Sunday, June 27, 2010

The King, Part II

I previously wrote about my first experience reading Stephen King, which was horrible. Cujo was not frightening, in the least. As a result, I became condescending towards those I caught reading his work.

My first experience reading Stephen King occurred the summer between fifth and sixth grade. Once I had read my first Stephen King, the snowball effect occurred. At garage sales, when I spotted a Stephen King book, I asked my mother if I could read it, more to push the envelope than out of interest for reading his work. Despite my predisposition for becoming frightened, my mother became increasingly lenient, and tended to say "yes."

So even though I didn't think highly of King's writing, it was available to me, and at times, was the only material available to me.

Thus, a combination of boredom and ready availability resulted in my reading more Stephen King books, such as:

Christine, a book about a car that possesses and destroys people.

Thinner, a tale about this asshole who pisses off a gypsy and is cursed to waste away:

Then, one winter when I was in high school, my entire family got sick -- except for my father, who hardly ever becomes ill. One by one, my siblings and mother became ill and ran for the bathroom so that they could retch into the toilet. (Coincidentally, this was the last year that my family ordered a ham for the annual Christmas dinner.)

I went to bed still feeling relatively healthy. I awoke from my slumber in the middle of the night, made my first of several trips into the bathroom, and spent the majority of the evening attempting, and failing, to find a comfortable resting position.

Whilst huddled miserably in my bed, I read one of Stephen King's great novels: Misery. His novel about a writer who is trapped with his "Number One Fan."

I adored this book - reading it is my happiest memory of that particular Christmas, despite the fact that my stomach and head ached.

Misery convinced me that Stephen King occasionally wrote well... I could understand why some people read Stephen King. Occasionally, at least, works that were very enjoyable were created by The King.

I wasn't as much of a snob, anymore.

Preview: My next post about Stephen King will also discuss Shakespeare...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

On Material Belongings

I recently read a tiny book entitled Proust's Overcoat, originally written by Lorenza Foschini, translated by Eric Karpeles --

This slim volume recounts the obsessive need of collector Jacques Guerin to possess the former belongings of Marcel Proust. Letters, first editions, furniture... anything that was once important to, or written by Proust, Guerin wants to see, touch, and experience.

Basically, Guerin was rich, having inherited a perfume company his mother made great, and he thought Proust was a genius. Guerin also met Marcel's brother, having become ill, and luckily having physician Robert Proust visit his house to check on his health.

This contact with Robert Proust, and seeing a draft of Marcel's work, inspired a passion in Guerin to see all of Marcel's things.

The overcoat, being one of Marcel Proust's trademarks, basically something Marcel LIVED in, even in warm weather, is the coup de grace.

This book is an interesting look at what the material things left behind say about the person who used to own them, and the importance of those belongings to the people who cared about you.

It was interesting, it was informative, and it read very quickly.

I think this book would be great for Proust admirers, or as a quirky gift to someone else. It will be released in August of this year.

Monday, June 21, 2010

I Don't Usually Blog About Myself

But I can't keep quiet.

My boyfriend asked me to marry him -- and I said yes.

No date or plans made yet, just excitement. Lots & lots of good feelings & excitement.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Book Review: Mr. Toppit

A few days ago I finished reading Mr. Toppit, the debut novel by Charles Elton.

This novel has already been released, and done very well, in England, and is slated to be released in the U.S. in September of this year.

Mr. Toppit is the story of a children's book series, written by a man named Arthur Hayman. The protagonist of the series is based on Arthur's son Luke, and after Arthur's death, and an American woman's influence, the books become bestsellers. The remaining Haymans - Luke, his mother Martha, and his sister Rachel, then have to deal with the sudden fame. The allusion to the Winnie the Pooh franchise is noticeable, although Arthur's series is supposed to be a quite a bit darker. The title of the novel comes from the overbearing, unseen antihero of the novels, who consistently gives Luke tasks that cannot be fulfilled to Mr. Toppit's satisfaction.

Overall, when I finished the book, I did not feel like it was one of the most amazing books ever written. I did feel, however, that it was entertaining, that it wasn't predictable, and that it was addicting. I wanted to keep reading. I wanted to know what crazy things were going to be said and done next. I sympathized with Luke, and I was not expecting the fitting ending. I kept reading because I wanted to keep reading, not because I felt like I had to in order to write an adequate review.

Mr. Toppit is a dark novel, in which the characters act like real people. Some of the things they do don't make sense, and those that do make sense are often slightly horrifying.

It is an entertaining read, and I recommend it. I think it is interesting, slightly depressing, and the characters stay with you, both while you're reading the novel and afterwards.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The King

My first experience with The King occurred the summer after fifth grade. I had begged and begged my mother to allow me to read Stephen King novels throughout fifth grade, my reasoning being that Kit Macaroon * was allowed to read Stephen King, & I was much smarter than she**.

My mother always steadfastly refused - her reasoning being that Stephen King wrote horror stories, and that I am easily frightened. She liked to cite the movie "The Witches," which is based on a Roald Dahl book, which is meant to be a comedy, but gave me nightmares for years. (I also might, possibly, have received nightmares from the movie "How the Grinch Stole Christmas.")

So okay, I was easily frightened at the tender ages of four and six, but I argued that I was more mature, at the age of eleven.***

My mother didn't believe me.

Then finally, the summer after fifth grade, as the family wandered around in some stranger's garage perusing their old belongings to see if we wanted to buy anything, I found a bright orange, hardcover copy of a book entitled Cujo, with that yearned for name, "Stephen King," printed in bold letters on the spine.

25 cents

How could mom say no?

I ran to her, excitement radiating from my being, and showed her the book, begging to please, please, please be allowed to read it.

After thinking for a moment, my mother said "okay." This book, she said, was not too scary. She would let me read it.

I began reading the book on a hot, bright summer day, sprawling out on the grass beside our driveway.

And I was disappointed.

At this period of my life, I was under the impression that any prolific author must, by definition, be amazing. After all of the build-up to how frightening Stephen King was, reading a book about a rabid dog was a let-down. I also wasn't frightened.

Due to this experience, I went through a period of quite a few years where I decided that The King wasn't really that great a writer. I looked down on those who found his writing addicting, who owned more than a few of his books.

That one bad experience colored my view of the author for years. Have YOU ever had an experience like that?

*The name has been changed to protect privacy.

**I realize this is pompous reasoning, but it really was exactly what I said to my mom.

***This, of course, was a complete lie, whether I realized it or not.