Well, it looks like 2017 has come and gone.
Actually, am I a little late? Since it seems like we are actually well into 2018…
HI GUYS! YOUR NERD IS BACK! MISS ME MUCH???
Yeah, the hiatus has been long. Life has been getting the way…
And you don’t even want to know how much time I had to spend fighting the Todash monsters!
So yeah, 2017 was Stephen King 2.0. And if you are gonna have a 2.0 of anything, make sure it is a continuation of the story, not just a rehash…
(We all know my feelings on sequels.)
King was back, and this round of King was at least as good as the 80’s hey day, and may even have been better. And I don’t often say that about sequels and reboots!
2017 showed King in all of his forms:
We had the King of horror, in the movie It.
We had the King of fantasy, in the Dark Tower movie.
We had the King of stories about women, in the Netflix adaptation of Gerald’s Game, and the publication of the novel Sleeping Beauties, co-authored by the prince, aka Owen King. 2017, coincidentally, was the year of #metoo. Or maybe not so coincidentally, as a famous character reminds us: coincidence has been cancelled, sugar.
I could go on and on, actually…
We even have some things that don’t officially have King’s name on them, but still feel like they are part of the sequel that was 2017.
All things serve The Beam, after all..
But, let’s get back on topic.
I may not have spent copious amounts of time on this little old blog talking about the year of The King, but that does not mean that 2017 went unnoticed.
On the contrary, in fact.
Actually, I reveled in it.
There is just something about being an adult with the maturity to really enjoy the nuances of a Stephen King story.
Of course, a Netflix subscription doesn’t hurt either!
So, I am making this entry to recap and talk a little about some of the year of The King.
Obviously, I can’t get through it all in one entry, but I can at least talk about the highlights.
After all, it doesn’t cost anything to just talk about the highlights, right?
(Totally written in my Leland Gaunt voice, by the way.)
So buckle in (hopefully you are not strapping yourself into a 1958 Plymouth Fury.)
And get ready to talk about our favorite boogeyman (and some of his boogeyman friends), Stephen King!
And, as always:
When one thinks of horror, often one thinks of horror movies.
These movies are fantastical in some ways. We all know that someone cannot possibly be shot 23,889,209 times and still get up to chase sexually precocious teenagers and kill them in inventive ways (although that is a good way to burn that free 100 or so minutes you may have that day. More if you watch the cut scenes on the “extras” menu.)
But often, real life can contain plenty of horror…
But seriously, just turn on the news any given night, and tell me that man’s inhumanity to man is not the most horrific thing out there?
And there is one guy who understands this very well, and who has written some compelling literature on the subject, as a matter of fact…
You guessed it, we are talking about Stephen King!
*insert shocked look right about here*
King has been called The Master of Modern Horror (but you can call him The Master for short), and for good reason.
A rabid St. Bernard that makes you want to avoid car trouble at all costs?
Check and mate!
While most of the above horrors are not actually “real horrors,” one of King’s greatest strengths as a writer is his ability to include elements of realism in his writing.
So we associate The Shining the famous phrase “Redrum” (spell it backwards, for the uninitiated), along with a haunted hotel and a scary lady who is a permanent residence of a room with a famous number
There is also the matter of the guy in the dog costume…
Well, back to my point.
Which is that King can insert reality into his works. The Shining is a great example of this, because it deals with alcoholism, unemployment, child abuse and the list goes on.
In other words, we can relate the above list, since we have all experienced at least one of those things in our lifetime.
And that is what makes the story so terrifying: since we can relate to those topics, it is not that far out of left field that there may be a haunted hotel somewhere out there, where we avoid room 217 (or 237), along with the hedge animals and fire extinguishers, because if it can happen to the seemingly normal Torrance family, it sure can happen to us.
King writes about people. These people may be placed into extraordinary situations, but they are still people, who could, at least theoretically, be any one of us.
And these people do not always fight supernatural monsters, Often, humans are the monsters, and what a human can do to a fellow human is far worse than what a haunted hotel or even a rabid St. Bernard can do to us.
One of King’s books that deals with man’s inhumanity to man (or, more appropriately, woman) is Gerald’s Game.
Gerald’s Game contains hardly any elements of the supernatural, but it is still a frightening read. The monsters in this book are human, so the scenario is one that is plausible for anyone.
So strap in (but don’t handcuff yourself), and get ready for the ride that is Gerald’s Game.
Nine years ago (almost to this very date, in fact), I began a journey.
For seven years, I was trapped in a prison. Sometimes this was only a metaphorical prison. However, sometimes it was also a literal prison.
I had gotten married at the relatively young age of 22. I had thought that I was lucky to find love at a young age, and figured I was set for life.
But I was wrong on that. Very wrong.
Somehow, I found myself in an abusive relationship. No, I did not grow up with parents who abused me in any way. In fact, I had a pretty good family life. Nor do I consider myself to be stupid. In fact, I have been told I am quite intelligent. I also consider myself to be resourceful, even scrappy. And I consider myself to be strong and independent.
For nearly seven years, I endured abuse. The abuse was both emotional and physical. I was choked. I received black eyes. I was called “fat”, “worthless,” “stupid,” “bitch,” and probably lots of other names that I now choose to forget.
Ostensibly, I left because my ex had cheated on me. However, this was finally a way out for me, as I was unable to leave prior to this. I blamed myself for the abuse, assuming that I had brought this on myself, due to my poor decision making skills. I also blamed myself for not leaving the situation much sooner than I did.
In short, I did everything but face what had actually happened to me.
When I finally left this awful situation, I felt alone much of the time. Sure, I had family…700 miles away. I had a couple of friends help me move into my own apartment, but I felt no one would understand my situation, or even worse, pass more judgment on me.
So I did what I have done my entire life: I turned to books (like a good nerd).
More specifically, I turned to Stephen King books (don’t forget what blog you are reading).
As I have stated countless times, Stephen King is not just a good horror writer, he is a good writer. Period. While he may be known for homicidal clowns, rabid dogs and possessed vehicles, he also writes about “real life” horrors, and those real life horrors are often more frightening than his fantastical monsters. They are frightening because they are plausible, and we can relate to them.
One theme that is prevalent in King’s work is the theme of abuse. Many characters in the King universe endure some sort of abuse. Beverly Marsh, a character in the book It, is abused by her father, and later on by her husband. Danny Torrance endures abuse at the hands of his alcoholic father, Jack, in the book The Shining. Abuse is even mentioned in the book Insomnia, a fantasy novel that is closely connected to the world of The Dark Tower series.
The novel Rose Madder is also a book that deals with domestic abuse. However, this book does not just mention abuse. Rather, domestic abuse is the main, underlying theme in the book. The book can also be considered a fantasy novel, with elements of Greek mythology and perhaps even Christianity, but spousal abuse is still the main theme in the book. The book is also slightly different from most of King’s other work in that fact that is told from the perspective of the abused woman, Rose McClendon. However, make no mistake about it: we are reminded many times that we are reading a novel set squarely in the Stephen King universe.
This is a book that has a lot of personal meaning to me, as it was a guide when I began my journey to get away from my marriage and find myself again. Unlike Rosie, I did not travel across the country. But I felt that the journey may as well have been a bus ride across the country, as it was long and even scenic at times. In fact, this book reminded me that I was not alone, but facing what countless survivors of an abusive relationship face: a journey to free myself from the demons, and find my true self again.
So, without further ado, here is my recap and review of Rose Madder.
And, as always:
The book begins with an introduction to a young woman named Rose, who is married to Norman Daniels, who is a cop. Norman is also abusive to Rose, both physically and emotionally. One evening, Norman comes home and finds Rose reading a book. For some reason, this enrages Rose, and Norman beats her quite badly. Rose is pregnant with the couple’s first child, and the beating causes her to have a miscarriage. Rose is heartbroken, but endures another nine years of abuse from Norman.
