Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Foul-mouthed kids

I've always loved to read, but while I was finishing up my degrees – mostly part-time at night – all I had time for is what teachers assigned me to read.  So, when I finished school and could read what I wanted, I read a lot of bestseller stuff I'd missed like Tom Clancy, Michael Crichton, John Grisham, and Dean Koontz.  And, of course, Stephen King.

Stephen King is the guy responsible for many of the horror movies probably since before I was a teenager, either directly or indirectly.  And (even though most of the movies are pretty bad) he can be an amazing storyteller!  Books like The Dark Half and Needful Things still creep me out, and there's few things scarier than Pennywise the Clown.  The problem – for me, anyway – is the vulgarity and profanity; it's pretty far beyond 'over-the-top.'  In his On Writing - A Memoir of the Craft – which is one of my favorite books – he says that's what makes a story authentic.  And I know some people talk that way and aren't bothered by it.  But I am.  I don't talk that way.  Most people I associate with don't talk that way, at least not around me.  And it feels degrading and even burdensome to hear or read, and that's why I haven't read a SK novel in over fifteen years.  Well... until now.

Probably my favorite SK book-turned-movie is "Stand By Me."  It's not a horror movie, although the language and the theme were still enough to get it an R rating.  It's from a novella called The Body and tells the story of four 12 year old friends growing up in Maine who find out about a dead body – a kid their age named Ray Brower who went missing.  Apparently, he got hit by a train, and the four friends go on a camping trip to see his body.  They have some juvenile and half-formed ideas that they'll get their pictures in the paper and be heroes, but the story is mostly about their relationships, problems, and the journey. 

And it's an incredible story if you were once a boy and appreciate a somewhat nostalgic setting.  Something about it just resonates – the friendships, the thoughts and ideas, the quest – and makes for a very compelling story.  Of course, there's the language, which is beyond coarse (and a stupid "Chico" story that I didn't quite follow how it was necessary to the larger story – probably just tacked in to add length).  But I remember how boys are, and I might have deserved having my mouth washed out on a few occasions.  But I'd guess somewhere around 95% of the foul language could have been cut and still gotten the message across.  Stephen King would no doubt disagree, but he and I can disagree on that point.

Still, if you can overlook that, it's a darn good story.

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