|Lauren Shepherd||King, Stephen: It|
|Assignment 1: Bibliographic Description|
|1. First Edition Publication Information||Viking Penguin Inc. New York, New York, September 1986. The book was published simultaneously in Toronto, Canada.|
|2. First Edition in Cloth, Paper, or Both?||The first edition was published in cloth.|
|4. Pagination||571 leaves, pp. 3-1138 (numbered); 1-2, 1139-1142 (unnumbered).|
|5. Edited and/or Introduced?||The book is neither edited nor introduced.|
|6. Illustrated?||The book is not illustrated.|
|8. General Appearance||The text is attractive and readable in Garammond No. 3. The chapter names are in a bold italic font. There are no smudges or spots on the pages or cover. The author's name, the book title and the publisher are printed on the binding and Stephen King's initials are printed in red in the bottom left hand corner of the dark grey front cover.|
|10. Description of Paper||The paper in the first edition has held up well over time, without any tears or spills. The paper is smooth, lightweight bond paper.|
|11. Description of Binding||The binding is black cloth stitching with dark grey paper board beneath it.|
|12. Title Page Transcription||STEPHEN|KING|IT|[Viking Press symbol]|VIKING|
|14. Manuscript Holdings||The original manuscript is housed in the special collections department at the University of Maine at Orono.|
|15. Other||Stephen King included a dedication at the beginning of the book to his children. The dedication reads: "This book is gratefully dedicated to my children.
My mother and my wife taught me how to be a man. My children taught me how to be free. NAOMI RACHEL KING, at fourteen; JOSEPH HILLSTROM KING, at twelve; OWEN PHILIP KING, at seven. Kids, fiction is the truth inside the lie, and the truth of this fiction is simple enough: the magic exists. S.K."
|Assignment 2: Publication History|
|1. Other Editions:||Unknown|
|4. First Edition printings or impressions?||There were 860,000 printings of the hardcover first edition.|
|5. Editions from other publishers?||A paperback edition was published by New American Library/Signet publishers in September 1987. Signet/Penguin Books USA also published an edition in 1990.|
|6. Last date in print?||The paperback edition is still in print. It is at least in its 50th printing.|
|7. Total copies sold?||Unknown.|
|8. Sales by year?||In its first year of publication (1986), the hardcover edition sold over 1,000,000 copies.|
|9. Advertising copy:||Not found.|
|12. Performances in other media?||On Novermber 18, 1990, a TV movie named "IT" was released that was directed by Tommy Lee Wallace. The screenplay was written by Wallace, Stephen King, and Lawrence D. Cohen. It was produced by Warner Bros. TV, Green/Epstein Productions, Konigsberg/Sanitsky Company, and Lorimar Television.|
|13. Translations?||According to WorldCat, It has been published in Chinese, Spanish, Hungarian, Polish, French, Hebrew, Japanese, Italien, Russian, and Korean.|
|14. Serialization?||The novel was not serialized.|
|15. Sequels or Prequels?||There were no sequels or prequels for the book.|
|Assignment 3: Brief Biography|
|A horror writer with a fantastical imagination, Stephen Edwin King has written hundreds of short stories and novels in his long career. The writer was born in Portland, Maine in 1947 to Donald King and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury. Their marriage was short-lived, however, ending when King was two and his father left the family one night to buy a pack of cigarettes and never returned. King’s mother, forced to care for King and his adopted older brother David, worked odd jobs trying to support the family, always remaining poor. King’s first exposure with horror happened when he was four years old and he wanted to listen to a radio adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s story "Mars Is Heaven." Although his mother forbid him to listen to the program because he was too young, he listened through the door (Russel, 2). He wrote his first horror story when he was seven and began submitting stories to magazines when he was twelve (Russell, 3). When King was eleven, his mother was persuaded to take care of her parents in Durham, Maine.
After they died, King’s mother began working in the kitchen at Pineland, a residential facility for the retarded (King, 1). King’s writing ambitions continued in high school and college. King worked on a high school newspaper called Village Vomit, earning him a three-day suspension from school. He also played left tackle in football and guitar in a rock band during his high school days (Russell, 4). In college at the University of Maine at Orono, he wrote a weekly column for the school newspaper, The Maine Campus, called "King’s Garbage Truck" (Russell, 1). Besides writing, King participated in student government, serving on the Student Senate and supporting the anti-war movement on the campus (King, 1). After graduating from college, King married Tabitha Spruce in January of 1971. Tabitha was King’s co-worker from the stacks of the Folger Library at the University. Following graduation, King made his first short story sale to a men’s magazine (King, 1). King continued writing while teaching high school English classes at a public high school in Hampden, Maine and working odd jobs such as pumping gas and working in a laundry. Finally, in 1973, Doubleday & Co. agreed to publish Carrie, and King became a full-time writer.
