Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ur In For It Now

With King, the mighty, word-savvy, page-turning King - You get what you paid for. I'm no stranger to Stephen King. I remember where and when I first met him. I was a sophomore in high school, just learning how to go through my lines (only four) in a production called Up The Down Staircase. I played a kid named Edward which was originally written for a black kid but, for me, they changed it to Italian.

The stage was occupied with twenty or so school desks. Every kid who walked on stage held some sort of prop. Figured I might need one too. I rooted in the back, looking through some boxes, when I found him. The weathered and dusty paperback of Insomnia was heavy, to say the least. I had trouble sleeping so it only felt natural to read the book. I asked one of the members of the faculty if I could borrow it but they just said, "Take it."

I plowed through that thing in one week, sometimes taping some of the pages together because there was a section, near the end, where four of five pages had been ripped out and stuffed back in.

That's when I first met King.

Now, a Kindle loaded with over thirty books later, I was ready to read that elusive, exclusive, ever seducing book called UR.

The story follows a 35 year old lit professor who, out of spite, buys a kindle. The kindle arrives and looks like all the others expect for one thing. It's pink. And it apparently has a direct line to different, literary dimensions. What if Hemingway wrote just one more book? Or what if Shakespeare wrote five more plays before his death? Even though this title is a novella, it works at an even pace, getting you comfortable with the story as well as the new techno gizmo that is the Kindle. I could just imagine King tinkering with it, jumping from his seat and bolting to his writing den to pound out the story as he examines every button on the kindle. But that's the draw of King. He gets us where we live. He always starts fresh with what is new, foreign or, quite possibly, alien to us.

I mean, think of it. A plastic box which holds thousands of books that you can just have zapped to you every time you press a button? Imagine what it was like in that pitch room. Look out Radio and TV, there's a new revolution in town. But such is the Pop of King. He tackles the things of today, haunts them tomorrow then serves them to us thick with the aroma of mystery, intrigue and horror. Twice already he's terrified me with vintage cars: From a Buick 8, Christine. He's turned the common cold into a plague: The Stand. He's turned our phones against us: Cell. Our dogs are against us: Cujo. Any way you slice it; nothing is safe from King.

With UR (read in two sittings) I'm glad King has stuck to his guns when it comes to having story be the key driving point and wait for plot later. There were a couple of times where I thought I could predict the outcome, but he cornered me with my suggestions and addressed what we were all thinking in the story. Not only does the Kindle device have lost literary titles but it also has alternative newspaper articles...I'm going to leave it at that. One reviewer called it brain candy and I'm willing to agree with them. It was so intriguing I didn't want it to end. All I can say is that I can see a second part to this fantastic tale. But what would the title be? Kindle 2: UR IT? Or maybe Pinky's Revenge? In any case, this is one title I'm willing to re-read over and over again.

By the way, there were, in King's own way, hints of other books. I'm noticing a lot of connections and crossovers in his works. Most notably, the Dark Tower Series has some relevance to the plot. I guess there's never a stand alone work when you're as prolific as the master storyteller himself.

Thanks, King. I've had the damn Kindle for less than two days and already you have me edging away from it in some cases and watching it from a distance the next. Will I discover another, terrifying literary underworld? One can only hope.

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