74 Christie Street was my first American Address, moving here from Puerto Rico. I remember the small house, and the neighbors, the Portuguese family that lived above us (Maria Barca broke my toe in a tragic rope jumping mishap) and the mixed race young couple, and the first black man I ever met. His white wife had a way of always being angry with him, and he had a way of making learning the language rather easily, sitting in the back stoop, staring at the dead garden in the back, by which he would teach me a word daily.
The apartment was small, and I had no bedroom, back then, I slept in the living room. I suppose this is why I love my aloness now. My early life was a life of constant traffic.
Besides a few roaches, the apartment was bare of anything but a stove and the refrigerator that my father had gotten for the family. In the pantry, there was one book, Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot.
The softcover curiosity was black, with what appeared to be a protruding woman’s face and a single drop of blood dripping from its lower lip; and the tagline, “a town possessed by unspeakable evil.” I had no idea what that meant.
And it was through that book that my journey into English began. I remember how I would keep the book hidden between the couch cushions of the couch that doubled as my bed, and when everyone went to sleep, I would sit there with a flashlight and a Spanish to English dictionary; taking me days to do a few pages, word by word. Even more so because the work had to be do in darkness, and because Mark Petrie was approximately my age. Mark Petrie was my first American friend.
The horror of that translation paralleled the horrors of my immigration story, leaving a safe, beautiful island, swimming in the rivers after school, the lushness of the Puerto Rican plant life (who itself carried its own monsters.) to the soulless empty parking lot that was Newark, NJ.
In my depression and solitude, I doubled down on the book. I had to get to the end of the chilling tale, and I must grasp its meaning. Through this novel, I got my first lesson of what America was, a country in constant battle with its demons. I also fell in love with the story-telling medium.
I recently read Salem’s Lot again, and it was just as exhilarating as the first time. The action scenes were much more effective, of course, now they moved at the speed they were always intended to and not at every three words per translation.
Then there is Ben, Ben is also a vampire, an emotional one that drains the life out of love. He’s in such need of love, as a writer, as a man, that he would latch on to anyone who gives him just the little bit of attention and then, well, then they end up dead.
That Mark Petrie is not dead at the end of the book, well, it is because that relationship had barely started when they set the woods ablaze.
Finally, I’m going to call out Ben and Mark on one inhuman action, when they ran, they didn’t stop by the church to pick up Mrs. Curless, Father Callahan’s secretary, she was praying at the church. No doubt, the woman would be safe and could leave on her own accord, but something about abandoning a woman of God in a town where she would no doubt be entombed in the only place that was safe, made me feel incredibly sad. A Puerto Rican would never do that, those praying ladies are the things that keep us alive.
This edition of the book came “with previously unpublished material and a new introduction by the author.”
Came with two stories, One for the Road, a terrifying little story that takes place shortly after the events of the novel, which let us know that Mark and Ben’s actions did not stem the growth of darkness, but it is the story Jerusalem’s Lot, that really excited me. This short could be its own movie, a period piece King Tale that I would be excited to either adapt for the screen or direct, all on its own.
It was that story that kept me up at night, for several nights. I have read it three times, and delight on the way it scares me. Sending me back in time to that little boy, learning English by reading the Master of Terror.
This is the first entry on a series of entries about reading the library of Stephen King from beginning until the most current. It may take some time. But I am excited.
One Thing no one tells you about Carrie.
It is a vastly different novel than the film.
I love the film. However, I loved it even more before I read the book this year.
I waited a very long time to read the book. Precisely because I didn’t want to hate the movie.
Hating the movie is not the right word. The movie is great. Those performances, those killer moments of horror.
Nevertheless, the film and the book are so different as to be two entirely different visions.
I can’t tell you which one I liked better.
The book, however, is more complexitively (I think I just made up a word) honest to a reality about high school that is existent. Kids are cruel, because High School is the first place where we get a sense of competition. And like primates, when we win, we like to shun the loser. Carrie in the book is a loser, of the gene pool, of the social pool, the only thing she is a winner on is the one thing we cannot see. Her telikenetic ability.
However, In the film, Carrie is not a loser of many of those pools. why would anyone hate Carrie? She was beautiful.
I always assumed there was a sort of virginal jealousy; much as if the women of Bethlehem may have been jealous of Mary when they found out some Angel diddle her in a field. I always assumed those bitches in that high school were jealous bitches, and I don’t think that was the way at all.
Stephen Kings shows us a Carrie that was a veteran of a war before we know the most basics about her.
