Thursday, December 7, 2017

A Guided Tour of the Kingdom: A Chronological Walk Through the Career of Stephen King, Part 12 (2003-2004)

I've Febrezed the seats on our bus, which smell curiously like Cheez-It farts.  I'm not pointing any fingers, y'all, I'm just saying.
We have arrived in

We left off with made-for-television King (NBC's Carrie remake), and as we resume, we're still staring at the proverbial boob tube, this time looking at

The Dead Zone season 2
(television series)

broadcast on USA, January 5-August 17, 2003

As I mentioned when discussing the first season of The Dead Zone, it is my stated belief that the second season took a dip in quality.  The first had been quite good, introducing an ongoing set of plotlines that could be put on pause for large stretches of time in favor of having Johnny solve a problem in episodic fashion most weeks.  For example, one week he served on a jury and used his psychic powers to try to help persuade people to do the right thing. In another, he becomes trapped in a cave and communicates via his visions with a centuries-dead Native American shaman.
Your mileage may vary in terms of how much you enjoy the episodes, but my contention is that by the time the second season was over, the strain had begun to show when it came to finding usable concepts to showcase Johnny's powers.  In other words, The Dead Zone turned into an average television series.

The second season episodes were:

  • 2.01 "Valley of the Shadow" (January 5, 2003)
  • 2.02 "Descent" (January 12, 2003)
  • 2.03 "Ascent" (January 19, 2003)
  • 2.04 "The Outsider" (February 2, 2003)
  • 2.05 "Precipitate" (February 9, 2003)
  • 2.06 "Scars" (February 16, 2003)
  • 2.07 "Misbegotten" (February 23, 2003)
  • 2.08 "Cabin Pressure" (March 2, 2003)
  • 2.09 "The Man Who Never Was" (March 9, 2003)
  • 2.10 "Dead Men Tell Tales" (March 16, 2003)
  • 2.11 "Playing God" (March 30, 2003)
  • 2.12 "Zion" (April 6, 2003)

There were also seven additional episodes which began airing three months later.  If I remember correctly, these episodes were commissioned by the network due to the strong ratings the series was bringing in; they wanted to use the series to drive viewership during the summer months.  I'm going to separate these last episodes out from the rest, because an argument could be made that they almost represent a different season altogether.  Here's a list of those episodes:

  • 2.13 "The Storm" (July 6, 2003)
  • 2.14 "Plague" (July 13, 2003)
  • 2.15 "Deja Voodoo" (July 20, 2003)
  • 2.16 "The Hunt" (July 27, 2003)
  • 2.17 "The Mountain" (August 3, 2003)
  • 2.18 "The Combination" (August 10, 2003)
  • 2.19 "Visions" (August 17, 2003)

I don't remember these being bad at all; one is about Johnny joining a secret government team tasked with using psy powers to track down (essentially) Osama Bin Laden.  Sounds ridiculous, but it was actually pretty good.
So yeah, I've argued that the second season is a step down from the first; and so I believe it to be.  but was it bad?  No way.

"The Tale of Gray Dick"
(excerpt from Wolves of the Calla)

  • published in McSweeny's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales (a Vintage trade paperback, edited by Michael Chabon), February 25, 2003
  • revised version incorporated into Wolves of the Calla, 2003

That's a solid roundup of authors on the front cover, wouldn't you say?
You have no idea.  Check out the back cover:
When you ain't got room on the front cover to list Harlan Ellison, Neil Gaiman, Kelly Link, OR Michael Moorcock, you got a hell of an anthology.  I'm not sure it should be legal to charge a mere $13.95 for nearly five hundred pages which are bound to be as good as these are.
I say "bound to be" because no, I haven't read the book.  I admit it: I am an awful person.  Is that what you want to hear?  Fine!  Fine!  It's true, I am garbage of the highest order!  Not so bad by 2017 standards, granted; but garbage nonetheless.  Not just garbage, either; that horrid liquid -- which I assume is a heady mixture of Sprite and tobacco spit -- which pools up at the bottom of movie-theatre trash cans.
You'd have to be that kind of garbage to own this book and not actually have read it.
I have, of course, read "The Tale of Grey Dick."  It's an excerpt of the chapter of that name from the forthcoming-at-that-time Wolves of the Calla.  It doesn't really work all that well on its own, to be honest; not that this prevented me from eating up every word of it in 2003 with a grin on my face.  NEW DARK TOWER!  YES!!
This brings up a question: when an excerpt like this is published on its own in an anthology or magazine or whatever, does it mean it ought to be counted as a short story?  If, for example, one ran a blog that listed all of an author's short stories, would that blogger be obliged to consider something like "The Tale of Gray Dick" for inclusion on that list?
If you've got thoughts on that, I'd be curious to hear them.  My actual list was built on a hybrid approach, including some titles ("Chapter 71 from Sword in the Darkness," the two released segments of The Cannibals, and "The Revelations of 'Becka Paulson") and excluding others ("Gray Dick," "Memory," "Lisey and the Madman," "The Bear," etc.).  My thought process was that they count if (A) the works from which they were excepted are not available, (B) they seem to function entirely well on their own, or (C) if they were originally written AS short stories and only later incorporated into longer works.
It's a tricky business, classifying fiction!

(feature film)

  • a Warner Bros. film, released March 21, 2003
  • directed by Lawrence Kasdan from a screenplay by William Goldman

What a cast!  Some if its members (Jane, Lewis, Olyphant) were not then the stars they are now, but even then they were well-respected actors.
And it's a hell of a behind-the-scenes group as well.  Lawrence Kasdan AND William Goldman..?!?  Plus King and that cast, man ... this movie should have made $200 million.
Thing is, it's based on Dreamcatcher, which is middle-shelf King (if not bottom-shelf).  It's a tremendously weird novel, and while you'd think it'd be fairly easy to encapsulate, pay attention to that poster and witness how gravely Warner Bros. marketing failed.  Forget you know anything about the book; based purely on the poster, what is that movie about?  The tagline tells you that it's got a lot to do with a dreamcatcher, which makes sense, given the movie's title.  But what's a dreamcatcher?  Millions upon millions of Americans had no idea in 2003, and still don't today.
Marketing blunders aside, the movie is no damn good.  It tries for a while; and a few scenes do manage to pop early on.  But once Mr. Gray shows up ... ay yi yi.  And THEN Donnie Wahlberg shows up, ignoring the advice given by Tropic Thunder regarding depictions of the mentally handicapped.  A bow is put on it all by virtue of Goldman adding a truly horrible and ineffective change right at the end of the film; it's as nonsensical as it gets.
Fun fact: a Matrix short film played in front of shows upon the film's release.  It was later incorporated into The Animatrix, which remains the best Matrix sequel.

The Diary of Ellen Rimabuer
(television movie)

  • broadcast on ABC, May 12, 2003
  • directed by Craig R. Baxley from a teleplay by Ridley Pearson

Say what you want about Rose Red, but it was definitely a success for ABC, at least by whatever internal metric they were using to measure such things.  The proof: they quickly commissioned a movie based on the tie-in novel.
Director Craig R. Baxley returned, and the adaptation was written by Ridley Pearson based on his own novel.  Nevertheless, the movie is pretty bad.  That's a shame; the novel is quite good, and really ought to have made for a better movie than this one.

