Saturday, March 2, 2013

King's Korner: Rage

I was going to do this really neat thing where I used strike through text on "King's" and put "Bachman's" Korner, but Blogger, being the nefarious twit that it is, decided this was too clever by half. Oh, the crosses we have to bear. Some men go hungry, some men fight in wars, some men must deal with high-maintenance title bars in Blog posts. But for reference, here's what it would have looked like:

King’s Bachman’s Korner: Rage

Now wouldn't that have been the most creative thing ever? Thanks Blogger!
Edition: The Bachman Books.

PICTURED: This one.
  I: The Pseudonym

Can you believe it's been almost three months since I did one of these? I was going under some serious King withdrawal, and so much was happening! He got a new miniseries on ABC that I'm slightly worried about--partially because its a gruesome story on censor-heavy network television, partly because of what it's adapting (Note: for those not in the know, it's Under the Dome. --E); in addition, we've gotten more and more news of Dr. Sleep, the surprisingly interesting sounding sequel to The Shining which I've enumerated elsewhere is my all-time favorite novel - depending on my mood. I'm...cautiously optimistic about that one. I can't shake the feeling that you're scraping the dregs of your idea bin when you start writing sequels to your own classic novels from thirty years ago.

But that's in the futuristic year of 2013, where we're still using gasoline powered cares. Some world of tomorrow. No, let's go back a ways, to a young buck with wheels burning in an unbound mind, and to the first novel by King in this series of reviews that I have not read.

If I recall correctly, I was put off by the whole Richard Bachman thing when I was a younger child, just engrossing my tender young mind into the warping cataclysm that is the Stephen King canon. I didn't "get" the idea of a pen name. I didn't think that Bachman was "real" Stephen King anymore than the Beatles tribute band playing at the civic center were the "real" Paul, John, Ringo and George. The young are not equipped to deal with such conceits.

In the edition I'm reading, King has a great introduction detailing why he decided to publish a group of novels under a pen name. It boils down to a couple of things: the material he chose to publish was written when he was younger, and therefore less polished - this is especially true of Rage and The Long Walk - or, more economically, that there was a feeling among his agent and publishers that King was "flooding the market" with his amount of output. This may surprise you, but I personally think there's some credence to this. Publishing under a pen name allowed King to "get his works out" without inundating the bookstores with yet another King novel and risking alienating or even just tiring out his main audience. 

From the beginning people were writing King asking if he was Bachman, to which, in King's words, he simply lied. But the jig was up when an enterprising young publisher got suspicious and tracked down the ISBN number to find the copyright forms and, by extension, King's name. Really, it was bound to happen. King comes from the pulp tradition, and the Bachman books were published in the glorious realms of the pulp. King himself, of course, says it best in the forward to the edition I'm reading, entitled "Why I was Bachman":

"Each month paperback houses issue three types of books: "leaders," which are heavily advertised, stocked in dump-bins (the trade term for thsoe show cardboard displays you see at the front of your local chain bookstore), and which usually feature fancy covers that have been either die-cut or stamped with foil; "sub-leaders," which are less heavily advertised, less apt to be awarded dump-bins, and less expected to sell millions of copies (two hundred thousand sold would be one hell of a good showing for a sub-leader); and just plain books. This third category is the paperback book publishing world's equivalent of trench warfare...or cannon fodder. "Just plain books" (the only other term I can think of is sub-sub-leaders, but that is really depressing) are rarely hardcover reprints; they are generally backlist books with new covers, genre novels...or series books...

The Bachman novels were "just plain books," paperbacks to fill the drugstore and bus-station racks of America. This was at my request...So in that since, the poor guy had the dice loaded against him from the start." 