One day, nine years later, Rose is cleaning the house while Norman is at work, and notices a drop of blood on the sheets. Something awakens in Rose, and she flees her marriage. Before she flees, Rose takes Norman’s bank card, and uses it to obtain money so that she can escape. Rose catches a bus that takes her to a city 800 miles away, and throws the bank card in the trash before she leaves the city for good. All the while, Rose is terrified that Norman will still find her and hurt her, but decides that if she stays, she will risk at least her sanity and maybe even her life.
Over the next month, Rose works on re-building her life. When she arrives in her new city, she meets a man named Peter Slowik at the Traveler’s Aid Booth. Peter directs her to a shelter of sorts for battered women, called Daughters and Sisters. There, Rose meets a woman named Anna, who tells her that she can stay for at least eight weeks, and also finds Rose a job as a chambermaid at a nearby hotel. Rose gradually begins to adjust to her new life and form friendships, but still wonders about her future, as she knows that she will need something other than her life than not having Norman in it.
In the meantime, Norman is angered that Rose has left him. After Rose threw away his bank card, a young man stole it and attempted to use it. Norman brutally beats the information out of the man, and learns that Rose caught a bus out of town, and what time that bus may have left. This information is enough for Norman to begin to track Rosie down, and he does just that.
One day, after finishing her shift at the hotel, Rose decides that she wants to sell her engagement ring. Norman has told her that this ring is valuable, and Rose has believed this statement over the years. Rose finds a nearby pawnshop, and meets a man named Bill Steiner. Bill appraises Rose’s ring, and Rose learns that the diamond is not a real diamond. She is actually not surprised, due to the fact that Norman has deceived her many other times. Rose nearly leaves the pawnshop, to spare her dignity. However, she catches a glimpse of a painting and becomes entranced. The painting depicts a temple, with a woman whose back is turned, but holding her hands out to the sky. Rose decides that she must have this painting, and trades her engagement ring for it (as the ring itself is real gold). Right after she obtains the painting, an elderly man named Robbie Lefferts stops her, and requests that she read a paragraph from a book. Rose is apprehensive, but humors the man. The man tells Rose that her reading voice is fantastic, and offers Rose a job at his company as a reader of audio books.
In the meantime, Norman is still obsessed with Rose and her whereabouts. He has obtained a promotion at his job after a large drug bust, but is unable to let Rose go. He has used some information from the bus station to attempt to find Rose, but his lead did not pan out. However, Norman’s luck changes when he receives a call from the man who sold Rose the bus ticket. With this break, Norman is able to deduce what city Rose had fled to and resumes his hunt for her.
Rosie starts her new job the next day. She is apprehensive, but manages to make it through the day by thinking of her painting and the woman in it. That night, Bill unexpectedly shows up at her apartment, and takes Rosie out to dinner. Rosie feels an attraction towards Bill, and also accepts a date with him for the following weekend.
In the meantime, Norman arrives in the city where Rosie now resides. He is able to track down Peter Slowik, the man who assisted her in finding shelter upon her arrival. Norman then murders the man, and vows to track Rosie down and do the same to her, along with whoever else who may stand in his way.
Rose impresses the people at her new job, and realizes that her boss will likely offer her a contract. She begins to feel hopeful for her future and grateful for her new friends. Rose always dyes her hair blonde, to match the hair of the woman in her painting. That night, both Rose and Norman go to sleep and remember a woman named Wendy Yarrow, a prostitute who Norman murdered several years ago. Norman and his partner beat the woman in order to try to extract some information from her, and the woman threatened to sue the police department before she was murdered by Norman in order to keep her quiet.
Rose also comes to realize that the painting she purchased has taken on a life of its own, as she finds crickets in her second floor apartment, along with other items that should not be there. However, Rose’s investigation of her painting is interrupted when she receives a call from Anna Stevenson, the founder of Daughters and Sisters. Anna tells Rose of the murder of Peter Slowik, and that Norman is the prime suspect. Rose becomes upset and even calls Bill, telling him to stay away from her, for his own protection.
The next day, Rosie flounders at her new job. However, she receives a visit from Bill during her lunch hour, and tells him of the abuse she endured under Norman, and also of the prostitute Wendy Yarrow, who was likely killed by Norman. Bill tells Rose that he will not run, and that she cannot be held responsible for Norman’s actions, as it is not her fault.
That night, Rose notices more odd behavior from her. In fact, the painting opens up, and allows her to step into another world. There, Rose meets the woman in the painting, along with a woman named Dorcas who resembles Wendy Yarrow, the prostitute murdered by Norman. Rose dubs the woman in the painting Rose Madder. Rose Madder appears to be Rose’s mirror image, except that she is suffering from a disease that has driven her insane, and also altered her appearance, as she has several red blotches on her skin.
Rose Madder requests that Rose help her by rescuing her baby, which is being held captive by Enryies the bull in The Temple of The Bull. Rose Madder also tells Rose that she will repay the favor when needed. Dorcas helps Rose get ready for the quest, telling her not to eat the fruit or drink the water, no matter how tempted she may be. Dorcas also soaks a piece of of Rose’s nightgown with her blood, as Enryies is blind and relies on his sense of smell, meaning it is possible to trick him.
Rose sets off on her quest, and uses the sound of the babies cries to guide. She encounters several ruses on her way, but is able to reach the baby (whom she names Caroline). Rose tricks Enryies with the nightgown, and rescues baby Caroline, bringing her back to Dorcas and Rose Madder. Reluctantly, Rose surrenders the baby to the two women, and is again reminded by Rose Madder that she “repays.” Rose exits the world of the painting and returns to her apartment, falling asleep almost immediately.
The next day, Rose awakens. She is in pain from her previous night’s excursion and notices that the painting has changed again, but still dismisses the experience as a dream. Rose goes to work, and loses herself in her day’s routine. She is also offered a contract by her boss, Robbie Lefferts. When Rose returns home that evening, she finds the missing gold armlet worn by Rose Madder in the painting, along with a piece of her nightgown, and realizes that her experience was not a dream.
Rose and Bill then go on their date the following day. Bill takes Rose on a motorcycle ride and they have a picnic in a woodsy area. Bill and Rose also see a mother fox with her babies. Rose worries about the fox, but Bill tells her they should be fine as long as they are not infected with rabies. Rose also begins to realize how attracted she is to Bill, and Bill tells her that he loves her. They then head back to town, to attend the benefit concert for Daughters and Sisters.
While Rose is on her date with Bill, Norman has disguised himself as a veteran in a wheelchair, and managed to slip into the all day fair that will proceed the benefit concert for Daughters and Sisters. Norman waits for Rose for most of the day, and is uneasy when he can’t find her.
Norman then attacks one of Rose’s friends, Cynthia, in the restroom. However, he is interrupted by Gert Kinshaw, another member of Daughters and Sisters, who fights off Norman. Cynthia and Gert are both severely injured in the fight and end up at the hospital. Norman is able to escape and continues his hunt for Rose.
Rose and Bill meet Gert and Cynthia at the hospital and get a recap of what happened that afternoon. Rose is upset, and talks to the police, who try to reassure that they want to catch Norman and bring him to justice. After the interview with the police, Rosie and Bill head back to Rosie’s apartment.
While Rosie speaks to the police, Norman continues on his rampage. He has found a mask in the shape of a bull that seems to speak to him, although even he understands that he has gone completely insane. Norman kills Rose’s friend Pam at the hotel where she works, to try to obtain information from her. He then heads to the shelter owned by Daughters and Sisters, encountering Anna Stevenson and murdering her after he obtains the address to Rose’s apartment.
When Bill and Rosie come back to Rosie’s apartment, the encounter Norman, who has killed the two police officers who were supposed to be the police protection for Rose. Norman attacks both Rose and Bill, but they escape to her apartment and hide in the close where Rose has stored the painting. Once again, Rose escapes into the world of the painting, bringing Bill with her.
Rose changes into the same clothes worn by Rose Madder, and tricks Norman into chasing her to the Temple of the Bull. Rose Madder then attacks Norman and kills him. Rose and Bill then escape back into their world. Dorcas gives Rose a small vial of water from the river, and tells her to give it to Bill as necessary. Rose Madder also gives Rose a cryptic message, telling her to “remember the tree.”