The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger
(novel, revised edition)

a Viking hardback, published June 23, 2003

As part of the big push to finish the Dark Tower saga, King returned to the first novel in the series and revised it so as to better reflect some of the ideas he was about in introduce in the finale.  Sort of a proactive retcon of sorts, one might say.
Hey, fair enough.  I get the urge, and I support it to some extent.  I qualify that statement because by the year 2003, I'd probably read The Gunslinger a dozen times, especially if you count audiobook (and if you do, I might be well over a dozen, because I've got the King-narrated version AND the Frank Muller-narrated version [I bet I've listened to both four or five times each]).  I can't claim that the novel is burned into my brain, but it's as burned in as any novel is or ever will be.
I say that so as to contextualize this: the additions and revisions King put in place with this new edition stuck out to me like a sore thumb.  I liked pretty much all of them ... but I also recognized them as being a bit artificial, simply because I knew what was supposed to be happening in those scenes, and these were deviations. 
That sort of mental vertigo is not entirely inappropriate for this series, of course.  And I fully recognize that King felt he had no choice but to do it.  Shit, conflicted though I may be, I'd still love for him to follow through on his stated desire to similarly revise the other early books in the series, so as to bring everything fully in line.  With a big, unwieldy beast like these books, it's not a bad idea to apply a final revision to it all.
Speaking purely for myself, though, it'll always -- always, always, always -- be the original version of The Gunslinger that I hold closest to my heart.  I begrudge nobody the experience of doing the same with this revised edition, though; either way, you've got a winner in your hands.
The revised edition also hosted a significant new essay from King,"On Being Nineteen (and a Few Other Things)," in which he expounds upon how The Dark Tower has its genesis in The Lord of the Rings, and also explains why he didn't begin writing it until 1970 despite having had the initial spark of idea around 1966.
Additionally, there's a new Foreword in which King defends his decision to revise the novel.  He admits that it's apt to irritate people like me, but also admits that he's a lot less concerned about the Bryant Burnettes of the world than he is about readers encountering the series for the first time.  I find no faults in his logic whatsoever, and give his efforts a big thumbs-up.

"Harvey's Dream"
(short story)

  • published in the June 30, 2003 issue of The New Yorker
  • collected in Just After Sunset, 2008

Unless you count "The Tale of Gray Dick," "Harvey's Dream" was King's first short story since "The Death of Jack Hamilton" a year and a half previously.  That's probably no shock; after all, he'd been furiously writing the final Dark Tower novels, so you've got to figure that short-story-writin' time was minimal for a while there.
"Harvey's Dream" is fine, but it strikes me as being a prose retread of his screenplay for "Sorry, Right Number."

Stephen King's The Dark Tower: A Concordance
(by Robin Furth)

a Scribner trade paperback, published July 29, 2003

This is a handy encyclopedia-style research tool for those who might have forgotten what the phrase "threaded stock" means, or who wish to know on what pages the town Ritzy is referenced.
King's foreword runs three pages and change, and tells the story of how Robin Furth got sucked into Mid-World.  It's a good thing she did!

