Tuesday, October 30, 2007

... and ne'er the twain shall meet

I read a book once that was co-written by Peter Straub and Stephen King, The Talisman. I was curious to read it because I was, at the time, a big Stephen King fan. The first book of his that I read was Cujo, and I remember being immersed. By the time I got to Salem’s Lot I was unable to either stop reading or be alone. I remember Wife No.1 left bed to go the bathroom; I sat in the hallway outside the closed door. It was humiliating even then.

I read Danse Macabre, wherein he wrote of the genre of horror writing, and paid particular attention to his affinity for Peter Straub’s Ghost. (I subsequently read On Writing, A Memoir to the Craft, and gained a lot of appreciation for his talents – an appreciation that had waned when the kid in some book spoke with the reflections of an octogenarian. My new-found appreciation wasn’t enough to have me read any of his subsequent books, I stopped somewhere around Pet Sematary and The Talisman.)

I bought Ghost and dove right now, full of anticipation. The first several pages built into the first few dozen. I am all, “WTF? Where is this going? Doesn’t make sense.” Then something clicked. I never went back to re-read the opening portions to understand why I was so adrift. Maybe it was just his writing style, and I am much more adept now at discerning styles and meaning within than I was 20-some years ago. But when the tumblers fell into place, I was mesmerized from that point forward. Salem’s Lot was good, Stevie, but the premise of vampires is harder to dwell within than ghosts. Ghost is the singularly most frightening book I have ever read.

So when the joint book, The Talisman, came out, I was eager to read it. On balance, my recollection is that I enjoyed it. I recall at the time, however, that allocating the writing between Straub and King was not very difficult. Two people writing apart did not make for a cohesive whole.

It was that thought which prompted this post in my mind.

Two people can sit in a room, each creating a single story, but if they write on different pieces of paper, the story will never be one. In the end, they go their separate ways, each continuing to write, each prolific in their own way.

In the end, two stories can never be combined into one.

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