American Gods: Season 1, Episode 1 Recap and Review

So, last night I had an OMG moment.

And thank god I had that too.

For the love of god, it was good!

And I can’t wait to experience it again, godspeed!

Ok, enough with the un-godly horrible jokes…

Oh, oops…

Well, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I am referring to the series premiere of American Gods, Starz network’s latest offering that is based on a book of the same name, written by the illustrious Neil Gaiman.

Under the premise of the show (and book), gods are real.  They are real because we worship them, although their powers are declining because we have moved away from religion, and towards our modern “gods,” aka media, technology and the stock market.

The old gods are gearing up for a battle with th newe gods, so that the old gods may show the young whippersnappers who is really in charge.

And woe to any innocent bystander who gets caught up in this battle…

Especially if said bystander goes by the name Shadow Moon

At its core, American Gods is a fantasy, somewhat similar to The Lord of the Rings, but set in modern times and familiar places, with a main character who symbolizes the melting pot that is America.

American Gods can also be seen as a sort of allegory for how immigration has shaped this country, as the immigrants not only brought their foods and languages to this country, but also their religion and beliefs.

In other words, their gods.

So, without further ado, here is the recap and review of the first episode of the first season of American Gods, titled The Bone Orchard.

Oh, as always:

Continue reading

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The First Cookie: My Review of Carrie

There is just something about a new year.

I know that the calendar is simply a human construct, and really pretty meaningless, maybe even random, if you really think about it.

But I still love the concept of a new year.

It reminds me of when I buy new art supplies, for example.  I know that I have bought most of this stuff before, and I am just recharging my already ample supply (luckily, my husband is understanding, although he would not agree that it’s not hoarding if it’s art supplies.)

But still, every time I hoard buy new art supplies, I get that feeling of new possibilities.  No limits.  And I can start anew.

And that is how I feel about 2017.

Especially after the horror movie otherwise known as 2016, that will probably be struck from the history books.

BOCA RATON, FL - MARCH 13: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a thumbs up during his campaign rally at the Sunset Cove Amphitheater on March 13, 2016 in Boca Raton, Florida. Mr. Trump continues to campaign before the March 15th Florida primary. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Seriously, those school kids in the future will likely have some gap in their books (or whatever will pass for books in 2297) that covers 2015, 2017, 2018 and so forth.

But yet there will be a gap, in that 2016 will be skipped over.  And I am sure that the parents (or robot nannies) of the future will have fun trying to explain that one.

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In other words, 2016 was pretty scary.  I mean, who wrote 2016…Stephen King or somebody?

Oh, speaking of which…

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In case you forgot which blog you were reading…

Yes, we are starting out 2017 with a review of a Stephen King book…who knew?!

And for this month’s review, we are going back in time…

All the way back to the beginning, in fact.

Now, I know that King started off his writing career at a fairly young age, and spent years trying to get his work published.

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In other words, I am sure there are lots of early works by The Master somewhere out there, for our reading pleasure.

But, for the purposes of this humble lil ole blog, we are going to focus on The Master’s first published book (and also the first of his books to be turned into a movie, which is still a classic.)

So, we are going to be reading and dissecting the novel Carrie.

The book with the infamous shower scene.

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The book that makes you want to get a T-shirt that says “I survived my high school prom and all I got was this bloody T-shirt!”

(See what I did there?)

Carrie was the first published book by Stephen King.

It set the precedent for horror and also for book-to-screen adaptations.

It’s iconic.

Even non-King fans (gasp) can probably recite lines from the movie, and probably even know that is based on a Stephen King book.

Carrie is a huge part of popular culture.  And there is a reason for that:  it discusses themes that everyone can relate to, including puberty, bullying, parental abuse and a few others.

So, strap in, Constant Constant Reader, and get ready for the wild ride otherwise known as Carrie!

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The book begins with an account of stones mysteriously falling from the sky, in the proximity of a house that a woman named Margaret White lives in, along with her toddler daughter Carrietta White.  No one is ever able to explain why the stones fell from the sky, although people do not seem to be surprised that such an odd phenomena would occur in the vicinity of that particular house.

The story then jumps forward several years.  Carrie White is now a teenager attending Ewen High School in Chamberlain, Maine.  Carrie does not fit in at her high school and is bullied mercilessly by her peers.

The bullying reaches a peak one morning, when Carrie begins her first menstrual period at the age of nearly 17.  Carrie does not understand what is happening to her and thinks that she is bleeding to death in the showers of the gym at her school.

Almost at once, the other girls begin to torment Carrie, throwing tampons and menstrual pads at her, demanding that she “plug it up.”  Susan Snell, who generally does not bully other students, participates in tormenting Carrie, although Sue realizes that Carrie may not actually understand what is happening to her and that Carrie may also be genuinely terrified.

We then learn the story of Carrie’s birth.  Her mother, Margaret White, was in denial that she was pregnant, as her religion proclaims that any sexual intercourse is a sin.  Margaret gives birth to Carrie at home, with no medical assistance.  Margaret was alone, because Carrie’s father had passed away several months earlier.

Ms. Dejardin, Carrie’s physical education teacher, puts a stop to the attack.  She does not punish Sue and the other girls right away, but dismisses them so that she can help Carrie.

Ms. Desjardin then escorts Carrie to the principal’s office.  She tries to explain menstruation to Carrie, but Carrie is too upset to listen.  The principal, Mr. Morton, then dismisses Carrie for the day, after Ms. Desjardin gives him an explanation of what happened.  Ms. Desjardin also states that she will punish those responsible for the incident, and Mr. Morton allows the punishment to be her own.

Carrie walks home from school, upset about the treatment she has endured from her classmates over the years.  Carrie is also aware that she is different because she has the ability to move objects with her mind.  This was demonstrated earlier when she forced a light bulb to explode and an ash tray to fall off Mr. Morton’s desk.  Carrie is able to knock a child off his bicycle when he torments her as she as walking home, and realizes that she may be able to control this gift, with practice.

We then read the account of the incident from Carrie’s childhood when the stones fell from the sky.  The incident is told from the perspective of Carrie’s former neighbor, who is being interviewed for a publication.

Carrie arrives home that morning, and finds the sanitary napkins her mother has hidden in the house.  She is no longer frightened, as she realized that menstruation is a normal part of growing up, although she is embarrassed, as she previously thought that sanitary napkins were used to remove lipstick.  Carrie also desires to break free of her mother’s constricting religious beliefs, and to fit in with her peers.

However, Carrie is also angry, and breaks a mirror in an expression of her anger.

The story then switches to the perspective of Sue Snell.  Sue is dating a boy named Tommy Ross, who is the most popular boy in school.  The two have recently become lovers, and Sue begins to contemplate a future with Tommy and realizes that she has fallen in love with him.  That night, when the two are on a date, Sue confesses what happened that morning in the shower to Tommy, as she is upset with herself.  Tommy listens to Sue and suggests that Sue apologize to Carrie for her part in the incident.  However, Sue is unable to come up with a solution to her problem, and still feels badly for what happened.

That evening, Carrie faces the wrath of her mother, Margaret.  Margaret believes that her daughter has sinned because she is now menstruating, and forces Carrie into a small closet to pray for forgiveness.  Margaret also strikes her daughter.  However, Carrie pushes back, threatening to make the stones come again if Margaret does not stop the abuse.

The next week, Ms. Desjardin confronts the students responsible for the attack on Carrie.  Sue Snell is among these students, and accepts responsibility for her part in the incident.  However, Chris Hargensen, one of the other responsible students and a school bully, refuses to accept the punishment, and tries to convince Sue and the others to walk out in protest of Ms. Desjardin and her punishment.  Sue refuses, and Chris’ refusal results in a suspension and refusal of her prom tickets.

Chris’ father also refuses to accept his daughter’s punishment and attempts to bully the school administrators into reversing the punishment so that Chris can attend prom.  The administration, however, stands up to him, and he backs down after he learns what his daughter did to Carrie.

Sue is also forced into a confrontation with Chris, as Chris is angry that Sue did not stand with her in protest of Ms. Desjardin’s punishment.  However, Sue tells Chris that she accepts responsibility for her actions.  Chris counters, telling Sue that she is a hypocrite and only accepting the punishment so that her prom ticket will not be refused.  Sue realizes her hypocrisy, and wonders how to counter it.

Sue continues to feel remorse for her responsibility on the attack on Carrie, and finally has an idea of how to atone.  Sue convinces Tommy Ross, her boyfriend, to ask Carrie to the prom.  Sue is convinced that if Carrie attends prom, she may finally be able to fit in with her peers.  Tommy is reluctant, but finally agrees to Sue’s request.  After he agrees, he tells Sue that he loves her.

Tommy approaches Carrie one day between classes, and invites her to the prom.  Carrie is skeptical, but is finally convinced and agrees to attend the prom with Tommy.  After speaking with Carrie, Tommy realizes that she is far from repulsive.

Carrie decides to use her talent for sewing to make her own prom dress.  Carrie also develops her other talent, known as telekinesis, and is able to move larger objects using her mind.  She informs Margaret that Tommy has invited her to prom and that she has accepted the invitation.  Margaret is furious and attempts to forbid Carrie from attending.  Carrie fights back, using her newfound powers, and wins the battle.  Carrie emphasizes her desire to fit in with her peers, much to the shock of Margaret.

Word spreads that Sue will not be attending prom and that Tommy will instead be taking Carrie to the prom.  It also becomes evident that Chris Hargensen is planning something, although no one is sure what she is planning.

Billy Nolan, Chris’ boyfriend, breaks into a farm one night.  Billy and his friends kill a couple of pigs, and drain the bodies of blood, taking buckets of blood with him when he leaves the farm.

Carrie sews her dress and begins to get ready to attend her senior prom.  Margaret again fights with her, attempting to persuade Carrie not to attend, but once again, Carrie uses her powers to stand up to her mother.  Carrie also tells her mother that she loves her after the confrontation.

Tommy arrives to pick up Carrie, who is extremely nervous, and has even considered not attending the prom.  However, Carrie is pleasantly surprised even from the beginning of the evening, as her classmates and her date treat her with respect.  The girls are impressed with her dress, and surprised by her talent for sewing.  Carrie is further surprised to learn that she and Tommy have been nominated for Prom King and Queen.

While Carrie is attending the prom, her mother Margaret comes to the decision to kill her daughter when she comes home later that night.  Margaret has noticed Carrie’s talent for moving objects with her mind from the time when Carrie was baby, and believes that Carrie’s gift is a sin.  Margaret contemplated sacrificing her daughter many years ago, but did not.  This time, however, she is determined to carry out her plan.

Chris and Billy also carry out their plans to play a prank on Carrie that evening.  They sneak into the high school, where Billy has hidden buckets of the pig’s blood in the rafter.  They plan to dump the blood on Carrie if she is crowned Prom Queen.

Carrie and Tommy are then nominated as Prom Queen and King.  They are crowned onstage.  However, when Carrie and Tommy enter the stage to accept their nominations, Chris pulls the strings, and Tommy and Carrie are doused with the pig’s blood.  One of the buckets hits Tommy on the head, and he is rendered unconscious.  The impact is so severe that Tommy dies in less than an hour.

The audience is first shocked, and then begins to laugh at Carrie, who is also in shock.  Carrie escapes from the gymnasium, but uses her powers to unleash the sprinkler system.  This causes an electrical fire, and students and teachers frantically attempt to escape from the school, which is now engulfed in flames.

Carrie wanders the town, in a state of madness.  She begins to cause more destruction, using her powers to wreak havoc in the town of Chamberlain, Maine.

Eventually, while the town of Chamberlain burns to the ground, Carrie returns to her home.  She is met by her mother, Margaret, who is armed with a butcher knife.  Margaret then stabs Carrie, believing that she is committing an act mercy in ending her daughter’s life.

However, Carrie is not killed by her mother, as she envisions her mother’s heart coming to a stop.  Margaret then dies after her heart comes to a complete stop.

Word of what has happened in Chamberlain reaches Billy and Chris, and they head back into town.  However, they also run into Carrie, who takes revenge on them by using her powers to overturn their vehicle.  Carrie is hit by the vehicle, and Billy and Chris are killed almost instantly.

Sue Snell is wandering the streets of Chamberlain.  She appears to have some sort of telepathic connection with Carrie and knows that Carrie has killed her mother.  She also realizes that Tommy and most of her friends have been killed.

Finally, Sue finds Carrie and realizes that Carrie dying.  She still shares a telepathic bond with Carrie, although the bond is weakening because Carrie is dying.  Carrie is convinced that Sue tricked her and is responsible for the events that occurred that night.  However, Carrie probes Sue’s mind, and realizes that Sue bore no ill will towards her and only wanted to help her.

Carrie traps Sue in her mind as she is dying, so Sue also experiences Carrie’s death.  Finally, Sue escapes Carrie’s clutches, and realizes that she has gotten her menstrual period, which had been a week late.

At least 409 people have died due to the destruction of the high school and the surrounding town.  An autopsy of Carrie White has revealed unusual formations in her brain, and the governor appoints a committee to study the tragedy.

Sue Snell survives the devastation and writes a book about the events.

The town of Chamberlain effectively becomes a ghost town, as people begin to leave.  More bodies are discovered, and the funeral business becomes the most active business in Chamberlain.

Some years into the future, a woman writes a letter to her sister.  The letter describes an incident with the woman’s infant daughter, who apparently has the ability to move objects with her mind.  However, the woman does not fear her daughter, but reveres her instead, believing that the little girl will accomplish great things in the future.


My Thoughts

Well, you know what they say…

Big things come in small packages.

Yes, this cliche may be overused, but I cannot think of a better description of the book Carrie.

It may not be a big book, but it packs a big wallop.

Carrie is King’s first published work.  King has compared it to a cookie baked by a 6 year old:  you can tell it’s a cookie, and it has some nice flavorings, but that cookie is misshapen, burnt on the bottom, etc.

Well, that cookie is some mighty fine eating, and an appetizer for great things to come!

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There are so many great things about this little book that it is hard to know where to start our discussion.

First of all, all Carrie has some great villains.  And no, the title character is not one of them, although we will discuss her in a bit as well.

No, the villains in this story are Carrie’s mother and her classmates, which mainly include Chris Hargensen.

As I have stated before, one of King’s major strengths as a writer is his ability to write about “real life.”

Making the statement that King writes horror is a severe underestimation of King’s work, almost like making the statement that Aaron Rodgers plays football.

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In other words, there is so much more to King (as there is to Aaron Rodgers, as the Dallas Cowboys found out this weekend.)

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King writes horror stories, but when you strip away the horror, his stories are about people.

And one of the things that people do is not be nice to each other.

You know, like sheltering your kid her whole life, locking her up in a prayer closet when she does normal kid things and oh, not telling her about the “birds and the bees?”

Margaret White is one of King’s best human villains.

When one says the name Stephen King to most people, they may think of Pennywise the Clown, a girl who can start fires or maybe of the title character of the book we are discussing, who “lost” it and destroyed her high school.

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Most people are not going to think of religious fanaticism and how dangerous that fanaticism can be be to an impressionable teenager who only wants what most teenager want, i.e. to fit in with her peers somehow, and to not be the butt of EVER SINGLE horrible practical joke every bully somewhere has dreamed up.

What is great (or is it horrible?) about the character of Margaret White is that she is so plausible.

Margaret White exists in this world today.

Any time I read an article about some kid dying because the parents refused medical treatment for religious reasons, or some adult that escaped a household run by religious fanatics who insisted on homeschooling their children and not allowing their children to date before marriage, I think of Margaret White.

Granted, the outcome in Carrie may be a bit extreme, as most kids don’t kill their abusive parents and many are able to flee those conditions and eventually make better lives for themselves.

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But Margaret White still exists.  And she is dangerous, as most people do not recognize the actions of the Margaret Whites in our world for what they are:  child abuse.

Child abuse does not always mean that a parent hits his/her and leaves bruises (although Margaret was guilty of this, and this is still tragically all too common.)

Instead, child abuse can be more insidious, as when the parent controls all actions of the child, and does not allow opposing viewpoints in the child’s life.

Child abuse can also consist of a parent forcing their viewpoints on their child, and punishing the child for daring to have an opposing viewpoint (the prayer closet in action.)

The book Carrie also has another villain, besides Margaret White.

Or should I say, a set of villains?

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In case I am not being clear, I am referring to Chris Hargensen, along with the other sickening half of the dynamic duo…

Yes, Chris is some sort of demented Batman, and that would make Billy some kind of creepy, greasy Robin, I suppose.

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When I read about the bullying experienced by Carrie, and the actions (and lack of actions) by her classmates, I was reminded of one of my favorite books as a child.

This would be the book Blubber, by Judy Blume.

Judy Blume is similar to King, in that she writes “real life.”

In fact, most of my sex education was derived from her books (talking to you, Forever, and Are You There God?  Its Me, Margaret.)

Along with educating me about my anatomy, Ms. Blume also discussed bullying at length in almost all of her books.

However, Blubber was a book devoted to the subject of bullying.

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In this book, children gang up on a particular classmate, bullying her ostensibly due to her weight (the title is the cruel nickname they have come up with for this child, in fact), although the real reasons may be a little deeper.

However, Blubber is not told from the perspective of the bully.  Nor is it told from the perspective of the victim.

Rather, it is told from the perspective of a bystander, Jill.  Throughout the book, we watch Jill evolve, from a fellow bully to a victim to finally someone who becomes enlightened and a more compassionate person.

When I was reading Carrie, I was struck by the similarity between Chris Hargensen and the bullies in the book Blubber, along with the similarity between Sue Snell and the Jill character in Blubber.

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Like the bully in Blubber, Chris is charismatic.  At the beginning, Chris able to get others to do her bidding.

This includes her not very bright, but very cruel boyfriend, Billy Nolan.

In fact, unlike Chris, Billy does not care very much about Carrie White.  He just wants to dump a bucket of pig’s blood on someone, for the thrill of it.  Interestingly, Billy also seems to be the only one who understands that criminal charges would be brought against him and Chris if they were caught.

However, throughout the novel, Chris’ “friends” begin to turn away from her.

One of these friends is Sue.  Much like the Jill character in Blubber, Sue goes along with the crowd at first.

She wants to be accepted and does not want to “rock the boat.”

However, much like Jill in the book Blubber, Sue begins to evolve.

She does not want to miss her prom, but realizes the effect that the bullying has had on Carrie White.

As the events of the story unfold, Sue begins to evolve.

She realizes that there is more to life than high school, her friends and even Tommy, her boyfriend.

