|Cover artist||Bob Giusti (illustration) |
Amy Hill (lettering)
|September 15, 1986|
It is a 1986 horror novel by American author Stephen King. It was his 22nd book, and his 18th novel written under his own name. The story follows the experiences of seven children as they are terrorized by an evil entity that exploits the fears and phobias of its victims to disguise itself while hunting its prey. "It" primarily appears in the form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown to attract its preferred prey of young children.
The novel is told through narratives alternating between two periods, and is largely told in the third-person omniscient mode. It deals with themes that eventually became King staples: the power of memory, childhood trauma and its recurrent echoes in adulthood, the ugliness lurking behind a façade of small-town quaintness, and overcoming evil through mutual trust and sacrifice.
King has stated that he first conceived the story in 1978, and began writing it in 1981. He finished writing the book in 1985. He also stated that he originally wanted the title character to be a troll like the one in the children's story "Three Billy Goats Gruff", but who inhabited the local sewer system rather than just the area beneath one bridge. He also wanted the story to interweave the stories of children and the adults they later become.
The novel won the British Fantasy Award in 1987, and received nominations for the Locus and World Fantasy Awards that same year. Publishers Weekly listed It as the best-selling hardcover fiction book in the United States in 1986. It has been adapted into a 1990 two-part miniseries directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, and into a two-part film duology directed by Andy Muschietti; It was released in 2017 and It Chapter Two is scheduled to be released in September 2019.
During the summer of 1958, the small town of Derry, Maine is terrorized by a mysterious child-killing creature. The shape-shifting entity is encountered by seven individual children — Bill Denbrough, Richie Tozier, Beverly Marsh, Mike Hanlon, Eddie Kaspbrak, Ben Hanscom and Stan Uris. The children unite as the "Losers Club" and decide to seek and destroy the creature they call "It", which often takes on the appearance of a clown named Pennywise. Bill, in particular, has a personal stake in the form of his younger brother Georgie, who was killed by It the year before. In addition to It, the Losers are pursued by the local bully, Henry Bowers, and his compatriots. The Losers realize that the adults in the town are unable to help them, as they are ignorant and unaware of It's presence. Taking a fresh look at their hometown, the Losers understand that their union is beyond that of a simple friendship between children. The Losers confront It deep within the sewers underneath Derry and engage in battle. While the Losers do not kill It, they manage to force It into an early hibernation. The Losers swear a blood oath to return to Derry, should It rise again in the future. As they return to a normal life, the Losers gradually forget these events and each other, and eventually leave Derry.
Twenty-seven years later, in the summer of 1985, Derry is again shaken by a wave of horrific murders. Mike Hanlon, the only Loser to remain in Derry, understands that It has returned and reminds the other now-wealthy and successful Losers of the oath that they had given in their childhood. Only five of the other Losers gather the strength to return to Derry and continue the fight; Stan commits suicide immediately after conversing with Mike. The reunited Losers begin recollecting their childhood memories, and each of them encounters It in the process. Driven by a thirst for revenge, It draws in a pair of minions in a bid to kill the Losers — the adult Henry, who escapes from a psychiatric ward with It's aid and seriously injures Mike, and Beverly's abusive husband Tom Rogan, who kidnaps Bill's wife Audrey. The Losers Club takes another descent into the sewers to destroy It completely. As the Losers Club battles with It in its lair, Derry is partially flooded and destroyed by the worst storm in its history. At the cost of Eddie's life, the Losers Club manages to defeat It. The Losers again return to a normal life and leave Derry and their memories behind. Mike additionally discovers that the names of the other Losers have not only faded from memory but also from his memoir and journal, indicating that their ordeal is finally over.
In 1978, King and his family lived in Boulder, Colorado. One evening, King ventured alone to pick up his car from the repair shop and came across an old wooden bridge, "humped and oddly quaint". Walking along the bridge caused King to recall the story of "Three Billy Goats Gruff", and the idea of transplanting the tale's scenario into a real-life context interested him. King was further inspired by a line by Marianne Moore concerning "real toads in imaginary gardens", which in his mind came out as "real trolls in imaginary gardens". King would return to the concept two years later and gradually accumulated ideas and thoughts, particularly the concept of weaving the narratives of children and the adults they become. King began writing It in 1981, and finished the book four years later. King found influence in the mythology and history surrounding the construction of the sewer system in Bangor, Maine.
It thematically focuses on the loss of childhood innocence and questioning the difference between necessity and free will. Grady Hendrix of Tor.com described the book as being "about the fact that some doors only open one way, and that while there’s an exit out of childhood named sex, there’s no door leading the other way that turns adults back into children." Christopher Lehman-Haupt of the New York Times noted that It "concerns the evil that has haunted America from time to time in the forms of crime, racial and religious bigotry, economic hardship, labor strife and industrial pollution", and that the novel's setting "is a museum filled with the popular culture of the 1950's: brand names, rock 'n' roll songs and stars, the jokes and routines of childhood in that era." James Smythe of The Guardian opined that "Pennywise isn't the novel's biggest terror. The most prominent notions of fear in the novel come from the Losers' Club themselves: their home lives, the things that have made them pariahs."
