Ah, Stephen King, why do you mock me so?
In my youth I was an absoutely rabid Stephen King fan. From a point when I was far too young for most of his subject matter, I read every one of his books that I could get my hands on. I was perhaps ten when i read Carrie, for example, and not much older when I finally saw the Brian DePalma film version that kept me up at night. I was eleven or so when I read The Shining, and was twelve and in the middle of The Stand when my mother announced that she had won tickets from a radio station call-in contest for a midnight showing of the Stanley Kubrick film version of The Shining on its opening weekend. Mom took me to see it. Mom was cool like that. Cujo, Pet Sematary, Christine, The Dead Zone, It (oh my god, I LOVED It!!) one by one I read them, often as soon as they were released. For some reason I’d skipped ‘Salem’s Lot until i was much older (if I’m not mistaken, it was probably his second published novel) and had already seen the Tobe Hooper TV movie.
Then, in early 1990 or so, I’d read The Tommyknockers and my love of all things King began to wane a bit. Maybe I’m in no place to criticize one of the best (or at least most popular) authors in America today, but Tommyknockers felt contrived and dull to me. It seemed like a novel that King had completely phoned in or perhaps scrawled out in the back of a cab on the way to the publisher’s office. I didn’t get it and I didn’t like it. I started to think that old Steve had started to lose the magic that made him King (pun intended, thank you, I will be here all week and remember to tip your waitress.) I stopped worrying about King so much and read other stuff.
But I’d always come back.
King’s Dark Tower books pulled me back in for a while and, after reading the third volume, The Waste Lands, I started reading books that I’d missed and found that most of them were good. Big surprise, right? To date of his ridiculous number of novels the only ones I can honestly say I didn’t like were The Tommyknockers, Duma Key, Cujo, and From a Buick Eight. Some of you (one of the two of you who read what I write here) are probably screaming, “Fuck you, I LOVED _______!!” right about now. That’s cool. Opinions are like assholes, buddy. Everybody’s got one and no one in interested in yours… or mine.
The thing I always loved about King is his basic style. He knows better than anyone how to draw the reader in and make him or her identify with the characters, especially when he writes them in first person. When he gives us a character’s internal monologue as he does from time to time, we easily feel like it’s King himself who is talking to us. These characters are usually nice guys because it seems that King is a nice guy. I feel like I know him, just from reading his work.
I’d been away from King again for a while until recently, when a friend let me borrow her copy of Under the Dome, a fantastic book that represents King at his best. That was close to two years ago and I still have her book. I’ll get it to you, Lorinda, (isn’t that a pretty name?) I promise! I’ve been reading a lot lately, having burned through all the George R.R. Martin A Song of Ice and Fire books in a crazy short time (these are also known as the Game of Thrones books as there’s a popular HBO series by that name based on them), followed by Max Brooks’ zombiriffic titles World War Z (the movie by that name coming out next year resembles the book in title alone, apparently, but still seems fun) and The Zombie Survival Guide, and was in need of something new. I’d remembered hearing about a King book about a guy who goes back in time to attempt to stop the Kennedy assassination and decided to search iBooks to see if they had it. They did. It’s called 11/22/63.
It is fantastic. It drew me in almost immediately and really put me into the world of 1958 where the main character’s time portal opens to from 2011. And, like many of King’s best books, it got me to wondering what i would do if I was in that situation. what would I do if I could suddenly transport myself into the past? would I try to change something major, like trying to stop Oswald from killing Kennedy? Would I do something to try to enhance my own life in some way?
1958 is a bit too early for me to do much of anything to change my own life. I wouldn’t even be born for another ten years. The best I could do is track down the eleven year-old Francine Orenzow on Long Island and try to tell her that when she grows up and has kids she should try to keep the oldest off the ice cream and Hostess Twinkies. Oh, and in the early eighties, put money into Microsoft AND Apple.
What I really would need is a time portal that allows me to set my destination year like Marty M,cFly’s DeLorean. Let me pop back to 1985 and tell the seventeen year old Mike not to marry the slutty pastor’s daughter he’d been boning; that more and better pussy is on the horizon and she’s not worth the hardship she’ll cause. Of course that would mean my oldest boy Aaron would never have been born. He’s too good a kid to have evaporate in a puff of temporal logic. I’m sure the teenage Mike would just ask, “How’d we get so fat? are there no gyms in the future?” Okay, I stole that joke from Kevin Smith, but it’s a good one.
Hell, in my time machine/portal/DeLorean thing I could go back and write that gag first. Don’t bitch, Kev, or I’ll steal Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, and Red State too. He can keep Jersey Girl and Zack and Mirri Make a Porno. I’m not that selfish.
Ironically, King’s character uses sports betting to supplement his income in the past, much as Marty McFly wanted to in the second Back to the Future. That would be a pretty good idea. So would putting that money into Apple or Microsoft or Yahoo or Google. Hell I could go to 1958, open a regular old savings account at Bank of America, then come back home to fifty four years’ worth of compounded interest.
On a side note, that doesn’t build up nearly as much as you might think. When i was a teenager my grandparents brought a box of mementos to our house one day. It was full of crap I’d had from kindergarten; old finger paintings, ABC practice sheets, 2+2 math tests and such. Among them was a bank book from when the class had taken a field trip to a local bank on Long Island and opened accounts with a dollar. As this was some ten or twelve years later, I assumed that my tiny investment must have grown considerably over the intervening years. My grandfather helped me locate the bank in, question (they were, amazingly, still in business) and write to them to get my dough. A few weeks later I received a check in the mail for five bucks and some change. Fuckin’ crazy, right?
I still don’t know for sure what I’d do with a time machine, or how King’s book comes out. I think I’ll go look into the one of those options that I can.