King, Stephen: Misery
(researched by Jonathan Whitehead)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
Viking Penguin, Inc., New York, 1987
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
cloth
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
310 pages, with numbers occurring in the top right corner
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
Small introduction with tha
nks to a few doctors who helped him with factual information, but very small still.
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
The cover jacket was designed by Neil Stuart, but the actual illustration on the front of the jacket was done by Bob Giusti. No illustrations on the inside of the book,
except for typewriter font on section pages which I have included below.
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?)
The physical presentation of the text is quite attractive. The section pages are decorated with not only regular font, but larger print resembling letters
from a typewriter. The typography is very readable, even with the intermission of some pages resembling typewriter type. The book is well printed and put together, and unlike some paperback editions of other Stephen King books, the hardback edition I h
ave is well put together.
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?)
The paper is a type of fineness to it and is not rough. The first edition I have has held up very well over the eleven years of its existence. It appears to have basically just come off the printer, an
d looks new. The book has held up well, and would fit in anyone's collection.
11 Description of binding(s)
The pages are bound to a gray hardback, except for the black strip over the part where the book is actually bound. The pages are attached to a red and black strip, which is
then attached to an orange rougher paper which is attached in turn to the hardback. This probably serves as a double-layer to protect the book over time. It is if nothing else, colorful.
12 Transcription of title page
STEPHEN KING, and then under it MISERY in a typewriter font. F
inally, at the bottom there is a little ship with VIKING written under it.
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
Either Mr. King still holds onto the manuscript, or it is in the possession of R.R. Donnelley and Sons, in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The aforementioned ar
e the printers of the book in America. But I would think it is still in the possession of Mr. King.
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
Viking/Penguin the original publisher of the book also released a hardcover edition of Misery in May of 1990. It was published just as the first edition was
by Viking. The cover art differs greatly from the first edition's dust jacket. The new art consists of giant snowflakes falling on an iron gate which has pointed stakes. The snowflakes are of a white-blue mixed color and the gate is black trimmed in b
lue. As the first edition there are no illustrations.
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?
There were 900,000 printings of the first edition.
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
There are many other editions from other publishers. First, there is the first edition in paperback published by a division of Penguin, S
ignet, from 1988. Then, another paperback edition from Aims International Books appeared in May 1989. Demco Media produced a Reprint Edition in October 1990. Also, in October of 1990 New American Library Trade published Misery in a collection with It a
nd Eyes of the Dragon. Next in 1994 the Mass Market Paperback Edition from New American Library appeared in December. Finally, In November of 1995 New American Library once again published the Boxed Mass Market Paperback edition of Misery along with It
and Eyes of the Dragon by Mr. King.
6 Last date in print?
I don't have this information yet, but Misery seems to be reprinted all the time, and most probably is still selling.
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
819, 468 sold in 1987. Source is Bowker's Annual, 33rd Ed. 1988. Reed Publishing, New York
, p. 528.
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
The ad contains a copy of the first edition's cover art with the words- "If you think terror has limits, you don't know Misery." Placed in the New York Times, June 7, 1987.
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
11 Other promotion
Any other promotion would come from Stephen King's interview
with the Plain Dealer's Julie Washington on January 31, 1988, shortly after the publication of the book.
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
The audiocassete version of Misery was put out by Penguin in June 1995, and contains 6 cassettes. Almost simultaneously in November of 1995, the S
panish edition of Misery on audiocassettes appeared from Penguin Audiobooks. Then in 1990 came the movie version of Misery produced by Nelson Entertainment and distributed by Castle Rock Entertainment. It was directed by Rob Reiner, and the script was w
ritten by William Goldman and Stephen King. The two main characters, Paul Sheldon and Annie Wilkes, were played by James Caan and Kathy Bates, respectively. Ms. Bates won a Golden Globe and Academy Award in 1990 for her portrayal of Annie Wilkes, the on
ly actor to win any major award from any Stephen King movie adaptation.