If you need further burden of proof on what he's talking about, look at these covers:

Bargain bin tenets. Screaming their schlock from the highest rafters. Notice the pithy, histrionic tag lines. The watercolor covers by an art student desperately wishing he had chosen another major. This is the literary equivalent of the $5 DVD vats they have at Wal-Mart. That's the kind of quality merchandise the Bachman books were published as. The reason there were questions about their true author from the beginning was simple: the writing was just too good to fit in.

That might be a little fan-wanky on my part (omfgz Stepen Kingz is so awesome ppl no itz him!!!!1!), but I honestly believe that's the case. Why else would a random participant in the pulp bin sweepstakes be singled out for possibly being the pen name of a world famous writer? There's a regression to the mean in these things, and cream rises to the top. If you enjoy pulp novels, you go in with a certain expectation of what the writing style is going to be like. For the most part, rushed, even a bit harried, spare on details, big on set pieces, lots of repetition. Just the name of the game. Quantity, not quality. Cranking another book out to meet deadlines. Getting that paycheck so you can maybe keep your house one more month. It's not high art (whatever that means). There's a baseline level that you can expect the average pulp novel to sit at. 

That's not to say pulp is bad, or that remarkable writers didn't come out of the tradition. Finding one, though, is akin to finding a diamond in a bed of coal. They shine just a bit more, and are remembered for it. Richard Matheson, Theodore Sturgeon, Raymond Chandler, Philip K. Dick, among others. But they're exceptions, not rules - the Quentin Tarantinos of the style, if you will - and pulp, for all its wonderfulness, remains known more for being rushed and generally being of lower quality than its other literary brethren. 

What I'm trying to say is when you pick up a Richard Bachman novel and turn the pages with a certain set of expectations, and then are beset with this entirely unanticipated breadth of style, your suspicion alarm goes off. What amazes me is that people were so well-versed in King's style that they immediately suspected that Rage was actually written by him. Either that or they were incredibly lucky guessers. 

Published in 1977, Rage was the first of the Bachman books, and quite possibly the first book King ever wrote. The novel, originally titled Getting It On, was "begun in 1966, when I was a senior in high school" and rediscovered yellowing in a cellar. King himself thinks that Rage is decent, but obviously written by someone just learning the craft, and I'm inclined to agree. The book itself is merely okay. If it were another art form, say a sculpture, I'd remark that they eyes are off-center, the contours are detailed enough, and the perspective is off - but you can see the potential. For something written in high school - and, I'm sure, well brushed up and polished - Rage shows a remarkable consistency and demonstrates many of the techniques King is known for in a rawer, more inchoate way. The use of communiques to foster a sense of detached, systematic horror (i.e., memos and letters), a penchant for what I would call grotesque poetry (the whole circumstance and explanation of the "Cherokee Nose Job" - bleak stuff, people), and King's ear for realistic dialogue and his oft-underrated ability to take children or adolescents seriously and speak in their voices without deprecating them. 

At the same time, there are cracks. Rage has pacing issues, namely in the middle, where the "let's examine the following psychological aspect" affectation starts to get stale. The flow of the narrative is jerky as well, again, mostly because it's like we're in some kind of "The More You Know" self-help special: all right kids, we've examined Charlie Decker's relationship with his father, now let's look at his relationship with his mother! All in all, it has the tone of the kind of thing a fresh, young and talented writer in high school would put to paper and think was deep. At certain points, said depth is reached. At others, the depth is a reach. Despite this, it's a fascinating insight into early King, and a rare glimpse into a writer's mind in the formative years of high school and college. I mean, how often do we get published books from an author that were written at eighteen, nineteen years old? Carrie may be the first published King novel, but for any aspiring King biographer, Rage would be the place to begin.

II. The Mind

"Freudian" is a term that's sort of lost its meaning. Nowadays anyone with any type of neuroses is described as a Freudian nightmare. The word's become a shorthand for any personality quirk, diagnosable or otherwise, but in the case of this novel we're going back to the beginning. Charlie Decker's psychological issues are centered around his mother, his father, and his sexuality. They, in turn, drive him to become a murderer, prone to violent rages and sympathetic vomiting. He is the embodiment of a true Freudian nightmare.

