Tag Archives: Stephen King

Does Size Matter?

Guys, I completed one of my 2015 Reading Resolutions just in time to start thinking about 2016’s … but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I finally finished Stephen King’s It. I feel a new kind of emptiness inside and my right eyelid has been twitching for the past couple of days (and I thought Chuck Palahniuk wrote some twisted stuff). That old terror of reality is coming to get me, more frightening than any supernatural evil, but I did finish.

I decided to give myself the entire month of October to read It because it’s huge and because I’d finish on Halloween. Spooooooky! I have to say it’s one of the most complete novels I’ve ever read. Some of the book’s detractors may say that there’s too much detail about the history of a fictional town, but it made the whole experience feel more real. I wanted to go on adventures with the kids in the book and I wanted to be with them when they finally faced off with It, which I can only describe as mind-bendingly far out. The made-for-television adaptation is really like a trailer for the book. There’s only so much of the novel that could conceivably be crammed into just over three hours. Some of the novel—like the showdowns with It—are so unfathomably conceptual that they might be unfilmable. Such scenes are better existing only in your mind, if your mind can handle them.

itcoverIt consumed me and took over my subconscious for a several days. I had nightmares about my friends dying pretty regularly while I read it, but on the night I finished it, my dreams were beatific. I didn’t remember specifics upon waking, but I felt at peace.

The novel is a big hulking thing, more weapon than book, that sat on my bookshelf in three different apartments over five years, a towering 1138-page monolith. I felt a new kind of accomplishment when I turned the final page, and finishing it endowed me with the confidence that I could start and—more importantly—finish other long books.

(Please note: When I talk about length, I’m talking about number of pages, not number of words, even though number of words is more accurate.)

For years I’ve been putting off reading some long books, like Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. For some reason I thought it was around 1000 pages, but it’s a paltry 639. Ernest Hemingway‘s For Whom the Bell Tolls and John Steinbeck’s East of Eden are practically novellas at barely 500 and 600 pages, respectively. And Moby-Dick? Herman Melville’s classic allegorical tale, which I always thought was much longer (like Kavalier & Clay), comes in at 625. Haruki Murakami‘s 1Q84? That’s closer to It at 925. What about Gone with the Wind? Margaret Mitchell gets even closer at 1037 pages. War and Peace? Tolstoy’s tome tips the scales at a whopping 1386 pages.

Some of these look downright scrawny next to It.

20151027_130831

That sweet, sweet thickness.

It isn’t even King’s longest novel; The Stand holds that honor at 1153 pages.

There are, of course, plenty of articles and listicles about the longest novels, some of which are in our catalog, like:  Joseph and His Brothers (1207 pages), Clarissa, or, The History of a Young Lady (1533) or The Man Without Qualities (1774).

But does size really matter? I’ve read long books that were awful, like the 756-page Breaking Dawn (don’t judge—I was in college, trying to impress a girl) right along with short books that were awful (like The Train from Pittsburgh). Likewise, I’ve read short books that were fantastic (like the 295-page Me and Earl and the Dying Girl). Regardless, it’s undeniable that with more words—and more pages—authors have more room to create a more detailed world into which you can escape.

I doubt anyone would bemoan a well-crafted escape.

What’s the longest book you’ve ever read, dear readers? Do you have any recommendations on what I should read next to decompress after It? Sound off in the comments below!

–Ross

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Penny(wise) For Your Thoughts

itcover

This cover was clearly inspired by juggalos. And nothing is more terrifying than a juggalo. Nothing.

A remake of Stephen King’s It has been languishing in development hell for years. I first became aware of it in 2009 when I started reading the book (which I’ve yet to finish), but it was reported in December 2014 that Cary Fukunaga, the director of the first season of True Detective, would be helming the remake. If you’ve seen True Detective, you know that Fukunaga is more than capable of crafting an unseen horror that is still tangible. While filming of the two-part adaptation is expected to begin this summer, Fukunaga is still searching for the perfect actor to portray Pennywise, the titular It who takes the form of a vicious clown. Tim Curry played the character in the 1990 made-for-television miniseries.

One of the things the Internet loves as much as cats is fan casting. New lists pop up each time an adaptation of a known property is in the works. A simple Google search of “pennywise casting” returns several articles, some dating back to 2009. The names I’ve seen range from wonderfully inspired (Tilda Swinton, Geoffrey Rush), to downright amazing (Willem Dafoe, Michael Shannon), to uninspired (Johnny Depp, Michael Fassbender) to so far out in left field that they might just be fantastic (Nicolas Cage?! Channing Tatum?!). Not to be outdone, I thought I’d throw my own names into the ring.


