This is what my copy of Stephen King’s novel The Green Mile looks like.
I bought it at a flea market as a new paperback for half off the cover price when I was in eighth grade. Since then, I’ve gone through almost all of the rest of King’s non-Dark Tower repertoire, yet I keep going back to Paul Edgecombe’s story about Old Sparky and John Coffey and Melinda Moores’s brain tumor and how they all collide with each other in the unholy heat of a 1932 late summer.
I know its rhythm and plot beats and tone enough to recreate them in my head without really trying. So why do I still feel compelled to read the spine a little more tattered every six or eight months?
Because it’s become a 536-page talk with a good friend. I don’t know if thinking of certain books like that makes me incurable unsocial, but it’s extremely comforting. It’s like talking to a friend who just needs someone to nod and say “really?” in all the right places; it takes the pressure off you to do anything except listen to their amazing story.
It’s been with me as I’ve grown up, from when I first started reading it during middle school standardized testing time and showed off the cover as conspicuously as possible to the boy who wore Converse and was rumored to also like Stephen King; through high school while I learned what the crude parts really meant and blushed like a boiled tomato over the f word as I started scribbling my own stories; into college as I clung to something that felt like the best part of home in a strange new world. As I’ve gotten more serious about my own writing, I read it for the story structure, and as I read more things that are suppose to give me new ideas and ways of talking about them but mostly just make my head hurt, I read it for a palate cleanser. It’s my comfort brain food.
King, I think, is good at that because he’s good at writing conversationally. Everything else ignored, he writes well because his stories read effortlessly. He wrote in one intro or another of his that if you as a reader are looking for ol’ Uncle Stevie to come tell you a bedtime story, you’re barking up the wrong stack of dead trees, but that’s kind of exactly how I think of him. A big chunk of his pages curled up with a cold diet Coke calm me down every time.
It’s just great to have something reliable in the middle of the unknown. Does anyone else feel like that about specific books or authors?