After taking control of the classroom in an indifferent bout of double homicide that would make Hannibal Lector proud, Decker holds his classmates ostensibly hostage while the authorities work outside to try and calm the situation. Where it gets interesting is when the reader becomes unsure of who exactly is holding whom hostage. At first its seems stupidly apparent. Decker's got the gun and the power. But as the novel progresses, you start to wonder who exactly is keeping whom from leaving.

What this creates is a feedback loop, wherein the class and Decker take turns being analyzer and analyzed. Secrets come to the surface, repressed feeling bubble up, and the class watches as Decker takes them through a trip of his mind.

In fitting with the theme of Freudian psychology, Decker's first words about his father pretty much sum up the Oedipal Complex: "My dad has hated me for as long as I can remember" (43). It would have been very easy for young Stephen King to make said father a Villain, capital V included. Like Decker's father would have been an irredeemable douchebag that locked his son in a basement and ate them out of house and home, beat the wife and harangued the neighbors, that sort of thing. In fact, many of King's Villains with capital Vs have been this way. But that type of character has a time and a place, and King fortunately understood this dynamic even in high school and early college, which is more than what can be said for yours truly, and a lot of other bright young mind in university creative writing classes. I'm not certain how much King revised the novel before he released it after discovering it the cellar, but if  Decker's relationship with his father was in place at the novel's conception, it indicates exactly what kind of potential the man possessed.

Decker's father is a complicated man, as all human villains tend to be. He is profoundly screwed up, but we're not entirely sure what that means.

Let's first look at the Cherokee Nose Job scene. Charlie is forced to go hunting and camping out with his father and his buddies, two of the most stereotypical masculine activities you could drudge up. And he hates it. He doesn't say so, as it is a blatant attempt by his father to masculinize him. At night, while awake, he overhears his father and said buddies talking about women in a bro-to-bro, dehumanizing fashion:

"Thass what I wanna know. What do you do about a woman who less--lets--someone in the back door? Huh?"

The hunting knife that had turned into a spear moved slowly back and forth. My father said, "The Cherokees used to slit their noses. "The idea was to put a cunt right up on their faces so everyone in the tribe could see what part of them got them in trouble."
"Slit their noses, huh?" Randy said. "That's pretty goddamn good. If they still did that, half the woman in Placerville would have a snatch at both ends."

"Not my wife," my father said very quietly, and now the slur in his voice was gone, and the laughter at Randy's joke stopped in mid-roar.

"No, 'course not, Carl," Randy said uncomfortably. "Hey, shit. Have a drink." (15)

It's a case of masculine demonstration, maleness having to assert itself in front of other males to validate and affirm dominance. By removing the agency of the females, the group of good ol' boys around the fireplace suddenly feel better, thereby quelling their deep-seated insecurities. Decker's father appears to us as your typical misogynistic hyper-masculine American man (for that era, anyway). He speaks almost deliciously of punishing and "slut-shaming" infidelity with a visible demonstration that, by his behavior with the knife, he seems very keen on doing. Yet at the same time, he will broach no conversation that even implies his wife is cheating on him. It's a contradiction, but a fairly logical one, at least in the realms of this type of dynamic: that is, Carl Decker's posturing. A show to the boys to, again, affirm Carl Decker's masculinity - he has control over his wife, of course. She wouldn't sleep around on him. At the same time, he has the fix for her if she did. But she won't. But if she did. The insecurities and fear within Carl - that he, as the male in the family, doesn't have complete dominance over the unit that society demands he must possess, nags at him.

Usually, the above scene would confirm that Carl Decker's an irredeemable monster that's going to, later in the novel, commit a slew of heinous, vile acts. Heck, if you're familiar at all with King's work you just might assume this was what was going to occur. But it doesn't. The next time we see Decker's father, we get a hint at the interactions we have with Decker's mother:

After at long, long, long time, I can remember my mother's voice, out of breath and irritable, and a little afraid: "Stop now, Carl." Again, the creaking, furtive. "Stop it!"