Sue is able to put herself into the shoes of Carrie, and realizes what a horrible time that Carrie has had throughout her life.

This prompts her to “loan” Tommy to Carrie for an evening, so that Carrie may have a few hours of happiness.

And when things go horribly wrong, Sue begins to feel a sense of responsibility.

Sue also reminds us that Carrie was a person, with real thoughts and feelings.

Carrie also seeks out Sue, as her life is ending, and realizes that Sue is not to blame for what happened.

In fact, it seems if Sue is able to offer Carrie one of the few bits of compassion that Carrie has ever received in her life, which eases Carrie’s suffering just a little as she dies.

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And last but not least, let’s talk about the title character herself, Carrie.

Now, I know that Carrie is not a terribly long book, and there is not a lot of room to get to know characters on an in-depth basis.

However, King does a good job with the character development in this book.  In fact, he does more than good, considering the length of the book.

In the past, people have indicated a dislike for Carrie as a person.  Or they simply pity her.  Even King has indicated that Carrie is not really a likable character.

However, I respectfully disagree with The Master on that (gasp.)

Maybe it’s because I was bullied as a child.  Or maybe it’s because I survived an abusive marriage.

But I find the character of Carrie White to be fascinating, and to me, she is one of King’s more interesting characters.

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Throughout much of the book, we see Carrie through the eyes of Carrie herself.  And the picture is not flattering, as it would appear that she is overweight and suffering from acne.

However, I was struck when I read the part where Tommy asks her to the prom, and notices that she was “far from repulsive” but this was “the first time he had really looked.”

So was Carrie just invisible when she was not being bullied?  I tend to believe this, because I spent most of my childhood being bullied and trying to remain invisible so I would not be bullied.  In fact, when my ex boyfriend told me that the guys at our college thought that I had the best legs on campus, I was struck speechless.  Really, I don’t think that I even knew that I had legs, much less legs that others may consider to be attractive.

But that’s how it is when you try to remain invisible:  you lose sight of yourself, and become invisible to even your own eyes, so you don’t see what others may marvel over.

Throughout the book, Carrie does begin to emerge from her shell.  And I began to like that girl on her own merits, much like Tommy Ross.

For starters, I thought Carrie to be a strong woman.

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She survived bullying and abuse (from both her peers and her mother) for years, and basically did not flinch.  In fact, she tried to take some of the bullying with good humor, even though she (understandably) lost her sense of humor pretty quickly.

To top it off, Carrie did not have a support system at home.  Most of us who are bullied have family and friends outside of school, so that we have something worth living for.  Carrie did not, although she had a mother who considered anything that may bring her daughter happiness to be a sin.

So anyone who can survive as long as Carrie did under those circumstances is somebody to be admired, not pitied.  And I like strong people, as well as admire them.  I like people who somehow find a way to push through it, even when the circumstances are not good.

“Hurt people hurt people.”

This is a quote from Laverne Cox, in regards to bullying and harassment.  And it applies so well to this book.

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Carrie was definitely one of the hurt people.

Her bullies could not even allow her a few moments of happiness, when she was invited to prom by the most popular boy in school and then crowned Prom Queen.  At that point, even some of her classmates, like Tommy, had begun to like Carrie on her own merits.

But then a horrible prank was played on her, and as they say, the rest was history.

And my question is:  why wouldn’t Carrie “snap” after enduring that kind of prank?

In fact, why wouldn’t anyone “snap” after enduring that kind of prank?

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Throughout the book, the scientific articles are focused on the telekinesis aspect.  Should something be done to prevent children from being born with this ability?  Can we isolate this gene that is responsible for “Typhoid Mary’s?”  Should we test children for “TK ability,” as we test them for tuberculosis?  And so forth.

But never once is the most important question asked:  What causes people to lash out, as Carrie did?

Personally, I was amazed that Carrie did not lash out sooner, due to the abuse that she endured.

Throughout the book, Carrie is not portrayed as someone prone to violence.

She may have fantasies in regards to revenge on her tormentors, but that would be perfectly normal, in my book.

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But constant bullying changes people.  I am living proof of that.  My childhood ought to be behind me, but it isn’t.

I spent my life being told I was not good enough.  So I married an abusive man, because I didn’t think I deserved any better.  In other words, I internalized that message.

I still have difficulty making friends.  Bullying causes major trust issues, so it is hard to open to people so that they can really get to know you.

So it is no wonder that Carrie used her powers to destroy her school and her town, along with killing her mother.

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She had nothing left to live for, as Tommy was killed by the falling buckets.  And no friends, as everyone laughed at her when she was hurt.  And her mother was the cause of this humiliation, as she failed to educate her daughter in regards to her own body.

So it seems to me that telekinesis is not the problem.

Rather, the problem is man’s inhumanity to man.

The telekinesis is a distraction.

We don’t need to worry about testing kids for TK or isolating any type of gene.

Rather, we need to test kids for bullying tendencies, along with testing parents for abuse tendencies.

Until we recognize bullying and abuse for what they are, hurt people will just continue to hurt people.

And the legacy of the Carrie Whites of the world will continue to live on, with horrific consequences.

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Well, that’s it for that tiny package known as Carrie…what a start to the new year!

Join me next month for the read and review of the greatest love story of all time between a boy and his car, aka the novel Christine!

Although we may make a slight detour into the world of Joe Hill again…I hear Christmasland is lovely at this time of year!

Tune in next month…

Same bat time, same bat channel!

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Connections

Even though Carrie is the first published Stephen King novel, it connects to his other works, just like nearly every other King novel.  Here are some of the connections I found:

-The events in Carrie are referenced by a character in the novel The Dead Zone, and mention is made of a movie based on those events.

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-Carrie’s telekinetic abilities are similar to abilities possessed by several other King characters, including Ted Brautigan in Low Men in Yellow Coats (part of the collection Hearts in Atlantis), Kira DeVore (Bag of Bones), Jake Chambers (The Dark Tower series), Danny Torrance (Doctor Sleep and The Shining), Abra Stone (Doctor Sleep), Tyler Marshall (Black House) and several others.

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-In the King universe, Breakers are people who possess psychic abilities and are recruited by the Crimson King and his Low Men (Hearts in Atlantis, Black House and The Dark Tower series) to destroy The Dark Tower, the nexus of all existence.  If Carrie had lived, it seems she most certainly would have caught the eye of The Crimson King and his Low Men.

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-Religious mania is a running theme in King’s work.  Margaret White is similar to several other religious maniacs, including Sylvia Pittson (The Gunslinger, Wizard and Glass) and Mrs. Carmody (The Mist, part of the collection Skeleton Crew.)

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-In The Dark Tower, Susannah mentions getting her first menstrual period, and her experience is similar to that of Carrie’s, as she is also abused in the same manner.

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-Margaret White is employed by Blue Ribbon Laundry.  This establishment is featured in the short story The Mangler (part of the collection Night Shift) and in the novel Roadwork, which was originally published as a Richard Bachman novel.

Top 10 Women in Stephen King Books

I am a nerd (well, duh).

I am also a woman (duh again, what was the name of this blog?)

Growing up, I loved things like horror, action movies and Batman.

In fact, I still love all of these things, although I have expanded my horizons a little bit (The Green Arrow is my show boo, thank you very much!)

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And don’t get me wrong, I love being a nerd, and I always have, even if my social calendar has always been strangely empty.  But being part of so many fan-doms, which have allowed me to meet so many wonderful people (Internet, where have you been all my life?), is simply rewarding…there is no other way to put it.  And I wouldn’t change it for the world.

However, being a female nerd has put me in a delicate position.  I love my Batsy, I love my dispensers of vigilante justice and I love being scared into a change of pants by evil, sewer dwelling clowns and whatever other “monster of the week” happens to either haunting the books I read or the movies I watch.

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But even as a child, I noticed something that made being a nerd that much harder, at least for me.

That’s right, you guessed it…the lack of female nerds.

At least, this was the case when I was growing up.  It is true that April O’Neil was a presence on one of my favorite shows.

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There was also Dr. Crusher.

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(The fact that both of these ladies are gingers is just purely coincidental.  Nope, no bias here at all).

But there was no denying it:  nerdiness was not geared towards the likes of me.  Instead, all the cool stuff was geared towards the boys.  And although we have made some pretty good strides in recent years, there is still that mentality:  meeting another woman who is versed in the story line of something like The Killing Joke and who is stoked for the upcoming movie is not common, even though this is something that is changing as well, although slowly.

In fact, when I was introduced to Special Agent Dana Scully, I wept.  At last, a female nerd!  She was smart AND could throw down some serious shade!  And do all that in three inch heels!

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As I got older, I began to look for female role models in my nerdy obsessions.  Slowly, I began to find them.

In other words, I picked up my Stephen King habit after an extended hiatus.  And I found some great female role models…

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Ok, glad you have let that sink in.  So quit laughing, and let’s talk about the ladies in the works of The Master.

Stephen King

King is the master of modern horror.  This fact is undisputed by most.  He knows how to terrify us, with his monsters, both human and inhuman.

But King also creates great characters that we can all relate too.  Jack Torrance, Larry Underwood and Johnny Smith are just a few examples of the Every Man.

King also has given us the Every Woman.  It is true that some of his female characters are mainly seen through the eyes of another character who is usually male.  Examples of those would include Wendy Torrance and Leigh Cabot.

But King has also created some great female characters that are either main characters, or “side characters” that actually stand on their own, sometimes even stealing the show from the guys.

So Stephen King is not only The Master, he has made some pretty cool contributions to the women’s movement…check!  I still don’t know if he has mastered interpretive dance, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all.

And I figure now would be a good time to pay tribute to some of these ladies via a post in this little old blog.

So, without further ado, here is a list of what I consider to be the most memorable women in King’s works.  This is a list containing only ten, so I apologize if I left out your favorite…ranking awesome is not easy!

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


10.  Jo Noonan (Bag of Bones)

I am trying to stick with “human” ladies for this post, so I struggled with this one for a bit.

However, Jo Noonan won out in the end.  She was indeed a ghost, but she was living at one point.  Which makes her human to me.

Jo Noonan was a force.  In life, she was courageous and fought to the very end.

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Even in death, she was unstoppable.  Jo simply would not rest until her mission was accomplished:  expose the truth (which was not pretty) in regards to a small town’s questionable history.  Not only was Jo determined to expose the truth in regards to the small town that was her and Mike’s summer home, she was also determined to protect a child who had no tie to her or to Mike.  However, that did not matter to Jo, as she was determine to break the curse that had ruined the lives of so many, including her own.

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And Jo succeeded in that mission:  with her help, Mike was able to stop the curse and save the life of an innocent, and was able to ensure that no further generations would suffer either.

Jo Noonan was a constant presence in this book.  Even when her ghost was not around, we got to know her through her husband, Mike Noonan, as she was such a big part of his life, even after she died.  Even though she technically not living, this fact was easy to forget, as Mike’s memories served to paint a vivid portrait of her, making her as essential to the story as the living cast.


9.  Abra Stone (Dr. Sleep)

In many of King’s works, children are put in perilous situations.  Often, these children are faced with some adult situations that call for adult decisions.  And a wrong decision can literally be the difference between life and death.

Abra Stone is one of these “King children.”  And there are a couple of reasons why she is on this list.  One of them is that she is female.  She may be just a teenager when the events of Dr. Sleep take place, but she is forced to do quite a bit of growing up in a relatively short period of time, earning her a place on this list of distinguished women.  Another reason is that she is simply an ass kicker.  There is no other way to put it.

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In the novel Dr. Sleep, the grown-up Danny Torrance (of redrum fame from The Shining) is a major player.  Most of the adults that were in Danny’s life as a child failed him (especially his father.)  So it is up to Danny to not fail Abra, a girl who possesses PSI abilities similar to his own, although hers are much stronger than his ever will be.  And Danny succeeds in that mission, quite admirably.

However, Danny’s success was heavily tied to Abra and her abilities.  Abra is an extremely brave young woman who takes on the leader of a clan of psychic vampires who call themselves the “True Knot.”  In doing so, Abra risks her own, along with the lives of her loved ones.  The clan has cheated death for centuries, and is determined to “harvest” Abra’s abilities so that they may continue to cheat death for many more years.

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However, with the help of Abra, Danny is able to defeat this clan once and for all, saving the life of Abra and possibly several others.  In other words, Abra was able to work with Danny so that Danny could succeed where his father had failed.  Abra was able help Danny achieve something that he desperately needed:  redemption.


8)  Margaret White (Carrie)

No story is complete without a good bad guy.

Or bad gal, as the case may be.

Carrie is King’s first published work.  The book definitely has this feel, and makes for an interesting read.

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The title character, Carrie White, is fascinating in her own right.  As a survivor of childhood bullying myself, I identify with Carrie White on many, many levels.  In fact, I am pretty amazed that I survived high school and didn’t burn down my school on prom night (the fact that I could not get a date to prom to save my life has absolutely nothing to do with this.)

But the real strength of this book, at least to me, lies in the villains.  I could consider Carrie’s schoolmates to be villains (and they are pretty awful) but to me, Margaret White, the mother of Carrie, is the true villain of the book.

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Margaret is a religious fanatic who strives to raise her daughter to become the same way.  However, Carrie attempts to defy Margaret so that she can fit in with her peers and be accepted somewhere.  Usually, these efforts fail, and Carrie is left feeling even worse, which causes her mother to retreat even further into her religion, worsening the cycle.

Sex is considered dirty by Margaret White, and she does not explain “the birds and the bees” to her daughter.  Therefore, when Carrie gets her first menstrual period at age 17, all hell literally breaks loose.  Carrie thinks that she is dying, as she has no knowledge of what is a perfectly occurrence.  She is further alienated by her peers.  One of these girls feels some guilt, and attempts to help Carrie fit in by having her boyfriend take Carrie to her prom.  Carrie fights her mother, who vehemently opposes any kind of normalcy, in order to try to fit in with her peers once again.  However, once again, this backfires, but in a horrific way that no one could have imagined.

Margaret White

Throughout the book, Margaret White’s presence is felt, even up to the conclusion of the story.  If it had not been for Margaret’s fanaticism, the outlook for poor Carrie may have been quite different, and the reign of destruction experienced by her classmates, teachers and ultimately her mother, may not have happened at all.  So, in essence, Margaret White created the monster, and suffered the horrific consequences, along with many others.


7.  Dolores Claiborne (Dolores Claiborne)

Domestic abuse is a common theme in many King works, including It, Rose Madder, ‘Salem’s Lot, Insomnia and many others.  King writes about the every day issues we are all familiar, and domestic abuse is unfortunately one of those issues.

Dolores Claiborne is another King novel that deals with the issue of domestic abuse.  However, there is a twist:  Dolores Claiborne is one of the few stories of abuse told entirely from the perspective of the abused, a middle-aged woman named Dolores Claiborne.

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Dolores endures some horrific abuse from her husband, Joe.  Finally, Dolores takes a stand, and the abuse against her comes to a stop.  But the spousal abuse is only the beginning, as Joe transfers his aggression to someone else:  his and Dolores’ teenage daughter, Selena.  Joe begins to sexually abuse Selena, and Selena’s innocence is forever lost.  And Dolores realizes that her battle is not over.

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At first, Dolores looks for a peaceful solution to her problem.  But society reminds her that she is a woman and powerless against the hierarchy.  So Dolores decides to forget the peaceful solution and resorts to killing her husband, making it look like an accident.  Society and her husband have pushed her, and she pushes back the only way she can: a fatal “accident” that does indeed turn out to be “her best friend.”

However, Dolores is NOT a cold-blooded killer.  She is a loving, hard-working mother who is doing the best she can for her family.  The law is not on her side and society has marginalized her.  But she has not given up the fight, and ultimately rises above it all.


6)  Sadie Dunhill (11/22/63)

Behind every good man, there is a good woman.  Or something like that, as the saying goes.  In other words, much of life is a partnership, and it really does take two to tango.

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And this was the case in the novel 11/22/63.  Jake Epping travels back in time to attempt to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  In preventing the assassination of the president, Jake hopes to change history for the better.

Initially, Jake is alone in his question.  But this is not the case for long.  Jake meets and falls in love with Sadie Dunhill, a beautiful young woman who is in the midst of divorcing her abusive husband.  And Jake’s quest becomes even more complicated.

Ultimately, Sadie takes a bullet and sacrifices her life so that Jake may succeed in his quest.  When she learns of Jake’s mission, Sadie becomes an advocate, never letting Jake forget why he traveled back in time.  She encourages Jake along the way and becomes as passionate about his mission as Jake.  Her relationship with Jake changes Jake for the better, making him more vulnerable, opening him up to his feelings.

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Sadie is also amazing in her own right.  She has the courage to leave her husband at a time when divorce was heavily frowned upon, especially for women.  She fights back against her husband in two different timelines, and wins both times, even when she did not have the help of Jake.  Sadie survives her divorce, and makes a difference in the world (in both timelines.)


5.  Susan Delgado (Wizard and Glass)

Again, children in the Stephen King universe are often placed in awful situations.  This is a prevailing theme, and is a theme in the book Wizard and Glass.

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Susan Delgado is still a child at the beginning of the story of Roland Deschain’s youth.  However, she falls in love with Roland and is forced to grow up quickly.  Because of the bad decisions made by the adults in Susan’s life, her life becomes endangered when she commits the sin of falling in love with Roland.

However, Susan is not just a love interest for Roland.  She is much more than that, and becomes an integral part of his ka-tet.  Susan risks her life to help Roland and his friends fight The Good Man and his forces, which include include most of the people in her town, who have turned against the Affiliation.  And she pays the ultimate price for her bravery:  she is burned alive for “treason.”  But Susan is never bitter about her fate, and her last words are her declaration of love for Roland.

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Throughout Wizard and Glass, Susan realizes that because she is a woman, life will not necessarily be “fair.”  She deals with her greedy aunt, an evil witch and unwanted sexual advances from a man nearly old enough to be her grandfather.  However, she remains true to herself until the very end, and is ultimately responsible for Roland beginning his quest to save the Dark Tower.


4) Susannah Dean (The Dark Tower series)

When one thinks of the Dark Tower series, Roland Deschain naturally comes to mind.  And Roland Deschain is a huge part of this series, as he is the main protagonist.

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However, Roland is not alone in this quest.  He had friends once, but they were lost.  But someone (or something) decided that he needed friends again.

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Enter Susannah Dean.  And Odetta Holmes.  And Detta Walker.  No, Roland was not given three women.  He was given one woman (along with another man, a young boy and even a creature known as a billy-bumbler but this entry is for the ladies only.)