Since then, King has written over 20 novels as well as several short stories and short story collections, including It in 1986. King's life at the time It was published centered around his writing and his children. In an interview with Stefan Kanfer for Time magazine in October 1986, King said that except for his birthday, the Fourth of July, and Christmas, he wakes up every day at 9 a.m. to write, finishing sometimes ten pages a day. Many of the novels he writes deal with the trials of childhood. In an interview with Tony Magistrale in 1989, King said his fascination with childhood helped him write It, reopening his own boyhood life. His belief in the "mythic power that childhood holds over our imagination" has influenced several of his books (Magistrale, 5). King explained the writing process of It, saying, "It had to be a very gradual process to open the time and mindset of my own childhood" (Magistrale, 5). Even the idea for the novel stemmed from a childish story--"Billy Goats Gruff." In an interview on the Larry King Live Show, King said he got the idea for the story when his car broke down in Boulder, Colorado. "I was walking over a wooden bridge and it was almost dark. I was wearing a pair of boots, and I could hear my footsteps, and I flashed on this story, "Billy Goats Gruff," with the troll under a bridge. And I thought, Okay, that's what I want to write about--a real troll under a bridge," he said. This fascination with children has also manifested itself in King’s personal life. With three children of his own, Naomi, Joe, and Owen, King has used proceeds from his novels to help other children. The Kings have contributed money to the University of Maine-Orono swimming and diving program and the Durham Elementary School for library books. He has also donated a million dollars for the construction of a baseball park for Bangor Little League and Senior League teams (Russell, 10).
King continues to write from his home in Bangor, Maine and is awaiting the release of a new novel called The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon and a collection of linked stories called Hearts in Atlantis.
King, Tabitha. www.stephenking.com
Magistrale, Tony. Stephen King: The Second Decade, Danse Macabre to The Dark Half. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1992.
Russell, Sharon A. Stephen King: A Critical Companion. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1996.
Kanfer, Stefan. "King of Horror." Time 6 October 1986: 74.
|As a beloved and bestselling writer, Stephen King’s novels have all endured both harsh and favorable words from readers and critics. King’s 1986 novel, It, is no exception. Even before its official September publication date, critics heralded the 1138 page book as the next King bestseller. Eric Johnson at Library Journal in August 1986 said "King is a born storyteller, and It will undoubtedly be in high demand among his fans" (171). Most of the contemporary reviewers said It followed King’s formula of horror and childish fun. In a cover story on Stephen King, Time magazine reviewer Stefan Kanfer said the novel "proves once again that [King] is the indisputable King of horror, a demon fabulist who raises gooseflesh for fun and profit" (74). In addition to the requisite thrills of the novel, the most favorable praise from reviewers stemmed from the descriptions of the Losers Club, their childhood trials, and their ability to outsmart the monster. "This is the pleasure of the book—the vindication of the adolescent heroes and the destruction of their enemies" (Rose, 103). Despite this, Rose also claims King’s writing style may not be able to stand up to the task of a partially serious novel that tackles the everyday horrors of life such as bullies, abusive parents, and racism. He says "He doesn’t really have the literary strengths necessary for straight novel-writing" (103). David Gates, Newsweek book reviewer, agreed that King may not have the literary talent necessary to carry off the epic story of seven small-town losers saying "Stephen King’s apparent desire to be a literary heavy hitter weighs down his already elephantine new novel" (82). However, he too said the saving grace of King’s novel is the "simple scenes in which King evokes childhood in the 1950s" (82).
The long length of the book also gave some reviewers pause when praising the novel. Although Johnson liked the book and realized its soon-to-be realized popularity, he expressed some criticism about the book’s size. "…There is enough material in this epic for several novels and stories, and the excessive length and numerous interrelated flashbacks eventually become wearying and annoying" (171). Walter Wager of the New York Times Book Review had even harsher words to describe the novel, saying "Casting aside discipline…he has piled just about everything he could think of into this book and too much of each thing as well" (9). Although most reviewers criticized some aspect of the novel, each reviewer understood that the book would be loved by fans. I was definitely surprised to see so many negative responses to the book from critics.
Gates, David. "The Creature That Refused to Die." Newsweek 1 September 1986: 82.
Johnson, Eric W. Library Journal August 1986: 171.
