Rememberance

Almost a year ago today.  I remember it.  It stands out in my mind.  It was Super Bowl weekend.  I was excited to watch the big game.  I was looking forward to a nice, relaxing weekend of watching football and just relaxing with my husband and maybe some of our friends.  All that good stuff.

But none of that is the reason why I am remembering the date today.  A year ago today, I pulled up my Facebook feed on my phone, without thinking anything of it, like most people.  About two minutes later, the tears welled up in my yes.  And once I got confirmation, the tears no longer welled but flowed freely.

You see, I got some unexpected news.  I learned that someone I considered a friend had passed away the previous night.  Annie Wright was about my age and had been in my class at Bloomington North, and we had even had classes together in the horror known as junior high.  She was young and healthy.  So it was shocking, to say the least.  Annie was particularly full of life and seemed fearless, which made the blow even worse.

I am an introvert.  This should not come as a shock to anyone who knows me.  I also have a lot of trouble making and keeping friends.  Part of this is just because I have always been that way.  Its in my blood, you could say.    I have spent much of my life pretty closed off to most people because of this.  So, for the most part, I just prefer to banish the memory of high school entirely.

However, Annie was one of the few I remembered fondly.  She was different and not ashamed of it at all.  She wore prairie skirts and combat boots, and was so confident of these choices, even when the majority were wearing jeans and flannel shirts.  Since we lived in a small-ish Midwestern town, it took courage to go against the grain.  I did try, but Annie was far more courageous than I ever was.  She just didn’t give a damn, and simply did as she pleased, not giving a damn about peer pressure, either.  In other words, she was everything I wished I could be.

I remember that I wrote an essay for our freshman English class.  I don’t remember what the essay was about, except that it was based on the play Our Town.  And my English teacher (gasp) chose my essay to read aloud.  This was an advanced English class, but no high school student really wants to be singled out, especially for something academic related.  I think I managed to avoid slithering down in my seat but probably blushed just a little (ok, it was really a lot).  A day or two later, Annie was discussing something she had written with a friend.  She then turned to me and said that she owed a lot to me, due to my essay inspiring her.  And she told me, outside of the class, how much she had liked that essay.  I must have smiled for at least a day.  I had hardly any self esteem to think of.  And I had just received praise from someone I respected,,,that was something that was not commonplace for me.   That’s just who Annie was.  She was genuine article, the rare piece of gold in a sea of pyrite.

I lost track of Annie after my sophomore year.  I went to a magnet school, then to college.    Eventually, we reconnected on Facebook.  I spoke to her via message and followed her posts.  Since we lived on opposite coasts, the chances of any kind of meet up were slim.  I took for granted, though, that there may be one some day, however slim, that we could have caught up with each other.  I would have loved to have caught up with her and heard about her life after 1995.  I also would have loved for her to see what I had become: finally comfortable in my own skin.  And confident.  Able to stand up for myself.  Someone who refused to back down, whether it be on fashion choices or world views.  In other words, I finally possessed those same qualities that she always seemed to have.

But I never got my chance.  We will never get a chance to catch up, nor can I ever tell her what her kindness meant to me.  I can never thank her for it, and tell her how she brightened up the day of someone whose days were not always the best back then.  She will never know what an inspiration she was, to me and probably several others.  After Annie passed away, the world lost just a little bit of brightness, but I think the next world gained a little more brightness.

RIP Annie Wright.  I was lucky to have known you and called you friend.  And the world was lucky to have you, even if your time here was way too short.

 

 

Advertisements

The devil is in the details: My thoughts on “Fair Extension.”

I just finished reading “Full Dark No Stars” last week.  This is the latest collection of short short stories by Stephen King.  First of all, I think it is the best of any of his post “Dark Tower” material that I have read.  Some of what he has put out in the past 4 years or so has been less than desirable.  But this work shows that he still does have it, and there is something left in him after all.  I also love the the themes that were brought up in this book, which is what is prompting me to write this blog.  He visits the themes of revenge, envy and retribution, and does so in a thoughtful and interesting way.

 

SPOILER ALERT (ANYONE WHO HASN’T READ THIS YET, YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO SHOOT ME AS YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED):

 

The story that most caught my attention was “Fair Extension.”  It may even be my favorite, although I’m not sure I can make a judgement at this point, as I really can say I loved them all.  To summarize, the story centers around a middle-aged man named David Streeter.  David has been diagnosed with an agressive form of cancer, and has only been given so long to live.  This also takes place in Derry, Maine, which should be familiar to any long time King reader (“It”, “Insomnia, amongst others).  Of course, David and his family (he has a wife and two children) are in shock.  The parents cannot even bring themselves to tell their children, which is understandable.  One day, on his way home from work, David notices a stand and makes a stop.  He talkes to a man named “Elvid”.  It doesn’t take much to rearrange the letters on that, and one can already begin to see what the intentions of this stranger may be.  Of course, David makes an arrangement with this stranger:  his cancer can be cured, and his luck will turn around.  Of course there is a catch, but not what one may expect:  David must forward a percentage of his income to a bank account in the Cayman Islands, and must “transfer” his bad luck on to another.  David is basically a good man, and he does not seem to have any enemies.  However, he has been life-long friends with a man named Tom, and makes his decison quickly.  David feels that Tom has been unfairly lucky, and has a lengthy discussion with the stranger.  He describes how Tom stole his first love, and how that still hurts, even though David is happily married.  Tom has been financially successful, without putting forth much effort (as with most of his accomplishments).  Tom has also used David for his own gains, such as cheating from David’s tests in school.  It doesn’t take long for David to make his decison (with “sympathy” from the stranger), and his luck is transferred to Tom.  As the story progressives, David’s cancer is cured (much to his shock and surprise).  Also, he is promoted at work and his children become extremely successful in their own right.  In the meantime, Tom suffers in a horrific manner:  his wife passes away from cancer, his children suffer from horrible fates, his business failes miserably, and he begs David to bail him out (which David readily does).  David continues to forward a percentage of his income to the mysterious bank account, and watches his best friend’s life fall apart.  On the outside, he is the sympathetic friend.  However, on the inside, he is gleeful, and enjoys every misfortune to befall his friend.

 

The story ends with David and his wife discussing their wonderful luck, and David looks up at the sky, and “wishes for more.”  This ending is what caught my attention when reading this story:  what is David wishing for more of?  More money?  More success for his children?  One can make that argument easily.  However, I do not agree with that argument.  I think he was wishing for more misfortune on his friend.

 

Stephen King has written about an emotion that some would consider “base”: Jealousy.  This is something everyone feels.  I also think that almost everyone is envied at some point in their life, which can also be difficult to experience.  King’s character David has been carried away by this emotion, even before he meets “Elvid”, the helpful stranger.  The stranger is merely capitalizing on what is already burning in David’s heart.  Throughout the story, the reader can clearly see the joy that David experiences when his friend experiences misfortune.  I also believe that David experiences more joy from his friend’s misfortune than he does from miraculously being “cured” of a fatal disease.

 

In writing this story, I believe that King was emphasizing the fact that jealousy is a very strong emotion.  “Envy” is even counted amongst the seven deadly sins in the Bible.  Yet, jealousy is portrayed differently in the media.  The jealous person is seen as a psychotic, in many movies, and the hero or heroine is responsible for vanquishing the jealous one.  In this story, the jealous person is the protagonist and a sympathetic character.  In fact, the one who is being envied is not exactly a likeable character, even though he is mainly seen through the eyes of his worst enemy.  David is actually a likeable character, and is sympathetic.  The reader can feel sympathy, especially in the beginning when he is suffering from a fatal disease.  When David actually begins to win in life (his f ortune changes), one can actually feel happy for him.  It is harder to feel sympathy for his friend, when through his friend’s eyes, he does not appear to be a likeable person.  When we learn that Tom has come by many of his fortunes in life through David and just appears to have a sense of entitlement, the reader even begins to wish misfortune on him too.

 

This story was an interesting twist on jealousy and envy.  This is not a view that is normally expressed, and brings up much discussion on what it is like to be jealous of someone else, and also what it is like to have someone else be jealous of you.  This story also explores, along with jealousy, the true nature of friendship.  These themes are ones that are ever present, and always invoke debate.

Top 7 Stephen King Couples

Love is in the air.  Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.  Time to snuggle with your sweetie, eat some chocolate…and…

garfield

Hey, this is a blog that features Stephen King, a man who is not shy about including (in sometimes salacious detail) descriptions on the human condition, but geez, let’s leave something to the imagination, ok?  Some things are better left to the imagination, in fact…

Yes, most King books contain some kind of love story, in some form.  Wizard and Glass, the fourth book in the Dark Tower series, actually contains one of the most epic love stories of all time, in my opinion.  And it is one of the most tragic love stories of all time.  Often times, in King’s work, people are thrown together due to circumstances beyond their control (Insomnia is a great example of this, along with It) and they fall in love.  Sometimes it ends well and there is a happily ever after.  However, more often than not, all does not end well, and one or both parts of a couple must face an unhappy ending.  And sometimes, the dead half of a couple does not stay dead, but comes back from beyond the grave for one last hurrah.  And you thought navigating the perils of online dating was bad!

Roland and Susan

And in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I have devoted this post to my favorite couples in the Stephen King universe.  So, without further ado, here are my seven favorite Stephen King couples:

7)  Wolf and Jack (The Talisman)

Ah, the bromance…. Seth Rogen and James Franco are a great example.  LeBron James and his (former) Miami Heat teammates are another great example.  You can say that bromance is just in the air these days…

seth and james

But long before Seth Rogen and James Franco, and a really long time before LeBron James and co, you had…Wolf and Jack!  Yes, a twelve year old boy and his werewolf buddy have made it onto this list about Stephen King couples.  And yes, there is basis for this, so just stick with me on it, ok?

All kidding about bromances aside, there is something so inherently sweet about Wolf and Jack.  Of course, they are not a couple in the traditional sense (a twelve year old boy and a werewolf?  Ick much?)  However, Wolf and Jack are pulled together by circumstances beyond their control.  Wolf is dragged into Jack’s world and is not happy about it.  Everyday objects, like vehicles, movie screens and so forth terrify him, and rightly so.  But Wolf does his best and his devotion to his “herd” (which is what Jack has become to him) knows no bounds.  He literally carries Jack on his back without complaint. He will sacrifice anything for Jack.  And he pays the ultimate price, as Wolf dies protecting Jack, which allows Jack to escape his captors and continue his quest.  Wolf’s loyalty knows no bounds, and Jack feels that part of his heart is missing once Wolf is gone.  Loyalty to one another is part of what makes a relationship great. Jack and Wolf were both incredibly loyal to each other and are deserving of a spot on this list about great Stephen King couples.

wolf and jack

6) Billy Nolan and Chris Hargensen (Carrie)

Some things are just so bad, they are actually good.  Kind of like the Adam West Batman tv series.  Or Killer Klowns from Outer Space (although I think that one is just so terrible that it veers into awesome territory).

killer klowns

Billy Nolan and Chris Hargensen, the next couple on this list, are definitely in the “bad” category.  Although I don’t really think I can find anything good about these two…they are just rotten to the core!  King often writes about terrible human beings and portrays people in a non flattering light.  And there is nothing flattering about either one of these two characters.  Chris bullies those different from herself.  And when anyone tries to discipline her, she schemes to get revenge on those who would get in her way.  She bullies Carrie White and faces disciplinary action.  And whose fault is this?  Not hers…Carrie’s, of course!  And how do you seek revenge on a poor, defenseless, outcast girl?  Why, get your equally rotten boyfriend Billy Nolan to dump pig’s blood on her in front of EVERYONE at the prom!  Oh, the things some guys will do for love…

Actually, I don’t think love ever played a factor with Billy (or Chris, for that matter).  Billy is a misogynist who sees women as sex objects for his pleasure.  He is even planning to leave town, but will not take Chris with him.  There is a kind of devotion present in this relationship, but it is not based on love in any way at all.  Both Chris and Billy use each for their own agendas:  Billy for sexual gratification and Chris for someone to commit a cruel act upon a classmate.  Both feed upon each other’s hate.  Their souls are so dark that they are really deserving of each other, and make up the hateful counterpart to each other.  In other words, a match made in Hell and hence the inclusion on this list.