A mutter from my father.

From my mother: "I don't care! I don't care if you didn't! Stop it and let me sleep!"

So I knew. I went to sleep but I knew. The Creaking Thing was my father (41, emphasis King's).

There's an attitude that's faded  a good bit from the mainstream Americana, but still finds traction in many parts of the country, and in the backs of people's minds when they're not in public, and that is the "wifely duty" of being available to the husband whenever he wants sex. Again, you dig deep enough and you'll discover that this opinion is still fairly widespread, and has changed form over the years. But in the time period we're discussing, for the most part it was a fact. Men were animals that got these desires every now and again, and as women you just had to deal with it whether you wanted to or not.

Going off from the last scene, it would have been perfectly logical to read this and think it would progress to Carl Decker raping the mother. Not only because of what we've seen, but because that's the story for a lot of women during this era, especially in small towns.

But something rather, well, odd happens. The mother dissuades him. She shuts down his advances, with apparently no repercussions, physical or verbal. The mother rebukes the father, and that's the end of it, and the subtle insecurity that Carl Decker demonstrated around the campfire starts to make a little more sense (for his time and place, in any case. I'm NOT saying that he should be insecure because his wife doesn't allow him to have her anytime he wishes. I am saying that in this culture at this time, with the masculine-feminine gender dynamic as rigid as it ever could be, it would make a man like Decker insecure).

This is further supported by the third time we see the father, after Charlie has gone around a broken all the storm windows:

"You shouldn't have broken those windows," he said. Anger was replacing dismay. "Now shut up. Be a man, for God's sake.

Then he was over to her, not minding her slip anymore, or Sam and his wife. He grabbed her shoulder and pointed to the jagged kitchen storm window. "Look! Look! He did that, and now you want to give him chocolate! He's no baby anymore, Rita, it's time for you to start giving him the tit!"

I cringed against her hip, and she wrenched her shoulder away...

"Go inside," she said calmly. "You're being quite foolish, Carl."

"I'm going to - "

"Don't tell me what you'll do!" she shouted suddenly, advancing on him. He flinched away instinctively. "Go inside! You've done enough damage! Go inside! Go find some of your friends and have drinks! Go anywhere! But...get out of my sight!" (45-46, emphasis King's)

It thus becomes clear that all Carl Decker's masculine assertiveness is simply a cover for his feelings of guilt and shame and confusion about why he does not run the family. Where men are supposed to be men, he is found wanting. Where men are supposed to decide how the family unit functions, he is stomped under his wife's heel. Where men are supposed to discipline and lead the child firmly and unequivocally, he is countered by the feminine. Where he's supposed to be dominate, he is dominated. His role in the culture as he understands it has been subverted, and the only recourse left for him is to posture in front of his other male friends, wave phallic knives about and dream of days when he's going to put the feminine in her place.

We can see, then, why Decker's focal point returns to the conversation, where his father threatens subliminally to slit his mother's nose open. Decker is, to be quite frank, the definition of a momma's boy: she rules his life with an iron grip draped in velvet. She decides what he wears, when he's going to get punished, how his life is going to go. 

And Decker himself is okay with this - perhaps not on a conscious level, but he makes no real effort to combat it. He argues with his mother about the corduroy suit, but he wears it anyway. To bring it back to a pure Freudian level, Decker identifes with his mother since she is not a masculine threat to him. At its fullest extent (and this is a novel of extremes, so why not?), it contributes to his feelings of sexual inadequacy. 

