Although it is difficult to believe, the Sixties are not fictional:
THEY ACTUALLY HAPPENED.
No matter the format, Stephen King's work is spellbinding because the author himself is spellbound. The first hugely popular writer of the TV generation, King published his first novel, Carrie, in 1974, the year before the last U.S. troops withdrew from Vietnam. Images from that war -- and protests against it -- had flooded America's living rooms for nearly ten years. In Hearts in Altantis, King mesmerizes readers with fiction deeply rooted in the Sixties, and explores -- through four defining decades -- the haunting legacy of the Vietmnam War.
As the characters in Hearts in Atlantis are tested in every way, King probes and unlocks the secrets of his generation for us all. Full of danger, full of suspense, and most of all full of heart, Stephen King's new book will take some readers to a place they have never been able to leave completely.
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Stephen King's collection of five stories about '60s kids reads like a novel. The best is "Low Men in Yellow Coats," about Bobby Garfield of Harwich, Connecticut, who craves a Schwinn for his 11th birthday. But his widowed mom is impoverished, and so bitter that she barely loves him. King is as good as Spielberg or Steven Millhauser at depicting an enchanted kid's-eye view of the world, and his Harwich is realistically luminous to the tiniest detail: kids bashing caps with a smoke-blackened rock, a car grille "like the sneery mouth of a chrome catfish," a Wild Mouse carnival ride that makes kids "simultaneously sure they were going to live forever and die immediately."
Bobby's mom takes in a lodger, Ted Brautigan, who turns the boy on to great books like Lord of the Flies. Unfortunately, Ted is being hunted by yellow-jacketed men--monsters from King's Dark Tower novels who take over the shady part of town. They close in on Ted and Bobby, just as a gang of older kids menace Bobby and his girlfriend, Carol. This pointedly echoes the theme of Lord of the Flies (the one book King says he wishes he'd written): war is the human condition. Ted's mind-reading powers rub off a bit on Bobby, granting nightmare glimpses of his mom's assault by her rich, vile, jaunty boss. King packs plenty into 250 pages, using the same trick Bobby discerns in the film Village of the Damned: "The people seemed like real people, which made the make-believe parts scarier."
Vietnam is the otherworldly horror that haunts the remaining four stories. In the title tale, set in 1966, University of Maine college kids play the card game Hearts so obsessively they risk flunking out and getting drafted. The kids discover sex, rock, and politics, become war heroes and victims, and spend the '80s and '90s shell-shocked by change. The characters and stories are crisscrossed with connections that sometimes click and sometimes clunk. The most intense Hearts player, Ronnie Malenfant ("evil infant"), perpetrates a My Lai-like atrocity; a nice Harwich girl becomes a radical bomber. King's metaphor for lost '60s innocence is inspired by Donovan's "sweet and stupid" song about the sunken continent, and his stories hail the vanished Atlantis of his youth with deep sweetness and melancholy intelligence. --Tim AppeloAbout the Author:
Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. Among his most recent are Under the Dome, Just After Sunset, the Dark Tower novels, Cell, From a Buick 8, Everything's Eventual, Hearts in Atlantis, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Lisey's Story and Bag of Bones. His acclaimed nonfiction book, On Writing, is also a bestseller. He was the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Maine with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.
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