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
Misery has been translated into 31 languages and here they go: Hungarian, Icelandic, Catalan, Indonesian, Chinese, Italian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Russian, Finnish, B
ulgarian, Hebrew, Swedish, Turkish, Greek, Norwegian, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Rumanian, Serbo-Croatian, Slovak, Slovene, and Ukranian.
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
N/A
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
N/A-though the character of Annie Wilkes resembles many other large
psychotic female characters Stephen King has placed in other works.
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
The man know affecionately to his fans and critics alike as the "King of Horror" and "Master of Macabre", Stephen King in lay terms, was born to Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury-King on September 21, 1947 in Portl
and, Maine. This red-blooded American male was preceeded by an adopted brother, David, born and brought into the family in 1945. However, the household was not happy for young Stephen when little 2 year-old Stephen was left to his mother when his father
took off. Stephen has not seen his father since that time. Nellie toted David and Stephen from Maine to Massachusetts and back during their younger years. The characteristic love of writing and science fiction and horror was born when 12 year-old Step
hen picked up a box of science fiction and horror magazines in his Aunt's house. In fact, he was first published in a comic book with his "I Was A Teenage Grave Robber." And his first sale came eight years later in Startling Mystery Stories with his st
ory, "The Glass Floor." King graduated from high school in 1966 and moved on to college at the University of Maine at Orono. He graduated with a bachelor of science degree in English in 1970. It was at this university that he met his wife-to-be Tabitha
Spruce, and in 1971 they were married. The early years of the King family was one of love and struggle. Stephen took jobs at a laundromat, was a janitor, and finally landed a job teaching English at Hamden Public School in Maine. Still the going was t
ough as he didn't make enough to pay all the bills, and Tabitha had to slave away at a local doughnut shop with long hours. But Stephen kept his dream of being a writer alive throughout all of this struggle. In 1974, King finally hit paydirt and succes
s when Doubleday published his first novel, Carrie. Stephen was a ripe old man of 27 at this point. The story goes that when Tabitha arrived home from the donut shop smelling of cruellers and found out the great news, Stephen went out to get her a celeb
ration present. Not used to all the money and future thrown at him, he brought her back a toaster. Then a key connection was hit with the Brian De Palma directed movie adaptation of Carrie, that was a hit just like the book. Over 30 more novels and 100
million copies in print later, Stephen is still writing with the same fortitude and ability that he did in his early years. But King was not without challenge. When The Shining was printed in 1977, the editor thought it was too much like other psycholo
gical horror novels out there and almost didn't put it out. Instead King's amazing novel was a smashing success, and the film version by Stanley Kubrick is one of the top four translations of Stephen King's books to the movie screen, along with Carrie
, The Dead Zone, and Misery. Even though some of his novels are not as well received as others, King is a sure thing when it comes to book sales and satisfying his fans. Even these skeptical critics are drawn in often by his work. As far as family life
, Stephen remains married to Tabitha after all these years, and they share a somewhat creepy looking mansion in Bangor, Maine today. They have three children-Owen Phillip, Joseph Hillstrom, and Naomi Rachel. Stephen even made up an alter-ego to publish
some books under-Richard Bachman. Bachman books include such King classics as The Running Man and Thinner. However, Bachman died an untimely death at the height of his fame in 1985, of cancer of the pseudonym, a rare form of schizonomia. But in 1994, h