When Roland first meets Susannah, she is a broken woman who literally does not know her true self.  One self goes by the name of Odetta Holmes, and is educated, well-spoken and gentle.  However, another personality, Detta Walker, wages war inside Susannah.  Detta is rude, crude and volatile, and threatens to destroy Susannah’s mind completely.

Eventually, Odetta and Detta are united, and a new being emerges:  Susannah Dean.  Susannah Dean has now married one of her tet mates.  She has also become a gunslinger, and a brave one at that, who refuses to back down from anyone or anything.  Susannah becomes the heart of the ka-tet, and makes sure that Roland retains a least a little of his humanity as he grows closer and closer to reaching his goal.

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Susannah endures unspeakable pain in the name of Roland’s quest.  First, she loses her husband, Eddie Dean.  Then she loses Jake Chambers, her spiritual son.  But Susannah is a survivor, until the very end, and reaches her own Dark Tower when she is finally reunited with her husband and son.


3)  Lisey Landon (Lisey’s Story)

A common theme in King’s work is the often taboo subject of mental illness.  Many of his books deal with this topic in its various facets.

One of these books is the novel Lisey’s Story.  Lisey’s Story can be considered a fantasy novel that is also a metaphor for the the creative process.  Lisey’s Story has much to say about mental illness as well, including its effects on the loved ones of people who suffer from mental illness.

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Before she meets Scott, Lisey is ordinary.  However, when she chooses to spend her life with Scott, it becomes clear that Lisey is no ordinary woman.

Scott Landon is a brilliant but troubled writer.  Mental illness has had tragic consequences for Scott’s family, and Scott (rightfully) fears tragic consequences for himself and anyone else who is close to him (namely, his wife, Lisey.)  However, Lisey loves Scott, and is determined to stand by him, no matter what kind of sacrifices that she may have to make.

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Lisey becomes Scott’s anchor.  When Scott becomes trapped in a kind of no-man’s land, Lisey is able to rescue him.  Lisey realizes that Scott is not ordinary either, but still accepts Scott along with all of his peculiarities.

Even in death, Lisey is still firmly anchored to Scott.  However, in order to save herself, Lisey must rely on her own strength.  And she is able to do just that, which allows her to return to the land of the living so that she can hear one last story from Scott, and allow him his final peace.


2)  Rose McLendon (Rose Madder)

I am a survivor of domestic abuse.  For years, I lived in hell.  At times, I thought that I would not live to see my 30th birthday (I was 29 when I escaped.)  I felt alone and carried a huge burden on my shoulders, as no one outside my relationship knew about about the abuse.  This was the case for many years, even after I escaped my first marriage.  The fact that I kept this secret for so long nearly destroyed me emotionally.  Even now, as I write this paragraph, the tears still well up in my eyes.

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But something kept me going for all of these years.  That something was the book Rose Madder.

Rose McLendon endures years of abuse and humiliation from her husband, Norman.  Rose finally escapes and attempts to build a new life in another city 800 miles away.  But the past catches up with her, when her husband Norman (who is also a police officer) tracks her down, killing several people who were friends of Rose and who helped her to build her new life.

Rose battles with her husband and wins that battle, even though she requires some help.  She goes on with her life and gets married again and has a daughter a daughter with her second husband.

I enjoyed the fact that Rose was able to defeat her husband, but my favorite part of this book was the description of the aftermath.  Even after Norman is no longer in her life, Rose still struggles.  She experiences anger over her ordeal that she has repressed for many years, and this threatens her new life.  Eventually, Rose is able to get her troubles under control, but struggles for some time.

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Most of the focus on abusive relationships is on leaving the abuser.  And this is indeed a major step.  However, not much advice is given on how to cope with the aftermath.  Reading about Rose’s feelings, which were similar to my own, made me love the book and this character that much more.  In Rose McLendon, King has truly created the Every Woman.


And now, for my favorite female Stephen King character of all time…

drum-roll-please

Allow me the pleasure of introducing…

Beverly Marsh (It)

Yes, Beverly Marsh, the sole female member of the Losers Club, is my top female Stephen King character.  There are many reasons for this, so let’s talk about them.

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Beverly may not be endowed with any special powers.  She may not technically be a “gunslinger.”  But Beverly is extraordinary, and deserves her spot on this list.

When I was a child, I was not interested in the typical “girly” things.  I did not play with Barbie dolls.  Instead, many of my interests were “male.”  I liked the Ninja Turtles.  I preferred Thundercats to whatever was marketed to girls at the time.

Because of my interests, I often felt that there was something wrong with me.  Nobody quite knew what to do with me, including my own family.  I thought that I was the one who needed to change, as opposed to thinking that our society needed to change and become more accepting of someone like me.

Then, when I was 12 years old, I read It.  And I met Beverly Marsh.  Beverly didn’t like “girl” things either.  Beverly could hang with the boys and hold her own.  Beverly was tough and seemed fearless.  And it didn’t hurt that Beverly was also tall and a redhead, two things that I absolutely hated about myself at the time.

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Beverly may have faced an evil clown (twice!) but her extraordinary qualities extend way beyond that fact.  Don’t get me wrong, facing Pennywise the Clown on a semi-regular basis is nothing to sneeze at, but Beverly had to endure so much more.

As I have stated time and time again, one of King’s strengths as a writer is the fact that he writes about ordinary life so well.  And this is evident in a book like It.  The homicidal clown is just one facet of this book.  Compared to what the kids had to face on a daily basis, Pennywise was actually pretty mild.

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And Beverly had to endure so much real-life horror.  For starters, she was an outcast.  She was poor, so she was bullied.  And if that wasn’t bad enough, she was abused by her father, and in the summer of 1958, that abuse began to take on sexual overtones.  Of course, there was no refuge for Beverly, as most adults, even her mother, turned a blind eye on the abuse.

Even after facing Pennywise the first time, the horror did not end for Beverly.  She went on to marry an abusive man, and was trapped in a nightmare for several years.  However, it was a strength of a childhood promise that compelled her to finally fight back, and escape from the nightmare, once and for all.

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In facing Pennywise for the second time, Beverly finally finds her footing and a confidence that was missing for most of her life.  She is even able to find love, as she marries a fellow Loser, Ben Hanscom.  Beverly rode off into the sunset with Ben, but she earned that ride, given what she had to overcome.  And a clown living in the sewers was the least of it.


So there you have it.

My top 10 ladies in the Stephen King universe.  I am sure that maybe I missed a few, but this list did have to be cut down to 10.

Like all of King’s characters, these ladies are fascinating and are an integral part to the stories that they appear in.  They are also proof that Stephen King is much more than a writer of horror; he is also a writer who understands the human condition, along with the female condition.

And whoever you are, man or woman, do yourself a big favor and pick up one or more of these books, if you haven’t already, so that you can meet some fascinating characters and escape into the never-boring  world known as a Stephen King book.

RoaldDahl

Sleepless in Derry: My Review of Insomnia

Heroes.

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We all have them.  Every single one of us. And if you don’t, you are either lying, or you don’t have blood in your veins and are fueled by ice water instead.

For me, my favorite kind of hero is someone who is not perfect.  Someone with flaws.  Someone with warts.  Someone who may question his/her actions, and who possibly even regrets some of those actions.

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In other words, someone who is human, and not necessarily endowed with any supernatural or other special abilities.

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The best kind of heroes are ones who we can relate too.  After all, life is hardly ever black and white.  Rather, life is gray, and an infinite number of shades at that.  In other words, sometimes what’s right and what’s wrong is not clear-cut.  Often, decisions are made, and second-guessed for many, many years after the fact, even when the consequences have long passed.

Of course, I had many heroes growing up.  And I have a few now.  Batman was one of the early ones.  And then I met Aragorn.  Currently, Oliver Queen is my “show boo,” as Jax Teller is dead to me and Raylan Givens has ridden off into the sunset.

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All are good men.  And all struggle with decisions they have made, even if they believed the decision was for the greater good.  The very definition of a hero in other words.

However, none of these guys come close to my number one childhood hero.  He was a man who often had a lot at thrown at him, but he always stepped up to the plate.  He tried to do what he believed was right, and make the world a little bit better of a place when he could.  He was a human with no special abilities, other than the ability to make me feel loved and protected at all times.

In other words, I am talking about my grandfather.  I was lucky enough to have one set of living grandparents throughout most of my childhood.  My grandparents lived two hours away from us, so I spent a lot of time there as a child.  Most of my best childhood memories involve my grandparents in some fashion.  My grandfather taught me how to fish.  He supported my love of astronomy by getting me a telescope when I was thirteen.  In fact, he supported every one of my obsessions, even though he did not necessarily understand all of them.  One of the few people who loved me unconditionally was my grandfather, and I will never forget that.

Unfortunately, my grandfather passed away nearly 14 years ago.  So all I am left with is memories, and a few faded photographs.  And being able to talk to my grandfather one last time is something that I would seriously consider sacrificing at least one limb for.

But, at least I have my memories.  And my photographs.

And Stephen King.

Stephen King mit Katze "Clovis", tierischer Held des Films "Schlafwandler". Der Meister des Horrors wird am Sonntag (21.09.1997) 50 Jahre. Mit 50 hat er mehr als 30 Romane veröffentlicht, ein Sachbuch, fünf Geschichtensammlungen und neun Drehbücher. dpa (zu dpa-Korr vom 17.09.1997) nur s/w

Yes, don’t forget which blog you are reading!

So, along with writing books I can’t put down, making great characters (who tend to get killed off more times than I care to count) and just generally being awesome, Stephen King is also able to bring my grandfather to life?  Makes perfect sense, right?

Well, yes.  It actually does make sense, and sense goes by the name of Ralph Roberts.

In case you are completely confused at this point, I am talking about King’s book Insomnia, and the primary character in that book, Ralph Roberts.

Ralph Roberts is a bad ass.  He fights supernatural beings and hardly breaks a sweat.  He also stands up to men who beat their wives, choosing to fight for what is right, rather than ignore the serious issue of domestic abuse, which seems to be the socially acceptable thing to do.  Ralph is also a loving, caring man, willing to (literally) risk his life to save the lives of other.

In other words, in Ralph Roberts I have found my grandfather’s literary Twinner, if you will.

The fact that Ralph Roberts is a man nearing 70 who ought to be one step away from the old folks’ home (well, according to our society, at any rate) is merely a minor technicality.

King often writes about the disenfranchised.  And the elderly are just that:  they are forgotten.  Or ignored.  Or even abused and taken advantage of.  To paraphrase a quote from of the characters in Insomnia, growing old is not a job for sissies.

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Insomnia has long been a favorite King work of mine.  Since I am one of the disenfranchised (nerds usually are), I enjoy reading about my own kind, and seeing them kick some major ass.  And Insomnia gives me that in spades:  the disenfranchised kicking some major ass.

And it is the next best thing to spending time with my grandfather.  If I can’t hang out with my grandfather, at least I can visit with his literary Twinner.

So, without any further ado, here is my recap and review of Insomnia.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

The book begins by introducing us to an elderly man named Ralph Roberts, who lives in Derry, Maine, with his wife Carolyn.  Ralph has just found out that Carolyn has an inoperable brain tumor and has only months to live.  Ralph is saddened by this, and takes to taking long walks around Derry in order to take his mind off of Carolyn’s health issues.

On one of these walks, Ralph encounters his neighbor, Ed Deepneau, who is involved in a minor car accident.  However, Ed is not acting like himself, and becomes extremely aggressive towards the other driver.  To compound things, a friend of Ralph’s, Dorrance Marstellar, also arrives at the scene and begins making cryptic statements.  Ed becomes convinced that the other driver is hiding the bodies of dead babies beneath the tarp in his truck.

Despite the chaos, Ralph is able to calm his neighbor down, and the other driver tells him that he is transporting fertilizer, not dead infants.  Ed and the other driver decide to work it out among themselves, and Ralph returns home.  When Ralph returns home, he nearly forgets about the incident, as Carolyn has suffered a seizure and is rushed to the hospital.  Once again, Ralph is reminded that Carolyn does not have much time left, and wishes that things were different.

Several months later, Carolyn passes away.  Shortly after the death of his wife, Ralph begins to suffer from insomnia.  However, the kind of insomnia that Ralph suffers from is a bit unusual, in that he suffers from “premature waking”, rather than being a slow sleeper,  In other words, Ralph awakens a bit earlier each day.  At first he dismisses this as a consequence of growing older, but soon his problem becomes so severe that he grows more and more worried.

Ralph tries several home remedies for his insomnia, but none seem to work.  He makes an appointment with his doctor, Dr. Litchfield, but cancels the appointment, as he does not trust Litchfield, as Litchfield misdiagnosed Carolyn’s brain tumors as migraine headaches.  Ralph also notices that Derry has become polarized over a woman named Susan Day, a well-known writer and women’s right activist.  Susan Day is someone who believes that women should have the right to be able have an abortion if necessary, among other things.  Many in Derry are opposed to her politics, but several people are also petitioning her to come speak in Derry.

One afternoon, after yet another sleepless night, Ralph makes a trip to the grocery store.  While he is there, he is greeted by the sight of Helen Deepneau, the wife of his neighbor Ed Deepneau.  Helen Deepneau has been badly beaten by Ed, and has staggered into the grocery store with her infant daughter, Natalie.  Ralph’s tenant Bill McGovern is also at the store, and helps Ralph with Helen.  Ralph quickly decides to call the police, even though Helen begs him not to do so.  Helen tells Bill and Ralph that Ed beat her because she signed a petition requesting that Susan Day speak in Derry.  Ralph becomes angry over Ed’s treatment of Helen, and decides to confront Ed.

When Ralph confronts Ed, he realizes that his friend is now mad.  Ed makes biblical references, and speaks of a being he calls the Crimson King.  Ralph’s confrontation with Ed, however, is interrupted by the arrival of the police, who arrest Ed on charges of domestic abuse.  Ralph speaks to John Leydecker, one of the arresting officers, and learns that Ed will probably be out on bail that night, but in order to be granted bail, Ed will have to agree not to contact Helen.

That night, Ralph tries to relax but is unable to do so.  He attempts to contact Helen at the hospital, but learns that she has banned herself from receiving any visitors.  However, Ralph receives a call from Helen later that night, who thanks him for his intervention.  Helen also tells Ralph that she and Natalie will be staying in a halfway house for victims of domestic abuse, and tells Ralph that she will be in touch.

The months go by, and Ralph continues to experience the insomnia.  He continues to awaken earlier each day, and becomes frustrated.  Ralph tries several home remedies, to no avail.  Ralph also receives a letter from Helen.  Helen tells Ralph in her letter that she is OK, but will be out of touch for a little while as she adjusts to her new life.  Helen also tells Ralph that she plans on divorcing Ed, as he is not the man she though she knew.

One day, Ralph receives news from his tenant Bill McGovern and Lois Chasse (a friend who lives on the same street), that Ed has been arrested.  Ralph promises to watch the afternoon news with them, but makes a detour to the neighborhood pharmacy.  There, he meets a pharmacist named Joe Wyzer. who also suffers from insomnia.  Ralph agrees to meet Joe for a cup of coffee to discuss the insomnia and possible solutions for it.

Ralph and Joe meet for coffee, and discuss Ralph’s problems.  Joe tells Ralph not to worry too much, as he is still basically healthy.  However, while speaking with Joe, Ralph notices that he can see “auras” emanating from the people around him, including Joe.  This worries Ralph, but he tries to dismiss as a trick of his mind, possibly due to the insomnia.  Before Ralph leaves. Joe gives him a card with a name and number for an acupuncturist and makes Ralph an appointment for the near feature.  Joe also gives Ralph his own phone number and tells Ralph to call him if he feels that he needs help.

Later on, Ralph meets Bill and Lois at Lois’ house to watch the afternoon news.  They confirm that Ed has been arrested, and Ralph becomes worried.  Ed has been the frontman for a pro-life group that is protesting the possible future presence of activist Susan Day in Derry.  He tells Lois and Bill about the incident with Ed the previous summer, and they encourage him to relay this information to Officer Leydecker.  Ralph does just that, but is still worried, as he thinks Ed has gone insane.

That night, Ralph receives a threatening phone call from Ed.  Ralph is frightened, but holds his own, and tells Ed that he will not be threatened by him. Ed terminates the call, as Ralph’s reaction was not expected.

The weeks continue to pass by.  Ralph still suffers from insomnia, but looks forward to the appointment with the acupuncturist.  He also receives a letter from Helen, telling him that she has found employment and will be in touch with him again soon.

After he receives the letter from Helen, Ralph wanders to a nearby park and chats with Bill.  As he is talking to Bill, Ralph notices that he can pick up the thoughts of nearby people.  In particular, he notices a little boy named Patrick, who is accompanied by his mother.  Ralph is able to pick up, from the mother’s thoughts, that she and Patrick are trying to avoid Patrick’s father, who has been drinking and can be abusive when drunk.  At that point, Ralph almost tells  Bill about the auras he sees, but thinks the better of it, as he decides he cannot trust Bill with that information.

One morning, Ralph receives a surprise visit from Helen and baby Natalie.  Helen’s friend Gretchen is also in attendance.  While he is speaking to Gretchen and Helen, Ralph realizes that he still see the auras, and that Natalie can also see them.  The three discuss how dangerous Ed has become, especially with his growing involvement in a pro-life group that continues to protest the presence of Susan Day in Derry.  Before she leaves, Helen gives Ralph a can of mace, telling him to use it to protect himself if necessary.

A few days later, Ralph returns home from an errand to find Dorrance Marstellar waiting for him at his doorstep.  Dorrance again speaks cryptically to Ralph, telling him to cancel his appointment with the acupuncturist, and also gives Ralph a book of poetry.  Ralph becomes irritated, wondering why he should cancel an appointment that was so difficult to schedule in the first place.  Ralph also notices that the front door is open, and thinks that Bill has been careless about locking the door again.

The next day, Ralph visits the library to further research insomnia.  However, his research is interrupted when a man named Charlie Pickering attacks him with a knife.  Ralph recognizes Pickering as an associate of Ed Deepneau’s and a pro-life activist.  Ralph is able to counter the attack with the can of mace which somehow happens to have been in his coat pocket.

After he is attacked, Ralph speaks to Officer Leydecker.  Ralph is shaken, but recounts the events to Leydecker.  Leydecker drives Ralph home, and tells him that Ed Deepneau probably will not be implicated in the attack, even though he likely orchestrated it.

