Stephen King is an undisputed titan of world literature. Despite the variety of forms and genres in which he works, his horror novels are considered to be cult. King has a unique sense of human fears and skillfully uses this ability to make the world a better place. Stephen King’s name is associated with spooky stories and nightmares, and his unrivaled ability to explore his characters and create incredible and realistic universes has been captivating readers around the world for almost half a century.
King dumped his first “big” novel, Carrie, in the trashcan. Fortunately, his wife saved the manuscript, the rights to publish which were later sold for $400,000. Since then, more than two hundred of King’s works have been published, 50 of which have become real bestsellers. Many stories have been filmed, sometimes by the author himself.
The writer Stephen King has long since become a global influencer whose civic stance is listened to, whose ideas are admired, and whose works are eagerly awaited.
“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy,” Stephen King
Recently, the King of Horror turned 76, and we decided to recall the cult novels of the last century that remain a “must read” today.
“People don’t get better, they just get smarter. When you get smarter you don’t stop pulling the wings off flies, you just think of better reasons for doing it”, ― Stephen King, Carrie
Carrie is one of King’s earliest works, published in 1974. This debut is considered the birth of a literary legend. The story centers around Carrie White, a shy high school student, social outcast and victim of bullying who discovers that she has telekinetic powers.
Her abusive mother, as well as bullying and humiliation by her classmates, only stimulate the development of Carrie’s abilities. Moral suffering leads to catastrophic events at the graduation party, which turns into a bloody tragedy.
The novel Carrie has an unusual structure. Here, the narrative is presented through a combination of traditional prose, newspaper clippings, and book excerpts.
King’s phenomenal ability to evoke empathy for his protagonist, despite her madness, helped him write a unique story that has been re-read for almost four decades.
«Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win», ― Stephen King, The Shining
The Shining was first published in 1977 and immediately became a cult horror novel. The story revolves around the Torrance family, who take on the role of winter caretakers at the haunted Overlook Hotel. Jack Torrance, an aspiring writer with a background in alcoholism and violence, struggles with his personal demons while the supernatural forces in the hotel slowly drive him to madness. His son Danny has psychic abilities known as “the glow,” allowing him to sense the evil spirits that inhabit the Overlook.
The idea for The Shining came to King after a stay at the Stanley Hotel in Colorado. The place impressed the writer with its eerie atmosphere and the vibe of “paranormal phenomena.” It is this “blurring” of the line between reality and fiction that creates a unique impression of the novel, turning the reader into a direct participant in the story of the eerie events at the Overlook Hotel.
King’s ability to create extraordinary characters, combined with his talent with words, created an irresistible sense of fear and fascination.
The Shining received rave reviews from critics and readers around the world, was adapted into a movie by the genius of cinema Stanley Kubrick and took an honorable place among the bestsellers in world literary history.
“What can be done when you’re eleven can often never be done again”, ― Stephen King, It
In 1986, King released another horror titan, the novel It. The story takes place in the fictional town of Derry, Maine, between two time periods at once: between the 1950s, when a group of children confront an ancient evil, and the 1980s, when they must return to Derry to face the same malevolent force once again.
In a story that seamlessly intertwines past and present, King explores the effects of the trauma of childhood horrors and the power of friendship. The author creates deeply developed characters and subtly dissects the psychological horror they have to live through.
The protagonist, the dancing clown Pennywise, is a shape-shifting creature who preys on the innermost fears of his victims. The image of Pennywise created by King – a symbol of primal fear and loss of innocence – has become a cult image beyond time and borders and turned the novel into a bestseller.
Writing It was a monumental undertaking for King. The writer managed to realize a complex, multi-level narrative of more than a thousand pages.
The novel is a world horror classic, and its film adaptation is one of the most famous horror films of our time.
«Writing does not cause misery, it is born of misery. – Montaigne”, ― Stephen King, Misery
In 1987, Stephen King introduced The Misery, a psychological thriller in which the author revealed his talent for evoking animal horror within an ascetic and limited setting and set of characters.
The story revolves around Paul Sheldon, a famous writer who is rescued after a car accident by his “biggest fan” Annie Wilkes.
Annie’s seemingly altruistic act takes on sinister forms when the fan, reading a new novel by her favorite author, discovers that Sheldon has killed her favorite character, Misery Chaston. Annie decides to change the situation: she imprisons and tortures the writer, forcing him to write a different version of the novel.
King’s mastery in “Misery” is manifested in the meticulous portrayal of the madwoman Annie Wilkes, whose image is a terrifying embodiment of unrelenting obsession and control. The claustrophobic setting of Annie’s isolated house heightens the sense of dread, turning each page into a bundle of experiences and disturbing emotions.
“Misery won the Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel in 1987.
In 1990, the novel was adapted into a movie by Rob Reiner, and the actress Kathy Bates won an Oscar for her performance as the main character Annie Wilkes.
“That wasn’t any act of God. That was an act of pure human fuckery”, ― Stephen King, The Stand
The Stand combines elements of post-apocalyptic fiction, horror, and supernatural fantasy. Published in 1978, the novel describes a terrifying vision of a world devastated by a deadly pandemic, where a defining battle between the forces of good and evil unfolds.
The story centers on the confrontation between two antagonists: Mother Abigail, a 108-year-old prophetess of good, and Randall Flagg, a sinister sorcerer who personifies chaos and darkness.
King invites readers to explore the resilience of the spirit in an eerily believable post-apocalyptic world.
Writing The Stand was an ambitious undertaking for King. The novel is considered to be the writer’s most voluminous work, yet this did not prevent the book from selling 4.5 million copies.
In 1990, the novel underwent a reissue, in which King returned 400 pages of the previously deleted text.
Researchers believe that reading horror stories helps people cope with stresses and challenges in real life. If so, over his 50-year career, Stephen King has greatly improved humanity’s ability to remain calm in the face of unprecedented threats and uncertainty.
Source: The Gaze