Remember, the three discussions Decker has with the class are about his mother, father, and sex.  The great triarch of Freudian interpretation. Decker's first attempt to have sex is a resounding failure. He simply cannot regain the erection he had at the outset. While waiting for the girl to whom he would (he's hoping) lose his virginity, he loses it and cannot get it back. Would it be a stretch to say he could not regain it because he had his mother on the brain? I, for one, don't think so: "I don't know how long it was before she came...And after a little while, unease began to creep in. Something about the shadow of trees on the wet, packed sand, and the sound of the wind. Maybe the ocean itself, a big thing, a mean mother-humper full of unseen life and all those little pricks of light...But by the time she put her hand on my shoulder, I had lost my erection" (105, emphasis mine). And a little later, when trying to get it up: "...and then, of all things to come cruising out of my imagination, I saw my father with his hunting knife, talking about the Cherokee Nose Job" (105).

Make no mistake: mother's on the brain here. You might be tempted to say I'm stretching that  little - to which I would say, yes, but I'm an English major, it's what I do. At the same time, however, there's evidence to back me up. Notice how in the former quote we have two instance of sexual belittling: mother-humper, and little pricks. Both are emasculating in their own ways. 

Now you got to really think about this for an minute:

Why would Charlie Decker say mother-humper, a weaker euphemism for a curse work that he has no trouble using?  Not one page later he says the word "fuck," so that can't be it. No, the term is used precisely because it's a subconscious expression of Charlie's attraction to his mother. His mother, who not only runs the family, inverting the normal social structure in the culture Charlie's grown up in, but who also coos, diminishes, and yes, emasculates Charlie with her coddling and her words. His father wants to (masculine) punish Charlie for breaking the windows. His mother wants to fawn over him and give him chocolate, and when she does exert control over him, she does it in the softest, most delicate, most "feminine" of manners:

"Just shut up about it, she said, very soft, and I did. When my mother says "shut up," she was really mad (77, emphasis mine). 

While losing his erection, Charlie thinks of a softer version of a slander involving sexual congress with his mother, as well as unintentionally belittling his own sexual capabilities - little pricks, indeed. 

Finally, while desperately trying to reinvest himself in the sexual act, he thinks of the Cherokee Nose Job, the last thing he needed to think about, but the thing that centers around his life the most. The biggest threat to the relationship to his mother is a reaffirming of what her supposed role is. Decker, like his father, understands what the Nose Job is actually for: it visibly demonstrates what the woman is - that is, female - and is therefore substantiates her automatic diminution in the eyes of society. Decker cannot bear the thought of his mother being the "lesser." It is a notion of the greatest horror to him, and any hope of sexual congress with a female that is not his mother is lost. 

To sum up this intricate and convoluted dirigible of thought: while waiting to lose his virginity, Decker's emasculating experiences with his mother bubble up to his subconscious. He thinks of humping, an animalistic word whose submissive desperateness lacks the masculine aggressiveness and control of "fucking," and of little pricks. He thinks of his mother being irrevocably damaged, and her role in society revealed, and he loses all ability to get it up. He cannot have sex with the girl because he is willingly emasculated by his mother. Yes, ladies and gentleman: the only woman Charlie Decker wants to sleep with is his mom. 

Like I said, Freudian nightmare. 

II - (Subsection a): An Unplanned Sidebar on Literary Criticism

I wasn't planning on doing this, but seeing as the two people reading this in Suriname might have been understandably freaked out by the above section, I thought it prudent to explain a bit about literary criticism.

Literary criticism has many forms and periods and styles, some of them insane, all of them inadequate to fully explicate the work. Criticism, by necessity after all, requires taking language to fit into the thesis. For example: taking mother-humper and little pricks above, and extrapolating them into something that King probably did not intend. But whether King intended it doesn't really matter, because mother-humper and little pricks do in fact carry the connotations I used  - that gets into a whole Post-Modern, deconstructionist treatise that I desperately do not want to go into here, but take my word for it: little pricks means tiny bits, undoubtedly. But it's also indubitable that a little prick is a humiliating term for male genitalia. Since both these things are true, I can use - in literary criticism - the former of the latter as I require. 