Michael Keaton
Michael_Keaton_Face
Coming off a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his performance in Birdman or, (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Keaton is hotter than ever right now and as a fellow Pittsburgher, I couldn’t be more proud. Keaton is always golden in everything he does and while horror films are generally looked down upon by Academy voters (The Exorcist, Silence of the Lambs and The Sixth Sense being exceptions) Keaton might be able to score another Best Actor nom.

Robert Downey Jr
Robert_Downey_Jr_2014_Comic_Con_(cropped)
He’s also hot right now, thanks to those small superhero movies he keeps making. I feel like he’s versatile enough (extremely versatile) to pull off the killer clown. And he’s never really played an outright bad guy so it’d be an interesting change of pace.

David Bowie
David-Bowie_Chicago_2002-08-08_photoby_Adam-Bielawski-cropped
Think of the lanky alien from The Man Who Fell to Earth or the tights-wearing, bulge-sporting Goblin King from Labyrinth. There’s a charm that Bowie exudes in those roles that would make his portrayal even more unsettling. Granted, The Thin White Duke might be a bit too old for it now, but clown makeup could probably make his age a non-issue.

J. K. Simmons
JK_Simmons_2009
I will openly admit that I have a man-crush on J.K. Simmons (I think it’s those baby blues). I laughed with him in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films and empathized with him in Jason Reitman’s films, but he terrified me in Whiplash. Shouldn’t an eldritch evil manifested as a clown do the same thing?

Meryl Streep
Meryl_Streep_by_Jack_Mitchell
Since Tilda Swinton is in almost every other fancast for this project, I wanted to offer another female name. Streep was wicked in Into the Woods and is obviously a capable actor. However, I feel like casting her might result in a hammy performance, a la Death Becomes Her. That could be scary in its own way, though.

BONUS
Matthew McConaughey or Woody Harrelson
Matthew_McConaughey_-_Goldene_Kamera_2014_-_BerlinWoody_Harrelson_2009
I haven’t checked my history books lately so I don’t know if we’re still living in the McConaissance or not, but picture him as emaciated as he was in Dallas Buyers Club, but  in clown make up and you’ve got yourself a new nightmare for a new generation. And Harrelson can go from friendly to mean and angry at the drop of a hat. It’d be terrifying to see him go from playful to evil. Given the fact that Fukunaga has already worked with both on True Detective, I’d really love to see what they could cook up here.

Ron Perlman? Christian Bale? Tom Hiddleston? The possibilities are endless! Who would you cast as the demonic clown?  Are you looking forward to the remake? Let us know in the comments.

–Ross

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Celebrate Good Times!

This week is National Library Week! 

Here are some reasons to celebrate. 8 Reasons to Hang Out at a Library. 9 Reasons Why Librarians are Awesome.

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is celebrating library books that change lives. Visit our website and tell your story. Here is mine!

web banner

The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley

MistsofAvalonI knew the tales of Camelot and King Arthur when I was a kid. They didn’t appeal to me then and they didn’t appeal to me as a young adult. I was a feminist before I knew it and all of the tales were dominated by men, which did not interest me. All the chicks in the traditional tales are either dimwits (Gwenhwyfar) or evil, ball-busting witches (Morgan le Fay). None of them have any personality or power; they are boring one-dimensional stereotypes. The Mists of Avalon tells the tales of Camelot from a woman’s point of view. And what women they were! Morgaine (Morgan le Fay) isn’t an evil sorceress, she’s misunderstood and wants to be loved! But her aunt Morgause sure is a jerk. Gwenhwyfar has a three-way! Igraine was a secret bad-ass who fell in love with a not-so-secret bad-ass and produced Arthur! Lancelet isn’t so gallant. King Arthur is wonderful, but sometimes spoiled and petulant. If you’re a reader like me, you’ll also appreciate the boatload of prequels and sequels.

James and the Giant Peach, Roald Dahl

JamesWhen I first considered what books changed me, this is the first book I went to. I don’t necessarily relate to James: I’m not an orphan, no mean aunts abused me and unfortunately, no one has ever given me a sack of magical, glowing-green, crocodile tongues. What James and the Giant Peach did do was make me realize the potential for storytelling and fiction and OMG books are amazing. This is the first “chapter” book I was exposed to, thanks to my third grade teacher (shout out to Mrs. Cypher nee Garrett.) This is also the book I chose to read from for the library’s 24 Hour Read Aloud.

