Posted on Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Colorado Kid

Me, I’m used to buying Stephen King novels by the pound. I usually get the first installment and then come back sometime after payday to get the final few pounds that will finish the story. He does go on. Normally, 184 pages would be barely enough room for Stephen King to clear his throat and sing a few warm-up notes, so his slim new book The Colorado Kid seems particularly spare. It came out just this week, and I read those 184 pages in one sitting.

King is predicting that readers will either love or hate this book—no middle ground. I guess I would fall into the first category, although I did suffer one minor disappointment. There’s a scene in which a character slips around the corner to a Denver Starbucks—in April of 1980. And, although it’s hard now to envision that lost era when there was still such a thing as an urban street not punctuated with multiple Starbucks stores, I know for a fact that Starbucks had not metastasized beyond Seattle at that early date. So there. One picky point for me.

But such trivial matters are not why Stephen King predicts there will be a fair number of readers who may end up hating this book. Instead, it’s because he has either broken such new and unstable ground as to make even the most steadfast reader queasy (that’s the charitable interpretation) or because he has broken the A#1 cardinal mystery writers’ rule: After developing a compelling mystery, he purposely declined to solve it. He left all those open issues embarrassingly open, all those loose ends still flapping in the coastal breeze. His recent novels frequently include the line, “Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.” Nevertheless, The Colorado Kid includes no satisfaction in this regard, only a celebration of the sort of unknown that may kill cats, but enriches our own lives—at least, if you really think about it.

Did you ever have the experience as a kid of looking at a mountain of prettily wrapped boxes under the Christmas tree, and realizing before the end of winter vacation that they held far more fascination for you than their contents ultimately did? The Colorado Kid is just such a present—one that you can lift and rattle and examine for clues, but one that is ultimately never opened. The paper and bows remain intact. It will always be as pretty and compelling as the December day it appeared under the tree, but at the price of never knowing, not for sure, what’s hidden within the box. Each reader will have to decide for himself if that’s a fair price to pay.

For me, I think it is. As King himself points out in his afterword, we all live with mysteries, many of which will never have solutions. If you don’t believe that contemplating these mysteries has value nevertheless, than you must believe, for example, that religion has no value. What is religion if not a speculation about what becomes of us after this life? Surely this is a mystery that none of us will have sure answers to while we live. But for my money, it’s not just the big mysteries that are worth contemplating. I have several smaller ones that I find myself returning to again and again, although I know the answers to my favorite mysteries are as extinct as the dinosaurs. That doesn’t keep me from reviewing them in the dark hours before I fall asleep. I’ll share my top three with you over the next couple of weeks.

Do you have any mysteries that you have to live with? The kind that will never be solved?

6 Response to " "

Jona Says:

I've solved all the big mysteries in my life - to date ;o)

Old Horsetail Snake Says:

Yes. "Jack the Dipper." A guy who regularly stole from the Poor Box. Never found out who did it, but my guess always has been the Bowery Boys.

FTS Says:

King has always been my favorite writer, but I haven't read him since "It." I can't. His books consume me, and I don't have that kind of time to spend every waking moment reading -- though I wish I did.

This sounds like one I may have to pick up now. Couldn't have anything to do with the title...

MarkD60 Says:

Kings older stuff was better than his new stuff. The Gunslinger series had a rushed, "gotta-get-it-finished" feel in the last two books. I'm sure I'll be reading The Colorado Kid though

Dave Says:

I wrote an entry about books yesterday, and you didn't comment. Have you gone off me?

Chris Says:

While I absolutely love Stephen King, I don't really know that this book should be thought of as truly "his" (even though it is very much his style) so much as Stephen King writing for this new Hard Case Crime genre which is attempting to make a comeback.

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