I = It (A-Z Challenge)

“…so I went to the library and picked up three books by the greatest author of the last thousand years: Stephen King.” — Peter Griffin, Family Guy.

I have discussed before my love for Stephen King. I told about my histrionic private school teacher finding ‘Salem’s Lot in my desk, freaking out, and calling my mother. I don’t think she expected my mother to say, “Yeah, I know he had it. I got it for him.”

However, several years later I saw my mother with a thousand-page tome, titled It. Actually, I believe I almost scared the woman into gastrointestinal distress. I have always been very light on my feet, very quiet, strong for my size, and am pretty fast. I think I missed my calling as the mighty White Ninja. One night I was in the kitchen, and apparently my mother forgot about me, as I was silently making something in there. I came out, saw my mother on the couch reading, and cheerfully asked her what she was reading.

I still don’t know the meaning of some of the things she said. What I do know is that she threw the hardcover for It (no small feat, that), knocked over her drink, and cussed like a wounded possessed woman already suffering from Tourette’s. My mother has had a lifelong fear of clowns, you see.

The main villain, Pennywise the Dancing Clown.

The main villain, Pennywise the Dancing Clown.

When she was done she had me read It, knowing it would scare the hell out of me, and warned me about a certain scene toward the end which was, truthfully, a little risqué by any standards. At the time, I was probably in seventh grade and I think she didn’t expect me to have the reading stamina or attention span to get through the book.

About that she was wrong — she should have known better. It did take me a while, but I got through it. And then I read it again, but only skipped through and read the kids’ scenes. I watched the movie with Tim Curry as Pennywise. I hear they are planning to do another movie (or two). I don’t know if they can get someone to play Pennywise as well as Tim Curry did.

Terror in the sewers.

Terror in the sewers.

I had trouble sleeping. The book was pure terror. The movie was good (though lacking in SO many ways). I was given the hardcover as a gift and still have it. I read it again as an adult, now closer to the age of the adults than to the kids. It was still good. Overall, it was and remains my favorite Stephen King book, and that’s saying something. But as an adult, the more subtle touches creep me out. Pennywise is terror incarnate, but what about Henry Bowers, the raving lunatic? The leper, which I didn’t fully comprehend as a child? And, of course, Patrick-fucking-Hockstetter, the serial killer in training. The brief dip into his mind scares me now because I know there are people out there really like him.

The camaraderie between the kids was amazing. As a writer in training, I can now see this book for what it was: a masterful book told in omniscient voice with no less than seven main characters. Bill, the stuttering leader whose brother was the first victim of that coming of It. Richie, the goofy comedic relief. Eddie, the hypochondriac with mommy issues. Mike, the victim of horrifying racism who came out on top, strong, and tough. Ben, the lonely fat boy. Stan, the prissy, proper, neat, somewhat fragile Jewish boy. Beverly, the tough as hell girl who survived abuse that nobody should be subjected to. Taking their characters down to one sentence is an injustice. There was so much more to each of them, and you care deeply for all of them.

However, one character I always hated was Stan’s wife. She was annoying, superficial, uptight, and a canker sore on the butt of life. She got made fun of once and it bothered her for the rest of her life. Boo hoo, bitch. Welcome to a day of light bullying for any grammar school kid. Yet, she was, in her irritating way, more fully realized and fleshed out than a certain character with an entire series devoted to them.

A strategically placed picture with no significance to the sentence directly preceding it.

A strategically placed picture with no significance to the sentence directly preceding it.

That, among other things, is the mastery of Stephen King’s It. Over a thousand pages, seven main characters, fully realized human villains, an entire town, evil for hundreds of years, a macroverse, and a terrifying shapeshifting villain. Each fleshed out. Rarely did the book slow down. It was a masterpiece, and I still love it.

I regret to say that I don’t always have the time to read It as often as I would like. And you know what? That’s okay. Not only does that give me time to savor it when I do read it, but it gives me time and reason to appreciate the 40+ hour audio book read by Steven Weber, whose acting skills give him the perfect voice to read this book. He should have had awards heaped on him for his reading of this book. Don’t think it was that good? Skip on over to Audible.com and give it a sample listen.

After years of reading, dozens of Stephen King books under my belt, and less time than I would like to give to new books, I still find myself returning to Stephen King’s It over and over. And Pennywise? A child-killing, human-eating, shape-shifting clown luring his prey with promise of cotton candy, rides, and balloons.

Balloons that float.

They all float

Alternate letter considerations: Ignorance, Immortality, Impress (think the dragons of Pern).


~ by Darren Endymion on May 10, 2014.

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