I realize I'm a bit late in the game, but I finally got around to reading Carrie by Stephen King. I wanted to experience his first published book, the one with the manuscript that his wife discovered in his trash bin and convinced him to follow through on. I wanted to grok how King became King, one of the most prolific, successful, humble writers to have ever lived.
I wasn't disappointed.
The novel was as bloody-raw as he later acknowledged it to be. It read much like an early draft—not a first draft, but an early draft. Something about its trajectory felt a little unplanned, a little seat-of-the-pants, and yet somehow, inevitable. And as a result, it felt very, very real.
I imagine "reality" is hard to pull off when you're a dude writing about a menstruating teenager who telekinetically unravels fire hydrants and telepathically projects psychosis. But King pulled it off, in visceral spades. And yet it wasn't the story or the character that made the biggest impact on me. It was the year it was published: 1974. The year I was born.
King has been spinning wild yarns for as long as I've been alive. And despite the fact that I was nothing more than an aspiring zygote when his first novel hit bookstores, I can still discover it, devour it, and reflect on it forty-three years later. That, my friends, is the power of books. They never go away. They never truly die.
I have to admit, much of the appeal of self-publishing my own novel sat squarely in the allure of cultural immortality—the idea that forty-three years from now, someone could stumble across a bloody-raw novel by yours truly and be, to some extent, affected. I may never meet the 2061 spelunker who discovers my stab at fiction, but the thought that someone could...? Now, that's powerful.
As well as shamefully limited in scope. Because in truth, we don't need to publish a novel to resonate. We don't need to leave a song behind, or a child, or a family business, or a patented thingamabob. I mean sure, we can do some of those things. Or all of those things. But really, all we need to do is live. Living is plenty.
Each of us makes an impression on the world with every word we utter, with every action we commit. We are both instigators and recipients of life's dynamic playground. Every decision we make counts for something; every decision we make has repercussions.
Carrie had something to say about that. Forty-three years later? She's still saying it.