is dutiful wife discovered some hidden manuscripts and picked out the most finished one and it was published in 1996 posthumously, The Regulators. King's hobbies include rock n' roll music and baseball. He has even formed a local band in Bangor, the "
Rock Bottom Remainders", with such notables as humor columnist Dave Barry and creator of the "Life is Hell" comic strip and "The Simpsons" comic books and show Matt Groenig. Stephen then has purchased and fixed his own Little League field where the Littl
e League with his children play. He has stated that he wrote part of his Green Mile series in Fenway Park, home of his team the Boston Red Sox, during a rain delay. And surprisingly, King, the Frightmaster, has quite a few fears of his own: Fear of inse
cts, Fear of rats, closed in spaces, snakes, and fear of the dark. Stephen has published with Doubleday, Viking/Penguin, and a host of other publishers. He has auctioned a few of his manuscripts off for charity, but keeps the majority of them in his pos
session, including my book Misery. A list of his published works: Carrie-1974 'Salems Lot-1975 Rage-1977 The Shining-1977 Night Shift-1978 The Stand-1978 The Long Walk-1979 The Dead Zone-1979 Firestarter-1980 Roadwork-1981 Cujo-1981 Danse Macabre-1981 Creepshow-1982 The Running Man-1982 The Dark Tower:The Gunslinger-1982 Different Seasons-1982 Christine-1983 Pet Sematary-1983 The Talisman-1984 Thinner-1984 Cycle of the Werewolf-1985 Skeleton Crew-1985 It-1986 The Dark TowerII:The Drawing of the Three-1987 The Eyes of the Dragon-1987 Misery-1987 The TommyKnockers-1987 Nightmares-1988 Dark Visions-1988 The Dark Half-1989 The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition-1990 Four Past Midnight-1990 Needful Things-1991 The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands-1992 Dolores Claiborne-1992 Gerald's Game-1993 Nightmares and Dreamscapes-1993 Insomnia-1994 Rose Madder-1995 Desperation-1996 The Regulators-1996 The Green Mile parts 1-6-1996 The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass-1997
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
First off I'm sorry I couldn't find any fantastically negative reviews with bold, outrageous comments. The few that did start off with a negative slant had by the end still praised Stephen King's Misery. Prob
ably the first review published off Misery was in Publisher's Weekly, May 1, 1987. Not surprisingly Publisher's Weekly praises King's work here, and part of that probably comes from the fact that he sells so many books for these publishers. The first
line especially grabs you, "King's new novel is unadulteratedly terrifying." As do most reviews, Publisher's Weekly then gives a couple paragraph review of the book. One thing they particularly seem to like is King's use of the novel within the nove
l, as his lead character composes a novel during Misery. "Studded among the frightening moments are sparkling reflections on the writer and his audience, on the difficulties, joys and responsibilities of being a storyteller." The main character of Paul
Sheldon is seen as a type of King himself as King expounds through Sheldon many of the parts of writing. They love the development of the two main characters, and surprisingly they end with this quote, "The best parts of this novel demand that we take Ki
ng seriously as a writer with a deeply felt understanding of human psychology." No negative slant here, only a praise of Misery and King's developing writing sense. The next review is no doubt a very influential review as it comes from Sunday, May 31,
1987 New York Times by John Katzenbach. Katzenbach at first expounds on the prolific nature of King in his writing and refers to his ability to take his books to the top of the charts. Katzenbach though looks at this development in a strange way, though
. He isn't resentful of King for his selling, but sees the money he makes overshadowing the actual writing going on, "It is easy to lose sight of the realization that "Misery" is a novel that would probably demand considerable interest even were it not
from the writing phenomenon that is Stephen King." Katzenbach sees Misery as standing apart from the "normal" King horror novel. He designates the character development of the two main characters and the cliffhanger that supports the whole narrative of
