In The Shining , King domesticated his approach to the theme of parent-child relationships, focusing on the threat to the family that comes from a trusted figure within it. Jack Torrance, a writer, arranges to oversee a mountain resort during the winter months, when it is closed due to snow.
1. Stop watching television. Instead, read as much as possible.
He moves his family with him to the Overlook Hotel, where he expects to break a streak of bad luck and personal problems he is an alcoholic by writing a play. As Jack metamorphoses from abusive father and husband into violent monster, King brilliantly expands the haunted-house archetype into a symbol of the accumulated sin of all fathers. The monster is the American Dream as embodied in the automobile. An automotive godmother, she brings Arnie, in fairy-tale succession, freedom, success, power, and love: a home away from overprotective parents, a cure for acne, hit-andrun revenge on bullies, and a beautiful girl, Leigh Cabot.
Soon, however, the familiar triangle emerges, of boy, girl, and car, and Christine is revealed as a femme fatale— driven by the spirit of her former owner, a malcontent named Roland LeBay. Christine is the car as a projection of the cultural self, Anima for the modern American Adam. Her sweeping, befinned chassis and engine re-create a fantasy of the golden age of the automobile: the horizonless future imagined as an expanding network of superhighways and unlimited fuel.
Christine recovers for Arnie a prelapsarian vitality and manifest destiny. The immortality she offers, however—and by implication, the American Dream—is really arrested development in the form of a Happy Days rerun and by way of her radio, which sticks on the golden oldies station. The epilogue from four years later presents the fairy-tale consolation in a burnedout monotone. I want grownups to look at the child long enough to be able to give him up.
22 lessons from Stephen King on how to be a great writer
The child should be buried. Louis succumbs to temptation when the family cat, Church, is killed on the highway; he buries him on the sacred old Native American burial grounds. Louis is the father as baby boomer who cannot relinquish his childhood. In this modernization of Frankenstein , King demythologizes death and attacks the aspirations toward immortality that typify contemporary American attitudes. In It , a group of children create a community and a mythology as a way of confronting their fears, as represented by It , the monster as a serial-murdering, shape-shifting boogey that haunts the sewers of Derry, Maine.
Twenty-seven years after its original reign of terror, It resumes its seige, whereupon the protagonists, now professionally successful and, significantly, childless yuppies, must return to Derry to confront as adults their childhood fears. It is a calling forth and ritual unmasking of motley Reagan-era monsters, the exorcism of a generation and a culture.
As for King the writer, It was one important rite in what would be a lengthy passage. In The Eyes of the Dragon written for his daughter , he returned to the springs of his fantasy, the fairy tale. He told much the same story as before but assumed the mantle of adulthood. In The Dark Tower cycles, he combined the gothic with Western and apocalyptic fiction in a manner reminiscent of The Stand.
Then with much fanfare in , King returned to that novel to update and enlarge it by some pages. The process of recapitulation and summing up was complicated by the disclosure, in , of Richard Bachman, the pseudonym under whose cover King had published five novels over a period of eight years. Invented for business reasons, Bachman soon grew into an identity complete with a biography and photographs he was a chicken farmer with a cancer-ravaged face , dedications, a narrative voice of unrelenting pessimism , and if not a genre, a naturalistic mode in which sociopolitical speculation combined or alternated with psychological suspense.
In , when the novels with one exception were collected in a single volume attributed to King as Bachman, the mortified alter ego seemed buried. Like Scheherazade, the reader is reminded, Sheldon must publish or literally perish. The young writer-protagonist Thaddeus Beaumont has a series of headaches and seizures, and a surgeon removes from his eleven-year-old brain the incompletely absorbed fragments of a twin—including an eye, two teeth, and some fingernails. Nearly thirty years later, Beaumont is a creative writing professor and moderately successful literary novelist devoted to his family.
What Stark wants is to live in writing, outside of which writers do not exist. However, the writer is also a demon, vampire, and killer in this dark allegory, possessing and devouring the man, his family, friends, community. Jekyll and Mr. Once again, the man buries the terrible child in order to possess himself and his art. In dramatizing the tyrannies, perils, powers, and pleasures of reading and writing, Misery and The Dark Half might have been written by metafictionists John Fowles to whose work King is fond of alluding or John Barth on whom he draws directly in It and Misery.
Alone and helpless, Jessie confronts memories including the secret reason she struck out at Gerald , her own fears and limitations, and a ghastly visitor to the cabin who may or may not be real. The aptly named Dolores Claiborne is trapped more metaphorically, by poverty and an abusive husband, and her victory too is both violent and a sign of her developing independence and strength. Archetypal themes also strengthen the two books: Female power must overcome male dominance, as the moon eclipses the sun; and each woman must find her own identity and strength out of travail, as the darkness gives way to light again.
King uses mythology and gender issues more explicitly in Rose Madder, which evenly incorporates mimetic and supernatural scenes. The books are daring departures for King in other ways. In fact, all of Dolores Claiborne is her first-person narrative, without even chapter breaks, a tour de force few would attempt.
Dolores Claiborne is especially successful, her speech authentic Mainer, and her character realistic both as the old woman telling her story and as the desperate yet indomitable wife, the past self whose story she tells. In these novels, King reaches beyond childhood and adolescence as themes; child abuse is examined, but only from an adult point of view.
Dolores and Jessie—and the elderly protagonists of Insomnia—reveal King, perhaps having reconciled to his own history, exploring new social and psychological areas. Both are relatively young, and Jo, Mike learns, was pregnant. Because Mike is unable to father children, he begins to question whether Jo was having an affair. As Mike slowly adjusts to life without Jo, he is forced to make another adjustment.
Formerly a successful writer of gothic romance fiction, he now finds that he is unable to write even a simple sentence.
King's "Everything You Need to Know"
After Stephen's grandparents passed away, Mrs. King found work in the kitchens of Pineland, a nearby residential facility for the mentally challenged. He was also active in student politics, serving as a member of the Student Senate. He came to support the anti-war movement on the Orono campus, arriving at his stance from a conservative view that the war in Vietnam was unconstitutional. He graduated from the University of Maine at Orono in , with a B.
A draft board examination immediately post-graduation found him 4-F on grounds of high blood pressure, limited vision, flat feet, and punctured eardrums.
He and Tabitha Spruce married in January of He met Tabitha in the stacks of the Fogler Library at the University of Maine at Orono, where they both worked as students. As Stephen was unable to find placement as a teacher immediately, the Kings lived on his earnings as a laborer at an industrial laundry, and her student loan and savings, with an occasional boost from a short story sale to men's magazines. Throughout the early years of his marriage, he continued to sell stories to men's magazines. In the fall of , Stephen began teaching high school English classes at Hampden Academy, the public high school in Hampden, Maine.
Writing in the evenings and on the weekends, he continued to produce short stories and to work on novels. On Mother's Day of that year, Stephen learned from his new editor at Doubleday, Bill Thompson, that a major paperback sale would provide him with the means to leave teaching and write full-time. At the end of the summer of , the Kings moved their growing family to southern Maine because of Stephen's mother's failing health.
During this period, Stephen's mother died of cancer, at the age of Carrie was published in the spring of That same fall, the Kings left Maine for Boulder, Colorado. Returning to Maine in the summer of , the Kings purchased a home in the Lakes Region of western Maine. The Dead Zone was also written in Bridgton.
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