Tuesday, December 6, 2016

It's Fragile, Beauty: "Revival" Revisited, Part 1

Recently, I've been feeling the urge to get back in the swing of things when it comes to King-reading.  I've been slacking (for reasons discussed here) in that regard for the better part of 2016; actually, going back well into 2015.  This drought has gotten so bad that I've still not read his newest novel, End of Watch, which came out nearly six months ago.  Never have I waited this long to read a new King novel!  The itch to do so is finally getting pretty insistent, though, and I'm determined to scratch it before much longer...
...but a voice in the back of my head has been telling me that before I did that, I needed to revisit Revival.  I never felt like I'd given that novel a fair shake when it came out in 2014, and I've been promising myself ever since that I would return to it sooner rather than later.  I guess the boat sailed long ago in that regard, but still, there was that mental voice; and it was fairly insistent.  If this blogging that I do is art of any kind -- and I believe that it is (albeit very self-centered art that is important only to myself) -- then I suppose that was the voice of my muse.
I try to listen to her when she calls, so a few weeks ago, I sat down in my old, smelly blue armchair, grabbed my for-note-taking copy of Revival off the shelf, and got to work.
I'll go ahead and render my verdict now: I did indeed fall in love with this novel on the second read.  And yet, I had all the same complaints that I had the first time around.  The difference?  Expectations.  We'll talk more about that later; for now, let's say that, with a reread under my belt, I find that I love Revival for the things it does well.  It does them so well that my caveats became relatively unimportant.
Looking over my notes, I think the way to proceed is to tackle my reappraisal in three separate posts: the first covering the aspects of the novel that I love; the second covering the aspects which still don't entirely work for me; and the third covering everything I want to discuss which doesn't fit neatly into the first two.  All of these are going to contain spoilers, not merely for this novel but potentially for other King novels as well; they will be written assuming a familiarity with King's work in the broad sense.
Still not a fan of this cover.

If you've got an urge to read what I thought about the book upon its initial release, then here's a link.  I noted there that I loved the novel for roughly the first 370 pages or so, and I would say that that mostly held true this time, too.

What worked for me about it most was the way King explores the concepts of memory and loss.  Revival is one of the relatively few novels in his canon written from a first-person point of view; others include 11/22/63, Duma Key, Joyland, and The Green Mile, as well as the short novels Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption and The Body.  In other words, when he takes the safety off that particular weapon, he tends to have significant success in firing it.
One of his evident goals in Revival is to explore the way memory enables/curses us to live lives in multiple points of time.  Not in the literal, Doctor Manhattan sense of things; this isn't that kind of story.  No, King is interested in exploring the very human, very mundane, and very powerful way in which we can be surprised by memory.  Memory is a constant companion who lives in the same mental house with our conscious thoughts, but whom we are still sometimes surprised to see already at the breakfast table when we stagger downstairs to pour our bowl of Peanut Butter Captain Crunch.  Other times, we're expecting it to show up for dinner, and we have to put its plate in the oven and go to bed angry.  My point is, it's an inconstantly constant companion.

King uses the power of prose to evoke our relationship with that mental process which, so far as we know, is purely a human attribute.

I've got a mediocre memory, personally, maybe one which even leans toward poor.  I can never quite recall things as clearly as I wish to; I can never retain information quite as precisely as I'd like.  My reading retention is so shabby compared to what it once was that for all practical purposes, I may as well not even be the same person I was at age 14, or 17, or 21. 
I don't see this wholly as a negative.  Applied to my blogging interests, for example, it means that for a lot of King books and stories, a reread is a process of genuine rediscovery.  I'm planning to reread all of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels for one of my other blogs at some point, and while I've read those books a minimum of two or three times each, I don't remember them especially well; so I'm kind of stoked to revisit them.  I wouldn't want to have an outright poor memory, but having a kind of poor one?  Not the worst thing.
I remembered certain things about Revival; but in an incomplete way that allowed the novel to work on me almost -- not quite, but almost -- as a new thing.  I dig that.  That's a good middle ground.

I also find it to be satisfying -- in a sometimes-melancholy sort of way -- to be surprised by memories of actual life.  I have memories almost as flashes sometimes; I assume we all do.  I'll be driving or walking or whatever, and then BAM, I get hit with some nansecond's worth of memory that goes by so fast that I have only a guess as to what it is or when the real event it represents occurred.  It's almost like a memory of a color, or a smell, but not that at all, actually; more like a brief but extremely powerful memory of what it was like to be in a specific place at a specific time, but without sufficient specifics to actually be able to know what the place or time are.  Were?

These are nice moments.  A little frustrating, in some ways; but the feeling I've always associated with them is that it's probably the closest thing to time travel I'm likely to ever experience.  It almost feels as if, for a nanosecond, I swapped bodies with some younger version of myself.  This is by no means the only kind of surprise memory I experience; it's actually kind of rare, and I'm much more likely to have the kind that's more of the "oh yeah, I remember hearing 'Here Comes the Rain' by The Eurythmics one day in school and trying to impress a girl by staying on beat during that part where the music drops all the way out for a bit" variety.  (Actual memory.  And, by God, it worked!)