Wilkes torturing her idol, Sheldon. Katzenbach definitely takes this work seriously, "He(King) delves deely into the psychology of creation, and it is to his credit that much of the tension in the book stems from the devilish dilemna the author-hero disc
overs." Katzenbach is delighted by the character and dilemna of Paul Sheldon. He sees Misery's strength not in its truly frightening nature but in the reality of the situation and the delightful writing of King. I'm sure that this review helped King
sell a few copies of Misery to some literary bigwigs that normally wouldn't touch it. Another influential review comes from Carolyn Banks of the Sunday, June 14 Washington Post. She sees the character of Sheldon and his writing as heavily autobiographi
c by King. But in a description I had not seen yet she also describes it as his most funny novel to date. She admires the "round character" of Annie Wilkes and enjoys the frightening humor she begins to the situation. Banks also feels that Misery is fr
ightening not only because of King's horror touch, but also because of his creation of deep characters and the horrible things that happen to them. She also praises his use of the art of writing in the book, "In addition to being able to scare the reade
r breathless, he is able, in this book, to say a tremendous amount about writing itself, about its "deep and elemental drawing power, its letdowns, its challenges." Banks loves King's placing of much of himself in Sheldon and how he exploits this to tak
e humorous shots at himself. Once again this sounds like a reviewer who for the first time really delighted in the writing of King, not just his ability to keep you reading in terror page after page. On a different note I come to the review by Karen Lib
atore in Friday, May 29 edition of The San Francisco Chronicle. He sees King's portrayal of the suffering of Sheldon as a metaphor for King crying about his condition as he rakes in the dough for his bestsellers. Liberatore is definitely reacting again
st King's success, and feels it should reel in his critical comments because of that success. This is not to say that she didn't enjoy the book, "Misery is a great and offensive horror story with terror that builds on a frightening sesne of being there
. It's as good as King gets." However much she enjoys King's novel, Liberatore has to take a negative slant at times because of what she perceives as King's whining. While all of the reviews sounded astounded by the money and book sales King had, Li
beratore was the only one that I saw let it affect her review. She delights a little in the self-conscious jabs that King makes at himself, but can't get over his perceived whining. These are a handful of the most influential or exciting reviews I could find. I'm surprised the header to one of these reviews didn't read, "Gasp, Stephen King really can write." This novel, if you believe the reviews prove that Stephen King is not ju
st a gore writer. Many reviews point out that he explores many of the themes of popular literature through the years and also utilizes many of them in his novel, Misery. Most of these reviews paint the picture of the novel as not as scary or frightening
as King's previous works of horror. Rather they describe it as a great development of the two central, and basically only, characters, Paul Sheldon and Annie Wilkes. It seems a jump up in ability seen from King for most of the reviewers. They all are
amazed at his success in monetary terms and in the writing of his book. On the whole they are very positive, and all the stuff I've ever seen on Misery seems to paint it as if not the best of King's work, then definitely up there with the likes of "Th
e Shining" or "It". A couple of strange things popped up in the reviews such as The Boston Globe's mistaking the name of Paul Sheldon as Paul Leonard. Or some reviews claim that Sheldon wrecks in Wyoming while others say he wrecked in Colorado. In con
clusion, I was not surprised by how positive the reviews were. Sources most used: Ray Murphy, Boston Globe. June 14, 1987. John Katzenbach, New York Times. May 31, 1987. Carolyn Banks, Washington Post Book World. June 14, 1987. Karen Liberatore, San Francisco Chronicle. May 29,1987. Sybil Steinberg,Publisher's Weekly. May 1, 1987, p. 52.
