King, Stephen: Needful Things
(researched by Richard Armitstead)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description

1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)

Viking Published by the Penguin Group Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Books USA Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA. First Published in June 1991 by Viking Penguin

2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?


3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available

4 Pagination

690 pages all pages numbered in the lower, center of page. all pages of "text" are numbered with the exception of the pages directly proceeding, following, and including the illustrated pages that separate the parts of the novel. There are three. the page of introductory quotes is also not numbered

5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?

two quotes taken from other novels/short writings "Ladies and gentlemen, attention, please! Come in close where everyone can see! I got a tale to tell, it isn't gonna cost a dime! (And if you believe that, we're gonna get along just fine.)" -Steve Earle "Snake Oil" (1988 Goldline Music and Duke of Earle)
"I have heard of many going astray even in the village streets, when the darkness was so thick you could cut it with a knife, as the saying is..." -Henry David Thoreau Walden

6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?

three illustrations divide the book into three parts. Another two page illustration is located before the publication page all four drawings by Bill Russell 1991
The cover art is by Rob Wood

7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available

8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)

Book is broken into three parts. Each part into chapters Each chapter into individual numbered sections
Some specific words or phrases are italicized Some are printed in a type face not consistant with the rest of the book, for emphasis Some specific words and phrases are "hand written" for special effect

9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available

10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)

medium weigh slightly textured slightly yellowed

11 Description of binding(s)

Trade Binding stitched, backing glued

12 Transcription of title page

Needful Things

13 JPEG image of title page, if available

14 Manuscript Holdings

no information available

15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)


Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History

1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A

Parent company Penguin Putnam issued the book in various imprints of the original Viking release. All paperback formats are the same.
Paperback Mass Market Edition printed under NAL/Dutton 06/92
Paperback edition under Signet Book Publisher 07/92. Cover art different, typeface smaller, illustrations smaller. 6.85 x 4.23 x 1.69 Still in print. This edition reprinted 08/93 by Signet Availability unknown. Reissue edition Mass Market Paperback published by Signet 06/97 still in print.
Paperback edition released by Signet 06/91 as Stephen King, No. 9: Four Past Midnight, Needful Things no longer in print
Trade Edition under Penguin USA (Viking Pr.) released 10/91 as Needful Things: The Last Castle Rock Story, Hardcover 690 pages, 9.57 x 6.45 x 2.04 (inches). Lettering on cover is repositioned and Number 1 best seller is added to top above the author's name. Availability unknown
Book on Cassette by Blue Penguin Publication 08/93 18 cassettes
Part 1 on Cassette by Penguin/USA Audio (Penguin/Highbridge) 10/91 Out of Print Part 3 on Cassette by Penguin/USA Audio (Penguin/Highbridge) 10/91 Out of Print Part 2 on Cassette by Penguin/USA Audio (Penguin/Highbridge) 10/91 Availability Unknown

2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available

3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available

4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?

Second printing as Needful Thing the Last Castle Rock story 10/91 availability unknown

5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A

11/93 Smithmark Publishing, Trade binding, out of
Needful Things (GK Hall Large Print Book Series), 08/92, MacMillan Publishing Co. (GK Hall Co.) Hard Cover, Out of Print Needful Things (GK Hall Large Print Book Series), 08/92, MacMillan Publishing Co. (GK Hall Co.) Paper Back, Out of Print
07/92 Demco Media, Trade Binding, Availability Unknown
Published in England by Hodder and Staughton and the New English edition. Different cover art.

6 Last date in print?

Still in print

7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)

First Printing 1.5 million copies (
Ranks number 18 on the list of bestselling books from the last 25 years. (Publishers weekly July 1 1997)

8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)

N/A at this time

9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)

N/A at this time

10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available

11 Other promotion

N/A at this time

12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A

Movie, 1993, Needful Things, New Line Cinema a division of Columbia Pictures Corp. Col
or 120 minutes
Distributed through New Line Cinema Shown in (at least) USA, United Kingdom, Germany, Norway

13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A

Finland as Tarpeellista Tavaraa by Tammi Publishers Sweden as Koplust by Legenda Publishing Hungary as Hasznos Holmik by Europa Publishing Germany as In Einer Kleinen Stadt by Heyne-Verlag Publishing Israel by Modan Publishing Russia by Cadman Publishing Translated in France with the title Bazaar by William Desmond 1992 two volumes 678 pages

14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A


15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A

This is the last in a series of books to center around the town of Castle Rock, Maine

Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author

1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)

