Thursday, August 13, 2009

Letters. We get letters. And anecdotes. And critics of the letters, even.

Hi Ivan,

Working on my final papers for Summer semester, so don't have a lot of time to write new stuff (although I do have an idea going, but it needs a few days to simmer). In the meantime, I remember that you had asked about reproducing my field review of The Shining. I do retain the copyright - and you are welcome to reproduce :-)

The Shining
by Stephen King
Field-Tested by Dawn Caplan
(The 2008 Field-Tested Books poster by Spike Press. Buy it now in the FTB Store).

in the basement in La Crosse, Wisconsin

It was the summer of ’82 in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and my older brother David and I were teamed up against the world. We’d moved that spring, and been transferred to a new school where we knew no one. David was two years older, considerably bigger, and moments from disaffected puberty. I thought he was god.

It wasn’t as though we’d moved to a new town, but we had moved from an insular coulee, full of other physicians’ families and kids we’d known since birth, to a yet-to-be-developed ridge line topping a bluff ten miles out of town.

During an exploration of the new neighborhood, on one of those deceptively warm March days, I got stuck in a snow-melt swollen stream. I slipped into it as David and I hiked back up the west face of the bluff, and my boots became one with the early-season mud. Water was up to my waist, my brother couldn’t pull me out, and he left me, scrambling home to get our father. I expect that now, 20+ years later, my moon boots have become the basis for a small island in that shallow stream. That day, I, sock-footed, followed my father and brother back home.

We were banned from the woods by parental order.

Summer came. We got to know the neighbor kids, what few there were. We stuck to the backyards. Played kick-the-can. Then it got hot. Really. Really. Hot.

Everyone disappeared into their homes, or to summer camp, or to the east coast. Our street was empty. We were banned from slipping into the cool shade of the woods, and our new house’s air conditioning wasn’t working very well. The upper floors were too hot, too bright. So David and I went underground.

Under the basement stairs, our parents had piled everything they planned on eventually getting rid of; carpet remnants, old furniture, and the books cleaned out from their (considerable) library. We created a room of our own in a corner of the blissfully cool, dark basement. We rolled out the carpet remnants, repositioned a 60s era coffee table, and hauled down the bean bag chairs from our bedrooms.

We had just finished listening to a serial radio version of Stephen King’s The Mist on NPR. We would sit in my room every Sunday, each with headphones on, backs against my bed, feet against the wall; horrified yet captivated for a half hour each weekend until the series finally concluded. We wanted more. Then, digging through a box of books intended for Goodwill, we found the mother lode, The Shining.

We spent two weeks reading to each other, passing the book back and forth in the dim light of the window wells. I don’t know about David, but I know there were times when that book scared the hell out of me. But we were together, in a cool, dark place, and if he didn’t run then I wasn't going to either.

*Dawn Caplan started life as a writing major at Columbia College, Chicago but ended up becoming an IT professional in Michigan. She writes a lot of technical manuals and user guides, and when the mood strikes, an occasional article for the Lawton Free Reader.

"Never offend people with style when you can offend them with substance."


Hi Ivan,
Well, fueled by no sleep, and my fifth bourbon, I've been going through the boxes that contain my literary career. Thought you might like this's a true story:

1998_07_19_Extramarital Affair

“I want to make love to you now.”



“Talk to me,” he says, as we’re making love. “Talk to me.”

I can’t. I can’t, because the words screaming through the forefront of my mind are, “I love you, I love you, I love you,” and nothing else can pass these lips without those words speeding past in search of air.

“Fine, don’t talk to me.”

Rise, feel, hips, hands, heat, and that internal joyous yell, “I love you!” that has nothing to do with sex, but you batter down my walls and I can’t say anything until I say those three words.



“I love you.”

Soul holds it’s breath. No, no quick windsprint from the room, just the question I knew was coming, “Define love.”

"Never offend people with style when you can offend them with substance."
--Sam Brown


Anonymous said...


As per your request to field test Ginger's (Dawn's)" Field Test" of Stephen King's THE SHINING:

To me the first three paragraphs could be condensed down to one line "After moving to a new development ten miles from town and a mishap in the spring wet woods, my brother David and I were banned from there by parental order."

There are two complete vignettes here. the second one about the basement and the books, the radio play and all reads well enough but really didn't entertain me. I would have gone with the first; the woods, mud and how pops got me out of it (mine would have left me there to get myself out) built it up to see where it got me.


ivan said...


Pretty sharp.

That's why we keep guys like you around at Island Grove Press.

Charles Gramlich said...

From the mist comes a shining, an it, a misery. said...


Yes, it's coming that way.

JR's Thumbprints said...

I'm all about condensation; It seems to really be heating up at Island Grove Press. I may never get acceptance here. said...

Hoo dat knockin'? :)