I’ve been enjoying my Audible membership immensely. Extraordinary readers reading wonderful, and sometimes, less than wonderful, books. I may not be always astonished by the writing but I am usually amazed by the skill of the readers, with their capacity to become a seemingly infinite number of characters. I recently finished Stephen King’s 11/22/63 and found myself so enthralled that I decided after 40 or more audible listens I would post a comment. Unfortunately, I was listening to a pirated copy from my son who is also an Audible member. Is that really illegal? In any event, since I had not actually purchased the book, I was politely refused permission. Which is what lead me to post this recommendation on my own page, which has been silent of late. I shall no doubt post an explanation for the deafening silence soon–for those curious about such matters.
But let me explain my exuberance over King’s latest novel.
Who would have imagined Stephen King as a romantic? This is what he proves himself to be in his latest, 11/22/63. While I am not really a devotee of his writings, I did enjoy The Stand and, to a much lesser degree, Desperation. However, I loved The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, which is much more similar to 11/22/63 than those others.
I have this theory, while hate can produce art only love can produce good art, and certainly this is the case with great art. While King’s 11/22/63 is not great art it is still a very good book. And, surprisingly, a tender, sweet and poignant love story. It careens between the land of “ago” and our time, taking breath-taking curves in and out of historical incidents that intersect with famous personalities during a few fateful years in the sixties. While it is about the dreadful and unexpected impacts of a well-intentioned desire to change the past, King’s book is fundamentally about love. As such it was birthed out of a great love. Love for a time–the early 60’s; a place–small-town Maine; cars—the Ford Sunliner, and a dance—the swinging, swaying, exuberantly joyful Lindy Hop, danced to Glenn Miller’s memorable In the Mood.
While having been personally stunted by a subculture that forbade participation in that art form, I viscerally agree with what George, or is it Jake? repeats more times than I could count: “Dancing is life.” There are few passages that pulsate with brighter light than those in which our time-dislocated protagonist describes losing himself with Sadie in that pulsating rhythmic celebration. And while I concur with his assessment, I would add, that what King is also saying is that dance, at its passionate core, is about love. After all dance is art and great art is birthed in love.
This book is also about love for a president—John J. Kennedy. And it is this that compels an obsessive and desperate, and possibly world-altering attempt to prevent his assassination. But, when you drill down to the core King has written a tribute to romantic love. It is not about star-crossed, but time-crossed lovers—a time traveling teacher and a librarian who find each other after great sorrow across the impossible chasm of half a century. Its most touching moments are when George confronted with “a past that harmonizes” is once again faced with the ravages of alcoholism that is taking hold of his beloved Sadie. His loving ministrations are beautiful to read. I could not help but think that here King is paying conscious tribute to his wife who no doubt nursed him many a time in his battle with his own addiction.
I was entranced by this paean to love, to its joy, its delicious surprises, and its heart breaking, unexpected cost. For what it shows us is that love demands of us sacrifices that may feel like death but in reality are the gateway to life. And that what looks to be a great evil may in fact be the cloak of a greater good or perhaps the “harmonics” of a better good than would have occurred had we somehow managed to prevent it.