"Stephen (Edwin) King was born on September 21, 1947 in Portland Maine to the parents of (Nellie) Ruth (Pilsbury) and Donald King. He has one older brother, David (who was adopted in 1945). In 1949, when Stephen was 2 years old, his father left one night and never came back." (SOURCE 3) "After their parents separated, Stephen and his adopted older brother, David King, lived with their mother back and forth between Massachusetts and Maine." (SOURCE 4) "There are a couple of turning points in (King's) young life that he believes pointed him in the direction that he now is at. In 1954 he began to write stories. Around 1959, he found a box of horror and sci-fi books in his aunt's house. Those books brought the horror genre to him. He began writing horror stories shortly there after. In 1965, his first story was published ?I Was A Teenage Grave Robber' in the Comics Review magazine." (SOURCE 3) "Stephen King graduated from high school in 1966 and continued on to the University of Maine at Orono. While studying at University, he met his wife-to-be, Tabitha Spruce. He received his bachelors of science in English in 1970, then married Tabitha Spruce in 1971 (they now have three children, Joe, Owen and Naomi). Stephen King began his work at an industrial laundromat, then became a janitor, then finally became an English teacher at Hamden Public School in Maine. He didn't earn enough money, and had trouble paying the bills." (SOURCE 4) "In 1978 or 1979, Writer's Digest Magazine published a short summary of King's rags-to-riches story. In that particular article he was said to be living in a boarding house in Maine with a community laundry room. He would sit in the laundry room, his used manual portable setting across his knees, typing ?Salem's Lot', huddled up next to the hot water pipes and heating vents just to keep warm. According to the article, both he and his wife Tabitha were barely surviving financially. He had had several short stories published by this time (under the name Richard Bachman), but the income from these did little to ease their financial burden. Then one day in 1974, King found an advance check for "Carrie" in his mail box for $600,000.00 and the rest is history." (SOURCE 1) "Since then, he has published over 30 novels, and he has over 100 million copies in print." (SOURCE 4) "King is called the "Master of Horror". His books have been translated into many different languages, published in over 30 different countries. There are millions of copies of his novels in publication. He continues to live in Bangor, Maine with his wife where he writes out of his office in his home." (SOURCE 3) "Despite writing about gruesome horror subjects, Stephen King has many fears (including: Fear of others (paranoia), Fear of death, Fear of insects (especially spiders, flies, and beetles), Fear of closed-in places, Fear of rats, Fear of snakes, Fear of deformity, Fear of squishy things, and Fear of the dark). Stephen King enjoys rock music (i.e. Bruce Springsteen). He has many quotes in his novels from rock songs, He is in the band ?Rock Bottom Remainders'. The other members of the band are: Dave Barry, Amy Tan, Robert Fulghum, Matt Groening, and Roy Blount, Jr." (SOURCE 4) "King earns approximately fifteen million dollars a book and he publishes two books a year." (SOURCE 1) "His sense of humor kind of gives an idea of how he thinks: ?People want to know why I do this, why I write such gross stuff. I like to tell them that I have the heart of a small boy--and I keep it in a jar on my desk.' --Stephen King" (SOURCE 2)
SOURCES: 1. 2. 3. 4.

Assignment 4: Reception History

1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

Stephen King's Needful Thing's received a fairly mediocre reception by critics. King's work in general had been said to be the literary equivalent of junk food. As a result, most critics do not take him seriously and tend to fall back on reviewing King's books against King himself. The reviews are often sarcastic and sometimes contemptuous. However, the critics won't deny that King is a master of suspense and character manipulation which seemed to be celebrated in this book. Most critics enjoyed the novel as a good "King" read but gave the book no substantial merit. The plot itself was said by many to be tired, over-used, and done better in some of his other works. The characters, however, are what kept many critics intrigued in the novel but some found it difficult to identify with an entire town as opposed to single characters in King's other novels.
Christopher Lehmann-Haupt of the New York Times: "As always, on is bowled over by Stephen King's prodigious capacity to milk every situation for its dramatic possibilities, by his ability to line up vast landscapes of dominoes whose toppling will concatenate catastrophically, and by his sheer inventive energy. What Mr. King can do with particular skill (in Needful Things) is make the reader familiar with a large cast of characters and then, as crisis builds upon crisis, bounce from one situation to another without having to re-establish who the characters are. More unnerving, (King) has the capacity to activate one's every anxiety, no matter how irrelevant it may seem to the situation at degrees he engages your whole being in dread." (Oct 3 1991)
Mary Susan Herczog of the Los Angeles Times: "People often forget that King is a good writer, but he prevents himself from achieving more than the odd moment of greatness by frequently resorting to cheap manipulation of emotions. Yet, King is a tremendous storyteller, with a keen eye for character - and that is what makes even this very long, and secondary, novel a rapid read." (Oct 20, 1991)
Janet Ward of the Atlanta Journal: "One of Mr. King's finest qualities is his ability to breathe life into ordinary characters. Those is really the saving grace of Needful Things. The plot is the basic good-versus-evil morality play that Mr. King did better in The Stand. But the prose is clean and readable, and Mr. King's fans will not be disappointed. (Sept 29, 1991)

2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

I found nothing published on Needful Things in the past two years.

