Sunday, September 18, 2011

My first King: Misery and The Dark Half

It is a well-known fact that "Misery" was the first Stephen King book I ever read. I was 11 and it scared the hell out of me. Every night, before I went to sleep, I had to throw the book beneath my bed. Out of sight, out of mind.

Yeah, right.

In the 20 years since then (Has it been that long? Am I so old that I have been reading King for two decades?), I have never been able to get Annie Wilkes out of my mind. The missing keys from Paul Sheldon's third hand typewriter clack away in my brain when I least expect it.

I am not alone. There is a reason I have stuck with King since I was in grade school. There are people who have been reading his books and short stories for 15 years longer than I have. For me, it started with "Misery." For you, it might have been different. For better or worse (yes, this relationship has lasted longer than many marriages), we are Constant Readers.

Yes, everyone remembers their first. I also remember my second dose of King.

"The Dark Half," like much of King's work, is about a writer. You write what you know. (Another day, we might discuss how tiresome the writer in horror fiction trope has become, but for now, we'll pretend that only King has used so many writers as protagonists.) Thad Beaumont and his alter-ego George Stark spoke to me. The young Beaumont, a burgeoning writer, felt like me. Wanting to create new worlds and shock the masses.

I fell in love with affectation. I have never been able to find any Berol Black Beauty pencils, but I do have a good supply of black Ticonderogas. If the demands of the world didn't deem computers neccesary, I would write solely with pens, pencils and typewriters.

Of course, I also loved the dark side of things. Part of me still wants a black Oldsmobile Toronado.

The other thing about these books, and something to think about if you are a parent, is that I learned a lot of new words. At the time, I didn't know what some of them meant. I knew the big ones, the F-word, the S-word, and such. Beyond not knowing what the words meant, I didn't always have the contextual knowledge to understand certain phrases or situations. That didn't keep me from being scared.

So while other kids my age were reading R.L. Stine's "Fear Street" books, if they were even into horror, I was learning from the King.

And that's how we open Stephen King Week. What was your first King experience? Your second?

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