This post is in the theme “Constructing an identity through media”. Read the first.
August 22, New York: In the introduction to The Gunslinger, Stephen King talks about how he was inspired by Tolkien. That he wanted to write a Tolkienesque epic, but he wanted to do it his way. And he did, spread over seven completely surreal volumes, this being one the first. I love that. That makes me adore this series even more. The Lord of the Rings infused with horror, sex, and death and cross-bred with spaghetti westerns. The books don’t feel derivative at all, but in fact feel like high post-modernity— a weaving together of sources as diverse as the Beatles and the Bible and even (especially in later volumes) King’s own books. That latter bit is fascinating to me.
The story takes inspiration from a poem by Robert Browning, which was itself inspired by a line of Mad Tom’s from King Lear: “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”. Funny for me because a) I saw Lear performed for the first time this past weekend and b) I just read The Invisibles which has a whole character derived from Mad Tom. The Dark Tower series is truly epic. The universe King creates is weird and awesome. The whole Gunslinger mythos that King introduces into this world— Gunslingers as knights of their age— is a really enjoyable conceit. And the deeper you get into the books and the weirder it gets, the more you think Stephen-King-the-popular-novelist might just be Stephen-King-the-post-modern-genius.
When I first discovered The Gunslinger, I wasn’t thinking any of this. This was one of the very first adult novels I read. I pulled it down from my parents’ shelf and devoured it. This was in a period where I was taking great pride in breaking free of the young adult fare I’d been reading for so long. Length was really the only difference (and the occasional sexy scene). My pride at that age in reading a long book may have become my adult-age weakness for any doorstop of tome. I just love a ridiculously long book. And The Gunslinger, though not particularly long, was pretty adult in content.
I’ve only ever read my way through five of the seven books. It took King a long time to complete the series and once he did I kept telling myself I’d read it straight through, but have never gotten around to it. Reading the first volume was pretty fantastic though. Completing the Dark Tower series might need to be a 2015 project. Creating my own series this epic and this amazing might need to be a life goal.
You should buy and read the whole series before I do and then simmer with spoilers until 2015.