What this does, however, is eliminate other possibilities. I could look at Rage through a new critical standpoint, or a Queer standpoint, or a psychoanalytical standpoint, or a structuralist standpoint or a reader-response standpoint. The beautiful thing about literature, though, is that while all these standpoints are valid, not of them would ever be able to fully encapsulate the work. The work in always changing, and can never but put fully in a box with a label. I think that's rather interesting.

Also true about literary criticism: there's overlap of periods. 

In the above breakdown, I'm subscribing to a "new critical" mode of thought: that is, I've completely removed the author from the piece. I'm not looking into King's past to find out about his relationships to mother and father, nor am I implying that King is anyway interested in sleeping with his mother. "New Criticism" (though by this point it's rather old) abolishes such considerations in favor of looking at the work as an end in itself. There are pros and cons to this, but I thought it prudent for this piece (Note: for those of you who haven't heard of New Crit before, you might have heard of one of its earliest and by far most famous progenitors, "Death of the Author." --E).

As for the criticism itself, I chose to look at it through the lens of standard Freudian psychoanalysis, for one real reason: it's just so flipping obvious. Again, I have no interest in breaking down for the criticism portion whether King "meant" to put the Freudmeister in there - although, to be quite frank, I believe it was intentional. Freudian criticism is such a tempting thing to write about when you first learn of its ins and outs; it's only when you learn a bit more about how psychology has evolved that you learn most of it is bunk. But a King writing this in late high school-early college might have believed it was indescribably profound to have a character exemplifying Freudian psych.

But no, the real reason I looked at it through this lens is that, intentional or not, its so obvious. Again, most literary critics peer through one particular viewpoint when writing criticism. It's the only way to write a cohesive piece. I could write about Rage from a Freudian psychoanalytical perspective, or I could write about it from a, oh, I don't know, a gendered perspective. These two by nature have some of the same elements, but trying to hammer two differing criticisms into one pieces is either a) going to make your piece overlong and rambling, or b) going to unfocus it and undermine your own points. So since I decided that was going to analyze the novel through the perspective I did, I came to some uncomfortable conclusions that are still completely logical in the world of the novel, again, intentional or not.

Just didn't want you to think I was a freak. Oh, and if you're considering becoming an English major, get used to a lot more talks like the one above. Or just don't become an English major and get a well-paying job. Either or. 

III. The Controversy

People change as they grow. The become less rowdy, less daring, more introspective and aware of how their actions affect others. It leads them to make Han shoot first so that he's not a murderer, and Indiana Jones to suddenly feel reluctant to brutally dispatch people. And it leads them to pull back the force of their younger writerly selves.

Rage has become almost a bogeyman for King. Not that he truly regrets it, I don't think. And not that he wakes up in the middle of the night haunted by Ted Jones and black ink. But - let me put it this way. If Cthulhu rose from his watery depths, took King hostage, and told him that he had to sacrifice one of his novels from ever existing in order to save the world, King would say Rage with no hesitation.

His attitude towards the work is clear. In his recent revival of Bachman, Blaze, King writes of his first and most juvenile foray into the mind of the pseudonym: "Now out of print, and a good thing." And very recently, the book's popped up again in his Kindle Singles essay entitled "Guns." 

The book was associated, in varying degrees, with a number of school shootings over a fifteen year period. Sometimes said associations were a bit forced: in one of the shootings, the perpetrator merely possessed the novel. Other times, the relationship was undeniable, including once where the shooter outright stated he was inspired by the events of the book. 

The final nail in the coffin for King was the "Carneal incident," where a student named Michael Carneal shot three other students at a prayer meeting. The book was discovered in the the kid's locker as part of the Bachman omnibus (shoot, maybe the same edition that I used), and it was the point where King said "enough." He let it go out of print and while I, again, wouldn't say he's ashamed of the novel, he's certainly not losing any sleep about the decision.

