‘Made in Maine’: In­spired by Stephen King • By HAGAY HACOHEN

Known for such hits as ‘It’ and ‘The Green Mile,’ the famed writer who some com­pare to Dick­ens was gifted a spe­cial screen­ing of films based on his works in honor of his 72nd birth­day

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - CONTENTS - • HAGAY HACOHEN

The works of Amer­i­can mas­ter of hor­ror fic­tion Stephen King were at the fo­cus of the “Made in Maine” film fes­ti­val, which took place at the Tel Aviv Cine­math­eque, hon­or­ing the 72nd birth­day of the world-fa­mous writer, who was born on Septem­ber 21, 1947. Maine is King’s home state as well as the lo­ca­tion of many of his fic­tional works. The fic­tional town of Derry, where the plot of the 1986 novel It is set, is lo­cated in Maine.

The hit novel was re­cently adapted to the big screen by An­dres Muschi­etti, who made two films de­pict­ing the two parts of the book. The first film was re­leased in 2017 and the sec­ond was re­cently re­leased in Is­rael.

Fo­cus­ing on a group of teenagers who call them­selves “the Loser’s Club,” the two movies de­pict their con­fronta­tion with, and even­tual de­feat of, an evil en­tity known as “It.”

Tak­ing on the form of a mur­der­ous clown, It has the power to al­ter re­al­ity, in­vade the pri­vate lives of his vic­tims and prey on chil­dren.

One rea­son the book is so pop­u­lar is that It is pre­sented as in­ti­mately in­volved with the his­tory of Derry, mak­ing him a stand-in for real hor­rors that in­habit Amer­i­can his­tory and mod­ern so­ci­ety such as racism, an­ti­semitism and misog­yny.

Other films fea­tured in the Made in Maine fes­ti­val in­cluded the 1990 film Mis­ery, for which Kathy Bates won an Os­car for best pic­ture; 1994’s beloved The Shaw­shank Re­demp­tion; the 1983 John Car­pen­ter adap­tion of killer car Chris­tine; and the 2013 re­make of telekine­sis teen Car­rie, based on King’s first pub­lished novel.

King, who is not Jewish, wrote about Jewish char­ac­ters not only in It but also in his 1982 Apt Pupil novella in which a young all-Amer­i­can boy re­al­izes his nextdoor neigh­bor is an ag­ing Nazi war crim­i­nal. The young man is drawn to the evil the older man rep­re­sents and grad­u­ally morphs into a deeply dark and dis­turb­ing fig­ure.

King is a pop­u­lar writer in Is­rael and, in a turn of events that might be sur­pris­ing to those who re­ject the lit­er­ary mer­its of the hor­ror novel, was adapted to the theater twice in re­cent years, when a stage adap­ta­tion of The Green Mile was pro­duced by the Beer­sheba Theater and an adap­ta­tion of Mis­ery was pro­duced by the Cameri Theater. The lat­ter show is still on­go­ing.

KING, A writer fa­mous for his work ethic and abil­ity to pro­duce books span­ning a large amount of pages, took on the pen name of Richard Bach­man in 1977 to re­lease a se­ries of hor­ror nov­els to ex­am­ine if his suc­cess was due to luck or tal­ent. The nov­els sold well and in­spired film adap­ta­tions 1987’s The Run­ning Man and 1996’s Thin­ner.

In an in­tro­duc­tion to one of his col­lec­tion of short sto­ries, King shares how a woman at a su­per­mar­ket rec­og­nized him and told him that she hates his scarier work and prefers up­lift­ing tales such as The Shaw­shank Re­demp­tion. When he in­formed her he wrote that movie too, she huffed and walked away in dis­be­lief.

King is some­thing of an anom­aly in the world of Amer­i­can lit­er­a­ture. Un­like other Amer­i­can writ­ers such as Paul Auster or Jonathan Franzen, who are hailed in Europe as be­ing es­sen­tially Amer­i­can with­out gain­ing house­hold name-recog­ni­tion sta­tus in their own coun­try, King is seen, both out­side and in­side the US, as a writer with a spe­cial in­sight into Amer­i­can dread and myth.

This will be­come ap­par­ent to any­one who reads his Dark Tower se­ries of nov­els. Pub­lished from 1982 to 2004, the se­ries en­com­passes the Kennedy as­sas­si­na­tion, the Western lit­er­ary form, racism in Amer­i­can so­ci­ety and brings to­gether many of the char­ac­ters that in­habit other works he wrote. King him­self ad­mit­ted The Dark Tower was meant to serve as his own Gor­meng­hast, re­fer­ring to a se­ries of fan­tasy nov­els pub­lished by Bri­tish writer Mervyn Peake, a mag­num opus for the Maine mas­ter of blood-chill­ing tales. The 2017 adap­ta­tion of the se­ries to the big screen only touches upon the com­plex­i­ties in the orig­i­nal work.

In his 2000 book On Writ­ing, King ad­dressed those who view his work as the lit­er­ary ver­sion of junk food and ex­plained that, as a for­mer English teacher and a writer of fic­tion, he is aware of the dif­fer­ence between his own work and that of other writ­ers. Yet, he points out us­ing the food anal­ogy, there is noth­ing wrong with mak­ing the best sand­wiches, from the health­i­est ingredient­s one can find, and be­ing proud of it. In the book, King of­fers a very sim­ple def­i­ni­tion of who is a writer – any­one who gets a bill and pays it from money he earned from writ­ing. When he taught cre­ative writ­ing, he in­sisted his stu­dents read the 1972 novel First Blood by David Morell, a work much bet­ter known by its film adap­ta­tion Rambo, to show how good writ­ing is not con­fined to the lit­er­ary canon.

King makes no bones about his deep dis­plea­sure with cur­rent US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and has tweeted about it of­ten – in fact, Trump even blocked him on Twit­ter, mak­ing King that rare writer the cur­rent pres­i­dent reg­is­ters. King likes to re­fer to Trump as “Blab­ber­mouth Don,” and that’s the mas­ter of dark fan­tasy go­ing easy on the guy.

Re­turn­ing to It and the Loser’s Club, it is per­haps telling that this Amer­i­can leader, so con­nected in the pub­lic mind to us­ing the world “Loser” as an in­sult and sharply di­vid­ing the world into “Win­ners” and “Losers,” is so de­tested by the au­thor who penned epic nov­els about the evil lurk­ing in Amer­ica – and how it can be de­feated.


KING’S SPOOKY home in Ban­gor, Maine.

(Mark Rain/Flickr)

STEPHEN KING, whose books have sold more than 350 mil­lion copies, is also pop­u­lar here in Is­rael.

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