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Posts tagged ‘Stephen King’

TL;DR Challenge – The Stephen King Edition

Stephen King

Image via Kotaku.

So, here’s how the game works: I’ve taken a bunch of relatively well-known stories, all centered around the same theme, and whittled their plotlines down to a one-sentence summary. Your goal is to see how many you can match up with their original titles and authors.

The theme of the day is Stephen King, which will hopefully be tougher than the arbitrary “classics and favourites” I picked to test-drive the game. (Though a surprising of people were stumped by the tale of the red-haired orphan. As Canadians we should know that Pippi Longstocking is not the literary world’s only red-haired orphan!) The selections made can be short stories or full-length novels, but I promise none of them is the single episode of The X-Files he wrote back in the fourth or fifth season of the series.

You can check your answers here.

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Stephen King Steps Up

If ever I should manage to become a well-off, well-respected author who’s rolling in money, I hope I have the good sense to handle it like Stephen King, who has never forgotten what it’s like living in America when you’re not Stephen King.

Stephen King in a crowd.

Image via The Cleveland Fan.

He’s just put out an article on The Daily Beast where he criticizes the wealthy for refusing to pay more taxes. Here’s his basic argument in summary (though the full thing is well worth reading): philanthropic giving may be nice and get your name on buildings, but the Stephen King School of Literary Criticism is not going to stop global warming, clean up the environment, or feed poor children. Upward mobility is possible in America because the country offers safety nets for its citizens, paid for by everybody’s collective tax dollars. Current American politics is damaging the potential for upward mobility that got today’s wealthy fat-cats where they are today, putting a disproportionate amount of the tax burden on people who are still struggling to make it.

And, King insists, those fat-cats need to stop complaining that they’re being asked to contribute a fair share.

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Scary Library: Banned Books from Hell

There are plenty of reasons for books to get censored, many of them political (it espouses an opinion considered objectionable by the powers that be) or moral (it advocates some sort of action or behaviour believed to be wrong, very often sexual). But since Hallowe’en is just around the corner, I figured it’s a good time to create a booklist of books that have been banned, challenged, or censored because they contain content that’s scary, violent, macabre, and horrifying. In other words, if they were made into movies, they’d probably get a pretty restrictive rating.

Ghoulish reader

Image via All Yearbooks Blog.

Interestingly, it’s actually better for the sensitive soul to read a scary book than to watch a scary movie. The reason? When you’re reading, you conjure the images in your mind. It’s still possible to get scared while you’re reading something spooky, but at least you control how frightening the projected images will be. If you don’t want to see anything too graphic, you can tone down your mental imagery and make it a gentler experience just by tweaking what’s in your brain. But in a movie, the images appear onscreen as-is, with no possibility for changing or toning down. However much blood and gore the killer splashes around, however  many corners and closets he jumps out from behind, and however terrifying the demon-possessed child looks during that exorcism, you’re going to see it in all its exquisitely terrifying detail.

With that in mind, you might decide you’re interested to read some of the stories I’m offering here. But keep in mind, too, that not all of them are as terrifying as their censored-book status might lead you to believe. After all, terror is in the mind of the beholder . . .

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Scary Library: My Favourite Hallowe’en Reads

It’s the week of Hallowe’en, and in the spirit of the season, I’m spending the week blogging about the world of the ghoulish, the macabre, and the haunting in a series I’ve titled “Scary Library”. (Get it? It rhymes!)

To kick things off, I thought it was only fair to give a sampling of the stories I’ve read and loved in the past. You  may have surmised from my “What’s Your Librarian Reading?” posts that I’m a bit of a horror story fan. So, if you came into my library and asked me about some of my personal favourites, what would I say? Here, in no particular order, are my top ten choices.
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Fifteen Books That Stuck

One of my friends from high school posted this fun little note, and I thought I’d respond to it here because, well, it’s a library blog. The point is simple: list the first fifteen books you can think of that you know you’ll always remember. Here’s what the initial meme said:

Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. Tag 15 friends, including me because I’m interested in seeing what books my friends choose.

Wow, what an idea. Normally it would take a lot of thought to choose fifteen books that would always stick with me, but what would I pick if I were going to go with the first fifteen really meaningful books that came to mind? How about if I give it a try and see what I come  up with?

  1. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  2. Breaking Faith by John Cornwall
  3. The Church That Forgot Christ by Jimmy Breslin
  4. The Shining by Stephen King
  5. Byzantium by Stephen Lawhead
  6. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  7. The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson
  8. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  9. Rose Madder by Stephen King
  10. Full-Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn
  11. How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish
  12. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer-Bradley
  13. His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman
  14. Silent Night by Mary Higgins Clark
  15. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

BONUS BOOK: I really felt very tempted to put The Story of Tibet by Thomas Laird on the list, but I don’t suppose I can say it stuck with me to any great degree since I only read it yesterday. It hasn’t had the opportunity to stand the test of time. Still, I identified with it enough to give it honourable mention.

What do these selections say about me? I think they paint a picture of someone to whom relationships are important, slightly haunted by the complicated spirituality that sometimes develops when you come of age in a fairly conservative Catholic parish. Especially when you’re also interested in demons and the dark side. Most of the stories deal with spiritual conflicts or themes in some way, whether metaphorically, historically, or overtly (as in the books about Catholicism’s dark side, which were both highly influential even though I read them at least a decade apart).

Many of the themes in these stories (The Handmaid’s Tale or Fahrenheit 451) are about a fear of being silenced or fighting against an inability to speak up and tell one’s story. No big surprise, when you’re talking to a devoted librarian and would-be novelist! The Mists of Avalon is of particular importance to me because I’ve worked on (and hopefully will one day publish) a novel about the Arthurian legend, an imaginative retelling like Zimmer Bradley’s, but with a dark streak and a good deal more sympathy for Guinevere.

But ultimately I think the selection of books shows a shred of hope in me. After all, Silent Night is about family and Christmas. Books like How to Talk and Full-Catastrophe Living are about how to create positive change in your life and family. And the major theme in Byzantium is growth and self-discovery, the only path to a mature faith for the young monk who is the tale’s protagonist. I’m somebody who wants to make things better.

Yes, that sounds like me.

What fifteen books have you read in the past that really stayed with you, affected you, maybe even changed your life? What do they say about the kind of person you are?

Under the Dome

Cover art for "Under the Dome" by Stephen King

Image courtesy of FantasticFiction.co.uk.

Title: Under the Dome

Author: Stephen King

Year of Publication: 2009

Genre Keywords: environment, horror, politics, science fiction, survival, suspense.

Plot Summary: Like many Stephen King novels, this story follows a large cast of characters trapped in an unlikely situation. The central figure in this story is Dale Barbara – “Barbie” to his friends – an ex-military drifter on his way out of Chester’s Mill when a mysterious force field descends upon the small Maine town. Nobody inside the Dome can get out; no one on the outside can get in; and no one can figure out how to make the Dome go away. That’s terrifying enough, but the real problem for Chester’s Mill is the town’s corrupt Second Selectman, Big Jim Rennie, who is trying to manipulate the crisis into an opportunity to increase his own power at any cost.

Who’ll Love It: Anybody fascinated by the politics and interpersonal relationships involved in survival situations and major crises. The one faced by the people in Chester’s Mill is political, social, and environmental. As with most Stephen King novels, this one can involve some pretty gruesome mangling of human flesh, so it’s not recommended for anyone who’s squeamish about that sort of thing.

Fun Trivia: This novel features a Barack Obama cameo: a fictionalized memo from the White House to the Chester’s Mill Board of Selectmen, which the President signs “using all three of his names, including the terrorist one in the middle”.

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