures and a wonderful narrative structure in which the town’s inhabitant’s stories weave effortlessly together. Or, indeed, The Green Mile, in which King explores the concept of miracles and morality set on death row, whilst using the periodic story medium in order to exploit suspense writing. I could go on; in nearly all of his books, despite a varying level of the supernatural and fantastical, King grounds his stories in reality using a writing style that is both easy to read and inherently thought-provoking. Just because he uses a different style to some of the “classic” authors shouldn’t make what Stephen King does any less worthwhile, and indeed it isn’t to his readers. If his work is so important to those who read it, then isn’t that enough?

I believe that every work, whether serious or light-hearted, classic or totally modern, has its own place in the world, and this has been emphasised to me recently by the words of writer John Green. He is now a well-known young adult author, but he is notable in that he attempts to treat teenagers as the intelligent beings they are that not all adults take them for; this is most obvious in his 2012 novel, The Fault In Our Stars. The main characters in this book all have cancer, but he writes for them with humour, allowing them to be people who live instead of just people who died.

Anyway, he has said that every book is a collaboration between author and reader, allowing it to be a personal experience that means that any book can be as important as another. While I didn’t mind reading what my English teacher wanted, I wanted her to understand that sometimes these books don’t offer the best individual meaning that I, and others, require.