Why everyone should read Stephen King

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Written by Cate Tynjala

 

“The battle between good and evil is endlessly fascinating because we are participants every day.”

I have been captivated by the beauty of the unknown since I was a young girl. The darkness humans hold within them was a mystery and an area of fascination for me. After reading some of my admittedly gruesome short stories, my father began to playfully refer to me as his “little Stephanie King.” I accepted the title with pride, and for the first time when I was thirteen I read a novel of his. I devoured ’Salem’s Lot with unprecedented ferocity. I was captivated. Not by the gore and horrific deaths typical of modern horror, but by the vibrancy of the community, the depth of the characters, and the hauntingly beautiful language.  ‘Salem’s Lot struck me because it is not exclusively horror: it is a book about love, lust, and life in a small town. King’s works are not a single genre, but a blend of genres.

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“Alone. Yes, that’s the key word, the most awful word in the English tongue. Murder doesn’t hold a candle to it and hell is only a poor synonym…” - ‘Salem’s Lot

In an interview, King said that “one of the reasons that some of the horror movies aren’t very scary is because the characters are two-dimensional. We don’t care about them much.” King stands out in his ability to elicit emotion, to make his audience feel as if the horrors he describes are being done to them or to those that they come to know and love. To say Stephen King is exclusively a horror writer is to neglect a large part of the writing that he does. Misery serves as a metaphor for his cocaine use and addiction. Cocaine, like Annie Wilkes, was his biggest fan. The Shining portrays the effect of addiction on family dynamics. The Overlook Hotel possessed the main character, Jack Torrance, much like King’s addiction possessed him. Pennywise the Clown in IT represents an amalgam of fears and shines light on the monsters we hold within the recesses of our minds.  

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“We lie best when we lie to ourselves.” -IT

Interest in the darker sides of life does not stem from an inherent wickedness, but rather from an innate human curiosity. Preoccupation in the macabre is not a reflection of insanity, but a reflection of humanity. By exploring the depths of the human psyche in King’s novels, I have gained a greater understanding of myself. King’s books have created a safe place for discourse on what the human race fears the most, as well as what it is to fall in love, to grieve, and to be reborn.

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“And will I tell you that these three lived happily ever after? I will not, for no one ever does. But there was happiness. And they did live.” - The Dark Tower

King has published close to one hundred books. He has rightfully earned the title of “Master of Mystery” and “King of Horror.” Stephen King is a must-read for everyone, not just fans of horror. Each of his novels are laced with wisdom, poetic turns of phrase, and his playful sense of humor. His books are not just about the monsters he creates. They are about people—people just like us.

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“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.”