Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

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Met your maker. Made The Stand.

I met a goal of mine: finish reading the first-published version of The Stand by Stephen King before I left on my Pi-Con trip. I reached the climax last night; I read the rest this morning, on a Dundee deck chair watching the morning get brighter.

It reminds me that something King is very good at conveying is exhaustion. There's hard road in that story after its climax, just as there's hard road (literally and figuratively) in much of his work, like The Long Walk, my favorite of his Bachman books. He understands being tired, and portrays it well. King's characters aren't superhuman, even when fighting superhuman forces like Randall Flagg (or the creatures in The Mist that took John Lee), and he likes to show the toll that takes. I imagine Cujo really conveys that wearing-down feeling, though I'm a little hesitant to read that novel to be sure.

I hadn't known until reading this version (a 1988 paperback, published before King decided to expand and update the book so it takes place in 1989) that King had originally set the story in 1985, and now I kind of wish he'd stuck closer to the late '70s, maybe setting it in 1980 at most. I was aware enough of life in the '70s to be able to see (as greygirlbeast points out) the Seventies-ness of the book, coming as it did out of the twin energy crises we'd had that decade. A lot changed between 1979 and 1985; I was slightly amused to see (say) disco mentioned early on in the book. That didn't have the staying power that people may have feared thought it would have. (Much later edit (on Aug. 22nd, 2009, in fact): I was wrong. The first-published 1978 version was set in 1980; in 1980 King slightly revised the book, and changed the dates to 1985 then. That was the version reprinted in the 1988 paperback I was reading. Two years later he published the expanded/revised version, and made the dates still later.)

One of the best aspects of the book is the emotion of it, its feeling. I got emotional at many moments during the reading, especially post-climax. (I also had this reaction more than once during the book: I'm glad I don't live in Harold Lauder's mind. I wonder what it was like for King to write that character.) It helps to sell the novel's somewhat low-key climax, a climax that I think even surprised King to a certain extent. He tells the story in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft of the writer's block that stalled him for weeks, where he thought The Stand would end with a war but he couldn't think of how he'd get from the manuscript's current point to a war...until on one of his patented long walks he suddenly realized No, HERE'S how it really ends, take notes so you don't forget. And it was important for King to write those notes and figure out plot ahead of time, something he tries not to do, because he didn't want to lose the book. He had an emotional investment in his characters, and that motivated him. And he passed along that investment to his readers.

So I succeeded in reading the book, often hearing W.G. Snuffy Walden's score for the 1994 miniseries, one of the best parts of that miniseries, in my head. I'm glad I found it.

And now I wonder when I'm going to re-read the expanded version. At some point, I probably will, all 1,100-plus pages of it.
Tags: books

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