To the children, the town was their whole world. To the adults, knowing better, Derry Maine was just their home town: familiar, well-ordered for the most part. A good place to live. It was the children who saw – and felt – what made Derry so horribly different. In the storm drains, in the sewers, IT lurked, taking on the shape of every nightmare, each one’s deepest dread. Sometimes IT reached up, seizing, tearing, killing . . . The adults, knowing better, knew nothing. Time passed and the children grew up, moved away. The horror of IT was deep-buried, wrapped in forgetfulness. Until they were called back, once more to confront IT as IT stirred and coiled in the sullen depths of their memories, reaching up again to make their past nightmares a terrible present reality.
Stephen King’s idea for It came from a favorite childhood image: the entire cast of the Bugs Bunny Show coming on at the beginning. He thought of bringing on all the monsters, one last time: Dracula, Frankenstein’s creature, the Werewolf, the Crawling Eye, Rodan, It Came from Outer Space.
It is about a group of adults who were once troubled children in the late ’50s–“The Losers.” One of them is a best selling horror writer much like Stephen King (or his friend and collaborator Peter Straub). In order to defeat the protean “It” that threatens their hometown, they have to go back- -not only to the town itself, but deep into their childhood memories, to regain the talent for magic they once had. King says It is for “the buried child in us, but I’m writing for the grown-up, too. I want grown-ups to look at the child long enough to be able to give him up.”
This huge, baggy beast of a novel is a favorite of Stephen King fans–second in popularity only to The Stand. Perhaps longtime fans develop mental filters for King’s sloppy storytelling to tune out the repetitions and silliness. King is like the pointillist painter Seurat: if you stand too close to the little dots, the picture falls apart, and it looks meaningless. That’s why he makes the storyscape so big–to take you up to that macro-level where you like the book in spite of its flaws. —Fiona Webster