When Ralph returns home, he realizes that Dorrance was the one who walked into his apartment, and placed the can of mace in his coat pocket.  Ralph wonders what is going on that is so important, and cancels his appointment with the acupuncturist.

That night, Ralph has strange dreams involving his wife Carolyn, who issues him cryptic warnings.  When Ralph awakens, he happens to glance out the window and sees a very strange sight:  two men, who look like small, bald doctors, are headed into the house of May Locher, another one of Ralph’s neighbors.  Ralph also notices that the men have unusual auras, and that they also have scissors.  Thinking that his neighbor is being robbed, Ralph calls the police but does not identify himself.  When the authorities arrive, it becomes clear that Ms. Locher has actually passed away, and her remains are removed from the house.

The next morning, Ralph gives his formal statement to Officer Leydecker over the incident involving Charlie Pickering.  Ralph also confirms that May Locher did indeed pass away, and begins to question his sanity.

Ralph decides that he will try to tell his friend Bill McGovern about his experiences, and decides to take a walk in his neighborhood before doing so.  When he takes his walk, he sees the auras again, and is dazzled by the beauty of it all.  However, Ralph also sees an unpleasant sight:  another bald doctor.  This one appears more sinister than the other two and frightens Ralph.  Ralph also realizes that the creature has Bill’s missing Panama hat.  Before Ralph can act, the auras and the mysterious creature vanish.  After his walk, Ralph tells Bill about his experiences.  Bill  is dismissive and tells Ralph to see his doctor.  This angers Ralph, and he argues with Bill.  Ralph leaves after arguing with Bill, and walks to the park in the neighborhood where the senior citizens gather.

At the park, Ralph speaks to some of his friends.  People are arguing over the upcoming appearance of Susan Day.  Ralph also finds out that another friend of his is in the hospital, and may succumb to cancer.  Ralph deduces that Ed Deepneau may be taking lessons on flying an airplane, and decides to head to the police station to relay this news to Officer Leydecker.

On his way to the police station, Ralph notices that the neighborhood stray dog, known as Rosalie, is behaving strangely.  Immediately, Ralph connects this with his recent bizarre experiences, and decides to see if he can make the auras appear at will.  Ralph is successful, and is able to see the auras, along with the third, sinister bald doctor.  The creature is calling to Rosalie, but Ralph calls the dog to him instead.  Ralph then confronts the creature and fights it, and it becomes angered, but runs off, threatening Ralph before it disappears.

However, before Ralph can make his way to the police station, he is distracted by the site of Lois Chasse, who is sitting on a park bench and is visibly upset.  In fact, Lois is crying.  Ralph speaks to Lois, in order to comfort her and find out why she is upset.

When he speaks to Lois, Ralph finds out that she has also been suffering from insomnia, and has spoken to her doctor, Dr. Litchfield about it.  However, Dr. Litchfield violated his doctor-patient privilege and told Lois’ son and daughter-in-law about her problems.  That morning, Lois received a visit from her son and daughter-in-law, who tried to convince her to give up her autonomy and move into a nursing home.  The pair of diamond earrings that Lois’ son gave her has also gone missing, lending more credence to the theory that Lois has developed dementia.

Ralph is able to determine a few things after he speaks to Lois.  The first is that he has fallen in love with Lois.  The second is that Lois is also able to see the auras, just like he can.  The third is that Lois’ daughter-in-law has stolen her earrings, in an effort to make Lois look like senile old woman who needs to be in a nursing home.

The conversation is interrupted by the appearance of the creature that Ralph saw earlier, along with Rosalie, the neighborhood stray dog.  This time, Ralph is  also able to make Lois see it, along with the auras.  Ralph and Lois try to fight the creature, but it attacks Rosalie.  However, it does not hurt Rosalie, at least physically.  Instead, the creature snips Rosalie’s “balloon string”, or the lifeline that leads to her aura.  The color of Rosalie’s aura changes to black, and Ralph is able to intuit that Rosalie will probably die soon.

Lois invites Ralph to her house for lunch, so that they can talk about what has been happening to them.  Before he leaves with Lois, Ralph realizes that the creature they saw earlier also has Lois’ diamond earrings, along with Bill’s hat, and becomes frightened.  However, Ralph chooses to keep this information to himself for the time being.

Ralph then tells Lois everything that has happened to him, starting with his encounter with Ed two summers ago.  Lois believes every word, but is not sure what any of it means.  Ralph is also not sure what any of it means, and again becomes frightened, as it seems forces that he does not comprehend are at work.  Ralph and Lois then agree to meet up later that night, and Lois leaves town for a few hours for her weekly card game with her friends.

When Ralph returns home, he finds a note from Bill apologizing for his earlier actions.  He also receives a call from Officer Leydecker.  Leydecker tells Ralph that Charlie Pickering has somehow bonded out of jail, and that Ed Deepneau was the one who bonded him out.

That afternoon, Ralph awaits Lois.  He see the auras, and realizes that he has been “stealing” energy from other’s people’s auras, which explains why people think that he looks younger.  Ralph worries that he has been hurting people by doing this.

When Lois returns from her card game, she tells Ralph that she was able to use her friends’ auras to win the card game.  Lois is also “stealing” from other peoples’ auras, as she also appears younger.

Ralph and Lois’ conversation is interrupted by a car crash.  When Ralph looks outside, he sees that the neighborhood stray dog, Rosalie, has been fatally hit by a car driven by his pharmacist, Joe Wyzer.  The creature that cut Rosalie’s life force appears to torment Lois and Ralph, and also steals Joe’s comb.  Ralph realizes that he must get that comb back, along with Lois’ earrings.

Ralph also realizes that he needs to pay a visit to his friend Jimmy at Derry Home Hospital, and heads to the hospital with Lois.  A woman at the front desk tries to Ralph a hard time about visiting his friend, but he is able to use his new-found telepathic powers to convince her to allow him to visit his friend.

After they enter the intensive care ward where Ralph’s friend is residing, Ralph and Lois are then able to travel to a different level of reality.  They are able to see those around them, but those people cannot see them.  One of the people they see happens to be Bill, whose aura is now completely black.  Lois becomes distressed, but Ralph realizes that nothing can be done for Bill, who will likely die soon.

Ralph and Lois enter Ralph’s friend’s Jimmy’s hospital room, and meet the two “bald doctors” that Ralph had previously see outside May Locher’s house.  The entities state that they have no name, but tell Ralph and Lois to refer to them as “Clotho” and “Lachesis”, after the Fates in Greek mythology.  The two entities also tell him that the third entity that Ralph had previously encountered can be referred to as “Atropos.”

As he speaks to these entities, Ralph becomes more and more angered, due to the chaos that their interference has caused in his life.  However, Cloth and Lachesis tell him that his anger is not justified.  Ralph and Lois watch as the two entities sever the “balloon string”, or life force of Jimmy, who passes on to the afterlife.  After Jimmy passes away, his room begins to fill up with people, and Clotho and Lachesis bid Ralph and Lois to come with them, as there is much to be discussed.

Clotho and Lachesis explain to Ralph and Lois that they are agents of the Purpose, while Atropos is an agent of the Random.  Clotho and Lachesis sever the life forces of people who have been selected to die at a specific time, while Atropos is responsible for those whose time of death is not specific (such as victims of car crashes, fires, etc).  The two entities also inform Ralph and Lois that Bill has now passed away.  This angers Ralph, as he sees the entities’ interference as being responsible for Bill’s death.  He believes that by angering Atropos, Clotho and Lachesis have caused Atropos to target Bill.  Ralph then threatens to walk out on the two entities, as he feels that he has been manipulated.

However, Lois convinces Ralph to hear Clotho and Lachesis out.  Ralph and Lois learn that Atropos has severed the life force of Ed Deepneau.  Ed Deepneau was unmarked:  in other words, Ed served neither the Random or the Purpose, and the fact that Ed has lived so long after his life force was severed means that he is important in some way.  Ed Deepneau is planning to kill the 2000+ people, and only Ralph and Lois have the power to stop them.  Ralph also learns that his and Lois’ auras were altered, which resulted in the insomnia and new found powers, and that his preordained destiny has been changed.

After they return to their own reality, Ralph and Lois set about the task of attempting to prevent Ed Deepneau from committing mass murder.  First, they find out the location of the women’s shelter, using their new found telepathic powers, so that they may speak to Helen Deepneau and her friend Gretchen Tillbury.  Ralph also realizes that the scarf worn by Ed Deepneau contains the Japanese symbol for “kamikaze” or “suicide pilot,” and becomes frightened again.

Ralph and Lois make a brief stop to eat, and then head to the women’s shelter.  When they arrive, they see a large black cloud, or “death bag” surrounding the shelter, and realize that the people there are in danger.  The suspicion is confirmed when they hear Officer Leydecker shouting at Charlie Pickering to surrender, as Pickering has set fire to the shelter and killed several people.  Ralph and Lois use their powers to enter the shelter and lead the women who are trapped there to safety.  Helen Deepneau and her daughter Natalie are among the women trapped in the shelter.  The little boy, Patrick, who Ralph saw at the park a few months prior, is also among the people trapped in the shelter, along with his mother.  Ralph also uses his powers to render Charlie Pickering into a human vegetable, as Lois begs Ralph not to kill Pickering.  Ralph tries to convince Helen to stop the rally at the civic center that night, but she will hear none of it.

As Ralph and Lois leave the shelter, they encounter Doris Marstellar.  Doris leads them to a vehicle, which happens to be driven by Joe Wyzer, who Dorrance has apparently recruited to help him.  Joe drives Ralph and Lois to the civic center, where he drops them off.  Dorrance tells Ralph and Lois that they are involved in something a lot bigger than themselves, and that higher forces are watching them, marking their progress.

At the civic center, a large crowd of women, along with members of the media, is beginning to gather.  However, the “death bag” still surrounds the area, reminding Ralph and Lois what will happen if their mission fails.  Ralph uses his powers to find the trail of Atropos while Lois distracts the people around them.  After he finds the trail of Atropos, Ralph and Lois head to his lair.

Finally, Ralph and Lois find Atropos’ lair, which happens to be the trunk of a dead oak tree.  They descend into the creature’s lair, and immediately notice the large collection of odds and ends that Atropos has accumulated over the years.  One of them is Joe Wyzer’s comb, which Ralph immediately pockets.    However, he still cannot find Lois’ earrings.  As Ralph and Lois make their way through the lair of Atropos, they notice that he has accumulated a large pile of cash, which provides the explanation as to how Ed Deepneau has obtained his money.  They also notice a large “death bag”, or pulsating black cloud.  This cloud contains more items, but these items belong to people who are still living.  One of the items is Helen Deepneau’s sneaker, which Lois ties to her wrist before moving on.

Ralph is also able to slice open the “death bag.”  When he does so, he also finds Ed Deepneau’s wedding ring, and notices that when he removes it, another “copy” of the ring appears in its place.  However, there is only one “real” ring, and Ralph and Lois take that as well.

On the way out of the lair, Ralph and Lois have a confrontation with Atropos, who is not pleased that they have taken Ed’s ring.  Both Ralph and Lois also notice that the creature is wearing Lois’ earrings.  Ralph battles the creature, and is able to take Ed’s ring, along with extracting a promise from Atropos that he will leave Ralph and Lois alone and not interfere in their quest to stop Ed Deepneau from committing mass murder.  However, Atropos shows Ralph a vision of something happening to someone he cares about in the future, which causes great concern for Ralph.

After Ralph and Lois return to their own level of reality, Ralph summons Clotho and Lachesis.  Ralph confronts these two entities, as he feels that they have not been truthful with them.  This assumption turns out to be correct, and Ralph extracts the true nature of his and Lois’ quest from Clotho and Lachesis:  they actually must save a little boy, who will grow up to do something very important.  The little boy is Patrick Danville, and is actually the same little boy Ralph saw at the park and in the basement of the burning women’s shelter.  However, Ralph refuses to help Clotho and Lachesis, unless they will spare the life of someone else who is also important to Ralph.  After some arguing, Clotho and Lachesis finally agree to the deal, and a cut is made on Ralph’s arm.

While Ralph is making the deal with Clotho and Lachesis, Lois is visited by an entity that she describes as “the green man.”  The entity returns Lois’ earrings to her, and Lois gives those to Ralph.  Ralph then prepares to continue on his mission to stop Ed Deepeneau.

Ralph is able to teleport himself to the plane that Ed Deepneau is flying.  However, as he is trying to stop Ed Deepneau, Ralph sees someone that he thinks to be his deceased mother.  But this is not his mother and is actually the entity known as the Crimson King, and the entity forces Ralph to come to his “court,” where he warns Ralph about his “meddling.”  Ralph surprises the Crimson King by stabbing him with Lois’ earrings, and is able to defeat the entity.

Ralph then drops back down to his own level of reality, and distracts Ed Deepneau.  Ralph is able to divert the plane away from the civic center.  Susan Day is decapitated, and several others are killed, but not as many are killed due to Ralph’s actions.  The life of Patrick Danville is also saved, and the Universe breathes a sigh of relief.  Lois reels Ralph into the same level of reality as Clotho and Lachesis, and his life is also saved.

Clotho and Lachesis bid Ralph and Lois goodbye.  Ralph again reminds them of their promise, and the two entities reluctantly agree.

The insomnia is no longer an issue for Ralph and Lois after their adventure, and their lives return to normal.  They get married, and move into Lois’ house, and their lives are more or less happy.  The memories of the incident also begin to fade, and Ralph and Lois no longer remember just what it was that they did, even though they know it was important.

Helen and Natalie Deepneau also lead happy lives after the incident at the civic center.  Helen receives a windfall from Ed’s life insurance policy, and buys a house in Ralph and Lois’ neighborhood.  Ralph and Lois spend much time with Natalie and Helen, and Natalie becomes a grandchild of sorts to them.  Ralph and Lois also adopt a dog, who they name Rosalie.

For the next several years, Ralph and Lois are relatively happy.  However, the insomnia returns to Ralph, and he begins to see the auras again.  Ralph also remembers the promise that he made, and understands that his days are now numbered.

One day, Ralph decides he wants to go for a walk.  However, he knows that something is about to happen to Natalie Deepneau, and that he will die saving her.  Ralph finally confesses what is happening to Lois, and she becomes upset and tries to stop him.  However, Ralph will have none of that, and Lois gives in, and accompanies Ralph on his final journey.

Ralph and Lois then encounter Natalie in front of Ed and Helen’s old house, along with their dog Rosalie.  Ralph’s abilities have returned and he also sees Atropos, who is trying to distract Rosalie to get Natalie’s attention.  This works, and Rosalie runs out into the street.  Natalie runs after the dog and is caught in the path of an oncoming vehicle.  Ralph then throws himself between Natalie and the vehicle, taking the hit that was intended for Natalie, saving her life.

The accident proves fatal for Ralph, and he passes away, with Lois at his side.  Before he makes his final journey, he sees Clotho and Lachesis and his memories of them are awakened.  Clotho and Lachesis also provide some comfort to Lois, as she watches her husband pass on.


 

My Thoughts

Move over, Chuck Norris

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There is another bad ass in town, and his name is Ralph Roberts.

Chuck Norris may not need to turn on the shower because he makes the shower head cry, but Ralph Roberts battled the Crimson King.  And won.

So Ralph wins, as I have yet to hear of Chuck Norris kicking the ass of the Crimson King.  Although I am sure that battle would be epic…swoon…

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However, as epic as Ralph’s confrontation with the King of Big Bads in all of literature (or at least in the Stephen King universe) was, I think my personal favorite Ralph Roberts moment was when he confronted…wait for it…Ed Deepneau!

Yes, the confrontations with Atropos and the Crimson King were awesome.  Ass kickingly awesome, as a matter of fact.  But I will always remember my man Ralph Roberts for his confrontation with the milquetoast man down the street.

Although Ed Deepneau was not really a milquetoast, as we Constant Readers know.  Far from it, in fact.

But let’s get right down to it:  Ed may have had his life force cut “prematurely” and been under the influence of Atropos and The Crimson King.  And yes, Ed could not have controlled a lot of what happened.  But “a lot of” does not mean “all of.”  As Clotho and Lachesis reminded us, Ralph and Lois had choices.  And so did Ed.

And one of those choices that Ed made was to beat his wife, probably even while she was pregnant.  Somehow, I don’t think that the Crimson King or Atropos had much to do with those choices.

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Ralph also made a choice:  he made the choice to confront Ed, and call him out for beating Helen an inch within her life.  Everyone else had the “deer in headlights” look, but the 70 year man who was only getting a couple of hours of sleep at night became the decisive one.  In fact, the 70 year man who was only getting a couple of hours of sleep at night became the knight in shining armor that day.

And I love Ralph for that.  As a survivor of domestic abuse, I often felt invisible, along with ashamed and broken.  I looked for my knight for a long time, but he never came.  That is proof that we need more of Ralph Roberts in the world:  people who are not afraid to do what is right, despite what the rest of society may think.  People who care about what happens to the little people.  The fall of the sparrow, in other words.

There are so many things about Ralph that are swoon-worthy.  In fact, Ralph Roberts is now one of my “book boos.”

A seventy year old man makes me swoon.  There, I said it.  And I am not ashamed.

In fact, I am proud to call Ralph one of my “book boos.”  Not only did the man save the world (or all of the worlds in all of the universes), he sacrificed his own life, so that Natalie could live, and so that Natalie’s mother would not have to deal with what would have been the extremely painful loss of her only child.  And any man who has those kind of thoughts is a man worthy of being called my “book boo.”

There is the ending to Insomnia.  It gets me.  Every.  Single.  Time.

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With most other writers and most books, it would have ended when Ralph and Lois saved the lives of all those people at the civic center.  The easy thing to do would have been to would be to let Ralph and Lois walk into the sunset, have their “happily ever after.”  And that still would have made for an all-right book.

But we are not reading something by most other writers.  We are reading something written by The Master.  And this ending proves why he has earned the right to be called “The Master.”

In reality, there are hardly any “happily ever afters.”  Instead, tragedy can strike, and sometimes out of nowhere.  Good people are taken from us much too soon, and sometimes, trade-offs have to be made.

One of King’s strengths as a writer is that he is able to juxtapose the realistic with the fantastic.  He does this by creating characters, places and situations that we can all identify with.  Even in a novel like Insomnia, which is actually a dark fantasy.

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And this book is taken to the next level by the description of the last few years of Ralph’s life.  We get to experience the joy and love that Ralph experiences, and we are lulled into a sense of security, and expect a happy ending.

