Horror Lit: Carrie

Book review
Stephen King’s Carrie

After reading Gerald’s Game, I was particularly curious about Stephen King writing with a female protagonist. I liked his characterization of Jessie Burlingame, and I wondered where else in his catalogue did he write using a female protagonist? Less than a moment later, I remembered Carrie, which he had written 17 years earlier. How could I forget the iconic image of the prom queen covered in pig’s blood?

I had seen the movie many moons ago, but had not read the book. I decided to grab a copy at my local second-hand bookstore and find out for myself how King presented Carrie and her horror story.

From the moment I started it, I liked it. It is told in snippets of narrative mixed with quotations from court documents, academic essays and first-person biographies. King outlines the story from three angles: the public, shown through the documentation following the destruction of a town by a teenage girl’s telekinetic power; the friends and family surrounding the protagonist Carrie’s life, shown through anecdotes from their eyes as they go about their day creating the perfect storm for Carrie’s betrayal and revenge; and the protagonist Carrie, located at the heart of the action and torment.

I was raised in households with varying degrees of right-wing Christian religious fervor, so Carrie’s story of being raised by an ascetic, judgemental, punishing, sadist of a mother who feels justified in her cruel actions by her Christian devotion and faith is not unrealistic to me. Neither was the high school bullying. The pleasure of Carrie was in watching the protagonist take punch after punch from her inner voice, her mother and her peers, and seeing it fuel her rebellious reaction until she rained down fire on all of them.

The Carrie narrative is iconic, and King, rightly so, is an icon. The book far outweighs the movie, mostly, for me, by casting. I had to revise my image of Sissy Spacek from very early on in the book, which I was glad to do. I much preferred King’s more awkard, angst-ridden teenager who reminded me more of Rae in My Mad Fat Diary than anything close to Spacek.

I am happy to continue my exploration of King’s portrayal of female protagonists. Perhaps Dolores Clairborne next, or Misery … is that one told by the writer or the kidnapper? Off to the bookstore!

King-Carrie

King, Stephen. Carrie. Penguin Group, 1975.

Horror Lit: Gerald’s Game

Book review
Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game

One of the reasons why I decided to run a horror fan blog was to encourage myself to be more immersed in the horror genre, especially in horror writing. One of my favourite activities is to write horror stories, so seeing how other horror writers develop a narrative with scary moments, and where those scary moments appear, interests me.

I admit that I have not read much Stephen King, although he has been a presence in my household my whole life. Both of my parents are fans, so we always had at least one King book in a bed stand or on a shelf. The few King books I read growing up, I liked. But, I was never pulled into the excitement of exploring more into his catalogue.

There is no time like the present. King is a master at horror story-telling, so I only have much to learn from him.

On the recommendation a few months back by Satan’s Niece, who is an avid King reader, I picked up a copy of Gerald’s Game. Going into the novel, I had a basic idea of the plot, which tells the story of a woman’s ordeal after she is handcuffed to her bedpost by her husband during an excursion to their remote cabin, and he dies. I was curious to see how King could write a 400-plus page novel based on this, to me, slim premise.

Again, King is a master. As he tells the story of the main character hung up by her arms and vulnerable—facing thirst, starvation and madness—he tells the story of her psychological vulnerability, weaving in and out of her sexual, social and emotional vulnerabilities throughout her life, particularly in her adolescence.

While I enjoyed many aspects of Gerald’s Game, including the empathetic, first-person female viewpoint and the explicit visuals of body gore, I especially liked that the story was about two things: the personal life of this one person struggling to survive thirst and starvation, and the universal experience of any person having to go through such a horrific ordeal. My favourite section of the book was about two thirds in when the character was preparing to face her second night tied up to the bed. She was victim to the madness of her thirst and starvation and, here, when she was shifting between memories, dreams and reality, King shows us what dying like this would feel like. Of course, the whole time I am thinking, “What if it were me?”

Netflix has recently released a film version of Gerald’s Game. The viewer’s reviews looked positive, and I started watching it, hoping to do a review of both the book and movie. But, as the husband locked the main character to the bedpost, I realized it was “too soon.” I had just closed the book, and I couldn’t bear to relive the horror that I encountered in the book. Give me a few more weeks, at least.

GeraldsGameKing

King, Stephen. Gerald’s Game. Penguin Group, 1992.