I'm into those kind, too.  I've speculated at times that my love of blogging is an attempt to capture some of those memories in a form of amber, so that they stick there eternally.  Will I be capturing things anyone cares about except me?  Will anyone ever find those bits of amber?  If they do, will they even recognize them for what they are?  Good questions all, and I assume the answer to each is "no."  That's okay; capturing the thoughts is probably sufficient in and of itself.  On a quantum level, having them is probably sufficient; bringing them into actual existence, even of such a tenuous and ephemeral variety as blogging, is a step beyond that.  In my case, probably not much of a step; but I'm content with the fact that whatever it lacks in profundity, it makes up for in honesty.

Alan Moore -- perhaps my favorite writer not named "Stephen King" -- would say (and has) that when it's performed well, an act like that is magic.  Please note that I make no claims to being a magician, of either the literal or metaphorical variety.

Stephen King, on the other hand, is the real deal.  I found some genuine magic in this reread of Revival, which contains moments that themselves conjure a form of time travel, very nearly in a literal sense.

I want to give you one specific example of that spell cast by King in this novel.  It's by no means the only such moment in the book, but it's one of the moments which struck me most forcefully.  It comes in Chapter X.  Jamie receives a letter from Charlie Jacobs, which itself contains a letter from another person that had been sent to Jacobs; he is passing this communication on to Jamie.  Jacobs, as you may recall, had spent a period of years as a faith healer, one who gained quite a bit of notoriety.  He's retired and gone into seclusion at this point in the novel, but he still receives occasional correspondence from people who manage to track him down.  It is one of these bits of correspondence which Jacobs has forwarded to Jamie: a letter, pleading with the former Pastor to help with an advanced case of lung cancer.  The sender realizes that this is the equivalent of flinging a message in a bottle into the ocean; but it is her last hope.

The letter turns out to be from Astrid Soderberg, Jamie's long-ago girlfriend who inhabited so much of the novel's fourth chapter.  "Astrid again, after all these years," Jamie tells us in his capacity as narrator.  "I closed my eyes and saw her standing beneath the fire escape, her face young and beautiful, framed in the hood of her parka."  We've already been privy to this moment as it happened (or, at least, as it happened within Jamie's narration of the story to us), back on page 113, when he talks about playing a gig with his first band:

We played the Grange on New Year's Eve.  It was snowing.  Astrid was there.  She was wearing a parka with a fur-lined hood.  I led her under the fire escape and kissed her.  She was wearing lipstick that tasted like strawberries.

This sort of dalliance recurs frequently between the two of them, as Astrid begins coming to all of the band's shows.

Astrid and I spent most of the breaks kissing, and I began to taste cigarettes on her breath.  I didn't mind.  When she saw that (girls have a way of knowing), she started to smoke around me, and a couple of times she'd blow a little into my mouth while we were kissing.  It gave me a hard-on I could have broken concrete with.

Decades later, in Chapter X, Jamie finds himself profoundly shaken by both Astrid's letter and by Charlie's selfish and manipulative use of it to further his own agenda.

I sat on the stairs for two minutes, taking deep breaths and willing my heart to slow.  I kept thinking of her hips tilted against mine, my cock throbbing and as hard as a length of rebar, one of her hands caressing the nape of my neck as she blew cigarette smoke into my mouth.

Because King has already shared this memory with us several hundred pages earlier, a magical thing happens in this moment: this is not merely a memory for Jamie, it is a memory for us.  It is a memory of a thing that never happened, and certainly did not happen to us; but, despite its nonexistence as a literal event, it is an event that occurred within the realm of our imagination.  It is merely a memory of something we read, but as a memory of that variety, it is a memory as real as any other.
In this series of moments, the past is an active force that is literally exerting its influence upon Jamie's present and future.  Given that we are experiencing these moments via Jamie, King has performed upon us a representative version of a thing that cannot happen in any literal sense: he has taken time, folded it, and wrapped it around us as a means of placing us in multiple moments simultaneously.
By no means is he the first author to do such a thing, and this isn't even the first time in his career he's done it; but I couldn't help but swoon a bit with Jamie when King reveals that that young woman with a smoky mouth and an aptitude for erecting erections is now a bald old woman on the verge of having a lung cut out of her body.  Not a good sort of swoon, either; the type created by sudden and willful disbelief, the type that begs a question of the "how can she not still be wearing that parka and standing underneath a fire escape" variety; the type that insists that memory IS reality, and rejects evidence to the contrary.

This is the power of memory; you don't realize it until it makes itself known to you, at which time it's apt to hit you so forcefully that the actual truth you see before your eyes seems like the crudest lie.  In a moment of that sort, how can you claim NOT to be traveling through time?

Even before the moment under that fire escape, King had deployed another sort of magic trick involving Astrid.  In that video I linked to above, Alan Moore discusses the idea that the word "grimmoire" is simply an antiquated spelling for the word "grammar," and that "casting a spell" means, literally, "to spell," as in to write a word.  Used precisely, spelling a word (or series of words -- and I'm now following Moore's train of thought rather than paraphrasing him) can have a powerful impact, one that could reverberate for years to come and therefore be impactful in a literal way that is just as powerful as any Hogwartsian form of magic.  Moreso, even, because it actually exists.

