Misery by Stephen King

Even though it took a graduate course requiring me to read it, I’m so happy that I have finally read a Stephen King book (other than On Writing). He’s been on my list for ages, but because I don’t generally read horror of my own accord, King was never quite my first choice when it came time to pick a new book to read. Now I see what all the fuss is about.

I always thought my first King book with be The Shining or It, but Misery was an awesome starting point, and I can only hope that his other works will match the tension in this novel. That is what I found the be an immense strength of King’s: tension. We’ve read some novels that have it this semester, but not with the same consistency Misery has. Paul Sheldon talks of entering the hole in the page when he really escapes into writing a story, and I was able to easily do the same when reading about his predicament. I was there. I was waiting for any moment where Annie might go off and say or doing something to further prove that she was completely off her rocker. That moment where he races back into his room before she opens the door will forever be one of the most memorable, tense moments of the book.

Let’s move to setting for a moment. We spent an entire novel with pretty much only two characters inside of one house, with the majority of that being in a single room. And I never once got bored. King did not have to rely on movement or large-scaled plots to keep Paul’s situation interesting for over 300 pages. My hat is off to him for that.

King characterizes everything, and characterizes well, so this may be the main reason I loved this book (as I’ve said previously, characters are my favorite). Annie was the first female psycho we’ve encountered in this course, and definitely makes the list one of the most interesting. For me, she comes second only to Dr. Lecter. Not only do her actions (cutting off feet) and dialogue (cockadoodie) characterize her, but Paul himself consistently describes the nastiness inside her from the moment she saves him from the car wreck. He considers the air she breaths when giving him CPR to be an infection rather than life re-entering his body.

We get to experience Annie from the immediate perspective of her captive. I’ve never read an entire book that did that either. We weren’t investigating this time. Instead, we were placed in the center of the chaos. And what a brilliant idea as well as execution. Instead of tension being born of trying to figure it out, we were trying to get out. And because Annie isn’t the psycho that’s often portrayed, it makes her that much more frightening and unpredictable. It also goes along with the idea that anyone in your life, whether it be a longtime friend or someone you pass in the grocery story, can be a psycho.

And as a last compliment, I loved that King was not over-explanatory with his gore. He stated it as he saw it with more comparisons than embellishments, and I found the images created to be all the more effective because of it.

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2 thoughts on “Misery by Stephen King

  1. Klarisa,
    That’s such a great point about us being in a situation not of investigation, but trapped with the victim. I think it adds so much more to the tension because we know the violence is going to come to them, and we’re fastened in the seatbelt along for the ride, instead of hearing of the aftermath or from the killer’s POV as he duhumanizes his victim.
    And you’re completely right about the setting, we have such a small place, but the tension and interactions between Annie and Paul keep us glued to the scene. It’s almost like one of those plays that take place all within one room and the entire story is based on the interactions of the characters within that room. Although we do get to step back every now and then when we hit the law enforcements POV or that switch to the Misery book. It’s a brief step out of the room, but we cone righy back to it because that’s where all the action is.

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  2. Good point on setting! King wrote Misery so well and put so much suspense that I really hadn’t stopped to think how it really only included to main characters locked up together in one house, and mostly that one room. That is actually an amazing thing he did with setting. As a writer, setting is my weakness. I either don’t describe enough or I describe the wrong things too much. It’s all very trying. But King showed that you don’t have to have a giant setting to have an interesting setting. Zero in on one main thing and then put all of my creative description juices into that all-important place. Though, I do have to say that, after months passed and Paul almost got comfortable with Annie, I was getting bored and frustrated. I wanted to yell at the pages, “No, don’t do that! Don’t go in there!”

    Oh, but there he went.

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