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Thank You, Stephen King!

November 11, 2015
(image via Wikimedia)

(image via Wikimedia)

A few weeks ago, a friend of my wife came over unannounced and uninvited with her family.  Any visitors we get are because of my wife.  I don’t have friends, so nobody comes over to see me.  My wife has lots of friends, and sometimes we end up entertaining families of people whom I barely know.  Most of the time I don’t mind, but I don’t like it when the visitors are unannounced and uninvited.

In this case, the family had a teenage son who, according to his parents, is addicted to video games and hates to read.  He’s capable of reading, my wife’s friend said, but he won’t do it unless it’s a school assignment.

“At least he completes his school assignments,” I said to my wife’s friend.

“Yeah,” the son said to his mom, but she gave him a dirty look.

I could sympathize with the kid because he reminded me of a bunch of friends I had in high school (a time in my life when I actually had friends).

My high school friends weren’t functionally illiterate.  They were dysfunctionally literate.  They knew how to read but chose not to.  If they were going to read, it would be a smut book like Massage Parlor by Jennifer Sills or a parody book like Bored of the Rings.  If my high school friends had had internet and cell phones and they wouldn’t have read even those books.  With the internet, teenage boys don’t need smut books anymore.

Anyway, my friends didn’t understand why I read real books.  Back then, I read the classics.  I read best-selling novels.  My friends, they didn’t get it.  From their point(s)-of-view, they had better things to do, like hang out, play video games, drink, and smoke, and chase girls.  To them, I was wasting my time reading because it kept me from doing all those other things that were fun to them.

“Dude, why do you waste so much time reading books?” they’d ask me.

I’m not sure any of my friends used the word “dude,” but it’s in my memory.

One day in my junior year of high school, I got tired of being razzed for reading.

“Here,” I said.  “Try this.”  I handed one of my friends a beat up copy of Different Seasons by Stephen King.

“This is long,” my friend said.

“It’s a bunch of short stories,” I explained.  I  started him with the second story, “The Body,” which later became the movie Stand by Me.

“This is long too,” my friend said, flipping through the pages.

“Just read a few pages and see if you like it.”

Once I got them started, all my friends liked Different Seasons.  Even though it had mature content, it was the first book that my friends read that wasn’t considered dirty.  One friend exclaimed that reading “The Body” was like watching a movie in his mind.  At least for one book, he understood why I read so much.

Another friend read a bunch of Stephen Kings like The Shining, and The Stand.  He could even tell a good Stephen King book from a mediocre one.  He thought that Christine sucked.

In college, I had a roommate who didn’t like to read.  You would think college would be filled with guys who like to read, but I guess the stereotypes in Animal House were correct after all.  My roommate got drunk a lot and chased women (most of whom were drunk).  Even my drunk roommate liked Different Seasons when he read it.  He still preferred getting drunk, but at least he understood why I read a lot.

Anyway, I gave my wife’s friend’s kid my copy of Different Seasons and told him to start reading “The Body.”  He didn’t have anything else to do.  His parents weren’t letting him use his phone, and he wasn’t interested in the football game on tv, so he was captively screwed, and he began reading the book.  Maybe he was just being polite.  If that was the case, I was impressed that he was at least pretending.

When the family left (and I was glad because my wife’s friend was kind of annoying), I told the kid he could keep the book, and he thanked me.  Again, maybe he was just being polite.

I’d like to say that this kid finished Different Seasons and that now he reads a bunch of books on his own.  Maybe he does, but I’ll probably never know.

My wife’s friend complained to her today that Different Seasons had a bunch of stuff that was inappropriate for a kid her son’s age.  She was disturbed that I’d given her son that book without her permission.  She was upset about it.

“His video games are probably worse than anything in that book,” I told my wife.  “Plus, he has cable and the internet.”

“That’s what I said,” my wife exclaimed.  “And now she’s mad at me too.”

It looks like I just busted up one of my wife’s friendships, with the help of Stephen King.  I didn’t like my wife’s friend anyway.  And I didn’t like her unannounced, uninvited visits.  Now I don’t have to worry about my wife’s friend doing that again.  And for that, thank you Stephen King.

I don’t have many friends, but maybe Stephen King can be my friend some day.