Kanfer, Stefan. "King of Horror." Time 6 October 1986: 74.
Lloyd, Rose. "The Triumph of the Nerds." The Atlantic September 1986: 102.
Wager, Walter. "More Evil Than a 15-Foot Spider." New York Times Book Review
24 August 1986: 9.
|I could not find any traditional reviews that were published five years after the book’s publishing date with a mention of It since King has published many books subsequent to the book. I did find several very favorable reviews on personal web pages of Stephen King fans. "To call it a magnum opus, then, does not seem flagrant or premature, for It is simply Stephen King at his very best" (source 1). Jon Skeet, another web fan, said It "was the book that finally convinced me that Stephen King was a total genius" (source 2). Obviously, the fans continue to love the novel.
|In the midst of the Cold War, homophobia, the arms race, drug wars, and the awareness of the AIDS epidemic, the beloved horror writer, Stephen King, released a new novel called It. With the novel’s expected popularity exceeding all bounds, King’s publishers gave him a $3 million advance and printed 800,000 copies, catapulting the novel to the top of the best-seller list before its official publication date in September 1986 (Kanfer, 74). Like all King books, It fulfilled expectations, selling over 1,000,000 in its first year of publication. Although several critics balked at the novels 1138 pages, all agreed that King’s fans would love the epic tale of a monster invading the town of Derry, Maine and the heroic children who band together to defeat it. The book resembled many of King’s popular horror novels with its supernatural story and its reliance on underdog characters that save the day. However, King also employed several original techniques in It that contributed to the book’s popularity in the 80s decade.
King’s popularity rises largely out of the same formula old Gothic horror writers used to create chills in the audiences of yesteryear. Like Frankenstien and Dracula, the monster in It gives the reader an escape from fearing the everyday worries of life. In the 1800’s and early 1900s, gothic fiction’s heyday, readers spent fearful days awaiting a war, a plague, or the next famine. The monsters in gothic horror literature allowed readers to stop focusing on their real problems and instead brought them into a supernatural realm. Martin Tropp says this ability to transport readers into another, more fearful world, largely accounts for the popularity of gothic fiction. Tropp says, "horror stories are not nightmares transcribed, but fears recast into safe and communicable forms—a concrete, related, yet separate reality" (4).
King’s novel It granted readers the same permission to escape from reality, but added a twist. With the more culturally specific problems of the 1980s such as the Cold War and crime, King attempted to tap into the fears of the average small-town citizen and shape them into It—a monster that takes many forms throughout the novel. In It, real life merges with nightmares and the actual fears we encounter each day, such as school yard bullies and first loves, are juxtaposed with unimaginable visions of horror. In addition, King’s novel uses the same elements as a fairy tale—children, monsters, good versus evil, and love. With this horror fairy tale, King succeeds in writing a novel that appeals to a large audience of mature adults looking for escape and grown-up children looking for a new evil stepmother. Therefore, the novel first draws the reader in by allowing the reader to feel a sense of camaraderie with the characters and then makes the reader forget all he knows and instead escape into a world of terror. King, then, writes a story that every reader can identify with and enjoy.
One feature of the novel prized by critics when the novel was published was King’s descriptions of small-town America—one aspect of the book’s widespread popularity. As the backdrop for the atrocities that happen to its residents, Derry is a portrait of a small town unlike the reader’s own home-town, lending a comforting sense of familiarity to the book. Stefan Kanfer, a reviewer for Time magazine, describes the scene by saying "King begins with all the reassuring American trappings: the 7-Eleven stores, the ribbons of super highway, the town high schools that seem part of an ordered landscape" (80). The book forces readers to recognize elements of their own childhood past. For example, at the beginning of the novel, King describes a local Derry festival, the Canal Days Festival with quaint detail:
The town was spruced up from east to west and north to south. Potholes which some residents swore hadn’t been patched for ten years or more were neatly filled with hottop and rolled smooth. The town buildings were refurbished on the inside, repainted on the outside. The worst of the graffiti in Bassey Part—much of it coolly logical and anti-gay statements such as KILL ALL QUEERS and AIDS FROM GOD YOU HELLBOUND HOMOS!!--was sanded off the benches and wooden walls of the little covered walkway over the Canal known as the Kissing Bridge. (20)
Even short descriptions of mundane events in the lives of the seven children that the novel centers on bring nostalgic images in the mind of the reader. One example is when King describes an afternoon at the local movie theater, the Aladdin, writing "Kids were ponying up their quarter admissions at the Aladdin’s box-office window and going into the lobby…The popcorn machine was in overdrive, spilling out drifts of the stuff, its greasy hinged lid jittering up and down" (352). Reviewers of both Newsweek the Atlantic agreed that these scenes of life in the 1950s are some of the best parts of the novel—guaranteed to appeal to all readers.