After she and Bill return to their world, Rose speaks to the cops and tells them that Norman has disappeared. She also gives Bill a bit of the water from the river, in order to retain his sanity. Rose dyes her hair back to its natural color and destroys the painting. Eventually, the questioning in regards to Norman stops, and Rosie is able to obtain a divorce from him.
Bill proposes to Rose and they get married in a simple ceremony. Rose gives him the last of the water from the river, so that he forgets the experience in the world of the painting entirely. Shortly after their honeymoon, Rose finds out she is pregnant, and gives birth to a baby girl named Pamela Gertrude Steiner.
Over the years, all appears to be going well for Rose. However, Rose begins to experience bouts of irrational anger, where she imagines seriously injuring her friends and even her husband. Eventually, Rose remembers what Rose Madder told her about the tree, and finds the seed that is left. Rose then plants the tree, praying that her rages will stop and she can live out her life like a normal person. Her wish is granted, as the rages soon depart.
Every year, Rose returns to the spot where she planted the tree, and gives thanks for her blessings, knowing that she is strong and a survivor.
Here, we have Rose Madder. And I consider this one to be one of my favorite King books of all time, for a few different reasons.
However, Rose Madder also seems to be bit polarizing. Well, a lot polarizing, actually. People are divided (well, at least in Internet-land): some love the book, some detest the book.
Obviously, I am on #teamlove, but I can understand how this book may be off-putting to some. Not only is the main character a woman (big departure from most King books), along with the fact that the book is not “traditional horror,” there is also a lot of symbolism that may be difficult to understand. I have read this book many, many times and I am not sure if I understand all the symbolism, but I will definitely give it my best shot.
For example, there is the title character. Rose Madder. Just who is she, and how does she relate to Rosie Real? And what does the “madder” part mean? Anger? Insanity? Or maybe both? And how does all this tie into that weird color that keeps getting mentioned?
Truthfully, I don’t really have the answers to those questions. What I do believe is that Rose Madder is indeed a reflection of Rosie Real, or perhaps even a Twinner. Rose Madder is shown to be suffering from sort of disease. Is this Rosie’s repressed anger towards Norman? I actually think that I may be on to something with this thought, that Rose Madder is actually Rosie (maybe on another level of the Tower, or something even deeper) but the manifestation of anger, which can eventually lead to insanity, unless something is done. And the color rose madder somehow ties into all this, I believe. That color is pretty close to the color of blood (the book alludes to this several times). And blood is associated with anger, along with madness. The color could also be associated with simply being female, as blood is associated with menstruation and childbirth (oh, the fun imagery on that one…you are welcome). So, there may be many ways to interpret Rose Madder. Are all of them right? Possibly. Are all of them wrong? Could be as well, such is the mind of The Master…
And the world of the painting…how surreal is that? Well, a lot. Enter the fantasy element. Was the fantasy element necessary to the story? Probably not, the story of Rosie’s escape from Norman was a good stand alone story. Did it ruin the book? Absolutely not, especially since a nod to our friendly neighborhood gunslinger was given by mentioning the city of Lud, along with a possible reference to Randall Flagg and company. The Temple of the Bull and the river that had water you couldn’t drink unless you wanted your memory wiped clean were also nice touches, and made me think of the days I spent reading Greek mythology, which is also loaded with symbolism. The hero has to accomplish some task so he (or she in this case) can move forward in his life. And that is exactly what Rose had to do: she had to rescue a baby (which possibly symbolizes something too, like Rose’s true self, which is fragile like a baby) so that she could move past the “Norman stage” (or is that bullshit?) of her life and finally grow into her true self. And that is not a bad metaphor at all.
Another thing that I loved about this book was the characters. You had the two main ones: Rosie and Norman, along with all the minor characters that may not have been a huge part of the book (Peter Slowik aka Thumper-stein is one of many examples). King can create memorable characters, and it shows. I was rooting for Rosie right from the beginning. I cried with her, when she lost her baby, thanks to Norman’s actions. I was nervous for her, when she started over in a new city, with a new job and a new boyfriend. I was afraid for her, when Norman finally tracked her down. And I cheered with her, when she was finally rid of Norman for good. Not only can King write the Every Man character really well (Jack Torrance, Johnny Smith), he can also write the Every Woman character. And that is just what Rose is: an Every Woman. There is nothing special about Rosie, but that is exactly why she is so special: we can all relate to her, because we could so easily become her at any time. And most of what Rosie accomplishes is accomplished through hard work, pluckiness and even a little of luck. Definitely the Every Woman we can all identify with.
And we have Norman. Norman is on the list of King bad guys that I love to hate. Actually, I just hate. With every fiber of my being, as a matter of fact. With some of King’s bad guys, I can think of something good to say about them. Eldred Jonas does have good hair, after all. But I cannot think of a single good thing to say about Norman Daniels. He is racist. He is sexist. He has no regard for other human beings in the slightest, and will use them and then dispose of them (in grisly ways) when they have served out their purpose. Oh, and he beats the shit out of his wife. And kids aren’t safe from him, since he literally beats the baby out of Rosie, causing her to miscarry their only child. His view of the world is so skewed that it isn’t even funny (well, it is in kind of disturbed way). Norman makes assumptions about EVERYONE that turn out to have very little, if any, basis in actual fact (makes me wonder if he would be supporting Donald Trump, I am sure Norman would have ideas about making America great again and would fit right in at a Trump rally). But most frightening of all, guys like Norman Daniels actually exist. Norman is not a clown from the sewers or an evil wizard. He is a human being (at least in appearance). To boot, he is a human being in authority who abuses his power to hurt others. This is something that occurs quite often in the “real world.” Once again, King has proven himself to be the master of real life horror, along with made-up horror. And a character like Norman Daniels is proof that the real world will suffice just fine for horrifying us and giving us a sleepless night or two.
I was bruised and battered, I couldn’t tell what I felt.
I was unrecognizable to myself.
I saw my reflection in a window, I didn’t know my own face.
I constantly thought of the above lines when reading Rose Madder. This book may be a fantasy novel with a tie-in to the world of Roland Deschain himself, but at its heart, it is a book about abuse, and what it takes to overcome the abuse and become a healed, whole person.
Towards the end of the book, Rosie refers to the items she still had left from her life (her purse, a grocery, etc) as the items she brought “out of Egypt.” And the phrase “out of Egypt” is not a bad description of fleeing from an abusive marriage. In fact, it is a pretty good description.
Like Rosie, it was a journey fleeing from my own abusive marriage. Like the lines in the song, I was unrecognizable to myself, and did not recognize the person in the mirror who looked back at me. And like Rosie, I brought a ton of baggage out of Egypt that I did not know what to do with. Baggage such as memories of the time he tried to strangle at a hotel in Tennessee. Baggage such as the black eyes that I had to explain away. Baggage such as the thought that I would not live to see my 30th birthday. Baggage such as the humiliation, and feeling about two inches tall, as I was told what a worthless human I was on a regular basis. Even the strongest of us can only carry so much, and like Rosie, I feared that my anger and pain would poison the new life I had managed to build, unless I could find an outlet for it, where it could be tended and harm no one else.
Eventually, I did find that outlet. I still have the memories, but to paraphrase a quote in the book, I have become ruthless with the past. Again, to paraphrase the book, it is better to have bad dreams than bad wakings. Unlike the wakings, the dreams will fade upon awakening, and I am left with only the blessings that have become my life.
So that’s it for Rose Madder. Join me next month for another sleepless night in Derry, as I review and dissect Insomnia. Although I am seriously considering taking a detour to a certain “sour ground” in the King universe in the meantime…
Tune in next month…same bat time, same bat channel!
All of King’s work is inter-connected in some way, and Rose Madder is no different. Here are some of the connections I have found:
-There is a picture of Susan Day in Anna Stevenson’s office. Susan Day is a character in the novel Insomnia.
They are the worst!
You have fun, you party hard and life is good!
Until you wake up, and can’t piece together your night, and find out later that you had some wild shenanigans with your friends and maybe even got married the previous night…
Well, maybe its not quite that bad, but they are no fun. No fun at all.
