It

When I was a boy, I read lots of books. And when it wasn’t novels, it was magazines or newspapers. No wonder, then, that when I went away to college, I became an English major, and that I always seem to be reading two or three books at a time. As Stephen King expressed in his book “On Writing,” most great writers are voracious readers.

Although I’ve read some of the world’s most celebrated authors and playwrights, many of whom have become staples in high school and college curricula, my favorite author of all time is the man I quoted above, Stephen King. As I write that, I feel a need to explain myself because I can see some of you recoiling in horror (how appropriate) or disdain for my choice. “Stephen friggin’ King? The guy who wrote The Shining and all of those other books about monsters? Why in the world would you like him the best, Scott?”

I really shouldn’t have to explain my choice. After all, I’m not alone in my appreciation for Mr. King. He is, by far, the most-read novelist of this or any time. Of course, it’s not his popularity that makes him great. And this is an opportunity for me to honor King and, in some small way, thank him for the hundreds (thousands?) of hours of pleasure he’s given me through his numerous books and short stories. So, here goes.

Beyond the scary monsters and the equally frightening humans, beyond the gruesome and often lusty, barbarous and scatological prose, there exists in King’s work a vulnerability that feels very intimate. His secret sauce, if you will, is an ability to go into the heart of darkness, to unearth not only the dead but to dig up what we have inside of us. Oftentimes, it is fear because, in the horror genre, we often have a character who alternately runs from or towards his fears. And that, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, is where King and I are the same. Both of us are fixated on what makes humans tick, what keeps us moving toward or away from that which gives us pleasure and pain.

Here’s a passage from “It.” The speaker is a successful radio disc jockey named Richie Tozier, “the man of a thousand voices,” who used to annoy people with his impressions as a kid and then turned that talent into a lucrative career.

Pennywise the Clown from “It”

At the same time, he had begun to understand the great principle that moved the universe, at least that part of the universe which had to do with careers and success: you found the crazy guy who was running around inside of you, fucking up your life. You chased him into a corner and grabbed him. But you didn’t kill him. Oh no. Killing was too good for the likes of that little bastard. You put a harness over his head and then started plowing. The crazy guy worked like a demon once you had him in the traces. And he supplied you with a few chucks from time to time. That was really all there was. And that was enough.

King, speaking through one of of his characters, identifies the same thing I did in my song, “Create Without Caution.” The “It” in King’s book is a horrible clown that sees into each person’s soul and reveals to him or her their greatest fear (in a Kingesque sort of way). In so doing, the “demon” reveals the obstacles and the strength we each possess. In all of King’s best work, the protagonist is on a Hero’s Journey. Their job is to fall into the abyss, not get killed, and then climb out of it. Such is the case in all great stories from Homer to Shakespeare to King.

And that, my friend, is the essence, the heart of all that matters to me. The abyss is where we find love and not-love, God and Satan, and where we sharpen our swords to become either a peaceful warrior or someone who sits on the sidelines of life. And that’s what makes Stephen King great to me. It’s not his creatures or his words. It’s the beating heart that says, – this life is horrid. Just look around you. But it is also beautiful. You choose, now, how to deal with IT.

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