30 DoB Day 11: Hated It

It’s a slow Saturday here at The Aerie and between loads of laundry and deciding what I’m going to have for happy hour, I thought I’d tackle the next installment in the 30 Days of Books list:

Day 11: A book you hated

Hate is a pretty strong word isn’t it?  There have been lots of books that I haven’t liked – some that I’ve put down because I just didn’t think that they were very good.  But hate?  Hate is a pretty strong emotion, so I think to hate a book it has to be from an author that you have a pretty strong emotional connection to – which actually makes my choice for this really easy.

IT

Yep – IT from Stephen King.  I know… I know. A lot of people I know and King aficionados love IT, counting it among their favorite King novels. Don’t get me wrong, I love Stephen King.  King, Tolkien, Donaldson and LeGuin were the driving forces in my teenage years when I would devour books.  I avidly read all of King’s books from the 1970s, but somewhere in the 1980s I swore him off. During that era, King’s books morphed from taut horror yarns into bloated, meandering drivel. Think about The Tommyknockers. Think about Gerald’s Game.  Ugh.  Maybe it was all the drugs and booze.  But the biggest – and I mean biggest – offender was IT.  At 1100+ pages, old Stev-o was in desperate need of an assertive editor.  The collection of characters was too large and there were hundreds of pages of mind-numbing foreshadowing.  At a time when I loved him, I felt like King had cheated on us, the reader.

My abstinence from King lasted maybe a decade; I thought he righted the ship in the mid-1990s and I started reading some of his books again, starting with The Green Mile and I read the entire Dark Tower and loved it – so I’m back to enjoying his books, though I passed on Under The Dome, his recent 4-digit page count book, mostly because I still feel burned by IT.

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25 thoughts on “30 DoB Day 11: Hated It

  1. Aw, Steve, this was a lowball pitch. Nobody liked IT. I knew several hardcore King fans who hated IT. IT was why when the National Book Awards gave King a medal for “Distinguished Contribution to American Letters,” I said no one will want a National Book Award anymore because they’ve sold themselves like a common streetwalker, and I’m not even a literary snob. (Ray Bradbury deserved his earlier medal, not so sure about Oprah Winfrey, but oh well.)

    Unlike you I haven’t quite forgiven King for IT. I have yet to read the Dark Tower series, even though people I respect keep telling me that the DT books are a great read.

    • HG — I think there might be a generation gap with King’s stories. The people that I know that love IT are all in their 30s, suggesting that they read the book in their teens. We all love things we shouldn’t in our teens, right?

  2. Yes. Absolutely. Everything you said.
    I kept reading everything he wrote during those drug-soaked, bloated years, but with a lot of disgust. “Where’s his editor?” I kept yelling at the next doorstop of a book.

    The only other author who pissed me off like that was Raymond Feist. The man got stuck in “The Magician” universe, and after about the fifth book I swore I’d never read another.

    Betrayal by Author is a wound that does not heal.

    • SS — yes, I agree about Feist’s series, though I think that’s not necessarily just a problem with Feist — I think a lot of series just peter out if the author doesn’t know how to finish them and/or keep them fresh.

  3. This is an interesting explanation for what happened between Steve and me.

    Oh, btw. Loved “hated it!” Men on Film, yo!

    Okay, here’s the thing. While I’m a big pussy, who can’t “take’ horror, I enjoyed some early King novels. By “enjoyed,” I mean they scared me too much but I kept reading cos I liked the way he told the stories.

    I don’t know which one lost my interest but here’s what happened: the way I “heard” his 80s novels that you mention is via IRL readers. They’d read (like before bed, after school/ work) and tell me what they’d read the next day (at school/ work). I liked the stories THAT way.

    I went from liking his writing to not liking reading…his writing. But if it was summarized in chapter form by a friend, I enjoyed the stories. One friend handed me Gerald’s Game after finishing it. “You’ll like it better if you read it. I didn’t do a good job telling you.” I couldn’t get through it. Drudgery. So, there you go. You’ve sussed it. “Bloated” is the key.

    • Glad you got the In Living Color reference! Double-Z snaps to you, sister!!

      I don’t think there was anything wrong conceptually with his 80s stories — like you said if they were boiled down for you, they can still be pretty good. I think he was so popular that no one would edit him, which is a real shame.

  4. I’m enjoying this series of posts!

    I’ve never read any Stephen King- I can’t handle horror- so I don’t really know what you’re talking about. But I know the disappointment when a good author goes bad. That happens a lot in mystery series. The first few books in the series are awesome, and then they just get bad.

  5. Yup, going through that now with 2 different mystery series.

    I’m a big fraidy cat but really like some of Stephen King’s books. An ex of mine begged me to read The Stand, but I refused on the grounds that the book was too damn long.