Yeah, nothing like reading an awesome book series, going crazy and having all kinds of fun…
Until you are done reading those books. And then the payback…oh, the payback…
Yes, I am referencing a book hangover. I have had my share of the other kind of hangover, but given that this blog is devoted to all things nerdy, I thought I would acknowledge book hangovers…after all, the struggle is real!
If you have been following this blog at all over the past 6 months or so (and I truly thank
both all of my devoted fans), you would know that I just finished reading all eight (all eight!) Dark Tower books. I read the revised edition of The Gunslinger! I even read The Wind Through the Keyhole!
And this series is epic…it was penned by The Master, after all!
But so much epic-ness has a consequence. And the past six months were an epic party: I felt invincible. I chugged
shots books like no one’s business. And I am sure if there was a literary equivalent of a keg stand, I did that too.
But all good things must come to an end, and that includes my read and review of The Dark Tower series. And I have been nursing that hangover for a couple of weeks now. Like in my younger partying days, I have been averse to light and noise. And just looking at
food books has made me feel pretty nauseous…
So I needed a cure. The literary equivalent of a comfy couch, gallons of Gatorade and a carb filled breakfast to settle my insides…what was a nerd to do?
Well, after much searching (actually not that much searching), I found my cure…
No, not the hair of the dog that bit me!
A much better cure. A cure that offers a long term solution:
No, I did not wear a pair of Horns on my head!
I am talking about the man behind the horns himself…
None other than Joe Hill!
As most people know, Joe Hill is the son of Stephen King. And he writes scary stories. And he has a wicked sense of humor. A regular chip off the old block, in other words.
But the comparisons end there. Make no mistake, Stephen King is Stephen King (and I don’t want it any other way). And Joe Hill is Joe Hill. I don’t want that any other way, either. He can write a scary story like Dad, and sculpt interesting characters that the readers become invested in (again, just like Dad).
Again, make no mistake about it: Joe Hill may have some similarities to his old man (and his stories may also link with Dad’s and could be considered a part of Dad’s universe), but his style is all his own.
And I love it. Its refreshing. Kind of like the literary equivalent of a comfy couch, gallons of Gatorade and a carb filled breakfast to settle your insides…
In other words, I found the perfect (literary) hangover cure: Joe Hill. And reading his work is much better than trying to ingest some of the hair of the dog that bit me!
So, I chose the book Heart Shaped Box to help ease my hangover. And it was perfect: scary, great characters and great setting. In other words, just what I needed to ease the pain, and make me a little less grouchy.
And without further ado, here is my review of my hangover cure, aka the book Heart Shaped Box!
The book begins with an introduction to a man named Judas Coyne. We learn that Judas is a musician for a heavy metal band who has been moderately successful. We also learn that Judas has a penchant for collecting macabre souvenirs: a snuff film, a piece of artwork from a serial killer, and a few other unusual items.
One of these items is a ghost. Jude receives an email offering the ghost of a man who has recently died for sale, and promptly pays the $1000 asking price. The “ghost” arrives at Judas’ home a few days later, and is actually a suit that was owned by the dead man, Craddock McDermott.
Almost immediately, Judas begins to notice odd occurrences that coincide with the arrive of his “ghost.” His girlfriend Georgia (whose real name is Marybeth), pricks her finger on one of the pins that holds the suit together, and her finger becomes infected. Judas’ dogs, Bon and Angus, become aggressive in the presence of the suit. Judas begins to have odd dreams. And worst of all, Judas begins to see an apparition of what can only be the dead man, whose eyes resemble squiggly lines. The ghost also carries a razor on a silver chain and brandishes it as a weapon. This causes his girlfriend Georgia to recall an incident from her childhood, when she also encountered a ghost: Georgia glanced out the window of her grandmother’s house, and saw what appeared to be a little girl, who also had eyes that looked like black squiggly lines. Georgia later finds out that this is the ghost of her grandmother’s sister, who disappeared as a child and was never found. Judas becomes frightened, as he realizes that he is actually being haunted and that this ghost does not have good intentions.
Judas makes a phone call to Jessica, the woman who sold him the suit. He then finds out that Jessica is actually the sister to one of his former girlfriends, Florida (whose name is really Anna). Jessica tells Judas that Anna committed suicide, and blames Jude’s breakup with her for Anna’s death. The “ghost” is actually the girls’ stepfather Craddock McDermott, and Jessica reminds Jude that he has paid for the ghost of the old man, and will forever be cursed.
The odd occurrences continue. Judas’ assistant Danny realizes that ghost intends to kill everyone associated with Jude, and resigns from his position immediately. Judas later receives an odd late night phone call from Danny, who has actually committed suicide. Judas falls asleep in one of his vehicles, and nearly dies from carbon monoxide poisoning. The ghost continues to torment Judas, even after Georgia burns the suit. Judas sees an old pick up truck that belongs to the dead man. The ghost continues to taunt Judas, flashing the razors that Anna used to commit suicide. Georgia becomes frightened, and encourages Jude to leave town with her.
Judas has a final confrontation at his home with the ghost, but is saved by the intervention of his dogs. He theorizes that dogs can act as familiars and are therefore able to fight the ghost. Judas leaves his home with Georgia and the dogs, and heads to Louisiana to confront Jessica. Georgia insists that they stop and visit her grandmother, and also tells Judas that they may need to raise the spirit of Anna to fight the ghost of Craddock McDermott.
The next morning, Jude awakens in the hotel room with a particular tune in his head that he plays on his guitar. Jude notices that the ghost is not present when he is playing the tune on his guitar. However, the ghost reminds Jude and Georgia of its presence when they venture out of the hotel room, without the dogs or the mysterious tune. Georgia nearly commits suicide per the suggestion of the ghost of Craddock McDermott. Jude and Georgia then hightail it to Georgia’s grandmother’s house.
Jude and Georgia arrive at Georgia’s grandmother’s house, and use Georgia’s old Ouija board to summon the spirit of Anna McDermott. They are successful, and receive a plea from Anna to stop the ghost of her stepfather. Later on Jude sees the ghost of Georgia’s grandmother’s dead sister, and actually speaks to her, telling her to to not leave with her kidnappers. Georgia’s grandmother tells Jude that this may put the spirit to rest, as someone has shown some concern about her fate and attempted to speak to her. Despite the pleas from her grandmother, Georgia and Jude continue on their journey.
Before he leaves Georgia’s hometown, Jude stops at a local used car lot, and confronts the man who molested Georgia as a teenager. Jude punches the man in the face, and takes one of his loafers as a souvenir, so that Georgia may have some closure.
Judas and Georgia then confront Jessica at her house. Jude tells Jessica that Anna did not kill herself, but was rather hypnotized by her stepfather, who actually cut her wrists. Jessica and Anna had both been abused by their stepfather, and McDermott continued the abuse with Jessica’s daughter. Anna had threatened to go to the police and press charges, and her death was an attempt to keep her quiet. A bloody fight then ensues at the house, and McDermott’s ghost returns and turns Jessica’s daughter Reese against Georgia and Jude. Reese is able to shoot Jude with a gun, which results in the loss of Jude’s finger. Reese also shoots Jude’s dog Bon and mortally wounds her. Georgia and Jude escape, but barely.
Once Georgia and Jude escape to their vehicle, Judas has a vision where he witnesses the final confrontation between Anna, Jessica and their stepfather. Anna does indeed threaten legal action, and Jessica and McDermott blame her changed behavior on Jude, and cover up Anna’s death with a staged suicide. Jude awakens from his trance, and the ghost of Craddock McDermott speaks to him on the radio, again telling Jude that this confrontation will result in his death.
Judas and Georgia then reach their destination: Jude’s childhood home. However, Jude’s other dog, Angus, passes away on the journey, leaving Jude with no protection from the ghost.
The ghost returns to Jude while Jude tries to recuperate from his injury. The ghost possesses the body of Jude’s dying father. Georgia has a show down with Craddock McDermott, and shoots Jude’s father, killing him. The ghost vacates the dead body, but Georgia is able to channel the spirit of Anna, who calls Craddock McDermott back to the afterlife and away from the corporate world. However, this causes Georgia to become trapped in the afterlife.