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
First off I'm sorry I couldn't find any fantastically negative reviews with bold, outrageous comments. The few that did start off with a negative slant had by the end still praised Stephen King's Misery. Prob
ably the first review published off Misery was in Publisher's Weekly, May 1, 1987. Not surprisingly Publisher's Weekly praises King's work here, and part of that probably comes from the fact that he sells so many books for these publishers. The first
line especially grabs you, "King's new novel is unadulteratedly terrifying." As do most reviews, Publisher's Weekly then gives a couple paragraph review of the book. One thing they particularly seem to like is King's use of the novel within the nove
l, as his lead character composes a novel during Misery. "Studded among the frightening moments are sparkling reflections on the writer and his audience, on the difficulties, joys and responsibilities of being a storyteller." The main character of Paul
Sheldon is seen as a type of King himself as King expounds through Sheldon many of the parts of writing. They love the development of the two main characters, and surprisingly they end with this quote, "The best parts of this novel demand that we take Ki
ng seriously as a writer with a deeply felt understanding of human psychology." No negative slant here, only a praise of Misery and King's developing writing sense. The next review is no doubt a very influential review as it comes from Sunday, May 31,
1987 New York Times by John Katzenbach. Katzenbach at first expounds on the prolific nature of King in his writing and refers to his ability to take his books to the top of the charts. Katzenbach though looks at this development in a strange way, though
. He isn't resentful of King for his selling, but sees the money he makes overshadowing the actual writing going on, "It is easy to lose sight of the realization that "Misery" is a novel that would probably demand considerable interest even were it not
from the writing phenomenon that is Stephen King." Katzenbach sees Misery as standing apart from the "normal" King horror novel. He designates the character development of the two main characters and the cliffhanger that supports the whole narrative of
Wilkes torturing her idol, Sheldon. Katzenbach definitely takes this work seriously, "He(King) delves deely into the psychology of creation, and it is to his credit that much of the tension in the book stems from the devilish dilemna the author-hero disc
overs." Katzenbach is delighted by the character and dilemna of Paul Sheldon. He sees Misery's strength not in its truly frightening nature but in the reality of the situation and the delightful writing of King. I'm sure that this review helped King
sell a few copies of Misery to some literary bigwigs that normally wouldn't touch it. Another influential review comes from Carolyn Banks of the Sunday, June 14 Washington Post. She sees the character of Sheldon and his writing as heavily autobiographi
c by King. But in a description I had not seen yet she also describes it as his most funny novel to date. She admires the "round character" of Annie Wilkes and enjoys the frightening humor she begins to the situation. Banks also feels that Misery is fr
ightening not only because of King's horror touch, but also because of his creation of deep characters and the horrible things that happen to them. She also praises his use of the art of writing in the book, "In addition to being able to scare the reade
r breathless, he is able, in this book, to say a tremendous amount about writing itself, about its "deep and elemental drawing power, its letdowns, its challenges." Banks loves King's placing of much of himself in Sheldon and how he exploits this to tak
e humorous shots at himself. Once again this sounds like a reviewer who for the first time really delighted in the writing of King, not just his ability to keep you reading in terror page after page. On a different note I come to the review by Karen Lib
atore in Friday, May 29 edition of The San Francisco Chronicle. He sees King's portrayal of the suffering of Sheldon as a metaphor for King crying about his condition as he rakes in the dough for his bestsellers. Liberatore is definitely reacting again
st King's success, and feels it should reel in his critical comments because of that success. This is not to say that she didn't enjoy the book, "Misery is a great and offensive horror story with terror that builds on a frightening sesne of being there
. It's as good as King gets." However much she enjoys King's novel, Liberatore has to take a negative slant at times because of what she perceives as King's whining. While all of the reviews sounded astounded by the money and book sales King had, Li
beratore was the only one that I saw let it affect her review. She delights a little in the self-conscious jabs that King makes at himself, but can't get over his perceived whining. These are a handful of the most influential or exciting reviews I could find. I'm surprised the header to one of these reviews didn't read, "Gasp, Stephen King really can write." This novel, if you believe the reviews prove that Stephen King is not ju
st a gore writer. Many reviews point out that he explores many of the themes of popular literature through the years and also utilizes many of them in his novel, Misery. Most of these reviews paint the picture of the novel as not as scary or frightening
as King's previous works of horror. Rather they describe it as a great development of the two central, and basically only, characters, Paul Sheldon and Annie Wilkes. It seems a jump up in ability seen from King for most of the reviewers. They all are
amazed at his success in monetary terms and in the writing of his book. On the whole they are very positive, and all the stuff I've ever seen on Misery seems to paint it as if not the best of King's work, then definitely up there with the likes of "Th
e Shining" or "It". A couple of strange things popped up in the reviews such as The Boston Globe's mistaking the name of Paul Sheldon as Paul Leonard. Or some reviews claim that Sheldon wrecks in Wyoming while others say he wrecked in Colorado. In con
clusion, I was not surprised by how positive the reviews were. Sources most used: Ray Murphy, Boston Globe. June 14, 1987. John Katzenbach, New York Times. May 31, 1987. Carolyn Banks, Washington Post Book World. June 14, 1987. Karen Liberatore, San Francisco Chronicle. May 29,1987. Sybil Steinberg,Publisher's Weekly. May 1, 1987, p. 52.