The Pop of King

published in Entertainment Weekly from August 8, 2003 through January 7, 2011

In the summer of 2003, King took a day job of sorts, agreeing to write a column that would appear on the back page of Entertainment Weekly ever couple of weeks.  He'd done such things before (his King's Garbage Truck gig for his college newspaper, plus a half-year stint as a book reviewer for Adelina), but this would last for far longer and would arguably end up being more significant.
I can't vouch for its accuracy, but I've compiled what I believe to be a list of every installment.  
First, let me mention a couple of difficulties one might encounter in compiling such a list.  For one thing, the columns mostly appeared not only in the magazine but also online, and they often appeared online before the magazines appeared, which meant they appeared on dates other than the cover dates.  Additionally, they sometimes -- almost always, in fact -- appeared under different titles online as opposed to in the magazine.  
As if that wasn't bad enough, there were some King-penned articles that appeared in the magazine that were not technically part of the column, but probably ought to be counted nevertheless.  Plus, I think he may have written an article or two that were only published online.  So determining what does and does not count as The Pop of King is not as clear-cut a thing as one might wish.  
I was horrified to discover during my research for this list that not only did my list of King's nonfiction which I maintain for my own purposes have a bunch of these missing, but there are several which I do not have in any format!  For example, King's final Pop of King column -- the one where he says goodbye to his EW readers -- was seemingly never put online, so I don't have it at all!  I've ordered a used copy of the magazine to rectify this, but there are a goodish number of other pieces that I'm similarly missing, and which do not seem to be online.  I'll work on filling in those blanks one of these days, but it's necessarily going to need to be a low priority for now.
All that said, here comes my best efforts to curate a good, usable list of what I personally consider to count as The Pop of King.  The dates represent the cover date for the magazines (or, in the case of online exclusives, the date the pieces went online).  Here we go:
  • "Ready or Not, Here I Come" (August 8, 2003; also known as "The Tao of Steve")
  • "Always, They Come Back" (August 22, 2003)
  • "The Best Book You Can't Read" (September 19, 2003; also known as "Listen Up")
  • "In My Book, It's No Contest"  (October 3, 2003)
  • "No Pain, No Fame"  (October 24, 2003)
  • "Do Movies Matter? (Part 1)"  (November 14, 2003)
  • "Do Movies Matter? (Part 2)"  (November 28, 2003)
  • "Don't Go to Sleep"  (December 5, 2003)
  • "You Don't Know Jackson"  (February 13, 2004)
  • "The Rating Game"  (March 5, 2004)
  • "The Passion of Alicia"  (March 19, 2004)
  • "Enquiring Minds..."  (April 9, 2004)
  • "Head-Bangor's Ball"  (April 30, 2004)
  • "It's Alive! Alive!"  (May 21, 2004)
  • "Lines to Live By"  (June 11, 2004)
  • "A Kingdom That Didn't Come"  (July 9, 2004)
  • "Now Hear This"  (July 30, 2004; this was not a Pop of King column, but was a follow-up to "Lines to Live By" that appeared within the magazine as an article)
  • "The Four-Star Follies" (August 20, 2004)
  • "Paint It Black"  (September 17, 2004)
  • "Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar"  (October 8, 2004)
  • "Pet Peeves of 2004"  (October 29, 2004)
  • "A Dozen Thanks"  (November 19, 2004)
  • "2004: The Year in Music"  (December 10, 2004; also known as "Ear Candy")
  • "2004: The Year in Books"  (December 17, 2004)
  • "2004: The Year in Movies"  (December 24, 2004)
  • "Crying Wolfe"  (January 21, 2005)
  • "The 14 Lessons of 24"  (February 18, 2005)
  • "The Worst Ads on TV"  (March 4, 2005)
  • "No Stars, Sorry"  (March 25, 2005)
  • "My Fever Pitch Obsession"  (April 8, 2005)
  • "Prime Downloads"  (April 29, 2005)
  • "My Summer Hit List"  (June 3, 2005)
  • "Extras Bite"  (June 17, 2005)
  • "The Sideshow Has Left Town"  (June 24, 2005)
  • "Long Live the Dead"  (July 8, 2005)
  • "My Manifesto"  (July 29, 2005; also known as "Poppin' Fresh")
  • "Kick-Back Books"  (August 12, 2005)
  • "Lost's Soul"  (September 9, 2005)
  • "My So-Called Admirer"  (September 30, 2005)
  • "The Fright Stuff"  (October 28, 2005)
  • "Lights in a Box"  (November 18, 2005)
  • "My 2005 Picks: Music"  (December 9, 2005; also known as "Music to My Ears")
  • "My 2005 Picks: Movies"  (December 16, 2005; also known as "Scene It")
  • "My 2005 Picks: Books"  (December 23, 2005; also known as "Book Report")
  • "Just Askin' "  (January 20, 2006)
  • "Frey's Lies"  (February 10, 2006)
  • "Mistakes Were Made"  (March 3, 2006)
  • "Crashing the Party"  (March 17, 2006; also known as "Analyzing Oscar")
  • "Confessions of a TV Slut"  (March 31, 2006)
  • "My Morning People"  (April 28, 2006)
  • "Summer Hits and Misses"  (May 12, 2006)
  • "The Summer Book Awards"  (June 2, 2006)
  • "Ready or Not"  (June 16, 2006)  (note that this is not the same thing as the column's premiere installment, despite the similarity in titles)
  • "The Princess and the Paparazzi"  (July 14, 2006)
  • "The Terror Diet"  (August 4, 2006)
  • "Setting Off A Wire Alarm"  (September 1, 2006)
  • "The Wonder of It All" (September 26, 2006; this two-page spread in which King asked burning questions about Lost was not a Pop of King column but may as well have been)
  • "Graceless and Tasteless"  (October 6, 2006)
  • "Hail to the Spoken Word"  (November 3, 2006)
  • "2006: My Top 10 in Music"  (December 8, 2006; also known as "The A-List")
  • "2006: My Top 10 Books"  (December 15, 2006)
  • "2006: My Top 10 in Movies"  (December 22, 2006)
  • "24: So Good It's Scary"  (January 12, 2007)
  • "Television Impaired"  (January 26, 2007)
  • "The Secret Gardiner"  (February 16, 2007)
  • "A Modern Fairy Tale"  (February 23, 2007)
  • "All In Good Fun"  (March 16, 2007)
  • "How to Bury a Book"  (April 6, 2007)
  • "No No No Easy Road"  (April 27, 2007)
  • "Rock This Way"  (May 25, 2007)
  • "The Dope of Pop"  (June 29, 2007; also known as "Uncle Stevie's Gotta Have It")
  • "Goodbye, Harry"  (July 13, 2007)
  • "Jumping for Joy"  (August 10, 2007; also known as "The Joy of Looking")
  • "J.K. Rowling's Ministry of Magic"  (August 17, 2007)
  • "My Great Escape"  (September 21, 2007 -- on Kingmas!)
  • "A History of Violence"  (October 12, 2007)
  • "Cool and the Gang"  (November 16, 2007)
  • "2007: My Top Music"  (December 7, 2007)
  • "2007: My Top Movies & TV"  (December 14, 2007)
  • "Stevie's Wonders" (December 26, 2007; this -- I believe -- was an exclusive, in which King lists the best rock songs ever; I'm listing it because he references his column, so I think it counts)
  • "2007: My Top Books"  (December 28, 2007)
  • "Books with Batteries"  (January 25, 2008)
  • "Pop Goes the Presidency"  (February 8, 2008; also known as "The Celeb-bing of the President 2008")
  • "Oh, the Horror!"  (February 29, 2008; also known as "Your Movie and Concert Hall Hell")
  • "Fast Blurb Nation"  (March 21, 2008; also known as "The Art of the Blurb")
  • "Videogame Lunacy"  (April 11, 2008)
  • "My Real Top 20" (May 9, 2008)
  • "Playing Against Hype"  (June 6, 2008)
  • "Small Is Scary"  (July 11, 2008; also known as "Horror Movies -- Why Big Studio Releases Are Rare to Scare")
  • "Consider the Junior Mint"  (August 1, 2008; also known as "Stephen King's Guide to Movie Snacks")
  • "Pimp My Spot"  (August 22, 2008; also known as "How TV Ruined Baseball")
  • "What a Guy Wants"  (September 19, 2008; also known as "Who Says Real Men Don't Read?")
  • "Gimme a Break"  (October 10, 2008; also known as "Why I Love Prison Break")
  • "The HD Candidates"  (October 31, 2008)
  • "Thank You Notes"  (November 21, 2008; also known as "Stephen King Shares What He Is and Is Not Thankful For In 2008")
  • "The Best Albums of 2008" (December 5, 2008)
  • "The Best Books of 2008"  (December 12, 2008)
  • "The Best Films of 2008"  (December 19, 2008)
  • "Wishing and Hoping"  (January 23, 2009)
  • "Torture and 24"  (February 20, 2009)
  • "Breaking Point"  (March 13, 2009; also known as "Why I Love Breaking Bad")
  • "In Bad Company"  (April 3, 2009; also known as "10 Greatest Evildoers in Fiction")
  • "The Trouble with Earworms"  (April 24, 2009)
  • "Booking Your Summer"  (May 22, 2009; also known as "7 Great Books for Summer")
  • "The Future of Your Tube"  (June 12, 2009)
  • "Memories of Michael" (July 10, 2009)
  • "My Screen Addiction"  (July 31, 2009)
  • "Where the Joys Are"  (August 21, 2009; also known as "20 Movie Rentals That Never Let Me Down")
  • "What's Next for Pop Culture?"  (September 18, 2009)
  • "The One That Got Away"  (October 9, 2009)
  • "The Secret to Pop Culture Snacking"  (October 30, 2009)
  • "My Ultimate Playlist" (November 20, 2009)
  • "The Best TV of 2009"  (December 11, 2009)
  • "The Best Books of 2009" (December 18, 2009)
  • "The Best Movies of '09"  (January 8, 2010)
  • "Decoding Movie Blurbs" (January 22, 2010)
  • "Hey, Jay -- Good Night, and Good Luck" (February 12, 2010; also known as "Stephen King Talks About The Jay Leno Show")
  • "Putting Movies First"  (March 5, 2010; also known as "Stephen King on the Academy Awards")
  • "Inspector of Gadgets"  (April 2, 2010; also known as "Stephen King on the Kindle and the iPad")
  • "Big Audio Dynamite"  (April 23, 2010)
  • "The Most Obnoxious TV Commercial. Ever."  (June 4, 2010)
  • "Get Me Bruce Willis!"  (June 18, 2010)
  • "My Must Summer Reads"  (July 9, 2010)
  • "Rush to Judgment"  (August 6, 2010; also known as "Rush Limbaugh vs. Lindsay Lohan") 
  • "My 2010 Hits and Misses"  (September 3, 2010)
  • "Higher and Higher"  (October 1, 2010; also known as "Stephen King on Pop Music")
  • "Harry Who?" (October 22, 2010; also known as "Harry Nilsson: Who?")
  • "The Best Films of 2010"  (December 3, 2010)
  • "The Best TV of 2010"  (December 10, 2010)
  • "The Best Books I Read This Year"  (December 17, 2010)
  • "So Long, My Friends"  (January 7, 2011)

And, in the interest of thoroughness, here is a list of pieces King wrote for Entertainment Weekly before and after the life of the column, as well as a few minor pieces during:
  • "How I Created Golden Years...and Spooked Dozens of TV Executives" (August 2, 1991)
  • "Potter Gold" (book review, July 11, 2003) (this came about a month before The Pop of King debuted and could almost be seen as a prologue to it)
  • "When Stephen King Met the Lost Boys"  (December 1, 2006; this was a roundtable discussion between King and Lost producers J.J. Abrams, Carlton Cuse, and Damon Lindelof)
  • "On Predicting Violence"  (April 20, 2007; a brief opinion piece that I believe was an exclusive)
  • "My Favorite Year: 1999"  (June 27, 2008; this brief piece was not a Pop of King column) 
  • "Book Review: The Hunger Games"  (September 5, 2008)
  • "My Summer Reading List"  (June 3, 2011)
  • "My 2011 Pop Culture Favorites"  (December 9, 2011)
  • "The Best TV I Saw in 2012" (December 28, 2012)
  • "The Best Books I Read in 2012"  (December 28, 2012)
  • "There's No Place Like Dome"  (June 21, 2013)
  • "Reflections on a Criminal Mastermind"  (August 30, 2013)
  • "A Meeting of the Masterminds"  (June 13, 2014; this was a piece in which King interviewed Damon Lindelof)

In addition to all that, there are various short pieces such as letters to the editor, sidebars, fiction excerpts, gussied-up quotes, etc.  In no way should you take this to be an extensive list of everything King has ever written for Entertainment Weekly.  But I think I've ended up with a reasonably complete list of The Pop of King, as well as the various pieces which might be said to be either substantial enough or similar enough (in content and style) to be considered of siginificant adjacent interest.
It would be nice if Entertainment Weekly could persuade King to permit them to collect all of this in book format.  There are some very good columns here, and for a look back at pop culture circa 2003-2010, you could do a lot worse than take a trek through The Pop of King.
By the way, the best research resource I found in compiling these lists came from  When their information conflicted with my own, I went with theirs.
Naturally, if you have any corrections, feel free to let me know in the comments.  I welcome any help I can get with this!

