Stephen King's Carrie
I decided, quite idiotically, a few days ago that I was going to read or reread all of King's novels in chronological order. I can't, right now, remember why I decided to do it--but it seemed like a good idea at the time, so I announced it on social media (as one should do with all good ideas) and now am stuck with the announcement and duty.
I plan on ranking them as I move forward.
I just finished Carrie, his first published novel.
This is a different King than what we read today, and that's kind of surprising for me to say. I'm not saying it is like reading a completely different writer, but at 199 pages, it's one of King's shortest. A lot of people argue that the shorter King's novels are, the better they tend to be (and I'm not necessarily opposed to this argument, either).
This book can easily be drawn into two halves. Prior to prom night and prom night. I have to say, that I almost didn't finish the first half of the novel: it was boring. I don't think King made a great connection between a bullied female quickly accepting these super natural powers and then her willingness to murder with them. The connection was there, and it was believable, but I just think if I was eighteen and suddenly had the ability to tip over cars with my mind, I might have acted a bit different.
King said in On Writing that his wife helped him a lot with understanding high school girls, and perhaps that is what happened in the first half of the book. It is setting the table for the second half, and in doing so, he almost lost me. Honestly, it was only because of my proclamation to the world about what I was going to do that kept me going.
With that said, King comes into his own in the second half.
The King of Today is more verbose, taking more time to describe both what he sees and what characters think, but forty years ago, King ripped you along at a pace which makes your teeth chatter--once he finally gets started.
The second half of Carrie is why King became King, practically single-handedly pulling the horror genre to national attention. The way he wrote--I just don't think it had been done before. It's not like you're being spoken to, but like you're on a walk with a friend, and this friend is telling you a horrible, horrible story. He talks to you like he's sitting across the table, not hammering at you from a keyboard.
Now, every modern day horror/thriller writer has pretty much been influenced by King. Before him though, not many wrote like this. Go read Lovecraft if you disagree. So when you read books today, and there is that folksy, friendly, aren't we all looking at this together for the first time type feel--I think a major reason is from King's first book.
The second half of Carrie is hard to put down. King intersperses the narrative with modern (Modern circa the 70's/80's--and don't expect accuracy of when this thing was published from me. I got things to do.) day discussions between Congress, academics, and books published on the subject of Carrie White. It creates an almost worldly view of what happened on that prom night, lending it a sense of non-fiction and critical attention that many thrillers miss. One thing that King misses here, though, is the terror. You know what is going to happen from the beginning of the novel, and in doing so, you're wanting to see how she does it, rather than what she does. This is in stark juxtaposition to his novels like The Stand, in which you desperately want to know the what and not the how.
King wrote this book at twenty-six years old. Two years younger than I am now. If we look at this and compare it to the rest of his work (which I'm going to do in this series), it's missing a lot of the greatness that King eventually becomes--
A brief interlude. It's also missing a lot of the bad that King eventually becomes. His verbosity, his tendency to use tired metaphors (the room was as black as a hole in the ground), and his (for better or worse) ability to dive in and, and stay in, a character's head for pages and pages are all absent.
--but when you think about what a twenty-six year old man has been exposed to, you're clearly looking at the beginning of a genius. You're also looking at someone who is having a lot of fun, and I'm glad for that.
Stephen King Definitive Ranking List:
1. Carrie (1974)