I’ve been rereading Stephen King’s IT, and I’ll be blogging through it on and off. In this post, I’ll blog about making one’s way in the world. I’ll be drawing from “Part 1: The Shadow Before”.
For the theme of making one’s way in the world, I think of three characters: Elmer Curtie, Stan Uris, and Bill Denbrough.
1. Elmer Curtie started a bar called the Falcon, and he expected his clientele to consist primarily of bus-riders, since it was close to major bus-lines. But most of the bus-riders were women or families with small children, not the sorts who would frequent bars. And, when sailors or soldiers came in for a drink, they didn’t stay long, since “you couldn’t very well go on a bender during a ten-minute rest-stop” (page 25).
Curtie was accumulating a lot of bills, and he was thinking about moving to Florida from Derry, Maine. But then, there were men who were coming into his bar. They were young and polite. Curtie eventually figured out that his clientele was gay, but, by that point, he didn’t really care, for he was making money. Moreover, “the Falcon was the only [bar] where rambunctious patrons did not regularly demolish the whole place”, for “There were no women to fight over…and these men…seemed to have learned a secret of getting along with each other which their heterosexual counterparts did not know” (page 26). While there were rumors about horrible activities taking place at the Falcon, they were untrue.
I like this part of the book because things turned around financially for Curtie in an unexpected way, plus Curtie learned to respect people, whether or not he agreed with their sex lives. And this was during the 1980’s, when homosexuality was more stigmatized than it is today.
2. Stan Uris and his wife Patricia were Jews, who experienced their share of discrimination over the years. For some time, both of them received financial assistance from Patricia’s parents. But Stan decided to quit his job at H&R Block and to start his own business, which “All four in-laws agreed…was a foolhardy move” (page 47). But he became a success. I like the following passage on page 48:
“[Stan’s] work with Corridor Video had brought him into contact with some of Atlanta’s richest and most powerful men—and [Stan and Patricia] were both astonished to find that these men were mostly okay. In them they found a degree of acceptance and broad-minded kindliness that was unknown in the North.”
Contacts are helpful for people who want to advance—in academia or other lines of work. I find making contacts to be quite daunting, myself. I have the same fear as Stan and Patricia: will these people be “mostly okay”? Or will they be snobbish and judgmental? It’s a pleasant surprise when I do meet people who are “okay”—who are down-to-earth, accepting, broad-minded, and kind.
I also like this passage because it goes against a stereotype that the North is liberal and broad-minded, whereas the South is backward and prejudiced. People can surprise us! My hunch is that this passage is rooted in reality, for who knows how many people Stephen King has met?
3. Bill Denbrough had a hard time fitting into his Creative Writing classes at the University of Maine. He wondered why his colleagues couldn’t just appreciate a good story as a story—rather than trying to read into it sexual and political undertones. When Bill wrote a story about a boy who conquers a monster in the cellar, his instructor gave him an “F” and put on it “PULP CRAP!” As Bill is about to throw his story into the fireplace, he sees a Grateful Dead poster, and he thinks, “Pulp? Fine! Let it be pulp! The woods were full of it!” Pulp can succeed!
Bill then submits his story to a magazine, and the fiction editor buys it for $200. The assistant editor adds a note saying that the story is the best horror story since Ray Bradbury’s “The Jar”. When Bill informs his instructor of his success, he receives an “F” for the course, and a note asking, “Do you think money proves anything about anything, Denbrough?” Bill then writes a book and sends it to Viking Press because he likes its logo (and Viking is the press that published my copy of It), and Viking purchases the book. Bill gains success, marries a movie star, and lives happily ever after…until Bill has to confront Pennywise, of course!
I doubt Stephen King’s beginning as a writer was this rosy, since I have read that he received a lot of rejection letters in his early years. But I like the concept of continuing to look for opportunities, even after one has received rejection, and of following one’s heart, even when the rejection continues.