The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla

a Donald M. Grant hardback, published November 4, 2003

Picture, if you will, being a Stephen King fan in early November 2003.  Not just any Stephen King fan, either; a Dark Tower fan.  You've been waiting for the fifth novel in the series since 1997; occasional wink/nudge combos from King (in the form of Tower-esque interjections into non-Tower novels such as Insomnia) have made the wait both more and less bearable.  Same goes for the "Little Sisters of Eluria" novella, which was like giving a thirsty man a bowl of soup; good -- great, even -- but not exactly what you needed.
Then, June 19, 1999.  You don't want to sound like a callous prick, but did the near death of Stephen King make you feel the Tower was on the verge of literal collapse?  Yeah, of course it did.  How could it not?  When he began recovering, it felt like you'd dodged a bullet; a vain and selfish way to think about it, but that's what fandom is in some ways, isn't it?  Annie Wilkes might not be able to admit that, but you can.
Why is that, do you suppose?  Why did you take it personally that Stephen King almost died without finishing The Dark Tower?  It's easy to look down one's nose at it from the outside, but on the inside of Dark Tower fandom, I think the answer has to be that we didn't choose these books; they chose us.  There is something within them that we need; this goes beyond mere want.
So imagine the feeling of the first of the new books -- the final trio that will end the series -- finally being published.  This is not merely a novel; this is proof of a diversion in the stream of fate having narrowly been averted.
I now shift tones a bit by divulging that I was disappointed by Wolves of the Calla on my first reading.  Not hugely; it's not as if I thought it was bad.  I was just a bit underwhelmed.  How could it have gone any other way?  Any novel would be hard-pressed to live up to expectations like those.  And, as we all know, the tension between expectations and reality is an evergreen one; it is truly a war without end, and fresh skirmishes break out with alarming regularity.
So yes, I have to confess that when I finished reading the novel a few days after getting my hands on it, I felt ever so slightly crestfallen.  
An interesting thing has happened over the years since, though: the novel has continued to live in my mind.  I have reread it (twice, if you count audiobook), and enjoyed it more that time, although only by degrees.  But since then, I have thought about the novel frequently, and the longer our relationship goes, the rosier my outlook toward it becomes.  Pere Callahan; Andy the Messenger Robot (Many Other Functions); oriza; sneetches; roont; commala; Mia's banquet; Doorway Cave; 'Salem's Lot; dry twist; the last gasp of Jake's childhood; you must answer three questions; the highways in hiding.
Reality takes on expectations, reality 'most always wins.  True enough.
But reality has a funny way of not revealing itself all at once.  There's the reality you perceive and the reality that actually is, ya kennit?  Expectation: Wolves of the Calla is going to be awesome as fuck.  Reality as perceived: Wolves of the Calla is good, but a letdown in comparison to what came before it.
The reality that actually is: Wolves of the Calla is awesome as fuck.  Does this mean expectation was right all along, and is the surprise late-innings victor?  
Nah, don't believe it.  It's just that reality is sometimes a magnanimous champion.

"Building Bridges"

There haven't been an enormous amount of accolades during the course of Stephen King's career.  A few, sure: twelve Stokers, for example.  You can also find these: the Edgar, the O. Henry, the Shirley Jackson, the World Fantasy Award, the British Fantasy Award, the Hugo, and even the Quill Award for Sports, among others.  (He got the last one for Faithful.)  
In 2003, only about two weeks after the release of Wolves of the Calla, he picked up a Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.  He delivered a feisty -- and wonderful speech -- that thanked the award committee but not-so-gently chastised the literati for being slow to recognize good work among popular authors.  "It's not good enough," he says.  "Nor do I have any patience with or use for those who make a point of pride in saying they've never read anything by John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Mary Higgins Clark or any other popular writer.  What do you think?  You get social or academic brownie points for deliberately staying out of touch with your own culture?  Never in life, as Capt. Lucky Jack Aubrey would say."
One thing that was not public knowledge at the time: King had been diagnosed with penumonia prior to making the trip to the awards, and the strain of delivering the speech worsened the condition sufficiently that he was hospitalized and had to have fluid and scar tissue removed from his lungs.
But would you have skipped those awards?  Especially if you expected to get to deliver sick burns to the literati about how they needed to be reading Peter Straub and Jack Ketchum?
Nah, me neither.
Not only is the speech available on audiobook, but apparently C-SPAN's website has the video archived.  I'mma have to watch that! 

"Rest Stop"
(short story)

  • published in the December 2003 issue of Esquire
  • collected in Just After Sunset, 2008

In this effective tale, a writer of crime fiction finds himself confronting a domestic-abused situation in a highway rest stop.  In order to defuse it, he temporarily takes on the personality of one of his characters.
I'm reminded a bit of the game -- "Can You?" -- Paul Sheldon plays in Misery as part of his writing process.  This is like that, but taken a step farther.  (Although Paul certainly has to take it quite far in his own right.)
The story won a National Magazine Award for Fiction.  Cool!
"Stationary Bike"
(short story)
  • published in Borderlands 5 (a Borderlands Press limited-edition hardback, edited by Elizabeth E. Monteleone and Thomas F. Monteleone), December 2003
  • reprinted in From the Borderlands, September 1, 2004
  • audiobook edition released June 6, 2006
  • collected in Just After Sunset, 2008
I've got a copy of the signed limited edition of Borderlands 5.  It's the only book I have that is signed by King.  All the authors signed it, which is pretty cool.  I dig having it, and I didn't pay an arm and a leg; I paid whatever Bordlerlands Press was charging for the limited edition.  I'm not the kind of guy who springs for signed editions; this just happened to be one of those cases where the entire run was signed, I guess.
It's cool that I've got it, but, like, it doesn't mean Stephen King is going to send me a Christmas card or stop by my apartment on his way to Florida one year.  We're not best friends or nothin'.  I bought a book that he just happened to write a couple of words in with a pen.  It makes the book more valuable, but I don't buy books as investments.  I buy them because I want to read "Stationary Bike."
That's one example, at least, and it's the one pertinent to this book.
I'm not a huge fan of the story.  It's about a guy who's trying to get healthy, so he buys a stationary bike and rides and rides and rides.  He rides so much that he eventually begins seeing a different world in front of him.  Eventually, he gets confronted by...
Well, you'll see.  If you're lucky, you might not roll your eyes at it like I did.
Not a bad story by any means, but also not a favorite of yours truly.
The Journals of Eleanor Druse
(novel by Richard Dooling, writing as Eleanor Druse)
a Hyperion hardback, published January 16, 2004

King, ABC, and Hyperion had struck gold in 2002 when issuing a companion novel to promote rose Red.  The novel itself (The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer) had become an immediate bestseller, and the miniseries performed well in the Nielsen ratings.

Could gold be struck a second time?

