Lisey’s Story

I just finished my book, Lisey’s Story by Stephen King, and I immediately threw it away.

I’ve read a lot of Stephen King. As ever, the blog post began forming itself as soon as I started liking the book, and I wasn’t sure what to say. I mean, I think it’s a stunning novel, but I always rave about Stephen King, and while there’s nothing wrong with repeating things worth saying, it’s still boring to be boring.

But I wanted to write something, because he’s somehow done it again. I’ve said before that people think he’s a horror writer, but he’s not, in the classic sense. His novels can be dark and sometimes terrifying, but not because of the events or the blood. I’m not bothered that terrible things are happening to the characters, I’m bothered that terrible things are happening to my friends. Because he gets under my skin, hooks into the personality centres and directly breathes living people into my mind’s eye. And the worst kind of gore-fest is nothing compared to a character you love standing in the hallway, thinking someone might be in the house.

I know this isn’t anything new, nothing that hasn’t happened to everyone – it is, after all, what reading’s all about. But he’s the guy who gets me, who best fits my particular brain-shape, and his characters follow me around. I’ve been reading Lisey’s Story for the last month, and it’s lurked continually in the back of my head. Not as an excited I-must-go-and-read-this desire, or as an irritating why-can’t-I-stop-thinking-about-this memeplex, but as another filter on the world, with reality-based roots but fantastical tentacles. It’s a book of secret languages and private words, and it latched onto my worldview and twisted. And I wanted to blog about it, without it being the same old thing. I got lucky.

I’d nearly finished the book when I took it to the park this afternoon. My car was in for an MOT and I had 40 minutes to kill, so I found a shaded bench and slipped into the world of Lisey Landon, widow of celebrated author Scott. The book hadn’t gone the way I expected, and I was intrigued to see if there were any surprises left. Then: splat. A pigeon delivered its verdict on my literary diversion in spectacular fashion. The book was big and hardback, and Mr Pigeon aimed perfectly for the centre crease. Backsplatter hit my hands, coat, jumper and I don’t like to think where else – it was really quite the projectile from such a tiny animal – so I cleaned up as best I could and headed back to my car, hoping a) it would be ready and b) I didn’t have anything in my hair.

Both were so, and once home I’m thinking, what am I going to do with this book? I could ditch it and buy a paperback copy, but that seems wasteful. I figured I’d cut out the affected pages so I could read the rest in comfort, so I grabbed the scissors and found the somewhat sticky pages where I’d left off. The book doesn’t smell good and I realise there’s really no saving the thing, but the outside is clean enough to put on the table. I made myself read through the two rapidly crustyflaking pages, then found the smearings had soaked through a fair few more. So I read those too. And then there were only 30 or so left. And before I know it I’m sitting at the table, reading a stinky, shit-stained book that really needs to be got rid of, and welling up.

Because it’s a book about marriage, and loss, and chance. And it’s a book about writing, and ideas, and storytelling. And when the things that happen at the end happen, I can’t help being moved.

It’s gone now, but the great thing about liking Stephen King is that his books are always in charity shops, so I’ll find a replacement eventually. I can never figure out why I want a collection of my favourite fiction – I mean, what’s the use? – but Lisey’s Story will definitely be in there, next to all his others.

Should anyone fancy taking a look, I’d recommend not reading the blurb. I’ve been burned before so skipped it, and for this particular book it was the right call.