Among Stephen King’s gifts is the ability to see horror in the everyday; to imagine unimaginable terrors that could happen tomorrow. Or today (already in Africa), in the ongoing Ebola scare.
As New York Times columnist Ross Douthat noted on Sunday, King’s 1978 novel The Stand, almost seems like it was ripped from the headlines:
“In King’s epic, perhaps his finest, a superflu with a 99.4 percent fatality rate accidentally escapes from a desert laboratory and lays waste to civilization.” Douthat wrote. “King being King, supernatural developments ensue for the survivors. But the book is at its most terrifying in the unraveling with which it opens, when the only bogeyman that matters is a hacking cough that spreads and spreads and spreads.
“To reread these pages now — in a time of national, well, not panic but least disquiet over the handling of Ebola inside our borders — is to be struck both by parallels and by crucial differences between the scenario King conjured and what we fear today.
“The parallels lie, not surprisingly, in the realm of official incompetence. King’s superflu escapes because various computerized safeguards fail; it spreads because of interagency chaos in chasing down patient zero; it compromises a C.D.C. facility whose safeguards turn out to be insufficient. The chaos swirling around the Dallas Ebola infections has followed this kind of pattern: the patient sent home undiagnosed; the unprepared hospital and the infected nurses; the C.D.C.’s weird slowness in taking over; the confident governmental assurances giving way to blame-shifting, double talk and the appointment of a political hack as Ebola princeps ... er ... sultan ... er, czar.”
Here’s hoping the differences stop there, that The Stand remains a triumph of the imagination!
Stephen King’s Top Ten List
1. The Golden Argosy by Van H. Cartmell & Charles Grayson, editors.
2. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884).
3. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie (1988).
4. McTeague by Frank Norris (1899).
5. Lord of the Flies by William Golding (1955).
6. Bleak House by Charles Dickens (1853).
7. 1984 by George Orwell (1948).
8. The Raj Quartet by Paul Scott (1966–75).
9. Light in August by William Faulkner (1932).
10. Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy (1985).
Stephen King (born 1947) is an American author of horror, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy. His books have sold more than 350 million copies and many of them have been adapted into feature films, television movies and comic books. King has published fifty novels, including Carrie (1973), The Shining (1977), The Stand (1978), Cujo (1982), The Green Mile (1996), 11/22/63 (2011), and Mr. Mercedes (2014). His many honors include the Bram Stoker Award, the World Fantasy Award, the O Henry Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. In 2003, the National Book Foundation awarded him the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.