I remember back in 1998, a neighbor friend of mine was riveted to Stephen King’s latest release, Bag of Bones. She practically insisted that I read it, saying it was that good, even though I typically shy away from scary stuff, both in books and movies. Horror is not a genre I appreciate. But I caved in to her prodding and read the story.
Being that I read this book fourteen years ago, I can’t recall many specifics about the characters or plot, though a few scenes left an indelible impression. What primarily comes to my mind are the emotions the story invoked. (Which, of course, is the hallmark of an excellent writer). Like my friend, I too was glued to the pages. No doubt about it, King is a compelling storyteller. But oh, the fear and terror. The images of violence that scarred my mind. I felt like my sensibilities had been assaulted. As I read the last page and closed the book, I felt angry that I had subjected myself to such literary trauma. I love to be entertained and don’t mind spine-tingling suspense, but I draw the line at losing sleep over negative thoughts, emotions, and images. Obviously, many readers love this genre, so I’m not discrediting it in any way, but for me personally, Bag of Bones was both the first and last Stephen King book I will ever read. Wait, no, I take that back. I did read King’s On Writing and absolutely loved it.
On this day, December 3, in 1857, Joseph Conrad was born in Berdichev, Imperial Russia (modern
Ukraine, then a part of Poland). While he settled in England and wrote in English, he always considered himself a Pole. Heart of Darkness, one of the most famous of his 20 novels (which explores colonialism and the attitudes regarding what constitutes a barbarian versus civilized society) is considered one of the best English novels of the 20th century, as is his novel Lord Jim, which chronicles a crew’s abandonment of its disabled ship. Conrad died in England in 1924 at age 66.