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Stephen King recs, with quotes - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Stephen King recs, with quotes
likeafox asked for recommendations of Stephen King books, which I commented on in her journal and am just pasting in here as well. I decided to include some favorite quotes, to give the flavor of the recs. Anyway, here's what I put together. I may add more later. I love quoting Stephen King.

I'd be interested in whether or not other people who've read these books were struck by the same ideas--the quotes I used were the very first things I thought of in connection to the books--and what non-King-readers think of them... are they what you think of when you hear "Stephen King"?

Hmm. It depends on what you like. I'll put in some typical quotes.

Creepiness factor: 'Salem's Lot--incredible evocation of a small town, as well as a good vampire yarn. (Shoot, can't find my copy. Suffice it to say, "The town knew about darkness, and darkness was enough." And, "There are things worse than the unknown--to look the Gorgon in the eye." Paraphrased, of course.)

Epic: The Stand--broad, sweeping apocalypse story that tends to come into the mind at the strangest times. Quite religious. This is kind of an odd quote, but it's one of my favorites, because it really demonstrates the tone of all the books. Stephen King is hopelessly in love with the world, I think.

Larry Underwood and Nadine Cross have come to Maine after the plague, and Larry is looking across an empty resort town.
Larry was drawn two painful ways by these things. Part of him clamored at their sad and blatant ugliness and the ugliness of the minds that had turned this section of a magnificent, savage coastline into one long highway amusement park for families in station wagons. But there was a more subtle, deeper part of him that whispered of the people who had filled these places and this road during other summers. Ladies in sunhats and shorts too tight for their large behinds. College boys in red-and-black-striped rugby shirts. Girls in beach shifts and thong sandals. Small screaming children with ice cream spread over their faces. They were American people and there was a kind of dirty, compelling romance about them whenever they were in groups--never mind if the group was in an Aspen ski lodge or performing their prosaic-arcane rites of summer along US 1 in Maine. And now all those Americans were gone... This stretch of highway between Portland and Portsmouth had once been a seventy mile amusement park and now it was only a haunted funhouse where all the clockwork had run down.

"Not very pretty, no," he said, "but once it was ours, Nadine. Once it was ours, even though we were never here before. Now it's gone."

Fantasy: The Talisman (No quote, because I haven't got a copy here. (!)) Jack Sawyer can flip back and forth between parallel worlds, and he walks across the country in them to save the life of his mother. I think part of the reason I like this book is that his mother is an actress and a movie star, but King and Straub write her exactly like any other character, and her job is just a job. Also, the beginning section, in which Jack is suffering from depression, really nails the emotional state.

Realism: "The Body" and "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" in the collection Different Seasons. Made into the movies Stand By Me and The Shawshank Redemption, these are pretty undiluted King, thematically.

The opening of "The Body":
The most important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them--words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they're brought out. But it's more than that, isn't it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you've said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That's the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller, but for want of an understanding ear.

(No quote from RH&SR--large swathes of it were quoted in the movie.)

Scary and epic: It. A few passages which are disturbing toward the end, but I love the characters in this one, and the shapeshifting monster is pretty good, too. Really neat technique as he shifts back and forth between two storylines set thirty years apart.

From the monologue at the end:
So you leave, and there is an urge to look back... But it is perhaps not such a good idea to look back--all the stories say so. Look what happened to Lot's wife. Best not to look back. Best to believe there will be happily-ever-afters all around--and so there may be; who is to say there will not be such endings? Not all the boats which sail away into darkness never find the sun again, or the hand of another child; if life teaches us anything at all, it teaches that there are so many happy endings that the man who believes there is no God needs his rationality called into serious question.... if you spare a last thought, maybe it's ghosts you wonder about... the ghosts of children standing in the water at sunset, their faces young, sure, but tough... tough enough, anyway, to give birth to the people they will become, tough enough to understand, maybe, that the people they will become must necessarily birth the people they were before they can get on with trying to understand simple mortality. The circle closes, the wheel rolls, and that's all there is.

(adding from what I quoted for likeafox, because I gotta--FW)

Drive away and try to keep smiling. Get a little rock and roll on the radio and go toward all the life there is with all the courage you can find and all the belief you can muster. Be true, be brave, stand.