My memory says "no," because I don't remember the book making much of a splash; however, my research indicates that Publishers Weekly listed The Journals of Eleanor Druse at #12 on its hardcover bestsellers list for the week of March 4, 2004.  So, in revised estimation: sort of, yeah!  There wasn't as much conversation -- there were no rumors of King having penned the novel this time (it was known to be Richard Dooling more or less right off the bat) -- but the book did sell reasonably well.
Furthering the attempts to replicate the success of Rose Red, a half-hour "documentary" was again attempted.  It was presumably in the vein of Unlocking Rose Red, and was allegedly titled Investigating Kingdom Hospital: The Journals of Eleanor Druse.  I say "presumably" and "allegedly" because I never saw it, and haven't been able to find much in the way of information about it.  If you have any, feel free to share!  I found one piece of info which indicated it might have been shown online instead of on ABC, but I'm not sure I think that's true.

Bottom line is, I don't know.
Kingdom Hospital
(television series)
  • broadcast on ABC, March 3-July 15, 2004
  • all episodes directed by Craig R. Baxley
The first and only season consisted of the following episodes (all of which were directed by Craig Baxley and were based on The Kingdom by Lars von Trier and Niels Vørsel):
  • 1.01 "Thy Kingdom Come" (March 3, 2004) (teleplay by Stephen King)
  • 1.02 "Death's Kingdom" (March 10, 2004) (teleplay by Stephen King)
  • 1.03 "Goodbye Kiss" (March 17, 2004) (teleplay by Stephen King)
  • 1.04 "The West Side of Midnight" (March 24, 2004) (teleplay by Stephen King)
  • 1.05 "Hook's Kingdom" (March 31, 2004) (teleplay by Stephen King and Richard Dooling)
  • 1.06 "The Young and the Headless" (April 8, 2004) (teleplay by Richard Dooling)
  • 1.07 "Black Noise" (April 15, 2004) (teleplay by Richard Dooling)
  • 1.08 "Heartless" (April 22, 2004) (teleplay by Richard Dooling)
  • 1.09 "Butterfingers" (April 29, 2004) (teleplay by Stephen King)
  • 1.10 "The Passion of Reverend Jimmy" (June 24, 2004) (teleplay by Stephen King, story by Tabitha King)
  • 1.11 "Seizure Day" (July 1, 2004) (teleplay by Richard Dooling)
  • 1.12 "Shoulda' Stood In Bed" (July 8, 2004) (teleplay by Stephen King)
  • 1.13 "Finale" (July 15, 2004) (teleplay by Stephen King)
You will note the two-month gap between episodes 9 and 10.  There's a reason why that was there.
The series premiere performed quite well, pulling in some 14.1 million viewers, which was good enough to be #18 for the week.  It was #1 for ABC, though; it was their only show in the top 20, in fact, so once again Stephen King proved to be a big draw for the network.
As per Wikipedia, here is where the ratings went from there:
Episode 2: 8.5 million
Episode 3: 7.1 million
Episode 4: 5.4 million
Episode 5: 5.1 million
Episode 6: 3.7 million
Episode 7: 3.5 million
Episode 8: 3.8 million
Episode 9: 2.6 million
So in other words, forty percent of the people who tuned in to the series premiere said "Nope, I'm good" and then failed to return for the second week.  And of the sixty percent who stuck around, only thirty percent of them stuck it out through episode nine.  If I've done my math correctly, that means that by episode nine, that means 82% of the premiere's viewers abandoned ship by the time "Butterfingers" aired.
That's an astonishing burnoff, and only one conclusion can be drawn: people did not like this series.
So by the time it got down to 2.6 million, ABC had had enough, and decided (A) to cancel the series and (B) take the remaining four episodes and dump them into the summer months, where they could theoretically be assured of getting at least a couple million folks to tune in.  (The final four drew 3.0 million, 2.6, 2.4, and 3.7, by the way.)
Who's to blame here?

In my mind, it's ultimately got to be King.  Look ... it's not very good.  And the deficiency in quality begins with the writing.  It has some interesting aspects, but it's also thunderingly lame at times.  There's an episode in which a decapitated corpse is running around looking for its head, all while a F.E.A.R. song called "Where's Your Head At" plays.  Get it?  It's funny because the guy on the screen is looking for his head, and the lyrics of the song are about where is your head at.  Get it?  
In no universe is the joke funny.  It's made even less so by virtue of the fact that the song blows chunks.  
In another episode an operating-room staff breaks into a production number, singing "Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)" while a patient is flatlining.  If I remember correctly, the patient joins in, presumably after he's died.  The average person tuning in to a Stephen King series does not want to see shit like this. Whatever virtues the series had -- and it DID have virtues -- were rendered moot by such idiocy.  Did America want to watch a series in which two orderlies with Down's Syndrome made snarky comments about the proceedings?  It did not.  Did it want an ongoing gag about a never-present maintenance man named (ridiculously) Johnny B. Goode?  Fuck no.
I blame King for every bit of this, even the bits that came from the original Danish series.  Given a second opportunity (after Golden Years) to create a series for television, he adopted a kitchen-sink approach that he supplemented with extraordinarily tacky attempts at humor.  He had a good cast, a strong director, and a prime opportunity, and he squandered all of them.
It was essentially the end of his relationship with ABC, too.  Not quite, as we will see next post; but it was the straw before the straw, as observed by the camel's back.
By the way, ABC's fortunes were pretty miserable in the spring of 2004, but let's not feel too bad for them; in the fall of 2004, that would begin to change with the premiere of a show called Lost.  The series premiere of that show drew 18.65 million viewers, which was seen as a massive success.  You will note that while this is an improvement on the 14.1 million the first episode of Kingdom Hospital drew, it's not in an entirely different league.  So in a different universe -- one in which viewers enjoyed Kingdom Hospital as well as they enjoyed Lost -- it might have been a King show that led ABC's revival, rather than an ABC series partially inspired by King (as its producers freely confessed at the time).
Alas, it was not to be.

Now, all that said, I want to be clear about something: while I do think King is ultimately responsible for the deficiencies of this one-season-and-canceled series, I do not IN ANY WAY look down upon him for it.  If anything, the opposite.  It's yet another piece of proof that King is disinclined to merely sit back and rest on his laurels.

With a series like this, he could have.  Instead, he tried to stretch himself; and, in his own way, he was trying to stretch the medium itself.  A swing and a miss, perhaps, but an honorable attempt.  And don't let me negativity put you off; you might enjoy this more than I do.  It is a complete story in itself (albeit one that does leave a few plot threads dangling for the hypothetical second season), and is therefore a more satisfying experience than Golden Years had been.

Secret Window
(feature film)

  • a Columbia Pictures film, released March 12, 2004
  • written and directed by David Koepp


Johnny Depp appearing in a Stephen King movie was a big deal in 2004, with the quirky actor riding high on the success of his 2003 film Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.  But even that wasn't enough to turn Secret Window into anything more than a minor hit; and it may not even qualify as a hit at that qualified level, having only grossed $48 million.
I think it's quite a good movie, though; it's one of the titles I'd consider for the title of "most underrated Stephen King movie."

The Devil's Wine
(poetry anthology)

a limited-edition Cemetery Dance hardcover (edited by Tom Piccirilli), published June 2004

The conceit behind The Devil's Wine was to gather together poems written by notable writers of horror and dark fantasy, such as the three whose names grace the cover.  King's represented poems are as follows:
  • "The Dark Man"
  • "Donovan's Brain"
  • "The Hardcase Speaks"
  • "Harrison State Park '68"
  • "Silence"
  • "In the key-chords of dawn..."

