From the Archive — Flashback Friday: 1978


I think I’ve already dug through and shared all the old reviews I have that detail the usually dire outcomes with film adaptations of Stephen King’s work. In order to tie-in with this weekend’s big new movie — which reportedly falls right in line in terms of its quality — I need to look to the “Flashback Fridays” feature I had for a few weeks at my former online home. It basically gave me a chance to write about whatever I wanted, as along as it related to the year I’d reached in a chronological procession. For 1978, I wrote about the King novel that I long maintained was his very best.

1978: Stephen King’s The Stand is released

I was a sucker for Stephen King when I was younger. He was probably the first author who wrote books for adults that I followed with a collector’s intensity. It started with a copy of The Shining that sat unread on my bookshelf for a long time because I had trouble getting past the fact that the persecuted, paranormally gifted little boy at the center of the story shared my name. I eventually overcame that discouraging factor, and consumed the book as rapidly as I could. The Shining may have been my first, but The Standwas my favorite.

That was in part because of the heft of the book. I was just over 800 pages in its original version, and the little brick of a paperback somehow made it seem like it was even longer. All those pages gave it the veneer of something that was a little more important than King’s other typed-out creepshows. That combined with the novel’s story of societal breakdown and reformation in the face of a devastating illness gave it a sense of literary weightiness, at least to my still juvenile palette. Every plot intricacy, every burrowed-in character detail, every broadly drawn theme felt imperiously significant to me. It was, I was sure, King’s masterpiece, the book that proved he deserved recognition beyond his reputation as a proficient, prolific crafter of genre bestsellers.

King revisited the novel for a “Complete & Uncut Edition” in 1990 that added around another 300 pages to its length. There was also a 1994 miniseries, and, more recently, a succession of comic book miniseries adaptations that strike me as utterly pointless. The tinkering and the variants have only served to diminish the memory of the original book for me. It’s made it feel more like a product than the book that I once loved. Selfishly, I want it to be just what it was when I first read it, a comparatively lesser known work from a writer who everyone knew with a daunting length that made it the province of the true fan. I want it to be that book I raced through in my basement bedroom, conjuring up the archetypal battle of good and evil in my mind. Of course, as I type that wish out, it strikes me as exactly the sort of thing I think we all want from those books that first captured us. We just want to find a way to preserve that feeling of immersion, of transformation, of ownership. I know there are the other versions out there, but for me there’s only one The Stand.