Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Carrie by Stephen King

I liked this more than I expected I would. Generally, if I've seen the movie adaptation before reading the book, I'm bored. Rarely do I ever actually read the book if I've seen the movie first. I figure it's all been spoiled. I never read the first three Harry Potter books because I'd already seen the films and started the books at Goblet of Fire.

So, why'd I read this one?

A friend of mine is re-reading all of Stephen King's novels in publication date chronological order and I told him I might join him to read the ones I've not yet read. And, no, I'd not yet read King's first published novel. For some reason, I only started reading King's earliest works within the last ten years or so, though I've been reading King for close to three decades.

So, what did I think of King's first one? I liked it. It had more meat to it than I was expecting. Is it a simple tale of bullying and revenge or is it really an expression of a culture's reactionary fear of budding female sexual empowerment and its perceived destructive impact on civilization? Structurally, it seems quite a bit different from his later stuff. The use of in-universe book excerpts and newspaper clippings was something I don't recall King using much, if at all, in later works. (I could be wrong. I'm sure someone will tell me if I am.) The writing was more stripped down, more to the point, which I liked.

This was interesting as a cultural artifact, too, a book very much of its time. Small town white America's racism is assumed. One of the main characters muses about growing up to be a clone of her mother one day and doing whatever is necessary to keep the blacks out of the country club. Two different faces, one covered in blood, the other in a mud mask, are described within thirty pages as looking like something you'd find in a minstrel show. Oh, and we also have a small town police chief slapping the shit out of people left and right because they're 'hysterical.' To me, this reads as unintentionally comical today.

Overall, I found this an engrossing read. However, I did find multiple characters recounting their versions of the same events a bit redundant at times, and the various document excerpts tacked on at the very end were pointless. But the book's true ending was much better than the ending of the DePalma film I saw so many years ago.

So the book is still better than the movie, even after the movie spoiled the book.

Books win again.

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