I+Hate+Carrie+White[5]

 

5)  Ralph Roberts and Lois Chasse (Insomnia)

As I stated before, characters in King novels are often thrown together by circumstances out of their control.  Often times, otherword-ly forces are responsible for this.  Ralph and Lois (Insomnia), the next couple on this list, are prime examples of this.  As the title suggests, both characters suffer from sleeplessness.  They discover that the sleepless is part of the plan of a higher being who has designs on both Ralph and Lois.  Ralph and Lois then band together to save the life of someone who will become important to The Dark Tower series.  And in the process, they fall in love.

The “twist” on Ralph and Lois is that they are elderly.  Ralph is a widower and Lois is a widow.  All of their friends are also elderly.  So the story has a slightly different “flavor” than most of King’s other work.  The story is told from the perspective of someone who has lived most of his life and in his “twilight years.”  However, this does not make the love story any less sweet or any less poignant.  The fact that Ralph and Lois are elderly may even make their love more poignant, as they probably will not have another 30+ years together.  However, Ralph and Lois get married after they complete their quest.  And they do have a few more years together.  However, in typical King fashion, the end comes all too fast, as we learn Ralph has sacrificed a few years of his life so that a child may not meet a premature death.  Even though Ralph is an old man, he brings to mind a noble knight of old who sacrifices himself in battle, with Lois being his lady.  However, Lois loves Ralph no less for his efforts, and will continue to love him even after he is gone.  Ralph and Lois are one of the most endearing couples in any of King’s books and have earned their place on this list.

atropos

4) Ben Hanscom and Beverly Marsh (It)

Everyone remembers their first crush growing up.  I certainly do remember mine, although I will keep his name out of this blog (Heaven forbid someone actually reads this, haha).  Those feelings are some of the most intense feelings I have ever experienced.  I remember that my face would flush when I saw him, and I would alternate between feeling flushed and feeling icy cold.  Even the mere mention of his name would make my hear skip a beat. I was too shy (and probably too young) to really express my feelings, but I did ache for him, and often imagined what could be.  In other words, that first crush was just wonderful. And for the record, I am happily married and would not change it for the world.  But I will never forget those feelings.  Apparently, neither did Stephen King, as the first crush (along with many others) was a topic explored in detail in his book It.

Ben Hanscom is the fat, lonely kid in love with the beautiful girl that he will never obtain (so he thinks).  Beverly Marsh is the beautiful girl, but suffers from serious self doubt, due to verbal and physical abuse at the hands of her father.  She is also bullied by her peers as her parents are poor.  Ben and Beverly are brought together the summer before they enter 6th grade to battle an evil being that has held their town captive for centuries.  Ben, Beverly and the rest of their friends band together to form The Losers Club.  The children spend the summer devising ways to rid the town of evil, and finally do battle with the monster.  They then go their separate ways and become successful adults.  Ben remains single, unable to settle down with anyone.  Beverly marries a man who is abusive in the same way her father was abusive.  The adult Losers then band together in adulthood one last time to vanquish the monster in their home town, as the first attempt was unsuccessful.  In the process, Ben falls in love with Beverly all over again. This time, the Losers are successful and defeat the monster.  Somewhere along the way, Beverly also begins to reciprocate Ben’s feelings for her and falls in love with him.  Unlike many King characters, Ben and Beverly receive a happy ending, as it is implied that they become a couple.

Even though the romance between Ben and Beverly is practically an epilogue, they are still one of King’s most memorable couples.  How often is it that someone like Ben gets to reunite with his first crush and make his feelings known?  How often is that two people who called themselves Losers as children wind up successful and then find the love of their lives?  Unfortunately, rarely…which is what makes Ben Hanscom and Beverly Marsh an endearing couple worthy of this list.

Ben and Beverly

3)  Roland Deschain and Susan Delgado (Wizard and Glass)

As stated before, King often explores the topic of first love, and writes extensively about childhood.  The book Wizard and Glass (book 4 of the Dark Tower series), is a flashback to Roland Deschain’s childhood.  King provides us with a detailed account of Roland’s coming of age, when he passes his test several years early and becomes a gunslinger at the unheard of age of 14.  However, Roland truly comes of age when he is sent, along with his friends Cuthbert and Alain, to Meijis for his supposed protection.  Roland’s father believes that Meijis is not subject to the upheaval that Gilead is currently experiencing and sends Roland and his friends there, with assumed names and assumed jobs.  However, this move backfires, and Roland and his friends are placed in even more danger.  Along the way, Roland also meets and falls in love with Susan Delgado, a young woman living in Meijis, who will become Roland’s first and only true love.

Susan Delgado

When Roland and Susan meet, Susan is promised to the elderly mayor of Meijis by her greedy aunt Cordelia.  However, that promise is soon broken, as Roland and Susan are attracted to each other and quickly consummate their relationship.  They surrender completely to each other, in both body and soul.  Although their courtship is brief, Susan quickly becomes pregnant with Roland’s child.  In the meantime, Roland and his friends uncover a plot by Eldred Jonas and the Big Coffin Hunters (a corrupt band of failed gunslingers) to surrender Meijis to an entity known as the Good Man, whose intentions are anything but good.  Eldred Jonas befriends Susan’s greedy aunt Cordelia, and is able to turn Cordelia against her own niece.  Eldred also has Roland and his friends framed for murder, in an attempt to keep Roland from foiling their plans.  Susan then breaks Roland and his friends out of jail.  However, Susan pays the ultimate price for this move.  She is literally burned alive by the townspeople for the crime of treason.  Her aunt Cordelia is also part of the mob.  Roland witnesses Susan being burned at the stake through a magical crystal, but is only able to watch helplessly as Susan and his unborn child perish in flames.  Roland and friends able to foil the plans of Eldred Jonas and his friends but the victory is hollow.  The young gunslingers head back to Gilead but return as men and are no longer boys.  The events in Meijis have matured Roland in particular, and we see him begin to turn into the cold, ruthless man we meet in the later books.

gunslinger

Wizard and Glass, like It, is another book that deals with childhood and first love.  King gives a vivid description of Roland and Susan’s feelings for each other, stating that they kissed so hard her lips bled.  He also shows a sweet, tender side of Roland, when his feelings for Susan are revealed.  However, unlike Beverly Marsh and Ben Hanscom, Roland and Susan do not have a happy ending.  In fact, the death of Susan Delgado is a major turning point in Roland’s life, making him into someone who will stop at nothing to achieve his goal of saving the Dark Tower.  Even though their courtship is all too brief and bittersweet, Roland and Susan still have a love that most would envy.  Susan’s last words are her declaration of love for Roland.  A couple whom experiences a love this intense deserves a spot on this list, no matter how brief their courtship.

roland and susan 2

2) Scott and Lisey Landon (Lisey’s Story)

Some people say that when you marry someone, you also marry that person’s demons.  In other words, your spouse’s troubles become your troubles.  King’s book Lisey’s Story takes this concept to a new level.  A literal level, actually.  When Lisey falls in love with Scott, she gets much more than she bargained for.  She discovers some interesting information about her husband, and not all of it is good.  Scott is also a gifted writer and is on his way to becoming wildly successful. However, she still marries Scott, and literally gets the ride of a lifetime in return.

lisey_1

Lisey notices that her intended is a bit “unusual” even in the early stages of dating.  Scott seems to have the ability to disappear and reappear.  He also has the ability to heal himself from terrible injuries.  Lisey later learns that Scott can teleport himself to a parallel world he calls Boo’ya Moon.  This world gives Scott the ability to heal himself from terrible injuries, such as a bullet wound from a shot fired by a deranged fan.  However, this world also comes with its demons.  One of these creatures is responsible for Scott’s premature death.  And Lisey eventually catches the eye of that creature as well.  She must call upon her dead husband to do battle with the supernatural creatures of Boo’ya Moon, along with another deranged fan who has been harassing her.  While Lisey is figuring out how to combat these evils, we are told the story of Scott and Lisey’s marriage.  We also learn of Scott’s childhood, which was truly horrific.  We learn of just what considerable sacrifices that Lisey made when she fell in love with Scott and chose to spend her life with him.  Lisey has done a lot for Scott in his lifetime.  And in his death, Scott does a lot a for Lisey, showing her how to rid herself of both the earthly menace and the supernatural menace.  Scott also leads her to one last story that he has written just for her that is not for publication, but is for Lisey to read upon his death.

“Til death do us part” is included in most wedding vows.  However, the love that Scott and Lisey have for each other even transcends death, making them worthy of their spot on this list.

liseys_story

 

And now, for my number 1 Stephen King couple…

drum-roll-please

Ta da…

1)  Eddie and Susannah Dean (The Dark Tower series)

Its no secret that any character in a Stephen King book is often put through grueling tests that are usually not of their own choosing.  And the same goes for couples in the Stephen King universe (as evidenced by this post).  However, no couple (in my humble opinion) has been subjected to as many trials and tribulations as Eddie and Susannah Dean (of The Dark Tower series).

dark tower

On the surface, Eddie and Susannah are as different as could be.  For starters, there is the obvious.  Eddie is white and Susannah is black.  And they are not even from the same time period, although they are both from New York City.  Eddie is drawn as a young man from 1980’s New York.  Susannah is drawn as a slightly older woman from 19060’s New York.  It is revealed that she was heavily involved in the civil rights movement.  Eddie’s pursuits were far less noble, as we learn that he was employed as a drug runner by a mobster.  Eddie also suffers from an addiction to heroin.  Susannah is not without her demons, however.  When she is drawn, she is suffering from multiple personality disorder.  One personality is known as Odetta Susannah Dean.  Odetta is mild mannered and educated.  The other personality, Detta Susannah Walker, is everything Odetta is not:  rude, crass and paranoid.  The Detta personality even tries to kill Roland and Eddie.

Eddie 1Susannah 1

However, despite of, or perhaps because of their respective demons, Eddie and Susannah fall in love.  With Eddie’s love, Susannah is able to merge both the Detta and Odetta personalities into one powerful woman who becomes known as Susannah Dean.  And with Susannah’s love, Eddie is able to kick his heroin addiction and put his focus on other pursuits, such as becoming a deadly gunslinger.  Both Eddie and Susannah are thrown into a strange world together, and have had choices made for them, as opposed to making their own choices.  But their love is enough to see them through the trials they will be subjected to.  And those trials are numerous.

Ka_tet_by_Cordania

Along with Jake Chambers, Eddie and Susannah train with Roland Deschain to become gunslingers.  Eddie, Susannah, Oy the billy bumbler and Roland form a tight bond.  However, this bond was never meant to last forever.  Eddie is the first member of the group to die.  Jake then follows.  Susannah is forced to continue the remainder of the quest without Eddie.  Despite the fact of feeling like she is just going through the motions without Eddie,  Susannah continues on the quest with Roland.  However, she is offered a reprieve.  Even better, she is able to reunite with a parallel reality version of her husband.  So, unlike many couples on this list, Eddie and Susannah do have a somewhat happy ending.

Tet 1

Relationships are often about trial and hardship.  People may love each other, but as the saying goes, sometimes love is just not enough.  In order for a relationship to last, it must weather whatever difficulties are thrown its way.  The best relationships are those that have withstood whatever hardship that has been thrown their way, and are all the better for it.  Eddie and Susannah’s Dean’s relationship had almost every kind of hardship I could think of thrown its way (even death), but their love was never diminished.  In other words, nothing could part them.  Therefore, they are deserving the honor of being Stephen King’s best couple.

