About 25 years ago I avidly read every Stephen King novel I cold find. I was spending six months in London, living in an upstairs room at a home in Chiswick (near Turnham Green). Weekdays I spent in a laboratory and weekends I did the tourist bit (most frequently at Kew Gardens). In the evenings, not having any friends in London, I read (unless Mastermind or Blackadder was on the telly). I read every Charles Dickens and Stephen King book I could find in the second-hand bookstores; I think "It" (1986) was the most recent book of his at the time.
Then I got back to the U.S., back to my regular work and life, and didn't have time for King's long novels any more.
Now I have to decide whether to dive back in. So, first I tried to find out something about the book. By coincidence, there was a Salon article this week praising King, including his recent work:
But that article was written in rebuttal of another Salon column deeply critical of the novel:
How is it possible that a novel as bloated and mediocre as 11/22/63 is can be deemed by the New York Times Book Review as one of the five best books of fiction of the year? Do we fear being labeled “elitist” or “liberal” if we don’t reward commercial success in other ways (as if an enormous advance and a river of royalties are not reward enough)? Or do we believe that commercial success on the King scale signifies, almost by definition, quality, the way a 20,000 square-foot house supposedly signifies to passersby that the owners must be important?What to do? This is a 800+ page book that would require 12-14 hours of reading. Because of its popularity, I can only have it out for two weeks and it's not renewable. I have three other books on my bedside table that I'm already trying to read.
So I'm turning to the readers of this blog, because TYWKIWDBI seems to have accumulated a lot of visitors with reasonably similar interests. I'm not seeking opinions on King's body of work in general, but rather just this book. If you've read it, please offer a two-sentence recommendation in the Comments.
11/22/63 is a long, meandering tale of trite sentimentality and nostalgia for an age gone by that ultimately ends up going nowhere. Avoid this book.ReplyDelete
This was my first Stephen King novel and I read it in one day regardless of the fact that I was in exam period. Must read.ReplyDelete
Looks like this will evolve into an interesting comment thread.ReplyDelete
My two roommates both burned through it in a week and I blazed through it in a weekend. Maybe not a "must read," but fantastic storytelling that also led to lots of fun Google search "fact-checking."ReplyDelete
I'm not a Stephen King fan. I found this novel to be poignant and nostalgic - recommended.ReplyDelete
I have enjoyed many King books but have not read all of them. I am glad I have read this one and would recommend it to someone who enjoys King.ReplyDelete
I enjoy Stephen King and esp. time travel stories. It was a pretty good read. The way everything winds up at the end was satisfying.ReplyDelete
I'm not a King fan, and this is not great literature. It is, however, fast-paced (only occasionally cringe-worthy, esp. re female characters) and readable. Slightly SFnal, well-researched, nostalgic. I say go for it.ReplyDelete
If you can dredge your way through Salems Lot as a teenager I think you'll like it too. I started it while reading a few other books. This won.ReplyDelete
It's not one of his best books and the plot kind of comes apart at the end but he's still just a wonderful storyteller and it sucks you in nevertheless. As to investments in large books, the 10% rule works for me. Give it 80 pages and see if it grabs you.ReplyDelete
This is King's best work in many years. Not a rehash of old plots.ReplyDelete
I have read pretty much all of Mr. Kings writing and I have to say that this one is better than average.ReplyDelete
It has the normal quota of his faults, but for most of the book, it's virtues will carry it through.
I agree with Chris that the last part of the book is the weakest part.
If I had a few minutes to talk with Mr. King, I would encourage him to remove some of the more gratuitous violence from his books. He is a good enough writer to hold your attention without resorting to shock tactics.
I read it in a couple of days; it may be a long novel but it reads fast. It was worth the time I put into it. The ending is too abrupt, but the subplots make up for the unsatisfying ending--the journey in this novel is more important than the destination.ReplyDelete
Hehe, according to the comments so far it's a mediocre must-read book, fast paced and meandering, with a very satisfying ending which is the book's weak point. Especially recommended for Stephen King fans who haven't read any of his books. :DReplyDelete
Off topic: Turnham Green is great. Were you at Imperial at the time perchance?
Funniest comment I've read all summer. :.)Delete
I burned through it in a day. Great book, and I knew almost nothing of JFK's assassination beforehand, good read.ReplyDelete
I'm not a fan of fiction, generally, though I do love time travel science fiction stories. This novel is much more than that, however, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. If you're of a certain age -- and you are -- you'll be captivated by the premise of the book: What if you could go back in time to stop JFK's assassination? The answers aren't as simple as you'd think.ReplyDelete
I could not finish the book. Way too much emphasis on a side story. But I'm a little too young to remember the Kennedy years.ReplyDelete
Loved it. Also first king book i reas in 25 years. Really wanted him to stop the assissination. Kept imagining how things would be differentReplyDelete
Not my favorite King book, but I liked it. The 800 pages went quickly.ReplyDelete
I thought it was a great return to his old style of story telling...bloated yes, but interestingly so! That was always King's highpoint, lots and lots of details, so you can put yourself into the story. I read it rather quickly ( a couple of days) because I found myself really wanting to see what happened next!ReplyDelete
First time poster, long time reader, and I just read this last month so I had to add my 2 cents
I don't read a lot of fiction, and I hadn't read a King novel since 6th grade, but I really enjoyed this book and couldn't put it down. I don't think it's sentimental or nostalgic; if anything King does a good job pointing out that if there are things that are better about the 50s (more trusting people, no terrorism, cheap gas, cool cars, and better tasting food), there are plenty of ways in which the world today is better (the end of Jim Crow, the EPA, greater gender equality, recognition of mental illness). Though I'm too young to have a memory of the Kennedy years, I really enjoyed watching history play out and contemplating what might have been.ReplyDelete
After having read both Salon articles, I read the King novel. I have to admit that I'm a fan, but that sometimes I think he does need an editor; whole forests are stripped bare when King publishes a new novel.ReplyDelete
I liked the novel and found the layers of detail that King put into it made it that more gripping. I have to confess that, by the end, my attention was flagging. Yes, the ending is a bit weak. All in all, still worthwhile. I read it in an afternoon.
