30 Day Meme – Day 7

Most underrated book

Wow. This is actually quite difficult. It’s easy to talk about popular books with hype you don’t quite get, but it’s slightly more difficult to talk about an underrated book. Underrated by whom?

Anyway, I don’t think Stephen King gets the respect he deserves. There. I said it. Sure, he’s a bazillionaire but being a best-selling author doesn’t necessarily mean that people hold your work in high regard. My favourite King book is It. (I’ve read many but not all of King’s novels and short stories and I think his non-fiction book On Writing belongs on every writer’s bookshelf.)

The terror, which did not end for another twenty-eight years – if it ever did end – began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.

It (in case you’ve never read it) is the story of seven childhood friends who encounter a horrific evil and then reunite many years later to fight it again. As with many of King’s stories, this one is set in Maine and begins in the 1950’s. The reason I think King is underrated (and why I chose It to illustrate my point) is because I don’t think there is a living writer today who manages to capture the innocence of childhood and the bond of friendship made during those early years quite as well as King does. I think that critics (and readers of lit-er-a-ture) dismiss him because he writes horror fiction. Silly, really. You don’t dismiss Stoker or Shelley because they wrote horror fiction!

It scared the crap out of me – is there a creation more malevolent than Pennywise? If there is, I don’t want to meet him, thanks very much!-but the reason it was so successful as a horror novel was because I cared about the people in the story and the reason I cared about them is because I got to see them as kids. King channels kids. He understands their loyalties and fears and hopes and he gets their rhythms and speech. He  allows them their fears and bravery, their weaknesses and their ability to overcome those weaknesses.

I read this book 20-odd years ago. I was living in NYC at the time and I carried that book (all 1,000 pages of it) around with me everywhere. It creeped me out. It made me laugh. And the denouement was tear-worthy.

Possibly King fans would choose another  title as underrated. I say, read It.