“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”
This is the opening line that came to Stephen King as a nineteen-year-old college senior, and one he followed for the next thirty-odd years, resulting in a nearly 4000-page book series–The Gunslinger–considered by many to be King’s magnum opus.
But will the opening book in the series withstand the harsh desert-sun glare of the Book Fighters’ critical eyes? Will their critiques bring the book to its knees, begging for water and mercy or perhaps a multiverse portal through which it can escape to friendlier terrain? Will the whole thing wither and die under the strain of this increasingly terrible metaphor?
Don’t worry about spoilers: neither Mike nor Tom has read the entire series, so they couldn’t spoil it for you if they wanted to. Mike actually read (and enjoyed) Books One through Three in middle and early high school–The Waste Lands came out in 1991, when he was fourteen–but between then and 1997, when Book Four was released, he managed to get interested in other things (girls, beer, college, etc.) and never caught back up with the series. Tom never made it past the first fifty or so pages of Book One.
Among the many topics discussed in this episode: oracle handjobs, Tom’s fear of sea creatures, revision, Mike’s hatred of italics, the word “bookbag,” Joyce Carol Oates, what makes something “literature,” and why does everyone wanna pick on Stephen King, anyway?
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If you’d like to support the show, while making a minimum of effort, click on any of the book links in this episode guide–like this one–then shop as you normally would. Look, Amazon is probably destroying the publishing industry, and maybe you shouldn’t support them. But if you’re going to shop there anyway, you might as well throw us a little coin in the deal. At least you’ll be supporting independent publishing (Barrelhouse) and a show that promotes books and reading. Do it! It will assuage your guilt! If you use one of those links to get to Amazon, you can then buy anything on the site, and we’ll get a small cut of the purchase price (it won’t cost you any more, so why wouldn’t you do it? Unless you hate us, and want to see us fail, which … well, fair enough).
Thanks for listening!
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