Literature Fiend

Every book changes your literary journey.

Month: March 2016

IT by Stephen King

Stephen King IT “This was begun in Bangor, Maine, on September 9th, 1981, and completed in Bangor, Maine, on December 28th, 1985.” Stephen King  (p.1376)

Yes, that quote really is from page, 1376. Not such a big deal in Stephen King world; with The Stand, Under the Dome and Insomnia among the Epic titles.

IT was a great book that kept me gripped all the way through; I was immerssed in the Derry way of life and with the main character’s struggle against evil.  The novel is so long, I don’t really know where to begin…

…Well, how about the little paper boat. It is this object that signifies the beginning and the end of the novel. Little George Denbrough, is sailing the boat when it suddenly gets sucked into a storm drain:

“George blinked and looked again. He could barley credit what he saw… There was a clown in the storm drain” (p.15)

Sadly for little Denbrough that is the end. But for us it begins a story of friendship and revenge spanning over a 27 year period.

The entity – IT – comes in the guise of your deepest fear: whether it be a Spider, Clown, Werewolf or a Giant statue; IT will be waiting. However, IT mainly shows itself in the form of a Clown, to entice young children to “float” in the sewers with him  (AN INVITATION TO AVOID AT ALL COSTS!)

The story is told through the third person omniscient mode which switches between 1957 and present day (1985). King explores the themes of friendship, adolescence and the power they can bring.

As always with Stephen King,  all of the characters are interesting – you can’t help but feel, even for the bad ones –  and the storytelling astounding. King became known for this type of novel: Small town, memory of childhood and monsters preying on common fear.

This “genre placement” – which is unfair as he writes across a wide spectrum –  has largely stuck,  but I think that it’s his ability to create fully functional fictitious town/community that really defines his work.

Even if you’ve seen the film, IT is a highly recommended read. Just be realistic pennywise the clown with the timescale (as it’s looooonnng) and make sure you have easy access to a light switch during the night, as those early childhood fears are sure to come sweeping back.

Section that Stayed.

The first glimpse of Pennywise the Clown is the section that freaked me the most. The Dialogue is excellent in this passage:

“…Therefore I will introduce myself. I Georgie, am Mr Bob Gray, also know as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Pennywise, meet George Denbrough. George, meet Pennywise. And now we know each other. I’m not a stranger to you, and you’re not a stranger to me. Kee-rect?” (p.16)

Which Stephen King novel  makes your hair stand on end?  If you have any discussion points, then contact us, or leave a comment below. 

 

Vinlius.Wilno.Vilna by Kristina Sabaliauskaitė

Kristina Sabaliauskaitė Book Review After my call for more Lithuanian works in translation, I was glad to come across this book of three short stories by Kristina Sabaliauskaitė on my last visit to Vilnius.

Kristina Sabaliauskaitė is a Lithuanian writer and Art Historian based in London. These three short stories are contrasting snippets about Vilnius from the perspective of:  group of young Polish girls, a ex-KGB agent and an old Jewish business man.

I really enjoyed the way the different stories opened up three different ways to experience Vilnius.

The first story, Franco’s Black Pearls really didn’t interest me much at all. I found that the syntax and grammar at times were confusing.  I’m so glad that I didn’t put the book away at this point because the last two stories were excellent.

The Return of Samuel Vilner is a retrospective look on – you guessed it – the life of an 85 year old business man, Samuel Vilner who returns to re-live the good and bad memories it holds.

This story really documents the contrasting viewpoint of Pre and Post War attitudes; as well as Pre and Post War Vilnius.  Samuel Vilner finds that the once thriving Jewish community is not as prominent as it once was:

“…where are all the bakeries, where are the bread shops, why is there no aroma of bread coming from them?” (P.94)

In this quote the cultural differences are felt in his frustration. The simple answer is a sad one; that the quaint little shops have been eaten by the corporate elite.

The last short story, The Weathervanes of Vilnius is told from the perspective of an old KGB agent who is in the hospital. His early purpose was to turn Vilnius into a city that catered for the ‘needs of the Soviet Man’.

One idea of his, which never materialised was to replace all of the crosses on Churches with a weathervane.  We also are told of the time he ruins the career of a talented young lady who is caught taking photos of the buildings about to be destroyed and re-built by the Soviets.