Jude is able to bring Marybeth back from the afterlife, and the two spend some time in the hospital recovering. Georgia and Jude return to New York and eventually get married and adopt new dogs. Jessica is arrested by local authorities for abusing her daughter and faces a lengthy prison sentence. Several years later, Jessica’s daughter Reese hitchhikes to New York and visits Jude and Georgia, thanking them for their actions. The couple sends Reese on her way, giving her money and a ride so that she may build a better life for herself.
I will not compare Joe Hill to his dad.
I will not compare Joe Hill to his dad.
I will not compare Joe Hill to his dad.
I will not compare Joe Hill to his dad.
I will not compare Joe Hill to his dad.
I will not compare Joe Hill to his dad.
I will not compare Joe Hill to his dad.
I will not compare Joe Hill to his dad.
I will not compare Joe Hill to his dad.
I will not compare Joe Hill to his dad.
I will not compare Joe Hill to his dad.
I will not…
Oh, wait…ah, screw it, I’m human and the comparison is inevitable, dammit!
But although I may compare Joe Hill to Dad (a lot, hey I am human, at least the doctors tell me that…haha), I still want to emphasize that Joe Hill is Joe Hill…
And like Dad (damn comparisons), there is so much to love about Joe Hill…
One thing I love about a Joe Hill is that he is close to my age (six years OLDER than me, in case you cared). So many of his references are…well…recognizable. In other words, I don’t have to turn to Google (much) to get them…
Even the title of this book:
Yep, it seems the title of his book is a tribute to the guy above. Someone who colored much of my adolescence (and Joe Hill’s too, I am sure), and who still continues to influence my generation (and beyond to this day).
And there is the character of Jude himself…
And how can Jude NOT be a tribute to this guy:
Maybe we have a Twinner, ladies and gentleman! Jude biting the head off of a bat does not actually seem that far fetched, if you think about it…
Oh, boy…and speaking of Jude…
Judas Coyne has to be one of the most complex characters in any book I have ever read…
In fact, he may even rival our friendly neighborhood gunslinger!
When I read this book, I am just not sure what to do with Judas. Sometimes, I just want to Tombstone him (although he would probably enjoy that, and that would actually be kind of fitting)! But then he beats the living shit out of the man who molested his girlfriend as a child…
Jude takes Georgia’s (Marybeth’s) word for it, and hunts the man down. And pummels him. Hard. Really hard. And then I just wanted to give him a big old kiss, tongue and all. Won’t the first time a literary character has gotten me hot. Nor the last…
And speaking of sexual abuse: I spent the first half or so of this book being petrified…
I mean, there was a guy with squiggly marks for eyes and a silver razor for a weapon who kept appearing and wouldn’t go away (well, except he hated dogs and haunting guitar melodies, apparently). And the fact that Jude owned him because he paid for him (really, we need more disclaimers on these online purchases): shudder. Burning the suit didn’t stop, he just hopped into his ghastly truck and continued his campaign of terrorism that way. He even had the power to give poor Marybeth (Georgia) a nasty infection on finger…eek!
But the second half of the book was different. I was no longer scared. Not scared at all. Instead, I got pissed. Righteously pissed, in fact!
As Hill began to reveal more about what was really going on, i.e. the abuse suffered by poor Anna, Georgia’s molestation and even the abuse suffered by Jude, who had to make adjustments so that he could continue playing guitar, the ghost with the squiggly eyes took a backseat. My fear was replaced with anger: how can people you are supposed to trust (parents, your friends’ parents, etc) be so…well…shitty? What on earth is wrong with people? How can you abuse your own stepdaughter, and then treat her in such a condescending manner when she (understandably) sinks into to depression? How can you, when you were abused by your stepfather, along with your sister, allow your stepfather to do the same to YOUR daughter?
In other words, Heart Shaped Box is something beyond a ghost story. This is not to diminish the ghost story, which is creepy and terrifying in its own right. But there is so much more to this story than ghosts with icky looking eyes. It is a story of abuse, obviously. Nearly every single character, including Judas, was a victim of abuse at some point. And the effects of that abuse were felt for a long, long time (including the effects on Jude, whose father’s abuse took quite the toll on him and likely affected his adult life, such as his decision to not have children, his divorce, etc).
Heart Shaped Box also deals with betrayal. Nearly every single character has been betrayed by some he/she was supposed to trust, or betrayed someone who trusted him/her. Jude was betrayed by his father, who abused him, and his mother, who did not protect him from the abuse. Georgia was molested by a family friend. Anna was abused her stepfather, and Reese was abused by the same man. Both women were also sold out by Jessica, the sister and mother who should have protected them. Jude also does his share of betraying: he turns Anna away when she needs him most, sending her back to the hornets nest, which ultimately leads to her death. And Jude nearly betrays Georgia, as he puts her life at risk in order to defeat the ghost of Craddock McDermott.
However, Heart Shaped Box is also a book about redemption. The characters may have suffered abuse and betrayal, but many are able to obtain redemption. Georgia is able to confront her abuser and obtain some closure, which allows Anna to help her and Jude from beyond the grave. Jude is also able to obtain redemption, as he is able to save Georgia, unlike Anna. Jude also obtains redemption because he and Georgia are able to turn Reese’s situation around for her, so she does not suffer the same fate as her aunt. Even Anna obtains redemption. Although she is dead, she is still able to defeat her stepfather and save her niece from her stepfather’s evil influence. And Reese is perhaps the most redeemed character of all: she is able to escape from her family and finally begin to build a normal, happy life.
Well, I am starting to feel a little better…
The literary hangover is slowly dissipating…
Turns out a bit of the old Joe Hill was just what I needed…
So thank you Joe Hill. Whether I am hung over, or have been stone cold sober for days on end, you are just what the doctor ordered!
Well, it appears that a certain show has bigger cajones than an un-neutered male dog…
Yes, I am talking about the penultimate episode of True Detective, in case that wasn’t evident.
And boy oh boy, was it eventful, to say the least. Well, at least things are never dull with this show. Confusing, yes. Disturbing. yes. Puzzling, yes. But dull is not a word that creeps into my vocabulary in conjunction with this show.
With that being said, here is my recap and review of True Detective, season 2, episode 7.
And, as always:
The episode begins with Ani, Ray and Paul clustered in a hotel room. Ani is recovering from her ordeal and the drugs she was given, and Ray and Paul review the documentation that they found. Ben Caspere’s name is found in the documentation, along with Tony Chessani’s name. It appears that Ben Caspere’s shares of a company were redistributed after his death. All three realize how dire the situation is. Ani tries to seduce Ray, but her advances are rebuffed by Ray.
Paul receives some pictures on his cell phone, showing him and his friend Miguel engaging in some compromising acts. Paul speaks to his mother and fiancee, and tells them that they need to lay low for the time being, as it appears that his cover on the case was blown.
Ray speaks to Frank and relays the night’s events to him. Ray also presses Frank for the name of the person who wrongly identified his ex wife’s rapist. Ray also looks to track down his former chief to question his involvement in the Caspere murder.
Ani speaks to her dad and sister, Athena. She also tells them that they need to leave town, as her involvement in the case may endanger their lives. Ani also speaks to her father about the man who molested her as a child, and her father expresses regrets about being unable to catch the man.
Paul does some research on the internet in regards to the blue diamonds and finds some information on Caspere. Paul also discovers that Ani is wanted in connection with the death of a security guard at the “sex party.” However, it appears that Paul is being watched while he works.
Ani speaks to Vera, the girl she rescued from the “sex party.” Vera has recovered, and is not happy about being rescued. Ani tries to question her but Vera gives very little information. Vera does mention a girl named “Tasha” who was one of Caspere’s “favorites”, but talked too much, intimating that Tasha may have met an untimely end. Vera’s sister shows up, but Vera is reluctant to leave with her sister at first. Ani warns Vera that if she does not leave with her sister and lay low, she may also meet an untimely end.