*****

What book got you (or somebody you know) to start reading?  What author would you like to thank, and why?  What author do you think would be a cool friend to have?

*****

Stephen King has written a lot of great stories, but I don’t think he’s written anything like my ebook!  If you liked my story about Stephen King, you’ll probably enjoy…

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28 Comments
  1. Again, always a pleasure to read your blog. I laughed…enough said.

  2. Sounds like you win in the end, on all counts.

    Some of Stephen King’s books are really good. But some of them really suck, too. At least he writes them, though (unlike you know who).

    • I’ve thought for a while that some of Stephen King’s mediocre books would have been better if he had taken more time to write them.

      But then sometimes I think I have no business criticizing Stephen King’s books. I go back and forth on that, depending on what kind of mood I’m in.

      • You’re probably right. Maybe it’s fair to say that he seems inconsistently critical of the quality of his own writing.

  3. Different Seasons is my favourite King book – aside from his On Writing, of course. I’m sorry you lost your copy to some jerk of a kid whose mother clearly has no manners or gratitude for getting her son to start reading. Who needs friends like them? Why didn’t she return your book? I hope you are able to get another copy if she doesn’t.

    As a child I probably started with Enid Blyton and went on to read other authors when I’d finished everything Blyton ever wrote. I’ve never been able to understand people who refuse to read. However, I have enormous compassion for those who suffer from dyslexia because many of them really want to read but find it too hard. I’m glad they have movies to watch instead…

    Great blog, as always!

  4. Rahul permalink

    A great twist in the end! You thanked King for busting your wife’s friendship haha! Liked it.

  5. I remember reading Northwest Passage by Kenneth Roberts, a very entertaining historical novel about the French and Indian war. I already was fairly hooked on reading, but I

  6. To continue: but this one got me hooked for life. I’d like to get to know Anne Tyler. I’d like to find out if she’s as warm and compassionate as she often sounds in her best books.

  7. Very understandable that you didn’t like your wife’s friend. As a former teacher I feel you well. PLUS: That’s why I get mad at people who b***h at Stephanie Meyer and other “light” or “shallow” writers (not that Stephen King were amongst them, but you’ll get the gist in a moment) – these authors make reading approachable and enjoyable for untrained minds, they bring it “to the streets” as opposed to keeping it for a highly exclusive circle of intellectuals who don’t help anybody. These “light” or, in King’s case “Hollywood-effective” works train the kids’ taste, they want more of it, and in some years, with a literary taste developed, they’ll seek Nietzsche of their own accord – okay, maybe not exactly Nietzsche, but, once again, you get the gist.

    • A grand point. I’m no Twilight fan, but you could see the books as a ‘gate way’ book to harder, more challenging books – just as marijuana can be a ‘gateway’, leading people to use cocaine, heroin … Did I just compare Twilight to smoking weed? Maybe that’s where all the sparkly vampires came from.
      Seriously, though – a very good point 🙂

  8. I really would like to be friends with Julian Barnes and Mark Haddon.

  9. I’d like to talk to Mary Brown, who wrote one historical novel that I really loved, called Playing The Jack. I’ve never been able to find anything else by her at all, and wonder if Mary Brown was a pseudonym (she must be dead by now). Can anyone really be called Mary Brown? Perhaps she was even a man, pretending. I’d just love to solve that mystery. As far as Stephen King goes, one of the best things he ever wrote, from a writer’s point of view, was On Writing. How-to-write manuals are usually worse than useless – this is the real thing, part manual, part autobiography, part encouragement. I have read it several times and always keep a copy close by.

  10. Good write up. I personally thank Stephen King for the Dark Tower series as honestly the labyrinthine,, all encompassing effort of including so much of his body of work drawn into this opus is just…so formidable.

  11. I have to thank complete absence of video games and lack of good stuff on TV when I reached the reading age. If I have to pick one writer who got me hooked, it probably was Jules Verne.

  12. Love this post! It made me laugh which was much needed this hump day morning. Thanks for that! And I have not read Different Seasons, but think I’ll pick it up today.