Eddie and Susannah 1

 

So next time you have a fight with your sweetie and are lamenting the status of your relationship, just remember…it could be worse.  Much worse…you could be one of the couples on this list and therefore a victim to the whims of Stephen King!  So grab your sweetie, give him or her a kiss and thank your lucky stars that you live in this universe and not the Stephen King universe!

stephen-king-cover-ftr

 

 

The Horror Story Take on Huck Finn: A Review of The Talisman

It seems that one of the many arguments that Stephen King detractors will try to throw in my face is that he is not “literary” enough.  Yep, literary…whatever that means.

Stephen King

Does it mean that he can’t be taken seriously because he is a best selling author?  But that is pretty silly, since Charles Dickens was enormously popular, sold lots of books and has been the basis for many a thesis and research paper.

Does it mean that someone who writes “horror” cannot be considered a legitimate writer?  Again, pretty silly…Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein are considered to be the foundations of modern horror and are again the basis for many a thesis and research papers.  In fact, I am sure entire college classes are taught on those two works.

MaryShelley2

No, I think the people who make the argument that King isn’t literary enough are too snobbish to actually read his work and come up with an intelligent opinion.  And I know they have not read the book that is the subject of this article:  The Talisman.  Not only is this book (written by both Stephen King and Peter Straub) a wonderful book, the themes in the book resonate with authors such as Mark Twain and Charles Dickens, and the book pays great homage to these writers.  Pretty “literary”, if I do say so myself.

talisman_largemark twain

Synopsis

The Talisman is centered around a 12 year old boy named Jack Sawyer.  Jack lives with his mother Lilly, an actress who was known as “The Queen of the B’s.”  Jack’s father Phillip died under suspicious circumstances some years prior.  We also learn that Lilly is dying of cancer.  Lilly has moved Jack from Los Angelos to the Alhambra Hotel in New Hampshire.  Lilly and Jack are also on the run from Morgan Sloat, his father’s business partner.  Morgan wants both Jack and Lilly out of the way, so that he can entirely control the business and keep all profits for himself.

It soon becomes apparent to Jack that his mother’s situation is dire and that she does not have much longer to live.  Jack meets an old man who works at at a fun park by the name of Speedy Parker.  Speedy confirms that the situation with Jack’s mother is indeed dire.  Speedy informs Jack that he is the only one who can save his mother.  Speedy also informs (or rather reminds) Jack of the existence of an alternate dimension that he calls “The Territories.”  It seems that Jack’s father Phillip was aware of the existence of this dimension, as Jack remembers Phillip mysteriously disappearing when Jack was a child.  Unfortunately, Morgan Sloat is also aware of the existence of The Territories, and plans to use The Territories and its inhabitants for his own evil plans.

Jack also learns of the existence of “Twinners.”  It seems that people in Jack’s world (most of them, anyway) have a counterpart in The Territories known as a Twinner.  A Twinner is similar in appearance and personality to their counterpart in the alternate world.  Twinners are born at about the same time, and also die at about the same time.  We learn that Morgan Sloat’s Territories counterpart is Morgan of Orris.  Morgan of Orris also has evil plans, as the Territories counterpart to Lilly Sawyer, Queen Laura DeLoessian, is also dying.  Morgan of Orris is planning to take over The Territories upon the death of Queen Laura.  It also turns out that Jack is a rare individual who does not have a Twinner, making him singular in nature.  Jack’s Twinner, Jason, died under mysterious circumstances as an infant.  At about the same time, Jack nearly suffocated to death, but was saved by intervention from his father.  Jack’s singular nature allows him to travel between his world and The Territories.

Speedy tells Jack that he must obtain a magical object known as “The Talisman” to save his mother and Queen Lilly.  Jack then begins the journey to obtain this object, as it will require him to travel across America.  And Jack does indeed travel.  He is  forced to work for some unscrupulous people to get the money he needs to survive, and to dodge Morgan Sloat, who is hot on his heels.  He is also forced to hitchhike part of the way.  Jack also must travel to The Territories when necessary, as distances there are shorter and allow him to cover more ground.

At one point in his journey, Jack comes across a Werewolf in The Territories.  Werewolves in The Territories (known simply as Wolfs) are the shepherds and their job is to “protect the herd.”  Usually, the herd is a flock of sheep or some other kind of animal.  However, Jack’s Werewolf, who simply calls himself Wolf, deems Jack his “herd” and becomes a sort of bodyguard and travels with Jack for part of his journey.  Jack and Wolf are captured into Indiana and are then forced into virtual slavery at a place called Sunlight Gardner’s Home for Wayward Boys.  The “home” is run by a preacher known as Sunlight Gardner.  He uses the home to appropriate state funding.  The conditions in the home are abusive and are somewhat reminiscent of places in a Charles Dickens novel.  Sunlight’s Territories counterpart is Osmond, and both work for Morgan and scheme to keep Jack and Wolf captive.  Jack is finally able to escape, but at the cost of Wolf’s life, as Wolf ultimately dies protecting his “herd.”

Jack then continues alone on his journey, but not for long.  He stops in Illinois and meets up with his best friend Richard Sloat, who is the son of Morgan Sloat.  Richard hides Jack in his boarding school, but Morgan of Orris uses his trickery to shift the school into another plane, which turns the inhabitants into monsters.  The boys are then forced to travel back to The Territories.  They then travel by train through The Territories to complete (mostly) the rest of the journey.  Along the way, they must fight various monsters.  Some of the monsters appear to be creatures that are mutated.  Some are Wolfs who have “gone bad.”  A few others may have been created by magic of some kind.  It is implied that all creatures, along with the train, have been created by Morgan Sloat’s meddling actions in The Territories.

Jack and Richard then reach their destination on the West Court.  They arrive at a hotel known as the Agincourt Hotel.  This hotel is abandoned, and houses The Talisman.  The Talisman is aware of Jack’s present and encourages him to move forward to save his mother and her Territories counterpart.  Jack and Richard then battle Morgan Sloat and Sunlight Gardener.  They win this battle, but Richard is left an orphan upon the death of his father.  The two boys are then escorted back to New Hampshire by another Werewolf who also calls himself Wolf.  He is the littermate of Jack’s deceased friend.  Jack is then able to harness the powers of The Talisman one last time, therefore saving the lives of both Lilly and Queen Laura.

My Thoughts

There are so many things to love about this book but I will try to summarize them.  I read this book many years ago and did not really appreciate it at the time.  However, I also had not read the Dark Tower series, so that may have been the reason why I failed to connect with this book the first time.

One of the favorite things about this book was the whole notion of The Territories.  Almost everyone has a counterpart in The Territories that may look like them to an extent and also act like them somewhat, but is actually a distinct person.  How cool is that?  I would love to meet mine, but we may have to apologize to each other (sorry about my choice in ex husbands, I’m sure his Twinner counterpart was a giant worm or something…I really apologize for you having to be married to a giant worm because of my bad taste).  I also liked how objects in our world transform into different objects in The Territories, but they are really pretty similar when you look closely.  Jack’s money from his world turned into sticks, for example (I think some primitive cultures actually did use sticks as currency).  His tennis shoes turned into a type of sandal.  The Sunlight Gardner Home for Wayward Boys was actually some kind of slavery operations, where the counterparts to the really mean boys in Jack’s world are gargoyles in The Territories.  It was fun to speculate what objects in our world would turn into.  What about my tablet?  Would its Territories counterpart be a a giant book bound in some kind of leather?  Or my cell phone…maybe that would be some kind of bullhorn that’s used as the main form of communication over there?  I could go on and on….fascinating stuff.

gargoyle

As mentioned before, The Talisman does pay homage to a lot of classics, such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Oliver Twist, etc.  And I loved that, despite the fact that I have not read any Twain or Dickens in a very long time.  Jack Sawyer did remind me a bit of Huckleberry Finn, as he is a child forced to make his own way in the world and face some adult situations.  I also saw some parallels between Jack’s relationship with Speedy Parker and Huck Finn’s relationship with Jim, although Jack behaved much more kindly towards Speedy than Huck behaved towards Jim (at times).  Speedy Parker is also very similar to Jim, as he is kind and intelligent, and takes Jack under his wing almost like a father would, as Jim did for Huck.  Like Jim, Speedy is often the only person who truly understands the gravity of the situation, and provides a wake up call for Jack, so that Jack can focus on accomplishing the task at hand.  The home for wayward boys also reminded me of an orphanage in a Dickens novel where life consisted of cruelty and bleakness, day in and day out.  The behavior of the boys towards one another (the stronger bullying the weaker) is also something similar to what can be found in a Dickens novel.  Obviously, both King and Straub were influenced by the classics, and that influence is present in The Talisman.

Huck-Finn-003

The Talisman is often billed as a fantasy novel.  However, King and Straub are both authors known for their contributions to the horror genre and they do not let us forget that in The Talisman.  This book is still in the fantasy category, but some parts were simply terrifying.  My favorite part is Jack and Richard’s journey through the Blasted Lands on the train.  The description of the monsters that they boys faced was horrifying.  Some of these creatures are obviously victims of radiation sickness, which was probably a big fear of King’s, as he grew up in Cold War America during the 1950’s and likely saw a lot of propaganda about the effects the explosion of a nuclear bomb would have on a society.  Towards the end of the book, Richard Sloat is stricken with a sickness similar to radiation poison, and we are told that worms are crawling out of the sores on his body.  The death of Sunlight Gardener’s son Reuel and his Territories counterpart is also quite gruesome, as Reuel dies from a epileptic seizure, while the Territories version (which is really more of a mutant than a person) is killed by Jack and Richard.  King and Straub are able to work the horror elements into the story, while still keeping in firmly of the category of fantasy and adventure that is in the vein of Dickens, Twain and maybe even Robert Lewis Stevenson.

treasure-island-image1

 

In my humble opinion, Stephen King is going to be the most debated author of his time.  His work will be heavily analyzed and critiqued.  However, many years from now, when all is said and done, King will in the same canon as Charles Dickens, Tolstoy, Mark Twain, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, etc.  In other words, he will be recognized as “literary” which really just means a darn good writer who put out some some works that will be recognized as “classics.”  The Talisman is just one example of one of those works.

Connections

Just for the heck of it, I will list some connections to King’s other work that I noticed in The Talisman.  Here goes nothing:

-Twinners are discussed heavily in The Talisman.  Twinners also play a large part in other King works, most notably The Dark Tower series.

-The phrase “Lit out for The Territories” is a phrase used in several other King books, including The Dark Tower series and Lisey’s Story.

lisey_1

-Jack remembers vising a town by the name of Sidewinder, located in Colorado.  Of course, most of the events in The Shining and some of the events in Dr. Sleep take place in Sidewinder.

the-overlook-hotel

-A man named George Hatfield is mentioned.  George Hatfield is a minor character in The Shining.

-Richard and Jack travel through the Blasted Lands via train and see many strange creatures.  This is somewhat similar to Roland and his friends’ journey through part of Midworld, where they are transported by Blaine the Mono, a sentient monorail.

blaine

-Jack is asked, when he travels to The Territories, “Do ya ken it?”  This is a phrase used many times in The Dark Tower series.

dark tower

-Some of the creatures encountered by Jack and Richard seem to be suffering from radiation sickness.  They are similar to the Slow Mutants encountered by Roland and his friends in The Dark Tower series.

The_Slow_Mutants

-The Talisman itself possesses healing properties.  The rose in The Dark Tower series also possesses healing properties and is said be another manifestation of The Tower itself.  This leads to speculation that The Talisman may also be another manifestation of The Dark Tower, as it seems to possess similar properties to the rose.

