"A GOOD READ IS HARD TO FIND"
by Laurel

 Those of us who like to read can become a little obsessed with
finding that special book or author because we know that "a good read
is hard to find."  We spend countless hours browsing through book
stores and libraries looking for just the right book.  Sure, there
are plenty of "good" books on the market meant to take up our time
and energy when we read them -- most of them forgettable.  Many books
are written by authors whose only reason for writing them is to make
money, or to make a name for themselves.  There are also authors who
want to preach or teach, but most of these books are dull and boring
unless you are particularly interested in the subject.  Then there
are those special books that immediately cause you to gravitate
toward them like found treasure.

 Over the years I have varied my reading interests from science
fiction to love stories, from murder mysteries to classics, and then
finally to thrillers.  Nothing really seemed to satisfy me, or to
catch my attention in that special way, like a "good read" would.
They were always books that I could pick up or lay down at my
discretion.  There was never that delicious sensation of frustration
felt if I didn't go on reading to find out what happened next -- that
is until I found Stephen King.  Now here was someone who wrote and
thought on my wavelength.  I was enthralled with him and his books.

 When I first read King's Carrie in 1974, I knew that I had
experienced "a good read" for the first time in years.  King appealed
to my "dark side" and I liked the way he wrote.  It seemed as if he
was speaking only to me, and I liked that special kind of intimacy.
He wrote just the way he talked -- nothing preachy or fancy -- but in
an intellectual way that was right up my alley.  At first I thought
that Carrie was a one-of-a-kind book and that we would never hear
from King again.  Boy, was I wrong!  When 'Salem's Lot and The
Shining were published, I knew I had found that special author I had
been looking for most of my adult life, and began to search for his
books in the stores.  These books not only scared me to death, but
held my attention throughout the entire reading.

 King has been called the most prolific and successful writer of
the horror genre in this century.  To date he has published eighteen
full-length books of fiction, in addition to five under the name of
Richard Bachman, three collections of short stories, one book of
non-fiction, and five screenplays.  In addition, at least fifteen of
his stories have been made into movies.

 Most of his books are based on a struggle between good and evil,
and King tickles our imagination with frequent stories of the
supernatural.  In The Shining and in Firestarter, he introduces us to
characters able to perform telekinesis and pyrogenics.  Christine is
a haunted car able to rejuvenate itself at will, and The
Tommyknockers are beings from outerspace.  Perhaps the most
terrifying of all his books is It, recently presented as a
made-for-television movie.  Shortly after reading this book, I came
face to face with a giant jack-in-a-box clown at Walgreen's in the
mall, and felt utter terror as I gazed into its smiling face.  I
still break out in goose bumps every time I think about that
confrontation.  After Cujo was published, I had a similar moment of
terror when I came upon a St. Bernard dog sitting in front of the
Pantry in Marion seemingly smiling at me.

 King likes to prey on our fears and reveal to us the things that
haunt us -- our fear of the dark, our fear of what is lurking under
the bed ready to grab our feet if they happen to stick out while we
are sleeping, and our fear of creepy, crawly creatures.  His frequent
references to books and music familiar to me also make his stories
more appealing, and I can relate to him because he is of my
generation.

 Since 1974, when I first read Carrie, I have spent sixteen years
reading and collecting all of King's books.  I have, in fact, read
The Stand four times (I purchased both versions of the book).  I even
read the three books his wife Tabitha wrote thinking I could learn
more about him through her stories.  I bought books about him, and
have seen his movies countless times.

 Yes, I know, all this sounds obsessive, but let me tell you what
it feels like when I have read one of his books.  First, there is
that little electrifying thrill that comes with walking into
Waldenbooks or Readmore and spotting his latest on the racks.  Just
seeing those black covers with the silver and red causes my pulse to
quicken.  I feel the weight of the book, and then see how many pages
it contains.  The longer the book, the more I anticipate the reading,
because I feel it will be a good one.  I can barely wait to get home
as I never allow myself to start reading or leafing through the pages
beforehand.

 Once home, I make sure I will have no distractions.  I study and
caress the cover and look at King's picture on the back.  Now I allow
myself to turn to the first page.  Then, with an anticipation found
only in lovemaking, I begin.

 Sometimes I have to re-read the first couple of paragraphs
because I am so caught up in the act of reading that I miss the
story.  By then, though, it seems as if I'm trapped.  I want to read
fast so I can find out what happens next, but I also want to prolong
the pleasure.  So, I find myself going back to re-read sections.  The
outside world has disappeared for me, and I have developed
tunnel vision.  Everyday demands have ceased, and my mind becomes
focused only on the book.  The story has become my world and it seems
as if I have spiraled down into it -- not reading the words, but
feeling the sensations the characters are feeling and saying the
words they are saying.

 The frenzy to finish the book becomes an obsession at that
point.  I read until I can no longer read anymore.  My brain
overloads and my eyes will no longer focus.  I spend mornings reading
before work, and I hurry home in the evenings to read more.  The day
finally comes, though, when I sense the end is near.  The ambiguity I
feel is awesome.  I want to know what happens (the desire to read the
last page is sometimes overwhelming), but at the same time I dread
the finish.  I know that once I am finished, I will have to wait
another year for a new King book to be published.  But, just like
sex, I am carried through to the inevitable climax almost against my
will.

 When the last page has been read and the book is closed for the
final time, the satisfaction of that "good read" spreads through me.
Sometimes, I might want to scan back through the book to recapture
moments that I may have missed.  But, for the most part, the only
thing I want to do is reach for a cigarette.

 Laurel