Reading on August 5th

Hello, Kaufmanniacs! (I’m trying that one out to see how it works. The verdict so far: Not well!) Anyway, this is a heads up that I will be reading in Astoria, Queens on August 5th as part of the Line Break Reading Series. Here are the details:

Day: Saturday, August 5th
Time: 3:00 PM
Where: Q.E.D., 27-16 23rd Avenue, Astoria, Queens

If you’re not familiar with the neighborhood, Q.E.D. is easily reached from the Astoria-Ditmars Blvd. stop on the N train (the W train does not run on weekends). That’s the last stop on the N, and it’s only a short ride from Manhattan. The subways on the weekends are often a crap shoot, so be sure to check the MTA website to see if you’ll need to allow extra time, plan an alternate route, or sacrifice an animal to the subway gods.

I’ll be reading with three other great writers: David Keck, Rajan Khanna, and the amazing Olena Jennings!

Here is the Facebook event page if you feel like RSVPing.

Admission to the event is $7. You can purchase advance tickets, or buy them at the door.

Important note: This is not a family-friendly event. There will probably be bad language, and there will definitely be alcohol served, and you may not want your little ones around that.

However, I hope to see all you adult-type folks there!

IN THE SHADOW OF THE AXE Is Now In Paperback!

Good news for everyone who has been waiting for In the Shadow of the Axe to come out in paperback: The day is finally upon us! Thanks to the good folks at Crossroad Press, Axe can now be read by e-book hating Luddites across the world! You can buy print copies from:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Powell’s

IndieBound

Or buy it from your favorite bookseller! If it’s not on the shelf at your local bookstore, ask them to special order a copy for you. And of course the e-book is still available at all your favorite e-book outlets. Get your copy today!

It

ItIt by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!

Wonderfully immersive and gorgeously written, IT is a remarkable achievement. I put off reading it for a long time because of its daunting length, but I’m so glad I finally dove in. I absolutely loved it. At the heart of the novel, as well as at the heart of my love for it, sits the Losers Club, seven characters who, thanks to Stephen King’s masterful ability to conjure character from perfect details and authentic emotions, I came to feel as though I knew intimately. I really grew to love them over the course of the novel, especially as children, and found myself slowing down toward the end because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to them. When I finally turned that last page, it was a bittersweet moment because I was both deeply satisfied with the narrative and a little sad that I wouldn’t get to spend more time with them. I wish I’d had a circle of friends this close when I was growing up!

The monster itself is a stunning creation, wholly original and something well beyond the tropes it imitates in order to frighten its victims, but what lasts for me from this novel are not the scare scenes but the emotions. In so many ways, this novel is about kindness, love, and friendship. The monster could easily be a metaphor for bullying, or violence, or the cosmic unfairness of a child’s death, or a town’s dark history coming to light, or all of those things, but it’s the deep and abiding love these characters have for each other that allows them to defeat the monster in the end. Not without cost, but also not without reward.

I love the novel so much I’m tempted to call it perfect, and I think in some ways it is, such as in characterization and the use of setting, but it stumbles a bit toward the end, in my opinion. I thought the monster was much scarier without the extended mythology King gives it (the macroverse, the Turtle, the Other, etc.), and the handful of times he lets us into its thoughts saps too much of its mystery and ability to terrify. I understand the mythology ties into King’s magnum opus of the Dark Tower, but on a purely standalone level I thought it detracted from the horror by making the unknowable too known. I think I definitely belong to the school of thought that says the less we know about the monster, the better. Additionally, three characters outside of the Losers Club, Henry, Tom, and Audra, also make their way to Derry, but not much comes of their presence. Henry obviously has the biggest connection to the characters, being their childhood bully, but as an adult threat he’s taken care of rather quickly. Tom follows Beverly to the town but is then pretty much instantly dispatched with. Audra’s presence is important to end of the novel, but otherwise she’s just sort of there. (These three characters’ sections also sometimes feel like an unwelcome intrusion on the narrative, although I suppose that works thematically.) Lastly, the sex scene in the sewers feels like a major misstep to me. It’s beautifully written and actually quite sweetly portrayed — these characters are wonderfully, charmingly innocent, not lascivious — but it still feels out of place, both because of the characters’ prepubescent age and because I didn’t fully understand its purpose. I will readily admit I didn’t get how this act achieves what it’s meant to achieve, namely focusing the characters enough that they can then find their way out of the sewers. Symbolically, I think there might have been better ways to signal the end of childhood and the start of adulthood, at least in the context of this novel. I can totally see why this scene sticks in some readers’ craw, and I really do wonder why King thought its inclusion made narrative sense. (Beep beep, Stephen!)

But those missteps did nothing to temper my profound love for this novel. IT now holds a place of honor as my favorite Stephen King novel. Although there are still so many more I have to read, it’s hard to imagine any of them resonating as strongly with me as this one. I can see myself returning to this novel again and again in the future. It would be like revisiting old friends.

View all my reviews

My Necon 37 Schedule

Necon 37 is this weekend! This is the writers’ conference I’ve been going to the longest, ever since 2000. I’ve only missed two in the ensuing years, which makes this my sixteenth time! Here is where you can find me on programming:

Friday, July 21st

1:00 PM   Kaiju Big Battle: Why Giant Monsters Are on the Rise Again
John Goodrich, John W. Dennehy, Nicholas Kaufmann (M), Gemma Files, Craig Shaw Gardner, Darrell Schweitzer
We all grew up on Saturday afternoon movies with badly overdubbed dialogue and massive, larger-than-life monsters. Those monsters are on the rise again like … well, like Godzilla rising from the Pacific! But why? Our panelists discuss the resurgence of giant monsters and try to formulate a plan to save Tokyo.

(I’m looking forward to moderating a panel on one of my favorite subjects: giant monsters!)

8:00 PM  Meet the Authors Party

(If all goes well, I should have print copies of In the Shadow of the Axe to sell and sign at Necon! Fingers crossed they arrive in time!)

Saturday, July 22nd

9:00 PM  The Infamous Necon Roast
In the immortal words of the Human Torch, “Flame on!”

(Once again, Jeff Strand and I will be co-hosting the annual roast. Who is the lucky recipient of this dubious honor? You’ll have to be there to find out, especially because it might be YOU!)

Sunday, July 23rd

11:00 AM  Necon Town Meeting
Tell us what we did wrong, what we did right, and what you’d like to see us do next year.

(Come yell at us for putting you on a 9 AM panel Saturday or Sunday morning!)

The rest of the time, you’ll find me milling about. Necon is a small, intimate gathering, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding me if you want to say hello or ask me to sign a book for you. I’m friendly, I promise! (Except during the roast.)

 

 

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