‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

salemslotIt’s been awhile. It’s been awhile because I have read very little. It’s March and I’ve only finished reading my second novel for this year (both I had begun in 2013, by the way). Slow reading, indeed. Faster writing because that is what I spent most of my time on – which is good but I find that without reading writing is… less valuable, certainly less stylish. My ramblings become stunted and prosaic without the ‘food’ of words written by others.

But that wasn’t my reason to return to King (returning always in the sense that he was the first adult author I ever read and also inspired my own writing). I’m currently investigating the supernatural (in case I have mentioned this already, I apologize for the repetition) and a vampire novel by Stephen Kind was hardly something I could ignore.

Here’s what happens:

Ben Mears is a writer who returns to ‘Salem’s Lot – scene of his most vivid childhood nightmare – to write a novel about the Marsten House as it is called in town. It seems to be one of those sinister places that exude evil. But it’s not the house, it’s its new resident who stirs the dead in their graves: Barlow is a vampire and he begins his evil trail through town around the same time that Ben starts writing his novel.

The desease of undeadness spreads quickly and Ben, together with young Marc Petrie, has a hard time keeping up and score of living, dead, and undead. And it seems that more than just one house is infected by an inherent evil in Jerusalem’s Lot.

‘Salem’s Lot is King’s second novel and he already picks up the theme of evil places that is probably most elaborately told in It – my all-time favorite King novel. Indeed, some paragraphs about evil that inhabits a place is reminiscent of those in It. I’m not criticizing this, I actually enjoy the thoughts as well as the concept. The mingling or merging of a supernatural evil and the way it changes a place is fascinating. King also has a good grip on the vampire lore. I like that instead of giving vampires a new spin, making them his own, changing everything about them, he goes back to the basics – making them more elusive and yet more vulnerable than it has been done lately.

The book comes equipped with an introduction by King, two short stories to enhance on the story of Jerusalem’s Lot as an evil place, and even deleted scenes. I haven’t yet read those last ones, I’m not sure why and I’m not sure I will. The ‘extras’ have been added to the original text after almost 25 years. King seems to return to his earlier stories quite frequently, probably the tales never quite let go of him. I’m not sure about the value of returning to stories or places those stories have taken place. But maybe that’s just me liking an ending better than an ongoing mystery.

‘Salem’s Lot is a good read. It’s not above criticism but it’s the same kind of criticism that one can apply to all of King’s books – too few good female characters, not a single female hero, a writer as hero, a little boy as hero. It all comes down to characters for me. But the issues I have with his texts are almost as vintage King for me as what he writes, how he writes. Reading a King novel can be as frustrating as it is exiting and enchanting.

Well, if you’re tired of all the new takes on vampire lore, if you want to go to bed avoiding to look into shadows because you’re afraid of what might be lurking there, if you like the thrill of a good horror story combined with extensive quirky details of the lives in a small town – read ‘Salem’s Lot (and remember that it’s been written and told in 1975).

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Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

This is a truly wonderful book – and wonderfully short as well. It tells the story of a young girl, Jeanette, – if you want to know if this novel is autobiographical, you only have to read the introduction and Winterson will tell you – who lives her life in the shadow of her overbearing, pious mother. I am not quite sure of what religion she is but she is devout and means her daughter to be a missionary. Unluckily for her, Jeanette finds girls much more interesting than the Heathen and it is discovered that she is a lesbian. This is too much truth for the religious community and things go awry among bits and pieces of story-telling and life happening.

This is how I would describe the book but it is already tinged with interpretation. Because there is little else you can do to understand the book as such. Winterson is a gifted story-teller, her prose is clear and entertaining, but it cannot be said to be simple. I consider this an advantage, as Winterson has a lot to tell and it does not do to put it simply.

I must admit, though, that it may be easily forgotten as this was actually a re-read. And I mainly read it again because I did not remember any of it. This rarely happens with me, I usually remember at least some of the plot when I re-read something. But maybe this is because there is not much plot, it is mostly in the characters which I like a lot. But even as I write this, it all starts to become fuzzy at the edges. Maybe this is its great strength: that it will be new every time you read it.

I am not sure if I make myself clear on this. It is a highly enjoyable read but it is also difficult to write about. It is actually best to read it than read some half-baked review that may only confuse you and keep you from the experience that is Winterson. So, I will keep it short and just say: read and enjoy.