But life is hardly ever fair, and tragedy is always just around the corner.  Many of King’s works, such as Bag of Bones, The Shining and Duma Key, remind of us this.  Insomnia is no different, driving home the point that everything, even an innocent child’s life, comes at a price.  And that price must always be paid, no matter how much that payment hurts.

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Another thing I love about Insomnia is the fact that King gave us another Dark Tower novel.  Now, it may not have Dark Tower anywhere in the title, but that is just a minor technicality, right?

In other words, I consider Insomnia to be the ninth Dark Tower novel that King always wanted to write, even before he was finished with the Dark Tower series.

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Funny how a series can be that awesome, where it inspires its ninth book, when only four of the eight books of the actual series were published at the time.  But such is the scope of the series like this one.  King has said that the Dark Tower series is all encompassing, and Insomnia is a perfect example of that.

I have read this book many times, but every time I read the part about Patrick Danville drawing a picture Roland and telling his mother that Roland is a king too, I shiver.  Literal goose flesh breaks out on my arms.  Roland turning in his blankets under the “alien constellations”.  There is just something about that is mind-blowing to me.  Two old people who should have been ready for the old folks home (at least according to our society) are busy kicking ass, and that ass kicking had a direct effect on Roland Deschain, another ass kicker who Chuck Norris bows down to (or should, anyway.)  Actually, mind blowing does not do that feeling I get justice, so universe blowing, perhaps?

The Crimson King is the ultimate Big Bad in the Stephen King universe, and is ultimately responsible for all of the bad things that occur there (after all, even Randall Flagg has to answer to someone.)  He is mentioned in several works, such as Black House and The Dark Tower series, and ultimately shows up in the last book to do battle with Roland the gunslinger.

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I did enjoy the Crimson King’s appearance in the Dark Tower series, but I think that my favorite representation of the Crimson King is the representation in Insomnia.

The Crimson King is an evil being.  We saw a bit of this in the Dark Tower series, but he also seemed to be a stupid being, which diminished the evil part.  However, in Insomnia, the Crimson King was vicious and evil.  The way he tried to trick Ralph, by pretending to be Ralph’s dead mother…shudder.  And speaking of shudder:  that memory of the catfish that attacked Ralph when he was child and the egg sac that thing contained…eek!  Insomnia is not what I consider to be a scary story by any means (I categorize it as fantasy or maybe even dark fantasy) but that memory reminded me that I was in fact reading something written by the modern day Boogeyman.  And King comes by that title honestly.  Who else could horrify me in a story that is a modern day Lord of the Rings?  The Master, that’s who!


Well, that’s it for Insomnia.  Join me next month as I review the case of life imitating art?  Or is it art imitating life?  In other words, I will be reviewing and dissecting The Dead Zone!

And speaking of the apple not falling far from the tree…

That’s right, Joe Hill, aka The Master 2.0, will also have a book coming out next month…woohoo!  So next month will be busy, as I will be reviewing The Fireman as well!

Tune in next month…same bat time, same bat channel!

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Connections

As always, all of King’s works are inter-connected.  And much of the fun (at least for me) in reading a King book lies in finding those connections.  Insomnia does not disappoint in that regard.  Here are some of the connections I found:

Insomnia takes place in the town of Derry, Maine.  Derry is the setting for several other King works, including It, Dreamcatcher and Bag of Bones.

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-Mike Hanlon is a minor character in Insomnia.  Mike is one of the members of The Losers Club, a group who banded together as children and later reunited as adults to defeat Pennywise the Clown, in the novel It.

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-Ralph makes reference to the flood that occurred in 1986.  Of course, this was when the Losers Club faced Pennywise the Clown in the novel It for the second time, defeating the monster for the final time.

-Ralph Roberts also makes an appearance in the book Bag of Bones, where he briefly speaks to Mike Noonan.

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-Patrick Danville is a major player in the final Dark Tower book, where he helps Roland defeat the Crimson King.

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-Dorrance Marstellar is referenced by Jamie Morton in the novel Revival.

-Susan Day is mentioned in the book Rose Madder.

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-“Ka” (loosely defined to mean destiny) is mentioned several times in Insomnia.  Ka is also a phrase commonly used in the Dark Tower series.

-Patrick Danville is a talented artist, much like Edgar Freemantle in the book Duma Key.

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-Atropos was in possession of a sneaker owned by Gage Creed.  Gage Creed was the son of Louis Creed, both characters from the novel Pet Sematary.

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Dead is Definitely Better: My Review of Pet Sematary

Well, I just finished A Dance With Dragons, the fifth book in George RR Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series.

So now, we wait.  And wait and wait.  And wait some more for books six and seven, at least, according to history, as our beloved GRRM is not exactly the quickest when it comes to publishing books.  However, I love this series so much, so I forgive the bumbling writer of what will probably be one of the most epic fantasy series of all time.

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In fact, I think of it as karma:  I discovered The Dark Tower series after all the books had been published, so I was able to read them at my leisure.  So now the universe has paid me back by forcing me to wait on Game of Thrones.  It’s all good though, I am sure I can find something else to occupy my time before my return to Westoros

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Well, good thing we have The Master!  Really, are you even surprised any more?

Simpsons SK

So, in order to relax while waiting for book six in A Song of Fire and Ice (yes, I may fight windmills while I am waiting for that, actually), I decided to pick up another Stephen King book.  In other words, I have time to kill (see what I did there).

I casually thought about what relaxing book of King’s to read.  I mean, there are quite a few to choose from.

So, I chose Pet Sematary.

Stephen King's Pet Sematary (1985)

I mean, that’s a relaxing read, right?  It will give me some pleasant dreams, right?  It’s good family fun, right?

Ok, you got me.  I really need to stop abusing the sarcasm font.  Seriously…

I deliberately chose Pet Sematary.  If memory serves, this is the one King book I have only read once, and there are very good reasons for that.

I first read this book when I was about 13 years old.  Shortly after, my parents made me stay in this really weird place…I think it’s called Arkham Asylum?  And I met some really funny folks there and they became my lifelong friends!

joker and harley

In other words, Pet Sematary scared me into a change of pants.  I couldn’t sleep with lights off for at least a couple of nights.  Being alone in the house sucked.  And I felt the need to hug my cats really, really tight, claws and teeth be damned.  I may have been turned off from horror and had to resort to watching Disney flicks after this book, as a matter of fact.

Of course, I decided to re-read it, nearly 25 years later.  Makes perfect sense, right?

Well, horror is about confronting fears, to an extent.  In fact, King has written about that, in more than a few books.

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So if a group of plucky kids can travel down to the sewers and confront their fears, why can’t nearly 38 year old me re-read a book that terrified her at age 13?

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Therefore, I convinced myself to read Pet Sematary.  Don’t worry, I have the Blue Heeler Protection Agency at my service, so I will be safe at all times…screw you, Wendigo!

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Anyway, here goes nothing, aka my recap and review of Pet Sematary.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


 

Synopsis

The story begins with the introduction of the Creed family:  Louis Creed, who is a doctor; his wife Rachel; his five year old daughter Ellie and his infant son Gage.  The Creeds have relocated to Ludlow, Maine from Chicago, and have also brought their pet cat Church along.  The Louis and his family meet  their new neighbor, Jud Crandall, shortly after their arrival at their new home, and become fast friends with Jud and his wife Norma.

Louis and his family quickly settle into their new life in Ludlow.  Louis begins his new job at the nearby university.  Ellie starts kindergarten.  Gage slowly settles into his new routine, and Rachel also becomes friends with Jud and Norma.

One afternoon, not long after Ellie’s first day of school, Jud Crandall stops by the house and invites Louis and his family to take a walk with him.  Jud takes the Creed family for a walk on their property that is about a mile long, and shows them something that is called the “Pet Sematary.”  This is actually a graveyard for family pets, many of which were victims of the busy nearby highway.  Louis and Ellie find the site to be a curiosity, although Rachel is disturbed by it.

The next morning, Ellie becomes upset over the idea of the Pet Sematary, as she realizes that her cat, Church, will not live forever.  Louis tries to calm her and explain death to her, but Rachel becomes extremely upset over the conversation, as her sister Zelda died when Rachel was a child.  Rachel becomes so angry that she forces Louis to promise tonever bring up the subject of death again with their daughter.  Louis becomes troubled, thinking that there may be much more to the story of Zelda’s death than Rachel has told him.

The next day, the university that employs Louis is back in full session, so the real work begins for Louis.  And Louis is put to work right away, as one of his first patients is a young man who is the victim of a car accident.  The young man’s name is Victor Pascow, and Louis quickly realizes that his patient will die.  Before the young man passes away, he mentions the “Pet Sematary”, and tells Louis that is not the real cemetery.  However, before Louis can ask any more questions, Pascow passes away from his wounds.  Louis dismisses the young man’s words as a trick played on him by his ears, and proceeds to do his job as a physician.

That night, Louis encounters Victor Pascow in what he believes to be a vivid dream.  Louis follows the being claiming to be Victor Pascow to the Pet Sematary.  The being then warns Louis not to go beyond the Pet Sematary, no matter how tempted he becomes, and that the destruction of himself and all that he loves is very near.  The next morning, Louis finds pine needles on his bedroom floor.  Louis dismisses the incident as an extremely vivid dream accompanied by an episode of sleepwalking, and continues with his day.

The weeks pass by, and the memory of the incident with Victor Pascow begins to fade.  On Halloween, Louis takes Ellie out trick-or-treating and stops by Jud’s house.  While he is there, Jud’s wife Norma has a heart attack.  Louis is able to administer treatment to her, and Norma survives the incident and makes a nearly complete recovery.

For Thanksgiving, Ellie, Rachel and Gage fly back to Chicago, while Louis remains in Maine.  While his family is gone, Church the cat is run over by a vehicle on the busy road.  Louis is upset and wonders how he will break the news to Ellie, who is very attached to Church.  However, Jud tells Louis that he may be able to help him, and insists on burying Church that night.

Jud leads Louis to the Pet Semetary, and Louis believes that he will bury Church there.  However, there is a burial ground beyond the Pet Semetary, and this is where Louis buries his daughter’s cat.  Jud tells Louis that his burial ground is a Micmac burial ground and that it may contain magical properties.  Louis is skeptical, but buries Church there anyway, and returns home shortly after, still wondering how he will break the news to Ellie.

The next day, Louis gets the surprise of his life when Church returns to his house.  Initially, Louis thinks that he perhaps made a mistake in thinking that Church was dead the night before, and was perhaps just unconscious.  However, the cat seems to have changed, and Louis cannot get rid of the feeling that something just is not right.

That night, Jud tells Louis the story of how he buried his dog, Spot, in the same burial grounds.  Like Church, Spot is resurrected, but is not quite the same.  Jud tells Louis that he was relieved when his dog died a few years later, as his personality had changed, and always smelled like dirt.  Jud also tells Louis that this could be a good lesson for Ellie, to help teach her that death is not such a bad thing.

Rachel returns home with Ellie and Gage, and Louis is glad to see his family again.  However, Ellie notices that something is different about Church.  She says that he stinks and no longer allows the cat to sleep with her.  Other than that, life continues on its normal course for the Creed family.

That winter, Norma Crandall passes away in her sleep.  The Creed family and Jud are extremely saddened by this.  Over Rachel’s objections, Ellie attends the funeral with Louis, and this becomes a rite of passage of sorts.  Rachel finally tells Louis about the death of her sister, Zelda, who passed away from spinal meningitis when she was ten years old.  Rachel was left alone in the house to care for Zelda before she passed away, and the experience was extremely traumatic.  Rachel has spent her life feeling guilt in regards to Zelda’s death, and Louis tries to convince that she finally needs to let go of the guilt and move on with her life.

Tragedy strikes that spring.  Gage is struck by a truck on the busy highway near the family’s home, and is killed almost instantly.  The entire family, including Louis, succumbs to a state of shock and grief.  Rachel’s parents blame Louis for Gage’s death, and Louis gets into a fistfight with his father-in-law at Gage’s funeral.  Louis is in so much pain that he is unable to offer much comfort to either his wife or daughter.

Jud speaks to Louis, as he is afraid that Louis is considering burying Gage’s body in the Micmac burial ground, in the hopes of bringing his son back to life.  Jud tells of a young man who was killed in WWII and buried in the burial grounds by his grieving father.  The young man was resurrected, but did not come back as his former self.  The young man’s personality became vicious, and he only wanted to speak of the nasty secrets kept by Jud and a fewer other townspeople.  Jud theorizes that the man was possessed by the spirit of the Wendigo.  The young man is killed again by his father, who also commits suicide.  Jud and the other townspeople who convinced the young man’s father to end the experiment had their lives spared, but Jud feels that coming into contact with the Wendigo has cursed him, and possibly caused the death of Gage Creed and the pain that the Creed family is now suffering.  Louis promises Jud that he will not bury Gage in the burial ground, but the thought never strays far from his mind.

Despite his promise to Jud, Louis decides to carry out his and attempt to bring Gage back to life.  He sends Rachel and Ellie back to Chicago with Rachel’s parents, promising them that he will join them in a few days.  However, both Rachel and Ellie sense that something is not right with Louis, and Ellie begins to have disturbing dreams in regards to the Micmac burial ground, her father and her brother.  The ghost of Victor Pascow also speaks to Ellie in her dreams, telling her that he can warn her of the danger, but that he cannot interfere.  After hearing of her daughter’s dreams, Rachel attempts to call Louis but receives no answer.  This prompts Rachel to call Jud and ask him to check on Louis.

Jud complies with Rachel’s request and checks on Louis.  However, he finds no sign of Louis in the family home, and fears that Louis intends to attempt to resurrect Gage via the Micmac burial ground.  Jud also fears that the curse of the Wendigo is upon him and the Creed family.

Louis steals the corpse of Gage from the graveyard, intending to carry his plan through.  In the meantime, Rachel rushes back to Maine from Chicago, in the hopes of stopping Louis from doing something potentially dangerous.  Rachel speaks to Jud via the telephone, and Jud promises to tell her the whole story the next day.

Louis buries his son in the Micmac burial ground, and returns to his house to wait for Gage, in the hopes of making his family whole again.  Meanwhile, Rachel frantically tries to return to Maine, but it seems as if someone or something is trying to prevent her return.

Jud is awakened early in the morning by a noise in his house.  It turns out that Church the cat and Gage have paid him a visit.  However, Gage is no longer a little boy, and begins to torment Jud with speculations of his wife’s infidelity.  Jud realizes that he has been tricked, but it is too late, and he is murdered by Gage with a scapel.

Rachel is finally able to drive back to Maine, and heads directly to Jud’s house.  She also encounters Gage and Church, and is attacked by Gage.

The next morning, Louis receives a call from his father-in-law with the news that Ellie has been hospitalized due to hysteria. Ellie has also been having prophetic dreams in regards to her family. Louis’ father-in-law tries to persuade Louis and Rachel to come back to Chicago, and Louis promises that they will attempt to return that night.

Louis then finds Church the cat, and kills the animal by giving it a shot of morphine.  Louis then goes to Jud’s house, where he finds the old man’s body.  Louis then discovers the body of Rachel, who has also been murdered by Gage.  Rachel’s corpse also appears to have been cannibalized.  Louis is then attacked by Gage, and is forced to administer him a fatal short of morphine.  After killing his son, Louis then burns down Jud’s house.

After burning down Jud’s house, Louis brings Rachel’s body to the Micmac burial ground.  He is convinced that he waited too long to bury Gage, and that was the reason why Gage turned evil.  Louis has convinced himself that by burying Rachel right away, things will be different, and buries her in the grounds.

That night, Louis is playing solitaire in his house.  His hair has gone completely white.  He hears a voice, and a cold hand falls on his shoulder.  The voice is full of dirt, and simply says, “Darling.”


 

My Thoughts

Let’s get one thing straight:

Pet Sematary is a good book.

And if you are crazy enough to be reading this blog and have gotten this far, you may be thinking:  Well, water is wet.  The sun does set in the west, right?  Why do we need to state the obvious, in other words?  Of course Pet Sematary is a good book…it was written by The Master, right?

Stephen King mit Katze "Clovis", tierischer Held des Films "Schlafwandler". Der Meister des Horrors wird am Sonntag (21.09.1997) 50 Jahre. Mit 50 hat er mehr als 30 Romane veröffentlicht, ein Sachbuch, fünf Geschichtensammlungen und neun Drehbücher. dpa (zu dpa-Korr vom 17.09.1997) nur s/w

Well, there is that.  However, I have talked about this book in an unflattering light at times, so I wanted to set the record straight:  this is a good book.  I may have taken 25 years to re-read this book, but it is an excellent book.

As stated earlier, I was scared into a change of pants the first time I read this book.  And this is still true:  I consider this to be King’s scariest book ever written (more on that in a bit).  However, when I re-read the book at the almost impossibly ancient age of 37 going on 38, my feelings were a bit…mixed…is the best word I can come up with.

If you are a member of the approximately 5,000 Stephen King fan pages that I am member of on social media, you will see Pet Sematary memes on a regular basis (yeah, I need to get out more, I know).  And they are funny.

Church grumpy cat

And joking around is ok.  Really, it is.  A bit of whistling in the dark is ok, especially when you are dealing with serious topics, and Pet Sematary has many of those.  In fact, Pet Sematary is overflowing with…feelsies…

Yes, the book with the “grumpy cat”, Zelda and the creepy guy who reminds us that “dead is better” is also filled with feelsies.  In fact, there are so many that King should have put up a caution sign, so his Constant Readers aren’t liable to trip on them.

For example, we have the story of Zelda (also the subject of more than a few social media memes).  And the subject of quite a few nightmares.

And the scene involving Zelda is scary, it really is.  But it is also tragic.  When I read this book this time around, however, I was more saddened than anything when I read that part.  Obviously, I was saddened for Rachel.  The description of what Rachel witnessed and how it affected her, even into adulthood, was just heartbreaking.  I was also saddened for Rachel’s parents.  Rachel’s parents may not have made the best decisions in handling care for their daughter, who was facing a horrible, painful death without the slightest shred of dignity, but I was still sad for them, as no parent should ever have to face that.  But most of all, I was sad for Zelda herself.  Zelda was not a monster.  She never was.  She was simply a child who received some extraordinarily bad luck in life, and whose life was cut off too soon.  Her illness transformed her into something else entirely:  something in constant pain and unrecognizable to the ones who loved her the most.  She was robbed of her childhood.  When she should have been playing with dolls, running around outside with her sister and doing whatever other things that kids do, she was a prisoner to her pain in a back bedroom, where she lived her last days and served as a living reminder to her family that life is never fair, and is perhaps the most unfair to those whose deserve such unfairness the least.