Rose

Top 10 Stephen King Baddies

Its no secret that I just love bad guys (and gals, I’m equal opportunity).  I am a Batman junkie, but Joker and Harley Quinn are actually my favorite Batman characters.  You can’t get much worse than Joker and Harley Quinn…

joker and harley

Except maybe in a Stephen King novel.  King’s universe is riddled with villains of all kinds, from sentient, murderous monorails to religious fanatics who will attempt to convert people to their ways, using any and all means possible.  In other words, there are almost too many “baddies” to choose from in the King Universe.  So what’s an enterprising blogger to do?

blaine

One of the reasons I love Joker and Harley Quinn is that like Batman, they are human.  Behind the insane makeup and kooky costumes are actual human beings.  This adds an element of realism.  Any one of us could become a “baddie” at any moment.  And the element of realism is just one of many things that makes King’s stories so great.  So I am limiting this post to flesh and blood humans.  Sorry, Tak, Pennywise, Randall Flagg and whomever else may feel slighted at being left off of this list…you have to be fully human to make it!  Better luck next time!

Randall_Flagg_by_Clayman84pennywise

I am also limiting this list to people whom I feel are truly bad to the core.  Characters such as Jack Torrance, Harold Lauder and Nadine Cross are people whom I consider to be more victims of circumstance than anything.  Gage Creed does not count either, since he was possessed by the Wendigo and not accountable for his actions (wouldn’t that be a good defense in court?)

With all that being said, here are my top 10 Stephen King baddies of all time.

10)  Henry Bowers (It)

When the book or movie It is mentioned, most people automatically think of Pennywise the clown and his balloons.  And rightfully so…Pennywise is terrifying in both the book and the movie.  Pennywise is one of the most iconic villains out there and will likely remain that way for quite some time.  After all, he can take the form of your worst fears?  Could it get any scarier?

Actually, yes.  As I mentioned before, King brings an element of realism to the story.  He frequently reminds us that humans are their own worst enemy.  This is a topic visited with a vengeance in It, as it is laced with themes such as bullying, child abuse and spouse abuse.  And one of his most memorable characters in It is Henry Bowers.

Henry Bowers is the archetype of every evil bully that we all have encountered.  He torments those who are “different” in any way.  He is racist and sexist.  He also intimidates others into doing his dirty work for him as well. In other words, he is all around great, upstanding citizen, at least in Bully-ville.

However, in the summer of 1958, Henry’s bullying of those weaker than himself takes a sinister turn.  He carves his initials on one kid’s stomach.  This leads to some of Henry’s victims forming the Losers Club, partially as a way to band together and protect themselves.  This group of children also becomes strong enough to hurt and possibly kill Pennywise.  Pennywise realizes this, and uses Henry both in the summer of 1958 and again in 1985 to hurt The Losers.  Henry’s hatred makes him an easy vessel for Pennywise, although it can be argued that Pennywise is just dumping gasoline into an existing fire.  In 1958, Henry is unable to put aside his hatred for one minute and chases The Losers into the sewer.  This results in the deaths of Henry’s friends.  It c an be argued that Henry’s hatred was really the ultimate demise of his friends and later Henry himself.

I was bullied as a child, and the themes in It heavily resonated with me.  Anyone who bullies another for any reason will face my wrath.  Or they will earn the honor of being included on this list.

Henry Bowers

9)  Margaret White (Carrie)

Its no secret that religion is a major theme in most Stephen King books, from The Stand to Revival, his latest work.  Religion is even present in the novella The Mist, which is about inter-dimensional creatures invading our planet.  King will show all aspects of religion, from the good (the hypnotism of Tom Cullen in The Stand) and also the bad (Mrs. Carmody in The Mist).  It one thing that makes his works so complex and intriguing.

Margaret White is a shining (or not so shining, depending on your viewpoint) example of the “bad” part of religion in King’s work.  She is Carrie’s mother in King’s first published novel, Carrie.  Margaret White is a fanatic.  There is no other way to put it.  Her views on God and sin are extreme, to say the least.  This spills over on to her parenting style, as she raises Carrie in a very restrictive environment.  When Carrie buys material for a dress that is pink, Margaret does not approve because it is too close to the color red.  Carrie is not allowed to participate in even the most innocuous activities, like summer camp for children.  Even worse, Margaret does not inform Carrie at all about menstruation and fails to consult a doctor when Carrie does experience her first menstrual period until she is nearly 17.  The creates trouble for Carrie, as she is bullied by her peers and fails to fit in at school.  This is made worse when she has her first period in the girls’ locker room at school, as she does not understand what is happening and thinks she is bleeding to death.

We can argue that the events in the novel Carrie are a direct result of Margaret White’s fanaticism, as the fanaticism made Carrie White into an outcast who ultimately turned on her tormentors and later on herself.  This fanaticism also resulted in the demise of both mother and daughter.  Margaret White is truly an evil character who has earned her spot on this list.

Margaret White

8)  Jim Rennie (Under the Dome)

Under the Dome is perhaps one of King’s most political novels.  King himself has said that the book is an allegory for a world that is slim on resources, with power resting in the hands of a few.  Under the Dome also takes a stance on religion, or perhaps more accurately, fanaticism.  King shows us in the novel what can happen when we put a fanatic in charge.  And the results are not pretty.

King makes a statement on fanaticism in Under the Dome through his character Jim Rennie.  Rennie is the second town selectman and a used car dealer.  Rennie rejoices when the town is suddenly, inexplicably blanketed by a large dome of unknown origin.  Jim Rennie has been running a covert meth lab and the appearance of the dome provides a distraction from his illegal activities.  Rennie takes full advantage of the dome and the chaos it creates in the town of Chesters Mills by staging a riot in a grocery store so that he can exert his authority.  He is convinced that he is doing the work of God Himself and is above any kind of authority, even the President of the United States.  He also uses his authority and religion to bully and exploit those weaker than him who have experienced tragedy due to the dome.  He is also not afraid to kill in the name of his religion, as he beats the town pastor to death to ensure silence about the meth lab.  He also has Dale Barbara, the protagonist of the story, arrested on trumped up murder charges in his attempt to fully rule the town.

Like Henry Bowers, Jim Rennie is another character whose hatred brings the demise of himself and several others.  But Rennie nearly brings on the demise of an entire town along with his own through his actions.  He is definite proof “that all the glitters is not gold” and is worthy a spot on this list.

Rennie

7)  Morgan Sloat/Morgan of Orris (The Talisman)

A major theme in King’s work is adults that do not behave as adults.  Even worse, many of these adults fail to protect the ones they are supposed to love the most.  The Shining is the most tragic example of this, as Jack Torrance fails to protect his son and nearly sacrifices him to the demons that possess the Overlook Hotel.  It is another example of adults who fail children, in that many adults witness bullying and abuse and fail to do anything about it.

The Talisman is another example of children facing extreme danger.  Jack Sawyer must travel across America on a journey in an attempt to save his mother, who is dying of cancer.  Jack also visits a world parallel to our own, which he calls The Territories.  In our world, he is pursed by his father’s former business partner, Morgan Sloat.  When he visits The Territories, he is also pursued by Morgan’s Twinner, known as Morgan of Orris.  Both versions of Morgan are greedy and corrupt.  Morgan is interested only in extending his power, and will stop at nothing to do it.  He sends many of his minions after Jack.  His Twinner has access to magic harnessed in The Territories, giving him an unfair advantage over Jack.  Morgan also cajoles and blackmails Jack’s mother even when she is on her deathbed.  We learn that he was responsible for the death of Jack’s father (and his twinner) along with the death of another business partner.  Morgan also attempted to kill Jack when Jack was an infant by smothering him.  Fortunately, Jack is saved by his father.  However, Morgan’s Twinner is successful in murdering Jack’s Territories counterpart.  This turns out to be a mistake for Morgan, as the death of Jason (Jack’s Twinner) is responsible for Jack’s ability to to cross into The Territories and ultimately save his mother’s life.  However, Morgan is willing to stop at nothing to attempt to defeat Jack and even attempts to sacrifice his own son, Richard to further his goals.  He is truly a character with no moral center and no remorse for any of his actions.  In other words, he has rightfully earned his spot on this list.

morgan sloat

6)  Sunlight Gardener/Osmond (Talisman)

While we are on the subject of adults in King novels who are cruel to children, we must discuss Sunlight Gardner (twinner to Osmond in The Territories).  Sunlight Gardener is just one on a list of many adults in King’s universe who abuse and betray children.  However, Gardener is able to take this abuse to a much larger scale, in that he opens a home for “wayward boys” which is really an operation that is used to mask the slavery and abuse of young children.  Gardener also uses the home to obtain state funds, as he is not really accountable for those funds.  He is responsible for the deaths of many boys during his tenure at the home.  Gardener also physically abuses those who do not obey him.  However, the most notable of these deaths is Wolf.  Wolf is actually a werewolf who is accidentally pulled from The Territories by Jack Sawyer and forced to attempt to survive in Jack’s reality.  Wolf is innocent and naive to the cruelties of our world, despite the fact he is a werewolf.  Wolf ultimately dies protecting Jack from the evil intentions of Gardener.  Gardener teams with Morgan Sloat and further attempts to hinder Jack on his quest to obtain the Talisman and save his mother, but he is unsuccessful.

Stephen King has repeatedly stated that Charles Dickens has had an enormous influence on his writing.  This is evident in The Talisman, as Sunlight  Gardener is similar to a character such as Fagin, in that he uses children to do his evil bidding, although on a much larger scale.  His spot on this list is rightfully earned.

sunlight_gardener_by_nekomell-d5hncx8

5)  Lee Harvey Oswald (11/22/63)

Lee Harvey Oswald is different from all of the characters on this list as he is an actual person.  Most people know that he is responsible for the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas TX on November 22, 1963.  Many would argue that he is one of the most evil men in history, and they would be correct.  In 11/22/63, King is able to make a historical figure into a character who fits into his universe.  The image King paints of Oswald is not flattering, although this is not a surprise.  What is surprising is the amount of detail that King gives to this character to bring him to life in such a convincing manner.  Oswald is described as being controlling and abusive towards his wife.  He is also described as being a failure in almost everything he tries, from being a husband and father to holding down a steady job.  The main character, Jake Epping, spies on Oswald in his attempt to prevent the Kennedy assassination.  We see Oswald as a weak man who becomes mentally unstable over a period of several years, and this culminates with his attempt to assassinate the President of the United States.   However, Oswald has opportunities to back out of this attempt but still chooses to embark on the wrong path.  In both our reality and King’s alternate reality, he pays for his obsession dearly.

In many ways, Oswald is similar to many of the villains on this list:  he is unsuccessful in most of his endeavors but longs to make a name for himself.  However, despite being integrated into the Stephen King Universe, he is still a historical figure that most people are familiar with. This adds dimension to his character and makes an even more terrifying King villain.

lee harvey oswald

4)  Gregg Stillson (Dead Zone)

Stephen King often includes sociopaths as major characters in his books.  Greg Stillson from The Dead Zone is a good example of this type of character.  However, he is a little different from some of King’s sociopathic characters (such as Patrick Hockstetter from It) in that he appears normal and is quite charming.  However, Stillson is anything but normal.  It is revealed that he was abused as a child and suffers from an over-inflated ego and sense of entitlement.  He enjoys the suffering of other living beings, even animals.  Like Lee Harvey Oswald, he is power hungry and longs for control.  Unlike Oswald, Stillson is craftier and is able to blackmail people into doing his bidding.  He successfully runs for Congress and is eyeing a presidential campaign run.  However, when Johnny Smith, blessed (or possibly cursed) with precognitive abilities, makes physical contact with Stillson and realizes that Stillson will be elected president.  However, this will not be a good thing for America, as Stillson will use his power to worsen conflicts and eventually orchestrate WW III.  Johnny attempts to stop Stillson but is killed by the security guards at the rally in the process.  However, Greg Stillson commits an act of cowardice and uses an infant as a human shield against the bullets.  This act of cowardice is captured on camera, and all of Stillson’s political hopes are dashed upon publication of the photo.

