Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Stephen King Countdown: Visitation Rights

I couldn't tell you how many people write about Stephen King these days. Scholarly works, devoted blogs, rants and raves aplenty all attached to one humble Maine kid.

Some of these writers stand out more than others. Do I? Nah, probably not. But writers such as Tony Magistrale, who delves deep into King from the scholarly angle do. And other fiction writers have shown how much King matters to them.


One, in particular, is taking a deep dive into King's work. Richard Chizmar, whom you may know as the gentleman behind Cemetery Dance, started StephenKingRevisted in November 2014 with the goal of re-reading each book in chronological order (a worthwhile task unfulfilled by many). Each of Chizmar's essays are broken into two sections: "That was Then" and "This is Now." Chizmar begins by talking about his first encounter with each book and then his latest reading of each. These essays are at times poignant and revealing (his recent essay on PET SEMATARY is astounding in its discussion of fatherhood), and we can learn as much about Chizmar the man and writer as we do about how King's work continues to be relevant.

In addition to Chizmar's thoughts, each book is put in context by King expert Bev Vincent and touched upon by another writer. Stewart O'Nan, for example, provided the companion piece to Chizmar's PET SEMATARY essay; Kealan Patrick Burke discussed CUJO; director Josh Boone talked about THE STAND (how about getting that movie going, eh?); and Ray Garton wrote about CARRIE. There are--and will continue to be-- so many more.

Chizmar is taking his time with this project. He's not rushing the reading or the writing and it shows in both good ways and bad. I love getting the notices that a new essay is available but sometimes it is months in between each. And yet each time a new piece is available, I devour it. I recognize so much of myself in Chizmar's writing and yet can also say, "But I didn't feel that way at all" in some instances.

That's the great part about it. Chizmar is feeding us discussion points and saying, "This is yours now." Which is exactly how I feel about King's work. It's not that the author is detached in an unemotional way. It's that they are both able to step away and let readers have their own say about a work.

It's not too late of you to catch up and keep up with Chizmar's Stephen King Revisited project. He lays everything out there for you to ride along.

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