Monday, March 17, 2014
Not horror but just right
It really bugs me that Stephen King gets pigeon-holed as a horror author as frequently as he does - he does so much more than that and it's almost always wonderful.
That being said, there is a strong element of the supernatural in his Hard Case Crimes story, Joyland, that is perhaps more common to the horror genre than to the pulp mystery traditions.
The novel is a delight. It's easy to sink into, the characters are round and whole and interesting, the setting is whimsical and sad and spooky all at once. It does, however, suffer from the same problem that all mysteries do; now that I know whodunnit I'm not going to get as much out of rereading the story.
That is, of course, not going to stop me from rereading it. Joyland is full of, no surprise, joy. There's a whole world of carney lingo, sick kids, southern beaches, and broken hearts in its pages and I want to go back. I feel like a kid after the calliope music has stopped asking "can I go again?" and I'm pretty sure that's exactly how you're supposed to feel after reading a kickass book.
There is one scene in the story that stands out to me over the rest of the story as the moment that will call me back to this book again and again. It's not a scary moment or a horrifying moment or a moment with a hard-case detective chasing down a lead - it's a moment that involves the hokey pokey and a confused, sweaty college kid making the world magical for a few minutes.
It's things like that, little tidbits of sparkling humanity, that make me really appreciate King and get pissy when people deride him as "just another horror writer" - King isn't a scarejock, he's a fucking magician and his magic is that he can make you feel nervous for a kid in his first day on a new job just as well as he can make the hair stand up on your neck when a cat crawls out of a creepy boneyard.
Augh, it's just amazing. Long live the King.
(And I want to give a shoutout to my cousin, Tara, here - if you, like her, like novels about amusement parks this is a must-read.)
King, Stephen. Joyland. Hard Case Crime. London. 2013.