King often reminds us that evil is cowardly and that fear can be used manipulate people into committing deeds that they may not otherwise commit.  He also reminds us that acts of cowardice hardly win in the end.  Greg Stillson is a perfect example of this, and hence the inclusion on this list.

the-dead-zone-1983-01-630-75

3)  Norman Daniels (Rose Madder)

Spousal abuse is a topic visited with a vengeance in many King novels.  It and Delores Claiborne both make statements on this subject.  Rose Madder, however, is a novel devoted to the topic.  And Norman Daniels, the main antagonist in the book, is one of the most abusive men in any King novel.  Norman Daniels marries Rosie McClendon a few weeks after Rosie graduates from high school.  The abuse starts on their wedding night, as Norman punches Rosie for slamming a door too hard.  He then continues to abuse her for the remainder of her marriage.  Despite the abuse, Rosie becomes pregnant with Norman’s child.  Norman then beats Rosie so badly that she miscarries and loses the baby.  Rosie continues to remain married to Norman for several more years, until she sees a drop of blood on their bedding and then flees.  Rosie is able to flee almost 800 miles away from Norman and begins a new life.  She makes new friends and even finds new romance.  However, this is still not enough to keep Norman away from her.  Norman uses his police officer instincts and tracks her down, leaving a trail of bodies in his search for Rosie.  Many of Rosie’s friends are murdered by Norman.  Not even the local police force is able to bring Norman down.  It takes Rosie stepping into a portal into another world to finally stop Norman.  However, Rosie must live with the memories of the abuse for the rest of her life.

King portrays men who abuse women as monsters to be feared.  Norman Daniels is human in appearance only.  Inside, he is a monster capable of feeling no remorse for his heinous acts and will stop at nothing to cause pain and suffering for anyone who gets in his way.  He is truly deserving of the spot on this list.

norman daniels

2)  Charles Burnside (Black House)

Black House is a continuation of the story begun in Talisman.  And again, the theme of children in danger surfaces.  However, Jack Sawyer is an adult and is no longer a child in danger.  He has moved to the town of French Landing in WI, after an early “retirement” from the LA Police force.  But Jack does not remain in retirement for long.  For children are disappearing in French Landing.  When the children are found, they are dead.  Not only are the children dead, they are mutilated and dismembered.  When Tyler Marshall, the son of a local salesman disappears, the stakes become even higher.  For Tyler is special.  He possesses psionic abilities and has caught the eye of the Crimson King, the king of all villains in the Stephen King universe.  The Crimson King, however, uses a human to capture Tyler.  However, this man is human in appearance only.  Charles Burnside appears to an Alzheimer’s patient in the last stages of life.  He lives in a nursing home, where most pity him, as he does not appear to possess any of his facilities.  However, this is a ruse.  Charles Burnside has been in the business of murdering children for a long time.  He has even changed his name to escape law enforcement.  He indeed is not physically capable of much.  However, he is aided by a creature known only as “Mr. Munshun.”  This creature is another minion of the Crimson King, and is able to possess Burnside’s body.  Burnside’s soul is so dark that it welcomes the evil creature.  He allows Burnside to murder children as long as it is determined that the children do not possess any psionic abilities, making them useful to the Crimson King.  When Burnside, aided by the creature known as Munshun, encounters Tyler Marshall, he kidnaps Tyler and transports him into another dimension.  Burnside is ordered by Munshun to keep Tyler alive, but he still torments Tyler.  Tyler is nearly killed by Burnside but is saved by the intervention of Jack Sawyer and his friends.  Burnside is disposed of, but never faces true justice for the awful crimes he has committed.

Stephen King based Charles Burnside on Albert Fish, a real life serial killer who preyed upon several children in the 1920’s before finally being brought to justice.  Minus the supernatural/fantasy aspect, the events in Black House (murders of children) are perfectly plausible and all too sadly common.  King reminds us that is a special kind of monster that preys on defenseless children.  Again, Burnside is another character rightfully deserving of his spot on this list.

gorg_and_mr_munshun

 

And now, for the number villain in the Stephen King Universe…

drum-roll-please

1) Eldred Jonas (Wizard and Glass)

Yes, you heard it here.  This blogger believes that Eldred Jonas, the main antagonist in Wizard and Glass (book 4 of the Dark Tower series) is the biggest villain of them all.  And there are good reasons for that, so let’s talk about them.

eldred_jonas

Eldred Jonas is just a bad guy, period.  We see him and his henchman (The Big Coffin Hunters) tormenting Sheemie, a mentally challenged young boy, at the beginning of the events in Wizard and Glass.  Jonas and his friends also vandalize some of the belongings our heroes Roland, Cuthbert and Alain.  He seems to enjoy cruelty for the sake of cruelty, and will go out of his way to cause suffering to people, especially those he feels do not serve his purpose.  A sociopath, like many other King villains, in other words.

sheemie

However, Eldred Jonas is on a different level than most King villains.  If the Crimson King (the ultimate King bad guy) had a human henchman, Jonas fits that role perfectly.  Jonas also works for John Farson (known as The Good Man, although this is quite the misnomer).  John Farson is the entity that is ultimately responsible for overthrowing the system of rule that has been in place in the Baronies of Midworld for centuries.  Jonas also works for Randall Flagg, who thrives on misery and chaos.  Randall Flagg also plays a part in the demise of Midworld,which is referred to as “the world moving on.”  Jonas definitely keeps bad company, as well as being a sociopath.

There is an object in the King Universe known as Maerlyn’s Rainbow.  It consists of glass balls that are different colors of the rainbow.  Not surprisingly, this object can be used for mischief.  Jonas and the band of Big Coffin Hunters obtain one piece of the Rainbow.  It is pink in color and allows the user to view events in remote locations.  Jonas gives this piece of the glass to a witch known as Rhea of the Coos.  Not surprisingly, Rhea uses the magical piece of glass for mischief and becomes even more evil and corrupt under its power.  This later causes trouble for Roland his friends.

Maerlyn's rainbow

All of the above deeds are pretty terrible, but I think the biggest reason why I consider Eldred Jonas to be so evil is because he was responsible for the death of Roland’s one true love, Susan Delgado.  Susan was also pregnant with Roland’s unborn son.  Jonas charms Susan’s greedy Aunt Cordelia, and is able to bring Cordelia to his side.  Jonas then has mayor Thorin murdered, and has Roland and his friends arrested on false murder charges, so that they are no longer in his way.  Jonas also plots to have war machines fueled with oil from Meijis. However, Susan is able to free Roland and his friends from prison.  But since Jonas has turned Cordelia against her own niece, Cordelia becomes part of a lynch mob that ends up burning Susan and her unborn child at the stake.  Roland and his friends are able to foil Jonas’ plot and dispose of Jonas himself, but the actions of Jonas have caused irreparable damage in the form of Susan Delgado’s death and the start of a war that will also destroy Roland’s way of life and cost him his friends and family.  Anyone responsible for that much damage (in both direct and indirect ways) is worthy of the number one spot on this list.

Roland and Susan

One of the reasons that I love the Batman series so much is that it portrays human beings in situations where they are forced to make difficult decisions.  Some of these humans try to take the right path, like Bruce Wayne and Commissioner Gordon.  However, others such as The Joker, Harley Quinn and Two Face choose to take a much darker road.  And sometimes the darker road is the more interesting road.  It is no different in the Stephen King Universe.  Some, such as Roland Deschain and Jack Sawyer, face adversity and still choose to fight for the Side of the White.  But there are others, such as Eldred Jonas and Greg Stillson, who choose to travel down the dark path.  And while I support the Side of the White, I can’t help but be intrigued by the darker path, and to also want to hitch a ride with the travelers of that path.

batman and robin

 

 

 

My top 10 movies

Admittedly, I am not a movie geek.  I fall into the category of book geek.  I much prefer books to movies, hands down.  And movies based on books?  Don’t get me started, you do not want to watch most of those with me.

However, I am married to someone who is a movie geek (and a pretty cute one at that).  So I make concessions.  My movie watching time has increased in the past several years.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  I still think books are better, but the screen is a valid artistic medium.  There is no denying that.  Some tell stories with pen and paper, and some use film.  Both can give rise to some great works.

With all that being said, here is my list of my top 10 favorite movies of all time.

10)  The Stand

Yes, I know this never hit the theaters.  And I know its technically a mini series and not a movie.  However, it is about 6 hours long, so I count it as 3 three movies.

With all this being said, The Stand is one of the best adaptations of an author who has too many books that have become the victims to horrible adaptations (Running Man, anyone?)  The Stand is one in a long line of movies that can be categorized as “dystopian”  However, The Stand has a few things to make it stand out (no pun intended).  The casting was brilliant, for the most part.  Who can forget Bill Fagerbakke in the role of Tom Cullen, a mentally challenged man who risks life and limb to fight for the side of the good?  Gary Sinise was also memorable as Stu Redmond, the quiet man from east Texas thrust into the role of the leadership that he did not really want.  And then there is Rob Lowe’s (before his fame as Meathead Rob Lowe on the Direct TV commercials) role as Nick Andros, a deaf mute.  Lowe only had few lines of dialogue in the entire movie, but it is the non-speaking performance that will be remembered for years to come.  The Stand was also limited by network TV and the lack of any real CGI technology (this was 1994 after all) but was still an overall great (and faithful to the source material) adaptation to what many consider to be the greatest Stephen King book ever written.  And it has rightfully earned its place on my list.

Nick

9) Carrie (1976)

Poor Carrie…why can’t she catch a break?  She was just trying to be a normal teenager for once.  Her mother tries to ruin it for her but wildly underestimated Carrie’s…talents, shall we say?  And those horrible girls at the prom then tried to ruin it again but then they became victim to Carrie’s,..uh…talents.  Don’t people ever learn?  Do not mess with someone endowed with telekinesis…it just doesn’t pay!

As someone who has been the victim of bullying for most of her natural life, there is no way that the 1976 version of Carrie does not deserve a place on this list of all time great movies.  Not only did I completely identify with Carrie (I was her, minus the religious fanatic mother), I was blown out of the water by the performance of Sissy Spacek in the title role.  However, even though Sissy Spacek was great in her role, Piper Laurie stole the show in her role as Carrie’s fanatically religious mother Margaret White.  Many say she was robbed of the Oscar for that role.  I can’t really argue against that.  And this was made in 1976, so Sissy Spacek and company could not rely on CGI.  In other words, all acting, baby.  And some really great acting at that.

Myself and all the other bullied children should have a special place in our hearts for Carrie White.  And this movie indeed has a special place on this list as well.

Margaret Whitecarrie-1

 

8)  Nightmare Before Christmas

So, its Halloween and things are feeling autumn-like.  Time to watch…Nightmare Before Christmas!

The snow is in the air and the holiday spirit is a-flowing.  Sounds like it may be time to watch…Nightmare Before Christmas!

What a dichotomy!  Halloween movie or Christmas movie?  How do we choose?

Well, it doesn’t matter…its Nightmare Before Christmas, the movie of dual functions!  And also yet another example of the genius of Tim Burton.  The special effects were ahead for the time and helped pave the way for many other movies.  The soundtrack was catchy too, and the characters were cute but cute in a nightmare-ish different sort of way (it is a Tim Burton film after all).  After all, who can forget Sandy Claws, The Pumpkin King, Lock, Shock and Barrel and all the rest of the charmers?