The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas

CountOh, Edmund Dantes, how could Mercedes give up on you? Thanks to a very good friend (looking at you, DWR) I was more or less forced to read this book. There was some cajoling involved (“C’mon, you’ll love it. Honest!”) All I knew about Dumas was The Three Musketeers movie- which, no.  Again, being contrary means saying sorry because I loved- devoured- this book. It introduced me to a new genre (ADVENTURE!). I moved on from The Count of Monte Cristo to the rest of Dumas and then to books about pirates and prison breaks. The biography about Alexandre Dumas’ father (the son of an African slave and French nobleman) called The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss shows that many of Dumas’ characters were inspired by his own pops.

The Bachman Books, Stephen King

BachmanYou know the movie The Running Man? It came from this book of short stories. And it’s the worst story of the four! The other three stories, Rage, The Long Walk, and Road Work would all be amazing movies. I was probably too young to read this, but whatever. This book inspired me in two ways. First of all, as a budding writer, it introduced me to the idea of short stories. I mean, I was 11 and wanted to write a novel. There’s not much to go on at that age. But a short story? Oh yes, that could be done! Second, it was the first time I was ever emotionally invested in a character. I loved Peter McVries (The Long Walk) and his scar and his sub-conscious death wish (which honestly was just a preview of coming attractions for me).

Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand

AtlasAny time I mention enjoying Rand books, I immediately get flamed for being an egoist, an elitist, or a Republican. I’m none of those things. Not too many elitists work for the public library (I’m just saying). Like any book, you should take what you want/need from it. I didn’t swallow her philosophy whole, but you know what? She had some smart things to say about the nature of happiness and joy, and valuing yourself. I’m not going to push an old lady into the street and I donate to charity, but there is something to be said for being aware of your worth. Self-confidence is sexy, yo. It’s also simply a good story, especially if you like heavy industry, politics, and trains. And for readers that object to Objectivism (see what I did there?) as a philosophy, read this awesomeness.

War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy

WarDuring my final semester as an undergrad, I took 19th Century Russian Masterpieces (I was there a long time, it was slim pickins’ at that point). The reading list was intense. Crime and Punishment (Dostoevsky), Chekhov plays, Dead Souls (Gogol), Pushkin, and of course, the granddaddy of Russian novels, War and Peace. I was dreading it. I was intimidated by it. The name alone hurt my stomach. But since I wanted to graduate from college before I was 50, I sucked it up and opened it. Oh. My. Word. Four days later, I finished it, crying. It’s the Russian Gone with the Wind and don’t let anyone tell you different. Go Team Andrei!

I could write about a ton more books that have made a difference in my life. Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything taught me how to make a perfect hamburger and boil an egg. I have a line from a Ralph Waldo Emerson poem tattooed on me, so I’ll include him, too.

What books made a difference in your life?

happy reading!

suzy

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April 18, 2014 · 5:00 am

Watching Books

source: National Archives and Records Administration via Wikipedia

It seems that TV writers are mining stories from books just as much as their film counterparts these days. Pick the right book – even better if it’s a series – and you have plenty of good material to last a few seasons. The titles featured here are either currently on a small screen (yes, I’m counting Netflix) or coming to one very soon.

Orange is the New Black is Piper Kerman’s memoir of the fifteen months she spent in a minimum security prison, after being indicted for money laundering and drug trafficking – events that happened nearly a decade before she pleaded guilty and self-surrendered. Kerman deftly explores the politics of women’s prison – everything from race and  dealing with manipulative guards to just handling the stress of your own situation in a bizarro version of a college dorm.

The White Queen is pulling from the Philippa Gregory title of the of the same name, while blending in The Red Queen and The Kingmaker’s Daughter. The White Queen in question is Elizabeth Woodville, a commoner and the new wife of King Edward IV. The Red Queen is Margaret Beaufort, the ruthless mother of Henry Tudor, the future Henry VII. Anne Neville is The Kingmaker’s Daughter – child of Richard Neville, one of the most powerful men in England who isn’t royal. All three are fascinating women with a part to play in the War of the Roses, a time period ripe with enough plots and characters to make any soap opera jealous.

Stephen King‘s Under the Dome is a brick of a book, but don’t let its 1074 pages scare you. On one normal day in Chester’s Mill, Maine, a large dome seals off the town from the rest of the world – nothing in, nothing out. King, in his very King-way blends the horrors of human nature with the horrors of the unknown.

Death Comes to Pemberley – Mr. Darcy, detective? In this imagined sequel to Pride and Prejudice, mystery icon P.D. James makes a major ‘go big or go home’ move and kills off George Wickham (She went big). In the six years since Elizabeth and Darcy’s wedding, they’ve had two children, they spend quality time with their neighbors Jane and Bingley, and they’ve found a few promising suitors for Miss Georgiana Darcy. During arrivals for their annual autumn ball, the very disgraced Lydia arrives hysterical over her husband’s murder. A true whodunit for the Regency era.

