I used to be a huge (or is that huh-yooge?) Stephen King fan. Even through his feminist stage. I was the Constant Reader, plodding along through stories that never quite captured my interest or were just simply... well, dull. Rose Madder comes to mind as one of the latter. Thought I'd never plow through to the end of that one. But I was a dedicated fan, so I did persevere hoping that eventually the Stephen King I'd bought without even checking out what he was writing about this time would come back.
This is not to say that I wanted King to keep writing the same story over and over again. That's not it at all. I just wanted the King back who within the first 50 page of a novel sucked me so far into his story that I couldn't/wouldn't put the book down even if my life depended upon it. I wanted the King who could make me be wary of shower drains and sewer gratings, and who was the absolute best at writing about kids -- how they think, what they do, how they communicate. He had it down to a science.
Okay, so I didn't particularly care for the gore or the squooshy stuff that someone would invariably poke at or stick a hand into. But, see, I thought King's writing was so good that I would just read past those parts, shudder a bit, and then get back to the main story which really had nothing at all to do with gore. I'd be able to get back to the book I read faster and faster because I couldn't put the darn thing down and yet wanted to slow down to a word-by-precious-word crawl because I knew once I'd finished, it would be nearly a year until another King book would be published. I started reading King when 'Salem's Lot was first published, so there were no stacks of completed books I could read to catch up. I was caught up and tapping my foot in Walden's anxiously awaiting the next book.
I also firmly believed that anyone who thought King's books were only about horror was seriously missing the point. I got into debates where I took the position that to pigeon hole King into the horror genre without taking into consideration the talent he had for story telling and painting such graphic mental images for the reader was to deny him what I considered to be a well-deserved genius status.
None of this so far even takes into account his humor. Or the passages I had to reread because they were written so well they blew my socks off. Until a book came along that had King's name on it, sure, but I'd have sworn he never had a thing to do with that manuscript. It doesn't matter which book that was exactly, although the decline began for me with Gerald's Game. What matters was that I got the impression King was angry because his fans wanted what we'd come to expect of him, while he wanted to go off in different directions and blaze new territory. The thing is, I was perfectly fine with whatever subject King wanted to tackle, and he could certainly have his feminist stage; what I wasn't prepared to lose was the writing talent I'd come to expect of him. And I'm not going to apologize for that either. King led me by both eyeballs and a brain to expect nothing but the best from him with maybe a bit of clunkerish whatsis here and there, but overall a very high standard that HE set. I'm just the reader here, and at no time was I in charge of making the rules.
Now I'm reading Lisey's Story; I'm at the halfway mark and I'm still waiting for it to get better. Enough with the word games already. That was cute and funny and very well done for a while, but it got real old real fast as it became more and more repetitive. Maybe there's something I'm not getting, or maybe this is just drivel. I was led to believe this story had real substance about a marriage and what a wife experiences after her spouse dies. I attached no expectations to that. Just plopped down in my favorite reading spot, opened up the book, and waited for King to take me away. Well, I'm still in my favorite spot, but King has left me precariously balanced like I'm ready to fall off the bench into a discarded heap on the floor. I hate that position. If you want to know the truth, it's damned uncomfortable.
I have a few other recent King books on my TBR pile. I'm not as quick to get to him as I used to be... been burned a few too many times. But that urge to keep on reading King lingers. It's hard to break a habit of nearly 35 years of reading. Almost feels as though I'd be giving up a good friend. But sometimes even friendships run their course. I hope King still has a few good books left in him. That would be so cool. But that's no longer the sure thing it once was.