Actually, it doesn’t really matter when you watch Nightmare Before Christmas.  It is a treat no matter what time of year it is!

JackJack-and-Sally-nightmare-before-christmas-16309038-900-592

 

7) Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

When the news came out that Lord of the Rings would be made in a live action movie consisting of three films, the nerd world collectively jumped for joy.  Well, at least this nerd did.  Finally, we were going to get what we had been clamoring for and the technology was advanced enough to do it justice.  Gandolf, Frodo, Boromir and the rest of the gang were going to come to life, and we gleefully rubbed our hands in anticipation.  And it did not disappoint.  I saw Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring on opening weekend and was already counting down the minutes to the next movie when I left the theater.

And I was right to be counting down the minutes to the release of The Two Towers.  In one word:  Ents.  For those who don’t know, Ents were the sentient tree creatures that chose to fight evil along with Gandolf and co.  And that fight scene was one for the ages.  Hands down, one of the best battle scenes in cinematic history.  Of course, the movie consisted of much more than that particular scene.  We were also introduced to Grima.  Gandalf the White reunited with his friends.  But I will never be able to get images from the battle fought by the Ents out of my mind, especially the scene where one dies in battle…still sends shivers down my spine.

A movie with sentient trees making the list?  Crazy, huh?  Well, wait til you get a load of the rest of the list before you jump to any conclusions!

gollumthe-lord-of-the-rings-the-two-towers5

6)  Masters of the Universe

I am married to He-Man’s number one fan.  I don’t think he would ever capture He-Man and try to hobble him but check out his shelf dedicated all things Masters of the Universe sometime…its a beauty!  And if its not a sign of dedication then I don’t know what is.

When someone says “He-Man”, most people’s minds automatically conjure up the 1980’s cartoon, or maybe even the 2002 remake.  Only the extremely dedicated will also conjure up the 1987 live action film titled Masters of the Universe.  And that’s a shame.  The cartoon was campy.  And it taught morals!  What would He Man do was the guiding light to every 80’s kid when he/she faced a moral dilemma.  Well, I may be exaggerating, but there is no denying the impact of that cartoon show on the 27-40 year old demographic.  But the live action film also has its place.  True, there were some pretty significant deviations from the cartoons.  And we didn’t get any lessons on morality at the end.  Actually, the very end has one of the best endings to a film ever but I will not spoil it here.  But it has that campyness similar to the cartoons.  As for the special effects…well, they tried.  And Frank Langella as Skeletor?  My 9 year old self had to hide her hands behind her eyes, although she still peaked between her fingers.  That performance easily makes the movie.  Plus, its He-Man!  How could anyone ever go wrong with He-Man?

This was also the first movie I saw when my family and I moved back to the United States after living in Japan for several years.  It got me re-introduced to the good old USA. I will always remember that.  And rank it number 6 on my list.

He manSkeletor

 

5)  Burnt Offerings

Movies about haunted houses are nothing new.  They were not really even new back in 1976, as works such as Haunting in Hill House firmly established themselves as standards.  However, one with a really scary chauffeur, Bette Davis and Burgess Meredith tend to stand out.  This is where Burnt Offerings comes in.  In my opinion, this is one of the greatest horror movies of all time, and is also one of the most underrated horror films of all time.

CGI effects have been par for the course for quite some time now.  Almost any action or horror film relies on them for story telling.  And this is both a blessing and a curse.  Movies like The Avengers would not be the same with out CGI effects.  However, CGI effects can make for extremely lazy story telling, especially in modern horror movies.  When filmmakers rely on the special effects, the acting and the creation of the atmosphere take a back seat.  Therefore, horror have the “gross factor” but often fail to be genuinely scary.  However, this is not so with Burnt Offerings.

The character that will always stick out in the mind is that chauffeur in Burnt Offerings.  This character is actually only a memory of Ben Rolf’s at first, as his mother died at a young age and the chauffeur was present at the funeral.  However, this character actually comes to life when Ben and his family move into an old house that is actually haunted.  This character actually has no lines to speak of, but is very frightening.  Ben sees this apparition before his elderly aunt passes away and the ghost acts as a psychopomp (harbringer between the living and the dead).  This is one the scariest scenes I have ever witnessed.  The effects that the director was able to create with the haunted house also added to the movie, but the ghost of the chauffeur truly made the movie.

Burnt-Offering-Chauffer

And there is a bonus to this movie:  We are treated to an appearance of Burgess Meredith aka The Penguin in the 1960’s Batman TV series…how much better can it get?

The-Penguin4

4)  Boondock Saints

Long before Norman Reedus became known as the sex symbol Darryl Dixon on The Walking Dead, he was Murphy McManus aka 1/2 of the Boondock Saints in the movie with the same title.  Many may associate him with Darryl Dixon.  And that’s fine.  But to me, he will always be Murphy McManus.  In other words, Darryl Dixon can’t hold a candle to Murphy McManus.

Darryl

Movies about vigilante justice are nothing new.  After all, Batman is the original vigilante.  However, Boondock Saints features the Every Man (the McManus brothers), who become accidental vigilantes when they kill Russian mobsters in self defense.  And they have to do it all without any special Batman gadgets.  The Saints are also able to bring local law enforcement to their side, especially Agent Paul Smecker, a conflicted FBI agent.  The Saints are able to accomplish their mission, after much bloodshed.  The movie is also laced with black comedy and is extremely quotable as well.

boondock-saints-quotes-hd-wallpaper-22

In other words, this is a perfect movie to watch on an early date with your future husband…doesn’t get more romantic than that.  Or is that just me?

3)  Pulp Fiction

Note to self:  when your grandparents offer to take you to a movie when you are 16, its probably best NOT to choose Pulp Fiction.  In fact, choosing Pulp Fiction is just not good decision making.  Believe me, I did not hear the end of that one for a while.

But I never forgot the movie either.  Who would be able to forget this one?  Like the previous entry, it is extremely quotable.  Royale with cheese, anyone?  That metric system is so overrated, after all.

And then there is Samuel L. Jackson.  Or should I say Samuel Motherfuckin’ Jackson.  His performance as Jules Winnfield is the stuff of legend.  Jackson is also able to pull off quoting the Bible verses without sounding forced.  And the chemistry between Jackson and his co-star John Travolta is something special too.  While Travolta, Bruce Willis and Uma Thurman give great performances, Jackson’s performance is what makes the movie.  And is one of the reasons why he will be a legend for a long time.

This is another great date night movie.  Trust me, it is…hunny bunny!

pulp_fiction_by_puck_ie-d6bcik0pulp-fiction-Mia-Wallace-Vincent-Vega-Frikarte

2)  The Shawshank Redemption

I have made my feelings on movies based on books pretty well known.  Most of them are pretty bad.  And movies based on Stephen King books are usually a particular brand of awful (Firestarter, anyone?)  And The Shining…I could do a separate blog post on that one.

But The Shawshank Redemption is a rare exception to the rule.  Everything about this movie is simply perfect.  The casting is spot on, especially with Tim Robbins.  Robbins brings Andy to life perfectly.

Red and AndyRed and Andy 2

And we have Morgan Freeman as Red.  If I see any internet meme with Morgan Freeman in it, my mind reads the words in Red’s voice.  His role was that iconic. In fact, this movie has inspired the extremely talented Frank Caliendo so much that Caliendo is able to tie it in to Lebron James and the NBA.  Talk about iconic.

Speaking of iconic, Family Guy (of all shows), has done a takeoff on this movie.  Now, that must mean it is something special.

FG_Three_Kings-Fourth_WallCleveland

Books are almost always better than movies.  No contact.  But that’s almost.  Sometimes a movie can actually exceed the book, as rare as that it is.  And The Shawshank Redemption is a perfect example of a film able to exceed its source material.

And now…drum roll please…my number 1 movie of all time…

drum-roll-please

1)  The Dark Knight

Yes, it all came down to this.  If you are still here reading this, then yes indeed it did.  You slogged your way through this list just to come to a Batman movie at the number 1 spot.  So it goes…are we really surprised?

Ok, put your eyeballs back in your head (you know you were rolling them way back) and let’s talk about why this movie is number 1.

Batman is kind of like pizza (or maybe sex, for those of you with dirty minds).  Even when its bad, its still kind of good and you just really can’t resist.  Even the bad Joel Schumacher Batman movies are still kind of good.  The cheesy 1960’s Adam West Batman is spectacular.  And The Dark Knight is good…after all, its Batman!

adam westbatman_27198

However, The Dark Knight has a lot more going for it than simply being a movie about Batman.  It is well directed and well written.  And it also has some phenomenal performances.  The most well known of these performances is Heath Ledger’s Joker.  The Joker has always been a disturbed character, but Ledger takes it to a whole new level.  Some of his lines as The Joker are very quotable (Wanna know how I got these scars?)  It is also true that Ledger improvised much of the role in the movie (a little known fact).  And the character’s story is not very well fleshed out.  This makes The Joker even more terrifying, as its plausible that anyone could become him.  Ledger received a posthumous Oscar for his performance.  The only bad thing about this particular Oscar winner is that he won the Oscar posthumously and was never able to enjoy it.  Truly the stuff of legends.

jokerdark-knight-movie-review-5

The Dark Knight is associated with The Joker.  And for good reason.  However, the movie also incorporates Two Face, another outstanding performance credited to Aaron Eckhart.  Eckhart is able to convincingly portray Harvey Dent and Two Face.  And the incorporation of Two Face into the story is very slick, as the viewer is caught up more with The Joker story line.  However, the slow transformation of Harvey Dent into the madman known as Two Face is seamlessly woven into the film, and once Two Face is officially introduced, the results are nothing short of spectacular.  The Dark Knight did receive one Oscar (Heath Ledger, supporting actor) but really should have won more Academy awards, especially for the writing and the performance of Aaron Eckhart.

batman 2batmanharvey dent

I have always loved Batman.  I always will love Batman, for better or for worse.  The Dark Knight has everything that I love about Batman:  Alfred, the Bat himself, the Commish, and some great villains.  However, the writing, acting and directing takes it to another level, making it into a true work of art.  And therefore number 1 on my top 10 movies of all time.

There they are.  The top 10 movies of all time, from the perspective of someone who normally prefers to read books. Tune in next week: same bat time, same bat channel.

batman and robin

7 Reasons Why I Love Stephen King

Pfffft (blows proverbial raspberry)…like I really need any rationale as to why I read Stephen King.  His books are awesome.  His storytelling is just unbelievably good.  He is easily the most recognized writer of all time and will probably go down in history as one of America’s best loved writers.  Timeless, in other words.

Blowing-Raspberries

However, there are several things that stand out about Stephen King and are unique to Stephen King.  These are attributes that not many other writers possess, and are elements that contribute to his timelessness.

Stephen King

Without further ado, here are my top 7 reasons as to why I read Stephen King.

7)  His books are scary

Captain Obvious strikes again!  The face of modern horror writes really scary books?  Who knew???

All kidding aside, when I was 10 years old a camp counselor started telling us naive and impressionable 10-12 year old kids (I really need to write a blog post sometime about the awesome role models I had growing up) about a clown that lived in the sewer and could only be seen by kids.  And this clown was not nice.  He killed kids too.  Of course, my naive and impressionable 10 year old self took this literally and spent the better part of that summer being very frightened of drains and anything plumbing related.  Two years later, I learned of a network television mini series featuring none other than a clown who lived in a sewer and killed kids.  Naturally, I just had to watch this on TV (my parents were really thrilled) with my brother and some other friends.  Of course, I am referring to the 1990 TV mini series It.  But even as a twelve year old (although I was a little beyond my years), I felt that the mini series, while scary for a 12 year old, was missing something.  So I immediately picked up the book of the same name.  I read it in under a week, and my life was changed irrevocably.  So began my love of Stephen King.