Assignment 5: Critical Analysis

1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)

Needful Things, written by Stephen King and published in 1991, was one of King's most successful books to date. It sold 1.5 million copies in it's first printing and ranks number 18 on a list of best-selling books written in the last 25 years. The book is still in print and was even made into a motion picture. When it comes to a Stephen King novel, popularity is very hard to determine. Americans just seem to be in love with everything this man writes. "Stephen King is somewhat of record holder also. He has had six books on the NEW YORK TIMES, USA TODAY and PUBLISHER'S Weekly, as bestsellers. Now that is pretty good, but his distinction is that all six books were listed all at the same time!" ( With the exception of the years 1988 and 1993, he has had at least one, sometimes three books on the bestseller list each year dating back to 1979. It is fair to say almost everything written by him, regardless of the content, becomes a best seller based on name recognition alone. His sudden rise to popularity is a strange occurrence. From almost out of nowhere, King emerged with a variation on the horror genre that touched a nerve in the American public. "Stephen King's popularity lies in his ability to reinterpret the standard Gothic tale in new and exciting ways. Through his eyes, the conventional becomes unconventional and wonderful in a way no other author has done. King thus creates his own Gothic world and then interprets it for us."( This sudden rise to fame has baffled some and provoked others to analyze King's success. Books such as The Gothic World of Stephen King: Landscapes and Nightmares, edited by Gary Hoppenstand and Ray B. Brown, have been written about King and his literary success. An exerpt from a short essay by Lint Hatcher called The Strange Popularity of Stephen King's Homespun Horror details King's meteoric rise to fame:
"In the fall of 1971, Stephen King was living with his wife, Tabitha, and their baby daughter, Naomi, in a trailer set atop a snowy hillside in Hermon, Maine. King had graduated from college with a degree in English and a teaching certificate. For quite a while, he had searched unsuccessfully for a teaching position, trying to make ends meet?and mostly failing?first by pumping gas at a filling station and then by pressing sheets at an industrial laundry. The latter earned him $60 a week. Finally, that fall, he was hired as a high school English instructor to the tune of $6,400 a year. He would still spend summers at the laundry factory. In the meantime, King came home, gave his wife a hug (she smelled of crullers from her job at the local Dunkin' Donuts), and placed an Olivetti portable typewriter on a child's desk which he carefully balanced on his knees. From this inauspicious starting point, he proceeded to write novels. Around five of them. Which were all rejected. Then one day Tabitha King reached into the trash can and pulled out the first few discarded pages of a novel and handed them back to her husband. She thought he had something there?more than he apparently realized.
The novel was Carrie. When Doubleday bought the hardcover rights for $2,500, there was much rejoicing in the King family's fragile little home. When New American Library later bought the paperback rights for $400,000, of which King would receive half, "our lives changed so quickly that for more than a year afterward, we walked around with big, sappy grins on our faces, hardly daring to believe we were out of that trap for good," King remembers. "At last I was free to quit teaching and fulfill what I believe is my only function in life: to write books." To celebrate, King went out to find a present for Tabby. Not exactly used to six-figure incomes, he brought back a hair dryer. Like a character in one of his novels, King had no idea of the strange forces coalescing around him.
One might say it was timing. After all, director Brian DePalma took Carrie and turned it into a critically and commercially successful film?placing the name "Stephen King" in the public eye?right there in the middle of a Seventies horror boom, right there in a decade when grown-up, respectable men and women were standing in line to see whether The Exorcist would make them throw up in the aisles, right there when high school kids were debating breathlessly whether the book The Amityville Horror was a big hoax or a real ghost story. Carrie was followed by Salem's Lot, and then came The Shining. King's editor feared the latter borrowed too much from the psychic going's on of Carrie and was perhaps too similar to Robert Marasco's novel, Burnt Offerings. The Shining, however, was a great success, actually inspiring a slew of copy-cat titles?The Piercing, The Burning, The Nesting. Suddenly gerunds were scary. And then, as if to prove that King could not fail, The Shining was followed by a successful short story collection, Night Shift, and by The Stand, a more-massive-than-Michener, 823-page end of the world epic which, rather than landing on bookstore shelves like a lead weight, actually became the favorite novel among a growing horde of Stephen King enthusiasts.
