I’ve decided to try a bit of a different approach to this book. It won’t be a book review in a traditional sense, but more of an essay. I will cover some of the main controversy of this book and share my own opinions on it. Also, I will try to research/explain why this book had such an impact. All of this might end up being total bullshit, however, I am pretty excited to try out this new approach to book analysis. If all you’ve read interests you, continue reading… (Since this is my first time writing in this format, your opinions, comments, and heated emotions are most welcome.)
It by Stephen King is one of the most iconic books of the horror genre. This book was first published in 1986 and has since been republished many times. The most recent republication was in 2019, and it accompanied the release of It Chapter Two movie.
This book, as we all probably already know, is about a group of friends fighting an evil clown. In a bloody lot of pages, Stephen King brings us into the lives of seven children. We follow them as children in 1958, but also as adults in 1985. Although the narration is done from the third-person perspective we don’t have certain key information until the main characters do. This way King managed to tell the story of protagonists as adults without revealing the end of their story as children. I think this is a great way to tell a story since using time as a literary device frequently makes the story more gripping and interesting. However, my boy Stephen is a bit annoying with the whole „I’ll tell you later“ and „this will be discussed later“ bullshit. Oh, come on, why did you bring it up if you won’t tell me now? Since the book is bloody twelve hundred pages long I will literally forget we even had those fourteen fucking cliffhangers on like the seventy-fifth page when you finally reveal their outcome, Stephen…
I find the characters are built almost perfectly. All of the children have their personal struggles which do and don’t relate to the main conflict of the book. This makes them relatable since the ordinary person often has more than one problem at the time (despite how grave one of them is). The children are all very different and have emphasized personalities.
For example, Beverly has clear „daddy issues“ which are completely explainable and convincing. We get a very clear view of her family ambiance and the relationship she has with her parents. This is very important because it enables us to understand her actions better, but also to see her character growth.
Another example, my favourite one beside Beverly, is Eddie. His mother’s Munchausen by proxy syndrome has a big influence on his personality as a child and also as an adult. Adult Eddie, even though he has become even more conscious of his mother’s faults, still has the learned behaviour his mother had instilled in him. However, similarly to Beverly, his character growth is obvious to us as he distances himself from his mother.
One other thing that is done brilliantly is the way King has created the minor antagonists, Henry and Patrick for example. Even though they aren’t as important as the seven main protagonists, we still get a very detailed look into what drives their actions.
Other than building elaborate backstories and personalities for his characters, King also uses dialogue to enrich the characterization. It is quite easy to recognize each character simply by the way they speak. Richie is a joker, Bill stutters, Ben is gentle, etc… This explanation is a bit vague, I know.
I can tell King is also a master in creating the ambiance, especially fear, nobody is surprised here. However, I was often annoyed when the story curved into the lives of minor, unimportant characters and the history of Derry. These parts were, in my opinion, a bit unnecessary and only dragged the plot. Also, I think it broke the brilliant atmosphere that was built. I understand King wanted to present the trauma the whole town had and how it reflected in the present, but it was often to dragged out and (to me) uninteresting.
“I’m Bill Denbrough. You know who I am and why I’m here. You killed my brother and I’m here to kill You. You picked the wrong kid, bitch.
—I am eternal. I am the Eater of Worlds.
Yeah? That so? Well, you’ve had your last meal, sister.”
Let’s distance ourselves from the positives for a moment and speak about the elephant in the room. The controversy. Before I read the book I did hear about some problematic elements present in this book, but I didn’t know exactly what it was. From the start, I noticed King is a perv. The frequency of highly sexualized descriptions and actions is alarming. I found it quite weird that King made such comments and described actions in that way. It was completely unnecessary and, in all honesty, it just made me queasy. We must address the event that followed the kids’ fight with Pennywise in 1958. I’m not sure how to approach it. It was gross and it disgusted me. Also, what made it worse is the fact that it came out of nowhere, I didn’t even have time to mentally prepare myself. I guess that’s what King wanted – to surprise you. I just didn’t think the surprise would be so unpleasant.