Each of these is a previously-published poem from his college days.  There are two other poems from that era which were not included: "Woman With Child" and "She has gone to sleep while..."  This might also have been a good opportunity to put "Dino" in front of a few additional readers' eyes, but it, too, was excluded.
Have a look at the book's back cover for a list of all the authors represented in this book:
Some heavy hitters represented, to be sure.  I've read none of the book except King's poems, however, so I'm unable to give you a recommendation as to whether this book is worth the $65-200 it might cost you on the secondhand market.

The Dead Zone season 3
(television series)
broadcast on USA, June 6-August 22, 2004

The episodes:

  • 3.01 "Finding Rachel: Part 1" (June 6, 2004)
  • 3.02 "Finding Rachel: Part 2" (June 13, 2004)
  • 3.03 "Collision" (June 20, 2004)
  • 3.04 "The Cold Hard Truth" (June 27, 2004)
  • 3.05 "Total Awareness" (July 4, 2004)
  • 3.06 "No Questions Asked" (July 18, 2004)
  • 3.07 "Looking Glass" (July 25, 2004)
  • 3.08 "Speak Now" (August 1, 2004)
  • 3.09 "Cycle of Violence" (August 8, 2004)
  • 3.10 "Instinct" (August 15, 2004)
  • 3.11 "Shadows" (August 22, 2004)
  • 3.12 "Tipping Point" (August 22, 2004)

I was mostly uninterested by the end of the season.  The show simply began to lose me along the way; the mythology episodes -- the Johnny versus Stillson plotline -- were mostly at a standstill, and the standalone episodes were uninspired.

The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah

a Donald M. Grant hardback, published June 8, 2004

It had been a mere seven months since Wolves of the Calla landed on shelves, which is a decent period of time -- you can damn near get pregnant and give birth in that amount of time (and I guess more than a few women HAVE in a similar amount of time) -- but is a blink of an eye compared to the waits longtime Towerphiles had endured previously.
It seemed like a miracle then, and when I think of it properly now, still does.  But as I've said before and will likely say again (and again), in retrospect I'm super happy to have been around to experience those years-long III-IV and IV-V gaps.  THAT'S how to have experienced these books, man!  And by saying that, I am in no way implying that having read the novels as they originally appeared is the best or truest way to have read them.  I'd never suggest that my fandom is superior to anyone else's; I don't believe it, and even if I did wouldn't knowingly be that big a prick about it.
All I'm saying is that I'm glad I read the books in the manner in which I read them.  I'm sure you feel the same, and if you don't, you probably should.  I can certainly spare some envy for those of you who, upon reaching the end of III, could simply dive straight into IV; I wouldn't give up the gap, but BOY would I have loved to eliminate it at the time, somehow.
Anyways, back to Song of Susannah.  The novel itself is probably the weakest in the series -- possibly including The Wind Through the Keyhole -- but is still a fine read, for my money.  It introduces one of the most controversial elements of the series, and I suspect your feelings about the novel will be shoved in one direction or the other based on how you react to this aspect.
I love it.   
Love it.

Salem's Lot
(television miniseries)

broadcast on TNT, June 20 and 21, 2004

I was fully onboard with the idea of a second attempt at a Salem's Lot miniseries, one which adapted the novel more faithfully.
This is that in some ways, but other and more important ways, it's not that at all.  So while this miniseries does indeed feature a more traditional-vampire version of Barlow a la the novel, and does indeed include numerous standout scenes from the novel that had not appeared in the Tobe Hooper miniseries in the '70s, there are also a few truly baffling decisions.  For example, what they do with Father Callahan here is so wrong that you'll think you're watching a special Opposites Day cut of the story.
Apart from that, it's just not very well-made.  It's got an awesome cast, but they appear to have been filmed by a camera crew from a junior college.

(radio drama)

  • broadcast on BBC World Service, September 20, 2004
  • directed by Marion Nancarrow from a radioplay by Dirk Maggs

In 2004, a radio-drama adaptation of Misery starring Miriam Margoyles as Annie and Nicholas Ferrell as Paul aired on the BBC World Service.  It was adapted by Dirk Maggs from -- here's an interesting tidbit! -- the Simon Moore stage play of 1992.

This one is okay, but I'd say that for me, it is probably the least good of the BBC-produced radio dramas.  It runs about an hour and a half, but seems a bit on the brief side; it doesn't really manage to dig into the story as well as you'd hope.

Margolyes and Ferrell both do fairly well in their roles, but the subtlety of their roles is not something that radio dramas are especially well-suited to.  In the end, I'm not sure Misery was a great choice to be adapted for that medium.  It's not bad; but it's comparatively uninspired.

To the best of my knowledge, this has never been released on any sort of physical-media format.  I found it somewhere online and downloaded it years ago, but I have no idea if it is still findable.
The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower

a Donald M. Grant hardback, published September 21, 2004

Published on Kingmas!  I love that.
Well, we got there, didn't we?  For some readers, it was a letdown.  I have a few gripes, and part of me holds onto the direction I thought the series was going; my brain doesn't usually do that, either, leaving me a bit confused as to why it did it with this one.
We won't spoil anything here, of course.  I'll simply say that the final pages left me awestruck, and moved in a manner few novels have ever managed before or since.
So IF the novel is a letdown -- and I do not concede that it is -- then it's a mild one at worst.
If you remember from our previous session, we discovered that King had intimated to Entertainment Weekly that he was done publishing books after this one appeared.  He'd walked that statement back at times, but was still using the "R" word on occasion.  "I'm retiring from all the bullshit," he told The Guardian.  "I don't want another book contract."
What did this mean?
Only the future would tell.

The Road to the Dark Tower
(nonfiction by Bev Vincent)

a NAL trade paperback, published September 28, 2004

Published a week after The Dark Tower landed on store shelves, Bev Vincent's companion volume to the series contains chapters analyzing the seven books themselves, as well's as the genesis of the series.  There are also short chapters examining associated texts, such as Insomnia, The Stand, etc.
If I recall correctly, one compelling aspect of the book is that Vincent was only able to include Book VII by virtue of having read it in manuscript, via a draft which King changed prior to publication.  This analysis, then, affords a peek at an alternative text for the seventh book!
Vincent is an insightful and perceptive critic, and if you want to read something about The Dark Tower, this should be your first stop.

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
(pop-up book)

  • a Little Simon hardback, released October 12, 2004
  • designed by Kees Moerbeek and illustrated by Alan Dingman; text adaptation by Peter Abrahams

Confession time: though I bought a copy of this as soon as it came out, I've never actually read it.  I will get around to it one of these days.
Pretty cool that there is a Stephen King pop-up book in the world, though, isn't it?
Riding the Bullet
(feature film)

  • an IFG film, released October 15, 2004
  • written and directed by Mick Garris

I only saw this once, and have been shit-talking it ever since.
However, I've got a friend who holds it up as one of his favorite Stephen King movies, and that alone makes me want to see it again and give it a fairer viewing.  One of these days, that will actually happen!
The movie itself seems to have been a passion projector for writer/director Mick Garris, a frequent adaptor of Uncle Steve's works.  You'd think that this might have been enough to get this a decent-sized release, but the movie never played on more than 100 screens, and was thereafter consigned to relative obscurity on home video.

The Simpsons season 16, episode 1: "Treehouse of Horror XV"
(television episode)

  • broadcast on Fox November 7, 2004
  • contains the segment "The Ned Zone," based on The Dead Zone

Well, we mentioned "The Shinning," so why not also mention "The Ned Zone"?

I've seen this but not in a long while; my memory of it is that it's not all that funny.

