Reading reviews of Stephen King’s new novel 11/22/63, which dropped last week, has left me utterly depleted. There's simply too much to respond to: the issue of how King handles the JFK assassination; his approach to an imagined, altered history; the complications and already worn expectations of time travel. Rumor has it that Oswald is peripheral to the book’s concerns, but how does King get away with utilizing issues so already bloated with use? How does he keep them ripe and alive?
And what’s this review in the New York Times? Are they slumming it, or have they finally acknowledged that King’s contributions should not be relegated to the genre pile? Has the Times taken the current genre debate a step further toward obliterating literary categorization altogether?
I miss The Shining. I miss It. Needful Things was a glorious occasion to be in the darkness. Back then it was just me and the good fear. I don’t like all this history and reference mucking up my faith in the frightening.
It was, surprisingly, the promo page on King’s website that hushed all the other noise enough to spark a true interest. (The interactive Simon & Schuster promos are nice, too.) What caught me was the phrase “a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.” I’m not normally the betting kind, but I bet you a dollar that when King deals with all this transgression-of-time stuff, he’s also talking about writing. About living as a writer and being on the page without boundaries, without the considerations and demands of life’s biggest trap. His time-travelling protagonist can do anything: King can do anything.
That might be the book’s biggest allure. That, and the consequence: the sweet, frightening certainty King will make us pay for these freedoms.