Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Stephen King, the brain-altering writer...

I have a love/hate relationship with Stephen King novels. He's one of my favorite authors, but sometimes his stories irritate me with their silliness. A hand of God descending from the clouds to wipe out Super Evil Guy? Really? I hated 'Salem's Lot. Vampires, Catholic priests and crosses. Gimme a break. Yet I read it all. Why? Because the way he writes speaks to me. He's not trying to flower up his novels with "sophisticated" vocabulary, he's just writing the damn story. I respect an author that can include a sex scene without using the words "member" or "honeypot." Jean M. Auel's Earth Children series pissed me off with the detailed sex scenes every other page until eventually I just started skipping my way through the books. In King novels, people have sex, then they move on with the story. Characters swear and urinate and speak with thick accents and aren't afraid to toss in a racial slur or two. It's real, and not just some rosy-colored version of real.

I am now reading the seventh and final book in the Dark Tower series. Honestly, the fifth book left me so annoyed I didn't know if I wanted to finish. But I have some kind of read-them-all-in-order book OCD, and if I didn't read the others it would bother me that I hadn't. The sixth was even more annoying. Recycling old characters. Stephen King as a messenger of God, controlling the universe with his keyboard. What a bunch of self-righteous crap. Oh I get it, sure. How do we know our lives are "real"? How do we know there aren't forces beyond our conscious mind doing things we may not even realize? And the references to King Arthur (Mordred, the evil son spawned to kill his father) are clear enough. I'm picking up what he's throwing down. It still annoyed me. And I still kept reading. And to be fair, despite the occasional annoyance caused by too much thinking on my part, I really am enjoying this series.

Now, halfway through the final book, I find myself doing something weird. The characters in The Dark Tower series have unusual mannerisms and phrases that are randomly slipping into my thoughts. I can't tell you how many times I've typed "if it does ya" on this very blog before deleting and changing it to "if you like" or "if you prefer." Maybe you'd say it was because I've been reading so much of it, and maybe you'd say true. But I think it's more than that. I've read lots of books and never picked up phrases like that. I think these particular phrases just feel right. Normal, if you kennit. I think it felt so right and normal to Stephen King that it just may have been one of the reasons to expand on the main character Roland in the fourth book Wizard and Glass by spending the whole novel in a town where everyone talked this way. If that was one of the reasons, I certainly don't blame him.

My friends used to joke that they could always tell when I'd been visiting with relatives from Minnesota because I was pronouncing all my O's funny, but spending time in the south never left me with a drawl. Around my Northern family though, I was comfortable and the accent and "don'tchaknow" just felt normal. I didn't feel like a weirdo talking that way. I'm telling you this because if the phrase, "if it does ya" happens to slip into my posts, it's because I've been brainwashed by the normalcy and comfort of Stephen King. And it doesn't make me feel like a weirdo at all.


Ami said...

I have enjoyed Stephen King's books for a long time. Well, some of them. His character development is wonderful, and I usually am sorry when the story is over, since the character is contained only in that book and I will never see him/her again.
But some of his stories just SUCK.
The Dark Tower series I just could NOT get into. I did wade through some of them, but ugh.

My favorite SK expression? Half past give a shit.

Heather said...

I think that's why I enjoy a reading series so much, because you get to experience the characters for a little bit longer. Then I get to the last book and I'm bummed there aren't any more.

Gotta love the colorful expressions though ;)