BY RICKY LAX
For The Daily
Published October 7, 2002
After a half-dozen phone calls, Stephen King's publicist's assistant all but laughed at the idea of an interview. "This isn't an interview thing," she said, and it wasn't. Last Saturday, Stephen King came to Borders at Arborland to autograph 250 copies of his new book, "From a Buick 8."
"Buick 8" is about a 1954 Buick adopted by the Pennsylvania State Police after it was left at the scene of a strange person disappearance. Unlike others, this Buick has no antenna for the radio, uneven portholes and an abnormally large steering wheel. It also vomits purple bats and eats people alive.
The police declare the odd Buick, "fucked to the sky," and eventually, after realizing the "Buick" is no Buick at all, say, "we saw it as a Buick because we had to see it as something."
King's book tour drove an old midnight blue Buick, similar to the one in the book, from "Good Morning America" to the Arborland parking lot. A General Motors show vehicle worker, who asked to remain anonymous, said the car was not King's, but "a private owner's." He also swore, "The car is jinxed."
"On the way to New York to do "The Today Show" the passenger door opened up on it's own in transit," he added. "The battery blew up the first day we had it."
"Today we unloaded it and it started leaking anti-freeze." Jinx, but nowhere near people-eating.
King describes the story as "a meditation on the essentially indecipherable quality of life's events, and how impossible it is to find a coherent meaning in them." Readers hoping for a clear explanation of the Buick's powers or reason for its existence will be disappointed, as King's character Ned Wilcox was. Ned's Father passed away a year before the story begins, and "Buick 8" is a collection of narratives, told to Ned by a group of his father's officer-buddies. "You have to stop waiting for the punchline," they tell him.
The officers share increasingly mysterious stories about Ned's father's growing obsession with the Buick 8 and its many manifestations.
To nail the dialect, which he did, King visited many real Pennsylvania State Police barracks. Many of the characters in the book are fictionalized versions of the men and women he met.
Though the book is over 350 pages long, it has a short story feel to it. The plot is simple and the message is clear: A lot of stuff is weird, deal with it.
Stephen King has written more than 40 books, including a four-part series of novels, a six-part serial novel and many short stories. He is the best-selling author in the world. His books and books on tape consume about 20 feet of shelf space at the Borders on State Street. The world has gone King-crazy, everyone except University Medical School Research Investigator Steven King.
Others with similar sentiments can be found at www.beingstephenking.com, a website about "Who we are, and our favorite stories about being Stephen King."
Unlike many on the website, the Arborland Borders was packed with King fans, many of whom had no ticket. Janet, whose husband read 26 of King's books, but had no ticket, said she drove 96 miles so her husband could "follow him around and take some snapshots."
Janet and her husband never got to meet King.
Many people at Arborland claimed to have read all or almost all of King's books.
Another fan, Alan from Howell, a man prompting much conversation among the Borders staff, held a photo above a stack of books to face King for over 20 minutes/ "I had a photo of his house," he said. "I figured if I could draw attention to myself, he would give us an autograph." Instead, Alan got a police assisted escort out of the store. Alan was bitter. "Half the people are gonna' sell those books on eBay."
When this attempt failed, King gave in to his adoring fans. Kelly, who works at the State Street Borders, said, "He's so nice. There was this list of rules, no photos, no personalization ... he's chatting people up and everything." Photos were taken and books were personalized.
When asked, "Is there anything you would like to say to the students at the University," King shook his head no and pausing for a moment, he said, "Party on."