A few others to check out: Dracula, The Leftovers, The Terror, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, plus Richard II, Henry IV parts one and two, and Henry V will combine for The Hollow Crown.

– Jess

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God Save the Queen(s of the Stone Age)

I, apparently unlike many people, am not interested in Princess Kate’s pregnancy. I wish her all the best, but I have more important cultural events on my mind, like how Fringe has only five episodes left. How can they possibly wrap it up? How will I live without their faces? HOW? I’ve never been fascinated with real, in-my-lifetime royalty of any kind, but I do enjoy many a royal thing.

Here are some of my favorite “royals”:

“Royals” in Books

SummerKnight

Summer Knight by Jim Butcher is the 4th book in the Dresden Files series, an urban fantasy series that is in its 14th book and has never let me down.

Queenpin

Queenpin by Megan Abbott. Abbott has written six very good books, the first four of which are noir. Queenpin, her third, won the Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original.

GirlWhoLovedTomGordon

I can’t not mention Stephen King. I’ve only read two of his books: The Green Mile and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon and I enjoyed them both.

“Royals” in Films

PrincessBride

Buttercup, Princess of Florin in The Princess Bride. There’s a certain set of people who can quote “The Princess Bride”; those are my people.

Photo source: imdb.com

Photo source: imdb.com

Princess Caraboo. I know what you’re thinking, but I watched when I was a youngish and I remember it fondly. Plus, it’s based on an actual story and it has Phoebe Cates and Kevin Kline in it.

Photo source: fanpop.com

Photo source: fanpop.com

Cate Blanchett‘s Elizabeth. This was Blanchett’s breakout role and while my Lord of the Rings knowledge is sparse, I’m pretty sure her character in those films, Galadriel, is a royal, too.

Photo source: http://kingarthur.wikia.com

Photo source: http://kingarthur.
wikia.com

Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I was fairly old when I was introduced to this telling of King Arthur and his knights which is probably a good thing because who wants a seven-year-old running around saying, “watery tart”.

“Royals” in Music

Photo source: http://www.qotsa.com

Photo source: http://www.qotsa.com

Queens of the Stone Age. They will rock your face off with subtle lighting.

Photo source: http://www.sharonjonesandthedapkings.com/

Photo source: http://www.sharonjones
andthedapkings.com/

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. They will also rock your face off, but in a different way.

Prince

Prince. I don’t think this needs any explanation.

-aisha, who thinks her “royals in music” list would be a great lineup for the new royal baby’s christening

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This Reader Abhors A Vacuum

Even with a reader as slow as I am, it was bound to happen.  I finished the latest book in George R. R. Martin’s Song Of Ice And Fire series, A Dance With Dragons.   I know he’s got a novella that acts as a prequel of sorts to the Song Of Ice And Fire  called The Bastard Stepchild. It’s available in this collection, and I am working on getting hold of a copy.  But after reading the 1,090 page fifth book, that novella won’t hold me long.  So what next?

I’m a habitual genre fiction reader–anything fantasy, science fiction, pulps, etc.  Now that I stand with most other Martin fans awaiting an uncertain release date for book six in the series, I need to find a new huckleberry.  I was talking with a colleague, and we uncovered a huge hole in my geek-reading résumé:  Stephen King’s Dark Tower series!

Now I could get that snazzy collection, but I decided to go the electronic route and read them one at a time through the library’s Overdrive service.  So I’ve got The Gunslinger on my Sony Reader Wi-Fi and I am really enjoying it so far.  Patiently waiting for Winds of Winter to arrive will not be easy, but Mr. King should help ease the pain at least a bit.

–Scott


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King Stirs Up Stevens

I forgot how much I loved the poems of Wallace Stevens. One of his best known poems (and my favorite), “The Emperor of Ice-Cream,” had completely fled my conscious mind until I checked out a copy of Salem’s Lot. In the novel author Stephen King  uses the poem at the beginning of the story’s core section, and in fact makes it the title of that section.

Here’s the poem for those who have not read it, or need a refresher:

The Emperor of Ice-Cream

Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month’s newspapers.
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Take from the dresser of deal,
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

‘Salem’s Lot pits a small New England town against the ancient evil of vampires and their minions. In only his second novel, Stephen King delivered an amazing page turner, and he wrapped its most essential bits in the cryptic verse of one of America’s greatest poets. The vibrant (if imperfect) life of a small town like Jerusalem’s Lot can be likened to the powerfully vital images in the poem’s first stanza, and this stands wonderfully juxtaposed against the looming reality of death in the second.

I don’t think  Stevens’ haunting verses will elude my over-crowded mind again, but this does make me wonder what else might resurface from the murky depths of my subconscious.

–Scott

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