Books for Your Ears!

King has jokingly said that he suffers from a disease called “literary elephantiasis” (as do I, folks, in case you couldn’t tell from the length of this list). Let’s face it, not everyone has time nowadays to sit down and read a 1,000-page door-stopper novel of the kind King often writes. That’s okay: listeners of the /Filmcast and other podcasts might already be accustomed to multi-tasking (driving, exercising, whatever) with voices playing in the background. If you hop on Audible, there are a wealth of Stephen King audiobooks available there, many of which are gamely read by actors with screen ties to King’s work.

On Castle Rock, Sissy Spacek gained Emmy buzz for her performance in episode 7, “The Queen,” which followed her character, Ruth Deaver, who may or may not have been shifting through time—reliving the past by projecting her consciousness into her younger body as she struggled with dementia in the present. Spacek starred as the telekinetic, blood-drenched prom queen Carrie in director Brian De Palma’s 1976 film. In the audiobook, it’s her voice reading King’s first novel, acting out the dialogue.

During Castle Rock’s run, there were some theories floating around on Reddit about the It-like, 27-year interval between Henry’s Deaver’s disappearance/reappearance in 1991 and the discovery of the Kid in the prison basement in 2018. Steven Weber played Jack Torrance in the 1997 television version of The Shining and as I wrote in my defense of that miniseries, his voice is perfectly suited to the role of Pennywise the Clown in the audiobook version of It.

To the best of my knowledge, actor Will Patton hasn’t appeared in any Stephen King screen adaptations but he does narrate King’s newest novel, The Outsider, as well as The Shining sequel, Doctor Sleep, which sees an adult Danny Torrance dealing with inherited alcoholism (“morning-after junkbelly,” indeed) before he sobers up and encounters a group of nomadic energy vampires called the True Knot.

Patton also narrates the Bill Hodges Trilogy, starting with Mr. Mercedes. The audiobook version of the trilogy might make a good companion piece to the Mr. Mercedes TV show. Considering the fact that Season 2 of Castle Rock looks to be headed to the Overlook Hotel — not to mention the fact that the book has its own film adaptation on the way, courtesy of the aforementioned Mike Flanagan — the time might really be ripe for giving Doctor Sleep a listen, as well

The only danger with audiobooks is that they can sometimes fade into the background, leaving the listener lost once his or her ear finally tunes back in. Having said that, another listening recommendation (in order to prep for the upcoming film remake) is King’s darkest novel, Pet Sematary, read by Dexter actor Michael C. Hall. Aspiring writers might also want to check out On Writing, read by King himself.

Castle Rock

Last but not least, now that all the evidence is in, another viewing option for King fans looking to fill the Castle Rock-shaped hole in their lives would just be to rewatch the show itself. While its ambiguous ending could have perhaps been executed better, the whole gripping first season of Castle Rock played off the perception and subverted perception of Bill Skarsgaard’s unaging character, structuring itself almost like a criminal trial against “The Kid”—complete with a penultimate episode that acted as a closing argument of sorts from the defense.

Granted, the essential unknowability of truth, in this case, a man or monster’s innocence or guilt, may not always constitute satisfying drama. Some viewers were doubtlessly disappointed (perhaps rightly so) by the show’s finale and its seeming lack of answers. The involvement of J.J. Abrams as an executive producer certainly didn’t do the show any favors with regards to reviewers dredging up the old “mystery box” comparison. As with Castle Rock, Abrams’ name was also attached to Lost as an executive producer, even though he wasn’t the actual showrunner on that series or involved in the week-to-week aspects of it. That responsibility was shared by Damon Lindelof and Carleton Cuse, just as the show-running responsibility on Castle Rock is shared by Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason.

Abrams’ slippery “mystery box” metaphor first blew up in the cultural lexicon after his TED Talk, where he discussed the withholding of information and how that could be used as a vital tool for engaging the audience while building backdoor investment in characters. His general stance toward mystery in that talk seemed to be that people don’t really want to have the fun ruined by knowing what’s inside the mystery box (we do, of course. We just want the reveal to be awesome.) There’s certainly an argument to be made that the text of a show that was once alive with theorizing could become dead once it’s unlocked with pat explanations. At the same time, it does get old to have secrets teased and then find out that all that mystery was just a MacGuffin used to keep viewers’ minds chasing

In its defense, Castle Rock is a little different than Lost in that it uses a legal framework to introduce its central mystery. The main character, Henry Deaver (Andre Holland), is a defense attorney who begins the show arguing to a jury about reasonable doubt. Then he gets called back to his hometown to be the lawyer for this mystery prisoner who’s been found in the basement at Shawshank State Penitentiary. Over the course of ten episodes, the case against Skarsgaard’s creepy, so-called “Kid” mounts.

Now we, the audience, are left to be the jury. We can review the basic facts of the case as presented throughout the first season, parsing the clues along with Deaver. Then it falls upon us to decide whether we believe the Kid is guilty or not (and if so, to what degree).

“Do you hear it now?”

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