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We also have the Creed family.  As I have stated before, the only “bad guy” in Pet Sematary is the Wendigo (more on that later).  When I was younger, I do confess to thinking that Louis was not entirely a “good guy.”  I thought that he was weak and played a role in the events that transpired.  However, this re-read has caused me to re-think this, and I no longer believe that Louis was a weak man.

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In fact, I like Louis Creed.  I like his whole family, actually.  The Creed family reminds me a lot of my own family.  I even have brother who is younger by about the same number years as Gage was to Ellie.  Louis also reminds me of my own father:  he wants to keep his family happy and safe, and for his children to have the best life he can give them.

King spends a lot of time letting his reader get to know the Creed family.  I loved reading about the day to day life of the Creed family.  I loved the interaction between Ellie and Gage.  Again, it reminded me of growing up with a younger brother who could be a pest, but I still (secretly) loved to pieces any way, even if he drove me crazy most of the time.  I also loved the relationship between Louis and Rachel.  They took their duties a parents seriously (again, each wanting the best for their kids), but they also had a great partnership.  Louis and Rachel were lovers as well as parents and partners, and their chemistry jumped off the pages.  The description of the day-to-day life of the Creed family may have seemed mundane, but King managed to the turn the mundane into something extraordinary.

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Because King turns the mundane into the extraordinary, the events that transpire are that much more heartbreaking.  I have said it before, and I will say it again:  King has the ability to create monsters, but his greatest strength is writing about everyday life.  Pet Sematary is a great example of this.  King lets us get to know the Creed family and maybe even fall in love with them a little.  Then, tragedy strikes.  The death of Gage splits the family apart, as any death will, especially of one so young.  And King gives us a cutting description of the split.  One of the scenes that struck me in particular was the fight that Louis had with his father-in-law at this son’s funeral, where the fight comes down to fists.  I actually had sympathy for both sides, since I could understand the feelings, especially Louis’, given his shaky relationship with his in-laws.  The fact that the family was fighting, instead of supporting each other, was just so tragic.  However, it was also unfortunately realistic, as people don’t always show their best faces in times of tragedy.

Time to talk about the Wendigo.

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In re-reading this book, I came to a realization of what a big role the Wendigo actually plays in the events that transpire in this story.  And I did not realize what a large role this entity plays in the fate of…well, pretty much everyone is what it boils down to.

As I said before, when I was younger, I blamed Louis for much of what happened.  My though was that he should have known better and been able to fight against the unnatural forces that ended up destroying him and his family.

However, I no longer feel that way.  I believe that Louis was actually just another pawn in a horrific game.  In fact, I believe that everyone was a pawn in that game, even Jud Crandall.

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The Wendigo clearly had its designs on Jud for a long, long time.  And this is not really Jud’s fault, he fought the Wendigo because he was forced to fight it, due to someone else burying a human in those burial grounds.  Jud was also just trying to help his friend Louis teach his daughter some lessons about death.  Jud had no idea just how far out of control events would spiral, when Louis performed an experiment that should not have been performed.  In fact, I believe the Wendigo used the Creed family to get to Jud, as revenge for being defeated all those years ago.

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When reading this book, I was struck by the apparent influence that the Wendigo had over the town of Ludlow.  For example, the driver of the truck which hit and killed Gage stated that he felt compelled to speed for no reason when passing through Ludlow.  I don’t think that this was just a coincidence, rather I think this is just one piece of evidence of how much control the Wendigo really has.  I may even be able to make that same argument in the case of Church the cat, who felt compelled to cross the street for no reason, resulting in his death and Louis finding out about the burial grounds, which was a secret that should have stayed a secret.  Early on, the Wendigo was working its horrible power for its own gain.

I love how King subtly works the the mythology of the Wendigo throughout this book, even right up to the very end of it.  Louis sees the Wendigo as he takes Rachel’s body to the burial grounds, but his co-worker Steve also sees the Wendigo and is touched by its evil.  I also noticed that Steve has noted the run of bad luck of the people around him that year.  This is just not in regards to what happened to the Creed family in recent months, but it also appears that other people around Louis have had a run of bad luck.  Additionally, Steve is nearly pulled into Louis’ madness, but is able to resist it.  Interestingly enough, Steve moves far away from Ludlow shortly after that encounter, and never returns again.

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So is the town of Ludlow, Maine controlled by the entity known as the Wendigo, in much the same way that Derry, Maine is controlled by Pennywise the Clown?  I actually think the answer may be a resounding “yes.”  The citizens of Ludlow are protective, in a way, of the burial grounds and the Wendigo, in much the same way that the citizens of Derry were protective of Pennywise the Clown.  Like Derry, the Wendigo is a part of Ludlow, and anyone who interferes (like Jud and Louis) will be forced to pay in the form of some unpleasant consequences.

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Well, that’s it for the dark journey known as Pet Sematary.  But it is a journey worth taking, as I gained much from this re-read.  Join me next month as we spend a few sleepless nights in Derry.  In other words, we will be reviewing and dissecting the book Insomnia next month.

Tune in next month…same bat time, same bat channel!

batman and robin


Connections

Pet Sematary is set squarely in the middle of the Stephen King universe.  I did not find a of connections, but here are the few that I found:

-Rachel Creed passes by a sign for the town ‘Salem’s Lot and thinks that it is not a nice name for a town.  ‘Salem’s Lot, course, is the setting for the book of the same name, along with two other King short stories, One for the Road and Jerusalem’s Lot, both are which a part of the collection Night Shift.

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-The town of Derry is mentioned a few times. Derry is the setting for several King novels, including It, Insomnia and Bag of Bones.

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-Louis thinks of a medical case where a fetus consumes an un-formed twin.  This is the premise of the novel The Dark Half.

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11/22/63: Episode 6 Recap and Review

Sometimes, being a hero means that one has to do things that may not exactly be…well…good.

This guy can testify to that, actually…

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And this guy can as well, as he is has done more than a few things that could be considered morally ambiguous, in the name of the greater good.

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And now, this guy has made it onto my list of heroes who don’t always do good things, but we can justify it because they are trying to save their fellow man, dammit (an anti-hero, for the uninitiated).

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Yes, Jake Epping, the mild mannered English teacher who (probably) wouldn’t say boo to a goose, is now a anti-hero!

And no, he has not joined a biker gang in northern California…

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No, Jake is on a mission…to stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy, that is.  And his mission has caused him to make some interesting choices, to say the least.

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Apparently, changing history is not as easy as it sounds.  For one, the past can be kind of a bitch about being changed, and will “fuck with you.”

And then there are feelings…

Yeah, those.  Apparently, even hardened English teachers have those.  They make friends when they are on their mission.  They start caring about the people they meet.

They even fall in love…gasp, the horror!

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The clock is ticking down for Jake, and he doesn’t have much time to complete his mission.  The past realizes this too, and is pushing back with a vengeance.  In other words, the mini series 11/22/63 is getting really interesting, and shaping up to be quite the ride wild, if I do say so myself.

So, without any further ado, here is my recap and review of 11/22/63 episode 6, titled Happy Birthday, Lee Harvey Oswald.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


 

Synopsis

The episode begins about six months after the end of the previous episode.  Lee Harvey Oswald is interviewing for a job at the Dallas book depository.  According to history, this is where he will try to assassinate John F. Kennedy.  Oswald has also lost his wife, Marina, and is upset about this.  Outside his new employer, Oswald is confronted by a FBI agent, who is apparently spying on him.  The agent also taunts Oswald about Marina.

Oswald then visits Marina, who is now living with a friend.  He tells her that he is now employed.  Marina is happy, but tells her husband that she will not move back in with him, as she has tired of the abuse and his unpredictable mood swings.  Marina is also several months pregnant.  Oswald becomes upset, and Marina’s friend tries to reassure him, telling him to just allow her a little more time.

Jake pays Bill a visit at his apartment.  Bill has become upset with Jake, as he has been left to his own devices while Jake cares for Sadie.  Bill and Jake hear George de Mohrenschildt speak to Oswald via the surveillance equipment, telling Oswald that General Edwin Walker was shot by an unknown assailant.  Lee laughs off the shooting in the conversation, but Jake is sure that Oswald was the assailant.  Bill then argues with Jake, telling him that they have possibly changed history for the better by simply being there in Dallas.  Jake disagrees, reminding Bill that they have not actually had any interaction with the Oswalds.  Bill tells Jake to kill Oswald if he is so sure, but Jake is hesitant, reminding Bill that he has already killed two people and is not happy with himself over his actions.

Sadie is at Jake’s house in Jodie, playing cards with Principal Simmons.  Deke tells Jake to ask Sadie to marry him, but Jake shrugs this off.  Sadie asks Jake more questions about the future, but Jake reminds her to focus on her surgery, which is scheduled for the next day.

Back at school, Jake speaks to Mimi, who also wants him to marry Sadie.  Mimi also tells Jake that she has cancer and does not have much time left.  She tells Jake that she loves Deke, but that they have spent their lives next to each other and not with each other, and that Jake should not make the same mistake with Sadie.

In order to pay for Sadie’s reconstructive surgery, Jake places another underground bet with seemingly impossible odds.

When Jake returns to his Dallas apartment, Bill is nowhere to be found.  However, Jake hears a party upstairs at the Oswalds, and also hears Bill and Marina talking.  Jake confronts Bill at the party and they argue, knocking over a lamp.  This reveals the bug Jake has placed inside the lamp.  Oswald becomes upset, blaming the FBI for the bug, and starts trashing his own apartment.

After Jake returns to his apartment, he sees Bill kissing Marina.  When Bill returns, Jake fights with him about this.  Bill becomes upset with Jake, as Jake has a relationship with Sadie, but will not allow Bill to interact with the Oswald family.  Bill then pulls a gun on Jake, telling him to never come back to the house.

Jake tells Sadie about the incident with Bill, and Sadie encourages Jake to contact the police.  Jake tells her that this will do more harm than good, and again reminds her to focus on her upcoming surgery.

The next day, Jake accompanies Sadie to the hospital.  He tells her that he loves her, and she is taken into the operating room.  However, the Yellow Card Man makes another appearance, which frightens Jake badly.  The Yellow Card Man begins tampering with Sadie’s equipment, but Jake is locked out of the operating room.  Jake finally breaks the doors with a fire hydrant, stopping the surgery.  It is discovered that Sadie was not receiving enough oxygen, and would have died if it had not been for Jake’s intervention.

When Jake returns to the Dallas apartment, he discovers Bill on the porch talking to Oswald, and realizes that Bill may be the second shooter in the JFK assassination.  Jake then comes into the apartment, and tells Bill a story that Marina Oswald is in labor at the hospital.  However, Jake actually takes Bill to a mental hospital, where Bill begins to rant about Jake and his mission.  This confirms to the doctors that Bill needs help, and Jake has Bill committed.

After Bill is hospitalized, Jake confronts George de Mohrenschildt and garrotes him, threatening to hurt de Mohrenschildt and his family if he does not cooperate with Jake.  de Mohrenschildt tells Jake that Oswald has never been a recruit, and that he helps Marina because she has no family.  de Mohrenschildt also denies any involvement in a plot to assassinate Kennedy, confirming Jake’s theory that Oswald acted alone.

Later that night, Jake calls Sadie from a pay phone, telling her that he is about to do what he came to do (i.e. kill Oswald).  Jake also proposes to Sadie.  Sadie is thrilled and promises to give him an answer when he comes home.

After Jake hangs up, he is confronted by the bookies with whom he placed the risky bets.  The men are extremely angry with Jake for costing them money, and beat him into unconsciousness.  Jake later awakens at the hospital with Sadie by his side, but he does not remember her, which the doctor says is due to the extremely traumatic head injury he has suffered.


My Thoughts

So, how far do you go to make the world a better place?  To what lengths will you go?  Is it okay to hurt someone, if hurting (or killing) that person will save others?

And there are no easy answers to these questions.  11/22/63 is a work that explores questions like these, and the answers are actually…well…pretty gray.

Jake Epping is struggling with the color gray.  He has killed two people so far on his mission to save President Kennedy and to potentially make the world a better place.  One of them was Frank Dunning, who killed his present day friend’s entire family.  The other one was Johnny Clayton, who was going to kill Sadie, with whom he has fallen in love.

11/22/63 EPISODE 103a Photo Credit: Sven Frenzel

It is clear that Jake is struggling with his decisions, and that he is not actually a cold blooded killer.  The mini series is doing a good job showing this struggle, in having Jake contemplate alternatives other than murder in order to stop Lee Harvey Oswald.  Nothing can ever be clear-cut, and I love that the mini series is actually reminding us of this.

Again, this mini series is based on something written by Stephen King.  And this mini series is doing a pretty good job reminding us of this fact.  In particular, the scene in the hospital where the Yellow Card Man attempts to tamper with the medical equipment (which would hurt or maybe kill Sadie), is a really good reminder of this.  The use of the color red in the doors and the fire hydrant was particularly striking, and added an element of the disturbing to this scene.  I also thought the music was done well, giving another surreal layer to this scene.  The Yellow Card Man himself is also another reminder that we are watching something based on a novel written by Stephen King, aka the modern day boogey man.  In the novel, the past is a character, in the same way of Jake, Sadie, Oswald and all the other players in the book.  I wouldn’t say that the past is a villain, but there is certainly something foreboding about it.  And so far, this is has been translated quite well to the screen, especially with the use of the Yellow Card Man, along with the creepy things that keep happening to Jake and his friends.

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Again, I have to give a shout out to the overall acting on this show.  And as much as I like James Franco as Jake Epping, I am going to focus on some other characters.

Namely, the women on this show.

King’s women’s characters are a bit of a mixed bag.  Some are extremely well-drawn, like Annie Wilkes, Dolores Claiborne and Beverly Marsh.  Some are not so well drawn, like Frannie Goldsmith.

Dolores C

And we have Sadie Dunhill.  Also, we have Marina Oswald.

I have said it before, and I will say it again:  Sarah Gadon seems to be have been born for the role of Sadie Dunhill.  She brings just the right amount of wistfulness to this character, along with that bit of innocence.  In other words, she lights up the screen every time she makes an appearance.  A perfect casting choice.

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Lucy Fry, the actress who plays Marina Oswald, is another perfect casting choice.  Marina’s role has been expanded a bit from what it was in the book, since we are seeing the characters from something other than a first person narrative.  In the book, Marina is depicted as somewhat pitiful.  In the mini series, she is a victim as well, but Fry has managed to make her more sympathetic, and it almost as if she is another version of Sadie, but without the resources to fully escape the situation with Oswald to build a new life for herself and her children.  Her performance also brings a little more depth to Oswald’s character, making him to be a little more “human”, although he is still a pretty bad guy (he shoots JFK, can’t get more evil than that.)

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My only complaint about this episode is in regards to the Bill character…

Yes, I gotta rag on him again.  I understand the need for this character, but ugh.  Just ugh.  And that accent.  And the premise that he was the second shooter?  Ridiculous much?  Hopefully, Jake had him committed so we see the last of the Bill experiment.  But I will still keep my fingers crossed for the last episodes.

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Well that’s it for Happy Birthday, Lee Harvey Oswald.  Join me next week as we review and dissect episode 7, titled Soldier Boy.

Tune in next week…same bat time, same bat channel!

batman and robin

 

11/22/63: Episode 3 Recap and Review

Origin stories.

We all have them, no matter who we are.  We don’t just wake up one day, and do the things that we do (like write this blog), without some kind of reason.  Or maybe several reasons.

And even the worst among us did not become the worst overnight.  Usually, there is something (or several somethings) leading up to becoming the worst.  Not even The Clown Prince of Crime became Batsy’s arch-nemesis overnight, after all.

joker and harley

And the same goes for actual bad guys.  Most serial killers have an “origin story.”  Not that there are excuses for committing acts of evil, but most people have something in their pasts that an outside observer can point to, and correlate that to a person becoming “bad.”  Even incidents that take place when we may be too young to remember them can end up having a huge impact on our lives later on down the line.

Certainly, most people would consider Lee Harvey Oswald to be one of the most evil people in history.  After all, he killed the president!  The assassination of JFK shaped an entire generation.  In fact, my parents were college students when JFK was killed.  I don’t have to talk about it much, but I know that this was a huge part of my parents’ young adulthood, just like the 9/11 tragedy was a huge part of mine.

And obviously, the JFK assassination was a huge part of Stephen King’s young adulthood.  So a huge a part, in fact, that he wrote an entire book about it, aka 11/22/63.  This book gives a fascinating account of the Kennedy assassination, time travel, the Vietnam War and quite a few other topics.

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One of these other topics is Lee Harvey Oswald.  Before I read 11/22/63, Oswald was only real to me in an academic sense.  Sure, I knew he killed the president.  So that made him a bad guy.  A really bad guy.  You have to be really bad to kill a president, after all.

However, I never had any emotional reaction to Lee Harvey Oswald.  He was just another historical figure.  My reaction to him was equivalent to my reaction to, oh say, a piece of tissue paper, perhaps?  A piece of tissue paper, in other words, really doesn’t elicit any reaction.  It is simply there, in much the same way Lee Harvey was there for me.  Nothing to get excited about, in other words.

Well, I then read 11/22/63.  And one of the things that I loved about 11/22/63 was the amount of detail it provided on Lee Harvey Oswald.  Somehow, the guy who writes about scary clowns was able to provide a stunning amount of information on an entire generation’s bad guy and turn him into a fleshed out character.  Suddenly, this guy came alive for me, and I could more easily connect with my parents and others over their generation’s boogeyman.

lee harvey oswald

In other words, we were given a origin story on one of history’s most iconic bad guys.  And this gave a new dimension to one of the events that shaped our nation, turning it from academic to personal.

Last night, I watched the third episode of the mini series 11/22/63, titled Other Voices, Other Rooms.  And I saw the onscreen version of the origin story of Lee Harvey Oswald, one of the most iconic bad guys in history.  And again, I found myself lured in, unable to stop watching.

So, without further ado, here is my recap and review of Other Voices, Other Rooms.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


Synopsis

Bill joins Jake on his quest to prevent the assassination of Kennedy, after hearing and accepting Jake’s explanation that he is a time traveler from the future.  The two men drive to Dallas, where Jake shows Bill exactly where Kennedy will meet his untimely end.  Bill tells Jake that he stayed in Holden due to Frank Dunning’s murder of his sister, but has nothing keeping him in Holden and would rather help Jake prevent the murder of a president.

