When I was a wee slip of a lad of about 15, I used to listen to Oldies 103, the local station that only played music of the 50s and early 60s. It was my weird form of rebellion against my parents; I was all about the Righteous Brothers and Sam the Sham while listened to The Black Crowes (Mom) and Hole (Dad). I spent most of my Sunday nights with Oldies 103. Now, Saturday nights were pretty packed for me, because that was not only Dungeons & Dragons night, but me and my friends usually watched Star Trek: The Next Generation before jumping into the game. Really, it was a nonstop rave of a Saturday night. But Sundays, I’d lock myself in my room and lay on my bed and read and re-read Stephen King novels, and listen to Oldies 103, at least until Doctor Demento came on and I really became a nerd stereotype. And because I was super alone and lonely, sometimes, just sometimes, I would call the station and pretend to be someone named Arnie, requesting a dedication to my girlfriend Christine.
Guys, I was referencing the love story about a boy and his car in the Stephen King novel Christine.
Back when I was developing my most basic ideas about what love and romance should be, the book Christine entranced me. Being a super mega gay in shy little straight boy clothes, I was very familiar with the idea of one-way desire. The concept of giving yourself over completely to the love/lust/need for someone else, especially if those feeling aren’t reciprocated, and especially if the outcome seems tragic – well, that fit right into my worldview. Look, I’m not saying I directly or consciously took the story about a kid obsessively in love with his car as an instruction manual for how I should approach love; I’m just saying that, looking back on things, it seems to have had more of an impact than one might first assume. I had crushes back then, of course I did. There was a boy who couldn’t love me back. And then some awful stuff happened, and, to my 16-year-old self, well. It was a tragedy.
You know, early on, I might have actually been more swayed by the movie than the book. It was like that in my early involvement with Stephen King. By 1990, when I was fifteen, of course I’d read both Misery and It, but it was the movie adaptations that had me running back, looking for depth and nuance the movies – perhaps by necessity – missed. The movie version of Christine really pushed up the weird romance angle; there’s one scene in which Arnie is inside Christine and he’s just leaning against her steering wheel, and there’s Johnny Ace playing “Pledging My Love,” and it’s fucked up, but it’s also darkly beautiful. Maybe even he knows how badly it’s going to end, but he can’t help but love her. It? Her.
In the past dozen years, I have read Christine more often than any other novel – seven times. There’s a constant refrain in the book: his unending fury. That’s what the novel has been, popping up whenever I need or want it. It’s not the best Stephen King novel (that might be The Shining. Or It. Or Bag of Bones. Or Dolores Claiborne. Look, there’s a lot.) and it’s not my favorite Stephen King novel (that would be It), but it’s the one I keep going back to, time and again. Why? Well, prosaically, it’s an easy novel to read. The characters have depth, but they’re not exactly complex. The storyline is fairly straightforward. A lot of King’s tropes – nostalgia, history, male friendships, the concept of a “bad place,” pretty girls with some agency who are nonetheless in peril – get touched on, but they’re not exactly delved into. It’s not a difficult read.
But: Christine gets me. Right in the feels. Now, over twenty years since graduating high school, I can still reach out and grab my ambivalent feelings toward growing up and becoming real to an outside world that didn’t have to care about me (and which often chose not to). I don’t know if the book resonates more because I actually can’t drive, but I have to think that has something to do with it, just as I relate to some of Bruce Springsteen’s most resonant work about cars and getting out. It’s not the best and it’s not my favorite, but I keep going back to Christine, because I love it, and I will always love it. Her? Yes.
And now? Well, now it’s on me forever. It’s my unending Fury.