In Stephen King’s Latest Novel, The Evil Are The Intolerant

The legendary writer’s latest story rebukes Trumpian politics in one of his iconic Maine towns.

November 9, 2018 5:00 am
The cover of Stephen King's latest book in front of fireworks, an integral component to the book's plot. Photo illustration by RCL. (Getty)
The cover of Stephen King's latest book in front of fireworks, an integral component to the book's plot. Photo illustration by RCL. (Getty)

In Stephen King’s newest novella, the real monsters are Castle Rock’s conservative and close-minded voters.

Elevation is a 20,000-word snack of a story that was released just ahead of Halloween, set in the tiny Maine town King’s fans have come to know and love. Elevation is being hailed by critics as “uplifting” and “heartwarming,” with some declaring it’s his “lightest work” to date.

But to say Elevation is “light” is to entirely miss the heart of King and the darkness of the characters who live at the core of his stories. This time around, the master storyteller zeroes in on homophobia and bullying that is more terrifying than any swamp lady marinating in Room 217’s bathtub.

It’s the type of story many of his fans on the left will see as timely, but whether King’s book will reach the audience to whom his protagonist is trying to teach a lesson is another matter, thanks to King’s real-life vocal opposition to elected conservatives.

On social media, he regularly denounces the current administration and the GOP. He’s nicknamed the president “Blabbermouth Don” and laments any confusion between he and Steve King, the “racist dumbbell” Republican senator from Iowa. His spit-list continues, including Rudy Giuliani and the rest of the president’s inner circle. Then there are times, like on July 4 of this year, where he’s called for both sides of the aisle to come together, writing: “Progressives, go find a Trump supporting friend–the one you haven’t spoken to since November of 2016–and give him or her a hug. Trumpies, find a “liberal snowflake” friend and do the same. Just for today, let’s all be Americans.” 

The point is this: King is a political guy and his reach is arguably greater than perhaps any other author in human history. But will the good intentions of Elevation fall on deaf ears that could’ve benefitted because of King’s outspoken presence online?

Here’s the brief and spoiler-free snapshot of the story: While Scott Carey suffers from the inexplicable type of weight loss familiar to fans of Thinner, he’s pulled into small-town drama that revolves around a married lesbian couple and the people who want to drive them out.

But for King to paint conservatives as the bad guys — and he does, specifically name-dropping Trump and the people who voted for him in 2016 more than once — is more criticism than constructive, considering the message he’s trying to impart on his readers.

One thing is certain, though. King isn’t leaving the cultural conscience any time soon — and in fact, he’s experiencing a resurgence. The Outline’s Randall Colburn summed it up best when he called King one of mainstream fiction’s “great shapeshifters,” whose relevance ebbs and flows throughout decades — but each time he returns, he’s stronger than ever before. Indeed, over the last two years King has summited another impossibly high peak, topping himself with numbers and publicity that speaks for itself: The bank-busting success of 2017’s It, the Netflix adaptations of Gerald’s Game and 1922, and the J.J. Abrams-executive produced Hulu show, Castle Rock, are just a few. That’s not to mention 2019’s Pet Sematary and It: Chapter Two, both hotly anticipated and landing in theaters next spring and fall respectively.

But the true shelf-life of Elevation, and its ability to expand the minds of readers, is still up in the air. Regardless of your politics in these trying times, pick up the book. You’ll float, too, but in a new and unexpected way from which we all — Republicans and Democrats alike — could benefit.

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