A writer is held hostage by his number-one fan in the novel that “demand[s] that we take King seriously as a writer with a deeply felt understanding of human psychology” (Publishers Weekly). His deeply felt understanding of what terrifies us doesn’t hurt either.
In Misery (1987), as in The Shining (1977), a writer is trapped in an evil house during a Colorado winter. Each novel bristles with claustrophobia, stinging insects, and the threat of a lethal explosion. Each is about a writer faced with the dominating monster of his unpredictable muse.
Paul Sheldon, the hero of Misery, sees himself as a caged parrot who must return to Africa in order to be free. Thus, in the novel within a novel, the romance novel that his mad captor-nurse, Annie Wilkes, forces him to write, he goes to Africa—a mysterious continent that evokes for him the frightening, implacable solidity of a woman’s (Annie’s) body. The manuscript fragments he produces tell of a great Bee Goddess, an African queen reminiscent of H. Rider Haggard’s She.
He hates her, he fears her, he wants to kill her; but all the same he needs her power. Annie Wilkes literally breathes life into him.
Misery touches on several large themes: the state of possession by an evil being, the idea that art is an act in which the artist willingly becomes captive, the tortured condition of being a writer, and the fears attendant to becoming a “brand-name” bestselling author with legions of zealous fans. And yet it’s a tight, highly resonant echo chamber of a book—one of King’s shortest, and best novels ever. —Fiona Webster
Based on the chilling bestseller by Stephen King, Misery was brought to the screen by director Rob Reiner as one of the most effective thrillers of the 1990s. From a brilliant adaptation by screenwriter William Goldman, Reiner turned King’s cautionary tale of fame and idolatry into a mainstream masterpiece of escalating suspense, translating King’s own experience with obsessive fans into a frightening tale of entrapment and psychotic behavior. Kathy Bates deservedly won an Academy Award for her performance as Annie Wilkes, an unbalanced devotee of romance…