Stephen King at Comic Con 2007. You can see right up his nose. Photo by Pinguino. Licenced under a the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
I have never read a novel by Stephen King, and I don't really know why that is. I used to say that it was because I wasn't a fan of the horror genre but I have since discovered HP Lovecraft, Anne Rice, John Ajvide Lindqvist and read as many zombie novels as there are bodies in Toowoong cemetary. But even after all of these I'd still never picked up any of King's best sellers. Maybe I was just put off by all the hype surrounding him as a writer, though I enjoy books by equally famous authors like J.K. Rowling and Terry Pratchett. I found that I really didn't have any particular reason, so I decided it was finally time to give one of King's books a try.
Since I have read and enjoyed a lot of books about the world ending in one way or another The Stand seemed like the logical choice. It's also supposed to be very good, and gets four stars on Goodreads.
However, The Stand is a very long book. I'm sure I'm not alone in finding huge books intimidating. I don't quite know why, since as a bit of an obsessive reader if I wasn't reading one long book I'd be reading two or three shorter ones which would add up to the same number of pages read anyway, but there it is.
Many times I have started a long book, usually a classic, only to give up halfway, or even two thirds of the way through. Bleak House, Anna Karenina, Moby Dick... they all lurk on my bookshelves and mock me for my failure. It would be fair enough if I just decided I didn't like the book, since life's too short to slog through a book you're not enjoying for no good reason, but often it's not even that I'm not enjoying the story. I just somehow lose focus and start reading something else instead. It's sloppy mental discipline and I'm annoyed with myself about it. It's time to pick up a great big novel and actually finish it cover to cover, just to prove to myself that I can.
Other books that are as long as The Stand.
Because I am hardcore I have made things gratuitously more difficult for myself by purchasing, instead of the 1980 original version, the re-released 1990 version The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition. It's like a director's cut, containing extra text that was cut from the original novel for brevity. It comes to a whopping 1153 pages, or in the audio book version 47 hours and 47 minutes. That's more than two solid days worth. I hope the narrator had a glass of water handy.
As an incentive I am publicly declaring my intent to read The Stand so I will probably be to embarrassed not to finish the thing. I will also be sharing my thoughts on it as I go so I feel like I'm not alone in this. Think of it as like a book review written by Dickens, by which I just mean that it will be serialised, not that it's good or contains anybody locked in a debtor's prison or slaving away in a blacking factory, though it may well feel that way by the end. We'll see. I might even like it. Wish me luck!