All the rest is darkness.

The others that don't fall into these categories are Carrie and The Dead Zone, both good books, the former if you like school stories and the latter on political questions. And of course, for writers, you can't beat Misery... though you need a really strong stomach for it.
10 comments or Leave a comment
chibisophia From: chibisophia Date: July 14th, 2004 11:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love Stephan King, but I still can't get through Misery. I saw part of the movie and had to turn it off - it was just too much for me.

I'll back-up your rec of The Stand. I read the first two halfs of it one sleepless night, and well, let's just say it didn't help bring on the sleep. Great story, and though not the creepiest in King's tales, it was still profoundly disturbing at times, at least to me. But then again I get pretty creeped out by apocalyptic themes.

I would also like to add that I *heart* Tom Cullen. <3 He's just so adorable.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 14th, 2004 11:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
The weird and freaky thing about Misery--and the thing that the producers of the movie really seemed to miss--is that Annie is right about Paul's writing. It's wierd, because of course she's crazy, of course she's a sadist, and of course she's a monster who's pushing Paul beyond all human endurance... but she's still right about his books, and he understands it. I think that she's symbolically that totally irrational part of a writer who just knows the truth, and won't let you get away with being a pretentious hack.
mafdet From: mafdet Date: July 14th, 2004 11:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've seen posts from some Harry Potter fans who remind me of Annie Wilkes. "Joanne Rowling had BETTER write some Hermione/Draco smoochie-woochies OR ELSE!"

Two of my favorite Stephen King books are oldies but goodies: Carrie and Christine. I also liked It with the memorable "They float down here, Georgie!" It's enough to turn a girl off clowns for life. ;)

Horror and atmosphere aside, King really does have some spot-on psychological insights. Something I've always noticed about King novels, is he takes losers, nerds and outcasts and makes them sympathetic even when they're being monsters. Whether or not King was a put-upon, bullied kid himself, he appears to have a real gift for writing them. And even with his really nasty (human) villians like Annie Wilkes, or Henry Bowers in It King manages to humanize them by showing us things that helped make them monsters.
cheshyre From: cheshyre Date: July 15th, 2004 03:20 am (UTC) (Link)
I really haven't read Steven King because I've got a low tolerance for horror -- the few times I've tried to read even mild horror, it's given me nightmares, and I really don't need that.

But back in high school, I read a few of the Bachman books, before it was revealed that those were King under a penname. Only one that's stuck with me is Long Walk which hit a mild SF vibe with some creepiness, but didn't ring any horror bells with me.
[I also recently read his On Writing, which has a really friendly, folksy style.]
anaid_rabbit From: anaid_rabbit Date: July 15th, 2004 07:46 am (UTC) (Link)
I read Misery and I started to notice freaky and fanatic HP fans from a mile around. I read It and it made me fear clowns for quite awhile. I still don`t like them though. *is a pathetic and impressionable reader*
mafdet From: mafdet Date: July 15th, 2004 11:14 am (UTC) (Link)
See my comment above re: scarily obsessed HP fans and Annie Wilkes in Misery. Especially around the time when JKR stated that she couldn't understand why so many people liked Draco.

This is an indicator of how good King is at characterization. Even his "monsters" remind the reader of someone they know or have heard of. I think that's what makes them even scarier.
vytresna From: vytresna Date: July 15th, 2004 03:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
That certainly did it for Umbridge. Very possibly.
vytresna From: vytresna Date: July 15th, 2004 03:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ah, what's wrong with Green Mile? Green Mile and Carrie are the only works of his I ever read, and Carrie's little throbbing thought-style and gratuitous graphic sex... well, actually, the thought-style fits, but it's a bit weird on first encounter.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 15th, 2004 04:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I like The Green Mile, too--read it when it was still that annoying series of little paperbacks released serially. Of the two prison books, though, I prefer Shawshank. I just like the characters better.
maidenjedi From: maidenjedi Date: July 16th, 2004 02:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Mmmmm....The Stand. Still one of my all-time favorite books.

Thank you for reminding me....I should go read it to round out the summer!
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