Wow. Thank you all for your advice. I have to finish a book tonight about the transcontinental railroad, and will start the Stephen King book on Tuesday.ReplyDelete
I don't plan to write another post about my evaluation. If it's really good, I'll just add a category tag of "recommended books" to this post; otherwise I'll leave it as is ("literature").
??Maybe I should start a new feature on this blog where every month I let people recommend books to one another. I'll ponder that.
Middle of the road fare from the legendary Mr. King. Which means it was great.ReplyDelete
So start it - if you're not captivated, you can return it. What have you got to lose?ReplyDelete
I couldn't find the quote, but Updike said that Stephen King would be the Dickens of he 20th century - the only modern writer people would still be reading in 500 years. Of his later works, Wizard and Glass is my favorite.ReplyDelete
Listened to it as an audio book. The reader was good, so that helped me get through the 30 hours. Yes, much too much time spent on a side story and romance. When they make it into a movie they probably could cut the whole thing. I'm not a fan of King's longer works (I think he probably is the best short-story and novella writer living today), but if you liked "IT" and "The Stand," I think you will like this. I liked how the time travel worked and stalking of Oswald. I didn't think King quite pull off the end though and his explanation of what consequences of time travel are, was too muddled and too metaphysical for my tastes, but overall I like the the book.ReplyDelete
Meandering and slow, but a fantastic read. King really makes you care about his characters, and the love story does that brilliantly, even if it does take a long time. You won't regret the read, and you will be dying for the movie to come out (only if Darabont does it, though).ReplyDelete
like many here, i thought the book was good relative to King, and that King is good relative to most novelists of his time... but, there's been a great divergence in novel-writing (just like in personal income levels) and that the above average novelists like King are just not doing the same thing that people like James and Pynchon and Ellison were doing. It's like comparing jugglers to a meteor shower.ReplyDelete
will be really interested in how you experience it though, because it almost reads like nonfiction, and tonally bumps into some of the books on your recommended list...
The experience mayt be different for me from some of you because I remember the assassination events and wrote about them for my college entrance essay. Also years later worked the same Parkland ER where he was treated.Delete
I lived through the Kennedy era. I tried really hard to get into this book but could just not slog through it. Not that there are still editors in publishing houses any longer, but this manuscript REALLY needed editing. This book will teach me to stay away from his probably just as self-indulgent next one.ReplyDelete
I'm glad you're going to give it a go. I read it and loved it. I thought that it was well paced, but i can handle books that are more of a slow burn than action-packed. I am not a King-horror fan, but ive really liked some of his non-horror books (like Rita hayworth and the Shawshnk Redemption, Hearts in Atlantis).ReplyDelete
Be sure to let us know what yiu think!
I enjoyed it. The time travel elements reminded me of, though very different from, 'The year of the quiet sun', by Wilson Tucker.ReplyDelete
My bad. The book I' was thinking of was 'The last day of creation', by Wolfgang Jeschke. Year of the quiet sun' is time travel plus US Presidents, but 'Last day of creation' has the 'feel' that I was thinking of.Delete
I didn't have the time to devote to reading it (three kids) but I listened to the audio version. I enjoyed the book very much and having lived in Dallas for a few years, found myself pulling up Google Maps during the chase to get a better idea of where things were happening. I think the ending was just right.ReplyDelete
Easy.. it's so great because King wrote it. No more no less.ReplyDelete
I seem to recall an experiment a published author did, perhaps mentioned on this blog, where they sent in a novel under an assumed name and was basically told that they'd never make it as an author and to quit.
This was to the same publishing house that printed her books already..
Probably my third favorite book out of the last hundred I have read. The book is quite captivating. The ending is disappointing, however.ReplyDelete
I loved this book. I read it within a few days. I was under similar time contraints, I only had it for 7 days from the library, but no matter because I couldn't put it down.ReplyDelete
I decided to read it after hearing King interviewed on the CBC radio show 'Q', really piqued my interest. I hadn't read King in a few years so decided it was time to give his books a go again, so followed up 11/22/63 with The Dome; turns out I quite miss the addictiveness of his storytelling!
So if you like King anyway, you'll probably enjoy 11/22/63.
I finished the book after multiple short sessions, and got it back to the library in time. It was good, but I thought not great. I would rate it 3+ on the 0-4+ scale I use for such things. A pleasant read and summer diversion, but not something I would buy or keep to reread. I do think it could have been trimmed down to about 750 pages without losing much content, but that's the way he writes. It's not like a John Dickson Carr locked-room mystery where one has to ponder every word; this book can be skimmed in places.ReplyDelete
I enjoy time travel stories; next to LastManOnEarth, time travel is my favorite SF theme. And I do remember the 60s and the assassination. And I lived in Dallas for ten years and knew the streets and neighborhoods he was describing, so that made it beter.
Re the ending, you can't expect King to write a conventional boy-and-girl-walk-happily-into-the-sunset ending, so I accepted it, although I should think Jake could theoretically have gone back on the last reset to woo Sadie before her marriage and then brought her back to the present through the rabbit hole. But King implies that the butterfly effect would still have been too strong. And as to that, I don't see why the "watchers" who were so concerned about him and Al messing with the past didn't just kill one or both of them. But then there wouldn't be a story...