50 Scariest Books: #17 – It by Stephen King

If Stephen King and I were Facebook friends, our relationship status would be “It’s Complicated.” (I know, that joke is so 2008). I have read only 6 books by Stephen King and some of them enjoyed, some of them I wondered if he wrote them during a bout of the flu (My feelings about Cell are well documented).

I’ll admit that like most people, I’ve seen more movies based on Stephen King novels than I have read actual Stephen King novels. Shortlist includes: The Stand, Secret Window, The Shining, The Shining (remake), Rose Red, Misery, Pet Sematary, Cell, Carrie, The Dead Zone, Christine, Firestarter, Salem’s Lot, Children of the Corn, Dolores Claiborne, The Green Mile, Dreamcatcher, The Mist, 1408, Carrie (the remake), The Langoliers, Storm of the Century. 

Good Lord, I’ve seen a lot of Stephen King movies.

But I’m not a big fan of his prose. There’s a know-it-all cleverness that grates on me at times, an ostentatious look-at-me vibe. His dialogue is a tough sell; it often serves to rip me out of a story because Stephen King’s characters talk in a way no real person talks. I know, I read stories about murderous clowns and murderous cell phone signals and yet cannot suspend my disbelief to forgive a character’s idiosyncratic verbiage.

So it was with mild chagrin and not a little trepidation that I picked up the first book on Flavorwire’s 50 Scariest Books list: IT by Stephen King.

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“We all float down here.” (image from goodreads.com

King’s characteristic style is on full display here, and it makes for a rich story that spans decades. Character and setting are King’s strong suit. The sleep town of Derry is rendered vividly, often through the eyes of a child, that time when geography is limited by the reaches of a bicycle, an entire world writ in the confines of city limits.

The timeline jumps back and forth between a cast of children and their scarred, adult selves, as they navigate a horror they once defeated, but never actually killed. Grown up, all but one of them has built a life outside of Derry, but the evidence shows they never really left.

Although Pennywise the clown is the most famous manifestation of the town’s evil menace, like a Boggart, it morphs to mirror each character’s darkest fear.

Clocking in at over a thousand pages, the novel’s verbosity nonetheless feels necessary; the details are rarely extraneous.

In spite of myself, I liked the book. Writing aside, it made me appreciate the relentless imagination of Stephen King’s brain, a place that would be both horrifying and exhilarating to inhabit.

*party balloons

  • I watched the movie for the first time after reading. It’s…I won’t lie. I fell asleep.
  • Tim Curry is hilarious!
  • But there’s a remake!  Bill Skarsgård will play the infamous Pennywise, although I really wish the rumors about Tilda Swinton had been true! Also, it’s going to be multiple parts, like the miniseries.
  • Full disclosure: I read this book last year. If I had anything rude to say about it, it’s been long forgotten.

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