Jake concocts a cover story that he and Bill are brothers, and applies for a teaching job in nearby Jodie, Texas.  Somewhat to his surprise, Jake is offered by the job by the principal Deke Simmons, and also meets the school secretary, a black woman referred to as Ms. Mimi.  Later that night, Jake and Bill go out to celebrate, and Bill becomes intoxicated.  The club the men celebrate at is actually owned by a man named Jack Ruby, and Jake’s plan is nearly put in jeopardy when Bill begins to tell of their plans to the club’s owner.  Fortunately, Jake is able to mitigate any damage, but is reminded again that “past pushes back.”

Jake settles into his job as a teacher, and two years pass.  His teaching job becomes a permanent position, and he seems to be enjoying it.  In 1962, Ms. Mimi introduces him to the new school librarian:  Sadie Dunhill.  Jake immediately recognizes her from their encounter in Dallas two years earlier, and learns that she is divorced.  Ms. Mimi persuades Jake into chaperoning a school dance with Sadie, forcing Jake to reschedule his prior commitment, which happens to be bugging Lee Harvey Oswald’s apartment so that he and Bill can listen to Oswald’s conversations.

Bill and Jake rent an apartment next to the one where Oswald will live.  Jake is reminded of what time period he has traveled to when he speaks to the racist, bigot landlord of the building.  He is also reminded again of the racism prevalent in the time period when he encounters Ms. Mimi on his way home at a gas station.  The attendant refuses to assist Mimi because she is black, and Jake is forced to give Mimi a ride himself, as no nearby gas station will help her.

In the meantime, Lee Harvey Oswald has returned to the United States from Russia.  Jake observes Oswald’s reunion with his family at the airport, noting that he has brought his wife Marina and their infant daughter back from Russia as well.  Bill and Jake also install the surveillance equipment at the new apartment.  Jake’s cover story is that he trying to obtain information on his soon to be ex wife.

That night, Jake and Sadie chaperon the dance.  Jake impresses Sadie with his dancing abilities, and explains to her that his ex wife made him take lessons.  However, much to the annoyance of Sadie, the night is cut short when Jake realizes that he must return to the apartment to gain information on Oswald.

The apartment is successfully bugged, but Bill and Jake are nearly caught by Oswald.  They are able to escape Oswald’s apartment, but barely, as the air vents they use to escape are covered in spiders and Bill’s screams nearly give them away.

At school the next day, Sadie expresses her disappointment in Jake, as his premature exit forced her to chaperon the dance on her own.  That night, Bill and Jake attempt to spy on Oswald, as George de Mohrenschildt, who Jake determined earlier to be working for the CIA, pays Oswald a visit.  However, the men speak in Russian.  Jake becomes frustrated, and hurries back to the school find a Russian-English dictionary.

Upon his return to the apartment, Jake finds Bill to be bloody and unconscious.  It turns out that the landlord has tampered with the equipment.  Bill and Jake then take back their ruined equipment, again realizing that the past does not want to be changed.

At school the next day, Sadie speaks to Jake in regards to his actions at the dance.  Jake apologizes, and Sadie kisses him.  Sadie then accepts a dinner date for that weekend.

Jake and Bill follow Oswald to a rally led by General Edwin Walker.  Oswald is accompanied by George de Mohrenschildt.  After the rally, Oswald becomes angered by Walker’s political views and has a physical confrontation with Walker’s guards, and also threatens the life of General Walker, calling him a fascist.


 

My Thoughts

The previous two episodes of this show were more action oriented.  We had the time travel itself, along with the past “pushing back.” And of course, the confrontation with Frank Dunning…how could we forget that?

11/22/63 EPISODE 103a Photo Credit: Sven Frenzel

However, this episode had a different feel to it.  This episode was more about character development.  And most of that character development was not in regards to the central protagonist, Jake Epping.

A lot of the character development focused on this story’s main villain, Lee Harvey Oswald. As I stated before, in the book King managed to draw a convincing villain out of someone who is mainly known through the history books, and possibly some interviews with surviving family members.  However, this is not the same as actually getting into Oswald’s head and actually understanding his motivations.  But King’s portrayal of Oswald as the villain in his book is the next best thing, as he is a character in a story.  Characters in stories have motivations.  They have feelings.  We may not always agree with a character’s motivations, but we can paint a picture in our head of that character, and come to an understanding of him or her, since we have the author to guide us to that understanding.

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And in this case, we have the mini series to paint a picture of that character.  So far, the mini series is doing a fairly decent job of this.  I enjoyed the scene at the end of the episode, where Oswald flipped his shit on General Walker and got in his face.  That would seem to me to be “textbook Oswald,” if there was such a term.  I would like to see more interaction between Oswald and his family, particularly with his wife and mother, as King treated us to in the book.  However, Bill did mention that Oswald was hard on Marina in regards to her clothing choices, so at least there was that.  And there will be another five episodes where we will (hopefully) get to know Oswald even better, so I am keeping my fingers crossed.

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One of my main concerns about this mini series was how it would show Jake’s effect on the past, and the past’s effect on Jake.  This was a really important part of the original story, and should also be important to the mini series as well.

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And so far, the mini series is doing a pretty good job with the past overall.  I don’t even need to talk about the visuals (again) but I will say that they are great (again).  If I were to mute the TV and pretend that I had no knowledge of what I was watching, I could still tell what time period the story was supposed to cover.  The producers have taken care with every single detail, from the cars, to the clothes, to the music, to the dancing and even the store fronts we see on the streets.

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Speaking of the past…yeah…

This particular time period (the late 1950’s and early 1960’s) is often seen as something nostalgic, by both the people who actually lived during that time, and by the younger generation who only has the selective memories of the older generation, along with what is seen in film and television.  And 11/22/63 does give us a sense of nostalgia, with the music, clothing and so forth.

However, both the book and the mini series remind us that this time period was NOT all it was cracked up to be.  One of my concerns was that the mini series would not show this to the degree that the book showed this.

Well, my fears have been put to rest after watching three episodes.  In fact, the mini series seems to actually want to remind us of this fact more than the book does.

Jake’s interaction with Ms. Mimi in this episode is a great example of this.  The fact that Jake unthinkingly commits a serious social gaffe when he offers to pour Mimi a cup of coffee is one example.  The treatment of Mimi by the gas station attendant is another example.  If Mimi had not fortuitously run into Jake, who was the only one willing to help her, she may have had to walk many more miles before she ever got any help at all.   So yes, racism was (and still is), very real, and can have annoying consequences at the least, or the consequences can go from annoying to tragic at a moment’s notice (for example, if Mimi had been mugged or worse).  The past is often something that is not viewed objectively by most, and 11/22/63 serves to remind us of that fact.

Speaking of Jake’s effect on the past…

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The show reminds us that Jake does have an effect on the past quite frequently.  We have seen what appear to be some consequences of Jake’s presence where he “doesn’t belong”, and none of those consequences are good ones.  Jake already lost his surveillance equipment, and Bill got a bit roughed up.  And every time Jake does anything, like take away the alcohol from the jocks, help Ms. Mimi or even treat her like a human when no one else will or even when he turns a student on to English, I can’t help but think that someone somewhere will pay for that, and likely in blood.

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Jake is also being affected by the past.  He is forming relationships.  He has become friends with Bill and they are now co-conspirators.  He appears to be making friends at his job (I love the casting of Nick Searcy as Deke, since I am still mourning the loss of Justified.  Perhaps Deke is Art on the Justified level of the Tower).  However, and this is the big one, he is not just making friends…he has also fallen in love.

Justified meme 2

Not only is this episode an origin story for an iconic villain, it is also the origin stories of one of my favorite love stories in any book, not just a Stephen King book.  We have the beginning of Jake and Sadie.  And if their dance is any indication of what is to come, then I can’t wait!

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Now, I have not said a lot of negative things about this series, because I actually don’t think that there is a lot.  There is actually a lot to love, at least so far.  However, I do have one bone to pick…

And his name happens to be Bill.

Bill is a minor character in the book, and is only there for a few sentences.  I know that movies and TV shows will turn minor characters into major ones when it suits their purposes.  For the most part, I don’t have a problem with it.

But I just can’t stand Bill!

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There, I said it.

I don’t know if it’s because of his horrible accent.  Or because I know so little about him, especially compared to characters that would seem to play less of a role, like Mimi, perhaps.  Or Frank Dunning, who is already dead.  Or maybe it’s because he seems to be a stereotype, who comes off more like a member of Cletus’ clan, as opposed to an actual human being with feelings, motivations, etc.

Cletus 1

I understand the need for this character (see the part about internal Jake not really making for a good movie), but so far, the mini series has not executed very well on this part.  Could my feelings change as I see more episodes?  Possibly.  Could Bill die some kind of horrible death as the past has its way with Jake?  Um, no comment on that one…only time will tell (see what I did there?).


 

So that’s it for Other Voices, Other Rooms.  Join me next week for the recap and dissection of episode four, titled The Eyes of Texas.

Tune in next week…same bat time, same bat channel!

batman and robin

 

11/22/63: Episode 2 Recap and Review

As a child, one of my favorite shows was Quantum Leap (yes, the nerd is strong in this one).

Every week, I would tune in and watch my hero, Sam Beckett (another Hoosier who also loved physics?  Hot!) travel back in time, and avert some kind of tragedy or make better decisions to change the past.  Sometimes, we got a two-for-one special, where Sam averted tragedy, and made someone (or even multiple someones’) life or lives better in the process.

quantum leap 2

Sure, it wasn’t always easy, and Sam frequently stumbled into road blocks.  And often there was a twist:  Sam thought he was there to do a particular thing, but Al and Ziggy would argue with him otherwise and push him into doing his “assignment.”  Or Sam would have to take a detour, which would be necessary to accomplish his “assignment.”  However, Sam would eventually be drawn back to his “assignment”, even when things were not as they seemed…

quantum leap 3

So yes, time travel was often a difficult thing.  That pesky past that does not want to be changed…

card-1963

And our hero, Jake Epping, was reminded again of that fact in last night’s episode of 11/22/63.  In fact, I was reminded of Sam Beckett and his adventures fairly often when I watched this episode.  However, I was also reminded fairly frequently that I was, in fact, watching something has been adapted from a book written by the man considered to be the master of modern horror…

So, Stephen King along with one of my favorite childhood television shows?  Where do I sign up for that?!

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Right, I did renew that Hulu subscription…whew!

So, without any further ado, here is my recap and review of the second episode of 11/22/63, titled The Kill Floor.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


 

Synopsis

The episode begins with a young Harry Dunning, who is chased by bullies into the woods, on October 29th, 1960.  The bullies steal Harry’s pants, so Harry heads to the neighborhood drugstore, where he stashes a spare pair of shorts with his friend the pharmacist.  At the drugstore, Harry encounters Jake, who is reminded of his mission to save Harry and his family from his murderous father, Frank Dunning.

Jake asks the pharmacist about renting a room in town for a few days, and is referred to Mr. and Mrs. Price.  Mrs. Price does not trust Jake, but rents the room to him anyway, demanding a week’s payment in advance.  With the words of Harry’s essay echoing in his head, Jake heads to the local bar in the hopes of meeting Frank Dunning.

When Jake arrives at the bar, he speaks to the bartender, a young man named Bill, and inquires about Frank Dunning.  Bill immediately becomes uncomfortable at the mention of Frank, and does not appear to believe Jake’s cover story that he is in town to write a book.  Jake’s wish is granted, however, when Frank and a group of his friends arrive at the bar.  Frank is charming and charismatic, and appears to befriend Jake.  After spending some time drinking with Jake, Frank invites him to visit the local slaughterhouse, so that Jake can prove that he is “one of them.”

After arriving at the slaughterhouse, Frank demands that Jake slaughter one of the cows with a mallet.  Jake refuses, so Frank slaughters the animal without a second thought.  Jake begins to realize that his mission of stopping Frank from murdering his family will not be easy.

The next day, Jake visits the Dunning house, and tells Frank’s wife Doris that she and her family have won an all expenses paid Halloween vacation, in the hopes that he can prevent tragedy.

That night, Jake eats dinner with the Prices and makes some small talk.  However, Mr. Price opens up to Jake, telling him about his experiences as a soldier in World War II. where he was awarded a bronze star after killing a young man.  Mr. Price tells Jake that his actions were not heroic, despite the fact that he earned a medal.

Jake’s conversation with the Prices is interrupted by the arrival of Frank, who tells Jake that he wants to make up for his treatment of him the previous night.  Frank takes Jake to his butcher shop, where his badly beaten wife emerges. It turns out that Frank has beaten his wife for accepting the “vacation” given to her by Jake.  Frank tells Jake to not interfere in his marriage, and also badly beats Jake.  This makes Jake all the more determined to stop Frank, and he makes a last minute purchase of a gun.

Again, Jake is reminded that the past does not want to be changed, as he suffers a suspicious round of food poisoning later that night.  Al’s notes state that his cancer was a consequence of his attempts to change the past.  However, Jake awakens the next morning, determined to go forward on his mission and stop Frank Dunning.

Jake stakes out the Dunning house, but runs into Bill the bartender.  Bill tells Jake that he has it in for Frank Dunning, as he thinks Frank murdered his sister and her baby 12 years ago, but was never brought to justice.  Jake confesses that he has time-traveled from the future and that he knows that Frank will murder the Dunning family, but Bill is suspicious, as the murders were supposed to occur at 8 PM.  It is now 8:05 PM and the Dunning family is still alive.  Jake realizes that Frank used the back door, and hears Mrs. Dunning’s screams.  Jake runs in to the house in an attempt to save the Dunning family.

When he is inside the house, Jake tells the young Harry to hide inside his bedroom.  Frank tells Jake that he should not be there, and Jake shoots him.  However, this only further enrages Frank, who wrestles Jake to the ground.  Mrs. Dunning runs, but Harry makes an appearance.  Frank yells at his son to give him back his hammer, which he was going to use as a murder weapon.  Franks demands that his son give him back the murder weapon, but Harry runs downstairs with it instead.  Frank lunges after his son, and Jake strangles him with a piece of rope from behind, killing him, sparing the lives of the rest of the Dunning family.  Bill also appears at the foot of the stairs, witnessing the death of Frank Dunning.

Jake walks out of the Dunning house and returns to the Price’s house.  Mrs. Price asks Jake if she needs to call the sheriff.  Jake tells her that he did not do anything wrong.  Mrs. Price responds, telling him that only God can judge.  Jake then proceeds to drive out of town.

While driving away, Jake is bothered by the blood on his hands.  He stops to wash his at a street-side faucet and reminds himself that Harry and the rest of the Dunning family are still alive.  Jake then turns around, and encounters Bill the bartender, who holds up a newspaper clipping from 1963.  Bill demands to know what is going on, and ushers Jake into his vehicle at gunpoint.


 

My Thoughts

Again, if you don’t have a Hulu subscription, get one…the first two episodes alone of 11/22/63 are worth it!

But of first of all, I am remiss…

I don’t even think that I can blame the fact that tax season is frying my brain for this one…

breaking bad

Derp.  Derp derp.  Derp derp derp.  Derp…well, you get the point!

Hurr

No, I did not recognize Bevvie from the levy er Annette O’Toole in this episode.  I only saw her name on the ending credits.  Talk about out of left field…

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So nice one, Mr. Abrams and Uncle Stevie and whoever else was involved in this…I never saw that coming!

And of course, for us Constant Constant Readers, this was a great Easter egg…

easter eggs 1

As many who are reading this know, part of the novel takes place in Derry, Maine.  Derry is a hotbed of strange activity of the Stephen King universe, and several books are placed in Derry.  And perhaps the most famous of all the Derry books would be It.

pennywise

Yes, the novel about your friendly neighborhood homicidal clown connects to a book about time travel, nostalgia for an era lost, Vietnam and all that other good stuff!

In the novel 11/22/63, Jake actually meets Richie Tozier and Beverly Marsh, who are two of the main characters from It.  And all of King’s work is connected (this is a well known secret), but I think that this is perhaps one of his best connections.  Somehow, the homicidal clown in the sewers gets a tie-in to the guy going back in time trying to prevent the Vietnam War, and it all makes sense…now how cool is that?

Of course, I had a funny feeling that this tidbit would not make it into the mini series, given the fact that written material has a different “face” onscreen, if you will.  But we were given the next best thing:  the actress from a mini series that was pivotal in my origin story as a Stephen King fan had a part in this mini series.  And yes, this made sense too!  Way to feel a chill up my spine, just like the chill I felt when I read that part in the novel.

Pennywise 11

And the use of the word “rube”…nice way to refer to Dr. Sleep, along with working in your son’s novel as well!

Christmasland 1

So let’s talk about the visual component to 11/22/63 for a moment.

Well, more than a moment, as they deserve a little more time, since they are so great.

One aspect of the visual component of 11/22/63 that deserves some attention is the town of Holden, KY.  As I stated before, this part of the story takes place in Derry, Maine in the book.  And Derry is creepy, as any King fan will tell you.  Jake even talks of this in the book, noting that he felt quite unsettled during his time in Derry.  And I felt unsettled when shown the town of Holden, KY in the mini series.  I am sure that said friendly, neighborhood homicidal clown probably has the rights to Derry, so we had to change the location to Holden, KY.  However, the change was in name only.  I felt the same creepy vibe when I watched the mini series and wanted to warn Jake to stay away from storm drains, as a matter of fact.  So perhaps the mini series has created a Twinner of sorts to Derry…

One of my main concerns in regards to the adaptation of 11/22/63 was the portrayal of the time period, aka the early 1960’s.  King paints such a vivid picture in the book of this time period, as seen through the eyes of Jake, who was born in 1976.  And so far, the mini series is doing the same, and we see it in everything from Jake’s clothes (oh, that hat!), the cars, the neighborhood drugstore, the wallpaper in the Price’s house, to the TV dinners and even the books shown on display at the drugstore (The Flash and Batman…swoon).  The care and detail in this portrayal is just amazing, and I love it.

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Another part of the visual component I like about the 11/22/63 is the near constant reminder that we are watching something based on the work of Stephen King, aka America’s Boogeyman.  11/22/63 is not a horror story, and doesn’t really come across that way at all, but it does have its share of creepy moments.  The flies hovering around the dead animal carcass are one example (gross much?).  The use of red light when Jake is worshiping the porcelain goddess is another.  We even had someone show up in a creepy, old school bunny rabbit costume.  I don’t know how much, if any, say that good old Uncle Stevie had in all of this, but I am sure that it has his seal approval…I know that it has mine!

