The Door to December by Dean Koontz

I’m not really a Dean Koontz fan–I think I’ve only read two of his books, including this one–but I picked up The Door to December based on nostalgia. Can you call it nostalgia if it is an unpleasant memory, a jarring one? I was thirteen and babysitting two kids overnight for a couple I didn’t know, and the evening ended in a domestic abuse situation, where the husband threatened his wife, who told me to call the police. Before things went sour, I put the kids to bed and found myself with spare hours on hand. I found The Door to December in the kitchen and spent the rest of the night reading it.

Recently I found the book for a dollar in a thrift store and was surprised to find that Dean Koontz had written it. He wasn’t popular or well known then. I had been rereading Grapes of Wrath, but I found its dialogue too abrasive while between two copyediting projects. I have to pick my reading material carefully while copyediting because I get into the mode where I’m analyzing every piece of text I come across, even tampon directions. I need something bland while copyediting and The Door to December fit the bill.

But then while in that analyzing mode, I came across a scene where a murder victim’s VHS tapes are cataloged and one of the titles is Mrs. Doubtfire, which didn’t come out until years after I first read The Door to December. I checked the copyright page, and sure enough, a revision had been done in 1994 updating pop culture references, a practice I abhor. Rereading the book, I found more movie title and computer updates, as well as pontifications about technology in our world. Of course, the computer jargon is already dated and anybody trying to keep on top of that in revision is taking on a Sisyphean task.

I think of pop culture references as part of setting, and when you start monkeying around with that in revisions–something that is part of the foundation of your story–you jeopardize the whole. And what’s the point really? I don’t see how a title change from Close Encounters of the Third Kind to The Matrix is going to make a story stronger. Or updating candy from Junior Mints to Sour Patch Kids. I suppose it allows publishers a chance to repackage books and try to sell more of them. I wonder what made the author decide to do this?

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