As I mentioned a few times before, I think this book is a bit too long. I don’t have a fear of big books (often), however, it took me years to get to this one. I believe since I did watch the 2017 and 2019 film adaptations I didn’t enjoy the story fully. I would have been even more immersed in it if I didn’t know the main plot points. However, knowing the story from before, that deepened my emotional connection with the main seven protagonists.
All that being said, I don’t think I would have read this book as fast or even at all if I didn’t listen to it as an audiobook. The sheer size and vastness of it would have suffocated me.
The narrator Steven Weber is excellent. I think his Pennywise voice was incredible, it was so unnerving in the best possible way and it helped build the ambiance even more, in my opinion.
You may have noticed by now that I haven’t spoken one word about scary boy Pennywise yet. Well, dessert comes last, I guess. After all, Pennywise has an alarmingly huge base of groupies who would agree. Do you remember when there were people who called him clown daddy and papawise and thirsted after him when the movie It came out in 2017? What the fuck was that?
If you want to see more of this abhorrence, click here.
Having had a moment to chill out, let’s get back to the book. Pennywise the Dancing Clown is, in my opinion, a bit underwhelming in the book. There is just so little of him… I think he is an excellent character and I would have liked to read a bit more about him. We did get a bit of an explanation of what „it“ really in the last few chapters of the book. I, personally, don’t like the origin story. The whole turtle thing is just weird and has a magical realism vibe which I don’t think fits in this book. There is „it“ which is raw and bloody and vile, and then there is this turtle creature. I didn’t get what exactly the point of it was and why the protagonists used it as an association with the events that had happened when they were children. Also, what’s up with the way the turtle died? And, after all, how could it die? Aren’t these creatures close to immortal?
Moving on, I must tell you what I found on that fandom wiki website. So, you know how every character has that table where its name, species, origin, etc. is listed? Well, I don’t know why exactly, but when I read that there was a „hobby“ section for Pennywise and the answer was „none“ that really made me laugh.
There have been a few adaptations of It, two of which stand-out and are much loved by the audience. The first one is the mini-series starring Tim Curry as Pennywise which was released in 1990. After the release, it had soon become a fan favourite. The second monumental adaptation is the movie duology consisting of It (2017) and It Chapter Two (2019). The duology had brought together a praiseworthy cast, so we had seen Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis, Bill Skarsgård, Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, and many others bring these marvelous characters to life on the big screen.
I enjoyed this book. Not as much as I expected I would enjoy it but still. I can see why it is a fan favourite. My favourite character was Ben. I liked how gentle he was and even though this may be cringy, I really liked the poem he wrote for Beverly. So, it’s not surprising that I was overjoyed when they ended up together!
“Your hair is winter fire
My heart burns there, too.”
Based on the research I’ve done and the movie adaptations of his other work I’ve watched, it is my understanding that King likes to set his stories in small towns and remote and isolated places. This book is similar, it is set in a small town named Derry in Maine. It isn’t the only location named and visited by the characters, however, the main events are set in Derry.
I’ve read More Evil Than A 15-Foot Spider, an interesting article by Walter Wagner (The New York Times Book Review, August 24, 1986). In this review, Wagner speaks of autobiographical elements in the book. Just as the leader of the Losers’ Club, Bill lives in a small town in Maine, has dreams of becoming a well-known author and stutters, so did King. It isn’t rare for authors to incorporate details from their lives in their work. However, it got me thinking… does King base most of his work in such small and isolated locations to relive this childhood or because he wishes he had had such adventure as a child (and as an adult) or is he perhaps narcissistic enough to make all of his protagonists a metaphor of himself? This is, of course, simply speculation of a person not deeply familiar with his work, so stop being mad at me if you believe I’m absolutely wrong! I guess, in a way, all authors are a bit narcissistic.
“Drive away and try to keep smiling. Get a little rock and roll on the radio and go toward all the life there is with all the courage you can find and all the belief you can muster. Be true, be brave, stand. All the rest is darkness.”