Standalong!

When Trish first suggested reading The Stand, I wasn’t convinced. Not because I wasn’t interested in reading The Stand, but because it is so long and I have a horrendous track record with readalongs and books I “have” to read. But it’s been a long time since I successfully read a Stephen King book. If you had asked me when I was 14 who my favorite author was, I most likely would have answered Stephen King. (Or if I thought you weren’t the kind of person to judge me, I would have most certainly said JK Rowling, because Harry Potter wasn’t cool yet and I was still hiding my fan fiction and obsession binders under my bed.) I tried to read Under the Dome when it came out, but I was underwhelmed and never finished that beast of a book. So, I thought, it’s probably time to try Stephen King again.

The thing about reading an author that you once loved unconditionally is seeing their flaws for the first time. I don’t know that, as a 12-14 year old, I was reading anything critically. I just read voraciously, anything I could get my hands on. I also traveled a lot and Stephen King was the only thing that I found worth reading in most gas stations.

This isn’t to say that Stephen King isn’t a good writer, because he is. Sometimes, he’s a downright brilliant writer, and I live for those amazing moments when you realize how good he is. This also isn’t to say that I’m not enjoying The Stand, because I am. Even though it’s one of the longest books I’ve read in a long time and I have barely read anything else for the entire month of June. There is no getting around the length of this novel. It will take you a good chunk of time to read and, since I’m only about 60% of the way through, I can’t quite yet tell you if it’s worth it.

With a book this long, sometimes I forget how much I really loved the beginning, despite how horrifying it was. Essentially, a government-created flu begins infecting people in Texas. It’s the end-of-the-world type flu. A flu that leaves everyone dead, except for one or two people in each town. The people who are left begin traveling and trying to find each other, which becomes much easier when they all start dreaming of Mother Abigail, an elderly black woman who knows that she has been chosen by God to lead the “good” people to Colorado.

The thing is, they’re not only dreaming of Mother Abigail. They’re also dreaming of “the dark man,” named Randall Flagg. People are gathering around him, too, but they are the least savory sort of folks: escaped convicts, drug addicts, and the technically inclined.

So, I just looked up what year this was published to try and figure out what decade it was so I could say, “Look it was the _____. Having a well-rounded cast of characters that didn’t perpetuate stereotypes wasn’t the norm yet.” Or at the very least, you probably weren’t being called out for it by every reader with a blog. I had no idea that The Stand was originally published in the 70s and then rereleased in the 90s and King changed the dates of the novel. What a strange decision! And, finally, it makes sense that the characters were saying “You dig?” and expecting me to really believe that relatively hip people said that in the 90s. Because they didn’t. I’m assuming. I was young then.

The way Stephen King approaches race has been addressed again and again. I think this article by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu about the presence of “the magical negro” in King’s books is a really great place to start. Like me, Okorafor-Mbachu is a fan of Stephen King, but it’s important to point out the flaws in the things you love.

Right now, I’m grateful for a little break from The Stand. I’ve been reading it with no breaks since the first week of June and I’m about 800 pages in, so I’m a little ahead for the readalong. I don’t want to be sick of this story, so I think that it will be good to take a short break and come back to the story excited to finish and eager to get back to the story.

(Also, I have told so many people that I’m reading The Stand and all of them have kind of given me this look, one eyebrow raised, and said, “Really? You?” To all the people who think that I think I am too good for reading The Stand: You have no idea how many really cheesy YA novels I read. Not that The Stand is a cheesy YA novel, but that is just an example of how non-snooty my reading choices are. If I had said I was reading Nicholas Sparks, then that reaction would have been acceptable.)

 

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15 thoughts on “Standalong!

  1. I’ve never understood why he changed the date either…it seriously makes no sense. In my mind, I just read it as set in the 70s, which is when it was set when I read it for the first couple of times. It was in the 70s I first read it. I grew up in the 70s and the book just “feels” like that period of time. Which, of course, makes sense as that’s when he wrote it and set it. So yeah, the change of the date has always just felt so WRONG. 😛

  2. I had some problems with the slang, too…nothing sounded quite right. Not that I was the hippest person around in the 90s, but I NEVER said “You dig?”

    That article was fascinating. That is totally Mother Abagail’s role. Although I found her kind of annoying at times.

  3. I’m not a big Stephen King fan, but I joined the read along to see what all the hoo ha was about. I can’t say I’m enjoying it yet, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to say anything about it just yet.

