Books are a uniquely portable magic.
If you were to walk into almost any library or bookstore, odds are you’ll find most of the shelf space for the K authors is given over to books written by Stephen King. Not only does he tend to write long books, he has written a lot of books. For better or worse, Stephen King has ruled the realm of popular fiction for decades, and he shows no signs of stepping down from his throne anytime soon.
Stephen King officially started his writing career in the late 1960’s, submitting short stories to magazines to supplement his salary as a worker in an industrial laundry. His first novel, Carrie, was published in 1974. It was a runaway success, so much so that Stephen was able to write full time for a living, and he hasn’t looked back since. Although a lot about his life has changed since his first book was published, King still lives in Maine most of the year, he’s still an avid baseball fan, and he’s still giving a lot of people nightmares.
One of my favourite bits of King trivia is that he met his wife while they were both working in a university library. Coincidentally, I too first encountered him in a library, although in my case it was my school library, while I was skipping out on an inter-mural floor hockey tournament. Up until then, my only exposure to Stephen King was through the television ad for the movie version of The Shining, which scared the pants off me. To this day I don’t know why I picked up that copy of The Stand, but I did, and I’ve been hooked every since.
I’m the first to admit that his books aren’t the greatest literature, and I don’t enjoy everything he’s written. But there’s something about the vast stories he’s able to create, and the basic humanity of his characters, that keeps me coming back for more. I prefer his ridiculously long books – It, Under the Dome, and my all-time favourite, The Talisman, to his short story collections.
There’s something about his writing that reminds me of the really gruesome original versions of classic fairy tales, where the world is a dark and scary place filled with wolves that eat grandmothers alive, and wicked queens that demand the hearts of children. In those stories, even though terrible things happened, the characters who were clever, strong and brave came through in the end. These stories were originally told as morality tales, to introduce children to the concept of good and evil. In that regard, there are a lot of similarities between the stories told by the brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen and Stephen King. The monsters in Stephen King’s books are sometimes supernatural, sometimes human, and horrible things happen to good people, but at the end of the day evil is defeated by the powers of good. Ultimately, I have to turn to Stephen King’s own words to explain why his books appeal to me and to so many other readers: “We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones.”