After I read It, I almost immediately picked up Pet SemetarySalem’s Lot and The Shining.  And I spent a good part of those late elementary/middle school years years being terrified.  I just have no words to describe my first reading of The Shining.  I was terrified for poor Danny Torrance.  I never looked at fire hoses the same way again.  I read Pet Semetary and felt the immediate need to keep my cats really, really close (luckily not too much blood was drawn).  And the idea of hunting down vampires per Salem’s Lot gave me quite the adrenaline rush.

salem's lot

People like to be scared in some way.  And I think this applies to most people.  Some people satisfy this need by riding roller coasters.  Some take flying lessons.  And then you have me.  I satisfy that need by reading books about killer clowns who live in sewers, haunted hotels and rabid St. Bernard dogs.

pennywise

6)  His take on faith, religion and humanity in general

Yes, reading King is a religious experience.  As if you didn’t know that already!

But seriously, much of King’s work is littered with religious themes.  The Stand, which is one of his best loved books, is a modern take on The Book of Revelations.  It could be argued that Harold Lauder is the group’s Judas Iscariot, as even the fate he suffers is similar.  David Carver in Desperation could argued to be a child version of Job in the Old Testament, as he endures horrible suffering and his faith in God is tested repeatedly.  John Coffey in Green Mile is blessed (or arguably cursed) with healing powers similar to Jesus Himself.  And this is barely scratching the surface, as there are many more biblical themes that crop up in King’s work.

King also shows the negative side of religion and zealousness in his work.  And this topic is visited with a vengeance.  A prime example is Margaret White, mother to Carrie White in the novel Carrie.  Margaret is such a fanatic that even mainstream churches have rejected her.  She essentially makes up her own religion and forces her daughter into a restrictive lifestyle that ultimately becomes the demise of the both of them.

Pet Semetary is another book rife with religious themes.  However, there are dark twists.  It could be argued that Louis Creed is a modern version of Icarus.  Instead of being shown how to fly so that he can escape from Crete, Louis is shown an ancient burial ground that is cursed by the Wendigo and has magical powers.  This burial ground is meant to teach his daughter a lesson about life and death when the family pet is hit by a truck.  And this is accomplished.  However, when his son is tragically killed on the same highway, Louis goes (understandably) mad and is inflicted with the worst kind of hubris and attempts to use the burial ground in a way that it was never intended for.  Like Icarus, he soars too high and the consequences are beyond horrific, cursing his entire family for eternity.

While King writes about humans inflicting awful deeds on each other, he also has a softer side.  And this softer side shows up in almost all of his works, even the most terrifying ones.  A prime example of this is Dreamcatcher.  Dreamcatcher is a novel about aliens invading our planet and is most famous for “shit weasels.”  However, this novel also deals with friendship and bravery.  The four main characters in the book are credited with an act of extreme bravery when they were children.  The four boys rescued another boy, who was afflicted with Down’s Syndrome, from the local bullies.  They then take this boy under their wing and a lifelong friendship results.  The friendship between the children is something beautiful in a book that is otherwise filled with graphic imagery violence.  The description of the friendship reminds us not of man’s inhumanity to man, but that sometimes we can come through for each other when it counts the most.

byrus

 

5) He is a feminist

Stephen King is a feminist.  Yes, the man who is famous for the term “shit weasels” and who writes about clowns in sewers is a feminist.

Ok, have you cleaned up the coffee you spit out all over your keyboard when you read the above sentence?  Great, now let’s discuss why the world’s most renowned horror writer is a feminist.

We can argue that in some of King’s earlier work, female characters were not his strong point.  Frannie Goldsmith from The Stand immediately comes to mind.  The female characters in Salem’s Lot were weak as well, as their primary purpose seemed to be love interests for the heroes who then succumb to the vampires.  However, King makes up for that by writing characters such as Donna Trenton and Wendy Torrance.  Both of these women were well fleshed out.  King showed us what made them tick.  Both women were also heroic and would do whatever it took to save their children, even when they had to face down rabid St. Bernard dogs and a haunted hotel, respectively.

In the 1990’s, King published a trio of books that would remove any doubts on his stance on feminism.  These books were Delores Claiborne, Rose Madder and Gerald’s Game.  All three featured strong female lead characters.  All three took a stance on how women in our culture are treated and that we need to admire those that take a stance against this treatment (Delores Claiborne and Rosie McClendon immediately come to mind).  While these books may not have produced the numbers that his previous work did, they are to be commended for the messages that they send.

rose madder

It contains a scene that is hotly debated, at least in internet land.  And this scene further solidifies King’s brand of feminism.  Towards the end of the book, The Losers Club becomes lost in the sewers beneath Derry.  The Losers Club consists of one female, Beverly Marsh.  Beverly is tough and able to hang with the guys but has endured abuse at the hands of her father.  That particular summer, the abuse took a sexual turn, which culminated in Beverley’s father accusing her of not being “intact” aka a virgin.  He then wants to examine her, which really means he intends to molest her, but Beverly escapes him and is forced down to the sewers with the rest of the gang.  She and the Losers best Pennywise, and then attempt to escape the sewers.  But they become lost quickly and their bond begins to fall apart.  However, Beverly takes the lead and prevents this from happening.  The reason why it is controversial is because she then proceeds to make love to all six of the boys.  King also describes her having an orgasm, once the initial discomfort has passed.  Some see this as a gang rape or some kind of child exploitation.  I see this as feminism at its finest.  Beverly has been told sex is dirty.  She has been told her worth as a person hinges on her virginity.  However, Beverly defies society and most importantly her abusive father. She then takes charge of her sexuality and her pleasure, not the mention the fact that this act brings the group back together again so they can find their way out of the sewers.  And to me, that’s what feminism is all about;  a young woman defying cultural norms, owning her sexuality and saving the day to boot.

Beverly

 

4)  Stephen King is not afraid to take stances on social issues

In the beginning of the book It, a young, childlike gay man is targeted for violence because of his sexual preferences.  He is then murdered by Pennywise the clown.  While we can argue that the humans who attacked him were not ultimately responsible for his death, there is no denying that if he was not targeted due to his sexuality, his life may have been spared.  This is an act that we would now recognize as a hate crime, and the young men may face stricter punishment and there would be likely be more outrage.  However, this book was written in 1985.  This is long before the term “hate crime” was coined.  This is long before most people would experience outrage over the fact that someone was attacked solely to due to his sexual preference.  The “blame the victim” mentality was rampant.  By including this particular scene in a book that most would not think of when they think of literature that preaches messages of tolerance and acceptance, King’s message comes through loud and clear:  as a society, we need to do a better job of accepting and appreciating everyone for who they are, even if we do not fully understand who they are.  King was, and continues to be, light years ahead of his time.

3)  Stephen King also has a wicked sense of humor 

Stephen King, my curse word vocabulary owes you a large debt.  If it weren’t for Stephen King, how would I have terms like “bitch kitty, “fuckaroo” and “shit weasel” in my lexicon?  I have been using these terms for years now and they still delight me.  The fact that my social calendar is strangely empty is pure coincidence, I tell you…

But seriously (you see what I did there?), I don’t think “sense of humor” is what necessarily comes to mind when one brings up the name Stephen King.  After all, his books are scewwwy, right?  Full of blood and guts and everything that’s well…gross.

However, the sense of humor pops up almost everywhere in his work.  It even pops up in the Dark Tower series, which is considered to be King’s magnum opus.  In The Drawing of the Three, Roland the Gunslinger brings a woman named Odetta Holmes to Midworld.  Odetta is well spoken and educated and also mild mannered.  However, Odetta hosts another personality by the name of Detta Walker.  Detta Walker is mean and crass.  In other words, Odetta’s opposite.  Detta Walker is also a complete caricature.  Her vocabulary contains terms such as “honk mafa” (figure that one out, if you can).  She also refers to Roland as “grey meat” and is absurdly paranoid that Roland, Eddie Dean and every other white male has an agenda to poison her.  While the subject matter is serious (we are talking about mental illness after all), the absurdities that come out of Detta’s mouth are great for a belly laugh.  They also add dimension to the story and all of the characters.  There is just something to be said for well placed humor when you are probably going to be either sleeping with the lights on because of a scary scene, or be crying your eyes out because your favorite character just got killed off.

Check out more evidence of King’s sense of humor right here.

stephen-king-cover-ftr

2) His work is inter-connected

Its no secret that every single one of King’s books are connected to The Dark Tower series, which is considered to be his magnum opus.  However, many still fail to realize that all of Stephen King’s books are inter-connected.  All of them.  Every single one.  That’s right.  That means that the fan girl from hell who hobbles her favorite writer can be connected to Roland and his ka tet.  Now, the concept of a writer creating an entire universe is not a new one.  In fact, Marvel has been hinting that everyone in their universe, from Captain America to that funny looking raccoon featured in Guardians of the Galaxy, are all connected to each other and we are to expect a cosmic, epic showdown one of these days.  But no one, at least in my opinion, has done it quite as well as Stephen King.  Every time I read a new work I find a connection.  Then I re-read and find some more.  And his son Joe Hill has even been invited to the party, as some of Hill’s work is directly connected to Dad’s, and vice versa.  I feel like when I find these connections, I belong to some kind of exclusive (and extremely nerdy) club…good stuff!

rocket-raccoon

One of my favorite examples of a Stephen King Easter egg lies in 11/22/63.  11/22/63 is the book that King wanted to write for so long on Vietnam and the era of the 1960’s, which had a huge effect on him personally and also as a writer.  And 11/22/63 succeeds in making a statement about Vietnam and an era that many readers experienced personally.  In 11/22/63, Jake Epping, the main character, travels back in time to attempt to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  Jake lives in Maine, and the journey takes him to Derry.  This is not really a surprise, since Derry is a major hot spot in the King universe.  What did surprise me is that Jake runs into some very familiar faces.  These familiar faces are none other than Beverly Marsh and Richie Tozier from It!  We learn that when Jack encounters Beverly and Ritchie, the events in It had transpired a few months prior to that encounter and that Beverly and Richie are still trying to process the situation.  Jake also gets a very bad feeling about Derry, and it would seem that he even encounters Pennywise, or at least the essence of Pennywise.  The fact that King has included a connection to It in one of his books is not very surprising at all.  What is surprising is that he included this reference to a killer clown who lives in the sewers in a book that is a book about time travel and examines the impact of the Kennedy assassination on not just his generation, but every generation thereafter.  And the inclusion is seamless.  In other words, its mastery.  Pure mastery and nothing else.

Stephen-King-Flowchart-FINAL-1

 

Time for the drum roll…the number 1 reason why I read King is…

drum-roll-please

1)  All of his books contain elements of reality 

I read to escape reality.  I like being able to escape into another world for awhile and forget my problems for a bit.  Reading is almost like a drug for me, that way.

But I am listing the fact that King’s books contain elements of reality as my number reason for reading him…what gives?

I will tell you what gives.  I identify with his characters and the situations they face.  Of course, I don’t face rabid St. Bernard dogs, clowns in sewers or haunted hotels (outside my dreams, at any rate). But I have faced a crazy, controlling abusive ex husband.  I have been the victim of bullying, both in childhood and adulthood.  I see intolerance towards other’s differences on a regular basis. I faced unemployment and the fear of losing everything I have ever worked for. I even have my own obsessions, just like Roland the Gunslinger, although mine tend towards the Indianapolis Colts and the latest piece of artwork I am working on.  These are all situations that King’s characters have faced.  Just like me and millions of others.  And I like to think the fact that I identify so well with these characters and situations helps me cope with my own problems.  Or at the very least, it takes a little off the edge of my own pain, making it easier to bear.

