While I have been COVID telecommuting, I have tried to get out in the early afternoon for a nice 45 minute walk. I’ve been listening to a bit of Stephen King while I walk — I’ve already read all of his books, so listening (even to the scary stuff) is somewhat easy and comforting. If I lose my train of thought, no big deal. The story just goes on.
This year, I listened to two books I had previously read, Lisey’s Story and ‘Salem’s Lot.
I first read Lisey’s Story when it was released in 2006, and thought it was pretty much the worst book King had ever written. But when Apple TV announced they had adapted it into a miniseries with Julianne Moore, and that King himself was working the screenplay, I decided to give it another chance.
Still the worst book King has ever written. Although King states that it is his favorite. I guess Uncle Stevie and this constant reader will just have to agree to disagree on this one.
I could have handled it if it had simply been a straightforward story about love, grief, fame, terror, abuse, and insanity. I could have even handled a story about a secret world that only some people had access to just by thinking about it (similar to flipping to The Territories in The Talisman, or using the doors in The Dark Tower).
But what I couldn’t stand was the language. The made up nonsense words that Scott used in his everyday patois. Smucking. Boo’ya Moon. Bool. Ugh. No. And the constant use of the term “baby love” just about drove me crazy.
I only lasted two episodes when I tried to watch the miniseries. I will not be revisiting it. One star.
I had the complete opposite reaction to my reread of ‘Salem’s Lot.
I first read this so long ago, I can barely remember it. I’m pretty sure it was the third or fourth King book I ever read…so I’m guessing 8th grade?
We all know that ‘Salem’s Lot is about vampires. But what I had forgotten was that the vampire action doesn’t even start until halfway through the book. The first half of the story is filled with with King does better than just about any other writer out there today: descriptions of everyday life and regular people in a small town (in Maine, naturally). We get to know dozens of characters, and become familiar with the minutia of their lives. Some we like, and some we don’t, just like real life.
Which makes it all the more frightening when people start dying.
Its funny, the little bits that I remember from the first time I read this were only about the vampires. I didn’t remember anything about the town or its residents. My most vivid memory is of Danny Glick, hovering outside Mark Petrie’s window, begging to be let it. If I guessed, I would have said that scene happens at the beginning of the story, right after Barlow and Straker move to town. But that scene is more than halfway through the book. Strange how memory works.
I was also interested to read about Father Callahan, a major player in the Dark Tower books, as I couldn’t really remember what he was like in his life before the Calla. He was quite an interesting character. A man of god struggling with his faith and his sobriety, who joins the fight against Barlow and the vampires without a second thought, and fights bravely, until he is bested by Barlow, causing him to flee ‘Salem’s Lot and leaving his friends behind.
Its obvious that this book was written in the 1970s. There is a lot of sexism and many utterings of slurs that aren’t exactly considered politically correct these days. And the smoking! Everyone had cigarettes at the ready! But other than those relatively minor quibbles, the story holds up. And its still scary as hell. Four stars.