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King's latest best-seller: What's behind `IT'?

IT, by Stephen King. New York: Viking. 1,138 pp. $22.95 No doubt you've seen piles of this black-jacketed volume in local book stores. Featured newspaper and magazine ads have announced that ``IT'' is available now. Make no mistake, this is big: The book is big; sales are big. To wonder why is perfectly legitimate.

Several critics have waxed eloquent over perennial best-seller Stephen King's latest exercise in horror, finding cosmic meanings amid the gore. As I waded through the book's 1,138 pages, I kept those findings in mind. They helped me maintain a sense of endeavor while providing a sort of touchstone I hoped would lead to an awareness of the book's significance. I am here to report that I found none. I did find an impossibly long account of how a group of children in Derry, Maine, battled, in 1958, the monster (``IT'') only to discover that, in 1985, IT had somehow returned. And so, it seems, must they for another grisly (in every sense of the word) encounter. ``IT'' is to gruesomeness what the Sears Roebuck catalog is to things to buy. What's available in depravity and perverse sexuality? Flip through the Stephen King catalog and find out.

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The book has been praised for its local color. King has been praised as a Maine historian. Considering the color (red) and the history (it's gross), I suspect that some Maine locals will wish they had a different historian.

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