This may be hard to believe coming from someone who has been writing about books on the Internet for a year now (yes, RWH celebrated its first birthday this week!), but I occasionally fall into reading slumps. It's always very sad. Sarah McLachlan ASPCA commercial sad. Just imagine that mournful voice bending all the vowels in the phrase “In the arrrrrrrrrrrrms ahhhhhhhhve the aaaaaaaaaaaaangels” layered over my face instead of a bunch of sad-eyed dogs with burn scars and missing tails.
A reading slump is like standing in front of a dessert buffet with cheesecake, tiramisu, and chocolate fondue and whining that nothing sounds good. I browse through my lengthy to-read list with my bottom lip stuck out, rejecting each possibility for increasingly ridiculous reasons. That one's too long. That one's too serious. This one's too fluffy. That one is short stories, and I want a novel. This one has a long hold list at the library. That one has a green cover. DON'T THEY KNOW I HATE GREEN COVERS?!
It's good to have a few authors in your back pocket for times like these. Authors you've read and liked before, who won't challenge you in unexpected ways, who will gently usher you back into the world of sanity. These authors' books are palate cleansers. Before you know it, you'll be right back to unbridled chain-reading, lamenting how many books there are that you can't wait to read and how few hours there are in a day to read them.
For me, Stephen King is on the shortlist of Authors Most Likely to Bust a Reading Slump, and he came through for me bigtime with Revival. Science, electricity, rock and roll, religion, magic, manipulation—it's a creepy and fascinating combination.
Jamie is six when he first meets Charles Jacobs. At the time, Jacobs is the town's new Methodist pastor, and Jamie takes to him immediately. (I was sold as well; having grown up Methodist, I had to smile at how perfectly King nails Methodist reticence. Jamie reacts in horror when Jacobs kneels down next to him—“You're not going to pray, are you?”—and is relieved when the pastor assures him that no, he's not going to pray; all he's doing is getting a better look at Jamie's army men. That's classic Methodism: we're fine praying and everything at church at the appropriate time, but don't start freestyling with us, that's just not cool.) At first Rev. Jacobs is a benign or even beneficial force in Jamie's life—he tinkers with electricity as a hobby and doesn't mind teaching Jamie about his methods as he works.
With time, however, Jamie's connection to Jacobs grows mysterious, then sinister. A terrible accident forces the Reverend to confront his beliefs, a reckoning that leads him down a dark road. Eventually Jamie will have no choice but to follow, and the repercussions will be devastating.
King's books are consistent bestsellers for good reason. Most of all, they're just so readable. No, they're not fancy (or pretentious) enough to discuss in a college seminar, but he has a gift for conversational narration that pulls me right in. You don't need time to settle into a Stephen King novel. You open it to the first page, and it's 0 to 60 in just a few lines. And then, thank the merciful Lord, you're off on an adventure, your reading slump left behind in the dust.