Frank confronts his lieutenant Blake, in regards to the death of Caspere, and the wrong of identification of Ray ex-wife’s rapist. Blake tells Frank that the man presented a problem for him, and he wanted an easy way to get rid of him. Blake also confesses to killing Frank’s business partner Stan. Frank then beats Blake almost to death, and then finishes the job by shooting Blake in the chest. Frank then summons his wife Jordan to the scene. Jordan is not upset by the dead body and asks what she can do to help.
Ray attempts to deliver the documents that he and Paul stole to the prosecutor Kathryn Davis, but finds her dead in her car.
Frank makes some deals with a jeweler to raise some quick cash, and purchases plane tickets to Venezuela, along with some fake passports. Frank goes to his club and speaks to Mayor Chessani, letting the mayor know that his son Tony has been involved in some unsavory activities.
Paul’s blackmailer requests to meet Paul at the Hall of Records. Paul calls Ray, fearing a setup. Ray tries to warn Paul not to go to the meeting, but Paul hangs up the phone. Paul sees his friend Miguel, along with Ray’s former chief Holloway. The men meet in tunnels under the city, and Holloway requests the documents that Paul and Ray stole the night before. It is also revealed that Miguel’s encounters with Paul were part of the set up. Paul says that he will sell out Ani and Ray so he can give the documents to Holloway, but is able to trick the chief. Paul grabs the chief’s gun, and is able to hide from the armed men while using Miguel as a human shield. Paul then attempts to make his way out of the tunnels and back to the city.
Ani and Ray are looking at photos from the sex party back at the motel room. Ani realizes that Caspere’s secretary resembles one of the children who was orphaned as a result of the robbery of the jewelry store in 1992. They realize that they cannot advance the case any further now due to the death of Kathryn Davis, and begin to open up to each other about their pasts. Ray and Ani then consummate their relationship.
Frank clears the safe in both of his clubs of all cash. He then sets both clubs on fire, and watches them burn.
Paul nearly makes it to safety, using Holloway’s gun to defend himself against the henchmen. However, Officer Burris (a crooked police officer), waits for Paul in the shadows. Burris then shoots Paul twice from behind, killing him.
Ermahgod, Ture Derterctive!
Oh, this episode. The series started off at a leisurely pace (snail’s pace, actually) but now appears to be heading off a cliff…
And I was lulled into a false sense of security. I know that there would probably be a death this season (since this one is so dark), and when Ray found the body of the prosecutor, I let my guard down…a little bit.
Well, that was not a good idea, because what happened next came out of left field.
In other words, the death of Paul was an emotional throat punch. It was very well played, because I thought that he was safe. But once I was lulled into feeling safe, he was ambushed and killed.
And yes, I think this death is “for real” this time. This is not like the “death” of Ray. Blood was shown, and Paul tried to defend himself, and was unsuccessful. This was NOT the case when Ray was shot, as there was no blood shown, and Ray was shot once but did not struggle with anyone like Paul did. The writers of the show are not playing around, as one major character has been killed, along with a “major” minor character (the prosecutor Kathryn Davis).
The show is finally bringing in some emotion, which is a good thing. And now I find myself actually caring about who killed Ben Caspere (I really did not before). And of course, I want to know how that connects to the murder of Paul. as well.
I did make complaints about Vince Vaughn’s character in some earlier entries, and those complaints still stand. However, I did enjoy his character in this episode. Maybe because of all the senseless violence he was inflicting on those who wronged him? Whatever the case, Vaughn played a good psychopath in this episode, ruthlessly hurting anyone who got in his way. It made me buy the “gangster who tries to be good, he really does” scenario, but I am still not completely sold on this one. The jury is still out (until the final episode, at any rate).
The final few minutes of this episode were the best part of the episode, and probably the best part of the season as a whole. The sequence that included Frank burning down his clubs, Ray and Ani consummating their relationship and the death of Paul was done beautifully. The flames added such a nice touch and conveyed the message clearly: the characters’ world is going down in flames, both literally and figuratively. And next week, our characters will have to sort through the ashes and attempt to put everything back together again. And the odds of putting everything back together don’t look good: one dead prosecutor and one dead cop. Not to mention a dead informant. Oh, and the original dead guy. Will we actually find out why he was killed, and why there is this conspiracy that literally includes the mayor of Crazy Town (Mayor Chessani)? Its hard to say, given how tangled this has become, but I will be tuning in to find out.
Well, that’s it for this week’s recap and review of the sometimes confusing but never dull second season of True Detective. Join me next week, when we will review, analyze and dissect what promises to be quite the interesting finale!
Yes, sometimes you just need a reset.
And as I stated last week, True Detective certainly benefited from the reset.
Again, this week…the benefits of the reset were certainly visible. In fact, the game has kicked into full gear, and we are finally making some progress…
With that being said, here is my recap and review of True Detective, season 2 episode 6!
And, as always:
The episode begins with a confrontation between Ray and Frank in Frank’s house. Ray wants to know why Frank sent him to the wrong man, as the man he killed did not rape his ex-wife. Frank responds that he was given bad information, but that he will track down the man who gave him the information, if Ray will help him recover a hard drive owned by the deceased Ben Caspere, as the hard drive main contain clues to Caspere’s murder. A truce is then called between the two men, and Ray leaves Frank’s home.
Ray then visits his ex-wife’s rapist in prison, and tells the man that he intends to badly hurt him for what he has done to Ray’s family. Ray visits with his son Chad, but the visit is uncomfortable, as it is being supervised by a state official. Ray then heads home, and indulges in drinking and a massive cocaine binge, smashing all of the models that he and Chad built. Ray calls him ex-wife and attempts to make a deal with her: he will allow her full custody, as long as she agrees to not reveal Chad’s parentage to him, if it turns out that Ray is not his father. His ex-wife reluctantly agrees to these terms.
Frank and his wife Jordan pay a visit to the bereaved family of Frank’s deceased business associate, Stan. The couple offers comfort to Stan’s widow and son. Frank then meets with people whom he thinks may have information in regards to Ben Caspere. Frank tortures one man, and the man gives up the name of a woman, Irina, who may have information on the blue diamonds that once belonged to Caspere and were sold to a pawn shop. The woman tells Frank that an unidentified police officer told her to sell the diamonds. Frank convinces the woman to meet with him, but finds her murdered once he arrives at their pre-arranged meeting place.
Paul continues to track down the blue diamonds, and meets with a jewelry store employee who once sold them in his store. The owner speaks of a robbery/shootout in 1992, and of two children who were orphaned due to the incident. The owner tells Paul he knows little about the children, other than their approximate ages in 1992 and that they then became part of California’s foster care system.
Ani makes preparations to attend the sex party to obtain information. Paul and Ray place a tracking device on her so that they may know of her whereabouts. Ani boards a bus, and has to give up all her personal belongings, including her cell phone and purse. Ani arrives at the party and is almost immediately drugged by the hosts of the party, and is propositioned by a much older man.
Ray and Paul spy on men making some kind of land deal, similar to the one Frank had made with Ben Caspere. Ray and Paul then steal some of the documents so that they can be reviewed.
In the meantime, the drugs are affecting Ani, and she begins to have terrifying flashbacks of being molested as a child. However, Ani purges the drugs from her system, and steals a carving knife. Ani then notices Vera, the subject of her missing person case. Ani rescues Vera, and stabs a man with the knife, escaping from the mansion. Ani and Vera then are rescued by Paul and Ray, who speed away from the mansion as quickly as possible.
The confusing, winding road known as True Detective, season 2 is finally leading somewhere…
Yeah, in a nutshell, I suppose.
This episode may be the most eventful episode of the season so far. Like the shots of highways and traffic this show seems so fond of, this season started out slow, and was almost meandering.
Not this episode. This episode sped down the open road, much like the car that contained our heroes in the final scene. So buckle in guys, and let’s get ready to take a ride!
First of all, the show now seems to want us to be invested in the characters. We got to see Ray have a cocaine and booze infused temper tantrum to end all temper tantrums. We also got to see the alleged gangster Frank console a dead friend’s child. Now, I don’t think this is coincidental. The show is gearing up for something major. A death perhaps? It would seem that way, although maybe that thought is just a little bit over-simplified. However, I do think that there will be something major that will happen with one or more characters in one (or both) of the upcoming episodes. So right now, this is just speculation, but only time (and the remaining two episodes) will tell.
