I’m deep into Stephen King’s Misery, and am loving it. It’s one of the many King novels I read back in my early teens when I devoured some fifteen of them in a row. I remember enjoying it, but it wouldn’t have made my top five King novels if you’d asked me, displaced by such classics as Pet Semetary, IT, The Stand, and The Gunslinger.
But. But. Reading it now. Dragging myself home each evening, exhausted and slightly toasted from a long day at school, slumping down at my desk and eying my computer screen with dull lethargy as I contemplate writing, I feel a profound appreciation for what he crafted in this book. Sure it’s about a maniacal nurse who kidnaps a successful author and forces him to write for her pleasure alone. Sure its gruesome and delightfully improbable, brilliantly paced and disturbingly engrossing. But what’s got me hooked is King’s modern retelling of Scheherazade’s plight. It’s the act of writing, how Paul’s literal survival is dependent on his ability to create. King goes deep into what it means to be a writer, into what goes into that solitary act, into the pain and desperation that accompanies any attempt. And man oh man does it ring true.
Best damn passage in the whole book, in which the author, musing on the odds of his own survival, asks himself if he’s going to be able to cough up the goods and write the damn book, or get hacked apart by his psychotic nurse:
Can you, Paul?
Yeah. That’s how I survive. That’s how come I’m able to maintain homes in both New York and L.A. and more rolling iron than there is in some used-car lots. Because I can, and it’s not something to apologize for, goddammit. There are lots of guys out there who write a better prose line than I do and who have a better understanding of what people are really like and what humanity is supposed to mean–hell, I know that…
… Can I? Yeah. You bet I can. There’s a million things in this world I can’t do. Couldn’t hit a curve ball, even back in high school. Can’t fix a leaky faucet. Can’t roller-skate or make an F-chord on the guitar that sounds like anything but shit. I have tried twice to be married and couldn’t do it either time. But if you want me to take you away, to scare you or involve you or make you cry or grin, yeah. I can. I can bring it to you and keep bringing it until you holler uncle. I am able. I CAN.
That passage gives me shivers. Look into ol’ Stevie’s eyes up top. Look at that gaze blazing still from that grainy black and white newspaper shot taken some thirty years ago when he first started making it big. See that hunger, see that determination? Man oh man. That’s grade A solid gold writing fury you’re looking at. Stephen King. You gotta take your hat off and respect.