Not long ago I reread Stephen King’s Christine for what was probably the third time. I am very likely to reread any book I give 5 stars to in my bookshelf. But Christine has always been a special favorite.
What can you buy today for $250? In the late 1970’s it bought a nerdy high school kid a Plymouth Fury that was not remotely street legal, but Arnie Cunningham saw something in the old junker no one else did. Well, the car’s former owner may’ve known something, but he died soon after the car was sold, taking his dark secrets to the grave. Only, the secrets may not have stayed buried. Strange things begin to happen late that summer, suspicious incidents that have a bad way of circling back to Arnie and his peculiar car. The curious need not go poking around. These are too likely to find themselves face to face with glaring headlights on a dark stretch of highway.
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Christine was the first serious novel I ever enjoyed. I can almost sense your amusement at my liberal association of serious with a haunted vehicle, but aside from its length and adult content, it was also the first book I got a hold of with mature emotions. Alvin Schwartz and R. L. Stein are good, great in fact considering the audience they catered to, but at the end of fifth grade I had outgrown schoolhouse spooks and wanted something more profoundly chilling. In the sixth grade I discovered Stephen King, and more than twenty years later I still can’t think of a better book than Christine that could have escorted me into the world of genuine horror.
What’s crazier than a car with a mind of its own is the way Christine has provided a set of tangible markers in the evolution of technology. I first listened to Christine on five four track cassettes using a tape player as large as any healthy encyclopedia volume. No, it wasn’t your grandfather’s scratchy old record player… Ah, but you may be appalled to learn I actually had a record player and used it to listen to old issues of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.
Still, the tapes in those days took a long time to obtain. If you were blind, you likely got your audio books from a state library for the blind. You had to tell the library that you needed the book for school so they could speed up the shipment. Book reports in the middle of the summer? Hey, I was an apt pupil, and when you finally got the green box in the mail, your only hope was that all of the cassettes were in working order. I don’t think my sighted friends understand just how easy they had it then and still likely have it now.
Fast forward to my late 30s. I finished listening to the book on a digital player about the size of a deck of playing cards. I’ve kept a copy saved in my hard drive, but if I were to lose it for whatever reason, a replacement is only a download away. I don’t need to be in the company of young children to feel my age. My own memories of how technology used to be do a fine job of making me feel quite old.
What was the first book that seriously had an impact on you? What about it made it memorable, and have you ever dived back into it to revisit some of those old feelings it inspired? While we’re on the subject, and assuming you’re over 25, are there any objects that serve as a stark reminder of how much time has flown? I can’t believe pagers just might be obsolete!
I debated whether or not to keep this post in the queue. In terms of young adult advice, it gives you zero value, but as a loved one recently pointed out, not everything has to be so serious. I hope you enjoyed the post and hope you will welcome the occasional stroll into random thought on the weekends.