When The Institute was announced in January, the book’s description had people wondering if it would have ties to Firestarter or the Dark Tower series. Kidnapping kids with psychic powers sounds like what happened to the Breakers at Algul Siento, and Charlie McGee underwent extensive testing at a compound run by the Shop to determine the range of her pyrokinesis.
In fact, The Institute isn’t connected to those earlier works—or really to anything else in King’s work. The organization that runs the Institute in remote northern Maine (in TR-110, for those keeping track) isn’t the second coming of the Shop. The covert group has been operating for over sixty years. The kidnapped children, ranging from eight to sixteen years of age, aren’t being used to bring down the Beams supporting the Dark Tower. The one story that comes to mind when reading King’s latest is his 1997 novella “Everything’s Eventual,” which ultimately turned out to have Dark Tower implications, although that wasn’t clear at the time.
Happy New Year, readers. Those of you who ordered the limited edition of The Road to the Dark Tower should be seeing your copies soon if you haven’t received them already. Cemetery Dance is shipping copies as fast as they can pack ’em, and I’ve heard from people who’ve been notified by Amazon that their orders are being filled, too. I’m delighted at how the book turned out. The design is wonderful and I’m especially fond of the Tarot card endpapers.
I’m not much one to look back at the end of the year, or make resolutions or anything like that. However, since he started doing his column for Entertainment Weekly, King has done best-of lists for films, books and music from the previous year. Here are the columns that feature his lists:
If you haven’t heard about The Secretary of Dreams yet, then you’ve missed out on the chance to get a lettered or numbered edition, unless stray copies turn up between now and publication, which is anticipated sometime in the first half of the year. The graphic short story collection, illustrated by my buddy Glenn Chadbourne (who worked with us on The Illustrated Stephen King Trivia Book and illustrated The Road to the Dark Tower) adapts “The Road Virus Heads North,” “Uncle Otto’s Truck,” “The Rainy Season,” “The Reach,” “Jerusalem’s Lot,” and “Home Delivery.” What’s unique about these adaptations is that every word of the original stories is conserved. Check out the sample illustrations starting here and working your way through the six stories. Even better news: this is Volume I, which means Glenn will be working on a follow-up this year. This is going to be a gorgeous production that I’m looking forward to seeing.
I haven’t had a chance to work my completely through Stephen King: Uncollected, Unpublished yet, but I’m very impressed by what I’ve seen and read so far. I was surprised to rediscover how many of King’s stories had been substantially revised on repeat publications. Rocky Wood does a yeoman’s job of chronicling all these updates and revisions and makes me want to go back and reread stories in their original forms.
I’ve updated the Guide to Identifying First Editions, which appears on King’s official web page. It’s now current through The Colorado Kid and corrects a few errors and omissions in the original version.
King wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times in response to a review of a D. H. Lawrence biography. He chastises the reviewer for thinking that a person may be “better able to understand a great writer by reading about him than by reading him.” It’s a riff on the line from Different Seasons: “It is the tale, not he who tells it,” which King updates by saying, “The writer’s rainbow is always found in his work.”
I’m putting the finishing touches on my column for Cemetery Dance magazine issue #55, with in depth coverage of Cell, which I read last week. I’ll have more to say about the book here as publication date approaches. If Richard Bachman hadn’t died before cell phones became part of our culture, this might have had his name on the cover. It’s a dark, gritty, pessimistic novel in many ways and stands in stark contrast to the fundamental optimism of The Stand. I’ll not say more on that subject until more of you have had a chance to read the book. Keep an eye out for the names of the headmaster of Gaiten Academy and a gentleman in a Miami Dolphins hat who appears late in the story. The Publishers Weekly review is online at Amazon. It’s relatively spoiler-free and concludes, “King’s imagining of what is more or less post-Armageddon Boston is rich, and the sociological asides made by his characters along the way…are jaunty and witty. The novel’s three long set pieces are all pretty gory, but not gratuitously so, and the book holds together in signature King style.”
Here is an interesting article about King’s appearance at the New Yorker festival last fall from the Sydney Morning Herald. Note the following snippet, which is surely the genesis of Cell.
King told a story about leaving a New York hotel to get a coffee one morning about six years ago. “A lady under the canopy was on her cell phone and the doorman was getting someone a cab. I thought, what if she got this message on her cell phone that she could not deny and she had to attack everyone she saw – and she started with the doorman, she ripped his throat out.”
The Scribner edition of Cell contains a sneak peak at Lisey’s Story. The first twelve pages of the book are presented in King’s own handwriting. The excerpt is not the same as what we’ve previously seen in “Lisey and the Madman.” The opening chapter is called “Lisey and Amanda (Everything the Same)” and deals with Lisey Landon two years after the death of her famous writer husband Scott. She’s finally going through his writing office, trying to decide what to do about his unpublished works. Amanda is her older sister, and there seems to be tension between the two. My feeling is that this book will be in the Bag of Bones vein.
Each time I update this online column, I’m going to tackle a FAQ, which comes either from questions I see on King’s message board or ones directed to me via e-mail.
Q: Does King have any plans to complete “The Plant”?
A: The short answer is: “It’s not on his to-do list at the moment.” When King stopped work after finishing Book One: Zenith Rising, he said that he felt like he was pushing the story instead of having it pull him along. That’s never a good feeling. My guess is that until the day comes when the story recaptures his imagination and sweeps him up again, “The Plant” will stay in its current state. Who knows? Someday a few years from now he may find new wind to breath life into the story. Those of us who bore with the Dark Tower series for two decades have learned patience toward the storyteller.