“He had asked her that: why photograph what is going to be demolished. She answered: so that it would survive at least in photographs, after all – it was history, the city’s history and hers, after all our purpose is to preserve history” (p. 125)

This is statement directly contradicts the mantra of the “soviet man” – to look forward not backwards. Our unnamed KGB agent made sure she never worked as a photographer again;  finding out later that she was “working as a cleaner and road sweeper” (p.128)

The Weathervanes of Vilnius, deals with the consequences and the paranoia that comes with being part of a Dictatorship (The Soviet Union) and no matter how strong that system; when it comes to death, we are all alone.

Overall, a really great look into Vilnius. The technique used was excellent; using old photographs and giving them a voice through character and narrative which allowed for intimate storytelling.

I only hope that more of Kristina Sabaliauskaitė’s writing is translated into English.

Section that Stayed

This passage is from The Return of Samuel Vilner and is about how he fled the Jewish Ghetto to avoid being captured by the Nazi regime.

“He had hid in the cellar like a rat, like a non-human. The Germans had wanted to make a rat out of him, a non-human; to exterminate him like a rat. But the irony of fate wanted things to turn out differently, fate wanted him to survive, even though in order to do so he had to eat rats.” (p.98)

 

If you have any suggestions or discussion points then get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.

 

Lisey’s Story by Stephen King

Literature Fiend Book ReviewFirst Stephen King book of the year on Literature Fiend.

I write this review with mixed feelings on Lisey’s Story. Firstly, I’m not sure if I care about the protagonist of this novel – or “little Lisey,” as she is often referred to.

Stephen King on the other hand favors this as the best book he has written, and I think I can probably see why. The main theme focuses on the martial bond, in life and in death.

In the novel Scott Landon, is a gifted writer and Lisey – his wife –  is the person who keeps him grounded. This is probably replicated in King’s marriage with Tabatha. I mean she was the person who pulled Carrie from the wastebasket – the very novel that kick started his prolific career.

Yes, this is a love story but don’t think Mills and Boon!

The story, as the title suggests, is about Lisey Landon who is struggling with the death of her writer husband. King asks the question: What happens to the plethora of manuscripts and unfinished work? Would it be hard to part with?  I think King has his own mortality in mind with these questions.

 

Lisey has the difficult task of sorting through her dead husband’s study –  which is full of papers, manuscripts and unfinished work – and is constantly being pestered by academics who want it.  It is while Lisey is deciding what to do with the material that we are told of their relationship though a series of flashbacks. I thought this device was very clever and enjoyable.

Although it was really interesting getting to know their relationship history, the “pet” names they had  for each other were constantly being repeated throughout and became tedious at times. For example:

“Smucking” and “Babyluv”

To be honest, I hope that’s the last time I hear these words in my life. But it’s only a little quibble.

As it’s a King novel, messed up elements are standard. We’re soon  introduced to Scott Landon’s dark place, which comes in the guise of Bo Ya Moon. It is described as an addictive, yet dangerous place with magical properties.

It is a place that is seen as a metaphor for the everlasting connection between a husband and wife. And it was the descriptive element of the mystical Bo Ya Moon that kept me turning pages.

The most interesting thing about the story was learning about Scott’s hereditary mental illness,  which manifests as either homicidal mania or a deep catatonic state.  In childhood, it is this condition that turns his brother into a unrecognisable monster chained in the basement. This is by far the scariest section of the novel. (See “section that stayed”)

Overall, the novel started slowly. There were points where nothing seemed to happen, except Lisey – understandably – moping around. On reflection this was probably a conscious decision to allow the reader to feel her loss.

The message – of everlasting love – was poignant and something I’m sure most people can identify with. You won’t catch me raving about Lisey’s Story, but if you want to see a different side of Stephen King, then give it a try!

 

Section that Stayed: Is the section that describes Scott’s brother chained in the basement. It gave me the creeps.

“The thing that used to be his brother lies sprawled with its back against the centre-post and its legs splayed. It’s naked except for Paul’s undershirt. Its legs and feet are dirty. Its flanks are caked with shit. The pie-plate, licked clean even of grease, lies by one grimy hand” (page, 404)

If you have any suggestions or discussion points then get in touch, I’d love to hear from you. 

 

 

 

 

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