Likewise, the lives of the children are a breeding ground for likable characters. By giving the reader the chance to jump back into the realm of childhood, King allows another type of escape into the past. The portraits of the characters evoke memories of awkward childhood. The seven main characters in the novel, the Loser’s Club, are an eclectic group of stereotypical kids who are ostracized by the "cool" kids in their school. The group includes a fat boy, an abused girl, a boy who impersonates people, a black boy, a Jewish boy, a stuttering boy who dreams away his days, and a hypochondriac mama’s boy. The 12 year-old outcasts encounter all the trials of childhood, including a group of bullying boys, snickering classmates, and overprotective parents. As in several of King’s other books such as The Shining, the children become the heroes, saving Derry from the horrendous monster. Scenes from the lives of the children are sprinkled throughout the book, following the kids through their everyday behaviors:
Mike, dressed in corduroys, a tee-shirt, and black high-topped Keds, came downstairs, ate a bowl of Wheaties (he didn’t really like Wheaties but had wanted the free prize in the box—a Captain Midnight Magic Decoder Ring), then hopped on his bike and pedaled toward town, riding on the sidewalks because of the fog. (264).
David Gates, of Newsweek, says these childhood scenes are some of the most well-written parts of the novel. The scenes give the reader the chance to connect to another world while reminding them of their own past fears, hopes, and dreams.
Another aspect of the novel which both delights and horrifies readers is the monster, It—a changing mass of terror, able to morph into a different shape depending on the worst fears of the character it appears to. This monster changes from the image of Bill’s murdered little brother to a werewolf to a huge spider. Like the monsters in the gothic tales of old such as Frankenstein and Dracula, the monster represents those fears that cannot be faced and try to hide in the depths of the subconscious. The worst fears of the members of the Loser’s Club echo the fears of the reader, who, as a part of the 1980s society, must deal with the pressures of an era of extravagance. This era saw a widening in the gap between the lower and the upper classes and instilled a fear of an escalating arms race, a war with the Soviet Union and the emergence of an epidemic disease. Like the monster in the novel, the average small-town reader may not be able to visualize these fears that reside in the world around them. Instead, the fear can be channeled into the experience of reading the horror story. Tropp writes that "the most fantastic escapes of all—the fictional excursions into the supernatural and medieval world of the tale of terror—in the end, probe deepest at the terrifying core of ordinary life" (23). The escape of the horror story forces readers to confront their fears and then give release to them through the reading of the novel, accounting for the popularity of the book.
Another aspect of the book, overlooked by most of the contemporary reviewers, is the sexual undertone included in many of the book’s scenes. This feature of King’s writing is reminiscent of the sexual imagery present in many gothic novels of the nineteenth century. The sex scenes are another chance for readers to become personally involved with the characters while allowing them another outlet for their fear. When the children get trapped in the tunnels surrounding the lair of It, they decide that sex may be the way to connect with each other and to the outside world they must soon enter. During the sex scene, Beverly sees images of birds flying in the sky—a metaphor for the same feelings the reader feels when he is allowed to escape his fear while reading the book:
So she flies, she flies up, and now the power is not with her or with him but somewhere between them, and he cries out, and she can feel his arms trembling, and she arches up and into him, feeling his spasm, his touch, his total fleeting intimacy with her in the dark. They break into the lifelight together. (1085)
This ability of the children to find each other in the dark is analogous to the reader’s ability to escape the fears that constrain them in the real world. This feeling that the book gives the reader is another reason for the novel’s popularity.
With translations in many languages across the globe and continued popularity, King’s novel, It, has the makings of a classic horror story. It’s reliance on both real-life descriptions of everyday events and colorful characters intertwined with horror and monsters provides readers with the unique opportunity to escape the fears that invade their lives in the 1980s and focus instead on the fears of seven Loser’s Club children in Derry, Maine.
Gates, David. "The Creature that Refused to Die." Newsweek. 1 September 1986: 82.
Kanfer, Stefan. "King of Horror." Time 6 October 1986: 74.
King, Stephen. It. New York: Viking, 1986.
Lloyd, Rose. "The Triumph of the Nerds." The Atlantic. September 1986:102.
Tropp, Martin. Images of Fear. North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 1990.
Graduate School of Library and Information Science
Maintained by email@example.com