  13. Like I said before Edgar Allan Poe is my hero and Stephen King is my favorite author but their books are not included in the short list of books I’m going to carry outside if there is fire. I don’t remember the first book I’ve read but among my first choices when I was young were Sandburg, Sin Vincent Millay, Agatha, Harold Robbins and Mills & Boon

  14. A great post – made me smile at your wife’s annoying friend ..Her kid’s a teen and cant cope with that book? No wonder he doesn’t read if he’s not allowed anything interesting.
    I wrote a post this week about knowing people who don’t read – and liking them slightly less for it. Reading = grand times to me.

    I think the first book I read that sparked me off was Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer. Boarding school, time travel – inspired a song by The Cure … what’s not to like?

    I want to thank English author Susan Cooper for writing The Dark is Rising book series. Adored them as a kid, disappeared into that world and didn’t want to leave. Magic, folklore, a boy who discovers he’s the Chosen One. She’s definitely my inspiration to write.

    I want to befriend Neil Gaiman and Patrick Ness. They’re wonderful, talented, amazing … I’ll cook pasta and they can talk while I eavesdrop 🙂

  15. After seeing King movies as a kid, there was no way I was going to buy any of this books. Why do that when my BFF had Cinemax for Cujo to scare us? That said, I may have to side w/ the friend’s mom on this one, not knowing the kid’s age. I bought “Stand By Me” last month and we sat down to watch it, thinking our 12 yr old would enjoy it. In the first 5 minutes, it was F this and F this sh#$ and pu$$^, and we were like WTH? We didn’t remember that. It was too much to tolerate so we chunked it in the trash. A shame bc I so liked it as a youth.

    Last week, my son brought home a library book and said, “It sure is weird that my library book is filled with F words.” So I flipped through it, and it was. The point of the book was a group of high school boys trying to see naked girls, and it was full of breasts and F this and that, too. Now surely that’s not appropriate for 12 yr olds in middle school? That’s not teaching kids to like reading; that’s filling up their minds with words that get them three weeks in ISS. Mixed messages.

    But I agree that certain authors can change your mind. Like you, I enjoyed reading from the get-go. My mom would drop me off at the city library, and I’d read for 8 hrs straight, minus 15 min for popcorn. My husband, dyslexic, felt reading was punishment. In his mid 30s, I drug him to the clearance bookstore, and he suddenly realized he loves sci-fi novels. Now his shelves are filled with Jim Butcher, and I will never read a line of it. But it made my husband eager to read and finish books, so thank God for that.

  16. I couple of years ago I did not like to read. I actually wrote a post Why Read a couple of months ago. I got interested in reading when I had a book for my school assignment. The book was The True Confessions Of Charlotte Doyle by Ami. I could not stop reading that book. After reading that book I decided to read more books. I actually complained to my mum about the project and then after reading a few chapters I was talking about it constantly. My mum was pretty surprised because it was the first time I actually enjoyed reading. I would like to thank you for this post. For now Happy blogging:D

  17. Lael permalink

    This is a fitting tribute to your new BFF Stephen King! I’m of the mind that any book that gets a kid reading is a good one. And hey, high five on one less annoying visitor!

    My mum let me read smutty romance novels as a kid in grade school, heh, because they kept me reading. But she really got me started on the Little House books and Anne of Green Gables. I am so grateful to her! Because reading for enjoyment has saved me, more than once 🙂 When my kids were little, I let them stay up as late as they wanted, as long as they were reading. (We homeschooled, so no need to worry about getting up) We even bought them headlamps for that very purpose.

  18. If you got a teenager to read, then you might very well have super powers. Keep an eye on that. They might want you for a new Marvel movie. Also, if Stephen King ends up being your friend, please send him my way. I wouldn’t mind him being my friend some day too.

  19. “Maybe he was just being polite. If that was the case, I was impressed that he was at least pretending.” LOL that made me giggle:)

  20. Thank you for this, I’m going to have my son read this as he doesn’t understand why mom would rather read than watch a movie or be on the internet

  21. I love Stephen King and have read nearly all his books (I am a bit behind on the newer books right now due to time constraints, kids, etc). I love all of them for various reasons and don’t think he has written a “bad” book although there are some I don’t enjoy as much as others. I plan on stalking him someday if I ever get to Maine. (Just kidding!!!)

  22. Reblogged this on Calliope Writing and commented:
    Just one more reason Stephen King is awesome.

  23. Haha! Now I can see why this was your favourite blog post. Quite entertaining.

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