Hearts in Atlantis

I picked up a copy of "Hearts in Atlantis," which is the only Stephen King book I've ever read. I'm a wimp and don't do scary. But HIA isn't horror at all and in large part, is realistic fiction.

I remember the first time I read the novel--it was spring break, March of 2001, during my last semester of college. My work-study job was--where else?--at the library. I was one of the few people who stuck around during Spring Break, so I worked forty hours that week. Forty hours to spend doing some personal reading, instead of academic reading. So, I read all 523 pages while monitoring the circ desk at the Media Center.

The weirdest part for me was not the guy who pretends to be a begging homeless man for a living, but the second novella, which took place at University of Maine. When references were made to the Maine Campus, the East Annex, the Maine Masque, the made up dorm complex which resembles Stoddard, Balentine and Penobscot, and indeed Fogler library, the building in which I was reading the book, I realized how--for lack of a better word--cool it was for me. I thought about people in Australia or California or Japan (you know, in translation) reading this section and having some idea of what was referenced but I was in the building I was reading about. I wrote for the newspaper that was referenced. I lived in the dorm complex that was alluded to. I knew EXACTLY what was being referenced.

I've told this story to people a few times. It's demonstrative of one of the many things that makes UMaine special for me and for others.

Now, upon re-reading, I'm even more intimate with made up places that are allusions to real Maine places. "Gates Falls High School" is, no doubt, my dear old Lisbon High School. Derry, as everyone knows, is an amalgam of Durham and other geographies.

It's just funny, and impressive, that millions of people have read about the places that I have lived, worked, suffered, learned and loved because of good old Stephen King. And I think of people around the world reading about these real or fictionalized places that resemble real places and feeling wistful for existing there, like people are wont to do when reading and being engaged in some engrossing fiction, especially pop fiction. I know I've thought a lot about London while reading everyone from Austen, to Bridget, to Nick Hornby to perpetually jocular Georgia Nicholson (even tho I'm an olds, I still love her).

It makes me wistful now, too. Here I am in stinky Massachusetts, about to start a job which is in a location that necessitates I suffer--and it is true suffering--twice daily the disgusting congestion that is Hell on Earth, AKA Rte 128. Rte 128 is like the anti-Maine. It is everything that is bad about living in a non-rural area. Bumper to bumper traffic of the most cut-throat, vicious nature.

Anyway, here's to my new copy of "Hearts in Atlantis."