No one has ever written the joys of boyhood better than Stephen King. That's not what people talk about when they talk about him, but it's true. It's a subject that needs to be written about entirely without pretense and absolutely free of language too large for ball games and playing in the mud. Between this one, [b:The Body|11574|The Body|Stephen King|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1328182521s/11574.jpg|2334601], and [b:It|18342|It|Stephen King|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1309376909s/18342.jpg|150259], the good reader will find himself transported into the actual moments of young pleasure, before girls take over and ruin the perfect freedom of true youth. Not that girls are bad, of course, just that something breaks at the moment when boys become aware of them and it never comes all the way back. Often, I wonder about how much of a man's life is spent trying to dance between the moment before and the excitement that comes after the discovery of girls. This small gap is the space that King covers in several of his books and all of them are delightful and thrilling in the way that only a carnival can be to a young boy. Moments of the supernatural and plot aside, it's this subject that draws me to the book.
For reasons I can't fully explain, I've read the first 200 pages of this one half a dozen times over the years but never finished it. I've purchased the audiobook twice (by accident) and bought the paperback two or three times (lost copies). I've decided to finish it this time because it's been hanging there, a desire that's been unfulfilled and dangling over me for years. Somehow, I need to be free of it, or at least have passed the experience into the history of my reading pleasures. So here I go.
William Hurt was a good choice for the audiobook. There's something about his voice that's trance-like and lulls you right in. I'm glad I've decided to finally and fully experience the book in just this way.
King himself read the the next two stories in the book. Some reviewers suggested that the other stories were boring, but that wasn't my feel at all. I quite enjoyed them, especially the title story. I can see, however, that someone whose only reason for reading King is action/horror excitement may not find much of value in a book that's mostly composed of nostalgia and a look back at the turning points that shaped us as people. It's not exactly the stuff of horror lore. If you're that sort, you might want to shuffle on and find another book because this one is far too delicate and filled with entirely too much longing for the adventure seeking reader.
Hurt returned for the final story. By now, the crossover between all the stories and characters was wrapped up tight and everywhere. It seemed almost like a novel with shifting perspectives over the years. Depending on your point of view, the interconnections could come across as overly-coincidental or just a tidy way of letting us know where things ended up with various people we'd come to know in their youth. I prefer the latter. Actually, I loved touching in on people years later, finding out how they'd turned out without the direct story of it ever really being the point of the story itself.
The plain fact is that this book got to me far more than it should have. It was a beautiful novel shaped like short stories and made of youth lost and memory unwound. Maybe it took me so long to actually read it because I needed the years between to lose more and more of my past into the old fireplace of time. Maybe I needed to remember only enough to know how much I'd lost and how beautiful so much of it had been. Maybe it's a book that can only be understood when your life has made the same sorts of strange turns and you look back, wondering, lost, wistful.