About midway through Stephen King’s new book, 11/22/63, I began to remember why I’d stopped reading his work. The first seven hundred pages would be gripping, and then there’d be a major letdown at the end, as if he became tired of the book and just wanted to finish the damn thing. I was so immersed in 11/22/63, devouring it, that I became wary that it wouldn’t amount to much by the end. But I needn’t have worried. The book is quite an achievement, filled with research and insight and tenderness. Even when I wasn’t reading the novel, I was gripped by it—thinking about the sixties, about how I would end this tale of time travel, about my own obsession with What Ifs. In a way, every line of fiction I’ve ever written is time travel, an effort to bring to life a different time and place, which is a satisfying endeavor when I can convince myself that my lies are real. Or realistic at least.
My computer crashed last Sunday morning. I made an appointment at the Apple store’s genius bar, and they checked out the innards of my computer the same day. What a company. While I waited with head down, reading a Stephen King short story, “Riding the Bullet,” pressed in by the maddening crowds, I felt like a dinosaur with my quaint little book, turning actual pages with my actual finger, using the cover jacket as a bookmark. The tech guy said they couldn’t fix the computer without a part that would cost over a grand. I bought the computer about six years ago, he mentioned, as if I should be satisfied with the long run I’d gotten. I wasn’t so sure. But I walked out of there, gratified to learn that at least I could retrieve the data stored on that ancient computer, and confident that the book I’d brought with me would last several lifetimes.