The Odyssey

I apparently started a post under this title on about 6 weeks ago, but hell if I can figure out the thread of what I was talking about.  So I’ll just steal the title and make the damn thing work.


The adventure this week is with my brand-new Nook, which I’m still slightly ashamed to own, but as it facilitated my reading of a left-petite-behind-several-hundred-pages-ago Stephen King novel, 11/22/1963, I am at least not suffering the post-King agony of my aching hands.  And I’ve moved on to a complete collection of Sherlock Holmes, which is no slouch in the length-and-therefore-heft department either.

Oh hell…I seem to have a penchant for big books, don’t I?  I’m sure there is a penis joke to be made here.

So, King.  He’s the author who provided the primary rationale for me to never own an e-reader (which made the situation that much more comical to me), as I have a rather unfortunate propensity for throwing Stephen King books upon completion, most typically because of the cutesies that would get plugged into so many of the novels, particularly those in the Dark Tower series (and especially Dark Tower itself, as I recall).

None of this should suggest that I don’t like King–I do, though I suspect it is often more in the vein of why I like John Saul than, say, Kate Atkinson. King (and Saul and a host of my other standbys) is nothing if not comfortably predictable.   And 11/22/1963 fits right in his oeuvre, even with the suggestions he noted in the afterword (including, apparently, a new ending, as proposed by his son, author Joe Hill, whose 20th Century Ghosts keeps right on wowing me years after publication.  Horns was comfortably funny (at times), and I’ve tortured a couple of classes with Heart-Shaped Box, which should be in the hands of all metal fans).  The characters, the cars, the action, the setting (of course) are familiar–like old friends who, as the books suggests, appear in multiple strings of possibility–multiple harmonies within King’s universe.

Perhaps weirdly, I had occasion recently to talk to another King fan (not the odd part) after an Avenged Sevenfold concert (still not the odd part) because I was carrying around a Norwegian mystery that had survived two nights in the pit with me.  After the show, I wasn’t quite ready to face the two-plus hours of rural roads home, so I gave into my 15-year-old fangirl and went out to the bus area.

(Note:  This is not the Matt story, those of you who have already been so blessed.  The book was present but went unreferenced at that encounter…which was less than 24 hours previously…holy crap.  When did I sleep??  The Matt story is a fangirling for another post).

A7X’s bus was, of course, behind the gates, but the other bands were more or less left to the whims of the fans.  In the course of avoiding being run over by screaming BVB fangirls (so small!  so cute!  holy fuck they are young!), I ran (almost) into Johnny 3 Tears from Hollywood Undead.  He noticed the book, picked it up out of my hands, asked (reasonably) why I had it (why this was became slightly more obvious moments later), and noted that I needed better reading material.  And then asked if I had the book in the pit, noting that I was slightly to stage right, yes?  I’m sure I looked at him like he was daft (which is better than my reaction might have been had I not heard him do the same to someone else already–naming pretty much exactly where they were, in that case, seated), but I nodded and agreed that the book’s survival was miraculous.  And because I am still learning the fine art of conversation, I challenged him to suggest better material.

He produced King, asking if I’d ever read his favorite King novel (and clearly assuming I had not, silly man), Hearts in Atlantis, which is also one of my favorites, in no small part because it is not as predictable or self-referential as he became in the books that followed.  He was quite charming (and clearly aware that he was), and we chatted a bit more about King, agreed we could probably wax poetic on the subject for many hours, and I wandered off into the great beyond of Northeast Georgia.

The conversation was odd and memorable not because of who it was with (though that part was at least unexpected), nor the situation (I find some of the coolest readers at concerts), but because when he asked what it was I liked about, I couldn’t answer easily.  I stuttered out something–the characters, the length (the damn things do have the benefit of taking a while to read), but as I walked away, the word that kept swimming to mind was comfortable–like the hoodie I was trotting about in.  I suspect we really could have talked for some time about King, but we probably would have gone in circles–because that is what so much of the post-Dark Tower (and DT itself) does.

11/22/1963, like so much (all?) of King’s later works, is self-referential (that is, referring to King’s other works), though not to the irritating degree achieved in some of his novels.   In fact, it would be all but impossible for this novel to avoid such references, set as it is (in part) in Derry, Maine, where so many of King’s works have been set before.  In fact, to fail to make mention of the murders from IT  or other happenings set in King’s Derry would have left the novel hollowed for long-time readers, I suspect (it certainly would have for me.  I started IT hunting as soon as we landed in Derry).

But, in the end, it was just a comfortable, familiar ride, complete with a few giggles at the expense of teachers (especially English teachers).  It didn’t grab me in the same way that Lisey’s Story and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon and Duma Key (and Hearts) did; it didn’t frighten me in the way The Stand did in the post-apocalyptic so-fast-it-felt-more-like-a-publisher-deadline-than-an-ending glimpse of the future (that said, it was far, far, far better than the dreadful Cell).  But, if you want a good book to whisk you a way and not challenge you too terribly much, 11/22/1963 will likely fit the bill (otherwise, I’d suggest one of those noted above or the short story collections, which are fairly wonderful).

The original post, as best as I can figure, referenced my health…odyssey, which is ongoing.  But, what the hell, it took Jake Epping (of 11/22/1963) years to perform the action he intended, and it took Odysseus 10 years to get home, so, what, three four (*sigh*) months is a cakewalk so far, right?

Apologies for giving into my inner-Baroque German with the parentheticals.


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