 

This mini series also makes good use of foreshadowing.  Foreshadowing is used A LOT by the Master, but that does not always translate well to the big screen (which is why some of his work loses its punch when translated into movie or television format).  However, this show is doing a fairly nice job of using foreshadowing.  In this episode, I was struck in particular by the tale of war that Mr. Price confessed to Jake.  First of all, this was great foreshadowing for what Jake would have to do:  kill someone so that he may save others.  I liked the implication that although killing may appear brave to others who were not in the trenches (aka Mrs. Price, who cannot figure out why her husband does not want to display his war medals), that is not always the case, and in fact the act of killing can be a cowardly thing, no matter what the circumstances or motivations behind the killing.  Also, 11/22/63 is a book that makes a statement on war, and just what, if anything, can be done to prevent it, along with the consequences of going to war, and even the consequences of not going to war.  So it seems to me that the show is setting all of this up with Mr. Price’s tale of war, although we shall see in the future episodes.

(Oh, and the M*A*S*H reference…nice one, guys!)

Hawkeye 2

And let’s talk about the bad guy…

Well, he may play a relatively small role (what I call a “major minor character”) but Franking Dunning is hugely important to the story.  For one, see the part about the foreshadowing. It seems that Frank is the warm-up for the “main” bad guy, aka Oswald. For two, Frank Dunning is a bad dude.  A really bad dude.  There are plenty of those in King universe, and Frank is just in a long line.  However, Frank stands out a little bit, because of the fact that he is not a main character, but still manages to have a huge influence in the overall story.

And in portraying Frank Dunning, Mr. Fergie er Josh Duhamel has pulled out a performance that I did not know he had up his sleeve…Mr. Fergie is not one to be trifled with!

Frank Dunning is handsome, charismatic and psychotic.  Naturally, Duhamel does not have a problem with that first part, but he also nailed the other two parts.  I know I would cross to the other side of the street if I saw him walking around town. James Franco looked the same way in most of their scenes together…the chemistry between those two was fantastic, and they played off of one another very well.  In fact, I am a little sad that Frank is now dead and we won’t get to see Franco and Duhamel together, although I do have the appearance of Oswald to look forward to.

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So that’s it for The Kill Floor.  Will the show continue to deliver?  Has Jake changed his mind about the past, or has it been changed for him?  Join me next week to find out, when we review and dissect episode 3, Other Voices, Other Rooms.  And maybe make some new friends in the meantime…

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Tune in next week…same bat time, same bat channel!

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All Dolled Up: My Review of Chinga

Oh, Friday nights in high school…

Those were the days, I tell ya…

So fun and carefree!

I got hang out with possessed dolls and try to solve cases which clearly involved alien abduction.  I encountered a few circus freaks, too…

And my partners were just so hot, too…

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We even encountered kinky stuff, like Amish-like people who were able to make people super horny, and even some incest…ewww!

Well, this wasn’t what I actually did on Friday nights when I was in high school…don’t I wish!

Instead, I did what every other kid with a ridiculously full social calendar did:  I watched The X Files.  In fact, I was an X Phile…

And if that is not the coolest fandom name ever, then we are done and we are not friends!

But, I digress.  The X Files may have started out as one of those “cult” shows (but not like a regular cult, it was a cool cult), but it soon became huge.  And people started wanting a piece of the action.  In fact, many famous people either got their start on the show, or simply made guest appearances.

Or in one case, received credit as a guest writer…

Stephen King

Yes, The Master is credited with an episode of The X Files…is there anything he can’t do (wait, more on that later, actually)?

Stephen King and Chris Carter decided to have a baby together  write an episode of The X Files together, and that baby  that episode is known as Chinga.  Chinga is set in a small town in Maine (really, I know) and tells of a mysterious doll that seems to be causing the deaths of people in the town.  Well, at least that was my memory of it, any way.

And I love Stephen King (Captain Obvious strikes again) and I love The X Files.  Even better, The X Files will be renewed again in January 2016, for a paltry six episodes (although I will take what I can get).  But I got to feeling nostalgic, and wanted to jog my memory a bit.  In other words, I wanted to take a trip down memory lane, and watch some of these old monster of the week episodes that I have not been able to forget.

Luckily, we have Netflix, which is either my greatest blessing, or the bane of my existence (anyone who has “binge-watched” something Sons of Anarchy  to the point where he/she neglects everything, like housework and showering, will catch my drift).  So I loaded up the Netflix, employed my trusty friend Google, and…

Side note:  Typing in The X Files into the Netflix search box yields some rather…interesting…results.  And this is the kind of interesting that involves naked women and floppy dildos.  Must have been Netflix evil twin Sexflix at work…

But anyway, I found several seasons of the show, including the specific episode I was was looking for.  And I settled on my couch, with my blankie and kitty, and took a stroll down memory lane.

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So, without any further ado…here is my recap and review of Chinga!


 

Synopsis

The episode begins with a mother and daughter making a trip to the grocery store.  We are told that the events take place in a small town in Maine.  The little girl has a doll, which she appears attached to.  And the mother appears nervous, but makes her way into the store.  The doll speaks, saying it wants to play.  Suddenly, the people in the grocery store begin to scratch their own eyes and make themselves bleed.  They appear to be controlled by something else.  The mother sees an image of a dead man reflected in the glass, and hurriedly exits the store.  In the meantime, the local butcher stabs himself in the eye.   The wound proves fatal, and the local authorities are called.  Before he dies, the butcher sees what appears to be the shadow of an over-sized doll.

Agent Dana Scully is shown exiting her car in the same small town, presumably to pick up supplies.  She receives a call from her partner Agent Fox Mulder on her cell phone, but hangs up on him, telling him that she is on vacation and will not be distracted by “shop talk.”  However, Scully sees the scene unfolding at the local  store, and offers her help to the local authorities.

Scully reviews the footage of the incident at the grocery store with the police chief, John Bonsaint.  She also confers with Mulder, who thinks the incident may actually be witchcraft in some form.  However, Scully notices that woman and little girl, Melissa and Polly Turner, are unaffected by the incident and suggests that the authorities question them.

The sheriff’s deputy, Buddy Riggs, tells Melissa that the authorities may question her and tries to help her.  He buys Polly an ice cream sundae, and tries to convince Melissa to leave town.  Melissa is reluctant, and tells Buddy that she has seen images of violent deaths, including that of her husband, before they occur.  While the adults are talking, Polly asks for more cherries on her sundae.  The ice cream parlor employee tells Polly that she will need to pay for the cherries, which upsets Polly.  The doll again talks, saying it wants to play.  The employees hair becomes caught in one of the machines, and she is nearly decapitated until Buddy rescues her.  Buddy hands Melissa the keys to a remote cabin, and again advises her to leave town.

While reviewing the surveillance footage with the local police, Scully learns that the ancestors of Melissa Turner were accused of witchcraft.  Scully and the local authories visit Ms. Froehlich, the owner of a local daycare formerly attended by Polly Turner.  Ms. Froehlich also accuses Melissa Turner of witchcraft and is not cooperative with the authorities.  Scully speaks to a man who was the partner of Melissa’s deceased husband, a local fisherman.  The man tells Scully that the death of Melissa’s husband may have been a bit unusual, but is convinced that what he saw was a trick of the light.  Scully learns that Melissa’s husband had found the doll in one of his fishing traps, and gave it to Polly as a birthday present.  Scully and the local authorities also drop by Melissa’s house, but find no one home.

Melissa and Polly make their way to the cabin.  They encounter a park ranger, which makes Melissa nervous.  Polly demands to go home, and the doll speaks again.  Melissa sees a vision of a dead Ms. Froehlich, and immediately turns the car around and heads back home.  In the meantime, Ms. Froehlich has killed herself in a gruesome, using pieces of broken records to cut herself.  She has also seen what appears to be the shadow of a large doll before her death.

Melissa and Polly return home, and Polly becomes demanding, making Melissa nervous.  Buddy also visits, and chastises Melissa for returning, and also telling her that she nearly ran over the park ranger.  Melissa sees a vision of a dead Buddy, and the doll forces him to bludgeon himself to death.  Melissa then sees a dead version of herself, and attempts to burn down the house.  However, the doll extinguishes the matches and she is unsuccessful.

Scully and the sheriff return to Melissa’s house and attempt to enter.  The sheriff finally breaks down the door, and they enter and find Melissa involuntarily bludgeoning herself with a hammer.  In an act of quick thinking, Scully seizes the doll from Polly and puts in the microwave, burning it.  This act seems to break the spell, and Melissa does not kill herself.

Scully returns to work, and finds Mulder in his office.  He tells he was productive while she was gone, but it is clear that he missed her.  In the meantime, another fisherman finds the Chinga doll, who is burnt almost beyond recognition but still turns up in a trap.


 

My Thoughts

So…

Let me clear the air…

And I will just come out and say it…

Chinga is just…bad.  There, I said it.  And let me allow a moment for the collective fandom to beat me with the virtual wet noodle.

Whew, ok now that you’re done beating me with that wet noodle (geez, you can go a little easier next time), let’s talk about this episode, and what worked, and what didn’t.

Now, I love The X Files.  I love Christ Carter.  And I LUUUVVVV Stephen King!  So X Files + Stephen King = one blissed out nerd, right?

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Well, not for this nerd.  There are some things I just love…

Like chocolate chip cookies.  Macaroni and cheese.  But a chocolate chip cookie macaroni and cheese casserole?

No, I think I will pass.  Love those two things, but if you put them together, who can swallow that concoction?

And to me, this episode was a concoction that I just couldn’t swallow.  In other words, we put chocolate chip cookies and macaroni and cheese together, and just got something weird and kind of gross too.

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Normally, weird and gross are good, especially when associated with The X Files and Stephen King.  But Chinga was not the good kind weird or gross.  No, it was weird.  And gross, too.

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First of all, the acting.  And I am not talking about the acting of the front runners, Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny.  They were…well, they were Mulder and Scully.  And I can’t really fault them for that.  But they stuck out like sore thumbs in the weird conglomeration of Chris Carter and Stephen King.  And I am not sure that Mulder and Scully belong in the King Universe, as awesome as they are.

The townspeople, in terms of acting, were uneven at best.  The woman who played Melissa sounded like she was reading lines from a cue card, and throwing in some occasional tears, to induce sympathy (note:  didn’t work, better luck next time, perhaps).  The rest of the townspeople were just flat at worst, caricatures at best (especially that scene where the sheriff orders a lobster in the restaurant and tries to convince Scully to try the delicacy…really?!)

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Which brings me to my next point.  In any Stephen King book, the town is just a much a developed character, if not more of a developed character, than the people in the story.  ‘Salem’s Lot, It, Needful Things and several other books immediately come to mind.  However, the town in Chinga does not have the personality of any of King’s other towns.  So Chinga is missing one of the great things about King:  a small town with its own personality and dark secrets.

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Ok, the rant is over for now.  Believe it or not, I did like something about this episode.

Someone, actually…

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Yes, Scully was favorite part of this episode!

Now, I may refer to Mulder as one of my show boos, which he is (sorry Raylan and Jax, hope you don’t get too jealous).  But I think my favorite part of The X Files was (and still is) Scully.  She made science cool.  She was a bad ass who chased down bad guys (and girls) in her heels, and there was rarely a hair out of place.  And a fellow soul eater…er…red head.  She gave hope to me, and if I can ever be half as cool as Scully, I will consider my life to be an unparalleled success.

And this episode was heavy on the Scully.  As stated before, I love Mulder.  But seeing him get hung up on (gotta love those 90’s cell phones, yo) and rebuffed for the umpteenth time was priceless.  Usually, Mulder is spot on, but for this episode, he was an epic fail, which was hilarious!

Who saved the day in this episode, you ask?  Why, Scully of course!  Even though the method was a little lame (the microwave?  Really?  Is this a doll or gremlin?), Scully was the one to defeat the bad guy er doll, and presumably, have everyone live happily ever after (although the vague ending may bring questions to that scenario).  And Scully showed us all just how much of a rock star she really is.

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Now, I may have said that Chinga was bad, which it is.  But bad can also be good.  Like Batman.  And sex.  So Chinga falls into the category of things, like sex and Batman, that are so awesome that even when they are bad they are still good.  And there is nothing wrong in indulging in good bad.  In fact, it even warms the soul.

Join me next week when I review and dissect Home, the episode so terrifying that (supposedly) no network will air it any more…tune in next week:  same bat time, same bat channel!

batman and robin

Kisses in the Dark: My Review of Batman and Robin Have an Altercation

SK short story

When most people hear the name Stephen King, the first thing they think of is (well, besides “that clown scared me shitless”) is long.

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As in long books, you pervert!  What else would you be thinking of???

But yes, Stephen King is known for writing some long books.  The first book of his that I read was It, which clocks in at almost 1100 pages.  The Stand is over 1100 pages.  11/22/63 is somewhere around 800 pages.  His most recent full length novel, Revival, was only a little over 400 pages.  For King, that is light reading.

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However, King is one of the greats.  And like one of the greats, he is versatile.  In other words, he does not have to write a 1000+ page novel (although I appreciate those as much as the next Constant Reader) to be great.  He can write shorter books, like Carrie and Dolores Claiborne, and still tell a fantastic story.

And The Master can condense himself even further.  King has a large collection of short stories, from N, to The Reaper’s Image, to The Little Sisters of Eluria, to Popsy, that are simply gems.  And there are countless more to choose from, even if horror does not strike your fancy (1922 and Big Driver immediately come to mind).

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And King’s latest collection of short stories, titled Bazaar of Bad Dreams, does not disappoint.  There is a little something for everybody, and even the pickiest shopper will probably walk away satisfied.

With that being said, I have chosen to review the stories in the collection that have jumped out at me, for whatever reason.  So all both  of my readers will be able to indulge in their voyeuristic tendencies, and will be treated to multiple close-ups of those kisses in the dark.

I am reviewing in no particular order, just reviewing what may strike me at the moment.  And Batman and Robin Have an Altercation struck me in a few places, so sit back and get ready to analyze one of those kisses up close.

 

 


Synopsis

Batman and Robin Have an Altercation centers around Dougie Sanderson, and his elderly father, known as Pop.  Pop is suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and lives in nursing home.  Dougie is one of his main caretakers, and tries to spend as much quality time with his father as possible.

Every Sunday, Dougie takes his father to lunch at Applebee’s.  Pop pretends to study the menu, even though he can no longer read, but always orders the same thing for lunch.  Some days are better than others in terms of Pop’s memory, as he is given to confusing Dougie with his brother Reggie, who was killed by an errant driver 40 years ago.  Pop has also become somewhat of a kleptomaniac, stealing items such as knives and other eating utensils when he thinks that no one is looking.

On one of their outings, Pop recalls a time in Dougie’s childhood when he and Dougie dressed up as Batman and Robin, respectively, and Pop took Dougie trick-or-treating.  Both father and son recall the memory as a happy one, even though Pop’s costume was makeshift.  Pop also reveals that he was unfaithful to his wife that night, reminding Dougie of the double-edged sword that is Alzheimer’s Disease:  the memory becomes unreliable, but can still be relied upon to remember what may best be forgotten.

Dougie and his father leave the restaurant, and Dougie drives his father back to his nursing home.  On the way back to the nursing home, Dougie is involved in a car accident.  A driver attempts to change lanes, but carelessly hits Dougie instead.  The driver tells Dougie that he is uninsured and his vehicle is not registered, and tries to convince Dougie to not call the authorities or his insurance company.  Dougie refuses, and the driver attacks him, beating Dougie badly.

Dougie sees blood and fears that it is his blood.  However, it is the blood of the other driver (referred to as Tat Man).  Dougie sees his father standing over the other driver, and realizes that his father has come to his defense and stabbed Tat Man.  He also realizes that his father had distracted him earlier at the restaurant, having him look at the birds outside, while Pop stole a steak knife.  Pop almost immediately forgets where he is and who the other driver was, and demands to go back home and take his nap, leaving Dougie to deal with the authorities who have finally arrived.


 

My Thoughts

So, whoa…

Um, thanks for the throat punch, Uncle Stevie?  For once in my life (and mark your calendars, this is rare indeed), I am having trouble finding the words to express my feelings on this story…

Stephen King

Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, sometimes a good story can hit you in just the right place!

First of all, Batman.  Batman is the alpha and the omega…I mean, he’s the goddamn Batman!

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Yeah, I am a fan of Batman, if that wasn’t obvious.  And I love that this story referred to Batman.  I mean, Stephen King and Batman.  Kind of like peanut butter and jelly.  Or bacon and Kool Aide (sorry, private joke between me and some other crazy Stephen King nerds).

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But, as much as I like Batman (and if you don’t like Batman, we are not friends!), the inclusion of Batman in this story was not responsible for the throat punch.  Like almost everything else The Master has ever written, this story was…unexpected…I think that’s the word I want.

Dougie’s father is an Alzheimer’s patient in this story.  My beloved grandmother is also an Alzheimer’s patient.  She has been suffering from the disease for nearly 4 years now.

King often writes about “human horrors”, such as domestic violence, child abuse, addiction and even unemployment.  And all of those are definitely horrors, and give his stories that touch of realism that makes them believable.

Well, now we can add Alzheimer’s disease to that list.  Seeing my grandmother suffer from the disease is truly one of the most horrific things I have endured.  She calls out for my grandfather, who died over 13 years ago, and we have to tell her that he is on his way.  Of course, she cannot remember our names any more.  She wants to go home, even though her home was sold last year, and she does not understand why she lives in a nursing home, and not the home where I spent so much of my childhood.  Horrific, indeed.

But one of the biggest throat punches in regards to Alzheimer’s Disease is that the person who suffers from it will emerge and convince you that he/she is his/her “old self.”  This has happened with my grandmother on more than one occasion:  she will remember names, places, dates and hold a conversation with us that is not one-sided.  And this happened with Dougie’s father as well:  Pops remembered the Halloween he dressed up as Batman with his son, and took him trick-or-treating.  And Pops put on that Batman costume once again, when Dougie was under attack from the enraged motorist and literally fighting for his life.  And it was beautiful:  Batman was there when needed, and he defeated the bad guy, just like how he was supposed to.  We don’t always get rescued by heroes.  People let us down, and they are not there when needed.  But this was Batman, and he did the job admirably.

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But, unlike some super heroes, Batman is human.  He is fallible.  And even he can’t beat all the bad guys, all of the time.  Like the rest of us, Batman must eventually come back to earth.  But even as he falls, he is still the glorious hero, the caped crusader who looks out for the little guy.  After all, he is the goddamn Batman.

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