I know it seems like a total cliché, now that I live in Maine, to pay tribute to one of the world’s most prolific authors. Because there are many great authors in Maine. Because Maine is more than just “where Stephen King comes from.” But, as I reread The Stand for the sixth time, I realize that I have to. Because more than just a prolific writer, he is also an amazing one.
Here’s a personal story: When I was eleven or twelve, I checked out a large hardcover copy of IT from my local library. The book was huge. 1,138 pages. Black cover with large and red letters screamed at me. A creepy green monster hand and a dark sewer grate. An ominous paper boat floating in the gutter. I had no idea what it was about (a clown? Kids that fight evil?) and I didn’t really care. Stephen King wrote scary books and this one looked terrifying. So I dragged it home in my backpack and settled in to read.
I’ll be honest. I don’t remember much about the book based on that first read. When I read it as an adult, I realized that there was a lot that would have gone right over my immature eleven-year-old head. But I read it anyway. I even brought it to school for Silent Reading Time.
I remember my teacher was horrified about my book choice. I assumed because she didn’t like scary books. There are A LOT of people that don’t care for Stephen King because they don’t like to be scared shitless when they read. That’s fine. I don’t particularly care for Nora Robert’s novels, so I understand. Every author isn’t for everybody.
It turns out that the teacher was horrified because she thought the book to be too difficult and inappropriate for an eleven-year-old to read and she assumed that I was reading it against the rules of my parents. Do parents have “reading rules”? Seriously? How awful. This teacher took my copy of IT away and called my mom.
To my mom’s credit she was also horrified to get a phone call from my teacher about a book. Her version goes something like this: “Wait… are you calling to tell me that my daughter is in trouble for reading at school? Uh huh. Okay, we don’t care what she reads as long as she reads. Yes. I know who Stephen King is. I helped her find the book at the library. Uh huh. Yeah. Thanks for calling.” I am thankful that I grew up with parents that had no “reading rules” other than the most important one: Just Read.
So I am 37 now. I’ve never stopped reading Stephen King. I don’t just read Stephen King – that would be silly. But I find myself coming back to him, like a warm blanket, or a loved stuffed animal. He’s the author version of a security blanket. Rereading his books feels like spending time with a good friend. Reading his books for the first time feels like taking a vacation to a new and exciting place and knowing I will enjoy the trip.