Sunday, June 14, 2009

On The Nightstand

by Stephen King

I remember when the first Dark Tower book came out, and I remember reading in the afterword that King wasn't sure he'd ever finish the entire story, and I remember thinking that he HAD to, and that I HAD to be around to read it.

Well, he DID finish the story, and I AM around to read the rest of the books, but for some reason, I never did.

Don't get me wrong, I bought them all, and in hardcover, no less. But somehow, the burning desire to know how the story ended faded over the years. I got about halfway through the fourth book when it came out, set it down, and never picked it up again.

(Though I DID leaf through to look at all of the illustrations by the brilliant Dave McKean. I might have lost some of my need to finish the stories, but I'm not an idiot.)

The seven Dark Tower books have been sitting on the bookshelves in my office for years, gathering dust and mostly forgotten until a few months ago, when I took the 4th book down for another look at the little pen & ink illustrations McKean had done for the start of each section in the book. And suddenly, I realized that I actually needed to know how it all ended. I already a pretty good idea from the parts of DARK TOWER IV: WIZARD & GLASS I'd read years before, but I really wanted to know for sure.

I started with the beginning of book 4, realized I had no idea what was going on, and decided to start over with book 1. It's been long enough that the storytelling subtleties, not to mention large portions of the actual plot, are long gone from my memory, so it was like reading them for the first time.

To be honest, I stalled again in the middle of book 4, but after a long day of drawing, I was lying in bed, awake and worrying about my deadlines and had to do something with my brain other than thinking. So I picked it up, settled in for a few hours of reading, and finished it in one gulp. When it was done, I went into my office and grabbed the fifth book, WOLVES OF THE CALLA, and got it started before I lost momentum.

I don't have a lot of time for reading these days, but I downed WOLVES in a handful of big gulps. And without giving anything away, I'm pretty sure it's heading in the direction I thought it was, but that need to know how it all ends remains. In a strange way, I think I never really wanted it to end. And maybe that's why I avoided reading the last books when they finally came out.

I'm on book 6 now, SONG OF SUSANNAH, with book 7 still waiting for me. I'm not sure it can live up to the expectations of the teenager who first read THE GUNSLINGER, but one way or another, I'm going to find out.

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