I’m Reading Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’ And I Have No Idea What It’s About

Yet, I should say. Grabbed you with that controversial headline, though, didn’t I? Hopefully some of King’s many fans rushed here to defend his work in my comments section. (Hi!)

But no–I’m talking about the rare and happy occurrence of starting to read, watch or otherwise consume a book, movie, TV show or other art with absolutely no idea of what the story is about. Because how often does that happen these days?

I’ve heard of The Stand, obviously. I know some people think it’s King’s best book, and that others insist it’s overwrought, overblown, and in need of a good editor. I know that my mum started watching the TV adaptation some years back and gave up a few episodes in.

And that’s all I knew when I saw a copy on the shelf of the second-hand bookstore two blocks away from the new apartment in Washington, D.C. into which Mrs. Dan and I recently moved, priced at what seemed like a bargain $3.00. (The book, not the apartment. They run a little dearer than that.)

Stephen King for three dollars? And it’s a thick one,” thought I. Thumbed it open. “Small print, too. This’ll keep me going for a while.” Closed the book again, looked at the cover. ‘The Complete and Uncut Edition’, it says, and the brief foreword promised 150,000 words, or 500 pages, more story than the already lengthy version that was originally published.

No blurb on the back cover, no clue to the story. Just a black and white photo of an unsmiling King from twenty-odd years ago. And on the cover, a figure on horseback wielding a scythe.

Well, people are going to die in it, I can tell that much.” And I paid my money, and I took my new book home.

It doesn’t actually matter what The Stand is about, and I won’t risk robbing anyone of the same experience I’ve had by describing it. But it did make me think a little about what we’ve lost in this age of constant, immediate, instantaneous media. We’re flooded with trailers, reviews, articles and blogs, each movie studio or television network desperate to shove their product in front of our eyeballs, and a million other internet denizens waiting to pronounce it good, or bad, or simply broadcast that it exists.

God forbid if you haven’t seen the latest episode of Breaking Bad because you’re planning to watch it later. You’d better stay off the internet until you do. (And just to be on the safe side, don’t go to work either.)

We buy books and movies because we read reviews, and plot teasers, and friends tell us “Dude, you have to watch My New Favourite Show. It’s about this geography teacher from Arizona who has Alzheimer’s but becomes a Mafia don in New Jersey before faking his own death and joining the Baltimore police force. It’s fantastic. Netflix it. I’m on season eight.”

I loved The Avengers. And I’m already pretty damn excited about the sequel. So far all I know is it’s coming out in May 2015, and someone or something called Ultron is in it, but I’m sketchy enough on my Avengers canon that I don’t know what that is. But I guarantee that by late April 2015, I’ll know exactly who stars in the movie, who all the new characters are, what Ultron is, and will have seen four different trailers containing 90% of the best scenes from the film. Because I’m weak, and I won’t be able to help myself.

But wouldn’t it be nice, just once, to not have those teasers, those tasters, the constant little dribbles of information that leak out and draw us in? To go back to finding out about a film by seeing a poster for it on the side of a bus stop two weeks before it came out? Or discovering a great new TV show by flicking through channels one night and being gripped by a great scene? Or discovering a new book not by browsing a list of what customers who bought that item also bought, but by wandering into a second-hand bookshop that you didn’t even know was there and just picking one up off the shelf?

You can still do that last one, at least. And you should, I highly recommend it. Because, you see, The Stand is about–

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2 thoughts on “I’m Reading Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’ And I Have No Idea What It’s About

  1. I’m of two minds on this. I agree that discovering things for yourself is fun, and stumbling blind onto something great is especially fun. But there are also few authors I trust enough to buy their book without any idea what it’s about, just because I know they’re good enough that it really doesn’t matter. Stephen King could write about a haunted candy bar (not a spoiler) and still make it worth reading, but that’s a pretty rare skill.

    • True. But I’m not sure if the satisfaction of discovering something great isn’t even higher when you’ve taken a risk and shelled out a little bit of money on it-maybe a book where the cover caught your eye, or a DVD you stumbled across starring that woman from that cop show you thought was good. If we risk nothing, do we gain less? I wonder 🙂

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