True confessions: I read the last chapters of books. No, I don't necessarily read them first and I don't do it because I have some weird Harry Burns-esque thing about knowing what happens in case I die in the middle. I read the end because otherwise I will read books too quickly and miss something. Also, I have kind of high anxiety and knowing who dies/lives/etc. eases it. I also like to have TJ tell me who is going to live while watching scary movies. I would say that it actually enhances my enjoyment.
I started reading "Bag of Bones" in November on the recommendation of Warning Signs founder (spouse) TJ. It's only my third Stephen King book — I recently conquered Carrie and earlier this year read the "Just Before Sunset" short story collection. If you include the movie adaptations I've seen ("Shawshank," "Green Mile" and "The Shining"), I'm familiar with six King titles.
I fell in love with this book right away. I love the main character's sadness. But as I got deeper in, I began to have a realization. I wasn't going to be able to flip forward and read the end of this story. My bookmark was frozen in place as things suddenly became clear:
Stephen King was going to totally fuck me.
A few days after starting it, I sat in the kitchen with TJ, lamenting that I wasn't gong to be able to watch the new miniseries with him and warning him against telling me anything about the story. He was impressed by what he assumed was my newfound restraint and desire to be surprised.
"Oh, no. That's not it." I said. "I just know that he's about to totally screw me, and I just don't want to know ahead of time that it's coming. I just don't think I could do it."
As a lifelong King fan, Teej just laughed and said, "Yeah, well, you've pretty much got him figured out."
Last night I was up until after midnight reading. I'm maybe 2/3 of the way through "Bag of Bones" now, and things are looking rosy. But I've got too much book left to read for it to stay that way. So I finally did it — I flipped forward and read the epilogue.
And yep, I'm screwed. There's some huge twist that I — more than halfway finished with a novel — still don't see coming. Characters I like are toast. Things I don't want to happen will happen. There's a soft, kind of heartwarming ending, but it's bittersweet.
And you've got to wonder: Why do people keep reading this author? Why do we, collectively, year after year, approach the "New releases" section of our favorite bookstore, drop trow, bend over and let this guy just go to town on our literary expectations?
I guess it's because of the sadness that I fell in love with on page 1. Or maybe it's just the hope that some day, some how, someone is going to make it to the end and not get hit by a bus. Or possessed. Or shot in the head. Or whatever. Deep down, I believe Stephen King wants good things to happen to good people. For justice to be served. For happily ever after to come true.
And if not — at least the man can tell a good story. And if you're going to get fucked by an author, at least it'll be by one who lubes you up real good first.