Saturday, October 22, 2022

Stephen King's Fairy Tale

I haven't read all of Stephen King's works, but the more I read, the more I wonder why not. Misery was the first of his novels I read--during my postpartum period after the birth of last born. At the time, it was a nice diversion to what was on television: the Iran Contra hearings.

In recent years, though, I've read Mr. Mercedes and its sequels, November 22, 1963Billy Summers, and King's On Writing, which I consider a valuable contribution to writing on writing. One perk, too, is that some of my students who would not otherwise consider reading a book about writing will read a book about writing by Stephen King. 

As I read his works, and as I read about his writing from Stephen King fans, I realize that having more of his books under my belt would be rewarding since he has so many subtle self-references throughout. I know Billy Summers was set in part within view of the ruins of the setting of The Shining, and I am told that he weaves references to his previous works throughout November 22, 1963.

King's novels, always heft, require an investment of time. In print, they are suitable for doorstops. On audio, they are easily twice the length of the average bestseller. I suspect true King fans never complain about the length any more than Harry Potter fans might have wished each successive novel were shorter. No! Give us more.

King's latest novel Fairy Tale begins as a deceptively realistic coming of age novel, as Charlie Reade, a high school junior has survived his mother's death in a freak accident and his father's alcoholism and return to sobriety. The anomaly in the small town setting is Howard Bowditch's house, the rural Illinois equivalent of Boo Radley's house. Overgrown and unkempt, the house is also guarded by Radar, Bowditch's fearsome German shepherd.

Charlie's first encounter with Bowditch occurs when he heard the dogs plaintive barks and the softer sound of the old man calling out in pain. Despite his wishes, Charlie is hailed as a local hero for saving the old man, and an odd friendship is born as he takes care of the aging dog while the old man is in the hospital to repair his badly broken leg. 

But Charlie hears a strange sound coming out of the padlocked shed. Yes, this is a Stephen King novel after all.

Through strange revelations from the old man, Charlie learns of a portal to another world, a fantasy world. As he descends the spiral stairs to a land he learns is called Empis, the story begins to feel more like a Harry Potter story for adults. King creates a believable other world, even as Charlie--Prince Charlie--feels the tension between the two world.

When all is said and done, however, this is a story of how far boy will go for the love of his dog.


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