Saturday, March 24, 2012

Constant Reading Project: Pet Sematary

Pet Sematary
Released: November 14, 1983
Pages: 416
Screen adaptations: 1989, directed by Mary Lambert. (Rumors of a remake are in the air.)
Connections to other works: Other than being a fictional Maine town (Ludlow, not Castle Rock or Derry) this stands pretty much on its own.

When I think the books Stephen King had written that are truly frightening, Pet Sematary is one that always comes to mind. There are ghosts, supernatural forces, uncomfortable family backstories, and, at the heart of it, a man just trying to do what he thinks is best for his family.

This also marks the end of King's first epoch as a publishing novelist. It's a tale familiar to die hard fans, but maybe you haven't heard it.

King wrote Pet Sematary in 1978, near the end of his contract with Doubleday, his first book publisher. The contract sucked, so he jumped to Viking. He swung a deal to better his take on his first novels in exchange for this one. Pet Sematary was then released by Doubleday in 1983.

Until giving it to the publisher, King had this manuscript put away. According to King lore, it was too much. There's a lot of autobiography in the book when it comes to setting and situation. Only in Pet Sematary, the Creeds little boy does get hit by a semi-truck. The youngest King, Owen, got too close for comfort but did not suffer the same bitter fate as Gage Creed does. If Christine is a tragedy, as I've said it is, then Pet Sematary is beyond tragedy. There's an old saying, especially among horror writers, about imagining the worst that could happen in order to keep it from happening. Unfortunately, far too many children still play in dangerous streets, leaving families behind to blame themselves.

That level of realism is what makes Pet Sematary so frightening. It forces you to ask yourself just how far are you willing to go? King went to the edge, looked over and saw this monster in the abyss. It's very easy to see the monster looking back at him. As  we read, we're looking, too. Which means the monster sees us just as clearly.

I'll be pounding away at a hardback with 374 pages. With no time to waste, let's get rolling.

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