  4. I just learned recently as well that it was originally published in the 1970s, which helped me with my initial confusion whenever 1990 would show up in the text. I’ll hop on over to that article in just a bit, thanks for posting that!

    I’m 750 pages in and decided to take a quick break as well. Who knew reading other books would seem like a cinch compared to reading this exercise of a story! The Stand is incredible for me so far, and I agree that the first part was pretty mind-blowing and a bit more “enjoyable” than the latter half thus far 🙂

  5. I think it’s a shame that people would assume you would be “too good” to read The Stand.

    I agree with you that the beginning of the novel ia ah-freakin’-may-zing. In fact, my recall on THAT portion was close to perfect, even though I first read the book some 22 years ago. The latter part of the book just doesn’t compare to the first half. Am I the only one who feels this way, I wonder? Don’t get me wrong, I like the notion of good vs evil but the horrors of what mankind is capable of doing to itself is scarier. And I guess, that’s what the ending was kinda showing? Just not as “ahhhh oomg” as the first?

    1. I find y’alls thoughts interesting as I’m JUST starting to become invested in the book now that everyone is coming together (into their various camps). I enjoyed the first half but I wasn’t intrigued the way I am now.

  6. Ok, do tell. I had assumed that he originally wrote it in the 70s but it was still set in 1990!!! no? Ok, not that this changes much, I suppose but that is what I thought! Crap. …world-readjust…

    I don’t even think I knew abt this book until Trish wanted to read it.

    Off to go read that article-link now….

  7. I didn’t realize there were two versions until I realized that my personal copy (the one in the picture) was about 400 pages shorter than everyone else’s. I had the original so then sought out the un-cut version. I have to admit that I’m REALLY distracted by all of the date and popculture references trying to figure out what was original for 79 and what was revised in 89.

    But honestly, I’m don’t consider this low-brow fiction. Maybe mainstream but there is a lot of depth to the book. Even if the characters are quite stereotyped. I get irritated when I feel I need to defend my reading decisions.

  8. The Stand is so completely out of my normal genre and I suppose that is why I have had a hard time starting any of the Stephen King novels. I have set a goal to expand my reading this year and it has been a blast. I find The Stand quite thought provoking in a unique sort of a way.
    It is interesting to revisit an author later in life like you are doing with King now. I have also found that it is a different experience with other others that I loved deeply when I was in high school.

  9. I’ve had a lot of people who know me well show some serious shock when they heard I was reading this. Isn’t it funny how people can assume you’re a snooty reader just because you like classics too! I decided to read the original version and I’m really glad I did. I think that at more than 800 pages it was more than enough story and the dates all work in the original because they hadn’t been changed.

  10. I was intrigued by the change of dates, too. Maybe so it would be closer to the readers at the time? What I kept thinking was that he couldn’t change it to 2000 without making some big changes; I remember that already in 2000, I read the news and talk to people over the internet on a regular basis. I don’t think the government, through the media, could keep things as quiet about the flu as it does in the novel, without having people on both coasts knowing about it.

    1. You’re right. There’s no way he could change it again without discussing major differences in technology and media, like you said. I kept thinking, “Someone would totally already be tweeting about this shit.”

  11. I’m pretty horrendous when it comes to readalongs and “have to” reads, too, and I haven’t read a book this long in ages! I’m often jealous of people taking part in these great readalongs, but then I know if I signed up, I’d probably blow it anyway or at least not enjoy it because it’s a “have to.” I think I only jumped on the bandwagon with this one because I have a long, good history with reading Stephen King that I wanted to revisit – so far, so good. A thousand some pages with Stephen King is not the slog that it could be with some other writers!

    The dated slang is kind of funny, but other than that, it seems to have aged pretty well. I’m not quite halfway, but so far I’ve been pretty impressed that it doesn’t feel near as old as it is.

    1. I agree that the rest of the book seems to have aged well. It seems pretty timeless except for the occasional reference that seems out of place, but the slang was driving me nuts! At least it makes sense now.

      What is it with “have to” reads? I’m not sure why I can’t enjoy them as much!

  12. I have been meaning to read “The Stand” forever and I am determined to do it before the end of the year but like you the length intimidates me. I think it’s more the length and the genre combined. I had no problem with “War and Peace” and other classics but this one just seems long since it is an unfamiliar and not much visited genre for me. I will do it though…I will!

    Courtney
    Stiletto Storytime

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