One of my favorite examples of how King uses elements of realism effectively is his book The Shining.  The book (and Kubrick movie of the same name) is famous for a haunted hotel that traps a family for a winter.  Ask most people what they associate with The Shining, and the blood spilling from the walls immediately comes to mind.  Or perhaps the term “redrum.”  Or maybe the ghost of an old, lustful lady.  But The Shining is really about family.  And it is about wanting to provide for yourself and your family.  Jack Torrance is a good man in the beginning of the book.  He is just trying to do what’s best for his family, and desperately does everything he can to provide for his wife and son.  He loves his son Danny and also his wife Wendy.  He is also battling his demons, as he is an alcoholic with a temper that tends to get out of control and hurt the ones he loves the most.  And throughout the book, Jack really is a good man for the most part.  However, his demons overtake him and he sacrifices himself for his family, so that they may still have a good life.  The Shining is a very scary book.  There is no mistaking that.  However, The Shining is also a tragedy.  The family dissolves and will never be whole again.  Throughout the book, we witness the dissolution of the family, and we grieve with Wendy and Danny.  And the fact that this situation is so real and is something that can be experienced by any one of us, adds to the terror of the novel.  Our rational mind knows that hotels are not haunted.  Hedge animals do not attack us.  Ghosts do not come out of bathtubs.  Fire hoses present no menace.  But King skillfully weaves realistic elements that we all can identify with.  So, if we are smart, we take a closer look at that fire hose.  We give a wide berth to those hedge animals.  And if a hotel caretaker makes mention of a tragedy occurring in a certain room, we refuse to stay in that room.  After all, it could happen to anyone of us.  And if we are smart, our self preservation instinct kicks in, so we look over our shoulders and pull up the blankets a little closer, to try to keep the monsters at bay.

Shiningnovel

There you have it.  These are my top seven reason for reading Stephen King, although I am sure I missed a few.  However, I retract my earlier statement about not needing any rationale to read Stephen King.  There is one very good reason to read Stephen King:  you have never read his work before and your life is therefore tragically empty and devoid of meaning.  So that means it is time to remedy that situation and pick up a King book (or five) and get cracking!  Happy reading, everyone!

RoaldDahl

Fourteen things to love about 2014

Well, in with the new and out with the old, as the saying goes.  It is day 2 into the year of 2015.  Time to start afresh, as the they say.  We all have a clean slate, and its time to leave 2014 behind.

Except there were some pretty great things about 2014, lest we forget.  A new year is a great thing, but let’s not forget about the old year…it deserves some love too!

That being said, here is a list of 14 great things about 2014, in no particular order, so we avoid hurt feelings.

 

1)  The Indianapolis Colts

Ah, the Indianapolis Colts.  One moment they are the Island of Misfit Toys (especially on the offensive line) and seem to bumbling their way to a blowout loss.  The next moment they are the terror of the AFC, making a historic comeback to win the 2014 Wildcard game over the KS City Chiefs, after being down 25 points at the half and having something like a 3% chance of winning that game.  But Andrew Luck and the offense seem to say, 25 points, pish posh, now let’s go win the game.  And then they did win that game, in spectacular fashion.  The Colts have provided some entertainment in the regular season as well, putting up some Madden-like numbers in terms of points scored and touchdowns.  Even the defense got a shutout this year.  The Colts were awesome in 2014 and I am sure they will continue to be awesome in 2015.

island of misfit toys

2)  Gotham

Well, duh, Captain Obvious.  Its Batman.  And Batman will always be awesome.  Batman is always awesome.  Even the poorly acted and written Joel Schumacher versions are awesome, although maybe awesomely bad is a better word to describe those films.

But Gotham is actually a good show.  Gotham’s secret is that it is actually not so much about Batman or even the cast of Batman villains as it is about Jim Gordon.  We see what kind of man that Jim Gordon is, before Batman became involved.  We also get a fascinating look at Gotham, as the writers of the show really want to drive home that Gotham is a corrupt place, and always will be, even if they have a caped super hero to somewhat keep things in check.  And seeing young versions of the villains, such as Oswald Cobblepot (who has no redeeming qualities about him whatsoever.  In other words, I love him) and a younger Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman) is actually pretty cool.  And the show is just getting started…I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings for Gotham.

gotham

3)  Andrew Luck

I know, I know.  I already mentioned the Indianapolis Colts above, so this is a bit redundant.  However, Andrew Luck really does deserve special mention for the year he had in 2014.  He started off the year leading the Colts to victory in a playoff game after being down 25 points at the half.  The Colts were then bounced out of the divisional game by New England, but Luck came back to have a spectacular 2014, putting up stellar numbers and breaking all kinds of records.  2014 would have been a miserable season without the likes of Luck for the Colts.

Plus, there is Luck’s particular brand of trash talking, that has convinced some that he may be a closet Canadian.  But, closet Canadian or not, Andrew Luck and the Colts are destined for an awesome 2015 and beyond.

Oakland Raiders v Indianapolis Colts

4)  My marriage

Yes, I did not get married in 2014.  In fact, I celebrated my sixth wedding anniversary in 2014.  So why is this worth a mention?

Well, you are darn right its worth a mention!  Somehow, I have managed to find imprison an unsuspecting man someone who is willing to put up with my craziness.  Someone who can stand to be around me and actually likes being me.  Someone who thinks red headed female nerds with a temper are hot!  And no, he’s not medicated!  Not an escapee from a mental institution!  And funny.  And shares my love of all things Batman.  And he’s kind to old ladies when they are crossing the street…yeah, I could go on and on.

My husband has continued to show why I chose to spend the rest of my life with him throughout our 2014.  I am looking forward to a great 2015 (and beyond) with this awesome man!

garfield

5)  Duncan

So we did the unthinkable this year.  We brought home yet another critter to add to our two cat, two dog brood.  This creature is an Australian cattle dog puppy by the name of Duncan Edward McLaughlin but we just call him Duncan (that is, when he is good.  We will not talk about the other names).  Duncan was name after Man at Arms in the He Man cartoons from way back when.  Some may also reference the move Highlander of “there can be only one” fame.  Although I think an appropriate tagline is “thank god there is only one.”  Hey, don’t judge me until you have walked a mile in my shoes that have been chewed on by an overly ambitious puppy.  But at least he’s cute, as the common refrain goes.

As a bonus, Duncan has a blog!  See, I told you blue heelers were smart…dumb dogs can’t type, silly!  Go check out his blog, he loves clicks as much as the next doggy blogger!

Duncan

6)  Arrow

Yes, I know.  I am late to the party, as Arrow has been out for three seasons.  But since I discovered it in 2014 so I get to include it on this list.

I stayed up watching this show until 3 AM a few weeks ago.  And let me tell you, it was a worthy binge watch, and I am itching to do some more binge watching.  The story line is compelling, and the acting is pretty good.  Each episode had me wanting more so that I stayed up later than any sane person should.  2015 will likely bring much more intrigue, especially when I catch up to season and am no longer late for the party.

arrow

7)  Stephen King

Ha, if you thought you would get this far in this post on this site without something about Stephen King…well, sorry about your damn luck!

But, in all serious, we were lucky enough to see two separate books this year from the master.  Mr. Mercedes was published in June and Revival was published in November.  Both were great books, but Revival in particular is one that will stick with me for a long, long time.  I constantly thought of HP Lovecraft and his monsters while reading it.  I also loved the homage it played to Frankenstein.  And then there was the ending…its been a long time since I actually shivered when I put the book down and tossed and turned for such a long time.

So get to it, Mr. King!  We are expecting more awesomeness in 2015!

OSF1-00001107-001

8)  True Detective

Someone thought that it would be a good idea to get together Woody from Cheers and the creepy older dude of Dazed and Confused of “alright, alright” fame and have them do a TV shows.  And that same someone hit upon the idea of these two being cops trying to solve a series of gruesome murders which involved women and children.  Add in the complicated personal lives of these two characters, and we have True Detective.

The only bad thing I can say about True Detective is that it did not win enough awards…damn you, Breaking Bad and your series finale!  This was another binge watch, although not in nearly epic proportions as number 6.  The true (see what I did there) strength of this show, however, was its writing, even though the directing and acting were no slouch.  This is another show to watch in 2015, as season two will be taking a completely different, unrelated to the first season direction.

true detective

9)  The Dark Tower

If Andrew Luck gets his own post for 2014, then the Dark Tower series certainly deserves its own post.  The reason why (in all seriousness) The Dark Tower series is getting its own post is due to the great material Marvel keeps producing for the comic books.  This year we saw the release The Prisoner series aka biographical material on my main man, Eddie Dean.  Although not written by King himself, these comics are the next best thing.  They also offered a fascinating insight into the early life of Eddie Dean and provided a few more Easter eggs related to the King universe.

Who knows, maybe 2015 will be the year we finally get confirmation of a Dark Tower movie?  We can only hope.

dark tower

10)  Igloo

No, I did not add Igloo (my white Spitz mix) to the family in 2014.  Try 2000.  That’s right, she was born in 2000 so she is approximately 97 dog years or something like that.  She is an old gal, and I am thankful to have her around in 2014 and beyond.  Hopefully, I can be saying the same thing in 2015.

critters 1 007

11)  Constantine

#saveconstantine

Yeah, NBC…you better save Constantine!  Because if you don’t save Constantine, you are on the same level as someone who kicks puppies and steals candy from babies!  But really, I think this is my favorite show of 2014 not named Gotham.  The supernatural theme, the wonderful acting (especially by the man playing the title character), interesting plot lines and the witty dialogue make it a no-brainer.  I would be very, very sad if NBC did not step and save this show, as it has a lot to offer.

But there are some encouraging signs for the future of this show.  Will Constantine be saved?  Only time (and 2015) will tell.

Constantine - Season Pilot

12) My cooking and baking

Yeah, I am engaging in some shameless self promotion on this post.  But I am proud of all the cooking and baking I have done in 2014!  Although I will not be a contestant on Masterchef anytime soon (nor do I want to be), I am proud of how much I have grown in the kitchen.  I am getting experimental (basil infused homemade whipped cream, anyone?) and getting a good feel for what works and what doesn’t.  Plus I am just having fun…and I hope to continue to have fun in 2015.

strawberry shortcakesuperbowl cakechocolate cake

13)  My artwork

Again, more shameless self promotion.  Feel free to skip if you feel like it.  But again, I am proud of myself in this area…again, I have grown so much.  I have gotten more consistent and more inspired.  I have created more artwork than ever before.  I took up my woodburning again,after the tool had gone unused for too long.  I have even created my original artwork inspired by Stephen King and The Dark Tower series.  And I will not stop in 2015 either!

DT watercolorOywatercolor rose

14)  I started blogging!

I know, me, me and me.  But I have talked about writing for years and never really done anything with it.  Mainly because I have been afraid.  I was always on the fringe as a kid.  On the outside looking in.  The target of bullies.  Or if I was lucky, just invisible.  This is still the case in adulthood.  So I have been afraid to share any of my writing…what if they laugh at me?  What if I get pig’s blood dumped on me? Well, I know that last part won’t actually happen (at least I hope not).  But still, I’m insecure.  So I hold myself back.  Sometimes, I can barely live because I am insecure.

But then I started this blog.  And I don’t think people laughed! Or if they did laugh, it was due to my wit and humor!  I looked at the number of views and the comments on this blog (and via Facebook as well) and I felt like Michael Jordan (although much, much shorter.  And female, to boot)!  Now I just want to blog more.  And more.  I don’t want to stop.  And I even want to let Duncan share the spotlight.  Duncan is right, blogging is way more fun than squeaky toys!  And be prepared for a lot more of it in 2015!

 

Whew, here’s to the 14 awesome things in 2014…I hope no one (or no thing) feels slighted because he/she/it didn’t make it on the list…you are still awesome and I love you!  And here’s to at least 15 more awesome things about 2015…Happy belated New Year everyone!

Happy-New-Year-30