Another curious thing that I noticed about this episode was the photograph of two children with dark hair, who would be in their mid to late twenties if they were still alive today. The two Chessani children have dark hair, and appear to be in their mid to late twenties. Somehow, I don’t think that this is a coincidence either. Chessani’s daughter has even stated that her father is “evil.” And we know that Mayor Chessani himself is a shady character. So it does not seem to be much of a stretch to speculate that even his means of acquiring children would perhaps be surrounded by shady circumstances. The children were orphaned by a robbery that went wrong. Or were they? Was something even more sinister at work? Again, its pure speculation, and only time (and the next two episodes) will tell.
Well, ok. You want to get to the good stuff, right? Right? RIGHT???
Yes, the “sex party” scene. The one that the internet has been abuzz about for the past several months…
In all seriousness, the scenes at the sex party were very, very well executed. I loved how we could see the party from Ani’s perspective, who happened to be stoned out of her mind (well, until she took it upon herself to change that). I also loved how the past and present was merged (Ani appears to see her molester at the party and the two settings bleed into each other). My heart was literally in my throat the entire length of the part, and I am sure my sigh of relief once Ani escaped was audible.
Oh, and speaking of Ani…
I think we are in for a major character arc, and soon (I know, only two episodes, but still). The flashbacks scenes were creepy and just confirmed my suspicions…Ani was in fact molested as a child. And we don’t know who the perpetrator was…could it have been the creepy Dr. Pitlor? Or maybe one of her father’s other creepy friends? Hell, could it have been her father himself? At the very least, Ani’s creepy dad was probably complicit in whatever abuse she endured as a child. She has seemingly repressed it up until now (although I am wondering if Dr. Pitlor had something to do with the repression as well, since he seems to be good with mind games, in a literal sense). My heart also broke wide open for Ani during the final few minutes of the episode, as she was weeping. I don’t think these were tears of joy or even from the trauma of that horrible party…I think they were actually tears of sadness and shock from the sudden recovery of her past memories. My heart aches for Ani, and I hope that the show gives us some answers and some closure for poor Ani.
Well, that’s it for this week’s dissection of the roller coaster ride known as True Detective. Join me next week, as we delve into the penultimate episode of murder, corruption, sex and all that other good stuff.
All my life, I have been a loner. A Loser, some might say.
Making friends has never been my strong suit. Although I do have one good one now. And she knows who she is, and how much I love her. And how proud I am to call her my friend.
But throughout much of my life, its just been me, myself and I. I like being alone, but sometimes it gets a little old.
So what do I did I do (and still do)?
What any sensible person does? Grab a good book…duh! A good book is a cure for almost anything, including the flu, being dumped by your ass hat ex and yes…loneliness!
I was able to lose myself in the adventures in these books (everything from Anne McAffrey to David Eddings to Madeleine L’Engle to almost any other category that you could think of). Another trip to Pern? Sure, sign me up stat!
But perhaps the biggest part of these books were the characters. I identified so much with these characters. My spirit Losers, much of the time. And how I wished I could have a cup of coffee with some of these guys, and just chew the fat with them for a few hours.
And some of my most memorable book friendships (not to be confused with my book boyfriends, thank you very much) came from stories by Stephen King.
Stephen King is just great at creating memorable characters. And he can also portray relationships very well. This combination makes for some great friendships between his characters. Sometimes these relationships end in tragedy and sometimes at least one party makes some kind of noble sacrifice for the good of the other. Or sometimes what was once a beautiful relationship turns toxic. However, these relationships are rich and woven seamlessly into the tapestry we call a Stephen King book. In other words, they are never dull.
With that being said, here are my top 10 friendships in all of Stephen King’s books.
10) Charles Jacobs and Jamie Morton (Revival)
Some friendships withstand the test of time and just endear. Normally, this is a good thing…
However, what is good in our world is not always good in a Stephen King novel. In other words, there are some friendships that just should not be, and this includes the one between Charles Jacobs and Jamie Morton in Revival.
Sure, the relationship between the two main characters in Revival starts off innocuously enough. A young preacher with a beautiful family, who just happens to have an unusual hobby (electrifying, you might say). And a five year old boy who is impressionable, and eager to please. And he also gets caught up in the preacher’s new hobby and becomes an eager assistant to his new friend…kind of sweet, actually.
Well, the friendship between young Jamie Morton and Charles Jacobson does start off as sweet and even a little touching. But like most things in the King universe, all good things must come to an end. And the relationship between Charles and Jamie does seem to come to an end, when a tragedy strikes. Charles flees town, but Jamie is never quite able to forget the dynamic preacher.
A chance meeting years later re-kindles the friendship between the two. At first, it seems that this is a good thing, as Charles is able to help Jamie kick his heroin habit. However, the friendship soon becomes dangerous, as Charles persuades Jamie to assist him him in one final experiment that should not have taken place. The results are tragic, and the consequences for Jamie, Charles and several other people are simply horrible. Throughout the book, Jamie refers to Charles as his fifth business, and feels that he owes the man a favor. However, the relationship between Jamie and Charles is proof that some debts are best left unpaid.
9) Dolores Claiborne and Vera Donovan (Dolores Claiborne)
Vera Donovan reminds her friends Dolores Claiborne (in the book of the same name) that sometimes an accident is a woman’s best friend (especially when it comes to husbands who abuse their daughters in unspeakable ways).
While it is true that the accident that befalls Joe St. George winds up being a very good friend to poor Dolores, Vera Donovan ends up being the best friend that Dolores ever had. Vera is able to offer some sage advice to her employee that helps save the well being of her employee’s family. However, more importantly, Vera provides a listening ear for Dolores and acts as a sounding board of sorts, allowing Dolores to vent in relative safety. Dolores is poor and lives in a hard world. The treatment she endures from her husband and society in general is a constant reminder of how hard the world is for a woman like Dolores. Vera’s situation is not as difficult (due to her wealth), but is still actually not much better than Dolores’ situation (it is implied that Vera may have been great friends with an accident that befell her husband). However, Vera suffers from extreme loneliness, and that loneliness is only abated by the presence of her housekeeper (and later full-time caregiver). Each woman provides what the other is unable to provide for herself, and is a complement to the other.
The relationship between Dolores and Vera can almost be considered symbiotic, as there is mutual benefit enjoyed by each party.
Like I said before, making friends has never been a strength of mine. I was an awkward kid. Now I’m an awkward adult. And not cute awkward either. More like what the fuck is wrong with you kind of awkward…
So my social calendar is still almost as empty as it was during my childhood, except for a few special people. And finding those special people is just even more awesome, since making friends becomes harder as you age (one of the few benefits of government sponsored babysitting er school is that you do get to be around your peer group. Adulthood is not so cut and dry).
Jack Sawyer is a King character that seems to have the same problem: he has trouble connecting with people, and is therefore very isolated. However, his friendship with his blind neighbor Henry Leyden helps to bring him out of that isolation. Jack begins to realize, through his conversations with Henry, that he is part of a higher purpose, and that he cannot continue to ignore his calling. Jack also realizes that he must open up in regards to his childhood experiences in The Territories, because his knowledge may save someone’s (or several someone’s, for that matter) life.
Henry and Jack’s friendship is another example of a King relationship that ends in tragedy. The fact that Henry passes away shortly after Jack finally makes the decision to remove some his walls just makes this particular friendship even more bittersweet.
One of the reasons why I love King’s work is his portrayal of the disenfranchised (i.e. the underdogs). The disenfranchised (or underdogs) often play major roles in King’s work. Oftentimes, these characters are among King’s most memorable, and they are portrayed in a loving (as opposed to pitiful) light, causing the reader to emphasize with the character, as opposed to pitying the character.
