Stephen King is skilled at storytelling and suspense building. In my experience he blows all the good will he creates with his endings. And yet I keep coming back for more because I find that the good outweighs the bad.
The only prior knowledge I had about It was that Tim Curry plays a scary clown in the movie. So that is the image that I carried with me throughout the novel. And it is scary. I love the idea of an entire town that is poisoned with this evil being that everyone ignores. I love that the children are the ones to fight it because they have the most power in their purity of imagination and belief.
I enjoyed the way last part of the novel alternates between the children’s first showdown against It and their final one as adults.
I’ve read See’s Making a Literary Life once before. Like Bird by Bird, it is a lovely inspirational book for writers. The advice is obvious – write. Every day. Sorry to disappoint, but that’s the big secret.
Carolyn See lays out a plan for the novice to follow. It’s quite simple, but it takes discipline and self-motivation. These are two qualities every writer must develop in order to achieve any semblance of literary success.
The core of her ingenius plan :
“1. A thousand words a day – or two hours of revision – five days a week for the rest of your life.
2. A charming note (that does not ask for a favor) to a writer, editor, or agent you admire – five days a week for the rest of your life.”
There are seven other steps, but these are the most crucial. MLL is full of other fun stories and tips. I especially like her advice to picture what your life as a writer would look like and then make those details happen. Even seemingly silly things like “I’d wear colorful pashimas and drink tea every morning before writing” can motivate you along your writing journey.
I have a little niece who at 18 months is showing a lot of interest in books. I was delighted to find her attracted to this picture book I brought her during my last visit. She has a habit of pulling books off the bookcase and plopping down to carefully turn each page before moving to the next. My brother is already teaching her letters. So now I’m determined to keep her arms full with lovely books. This is leading me to a genre that I haven’t touched in years: children’s books. I remember watching a movie version of The Velveteen Rabbit, but I had never read the book.
My favorite passage:
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
I know this is an awfully short book to count among my Cannonball Reads, but I’ve read over six 1000+ page novels this year and am hardly any closer to my goal of 52 books than I was last year. I feel justified.
And a little stabby.