Based on the testimony of my friends and acquaintances, Stephen King’s “Gunslinger” series is a phenomenal achievement of literature that everyone should experience if they want to live a full and rich life. At first I was surprised at the level of praise it received because I had come to think of Stephen King as so weird as to be inaccessible to most readers, or as old, staid, and formulaic in his later life (not that this discredited any of his earlier work). For instance, I recall a joke on the Daily Show about Stephen King’s 1999 car accident in which Jon Stewart said, “But luckily, the computer program that writes King’s novels was unharmed in the accident.” Also, there’s that one manatee moment on Family Guy where Stephen King is in a meeting with a publisher, and he clearly has nothing to pitch, no plans for a novel or anything, so he says, “Now, for my 300th novel, a couple…uh…is attacked…by a giant… uh… [notices a lamp on the editor’s desk] lamp monster! Ooooooh!”
So I didn’t think Stephen King had anything to offer besides freakish goings-on in Maine, featuring evil clowns, evil dogs, evil psychotic-fantastical killers of other kinds, and the apocalypse. (The Stand was a pretty good TV miniseries, but I never expect to have the time or desire to read it.)
However, sometime in college Kelly told me about the Gunslinger series, saying, not that he had read them, but that his friends who had read them were worried that they might die before they got to finish the novels—that’s how good they are. Then recently, a conversation between me and my friends somehow got onto the topic of how lots of people are creeped out by clowns, and this led to the mention of It, which led one of my friends to say one of her favorite works of literature was Stephen King’s Gunslinger series. I didn’t peg her as a Stephen King fan. But, then again, I apparently don’t know much about Stephen King’s work. I can’t remember where, but I also saw or heard mention of the Gunslinger series somewhere else recently, probably online and not from a friend. It’s pretty famous and beloved, apparently, so my interest is thoroughly picqued.
A couple years ago I also found out King wrote the short story “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption,” and today I found out he wrote the novels Stand By Me and The Running Man, so he has gained a lot of credibility in my mind.
This post doesn’t really have a conclusion, just the purpose of expressing my surprise at the scope and quality of Stephen King’s literary achievements and my desire to read the Gunslinger series, also called the Dark Tower series, sooner rather than later.
So I put it on my Amazon.com wish list and hope to order the books sometime this summer or fall, and promptly put them on my bookshelf and ignore them for a few years. No, I really ought to read them soon so I can experience the literary nirvana that awaits me in the Dark Tower. I am going to order the box set of the first four novels, which, I gather, were the “original” four novels in the series. If my experience reading series of novels teaches me anything, it’s that prequels or sequels written substantially later than the original novels tend not to measure up to the promise of the originals. But not always. I think four books at once is enough to buy and read.