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
Jonathan Whitehead ENTC 312-Unsworth Why do we enjoy Misery? Stephen King has a way of writing books about gruesome and horrifying topics that sell very well, and are generally received well by critics. Misery is no exception to King's library. But why is this tale about a deranged fan torturing her favorite au
thor such a winner? The reasons for the warm reception of Misery range from current events when the book was published in 1987 to the movie edition that did very well. In the end though all the critical praise and reception by the fans comes down to one
factor, Stephen King himself. Through his personality and celebrity, and also his basic ability to write, King has fashioned in Misery another in a long line of bestsellers. In a critical essay, first we must look at the critic's response to the book. King is often perceived as simply a horror hack spinning tales of ghosts and goblins haunting little children or of monsters devouring cities. However, King has worked hard
and well to prove himself as something more than this. Often he delves into the arena of the human mind in his writing, and through a certain knowledge of the derangements of the human mind creates all-to-real monsters and would-be-heros in fantastical t
ales. While even the critics refer to him as the "Master of Horror" or "King of Gothic", in their reviews of Misery they recognize King's desire and ability to step a little out of this genre. Misery has only two characters in ninety-nine percent of th
e book, away from the group mentality that is often found in King's other work. Also, the story is not necessarily one of horror, but of more character study and suspense. All but one reviewer I found, and even that one is somewhat undecided, really se
emed to enjoy this different style of writing by King: "Even if 'Misery' is less terrifying than his usual work - no demons, no witchcraft, no nether-world horrors - it creates strengths out of its realities. Its excitements are more subtle. And, as s
uch, it is an intriguing work."(John Katzenbach, New York Times.May 31, 1987.) This quote also brings up another aspect of Misery that the critics raved about- King's somewhat satirical look at the writing profession and at himself. Misery is the story of a writer who under extreme circumstances authors his finest work. The critics saw this as King making a little semi-autobiography of himself in the character of Paul Sheldon, and they praise this self-conscious twist. King makes
many statements about the process of writing in this book through Sheldon, and the critics realize this as a close look at how King and other writers work. This fascinates them: "In addition to being able to scare the reader breathless, he is able, in t
his book, to say a tremendous amount about writing itself, about its 'deep and elemental drawing power,' its letdowns, its challenges."(Carolyn Banks, Washington Post.June14, 1987) An inside look into King is what Misery seems to promise, and the criti
cs are happy to join this introspective view. But in the end what draws the most praise from the critics is the book's story and characters. King is known as a master storyteller, and even admits this about himself, and the critics really saw something
gripping in Misery. Some reviews see Annie Wilkes, the nurse who rescues Paul Sheldon, as a very well rounded and fleshed out character who provides great terror. All the reviews are quite laudatory towards the character of Paul Sheldon, because throug
h him King expresses some of himself, but also he is an interesting and intricate character. Also, the complicated relationship between these two characters excites the psychiatrist in the reviewers who try to examine it. Even though the story is not on
e of direct horror, they still see the plot as "cliffhanging" and keeping the pages turning. The reviewers view King in Misery as combining "serious" writing and storytelling into one globe that they can deconstruct, but also sit back and enjoy. After hearing what all the critics have to say about Misery, the book's popularity definitely stems from what was going on in the world and especially the U.S. when the book was published in May of 1987. The year in the U.S. dwelt on a lot of what woul
d be called "right-wing" issues. Ronald Reagan was still in the presidency, even though he had some health problems. Congress was controlled by the Democrats, creating some tension between these two branches of government that was played up in the press
. Also, the Iran-Contra affair was in full speed having started in November of 1986. Americans watched and waited to hear what was happening with their troops and hoping not to have more government corruption come to light. Next in line was Gary Hart'
