December 31, 2011


Last week, I finished a 750 page book that at times I could barely stand putting down. Not that it didn't have its sagging moments, its occasional tedium of detail -- which book that long can avoid those things? But I don't recall a book which kept me wondering so long about so many threads, about how the author would resolve each of them.

Probably because I've never been much interested in fantasy and horror -- give me the real stuff, I say -- I've never read Stephen King. And yet I also know that he has written more than just horror; a novella he wrote, for example, was turned into what I consider the most magnificent film I've ever seen, "The Shawshank Redemption." I started on 11.22.63 perhaps only because it is about the assassination of JFK. Even if you don't buy the myriad conspiracy theories, it is fascinating to speculate about all the mystery and questions around the event. Who was Lee Harvey Oswald? What was he like? Who was Jack Ruby? What made him shoot Oswald? What if he hadn't? What if Oswald had missed?

And this book takes you into that thicket of questions. Quite literally so, via that time-tested fiction device: time travel. What happens if you can change the past? What happens if it is a relatively small event you're changing, one with few wider implications? What happens if it is, well, the murder of an American President? Is one of these more difficult to achieve than the other? What happens when you return to the present? What happens when you return to the past after returning to the present?

It's not that nobody has tackled such themes before; and more than that, it's not that none of us have ever thought about them. But King explores them in different ways. Of which, surprisingly, the most telling is a love story. Not the assassination itself, not the travel through time itself, but a love story.

How else can a relationship across the barrier of time play out except as heartbreak? And yet King manages to find believable hope for his story. You can't change the past, but if you want, it can make you whole.

What ifs are fine as far as they go. The what nows are infinitely more interesting.


shailendra singh said...

interesting sir.............
such a creative person u r.....i get inspired..

love sms

Nikhil said...

So any more wet fantasies after reading this? Like assasinating a few Sangh parivar leaders (Advani, Vajpayee, Modi etc).
Better still - how about preventing the 1971 war? Anyway you were completely silent about the 40th anniversary.

You would have been happy with more Hindus subjected to genocide right?

Anonymous said...

"you were completely silent about the 40th anniversary."

so were you, Mr N.

Nikhil said...

To Anon (scared to use his own name/Copyright Dcubed)
I do not run a blog. I am not a writer / Columnist. Every year, I do not keep on writing about 1984, 1992, 2002 and say will not forget it for a lifetime.
One more addition - Maybe even prevent any of the reforms from happening 1991 onwards. Anyway they are being undone now. But people at least had some good time and there were positive changes thanks to PVN and ABV.

Anonymous said...

still, i have seen plenty of comment about you about 1984, 1992, ect.

you were completely silent about 40th anniversary.

Dilip D'Souza said...

No more irrelevant comments.

Ravi Lobo said...

I haven’t read much of King either—mainly because of the para normal stuff. However, he is a great writer. I have wondered many times, if only he could leave the horror stuff and start writing regular books.
(Thank God we have John Irving and Richard Russo.)

Even Shawshank Redemtion was diluted and removed the alien stuff in it, to adapt to the silver screen. It’s a great movie; Never liked Tim Robbins except for his acting in this movie. Sad, that it didn’t get an Oscar. (It lost for Schindler’s List)

Other King books, which doesn’t have the Gore stuff, hence enjoyable by reader who prefer day-to-day stuff are – The Green Mile and Hearts in Atlantis. His book, On Writing is a great book too.

anshul said...

inspiring thoughts........thanks sir ..

Ben said...

i would go back in time and remind stephen king to a) not refer to any of his earlier works in any of his later works (in the case of this book, IT) and b) not to refer to himself in any way (i'm only halfway through this book but i'm just waiting for a reference to a young author. See the ruined Dark Tower series for what not to do when running out of plot ideas) and c) not having a clause in any of his book-to-film contracts that states "Mr King must have at least a walk on role within the film, or preferably a sage and revealing one-line part".