And the momentum has continued?on through more tales of terror like The Dead Zone, Needful Things and his recent Desperation, fantasy like The Eyes of the Dragon, screenplays, comic books and several excursions into the "non-supernatural" such as his novella The Body (which became the film Stand By Me). Although King himself would confess there is an occasional boner in the lot, his career as a whole has involved a degree of constant popular success?popular acceptance?undreamt of by his predecessors in the field of horrific literature. Horror stories take the larger, scarier questions of life and incarnate them, give them flesh, so we can see those mysteries better, prepare for them a little better. The raw material of that incarnational process has to belong to this world. That is, not only does the encroachment take place on our familiar turf?the Something from the Outside also makes itself known, forms itself, if you will, out of the familiar. In order for us to know it, it must draw upon things we know. What we know, fellow traveller of the late twentieth century, is America. King's success, then, lies not only in his profound ability to make his characters and their home towns come to life. It also lies in his ability to incarnate the invading evil out of bits and pieces of the familiar, a rag tag assortment of Americana that, looked at in King's peculiar slant of light, becomes downright creepy. Granted, in King's work there is the simple thrill of the good scare, the book you just can't put down. But there is something deeper going on as well, something that inspires empathy, loyalty, as though he were an old friend sitting on the back porch with us, starting his fourth beer, and philosophizing by starlight. In his pop-cultural world of monsters and mayhem, King is getting at something and we listen to him. As King himself puts it, ?I'm no one's National Book Award or Pulitzer Prize winner, but I'm serious all right. If you don't believe anything else, believe this: when I take you by your hand and begin to talk, my friend, I believe every word I say.'" ( King's popularity seems to account for the inevitable success of his novels. However, popularity aside, there are other factors which made Needful Things one of the most successful STEPHEN KING novels written. One is the changing ways of the book-selling industry detailed in an article from Publisher's Weekly July 1, 1997: "By the time the '80s rolled around, a new word, ?megasellers,' was coined to reflect the new breed of hardcover bestsellers, with seven-figure unit sales that only a few decades earlier would have been regarded as mass market sales. In the 1980s, 13 fiction titles had sales of more than a million copies during their first year of publication. So far in the 1990s, that figure for fiction has swelled to 43. But the wealth here is not going to a broad spectrum of writers; 30 of those 43 home runs are by John Grisham, Stephen King, Tom Clancy and Danielle Steel. Of the best-selling books from the last 25 years, the majority of the titles with the biggest totals have been published in the last 10 years; not surprising, since the expansion of superstores and specialty discount retail outlets have impacted most favorably on brand-name authors. And even if we doubled the list, it would quickly fill up with more titles from these veteran best-selling novelists." Another reason which accounts for the enormous success of Needful Things is the book's sub-topic -- antiques. America's fascination with antiques and collectibles began sometime in the late 80's and continues well into today. During the 80's and average of 30 books per year were published on the subject of collecting and selling antiques. However, between the years of 1989 and 1991, that number skyrocketed to a number totaling over three hundred books. The largest year being 1991 where the total reached 110 books for that year. Such books published were Kovel's Know Your Antiques by Terry Kovel (1990) and There's a Fortune in Your Attic by Anthony Curtis (1991). Hype over the antiquing business was bound to draw even more popularity to King's novel which deals with a satanic old dealer who owns a collectable shop. Again, King has succeeded in tapping into the public interest through his characters, a quality highly praised by critics. Slightly less important but still of note to the book's popularity is the setting. Castle Rock is a town that has been used in many of King's novels before beginning in 1981 with Cujo. Many of the characters and places within this town have become familiar to King readers. The events have almost become a mini soap opera. Needful Things was billed as the Last Castle Rock Story. Many readers may have tuned in to see what was going to become of their favorite little Maine town. While this can't account for the book's huge popularity compared to other best sellers, it may add to the events that made Needful Things on of the most successful Stephen King novels. When all is said and done, it seems that anything King writes, regardless of who the monster is or where the story takes place will be snatched up by the American reading public. King has tapping into something in the American psyche that has resulted in a gold mine. Varying the horror genre has kept him on top. Stephen King has been quoted as saying, "I want to stay dangerous, and that means taking risks."

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