King's latest best-seller: What's behind `IT'?

IT, by Stephen King. New York: Viking. 1,138 pp. $22.95 No doubt you've seen piles of this black-jacketed volume in local book stores. Featured newspaper and magazine ads have announced that ``IT'' is available now. Make no mistake, this is big: The book is big; sales are big. To wonder why is perfectly legitimate.

Several critics have waxed eloquent over perennial best-seller Stephen King's latest exercise in horror, finding cosmic meanings amid the gore. As I waded through the book's 1,138 pages, I kept those findings in mind. They helped me maintain a sense of endeavor while providing a sort of touchstone I hoped would lead to an awareness of the book's significance. I am here to report that I found none. I did find an impossibly long account of how a group of children in Derry, Maine, battled, in 1958, the monster (``IT'') only to discover that, in 1985, IT had somehow returned. And so, it seems, must they for another grisly (in every sense of the word) encounter. ``IT'' is to gruesomeness what the Sears Roebuck catalog is to things to buy. What's available in depravity and perverse sexuality? Flip through the Stephen King catalog and find out.

The book has been praised for its local color. King has been praised as a Maine historian. Considering the color (red) and the history (it's gross), I suspect that some Maine locals will wish they had a different historian.

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