“Yet there had been all these years, all these years of let's short-sheet Carrie's bed at Christian Youth Camp and I found this love letter from Carrie to Flash Bobby Pickett let's copy it and pass it around and hide her underpants somewhere and put this snake in her shoe and duck her again, duck her again; Carrie tagging along stubbornly on biking trips, known one year as pudd'n and the next year as truck-face, always smelling sweaty, not able to catch up; catching poison ivy from urinating in the bushes and everyone finding out (hey, scratch-ass, your bum itch?); Billy Preston putting peanut butter in her hair that time she fell asleep in study hall; the pinches, the legs outstretched in school aisles to trip her up, the books knocked from her desk, the obscene postcard tucked into her purse; Carrie on the church picnic and kneeling down clumsily to pray and the seam of her old madras skirt splitting along the zipper like the sound of a huge wind-breakage; Carrie always missing the ball, even in kickball, falling on her face in Modern Dance during their sophomore year and chipping a tooth, running into the net during volley-ball; wearing stockings that were always run, running, or about to run, always showing sweat stains under the arms of her blouses; even the time Chris Hargensen called up after school from the Kelly Fruit Company downtown and asked her if she knew that pig poop was spelled C-A-R-R-I-E: Suddenly all this and the critical mass was reached. The ultimate shit-on, grossout, put-down, long searched for, was found. Fission.”
In the book, they are not bitches, they are evil, beauty is evil, but also, the way King describes Carrie, is brutal. Carrie was on the outside the way I felt on the inside as a gay kid growing up in Newark, NJ.
Another thing I loved about the novel was how the events were not contained, what happened in the town was a national panic.
A couple of rolled over in my mind as I read.
Now onto the personal reaction. This book made me angry. The two big jokes I heard at my high school graduation were, “Monty, are you going to roll down the aisle,” or “Monts, are you gonna wear a bra at graduation?” Those were the last few days of four years of absolute hell.
While the film throws us headlong into unavailable horror. This book points out to a hundred thousand moments where everything could have gone in a different direction.
I also loved the sections of The Shadow Exploded that go into Margaret White’s life story. A little novelette within a novel, which in the age of the Conjuring would make an incredible prequel. It is full of wonderful terrors to explore.
Of all the characters in the novel, I loved Tommy’s humanity most. He seemed to be the one that understood the monstrosity in Carrie, in himself and in others.
There is a scene in the novel, that is stunning in its ability to just get down to how we feel as kids, growing up in a violent world unwatched, and where our Parents think we are perfectly safe.
““Yeah.” He rubbed his nose reminiscently and his cheek gave a small tic, the way it had when he made his confession about getting the rubber wrong the first time. “The kid's name was Danny Patrick. He beat the living shit out of me once when we were in the sixth grade. I hated him, but I was scared, too. I was laying for him. You know how that is?”
She didn't, but nodded anyway. “Anyway, he finally picked on the wrong kid a year or so later. Pete Taber. He was just a little guy, but he had lots of muscle. Danny got on him about something, I don't know, marbles or something, and finally Peter just rose up righteous and beat the shit out of him. That was on the playground of the old Kennedy
Junior High. Danny fell down and hit his head and went out cold. Everybody ran. We thought he might be dead. I ran away too, but first I gave him a good kick in the ribs. Felt really bad about it afterward. You going to apologize to her?” It caught Sue flat-footed and all she could do was clinch weakly: “Did you?” “Huh? Hell no! I had better things to do than spend my time in traction. But there's a big difference, Susie.”
“It's not seventh grade any more. And I had some kind of reason, even if it was a piss-poor reason. What did that sad, silly bitch ever do to you?”
There is a moment in that passage that truly got to me. A moment, when I imagined that Peter was doing much worse to Tommy, that this bully was sexually assaulting him. It was King’s choice of word, laying, and the way Tommy just glances over it. That kick in the ribs, it just felt like too little for what, obviously sat on the page as humongous.
In addition, I think this is what Stephen King does that the films do not. We all have this part of us, which we see as too ugly to look at, it is those parts, and the ones we contemplate in the darkness that turn us so evil towards those who are different from us.
I have no way of knowing if this is what Mr. King meant, but, isn’t what we read meant to be interpreted by who we are, what we’ve become because of the things that have happened to us.
“They finally even made a movie about it. I saw it last April. When I came out, I was sick. Whenever anything important happens in America, they have to gold-plate it, like baby shoes. That way you can forget it. And forgetting Carrie White may be a bigger mistake than anyone realizes…”
Hollywood does much of the same, they don’t revisit a property once they have processed it, what they do is revisit the processed product, “the original film” and based any retellings from there.
That would be a mistake; there is an actual actor out there, which could be the Carrie presented in the book.
I hope she gets a chance to play the role.
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