Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Little DAY Reading

When I was a teenager and into my early twenties, I was a huge Stephen King fan. I got this from my Mom, and everything of his she read, she passed down to me: Carrie, Salem's Lot, Cujo, Firestarter, The Shining, Pet Sematary, Misery, The Stand (my personal favorite), It (a close second), and various short stories of his. I stopped reading Stephen King for subliminal reasons back in college. During the winter of my freshman year at the University of Illinois, I read It, a story about a sewer-dwelling monster that manifest itself as a clown and lured kids to their deaths..."down here, they all float"...and it scared the hell out of me. The U of I has a series of steam tunnels linked to several steam vents peppered throughout the campus. I would walk home to my dorm in the wee hours of the morning after an evening of study in the library or in a classroom on campus, and have to pass several of these steam vents, all the while keeping a wary eye out for Pennywise the clown. After finishing the book, I guess I decided to take a break from Mr. King. Yes, I am that big of a wuss.

Last year, Diane and I were perusing the bargain table at Barnes & Noble when I came across King's "On Writing", his book about, well, writing. The book was priced right, something like $4.99 for a hard cover (apparently not too many people are interested in taking writing tips from Mr. King), and after thumbing through it and seeing that a good portion of it contained a mini-autobiography, I bought it. I was interested in discovering what went on in that demented mind of his. I wasn't disappointed. I breezed through the autobiographical section, then stalled during the "tools of the trade". I put the book down for a couple of months only to pick it back up and finish it about a month ago.

Although Stephen King is probably not the first person you'd think to go to for a lesson on writing, there's no denying that he's had a long, successful and lucrative career, and is therefore worth listening to. His no-nonsense approach to writing was refreshing and inspiring, and it was interesting to see him use his works as examples of his approach to writing.

On completing "On Writing", I decided it was time to end my Stephen King break for real and pick up one of his newer novels, and so I did. I was on a Target run one afternoon where I saw what I believe is his newest novel, Cell. Without any clue of what it was about, I grabbed it along with a couple of other books (John Berendt's City of Falling Angels and David Sedaris' Naked, both great reads), and headed for the checkout lanes. It seems like I can never get out of Target without dropping at least $100, but that's neither here nor there.

Yesterday afternoon, I started reading Cell after I dropped Kyra off at school, where I soon discovered that it is King's contribution to the "zombie" genre of horror stories. On October 1st at 3:00 pm of an unknown year, every user of a cell phone gets their minds turned to mush which causes them to go on a maniacal, homicidal rampage. By page 8, the people of Boston are attacking and chewing on each other, cars are crashing, planes are blowing up, and mass chaos ensues. The city of Boston is burning to the ground. Wide eyed, oh he just knifed that guy in the throat, I kept turning the pages because I needed to see what these people were going to do and how the crap they were going to get out of Boston. But I eventually had to put the book down because it was time to get the girls from school.

I returned to my book after we put the girls to bed. Diane had some work scheduling she needed to do on the computer, so I plopped down in our big comfy chair and began to read. The wind was howling last night and it beat upon the house as I read. Then the lights in the family room began to flicker. Did I mention that I'm a big wuss? Suddenly, the book that I had been able to read with little problem in the daylight had become much more sinister in the night. Our heroes were hunkered in the lobby of a hotel as night was falling and they kept hearing loud thumps from the floor above. Coincidentally, I kept hearing loud thumps from outside, and then the lights behind me began to flicker.
I began looking nervously over my shoulder until finally I decided that perhaps I should should give Cell a rest and just flip on the TV.

I wandered into the den where Diane was working instead. "He he he," I laughed nervously, "Perhaps that book is a good DAY book." Diane shot me a pathetic look. "These are not your normal, arms in the air, shuffle your feet zombies," I explained, trying to defend my honor and what was left of my masculinity. "These are quick, frickin' zombies that..." I rushed across the room, grabbed her shoulders, and began nibbling on her neck. She usually doesn't mind this routine except that this time the Hannibal Lecter, fava bean "pht pht pht pht" noise I made kind of freaked her out.

"Maybe you shouldn't read that book at all," she suggested, wild-eyed. Not a chance. I have to know what's going to happen, but I'll have to rebuild my tolerance for King. I'll start during the days for now and ease my way back into nights. But there's still one thing that's haunting me now. If I was nervous about the steam tunnels on the U of I campus twenty years ago, what the hell am I going to have to go through, what courage will I need to summon, to answer my cell phone every time it rings?

2 comments:

A Musing Mom said...

I totally hear ya on the DAY reading. I've been trying to get through The Road by Cormac McCarthy since earlier this month. But it's too creepy/disturbing to read at night. Now that Oprah's picked it there are 47 holds at my library - so I have to find time to finish it quick (no more hapless renewing). If only my kids would just leave me alone to read! : )

the battered ham said...

Well, I'm sure your children would be more than happy to let you read your creepy book if you just asked them nicel...oh, man...I almost got that out with a straight face.

It's good to know there are others out there who struggle with freaky night reading!