Sheemie Ruiz is one of these underdogs. Sheemie is a mildly mentally handicapped young man who is first encountered by Roland Deschain and his friends during a fateful few months spent in the town of Meijis. Roland and his friends stand up for Sheemie when he is wronged, and a friendship is born. Sheemie soon becomes part of the ka-tet, and an integral member, to boot. Sheemie’s contribution to Roland’s quest is a large one, and the gunslinger is never able to forget the young man he met during those fateful months in Meijis.
The friendship between Roland and Sheemie is another example of a bittersweet relationship. Even though the two are reunited many years later (and Sheemie once again becomes a contributor to Roland’s quest), Sheemie also becomes yet another casualty in Roland’s quest.
Some of the best friendships are ones that span a wide gulf, whether that gulf be age, social class or any number of other factors. After all, variety is the spice of life!
Danny Torrance and Dick Halloran are a perfect example of this type of friendship. On the outside, the two could not be more different: when they first meet, Dick and Danny are nearly 50 years apart in age. Danny is the only child of two loving parents, and Dick is a confirmed life-long bachelor. However, there is more that meets the eye for both Dick and Danny, as both possess PSI abilities that Dick refers to “the shining.” In other words, both possess paranormal talents that render them outsiders, especially Danny. However, Danny is able to receive some comfort from Dick, as he begins to realize that he is no longer alone. And Dick is able come through for Danny in a way that most of the adults in Danny’s life (especially his father) are unable to do, when Danny uses his abilities to call on Dick to rescue him and his family from a haunted hotel that wishes to use Danny as a sort of human generator.
Although the two fall out of touch, Dick is still able to come through for Danny yet again when needed, this time when Danny is forced to become an adult and help another psychically gifted child who has become endangered. However, there is an added twist: Dick is able to reach out from beyond the grave and offer his assistance. The fact that Dick is able to assist Danny from beyond the grave makes this friendship even more endearing and powerful.
Yes, Wolf and Jack Sawyer are actually the quintessential bromance (at least in this blogger’s humble opinion that worth at least 2 pesos, dammit). And werewolves and 12 year old boys nicknamed Traveling Jack make much better couples, anyway.
In all seriousness, Wolf and Jack are another example of a friendship that spans a great divide. And the great divide is literal, since Wolf and Jack are actually from different worlds. And not of the same species, as Wolf is a werewolf. However, that does not matter to either Wolf or Jack, as they draw together in Jack’s quest to save his mother from dying of cancer (and save her Territories Twinner in the process). Wolf becomes Jack’s guide in a world he does not understand, and Jack returns that favor to Wolf when the two are forced to continue their question in Jack’s world. This friendship is truly complementary, as Wolf and Jack are able to provide each other with what the other needs.
And Wolf and Jack also fight together, to the very end. This is yet another example of one of King’s tragic friendships, as Wolf sacrifices his life doing what he does best: protecting the herd.
Again, the underdogs and disenfranchised. I cannot emphasize enough that these guys are some of King’s most well rounded and well written characters. And Tom Cullen and Nick Andros definitely fall into the underdog category. And both also fall into the well rounded and well written category.
Nick Andros is a deaf mute, while Tom Cullen is a mildly mentally handicapped man. Both are survivors of Captain Trips, aka the super flu that has killed off 99.999% of the population. Nick communicates through writing, and Tom cannot read. But somehow, these two manage to save each other, both from actual physical dangers and from loneliness. Even though they cannot communicate at first (due to their handicaps), a deep lasting bond develops between the two. The two men are able to eventually communicate when they meet Ralph Brenter, and all three become integral members of the Boulder Free Zone. However, this friendship ends in tragedy when Nick is killed by a bomb placed in house that he is in while meeting with other members of the Free Zone. Tom never forgets his friend, and thinks of him fondly.
This is another relationship that extends beyond the grave, as Nick’s ghost helps Tom save Stu Redman from certain death after the defeat of Randall Flagg.
Ah, a boy and his dog…does it get any sweeter than that?
Well, actually, make that a boy and his bumbler. But its still the same in principle.
Animals are often major players in King’s works. Cujo, Kojak and even the unfortunate cat Church all played major roles in the lives of the human beings around them. Oftentimes, King’s animals are better people than the people in his stories, and Oy is no exception to that rule.
Oy and Jake are another pair who manage to save each other. Oy was an outcast from his pack and rescued by Jake, and joins Roland and the tet in their quest to save the Dark Tower. Oy repays that favor in spades when he helps Roland save Jake from Gasher, a psychotic pedophile who seeks to rob Jake of his innocence. This is just one of many times when Oy proves his worth as a four-legged gunslinger. Oy is also the final piece of the puzzle for Jake, in that it is Oy who finally helps Jake feel at home in Mid-World, after his violent exit from his own world. Oy becomes the glue that holds Jake to the quest, and to his new home in a strange place.
Truer words could not be said by a billy bumbler (or anyone else), in expressing his feelings after what is one of the saddest deaths in any piece of literature I have ever read.
2) Duddits, Pete, Henry, Beaver and Jonesy (Dreamcatcher)
Childhood and all the joys and traumas associated with it is a major theme in many King books, and these books are among some of his best works. Dreamcatcher is a novel that deals with childhood, especially the friendships that are formed between children.
Pete, Henry, Beaver and Jonesy are a foursome. They are the quintessential best friends, and are seemingly average children. However, when they stand up for child with Down syndrome (Douglas “Duddits” Cavell), that changes. Not only do the boys do something courageous and even noble, they make a new friend who will change their lives forever. Duddits is able to open the boys’ eyes, making them see the world in a new light. Duddits also gives the boys a gift of telepathy, as Duddits is no ordinary child. This gift (and Duddits’ powers) will come in handy in adulthood, when the boys (who are now men) must face another adversary, one that is far worse than the bully they confronted as children. Once again, Duddits brings the men together, and allows them to defeat the enemy before it has a chance to endanger our planet. The ending is bittersweet, as Duddits, Pete and Jonesy sacrifice their lives in the fight.
Oh, and shit weasels. Perhaps one of the most delight creatures in any Stephen King book (or any book, for that matter).
And now, I present to you my favorite Stephen King friendship of all time…
*drum roll please*
1) The Losers Club (It)
Well, what can I say, I’m not sure how else I can put it…
So I will just come out and say it.
Childhood is hell. Really, I can’t think of a better way to say it. And its so so true.
These guys really did have one hell of a childhood (see what I did there). And that’s not necessarily a good thing…
Well, shape-shifting clowns that live in the sewers cannot possibly ever be a good thing. And when the clown employs local bullies to do its dirty work, that is also not a good thing.
So what’s a kid living in scenic Derry, Maine to do?
Somehow survive the encounters with that evil clown, and find other survivors to help fight that motherfucker! And bonus points in giving that group of friends a cool name, aka The Losers Club!
It was the book that popped my Stephen King cherry, and unlike certain other “first times”, I enjoyed this cherry popping immensely. And my favorite part of It was the friendship between the kids. I identified with all of them in one way or another, as I was bullied, and the notion of a clown living in the sewers of my hometown wasn’t really THAT far-fetched.
I actually would have gladly fought alongside the Losers Club, risking my neck to defeat that bad, nasty old clown who had a horrible habit of killing the local kids (although he wasn’t picky, adults would do if times were lean). I often felt invisible as a child, and I saw so many parallels to Derry in my own small, hometown, as it seemed everyone overlooked the wrong, and chose not to see what was really going on right underneath their noses. I especially identified with Beverly Marsh, the lone female of the group (gingers of above average height, unite!) and longed for a love such as the one Ben had for Beverly.
At one point in the book, one of the characters states that the other members of The Losers Club were the best friends he/she ever had. And I agreed: the members of The Losers Club were the best (book) friends I ever had. And that is still true today.
So there it is: my top 10 friendships in Stephen King’s books. Well, some of these friendships may not exactly be healthy ones, but all of them are certainly memorable. And they are just one part of the amazing tapestry that we call a Stephen King book, adding layers of richness and color to an already elaborate, complex design.
So do you really want to be a friend to someone? Well, here’s an idea: introduce them to a Stephen King book, if he/she has never had the pleasure of experiencing one. And I will guarantee you that you will make a friend for life!