s dropping out of the presidential race later in the year because of sexual improprieties he committed. This also dominated the news of that year. Personally I do not see why this book was not even more popular with all this bad news coming out. This book served to turn attention or provide escape from all the disturbing things going on in real life. They could travel to Paul Sheldon's problems and watch a play of sorts develop in their imagination and on the page, not on the evening news. Ki
ng definitely knows what is going on in the world and slips little notes to readers at different points. Paul Sheldon ends up in his problematic situation with Annie Wilkes because he crashes his Camaro and crushes his legs in the process. Later we lear
n through a flashback by Paul that he has a Gary Hart for President sticker on his bumper, a faded sticker. Also, earlier, Paul compares his situation to a part Ronald Reagan had played in his days as an actor. Clearly King recognizes what is going on i
n his world and how things work in this alternate but very closely related reality. Another very powerful happening in the world that affects this novel is the Cold War. The Cold War is definitely still in effect as Reagan in his State of the Union address mentions Russia's deployment of troops in certain areas, and how this violates
goodwill. Annie and Paul are engaged in their own kind of Cold War. They each have a certain amount of power: Paul depends on Annie in his weakened state, but he also is writing a new Misery novel for her and she waits on his every chapter. They are st
alemated for a while in their movements against each other because of their dependence, just like the two superpowers were. Eventually though this is a Stephen King novel and the stalemate is broken by the fact that Annie is insane. And we cannot forget
that this novel was published in the "me" era of greed, the 1980's. Paul thinks of writing as the business that it is because he lives in the 80's. But Annie in her naivete and her psychosis lives somewhere in the past and she cannot stand for him to
speak of writing in this way: "Annie, one of the first things you find out in this business...'Don't call it that. I hate it when you call it that.' He looked at her, honestly puzzled. 'Call what what?' 'When you pervert the talent God gave yo
u by calling it a business. I hate that.'" (Misery.p. 65-6.) King, through Annie in one of the few moments we may like or pity her, speaks of a code that opposes the business-minded workings. This code of writing because of the love and joy it inspire
s, Paul Sheldon speaks often of. This is something King seems to believe in through all the hype and big business. But one review also brings us back to the reality of things in the publishing world. Karen Liberatore of the San Francisco Chronicle voic
es her disgust with King: "save for one irritating quality. It's not polite to whine in public and charge $18.95 plus tax for the luxury." (Karen Liberatore, San Francisco Chronicle. May 29, 1987.) This honest and ideal believing side of King is temper
ed with the business side that is always evident and this particular reviewer takes umbrage with it. King is a shrewd businessman as he has shown time and again in his dealings with publishing houses over his worth, and this definitely reflects the time
he was living in. He wants to believe in the fact that he enjoys writing and telling stories as his character Paul Sheldon does, and I am sure King does really enjoy this because of the love he seems to pour into his writing. But it is a business, and P
aul Sheldon and Stephen King of the 1980's realize this. The success of Misery may also be tied into the connections both critics and audiences alike can make with some of King's other novels. Misery most resembles one of King's first successes in novel form and on the bigscreen, The Shining. The setting i
n Misery is a cabin near a small town in Colorado, and in The Shining it is a resort hotel in Colorado. Both work's main characters are writers who are dealing with writing blocks, though one breaks out of this block by typing the same sentence for hund
reds of pages and the other pens his best work. Also, the snow factor works into both works pretty heavily. The snow is the reason that Jack Torrance in The Shining is watching the resort with his family since the guests can do nothing during the heavy
snow season. In Misery, the snow (and the fact that Paul is drunk) cause him to lose control of his car and crash and then the snowstorm covers his car and delays his rescue. Both novels also deal with the progressive onslaught of madness and what can h
appen to the human mind. This is where they resemble each other most, I think. Annie gets worse and falls deeper into her psychosis throughout the novel as Paul tells it, and Jack in The Shining starts out normal and sane but as he deals with the resort
hotel he goes mad. King fans and casual readers would easily recognize these similarities and latch on to the workings of both of these novels. The Shining was a big success for King, in both novel and movie form, and this success is passed on to Miser
