Here’s something that only a few people know about me:
I am a ride or die, balls to the wall fan of Stephen King.
I’m talkin’ ’bout, getting in trouble in middle school for refusing to put Cujo away and solve those math problems.
I’m talkin’ ’bout, losing my first, battered copy of The Shining, and scraping together loose change and filthy, crumpled dollar bills to go and get another one.
Yeah. Expert Stan Level 3, here. And the love is REAL, folks. How else can you explain spending an ENTIRE summer engrossed in his Gunslinger series, only to get to that soul-crushing, IMMENSELY disappointing ending? That could only be love.
Despite that. I’ve been here for Steve. Understand me? HERE. FOR. HIM. In spite of some of those film adaptations.
Oh, God. Did you see Dreamcatcher? No? Good. Because it was HORRIBLE. Trust me on this one.
Yeah, so… I’m a fan. Despite the fact that he manages to incorporate the word “nigger” in like, 95% of his work. Sometimes it belongs there; sometimes it doesn’t.
[do better, my man.]
So, usually I would be the first person to snap up a newly released King novel, and immediately after, I would clear my social calendar…
… and spend the next few days inhaling that thing. But lately, I’ve been distracted. I’d love to say that it was something really significant, something to make y’all nod seriously and say, “Well, no WONDER,” but…
Honestly, it was “The Walking Dead.”
And “Game of Thrones.”
Yeah. I was distracted by TV. Me. Ms. “The Book is Always Better Than the Movie”.
Judge me. Whatever.
So, I didn’t read King’s novel, Revival, until a year after it was published. And when I did, it was like old times: I cleared my schedule, kicked either one of my roommates (cats) out of my favorite reading spot, and got started.
And I mean, it was GOOD… at first.
I was immediately pulled into the story line. Check it: a small, white, New England town (surprise, surprise) called Harlow, during a time in our history when racism was pure and free from preservatives and processed sugars.
You know. The Good Ol’ Days.
Aaaaanyway… the story follows the narrator, Jamie Morton, as he grows up in this small town. But really, Revival is about the Good Reverend Charles Jacobs – a young pastor who moves into Harlow while Jamie is still a young boy, and ultimately becomes a constant, powerful presence in his life.
We learn about the Reverend through Jamie’s account of events, starting from the first time he meets him, which is shortly after he and his wife and child move into Harlow. Right away, King paints a picture with darker colors, giving us a sense of something awful on the horizon.
And it’s beautiful, man. King is back in his own funky, twisted element. Crooking his finger at me, beckoning me to follow him down the crooked, creaky staircase into the dark. Smiling that creepy, slightly terrifying smile of his that I just… don’t trust.
And I followed. Although lately…
I mean, he’s been… different. He’s been on some nostalgic romp through his childhood, where the monsters are a little more subtle. And hey, I get it, man. I’m here for all of that. I know that there’s more to dude than clairvoyant teenagers and haunted hotels and shit. And that’s fine. No, really.
Sometimes I need him to remind me why I became a fan in the first place. Don’t get me wrong – if I’m a fan, it’s for LIFE, no matter what kind of experimental shit he tries.
Hell, ask Prince.
So anyway, he goes back to that nostalgia in Revival, but this time, the old Steve is back – bringing that nerve-jangling tension that he does so masterfully, and stringing me along for the nail-biting ride.
The only problem is… that ride seems to go on forever.
Y’all. I had to restrain myself from asking, “are we there yet?!”
Early in the novel, there is a violent tragedy – and if you’ve never read anything by this guy, Violent Tragedy is what he does best. I mean, he breaks readers’ hearts, and gleefully. Sure he’s no George RR Martin, but… in Revival, it’s clear that this tragedy is the catalyst for character and plot development – namely, the Reverend Charles Jacobs.
In the beginning, Jacobs is a young, charismatic man of God – but not the slick-mouthed archetype that we’re used to seeing in literature and film. Instead, Reverent Jacobs is a straight-talking preacher who avoids heavy, political topics like “civil rights, or banning the draft, or something like that” (28). On top of that, he and his wife had “sex appeal” (33), and attracted more young people to First Methodist Church of Harlow (even there was no OTHER Methodist church in Harlow).
And the people love him – most of all, Jamie. He is, in fact, in awe of Reverend Jacobs because of his unusual fascination with electricity, which he uses to heal Jamie’s brother Con from a serious, life-altering injury. It is here that King nudges the story line ever so slightly into the strange.
And let’s be honest – I like Rev. Jacobs too. He is different – while he stays away from the hot topics of the era, he believes that the Lord’s work shouldn’t stop once they leave the church, and that there’s “more to Christianity than church.” But this electricity thing, though… it’s weird, Fam. And where the Hell is this going, anyway?
Things start to become deliciously tense, as tragedy strikes Rev. Jacobs’ family, he loses faith and he delivers what Jamie refers to as the “Terrible Sermon” – which is actually the best part of the entire book. After that, I was dragged through page after page of Jamie’s fucked-up life, where he occasionally runs into Jacobs in between his attempts at being the “Most Horriblest, Raggediest Person Ever.”
Each time he runs into Jacobs, the former-preacher is on a different kind of hustle. But one thing remains constant – he manages to incorporate his experiments with electricity into whatever hustle he is currently practicing. Which, okay, is intriguing. But King is reaaallllly stringing me along now, and by the time Jamie meets Jacobs for the last time, I am WORN. THE HELL. OUT. Hear me, Children? I mean, I don’t even CARE about either one of them hoes anymore, and I’m just reading along because I’ve already gotten this far and I ain’t no punk.
Because I know you, Steverino. I’m a FAN, remember? Ride or DIE, Fam. Even overlooking the not-so-subtle racist statements you manage to sneak into EVERY SINGLE THING YOU WRITE.
I mean, I’m writing this shit even as the “Stay Woke” Folk are sitting in a dark-windowed van outside my house. The love is REAL, Sir.
And I know that all this stuff about electricity and God and religion and drug abuse is gonna culminate in one orgasmic scene of blood-spattered awesome. So, I read on.
And what I got, instead, was basically an episode of Svengoolie.
Yeah. Complete with stop-motion animation and bad makeup. I don’t wanna give the ending away – because frankly, it’s SO awful, I kinda want you guys to read it. Seriously. I’ve never seen such a hodgepodge of scary. It read like… like… dude couldn’t figure out which direction he wanted to go in, so he just went EVERYWHERE.
I was kinda hoping that this would turn into more of a psychological horror-thing… you know – pastor has something horrible happen to him, he loses faith and then his mind, becomes a psychopath, starts a prison ministry, starts experimenting on them. Or something.
But what King did was so far away from anything like that, so unexpectedly BAD, I almost admired him for it. For going above and far beyond my lowered expectations.
I was disappointed. Like a MUHFUGGAH.
Sure – I’ll continue to read his work. Because I realize that nobody is perfect, and this, cottdammit, is a RELATIONSHIP that we’ve built, King and I. And you don’t just up and leave a solid, long-lasting relationship because of a screw-up. Or two. Or nine.
I’m in this for the long haul, is what I’m saying.
So… what’s next?