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Bridgewater Review

Volume 5 | Issue 1 Article 17

Jun-1987 Book Review: “” Michael Hurley Bridgewater State College

Recommended Citation Hurley, Michael (1987). Book Review: “IT”. Bridgewater Review, 5(1), 32. Available at: http://vc.bridgew.edu/br_rev/vol5/iss1/17

This item is available as part of Virtual Commons, the open-access institutional repository of Bridgewater State University, Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Book Reviews continued

of Fame in Pennywise the Clown, and the first 1,000 pages of IT are worthly of praise for their gnawing terror and reader paralysis. But while Lovecraft Viking, 1986. would have left IT undescribable and garbed in cosmic mist, King insists on full disclosure. The first hint comes on s a childhood reminiscence, IT Eddie Kaspbrak saw him as a hobo page 1,016 as IT thinks of a victim is a remarkably vivid and ex­ with syphilis; he thought it . "hung high up in the middle of things, Aplicit account of seven self­ No, it's a (with orange pom­ crisscrossed in silk." What began as a styled "losers" from , Maine. poms), or voices and blood from the memoir ofa horrifying childhood sum­ Fifth grade's out and, one by one, the bathroom sink. At other when's and mer, nurtured by echoes of Lovecraft, seven are hounded, pursued, and bat­ where's it's Frankenstein's , Kornbluth, and Campbell, ends as a tered by society, the school bullies, and Paul Bunyan, a gnash ofpiranhas, your low-budget video of The Spider That cosmic consciousness into a tightly­ not-so-favorite fairy-tale character; the Ate Tokyo. knit group destined to scotch IT that glamour, manitou, eylak, and loup­ Once run to bay in its 1985 lair, IT summer of 1958. Twenty-seven years garou. IT is ultimately revealed as a turns out to be anticlimactically preg­ , they are recalled for an encore telepathic omnimorph that reaches into nant. King had told us that IT "was" in and the final showdown. the mind to take whatever shape the the pre-universe void and a rational While the real story lies in 1958, beholder most fears. What is its pur­ reader might surmise that the creature King shuffles the two time frames and pose, other than random mayhem? had been a mother before: in which scores of flashbacks as though they Food! But served with special sauce. case, why isn't the universe overrun were two halves of a double pinochle Cyril Kornbluth in Mindworm created with its brood? Or if this is its first deck with fifty jokers. In the end, IT is a an atomic mutant who aggravated emo­ attempt to breed, what did it recently marvel of tortured chronology which tions to feed upon their emanations. In find to mate with? And no wonder it's makes Robert Heinlein's convoluted The Day of the Dove, a Star Trek epi­ violent...4Yz billion years is a long­ time-travel masterpiece All You sode, another emotional fed time to either gestate or wait for sexual Zombies - seem like a two-piece puzzle. on anger. IT belongs to the same maturity. The reader begins in the fall of 1957 dietary category. While its staple is There is little cleverness in King, few as six-year-old George Denbrough sails children, "Adults had their own ter­ well-turned phrases or fascinating refer­ his paper boat down the rain-swollen rors and their glands could be taped ences. Only one stands out. Henry gutters of town. When the boat disap­ open so that all the chemicals of fear Bowers, childhood bully and nemesis pears into a storm drain, George peers flooded and salted the meat." of the "losers," is eventually commit­ in after it and sees Mr. Bob Gray, a.k.a. Borrowinga conceptfromJohn Camp­ ted to the insane asylum for the murder Pennywise the Clown, notable for his bell'sWho Goes There? better known to of his father. Terrified, Bowers sleeps big orange buttons, who asks Georgie if theatre audiences as The Thing. Stephen with a night light - once Donald he would like a balloon. As George King tells us that IT is an interstellar Duck, replaced with Mickey Mouse, reaches for the balloon, Pennywise alien who crashed on earth eons ago then Oscar the Grouch, etc. King grabs his arm, pulls it into the drain and and buried itself in the soil which writes, with Eliot and Prufrock looking rips it off. Derry has an ominous and would one day support Derry. "It's on: "Henry had measured out the years unpublicized history of such violence, because of that soil," Mike Hanlon's of his incarceration with burned-out grounded in the disappearance of its father once told him." It seems that nightlights instead of coffee-spoons." entire population in 1741. Approxi­ bad things, hurtful things, do right well Of greater interest are the autobio­ mately every 27 years, a cycle ofterror in the soil of this town." What a graphical tidbits. King, who was born erupts, vaguely understood by children wonderful allusion to the possibility in 1946 and therefore nearly a peer to and largely ignored by Derry's semi­ that Derry, not Nahum Gardner's farm his characters, gives four pages to Bill mesmerized adults. west of Arkham, was the site of H.P. Denbrough as a creative writing stu­ In May, 1985, Mike Hanlon, the Lovecraft's Colour Out of Space. dent. Denbrough's work is poorly re­ only member ofthe group to remain in Writing with the inevitable screen in ceived by the instructor whom he Derry, sends out the recall. Stanley mind, King has provided a stew of paints with eggheaded stupidity, and Uris promptly slashes his wrists in the ripped off arms, severed heads, and when his story comes back, graded tub but before he dies, writes IT with rotting flesh." Eddie thrust the ragged "F", with two words scrawled on it his blood on the bathroom tile. base of the Perrier bottle at him. It (Pulp! Crap!), Denbrough immediately Richard Tozier, Ben Hanscom, Eddie ripped into Henry's face pulling open sells it to a pulp mag for $200 and Kaspbrak, Rogan, and his right cheek in a twisted flap and drops the course. (George's brother) puncturing Henry's right eye.... His slit Yes, Stephen King sells-sells big­ agree to come back to Derry on the eye, leaking whitish-yellow fluid, hung and, as he tells us through his Bill basis of a scarcely-remembered child­ loosely from its socket." Denbrough ego, that's everything. Or hood promise, to finish what they Something for everyone.. .including is it? I have found it remarkably easy to started in 1958. Enroute, individual boys lighting each other's farts and buy his work, in hard cover, at reduced flashbacks, nows, and flashforwards even II-year olds having group sex... prices...at yard sales. Could it mean ping-pong the reader into a laborious and after a thousand pages of anes­ that while King has had his success possession of the salient details. thetic gore and foul language, the through the cash registers of America, Young Ben Hanscom saw the clown; reader is numbed; the only feelings he he is still an embarrassment on the he had the face of The Mummy. Mike is yet capable of are an acidic stomach library shelf? 0 Hanlon saw him - a huge bird with and liquid bowels. Yet, King has given feathers the color oforange pompoms. us a fearful addition to the Horror Hall Michael Hurley, Instructor of English 32