Cephalopod Coffee House: 'Salem's Lot
Apparently, I forgot to officially sign up for the Cephalopod Coffee House this month, so I’m not on the Linky list for it. However, to keep myself on schedule, and because I took the time to actually read a book this month, I’m going to go ahead and tell you about. Click on the picture above for a full list of participants.
This month, I read Salem’s Lot, by Stephen King. I found this paperback in a box of books at work several months ago, and I picked it up. This thing has a price sticker from a thrift store on it, and it obviously has seen better days. I knew I’d read the book before, but it was a long, long, long time ago, but all I remembered was the scene in which a hog tied young boy has to escape his bonds and get out of a locked room. Needless to say, it was pretty much like reading it fresh.
‘Salem’s Lot is a classic. It was King’s second published novel, and it debuts his vision of small town Maine, where people are born, raised and die within 20 square miles, everybody knows everybody, and outsiders are not trusted. However no one says “Ayuh,” the lack of which disappoints me. I guess that little tick didn’t show up until later.
Reading Salem’s Lot, I was struck by its similarities to Dracula, by Bram Stoker. I read that book last year (FYI, if you’re in for horror, and haven’t read it, the first half of that book is incredibly spooky and awesome). There were certainly analogues with Barlow obviously being the famous vampire, Ben Mears as Jonathan Harker, Susan Norton as Mina Harker, and Matt Burke standing in for Abraham Van Helsing so hard it hurts. All of this appears to be deliberate as Wikipedia tells me that King was directly inspired by Dracula.
Dracula analogues aside, ‘Salem’s Lot is very much a novel of its time, even when taking into account there are no cell phones, no computers, no iPads and people let their kids walk through the woods at night (scandalous in this day and age). I was born a few years after the book was published, so I don’t have any firsthand experience, but Stephen King seemed to be seeing the dreams of the sixties being crushed in the seventies. However, despite the book being older than me, it doesn’t feel dated. Except for all characters’ negative feelings towards homosexuality. That was a weirdly specific detail that kept tripping me up. It didn’t feel like they were King’s feelings, but something that he was seeing a lot of at the time, and he just made it a trait of every single character in the book. Google tells me that the Gay Rights movement was just taking off at the time, so I guess that was a thing on a lot of people’s minds at the time?
I got a little off topic there, and this is going on a little long, so if you’re going to TL/DR this, my main points are 1) ‘Salem’s Lot holds up after 40 years, 2) it’s the prototype for many Stephen King novels to come.