Lilja’s Library: The World of Stephen King
By Hans-Ake Lilja
Illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne
Cemetery Press, 2010, 508 pages, $40.00
Review by Wayne C. Rogers
I’m only going to review the first half of Lilja’s Library: The World of Stephen King by Hans-Ake Lilja here because that’s all I’ve had time to read at the present.
Let me say right from the start that if you’re a collector, or fan, of Stephen King’s writing, then you want this book in your library. No matter how much you think you know about this famous author, I can guarantee you’ll learn something new by reading this book.
Another thing I should point out is that Lilja also has the second best website on the Internet that deals with Stephen King (the #1 spot belonging to King’s own official website) and information about him. Lilja is like the “Interpol” of Stephen King information and generally gets the current news on him before anyone else on the Internet.
The first 250 pages of the book (which has a fabulous wrap-around dust jacket designed by artist, Glenn Chadbourne) deals with a large multitude of interviews Lilja did with the likes of Stephen King, his personal secretary, Marsha DeFillippo, Mick Garris, Frank Darabont, Bev Vincent, Peter Straub, Robin Furth and the staff at Marvel Comics, Steve Weber, Michael Whelan, Glenn Chadbourne, and at least a dozen others. He manages to get them to open up and talk about their relationship with the Maestro and how it came about and what their feelings are toward Stephen King after having worked with him. Keep in mind that these interviews were done between the years 2000 and 2008, so a lot of the information discussed is old. Still, you do tend to learn a lot of new stuff from them.
I did. I was amazed to learn that many of the people interviewed don’t really know the man and that he’s extremely difficult to get to even if you’re working on a project that has to do with his fiction. Those few who actually know Stephen King have nothing but good words to say when describing his generosity and kindness. This is a man who basically just wants to write his fiction, but now finds himself to be a multi-media mogul with thousands of people each year wanting a piece of his time. It’s hard for you and I to imagine what an author like King has to go through to ensure his privacy and his time for writing.
Of course, I believe that King has become is a phenomenon in the field of writing both past and present. Even he couldn’t have imagined his life changing so drastically over the years. True he’s rich, but there’s no place he can go in the United States that he isn’t recognized and where someone isn’t asking for his autograph or a plug for their novel or a picture deal based on one of his stories. I’m surprised he travels as much as he does around the country on his Harley Davidson motorcycle. I know he still likes to slip into bookstores in small towns and autograph his novels without anyone seeing him and then slip out again undetected.
Another thing the interviews tend to reveal is King’s passion for his own work whether it’s in hardcover, paperback, e-book, audio book, graphic comic book, film adaptation, art form, serial novel, or whatever format that can be realized. King believes in his work and he’s more than willing to allow someone with an equal amount of passion to create other venues from his writing within certain legal parameters. King definitely gives a lot of leeway to other people’s creativity, but still wants his stories to be told in the best possible light. And, when you as an artist (by this I mean writer, director, painter, editor, etc.) capture the themes of his work successfully, you have a friend for life.
One place in the interviews that had me laughing out loud was when Frank Darabont (director of The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile) discussed King’s feelings about the limited editions done from his work. King feels that the limited editions are generally too expensive for the common fan and that books were written to be read and not to be placed on a bookshelf and simply stared at. King wants his fans to be able to afford his books and to read them over and over again. The main reason he even does limited editions is to help out the small independent presses because his books always sell out.
Darabont understands what his friend is saying, but loves to buy the limited editions for their exquisite quality and then read the suckers while he’s lying in bed. He feels that great books should be published in well-crafted editions that stand the test of time. I agree with both men, even though I can only afford the forty dollar editions.
Another common theme that runs through the interviews is that Stephen King is really a good person who attempts to give back to his community and fans whenever he can without being totally overwhelmed by them. He and his wife donate to charities, libraries, the Democratic Party, and a score of other worthy causes.
In fact, he just did a book signing this past week in Portsmouth, NH for his new anthology, Full Dark, No Stars, autographing over 400 copies of his book for the fans lucky enough to get advance tickets. The man doesn’t have to do this, but he does, even at age 63 and while still dealing with the daily pain from his near-death accident a decade ago.
All of this comes through in the many wonderful interviews Lilja has done over the past ten years.
I still have another 250 pages to read in the book. The rest of it deals with Lilja’s own reviews of King’s novels, short stories and novellas, films, audio books, limited editions, etc. There are reviews of many things I haven’t even had a chance to read yet, or even knew about before buying this book. That’s why Lilja’s Library: The World of Stephen King is so important to the fans of Stephen King. There’s a wealth of information here waiting to be panned like a prospector searching for nuggets of gold in a cold mountain stream. Pick up a copy of this magnificent hardcover before it’s sold out. Only a limited number of books were published, so don’t lose anytime by procrastinating.