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Dizzying Intellect » Over It? (Guess Not.)

Over It? (Guess Not.)

When I was in high school, I read Stephen King like he was going out of style. I know it’s not exactly canon, but it was entertaining, which is just as important, really. I stopped when he switched from horror to psychological thrillers — around Rose Madder, I guess — and haven’t been back.

So I’ve been re-reading a lot of books, because I freecycled about half of my library and re-shuffled the rest, so I’m seeing old titles that intrigue me. And I just re-read Firestarter, which I hadn’t read since I was in my teens. (I actually wasn’t sure I had read it, until I got to the term “Catherine wheel” in one scene, and randomly recalled with perfect clarity that this is where I first read that term.)

Anyway. I know King’s a liberal, but I was horrified at his treatment of military people in this book. Not the people running the government agency that’s testing on the girl, but unrelated soldiers. The first is a “tough-looking young man in an army uniform” in a phone booth who’s trying to convince his girlfriend that he’s not sleeping around, and I thought it was a coincidence.

But then later, one of the characters thinks about his time in Vietnam: “There was no need to confuse her by pointing out that they had all been stoned, most of the grunts smoked up well on Cambodian red and their West Point lieutenant, who was only one step away from the checkpoint between sanity and madness, on the peyote buttons that he chewed whenever they were out on patrol. Rainbird had once seen this looey shoot a pregnant woman with a semiautomatic rifle, had seen the woman’s six month fetus ripped from her body in disintegrating pieces; that, the looey told them later, was what you call a West Point Abortion.”

Ok, first of all, that’s some “semiautomatic rifle” that can explode an entire adult torso. Second, a whole platoon stoned and tripping while on patrol would have a very short shelf life, I should think. But more importantly — every single military person in the book is either a drug addict, a murderer, or a lying womanizer. Is this what he really thinks of our soldiers? Or is this some aberration? Since I didn’t notice it when I read it as a kid, I may have missed it in his other works, too.

And, of course, I google him now and find this:

I don’t want to sound like an ad, a public service ad on TV, but the fact is, if you can read, you can walk into a job later on. If you don’t, then you’ve got, the Army, Iraq, I don’t know, something like that. It’s, it’s not as bright. So, that’s my little commercial for that.

So. Uh. Nevermind.

[Anyway, I'm on to Morris West now. Much better.]

4 Comments

  • By og, January 19, 2009 @ 9:03 pm

    I’ve been to Maine, and I have to tell you, it’s no wonder he thinks like that. Maine is the state that invented white trash.

    He spent years jamming the proceeds of his books up his nose and waking and baking. He has no more concept of the world outside his bedroom than a cow. And it’s always been evident to me in his writing.

  • By radix, January 20, 2009 @ 6:00 am

    Gee, I’ve never had that problem going back to read vintage Zelazny…

    Never got into King that massively. I’ve seen the major movie versions. I think I read ‘The Stand’ and some of the Gunslinger series (and once in an airport bought and read ‘The Langoliers’ - still think that was a pointless book) and never really got into it.

    Currently plowing through Terry Goodkind’s ‘Sword of Truth’ series (the tv version ‘Legend of the Seeker’ has a different plotline), books 4-6 just showed up last week.

  • By rightwingprof, January 26, 2009 @ 3:18 pm

    King has always been a formula writer — he doesn’t write quite the same book over and over again, just almost the same book.

    If you want horror, forget King. Clive Barker is far more frightening, if you like really creepy. He may be a nutcase, and probably is; nobody that’s all right in the head could write stuff like he does.

  • By Tanya, January 26, 2009 @ 3:33 pm

    Pass. High school was a long time ago.

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