Devious Dialogues: Mike Thorn and A.M. Novak on Stephen King’s It


Anya
: I went into the novel at age 14, but I was already aware of Pennywise the Clown, having peeked around the corner as my parents were watching the miniseries on tape, when I was far too young to watch such things. Tim Curry’s vicious performance was the source of many nightmares I had as a child. The clown, I believe, taps into our collective fear of the uncanny, a trepidation of the vaguely familiar. What was your first encounter with Pennywise, and what is it that makes him such a resonant horror icon, in your opinion?

Mike: I think I read Stephen King’s novel and saw Tommy Lee Wallace’s miniseries right around the same time, when I was 12 or 13. I can’t remember which one came first, the book or the adaptation, but they were both major presences in my adolescent and early teenage years. They’ve both stuck with me ever since, especially the book, which I’ve re-read several times. I keep coming back to the miniseries, too.

To answer the second part of your question: I think you’ve summarized what makes Pennywise such a memorable figure – he perfectly represents Sigmund Freud’s object of “the uncanny.” Sometimes, I wish that the popular narrative surrounding It wasn’t defined so prominently by the figure of Pennywise, since he/it’s only one of many conduits and expressions for fear. At the same time, I can’t deny that King’s child-killing, sewer-dwelling clown is such an eerily distinct character.

Read the new “Devious Dialogues” entry in Vague Visages.

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