What I’m Reading: Carrie by Stephen King

After I finished reading On Writing by Stephen King in mid-October, I decided I liked the way that America’s bestselling author wrote. Next time I stopped at Half-Priced Books, I loaded down with over a dozen of his books and stumbled back home.

Honestly, I jumped order on my First-In First-Out queue for this. There are so many other books I should be reading first. But then
(what’s six hours on a vacation going to hurt?)
Oh God, the stream of consciousness interjections have started. And is that blood trickling down my thigh? Oh Christ Almighty, my anus is bleeding!

“I know that feel, Greg.”

In case you’re hopelessly late to the scene like I was, Carrie is the story of a TK (telekinetic) teenage girl who’s the subject of ruthless teasing. She has her first period at like, 17, in the shower, and the girls throw a bunch of tampons at her and tell her to “Plug It Up!”. Also, when she goes to the prom, she gets pig’s blood dumped on her, and then she goes on a murderous psychic rampage that leaves over twenty dozen dead. But even I knew that from pop culture osmosis. For any more plot synopsis, you really probably should read the book, or, Cliff Notes, or http://www.tvtropes.org.

Let’s talk characters briefly. King does give every character a fair chance at depth, and I find myself even understanding why a madwoman like Carrie’s mom acted as she did. The characters don’t feel forced at any time in the story to do anything that they wouldn’t do. Big big plus for me.

King’s prose skills as exemplified in Carrie were pretty dang impressive. Tight, to the point, evocative, and tinged through the lens of whatever character we’re riding behind. My only complaint stylistically is the
(my anus is bleeding)
all lower-case stream of consciousness interjections. They just didn’t work for me. Well, that’s not true. They worked and they didn’t work, kind of an awesomefail stew, if you will. I understand the purpose is to bring an immediacy to what the character’s thinking and offsetting it from the rest of the text. But why would we do this
(for the love of god, my anus is bleeding.)
when we can interject thoughts straight into the prose. Whoooooaaaaaooooaaaaa! But by the end of it, I believe I understand the reasoning behind this. I mean, it’s really a lot less jarring to slam enter and ensure that we realize it’s a thought, and not just emphasis, you know? And King likely wrote this originally on a typewriter that didn’t have italics. So there is that
Stop with the Rejected Cartoons jokes, already!
Fine. I’ll stop. For now. And goddammit, King’s got me on the parantheses too.
(they’re still jarring as shit though.)

That’s no big deal though, an executive choice, a writer’s prerogative. The cutaways to transcripts from hearings, studies, or other post-facto documents, I’ll call out though, since King himself says in On Writing that we’re interested in the present. Yes, he says that about flashbacks, but I feel it applies to flash-forwards too.
(but he wrote carrie long befo–)
Yes, I also know he wrote Carrie way before he wrote On Writing. Future-King’s advice holds though, Once-King. Besides, King does such a great job forecasting the upcoming train-wreck even without these things. You couldn’t cut the tension with a katana, that’s how thick it is. Just one push, just one push
(please god don’t push me further)
and Carrie’s gonna kill a man in Reno just to watch him die. And then she gets a big push, a megaton punch. Whammo!
(*snap*)
And thanks to those flash-forwards, I know the exact size of it. Rather than my mind conjuring worst-cases and terror scenes, instead, these reports soothe me. They give us the size of the unknown. Bad idea.

They do pad the novel’s length quite a bit though. Carrie‘s a pretty slender tome, but without those studies, it’d be a novella instead. The cynic in me wonders if that’s the reason for their inclusion. But then I think, give King a break! This is his first published novel and it’s goddam great. Cutting the post-facto documents might have made a stronger read, but the novel’s still a Mr. Universe Schwarzenegger strength suspense horror read. What more do you want, oh ye jaded critic?
(i want to give carrie a big hug)

…What?
(i do, the poor girl)
Okay, yeah, me too. I felt so much pain for her. Anyone who’s been treated badly in High School understands. Some would say Carrie’s socially naive, too much so, and that’s her flaw. Is it her flaw? Really? Or is it just how High School is? Look back, think. If you were the outcast, it’s not hard. If you were the cool one, go back to that time. Imagine all your friends then abandoning you. Imagine having jock-straps flung at you while your anus was bleeding, if you were a guy. If you’re a girl, well, I’m sure you’ve seen the movie.
(i still haven’t)
Yeah, but I grew up without cable, so big surprise there.

Anyways, I don’t feel like Carrie’s the villain. I feel like she’s the victim. But victims aren’t justified in overreaction.

But she’s still a victim, and someone could have saved her. That’s why seeing her die made me tear up a bit. Wasted potential.

I mean, imagine how hard the Wolverines could have used her on their team at the end of Red Dawn?

The Reds would never’ve seen what hit ’em.

(oh, i get it, because TK)

I hate you.

9/10, would read again.

Buy it here.

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