y. Another motif of Misery that is shared with other King fiction and non-fiction alike is the strong feminine character, even if she happens to be crazy. In King's non-fiction work Danse Macabre, published in 1981, he discussed a nightmare he has when he
is stressed in his writing. It details the story of a madwoman who roams the house where King is working and who finally gets to the breaking point by hearing his typewriter and comes to kill him. Misery looks not much further than this vision. But An
nie is also at times a sympathetic and strong feminine figure that even Paul Sheldon admires. King explores this motif often in some of his fiction, most notably Dolores Claiborne, Carrie, and Rose Madder. Still most of these empowered women are dangero
us, but King also writes many positive feminine characters. Most of these works also share something else-popularity at the box office. The motion picture version of Misery, released in 1990, was well received both critically and popularly. Kathy Bates won the Academy Award for Best Female Lead for her performance of Annie Wilkes. Understandably, this created a new surge in popularity
for the book. However, the movie also did something else for the novel. Since the movie was so well-liked by audiences and seen as a "good" movie, it created a sense of respectability for King in a different audience. I know at least for myself and som
e of my friends it did. Previous to my screening of the picture, I had thought of King as someone who wrote only scary novels. The characters in this movie were both frightening and likable in a way, and drew me to explore some of King's other work tha
t I had never thought of doing before. Maybe the Oscar did this for me and others, but King also helped write the movie script and embellishes the characters as he does in the book. A younger audience I think was drawn closer to the literary works of Ki
ng and had a new type of respect for him after seeing the movie. In the end though, I attribute most of the success to Stephen King himself. First, there is just the specter of the author as celebrity that King through his amazing sales figures and popular identity creates. Not many other authors at the time would h
ave received a 900,000 to 1 million first printing or gotten $40,000 of promotion. The advertisements are very well put together and through their manipulation create a sense of wanting to read the book. America's love for celebrities is enormous and K
ing plays his cards very well on this point. He is loved by his fans for being the type of strange figure who lives up in Bangor, Maine in a creepy old mansion. He consistently puts out pictures of himself on his back covers in very strange faces, and w
ith his thick glasses he looks like a character right out of one of his books. King attends horror writer conventions and is known for a quirky sense of humor that appears in his books. This persona is also translated to the big screen, as King takes sm
all parts in many movie adaptations of his novels, pulling an Alfred Hitchcock. His fans have grown to love him this way, and he only feeds the flame with Misery. King's books are instant bestsellers because of this reputation. The reputation also translates into the novel with the figure of Paul Sheldon. The reviews and even the sleeve of the hardcover first edition tells the story of the writer who is trapped by the crazy fan. This is a type of soap opera paparazzi thing th
at King plays, but more importantly he develops the story of the writer and storyteller as a version of himself. The fans and readers want to know more about this celebrity, and through his discussion of writing and Paul Sheldon he gives a little piece o
f himself to them. The readers for whom Danse Macabre was too intellectual, here is a perfect substitute. The fans want to know about their favorite celebrity, and through Misery King gives them both this and a fascinating novel to continue the strand. For all of the reasons above, Misery has stood for quite some time now as one of King's most popular novels. It still gets strong responses I noted on e-mail discussion groups and on reviews on amazon.com. King gives us another great story to follow
and involve ourselves in while trying to provide some serious writing. When I picked this book I had only seen the movie to reference it by. It seemed like an easy choice, but when I began reading at first I thought it was a little abstract and strange.
I mean come-on, I am going to read three-hundred pages about some bedridden writer and his crazy humongous nurse. But once I picked it up for certain I was hooked and through all the interruptions and commotions of life I did not want to put Misery do
wn. I wanted to see what would happen to Paul and Annie regardless of the fact that I basically knew what was going to happen. King once again creates great characters and story you care about and it comes down to this: "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.'"(Lint Hatcher, "Gadfly".p.18).
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