A Tome, Extensive Research and a Good Story.

By Alex Raley

Big books were the norm in college and graduate school.  I also read such books for pleasure, but as I moved forward in time I found tomes rarely held my attention.

Recently a friend passed on to me a novel of 847 single-spaced pages. How could I tell him that I don’t read tomes? I kept it for six months without opening the cover. Then in January, 2012, I realized that I was 80 years old. To read the book might take the rest of my life. I knew I’d better get on with it.

I found myself buried in a page-turner: Stephen King’s 11/22/63. Why was this book gripping my mind? On the surface, the novel did not appear to be worth 847 pages, but an analysis of how King kept my attention began to turn up some answers:

  • The novel has a theme that is always present, though, its pinnacle is close to the end of the novel.
  • There are several subplots that are interesting in their own way. King weaves them into the overall story and theme.
  • The characters in all the plots are skillfully drawn.
  • Details flow as easily as the dialogue. In fact, most of the story and details are moved forward by dialogue.
  • The novel takes an almost overworked time-space-travel idea and makes it a great tool to address King’s philosophical stance.
  • Yes, King is philosophical here. He poses the question of whether we should tamper with destiny, even if this were possible. He takes his main character back in time-travel several times before he takes a firm philosophical position, which piles on more intrigue for the reader.
  • The work is based on an amazing amount of research. So much research that one has to forgive an occasional mishap. King can afford a research assistant, but he also visited many of the sites himself.
  • 11/22/63 has plenty of gory actions to please all King lovers. For those who don’t like gore, the final trip back in time erases most of the blood and guts. You are left with only a memory of the gore.
We have all been surfeited with how-to workshops, but I found that a reading and analysis of King’s novel gave me examples to hang my hat on. This was not someone telling me what to do but my own examination of a successful author’s work. I tried the same examination on the work of a little known author. I easily could see why he is little known.

The next time you are tempted to pay for a how-to seminar, try reading and analyzing the work of a good author. It’s cheaper, and you might even be entertained while you are being informed. 

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