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‘It’ is coming…

August 8, 2017

When I was 22, I read my first Stephen King book. The title was “It”.  And it absolutely terrified me. I remember reading late into the night in a desperate race to reach the end, as surely the characters would triumph and it would be OK?  Because it certainly wasn’t OK at the bit I was up to!  By the end I was apprehensive about drains and plug holes, dubious about clowns, and never wanted to read a King book again (but I did). I was also disappointed in the ending, which didn’t seem to reach the climatic conclusion I was expecting.

Anyway, as the new ‘It’ movie is releasing later in 2017, I thought I would re-read ‘It’.  So I girded my loins, stopped up the plug holes and dove in.  And you know what? It didn’t scare me at all. In fact, I saw it in a completely different light, re-reading it over 20 years later.

Not being petrified allowed me to appreciate the skilful writing of the author.  The characters burst into life with greater complexity, and I could imagine the story more fully because it wasn’t blurred by a layer of fear.  And most surprisingly, the parts of the story that I remembered the most – such as blood spurting up out of the bathroom sink – didn’t make so much of an impression.  On second read, the horror scenes are a side-effect of Pennywise, the representation of evil, and the storyline really is more about facing fear and defeating evil with love.

I can’t believe that I didn’t recall so many dramatic and pivotal scenes, such as the 12-year-old female character choosing to lose her virginity with each of her five young male friends to cement their friendship, or a young boy’s arm being ripped off.  Or the extreme elements of bullying, abuse, prejudice and racism that permeate the whole novel.  And that Pennywise the Clown is some sort of metaphysical being that feeds on fear and manifests as it chooses in a way to maximise that, and has been around for millenia.

Being curious, I also rented the original ‘It’ mini-series, which might have been scary back in the day, but now felt woefully inadequate. Many scenes from the book were cut, or slightly altered, which in my opinion did not advance the story.  Although the acting was fine, especially Tim Curry as It, in my opinion it didn’t do the book justice. But then, as a librarian, maybe I’m biased!  Fortunately, the new movie has been split into two – the first part focuses on the characters as children and their experience with It ; the second part will focus on the characters as adults facing It once again.

I’m still not sure that I understand the deeper meaning of the novel, but at least I now realise that there is one. And whether you’re experiencing it first as a horror story, or as a novel reflecting on the nature of evil and the power of love, it’s still a really good read either way.  Read It … if you’re brave enough. Dare you.



Addendum:  I have now seen the 2017 version of IT, and it has my approval.  Personally, I found IT to be not quite as malevolent as I’d hoped, but better than Tim Curry’s version. The child actors did a great job, and it was magnificently cast. Although, as an adaptation, there were a few things changed (e.g. no werewolf or bird), on the whole the script did justice to Kings tale, I feel.


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