Monday 26 March 2012

Devouring Stephen King: Misery

Oh man. Misery is so so so good. I mean, it's so good, I can't even think of a better word to describe it, because I'm too busy thinking about how so so so good it really is! I had read it once before, and I know I liked it, but I don't think I necessarily appreciated it as much as I do now. It's just so... there's so much tension and drama, and so many things are explored that are really interesting, and intriguing, and I just think reveal a lot about King himself. And then, combined with all of that is, you know, torture and horror and disgustingness, in a relatively controlled but still sort of thrilling way. Basically, it's awesome (not torture. Torture is bad.)

So. The story is that there's this author, Paul Sheldon, and he's been in a fairly serious car accident where his legs have been crushed badly, and unfortunately for him, he was pulled from the wreckage by a woman with severe mental illness (bipolar and schizophrenia are both hinted at, but basically Annie's crazy) who also happened to be his 'number one fan'. All this has happened before the novel even begins though, and so we come in, if not in the middle, then at a point where it's become impossible for Paul to escape Annie- not only does he have the whole crushed leg issue, but he's also become addicted to the painkillers she's been feeding him, and dependent on her for everything, especially his own survival. Plus, he's just killed off her favourite character, ending the series she loves the most, and so she wants him to write her the comeback book, OR ELSE. We're left to pretty much imagine what 'what else' would mean, but let's just say that death is probably the best case scenario...

And it's just so GOOD! There's so much that King says about writing that seems to relate directly to him (the disparity between writing things that are popular vs things you actually want to write and think that are worthy), and all the references to drug addiction seem to really be about his own addictions- it's no coincidence that this book and The Drawing of the Three, which also had an addict as a main character, were written around the same time as each other. But the thing is, as well as going on this whole 'journey of self discovery', King manages to still write something that's a completely tense and taut story, that leaves you barely able to breathe. Part of this has to do with the fact that there are basically only two characters, and we're only given privileged access into one of them, so that, in between the horrors of Annie, it's easy enough to believe that these are the things that Paul would be thinking of- there's only so long you can think about the hopelessness of your situation before you go crazy, and this is something Paul wants to avoid completely.

An interesting thing I just learned from Wikipedia is that King actually intended for Misery to be released as a Bachman book, rather than under his own name. I found this SO interesting- firstly because I associate this story so strongly with Stephen King, and I feel like everyone who has seen the movie does too (not that I've actually seen the movie, but it's on my list) BUT also because it makes so much sense to me. What the Bachman books tend to do is remove the supernatural from the equation and just deal with horrors that could actually happen, which in turn makes them quite a lot scarier than, you know, monsters and vampires and things (not that I'm saying that I'm not scared by It anymore, but, you know, Annie could come and find me and kidnap me and do bad things and ARGH!) So, yeah, Misery is just like a Bachman book, only like a hundred times better than the ones I've read, and scarier, to boot. I do so love it when King deals with the horrors inside of people, and I can't actually think of an example better than Misery.

So, Misery. It's short, compact, tense, terrifying, gross, heart-pounding and you should probably definitely read it. There's basically nothing about it that I don't like, and you know me- I can always find things I don't like. Right now I'm regretting not having read it more, but at the same time I'm not sure I could have handled many re-readings of it, so that's probably a good thing! According to all sources, the movie adaptation is pretty special too, so I'm going to have to watch that/be too scared to watch it. We'll see. What I really want to happen though, is for all of you to read Misery! Unless, obviously, you've got Annie Wilkes tendencies, and then you should probably steer clear because it'll just give you ideas...


  1. Misery is probably my favorite King novel. I think he has other (objectively) better novels, like The Green Mile, but I just love this one. There's something about it. I'm sure it helped that I read the book for a college class and my professor was a King fan.

    Maybe it's so awesome because Annie is an amazing character. And I always think of this book when I think of the writer cheating the readers ::cough:: Hunger Games ::cough:: That and the whole fact that she's not a supernatural being. She is so much scarier knowing she's just a lady with many screws loose.

    And now I want to re-read this.

    1. Reread it! It remains awesome! I think it's definitely one of Kings best, and I think that's definitely down to Annie being an amazing villain, but also because its like a perfect length- there's not too much of it so the tension runs out and gets boring, and it's not too short so as to be kind of abrupt. Yeah, it's awesome :)

  2. I read Misery for the first time when I was about 13 on a bus from the south shore of Massachusetts to upstate Vermont. I had an amazing collection of junk food and a flashlight since the bus left at 5am and it was still the dead of winter.

    There are two Stephen King novels that truly freaked me out - It and Misery. It because it touched some kind of deep psychological nerve and Misery because ... OMG, THE HORROR. Scary things about crazy people freak me out the most because it's so entirely plausible.

    So I was on that bus and it got to the part where she hobbles him... you know the part. The blowtorch? Right. I thought I was going to be sick. I remember shutting the book and just staring out the window until I felt like I could return to the story.

    It's a great book and it's truly scary and one of my King favorites.

    1. When I read Misery this time (and I really think I can't have been paying attention before!) I was definitely feeling really ill when the whole hobbling thing came around. Just... *shudder* but in a fully awesome way. I love that Misery was such a big deal for you that you can still remember where you first read it! :)