In September, I suggested a reading order for the extended universe of Stephen King's The Dark Tower, a series I loved, but hadn't read any of since Volume 7: The Dark Tower came out in 2004. I realized that I missed the characters from the series, and wondered if the reading order I suggested would really hold someone's interest all the way through. I scoured some local bookstores, and then the internet for the hardcovers of the books, and prepared for my quest to read a Super Long series of books.
Much like The Stand, I'll be dividing It into several sections, as it is also a 1,000+ page beast. A lot of the book centers around the tricks of memory between childhood and adulthood, which will be an interesting lens, as I first read this when I was 12, and haven't read since. Not shockingly, my memory of this book was faulty as battery-acid-drunk spiders.
Cambridge, Massachusetts (2017)
The little boy in the drain. The clown. The tearing of the arm from the body. The paper boat. The cover of the book with the arm stretching out of the sewer. Spiders. "This is battery acid, you slime." The deadlights. I remember these. Sure. Thirty years later. twenty after the TV movie. The slit wrists in the warm bathtub. The balloons. We all float down here. The barrens. The dam. I remember.
I remember picking up the book in an airport. On the way to Florida for, maybe the first time. Colored pencils and a surreal coloring book. Not the first time. Second, maybe. I remember my mother asking if I was sure It was the book I wanted. Maybe thinking Lord Of The Rings or Chronicles Of Narnia or something that wouldn't make the woman at the register say "You know this isn't a kid's book, right?" Something that wouldn't have my fifth grade teacher call her and ask if she knew I was reading this book. It had sex things!
I don't remember why I wanted it. Just the year before I'd asked to see Gremlins because I thought Gizmo was cute. But I'd spent the whole second half of the film hiding behind the movie theater seat. What do you hide behind when you're reading a book?
I remember the book being divided up into a part where they were kids, and a part where they were adults. Only that isn't precisely true. Or even mostly true.
I remember the horror and the fights in the sewer and the blood in the sink that none of the adults could see. But I don't remember the abusive father. I don't remember the overprotective mother. I don't remember the indifferent parents. I don't remember the father who didn't walk to talk to his son about the town's horrible racist past. I remember a series of phone calls but not who made them. I don't remember that once the child murder happens, the book spends a great deal of time dissecting a hate crime.
How do I not remember the beginning of the book focuses on a man who is beaten due to his sexuality (though ultimately killed by a demon thing that doesn't mind killing people of any sexual orientation)? How do I not remember that the book isn't just about a demon thing that will eventually tie into The Dark Tower, but is also about how a place Hates. How a city is homophobic. How a city is racist. How a city is misogynist. And how a city ignores all those parts of itself?
Because memory is selective. You forget the things you don't want to remember. Which is what this book is about.
It's been almost thirty years since I read this book. Which is about how long it takes between Pennywise's appearance. I am the age of the protagonists as adults now. As, the first time I read this book, I was around the age of the protagonists when they were children.
I have forgotten what made this story good because I only remembered it as the first horror book I ever read. I wasn't too young to understand why I liked it then, but I was too young to hold on to the memory of why I liked it. Isn't that what aging is? Forgetting the nuances, but remembering the trauma?
Sandwich, Massachusetts (1988)
Michelle saw me reading It during a study break. She was reading whatever book we were supposed to be reading for English, which I had already finished. She came over to ask me where I got the book. I don't remember if we'd ever voluntarily talked before. I remember I had a crush on her. I remember being thrilled she had a reason to talk to me. She wanted to read the book, too. I let her borrow it the next day while I read something from another class.
At the end of the class, Miss Markarian asked to talk to me. Michelle told her I was reading a book I shouldn't be. That it had sexy parts that my parents would not approve of. She was going to have to call my parents. I might be in trouble. I thought Miss Markarian liked me? I thought Michelle liked me. What was this bullshit?
I know the phone call happened because I remember my father telling my mother one of my teachers was on the phone. But that's all. I don't think my parents ever talked to me about it. I know I didn't get in trouble, but I also don't think they bothered to tell me that my teacher called. Given some further interactions between my mother and some of my teachers, she might have even told Miss Markarian to Fuck Off. Probably told her to be happy I was reading.
I don't remember my parents being progressive but they must have been.
Cambridge, Massachusetts (2018)
Fine fine fine. Memory. But what does this have to do with The Dark Tower?
The turtle. The voice of the turtle. The turtle is mentioned repeatedly in the first section of the book. And if you haven't read any of The Dark Tower books (which I hadn't in 1988), then you probably keep wondering what the fuck the turtle is. It doesn't seem to be the monster of the book. You don't see it. None of the characters talk about it. It's just part of the narration that occasionally there is something about a turtle. Including See the turtle of enormous girth/on its back it holds the earth. Which is familiar, if you've read the first half of The Waste Lands. Roland says it. The Turtle is one of the twelve guardians of The Dark Tower. If that was the only connection, I promise, I wouldn't have put it on this list. And I know this is a long ass book. But I promise, more will come up that connects It to The Dark Tower.
-- this first section of It is only 165 pages but that brings us up to 4,055 pages since the beginning of the chronology