Reading List 2010 (7/72)

Oh look!  A Dark Tower binge!

  • The Gunslinger, Stephen King
  • The Drawing of the Three, Stephen King
  • The Waste Lands, Stephen King
  • Wizard and Glass, Stephen King
  • Wolves of the Calla, Stephen King
  • Song of Susannah, Stephen King
  • The Dark Tower, Stephen King

I love these books.  I’ve reread them six or seven times now; at over three thousand pages for the whole series, that’s a lot of reading!  I learn something new every time I read them, though.  The first time, I couldn’t think about anything except what would happen next.  The second time, I enjoyed the anticipation of knowing what would happen next.  But at this point, I’m reading these books with an eye to craft.

I’m not a novelist myself, so certain things King does just aren’t relevant to me.  I can appreciate how he writes, but it’s not exactly going to help me write a better dissertation!  What I can learn from King, though, is how to create an internally consistent world with both great power and great economy.  He imagines a mythic America that is neither silly nor derivative.  More than that, he uses both legend (the Arthurian myth) and the real world (insular New England small towns) to further his vision.

As someone who studies narrative, and who builds narrative spaces for other people to play in, I find these books to be really inspiring.  It’s giving me research ideas, like finding out what it takes for someone to be able to logically reason in an imaginary world, or looking at how fictionalizing reality changes the way people engage with it.  Plus, I’m always looking for better ways to build paracosms of my own!

4 thoughts on “Reading List 2010 (7/72)”

  1. I just discovered that you have this blog, so there may be other random comments popping up on old posts. 🙂

    Anyway, I’ve only read the Dark Tower series once, but I firmly believe it ranks as King’s magnum opus. Not necessarily in the weakened sense that phrase often gets — it may not be his best work — but it is undoubtedly his Great Work. The way it ties together other novels he’s written, the way it devours entire genres and spits them back out again, the way it directly addresses what writing means to him . . . he has written, and will probably never again write, anything even approaching the scope of the Dark Tower.

    I read it over such a long span of time, though, that I can’t hold it in my mind well enough to judge it for craft. Only three things stuck with me: the beautiful marriage of the Arthurian vibe to the western; King’s splendid capacity for couching the truly epic in everyday speech; and the ending(s), which — while not exactly satisfying — still strike me as the only way(s) one could possibly end a story of that kind. To me, anything that tried to achieve satisfaction in this context would have instantly fallen over the line into triteness. The Dark Tower that can be describe is not the Dark Tower, y’know?

    1. Couldn’t agree more, especially on the ending. I still find myself thinking in his language from time to time, too.

      The first time I read it, I didn’t like the choice to drop back into the past for a whole book; now that I’ve read it a few times, I think it’s a good choice, but I’m less enthused about some of the run-run-chase-chase in the later books of the series. (There’s rather a lot of “This person goes here! While that person goes there! But only because they’re trying to catch up to this other person!”)

      Of course, he’s written several short stories in the world of the Dark Tower – explicitly, I mean, not just in the sense that all his work ties to that central vision. And he’s writing an eighth novel! So I may have to read them again in the near future. I wonder if the run-run-chase-chase will still feel awkward when I do. 🙂

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