stephen king: working-class hero

5129on8lHdL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Naben Ruthnum at The Walrus:

King’s childhood in Connecticut and Maine was something of a blend of the lives he created for Lachance and Chambers in The Body. Like Lachance, King had a talent for storytelling. Like Chambers, he grew up without much money. King’s mother raised her two sons alone in the 1950s by taking on a series of low-paying jobs: shifts in a bakery and an industrial laundry, and housekeeping at a facility for the mentally ill. The strong women who populate King’s work—Wendy Torrance in The Shining (1977), a far cry from the trembling Shelley Duvall in the movie, and hardworking housekeeper Dolores Claiborne—reflect King’s admiration for his own mother’s efforts to get her boys a college education.

The stakes were high. In 1966, when King was in his last year of high school, the Vietnam war machine was at full throttle. Not being admitted into college would have meant getting drafted. To help with tuition, King got a job at a mill, a place he later described as “a dingy fuckhole overhanging the polluted Androscoggin River like a workhouse in a Charles Dickens novel.” Every day after school, he punched in for an eight-hour shift, went home to sleep for several hours, attended classes, then punched in again. His first notable story sale, in 1970, to a men’s magazine called Cavalier, was about the enormous rats under the mill. The grimy horror tale, “Graveyard Shift,” landed him the equivalent of a few weeks’ pay.

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