    I see no reason why any ONE book should be that long. It’s ridiculous, it’s indulgent and it’s patronizing to the reader, IMHO. I was furious with JK Rowling for coming in at 700+ pages at the end of the Harry Potter series.

    And there ends that particular rant before I start hyperventilating. :)

    • Hah! — would it help if you thought of The Stand as two-books-in-one!?!? I definitely recommend it, but I would go for the original version — apparently in the 90s, he published an “unabridged” version. Yow!

  6. I liked 95% of the Stand. Yes it was a long and winding road, but at least at the end it…SUCKED!!!! Honestly, I felt like a lemming, cruising along at a nice little pace, enjoying the company of all the other lemmings, when all of a sudden our earth subscription expired and we’re head over heels into the abyss. I’m sure “IT” was missing a famous consonant duo affixed to its front… ; )
    I didn’t read **IT, I have clown issues…couldn’t take that ride!

  7. Sigh well I think King is quite a character but I *always* considered his books a tad cheesy, and it was inevitable that after a string of hits he’d go all-out cheese. On a lighter note, my boyfriend and I drove through Maine and one stretch of highway announced that they would be performing construction to prepare for “The Widening”. I told my boyfriend, that totally sounds like the title for a Stephen King novel.

    • Em — I think like any writer with a multi-decade career, King has had his ebbs and flows. Oddly enough, some of his best writing I think is in the short-story and novella forms, which suggests he should stay away from 1000+ pagers.

  8. how have i missed this 30 days of book meme *sigh*. i totally would have done it.

    you know, i’ve never read a single King book – they’re not really my thing – but i read all of his article in E! Weekly and i quite like the man himself.

    • Paikea — no need not to hop on board the 30 Days of Books! I started in mid-March and am only on Day 11 — so clearly 30 Days doesn’t mean 30 consecutive Days!

  9. I once read an interesting story about Stephen King. Apparently, one night he’s woken up in the middle of the night by a phone call from Stanley Kubrick, who was in Lonson filming “The Shining.” Kubrick asks: “Do you believe in God?” and King thinks about it and says, “”Yeah, I guess I do.” “I don’t,” says Kubrick and hangs up. King later reflected on this as going to the heart of what he felt was missing in Kubrick’s take on “The Shining,” but he also said that this brief conversation made him realize that his own conception of God made him afraid, since he perceived God mostly through the lens of the Old Testament’s depiction of a bloody-handed dispatcher of arbitrary justice. This seems to be why the climax of “The Stand” left a lot of King fans flat, since it seemed to be just a Deus Ex Machina that left readers wondering what was the point of so much of the characters’ internal and external struggles.
    “IT,” on the other hand, just stunk. Only book I never finished.

    • I think that’s a pretty good interpretation of how I felt at the and of that book. It was an intricately woven story until that ba-domp-bomp, ending. (Reminded me of that Monty Python segue, “…and now for something completely different…”. Of course, that was part of an epic 30 minutes of my life…unlike the King book.

    • Yeah — in some ways I forget the “Hand of God” aspect to the end of The Stand. Maybe I just choose to omit it — I like the ending better without it. I never read the unabridged version (if you can imagine such a thing) to know if he adapted that ending or not.

      Oh — there’s a giant spider. Hope that didn’t ruin it for you.

  10. I read “IT” in the tent with a flashlight the summer I was 12. Haven’t read horror since. That. Was. Enough. For. Me. Probably not the best written book I’ve ever read but I haven’t been able to handle anything of his since.

    Cheers! MJ

    • emjay — I’ve noticed that folks that read IT in their teens are a lot more sentimental about it than those of us that read it as adults. Same for The Stand – which I read as a teen and loved, of course!

  11. I personally thought It was terrific. One of my favorite books of all time. Then again, I’m someone who really enjoys “unnecessarily” long books because I love getting caught up in the details. It never seemed to drag or anything for me, and while, yes, there were a lot of characters (it would have been pretty boring if it was 1100+ pages about only a few people, no?) they were all wonderfully drawn.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “hundreds of pages of mind-numbing foreshadowing”–are you talking about the interludes written “by” Mike Hanlon? I know some people who didn’t like those because they felt them unnecessary. I wouldn’t say for sure that they were absolutely necessary to the plot of the overall story, but I enjoyed reading about Derry in its younger years. It really helped to establish just how evil Derry actually was, and how it was really the town itself that was evil (due to It showing up sometime in the Jurassic period or something and being the foundation upon which the town was built) and not just some kind of weird breeding ground for bad people.

    We’re probably going to have to agree to disagree here since you clearly hated It pretty strongly, and that’s fine. Just thought I’d add another perspective to the mix :)

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