I've never been sure what to think of this, to be frank. You'll never, ever hear me say that an author doesn't have a right to decide what to do with his own work, and that includes censorship. But at the same time: it's still censorship. If an outside forum decided on blacklisting Rage, people would be screaming to high heavens about free speech. But since the author does it, it's okay. And it is okay, in the simplest terms. But...

You have to understand that there is little more important to me than free speech. The first idea censored is the first mote of devolution in our species and civilization. And as such, while I think it's okay that King chose to censor his own work, it does leave this bad taste in my mouth. Fact is, the last of these incidents occurred in 1996. Three years later, Columbine happened. Eleven years later, the tragedy at Virginia Tech. And sixteen years later, Sandy Hook. None of these events had anything to do with Rage. And even if they did...

Even if they did...

I don't know. There is a price to freedom, and whether or not we're willing to pay it depends on how much we're willing to take. Video games especially are embroiled in this fight right now, more than any other medium; the right to say and publish what we want, when we want, without needing approval from the government is a right that always teeters on the knife's edge, and to see a work censored, even when the author himself initiates said censorship, is a tacit agreement with those that decry video games and movies, insisting that they "cause" these tragedies, and that therefore it's perfectly okay for them to be suppressed.

I guess that's my biggest problem with it, because whether he intended to or not, King threw his hat in the rings with the censors - that the shootings weren't a cause of troubled minds, but that the book itself led them to commit these acts, and thus to save the children, said work must be suppressed, must be put out of print. 

Did it solve anything to do so? Doesn't look like it. Shootings, specifically school shootings happen on a frightfully regular basis. Does it help King sleep at night? I would wager yes. And you know what? 

That's completely fine.

IV. Conclusion

Now, to answer the question everybody wants to know: is Rage any good? My answer? Meeeeh....

I'll state again that I've never read a bad Stephen King book. Rage by no means breaks that streak. At the end of the day, even with probably extensive revision, it's still a novel by a young writer, evolving his craft. Moments of horror are counterbalanced by clunkiness and overly-simplistic psychological drama. I never really bought, for example, Decker's so-called outwitting of the authority figures...Sheriff, school shrink, et al. Making them cry and fly off into rages and what not. It came off like a really, really, really poor man's - or rather a high-school student's - Hannibal Lector, and to my mind it's a case of King reaching beyond the experience of his age. Why do I think that? Because I did the same thing. Psychological horror is a tough thing to describe convincingly, and while King would have mastered the art by the end of 1977, as an 18-year-old there are kinks. Rage comes off as a story by a young author who believes he's saying something no one's said before: hey, I've got a character (who happens to me my age) that epitomizes the same Freudian-based psych issues that we discussed in English class the other day, how original! (Note: this assumption has nothing to do with possible Dunning-Kruger attitudes by blog's author towards stories he wrote in college. Nothing. --E). 

That being said, the book does contain its own charm. And by charm, I mean horrifically disturbing sequences. You ever go to the ocean and see a dolphin suddenly pop out of nowhere and dive back beneath the surface? That encapsulates certain pieces of the novel: a burst of visible talent surfacing from latency. And of course King apparently has always been able to freak people out with the "missing" horrors. The "nothing" horrors. I'm still wondering what the class did to Ted to induce such a break from reality. But even at this age, King understands that an answer to that question would only lessen the impact. The horror comes from not knowing. The horror comes from the emptiness.

We have studied four novels in this traipse through the bibliography of one of America's greatest living writers. By this time King has become a master of the horror novel. But even his prodigious gifts in that form pale in comparison to his skill with the campfire tale: the short story. Next time we're tackling Night Shift, ladies and gentleman, where true terror resides.

Until next time,

Mr. E

PICTURED: This is definitely not from high school, but give me a break okay? It's not like I have access to his family photo albums!



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