"Lisey and the Madman"
(excerpt from Lisey's Story)

  • published in McSweeny's Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories (a Vintage trade paperback, edited by Michael Chabon), November 16, 2004
  • incorporated into Lisey's Story, 2006

King made a second McSweeney's appearance with this excerpt, which I remember liking quite a lot.  I ended up not liking the novel from which it came all that much, but we'll get there in time.
This anthology includes stories by the authors listed on the front cover, and Michael Chabon probably owes Joyce Carol Oates an explanation as to why he felt like her name could be left off that list.  You got a new story by her in your anthology, you probably put her name on the front cover, is what I'm saying.
Poppy Z. Brite, Charles D'Ambrosio, Steve Erickson, Daniel Handler, Jonathan Lethem, China Mieville, Jason Roberts, and Ayelet Waldman also had to content themselves with back-cover mentions only.

'salem's Lot: Illustrated Edition

  • a limited-edition Centipede Press hardback, with photos by Jerry Uelsmann, published circa December 2004
  • a mass-market Doubleday hardback was published November 2005

I actually had a copy of this thing at one point in time.
Let me back up and explain what it is, though.  It's an oversized limited edition of 'salem's Lot that contains a novella-length selection of scenes that were cut from or heavily revised for the final draft of the novel.  In addition to this, it's got reprints of both "Jerusalem's Lot" and "One for the Road," plus photos meant to serve as illustrations.
Anyways, I thought the book sucked.  I can't remember precisely why, but I know it had to do with the way the book physically reacted to being read.  My memory is that I felt it was designed to simply sit there appreciating in value, and never to be handled.  How gauche to actually read a book!  A plebian urge if ever I've heard of one.
I can't remember the specifics, but I know that once I'd finished reading the deleted scenes, I noticed that the cover had sustained what struck me as an unreasonable amount of damage.  I think it was scuffed or something, all from merely being placed upon a desk and read.
So I Xeroxed the deleted scenes -- which caused additional scuffing, as you might imagine -- and then sold my copy to another collector for, like, a quarter of what I'd paid for it.
Fuck that book.
This was made all the more galling by virtue of the fact that the next year, a mass-market edition came out that has the deleted scenes PLUS a new introduction by King.  I'm glad those deleted scenes -- which are fascinating -- are out there for mass consumption, but damn it, Steve, couldn't you have gone with that edition first?

(nonfiction, co-written by Stewart O'Nan)

a Scribner hardback, published December 2, 2004

The Dark Tower might have ended, but ka was alive and well.  About a month after Book VII was published, the World Series took place.  King's beloved Red Sox won the championship for the first time in nearly a century, to much rejoicing the nation 'round.
Here's where ka -- like a wind! -- comes into play.  King and fellow Sox-fan writer Stewart O'Nan had decided months earlier to tag-team on a book chronicling the Sox' season.  The two already had a vigorous email correspondence about the team and its travails going, so they figured hey, why not turn it into a book?  Their reckoning had it pegged as an interesting season-to-be no matter what.
So of course this turned into the World Series season.  What must the odds of this happening be?  19,000,000:1?
Incredible.  If you wrote it in a novel, nobody'd believe it; I certainly wouldn't.
But there you are.
The book will be deeply fascinating to anyone who loves the Red Sox specifically or baseball generally.  King fans are apt to be a lot less enchanted, especially by O'Nan's sections.  He gets a bit too (pardon the pun) inside-baseball at times for me, so I skipped many of his sections altogether.
King's are more entertaining, because he is a gifted writer who makes you interested in what he's writing about rather than assuming you'll bring an interest to the page with you.
Either way, it's awfully satisfying for this to have been the end result of the book.
Oh, and hey...!  Lookit that!  The retirement was over almost before it began.  Granted, word on the street was that there might be no more novels for the foreseeable future.
What would the future of the Kingdom look like, if there were no new novels on the way?
We'll find out in part thirteen.


  1. (1) "Kingdom Hospital" is a big mix of great stuff and tediius stuff, to be sure. I wish King (or whomever) had someone around to trim the fat a bit and emphasize the good stuff. There's a whole industry of King-Tv that can be said for, but it's frustrating with "Kingdom Hospital" because the bits I really love deserve more love and attention. But, the bits you mention and about a dozen other things in there are just too much to get by.

    (2) I feel the same way about the gap between how the BSG seasons as they originally aired as you feel about the gap between "Dark Tower" books. But: I still dislike Song of Susannah. I'm due for a reread of the whole Dark Tower saga. Sooner or later! I'll check back in then - who knows?

    (3) I can see someone disliking "The Ned Zone" for failing to scale the heights of Treehouse of Horror glory, but I think it's actually a pretty clever spin on the book as filtered through Ned/Homer/Springfield mythos. (It could be that I just always picture "Naked Girl Avalanche" as a cause-of-death that Homer was excited about, and that makes me laugh.)

    (4) If you think "Faithful" has too much inside-baseball, try reading a cricket book sometime! Holy goddamn moley. Addictive, though, just like the Red Sox.

    1. (2) Sorry about the garbled-ness of this first sentence. See what I do is keep your blog open for half the screen and Notepad open for half the screen and type up my comments as I'm going along, but sometimes I edit and the weird-screen-scroll of non-full-screen'd Notepad means I occasionally miss verbs that only worked in the prior-to-edit.

    2. (1) Absolutely. It's too good to totally disdain but too misguided to approve of. A weird misfire, but one worth seeing.

      (2) I followed ya; oh how many times I've looked at some comment I just left and said, "Did you just forget how to write, or did you never actually know?" Yours is by no means the worst example I've ever seen. As for BSG, oh yeah, for sure -- I wouldn't want to have missed out on that. The binge-watchers of the world can enjoy such things to their hearts' content, but there is no replacing the fun of watching a great television series in real time.

      (3) I should watch that again, probably.

      (4) I'll pass on that ... until King writes one, of course.

  2. (1) I've yet to read DREAMCATCHER, and since I know its reputation, it's not very high on my "Books I Need to Read Right Away or I'll Regret It Forever" list. Even if I do eventually find myself checking it off that list, I doubt that I'll lose much sleep if I skip the movie--again, its reputation precedes it.

    Despite never seeing it, I do remember one specific thing concerning that movie. Shortly after it came out, I happened to catch one of the actors (no memory as to which one) on REGIS AND KELLY. I didn't normally watch that show, so I have no idea how I ended up there. At any rate, the actor mentioned the "shitweasel" sequence, and there was either no delay or the tech in charge of bleeps was asleep, for the dread s-bomb went out live to the world.

    It's fourteen years later, and that stupid little throwaway memory of a few seconds of daytime television is *still* taking up valuable brain space that could doubtless be put to better use. I'm a bit sore about that.

    (2) I got my copy of THE GUNSLINGER at a book sale, and by the luck of the draw, it happened to be the original version. I might grab the revised edition down the road apiece and see how it compares. I've read *about* some of the changes, and I know that some people are passionate about they think of them, so I'm curious as to what I'd think of their execution. It sounds a bit George Lucas-y to me, though I trust that there isn't a big "NOOOOOOOO!" after Jake falls.

    (3) They're probably pretty low on the totem pole of things that are begging to be collected, but it wouldn't surprise me if EW (if it still exists) puts out a special anthology of those columns as a sort of tribute when King shuffles off this mortal coil--they probably have the reprint rights, and it would be an easy way to make a buck.

    (4) I said this a few weeks ago, but your comments concerning KINGDOM HOSPITAL (which, for what it's worth, I've never seen) make me want to reiterate just how much I appreciate your willingness to call King to task when it's warranted.

    It would be easy for you to become the S.T. Joshi to his H.P. Lovecraft--a scholar who becomes a sycophant, a person who admires his subject to the point that any criticism is taken as an insult. You could dismiss critics as being motivated by envy, politics, etc., but you call 'em like you see 'em. I appreciate that; I doubt that I'd have otherwise become a regular reader of yours. Your opinions wouldn't be very persuasive if every work or adaptation is "The Best One Ever!!"--right until the next one comes along, when *that* one takes the title.