On December 13, 2011, Cemetery Dance published a special limited edition of It for the 25th anniversary of the novel (ISBN 978-1-58767-270-5) in three editions: an unsigned limited gift edition of 2,750, a signed limited edition of 750, and a signed and lettered limited edition of 52. All three editions are oversized hardcovers, housed in a slipcase or traycase, and feature premium binding materials. This anniversary edition features a new dust jacket illustration by Glen Orbik, as well as numerous interior illustrations by Alan M. Clark and Erin Wells. The book also contains a new afterword by Stephen King discussing his reasons for writing the novel.
Reception and legacy
It received a mixed critical consensus. Lehman-Haupt perceived a lack of justification in Stanley Uris's death and the reunion of the group. Hendrix described the book as "by turns boring and shocking" and "one of King’s most frustrating and perplexing books", and described the behavior of the child characters as idealized and unnatural. The book's sexual content aroused controversy. Smythe considered the book's descriptions of childhood sexuality to be "questionable", and was particularly "shocked" by a scene of the Losers Club engaging in an orgy. However, Hendrix identified this moment as "in a sense, the heart of the book" and a thematic demonstration of the crossing from childhood to adulthood, and concluded that it is "a way for King to tell kids that sex, even unplanned sex, even sex that’s kind of weird, even sex where a girl loses her virginity in the sewer, can be powerful and beautiful if the people having it truly respect and like each other." The novel has been noted for its exceptional length. Smythe noted that "the book is essentially two novels", and at "fourteen hundred pages long in my printing (the only bigger novel I own is Infinite Jest), and famously weighing nigh-on four pounds, it's a challenge to hold, let alone read." Publishers Weekly expressed particular indignation: "Overpopulated and under-characterized, bloated by lazy thought-out philosophizing and theologizing ... there is simply too much of It." The character Pennywise has been named by several outlets as one of the scariest clowns in film or pop culture.
In 1990, the novel was adapted into a television miniseries starring Tim Curry as Pennywise the Clown, John Ritter as Ben Hanscom, Harry Anderson as Richie Tozier, Richard Masur as Stan Uris, Tim Reid as Mike Hanlon, Annette O'Toole as Beverly Marsh, Richard Thomas as Bill Denbrough, Olivia Hussey as Audra Phillips, Dennis Christopher as Eddie Kaspbrak, and Michael Cole as Henry Bowers. The younger versions of the characters were played by Brandon Crane (Ben), Seth Green (Richie), Ben Heller (Stan), Marlon Taylor (Mike), Emily Perkins (Beverly), Jonathan Brandis (Bill), Adam Faraizl (Eddie), and Jarred Blancard (Henry). The miniseries was directed by Tommy Lee Wallace and scripted by Wallace and Lawrence D. Cohen.
The first of a two-part feature film adaptation, It, was released on September 8, 2017. It is directed by Andy Muschietti, with a screenplay by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman. Instead of a dual narrative, the first film is solely an adaptation of the section that features the characters as children, though the setting has been updated to the late 1980s. It stars Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise and Jaeden Lieberher as Bill Denbrough. Supporting roles are played by Finn Wolfhard as Richie Tozier, Sophia Lillis as Bevery Marsh, Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie Kaspbrak, Wyatt Oleff as Stanley Uris, Chosen Jacobs as Mike Hanlon, Jeremy Ray Taylor as Ben Hanscom, Owen Teague as Patrick Hockstetter, Nicholas Hamilton as Henry Bowers, Logan Thompson as Vic Criss and Jake Sim as Belch Huggins.
The second film will adapt the "adult" section and update the setting to the 2010s. It will star James McAvoy (Bill), Bill Hader (Richie), Jessica Chastain (Beverly), James Ransone (Eddie), Andy Bean (Stan), Isaiah Mustafa (Mike), and Jay Ryan (Ben). Skarsgård will reprise the role of Pennywise and the younger actors are set to return as well. Filming for the film wrapped in 2018 and it is scheduled to premiere September 6, 2019.
- Christopher Lehman-Haupt (August 21, 1986). "Books of the Times: It". New York Times. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
- King, Stephen, 1947- (1986). It. New York, N.Y., U.S.A.: Viking. p. 1153. ISBN 0670813028. OCLC 13497048.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
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- James Smythe (May 28, 2013). "Rereading Stephen King, chapter 21: It". The Guardian. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
- Grady Hendrix (September 25, 2013). "The Great Stephen King Reread: It". Tor.com. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
- "It (25th Anniversary Special Edition)". cemeterydance.com. Retrieved March 30, 2017.
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- "10 Most Terrifying Clowns in Horror Movies". Screen Rant. September 23, 2015. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
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- Martin, Amy. ""Hey Kid, Want A Balloon?" – Horror's 5 Creepiest Clowns". Movie Pilot. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
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- D'Alessandro, Anthony (April 22, 2016). "Warner Bros. Sets 'CHiPs', 'It' & Untitled PG-13 Comedy For 2017". Deadline.
- "IT: Chapter Two Young Losers' Club Cast Has Wrapped Filming". ScreenRant. November 1, 2018. Retrieved February 18, 2019.