Swuh-Swear to muh-me that you’ll c-c-c-come buh-back.[..]Swear to me that if Ih-Ih-It isn’t d-d-dead, you’ll cuh-home back.
-Bill Denbrough, Derry, Maine, August, 1958
IT by Stephen King
I swear, Bill.
As did Beverly, Richie, Ben, Eddie, Stan, and Mike. The Loser’s Club. Lucky seven, plus me equals eight. I made this vow subconsciously in 1990, when I read IT at 11, and finally, it seems that the Turtle has pulled me back into honoring this oath.
If you’ve never read IT by Stephen King, you probably have no idea what I am talking about. You don’t know about Bill and the rest of the Loser’s Club, and certainly don’t know about the Turtle. But stay with me friends and readers, as what I’m about to share should connect with all constant readers, even if you’re not one of Uncle Stevie’s Constant Readers.
Have you ever read a book that was so engaging that you felt that you were there, knee-deep in the thick of it? Have you ever felt a friendship, a kinship with the characters that was so strong that you laughed with them, cried with them, and would go to the ends of the earth for them if they asked you? You know exactly what kind of soda they drink, what movies they want to see, what their bedtime ritual is, even though the author has never told you. Do you ever look back at these characters and wonder, “What have they been up to?” and think about how much you miss them?
I don’t think I’m alone in this, and I don’t think that readers who feel this way are mentally unhinged or are lacking in real life social skills.
I have been missing my buddies in the Loser’s Club for almost 22 years! I look for references to them in King’s other books, and sometimes see or hear about them in their later years (Insomnia comes to mind immediately), but still haven’t seen them in a while. I hope and hope that IT will come back and that the gang will have to honor their promise once more (although, they’ll be pushing 60 at this point), googling “sequel to IT” about once every two years. No dice yet.
Of course, I don’t just read Stephen King novels for references to Derry (the fictional setting for IT), and I certainly wasn’t looking for any leads in his latest novel 11/22/63. King’s latest offering attempts to answer the questions “What if you could stop the assassination of JFK? What effect would it have on the world?” Well, the assassination took place in Dallas, not Maine, and seemingly has no connection to child-killing monsters. Thus, I had no reason to believe that I might get a peek at what’s going on in good old Derry.
Imagine my surprise (and burgeoning hope) when the protagonist, who has found a way to travel in time to 1958, decides that he needs to spend some time in Derry, circa September-Halloween, 1958. This would mean he would be in Derry right after I last saw The Loser’s Club all together! I get to see what happened next!
I almost wept tears of joy when I read on and found myself right back in the rotten little town I knew so well. The standpipe was there. Mr. Keene and his drugstore. The Barrens! The (gulp) Kitchener Ironworks (I know what’s in that gigantic pipe!). Honestly, I would have been happy with just the first line that the narrator writes as he enters Derry: “There’s something wrong with that town.” But, no, King takes me back to everything! And the best part: I got to see a few of my favorite Losers! I was so happy! Thank you Uncle Stevie!
This is where I stop with the spoilers.
I am now past the Derry interlude in 11/22/63, and I am content. I got a check-in with a few of my pals, I know they’re doing good in 1958, and I am hopeful that we will have another run-in (maybe an even longer visit! Fingers crossed!) in the future.
I am so grateful for books like IT that provide such a thorough and complete reading experience that it completely comes alive for me. Books can be real. Characters can be real. This is truly why I read. Anyone who doesn’t read is missing out on this experience. There are very few other mediums that can offer this experience that reading offers. Television serials comes close (Lost and Twin Peaks immediately come to my mind. I will wonder what’s going on with those characters for years as well).
If you have never had a kinship with characters like I (and many, many others) have had with the Loser’s Club from IT, I hope that one day you will come across that book that provides it. Maybe you could read IT and join up with the Loser’s Club like me. It is an amazing and very satisfying experience.
Lucky seven (+1) for life!