    (5) I just checked, and one of the local libraries has a copy of THE ROAD TO THE DARK TOWER. Once I finish the series, I'll have to take a look at that and some of the other TOWER analyses.

    1. (1) Funny how stuff like that sticks with you, isn't it? I bet that was Jason Lee, given how involved he is in that scene.

      (2) There isn't, although there is stuff that stands out nearly as sorely. I have no trouble imagining some readers who were familiar with the original hating the revised version. I don't, but that's just me.

      (3) I bet King actually controls those rights; I'm sure that was a stipulation of his working for them. I'm with you on the idea that we might see something like that someday, though. They'd have to be crazy not to do it.

      (4) I agree with all of that, if I do say so myself. I do think a guy like S.T. Joshi has his uses, though. (What an understatement!) If you have to sacrifice a certain amount of objectivity to enjoy his thoroughness, passion, insight, and access, then it's probably a sacrifice worth making. A guy like him adds to the study of a Lovecraft immeasurably. He's the big fish without whose efforts the more guarded/measured opinions of smaller fish would be vastly less informed.

      In my heart, I'd have to say I probably do have vague aspirations of somehow morphing into a figure like that. But I'd only ever want to do it if my objectivity were able to go along for the ride. If that keeps me stuck in the parking lot, so be it.

      As for there being a need to call King out every so often, well, that's obviously an eye-of-the-beholder type thing. I do my best to remember that it would be unfair to do so without also at least hinting at an alternative viewpoint. No idea whether I get it right more often than wrong, but I do try.

      (5) I think you will enjoy it. I hope so, at least!

    2. (1) I tell ya, it's enough to make me wish I could run a disk cleanup in my head sometimes.

      (2) As long as we don't find ourselves one day debating if Roland shot first, I'm good. ;)

      (3) I don't know how those sorts of deals typically work; it hadn't occurred to me that he might have stipulated that the rights stay with him, but now that you mention it, I bet that you're right.

      Regardless, with how quickly those publications put out their "tribute" specials, I'm sure they have *something* ready to go. I hope that we won't find out for a while, though, obviously.

      (4) Just in case I accidentally came off that way, I don't mean to suggest that there's some sort of criticism quota that needs to be filled for an analysis to be "genuine." Joshi just happened to be on my mind when I wrote that comment last night--I read last week about a diatribe that he wrote in which he took a bit of criticism personally, and your comments concerning KINGDOM HOSPITAL made me think about the different ways in which fans and scholars approach their subjects and how I personally respond to those approaches.

      I think that it's important not to deify the artists we admire. We can respect them and enjoy their works, but there's a line that, when you cross it, you start to look a bit obsequious. It's a subjective thing, since it comes down to individual taste, but that kind of possessiveness has turned me away from a couple of fandoms over the years.

      Hopefully that makes sense.

      Long story short, I like your approach. :)

      (5) I dig hearing what other people think about things, so I certainly hope so too!

    3. (1) They'll invent that one of these days, and the patent-holder will be an instant gazillionaire.

      (2) Roland ALWAYS shoot first. Han, too, for that matter. (I hope the "Solo" movie has a scene in which he blithely murders at least a few people.)

      (3) One hopes not. I suspect he'll be publishing well into his nineties; that just seems right.

      (4) Nope, I didn't take your comments that way at all. Wouldn't have minded even if I had; but not at all. I agree that one should avoid deifying one's admired artists.

      Deify the work? Sure, especially when it deserves it.

      Deify the aspects of the person that helped them create that work? Well ... maybe. For example, it's hard not to turn the story about the genesis of "Carrie" (living in a trailer, barely getting by, Tabitha fishes manuscript out of wastebasket, etc.) into a myth of sorts. And why not? It's a great story ABOUT a great story.

      But if that process gets taken much farther than that, I think it's gone someplace I'm not all that interested in. In the end, what I value most in King's work is his humanity, and since to be human is (by definition) to be fallible, it stands to reason that he's occasionally going to do something (either in his work or, perhaps, in his personal life) that I don't agree with. I'm sure that would work vice versa as well if he were somehow paying attention to me, and I assure you I'd let him down way more often than he's let me down.

  3. 2. I just red the revised version of the Gunslinger, I have never red the original version from 1982. Have you Bryant written any post in this blog, where you compare the different versions of the book? If not, it would be really interesting to read a post like that someday.

    1. I never have written such a post, no. But I really, REALLY want to. It's just going to be such a time-consuming project that I keep shying away from it. One of these days, though!

      How did you like the book?

    2. I liked it a lot, "Stephen King painting with a different brush" as Richard Chizmar puts it. It reminded me a lot of my swedish favorite writer Stig Dagermans book, "The Island Of The Doomed" You should really read that one, it has a lot of the same feeling as the Gunslinger, but is even more dark and without any hope.

    3. That sounds Swedish, all right! Sounds like good stuff; thanks for the recommendation.

      Glad to hear you enjoyed "The Gunslinger."

  4. Yes, it's a really good book. I will try to follow your Dark Tower-Reading Guide. The thing is I have problems with The Stand. I really like the first part, but I lose intrest as soon as the second part begins. I dont know why. I have tried to finished it several times, but I always fail. So I am a little nervous that my problem with The Stand will be problem when I will try to read The Dark Tower books, so I have decided to follow your old Guide. Read the second Dark Tower book first and then try to read The Stand again, before the third book.

    1. I've heard that from other people; all the council-meeting stuff seems to turn some people off.

    2. Yeah, and I saw the miniseries back in -94, and the whole Las Vegas part was so cheesy. I was thinking "is this really written by the same man who at almost the same time was writing the Dead Zone?". I know that the book of course is a lot better then the miniseries, but I never understand all those people who is claiming that The Stand is Kings best book. Maybe The Dark Tower will make me understand the book better. But now I am reading "It" again, and that is such a great book, I hope it will never end.

    3. It gets about as close as a book can!

  5. Ah, The Dark Tower's "conclusion". I recall being so disappointed that I decided I was done with King for a while. "A while" meaning "until I decided to blog about King myself". To this day, I don't know whether this conclusion was appropriate or not, but I can't really call it satisfying.

    On the other hand, I don't know what would have been.

    1. The conclusion itself works fine for me. Some of what leads it up to it, not so much. Lookin' at you, Crimson King.

  6. Mr. Burnette:
    I agree 100 percent: that ending for Dreamcatcher blows. I was okay with the movie (although it wasn’t great) right up until that point, then figuratively threw my hands up and stomped from the theatre.
    In another case, I agree with your friend. I really liked watching Riding the Bullet.
    I absolutely hate the Red Sox, sorry but they always evoke that reaction from me every time I think about them.

    Don’t be so hard on yourself, we’re all trashy in some respect.

    1. I apologize for having missed this comment -- the lack of a reply was not on purpose!

      I'm actually looking forward to revisiting "Riding the Bullet" at some point. I've become more of a Mick Garris fan over time, and I suspect I've been too hard on this movie in my memory.

  7. Man oh man, I would friggin love a book of every one of those Pop Of King columns!!

    I can't remember where on the blog you originally said this but I agree on the speculation that the only time we'll possibly see a definitive career-spanning collection of King's non-fiction is posthumously.

    1. I don't know that a definitive collection would even be possible -- there's too much of it, in too many varied forms. The best we can hope for is a series of books that lump it all together by type or theme or whatever.

      I dread the thought. Every volume will be $100 limited editions, and it'll be a mad scramble for people like me to get a copy away from the speculators, who will get the majority of them (like always).