The 75 of the king of terror: how was Stephen King’s (strange) Argentine birthday

This is as strange as the stories his novels tell. Here, In an escape room in the Colegiales neighborhood, a birthday is celebrated, but with a peculiarity: the honoree is the great absentee. Thus, what ends up being seen is a group of guests who seem to celebrate the years of a ghost. Yes, everything is truly strange, as are their stories.

The person whose birthday is today –75 to be precise– and for whom the publisher Penguin Random House organized a party yesterday, is the North American writer Stephen King, known as the king of terror, although many of his more than 60 books are not dedicated to that genre. In fact, his new novel, Fairy talewhich will go on sale in Argentina on the 1st of next month, moves within the universe of fantasy.

The cake to celebrate the 75 years was in the shape of the new novel, “Fairy Tales”Santiago Filipuzzi – THE NATION

On the white tablecloth that dresses the long table that is in one of the halls of the place, there is a book-shaped cake that emulates the cover of the new novel. Someone places three candles on it, and says “for the king” and then a second person blows them out as if to celebrate the birthday “in absentia”.

In front of this scene, a boy of about four years old, dressed in a yellow overcoat, holding a red balloon, stands, as if in penance, in a corner. That is what it seems, although of course, it is not a real boy, but part of the decoration of the room that seeks to immerse itself in the King universe. That “boy” is one of the characters in Item (1986), one of his most important King novelswhich was adapted, first in a miniseries in 1990, and then in two films, directed by the Argentine Andy Muschietti, in 2017 and 2019. And on one side of the boy-statue is the figure of the great villain of that book, the clown penny-wise.

Ariel Bosi, the number one Argentine fan of Stephen King
Ariel Bosi, the number one Argentine fan of Stephen KingSantiago Filipuzzi – THE NATION

“He is a writer who plays with genres, who has fun,” says Fernanda Mainelli, editor of Penguin Random House, to present the new novel, which tells of the friendship between a 17-year-old teenager and an old man. This will be the one who will bequeath a secret, a portal to another magical world in which forces of good coexist with evil.

Next to Mainelli is Ariel Bosi, who could be described as the number one fan of the writer in Argentina. In fact, he is the author of the book all about stephen king (Square & Janes), and one of the owners of the bookstore dedicated, in large part, to Carrie’s “father”, Restaurant of the Mind. “Today, what I thank King for is that time on familiar ground. That is, sit down, open the book and say: ´I know that I am going to have a good time here´”, he tells THE NATION Bosi, who also hosts the podcast The king’s court. For him, the key to the success of the most adapted writer in film and television is in the characters: “Ordinary people to whom extraordinary situations happen.”

One of the escape rooms based on "The glow"
One of the escape rooms based on “The Shining”Santiago Filipuzzi – THE NATION

Like Jack Torrance, the protagonist of the novel The glow (1977), who is a writer, who is hired to look after an isolated, off-season hotel. And in this new role he must fight not only against his own alcoholism, but, above all, against the forces of evil that pressure him to murder his wife and his young son. Director Stanley Kubrick brought the novel to the big screen in 1980 with an impressive performance by Jack Nicholson as Torrance.

Now, something from that hotel, the Overlock, is replicated in one of the Escape Club rooms, in Colegiales. “Welcome to the Overlock Hotel. You may not leave”, threatens a poster before entering. An employee of the place explains the dynamics of the game, which is nothing more than following and solving clues and riddles to try to get out (escape) from the room in about 45 minutes.

The attraction is entered through an elevator that simulates the one in Kubrick’s movie. Once inside, without wishing to reveal the secrets or add spoilers, the notion that it is a game is quickly lost, and everything becomes vivid. And there are even occasional howls and startles of the participants at the imminence of a danger that seems supernatural or, depending on how you look at it, too real.

The escape room based on "The glow"
The escape room based on “The Shining”Santiago Filipuzzi – THE NATION

Participating in the game is a good way to honor the birthday boy. Something that he would surely be very happy about: he has spent his life scaring several generations, since in 1974 he published his first book, carrie, which tells the story of a young woman with powers, who, as a victim of bullying, decides to take revenge with a bloodbath.

At the birthday party, there are potential new King readers; a new litter eager to want to be terrified. Among them are the bookfluencers, that is, teenagers who use their social networks to review works, especially those related to the fantasy and romance genres. One of them, who also participated in the escape room experience, is Agustina Ríos, 18, who only on her Instagram account (@readingwithnini), has nearly 12,000 followers. She, along with her friend Malena Hehn (@malelovesbooks), of the same age, have not yet read any King books, but leave the party with copies of Fairy taleswhich they promise to read.

To end the celebration, Bosi presents the screening of four short films based on King’s stories, and conceived within the dollar babies program What drives the writer? With this proposal, the author gives the rights to some of his stories to filmmakers for only one dollar. However, they may not be commercialized and are only authorized to be exhibited at film festivals.

Thus, in those small films appears King’s universe made of murderers, premonitory dreams and paranoid characters. Once again, everything becomes strange here, on this birthday in absentia. As strange as his stories are.

The 75 of the king of terror: how was Stephen King’s (strange) Argentine birthday