Friday, 22 December 2006

Lisey's Story by Stephen King

Lisey's Story
Stephen King
(Hodder & Stoughton €??)

THIS monstrous and glorious book is the culmination of horror icon Stephen King's work.

It is the story of writer's widow Lisey (rhymes with Cee-Cee), who is finally, two years after her husband's death, tackling his papers.

She's going to donate them to the tribe she calls the Incunks, the academics who devour incuncabilia – writes’ leavings such as manuscripts and letters.

Soon she's dealing with the swarming stories of her life with Scott, her husband; stories weaving and flashing like shoals of sheer skill.

Scott always lived in two worlds: the real world, and the parallel universe where he went to heal from his childhood of abuse and terror.

This was a place he called Boo'ya Moon, safe in daylight, but at night haunted by horrors.

The book is all the more powerful for being told in the intimate family-joke language of Scott and Lisey's marriage.

It flashes back to his childhood and occasionally hers, and into the life of her own edgy family of sisters.

In his childhood, Scott’s mad father tells him that they belong to a family that can go one of two ways. Some turn 'gomer', descending into catatonia. Others become inhabited by the 'bad-gunky', turning into homicidal maniacs.

Scott’s father had a way of helping his little boys: he cut them, and himself, to free them from the harm by releasing the blood.

“A spring was winding, a well was filling, a wheel was turning,” King writes at one stage, using the language of magical tales.

And having wound up the story of Scott, his strange family, and how he found healing with Lisey, King turns the spring tighter.

Now, widowed Lisey has to face her own horrors, as she is stalked by a sadist set on by an Incunk, who is gleeful at finding an excuse to hurt her.

King lost the plot here, because Lisey immediately decides to tackle the loony herself. While she calls the cops, she doesn’t have any real intention of depending on them.

So the ending is weakened. It’s also weakened by the lack of a genuine feeling of threat – Lisey’s too capable a woman. You know she’s going to win when she fights any form of bad-gunky.

But still and all, this is high-quality Stephen King, and you keep turning the pages till the story’s over, then close the last with a sigh of regret.