5 Reasons Why I Teach Stephen King’s “1408” To College Students

Have you ever thought of teaching Stephen King to college students? During my graduate work, I took an amazing class taught by Dr. Karen Sloan called American Gothic. It was one of my favorite classes of all time because it’s just right up my alley. I took it concurrently with Dr. Ross’s British Gothic and I learned so much about the roots of horror. Here’s 5 reasons why I teach “1408” in my English composition class.

1. It’s a great example of a short, well-written horror story that perfectly fits the Contemporary Gothic genre. King is the master of horror, and as much as I would like to teach an entire novel (The Shining, Shawshank Redemption or The Green Mile would be great to dissect!), I just don’t have enough time in a composition class to cover it.

2. It’s a perfect King bite. A bit scary, but not too scary for the faint of heart and those who hate horror. “1408” is a delicious sample, like the ones they give away at Sam’s Club on Saturdays. I might not really WANT to buy a whole lasagna, but a bite or two is perfect!

3. I love surprising students with King’s literary depth. Many people underestimate King’s writing–even he does–as simple, popular mass market paperback books. Not so. They are chock full of well-crafted characters, action-packed plots and quotable lines. His works are so much more.

4. If there’s a literary device I want to teach (symbolism, foreshadowing, point of view, unreliable/reliable narrators), I have a full arsenal in “1408.” It’s densely packed with everything I need in less than 30 pages, and students who balk at traditionally taught literature seem to be more open to the Kingster. Yes, I just called him that.

5. Reading “1408” automatically gives me an excuse to watch John Cusack at his best. Enough said.

 

Sleep Studies and Stephen King

I don't know what the Chinese says here--it might be something about the effects of bad tacos

I don’t know what the Chinese says here–it might be something about the effects of bad tacos

Last night I didn’t sleep in my own bed. I PAID MONEY to sleep in a strange environment with slippery plastic pillows and a giant crucifix over my head. Part of the all-inclusive experience was that a man I’ve never met put globs of glue all over my head and face and stuck electrodes on me. It reminded me of a spa visit I took last year. Not really.

Before you ask, I was stone cold sober. I was told by my doctor, who specializes in Sleep Medicine (as if THAT’S a real job) that I needed to come be … well, studied. The assumption is that I stop breathing at night. Now let me tell you something–I’ve gotten forgetful over the past years (3 kids, a night-shift job and 6 years of college will do that to you) but it’s pretty bad when you forget to breathe at night.

I’m also told I snore. On the trip to Shanghai last year, my roommate kept screaming at me to “STOP” all night. I just thought she was having a bad dream about her little brother pulling her hair so I didn’t let it bother me. Either that or that she was crazy, so I didn’t want to be stabbed in the middle of the night so I just kept my cool. Turns out I was snoring at approximately the same decibel of a jet taking off. So—rry! Get some earplugs and get over it. Just don’t stab me.

Anyway, it turns out snoring (especially when it’s loud enough to frighten wildlife and cause people to become psychotic) is a symptom of sleep apnea, which is very serious. I could die. And not by stabbing.

A very pleasant respiratory therapist came in to put the globs of glue on and to hook me up to 75 wires. Then, after I was hooked up and had achieved the same wild-eyed look as Sylvia Plath after electroshock therapy, they told me to go to sleep. They turned off my movie (the last few minutes of the Green Mile) which ticked me off. It wasn’t even bedtime! Just five more minutes, Mom! I love this movie. And it was the part where John Coffey (like the drink, but not spelled the same) was watching the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie. I love that part! Stupid bedtime.

I know what you tired mothers are thinking. Wow, let’s listen to this woman cry about the fact that she was put in a quiet environment where she’s encouraged to SLEEP. Boo hoo! Next. Normally, I would agree with you. On any other day, I’d tackle the three old ladies in front of me like a wild linebacker just getting his chance to prove to the Coach that he’s worth his Wheaties.

Normally, I walk around in a continual twilight state of feeling as if I’ve been trampled by rabid antelopes in a Disney movie gone bad, so the opportunity to sleep always sounds good. Seriously. I have the energy of a ninety-year-old rock star who spent two decades partying and riding on buses all night–without the actual partying or buses, so believe me I want to slap me right now.

Did I mention that they put canula in my nose? I’m not sure what that was about. To hear my snoring? I’m sure that was SEXY. Did I mention the part where they use a night-vision camera to watch you all night in case you do something weird? Thank goodness they didn’t film me Wednesday night when I dreamed I was on an episode of  The Office and literally woke myself up (and The Engineer) laughing like a deranged hyena. That would have been a kick.

But I’m sorry–haven’t these people watched the Paranormal movies where putting a camera in the room automatically draws demons from miles around? Is that what they want? And believe me, they aren’t afraid of a little crucifix.

And guess what? There might be a part II to this blog entry because they said I am going to have to come back. I think I was just so entertaining that they are going to plan a staff party with me as the entertainment.

I’m so sleepy right now.