Witness Jamie Morton's actions on page 96, actions taken in the wake of Astrid, a stranger to him at this early point in the story, having moved into town:

She had silky blond hair, cornflower-blue eyes, and little sweater-nubbins that might in the future be actual breasts.  During the first years we were in school together, I don't think I ever crossed her mind -- unless she wanted to copy my homework, that was.  I, on the other hand, thought of her constantly.  I had an idea that if she allowed me to touch her hair, I might have a heart attack.  One day I got the Webster's dictionary from the reference shelf, took it back to my desk, and carefully printed ASTRID across the definition of kiss, with my heart thumping and my skin prickling.

In this moment, King has turned young Jamie into a sort of would-be wizard, unwittingly casting a love spell(ing) of his beloved's name by literally merging it with the word symbolizing the act he wants to perform with her.
I'd say a few additional things that neither King nor Jamie mentions, but which seem logical and likely to me.  Jamie has cast this spell in a quasi-public way by using a school dictionary; anyone in school might see that name written there, merged with such a tantalizing word as "kiss"; anyone thus seeing it might then forever associate the name "Astrid" -- and, indeed, this specific person bearing that name -- with the word "kiss."  Will that magic spell bear fruit in any way?  Will it work upon anyone?  King does not tell us.

Except ... in a way, he does, because we have enough information to make a supposition: that the magic spell worked upon Jamie himself.  By printing her name in a book in that way, Jamie has crystallized his feelings about her; he has literalized them, in a quasi-private sort of way, but one that he will know even if nobody else ever does.  How many of us have done similar things, in our own younger years (or even our older ones)?  I could tell you a story about Young Bryant, sitting down one day in the fourth grade to write the tritest love note one can possibly imagine.  Intended for a girl whose name I can no longer remember, it consisted of a statement, a question, and a choice:

  • "I like you."
  • "Do you like me?"
  • three lines, each with a selectable square box drawn to the left of it -- "yes," "no," "maybe"

I'm not inclined to relate the rest of that story.  What I'll hint at is this: the note was intercepted by the wrong person, and there were unfortunate repercussions to that interception for Young Bryant.  Despite the suffering that accompanied those repercussions, he was, essentially, resolved; he managed to recover it and to then deliver it (via an agent recruited to perform the task for him) to the correct recipient.  He had occasion to wish he hadn't; just as there had been with the interception, there were severe repercussions to the delivery.
If Old Bryant's sudden use of third-person suggests a significant degree of discomfort with these memories, it is with good reason.  Young Bryant was never the same after this, the great Love Note Incident of 1983.  Never.  The dark magic of those trite words was a boulder dropped into a lake, and the ripples that exploded outward from the point of impact have never stopped spreading.  Like Jamie Morton, Young Bryant was unwittingly casting a spell; and in his case, it worked.

It just turned out to be a different sort of magic than what he'd bargained for.

I bring this lachrymose business up reluctantly, but I felt the indulgence was worthwhile, because I believe it proves -- if only to me -- that Moore's assertion about words and magic being one and the same is a stone-cold fact.  This is a theme that perhaps exists even more powerfully in King's fiction than I've already put forth.  I'd refer you to the King quotation from which this blog draws its title: "Fiction," writes King in the dedication page to It, "is the truth inside the lie, and the truth of this fiction is simple enough: the magic exists."  Flash forward from 1983 to 1992: given an opportunity to leave some parting words as a printed quote in the Senior Index section of our senior high-school yearbook (where one's clubs and whatnot are mentioned), I quoted this idea of King's.  I don't know that I even had a handle on what it meant; I just liked the ring of it, and innately sensed it to be true.

Thought #1: presumably the Central High seniors of yesteryear don't mind me sharing this.  Thought #2: it amuses me that my only activity or club of note was "football," and that that word is what follows my deep and meaningful quotation, almost as if it's THE truth inside the lie.

King had cast a spell upon me with those words.

Not just with those words; with plenty of others, too, perhaps none of them more effective than the opening sentence of The Gunslinger: "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."  Related to that, let's jump back to Chapter X of Revival.  Jamie has phoned Jacobs and agreed to come to Motton to see him and Astrid.  "Life is a wheel," Jamie tells us, "and it always comes back around to where it started."

Readers of the Dark Tower saga are likely to recognize this thought of Jamie's: it is a paraphrasing of a line from The Waste Lands, the third book in the Tower series.  In the first section of Chapter VI, Roland finds himself observing Susannah (who is in the process of solving a riddle cast upon her by Blaine the Mono) and reflecting:

To Roland's eye, she had never looked more beautiful . . . or more alone.  She had been on his shoulders when they stood at the edge of the clearing and watched the bear trying to claw Eddie out of the tree, and Roland had not seen her expression when he told her she must be the one to shoot it.  But he knew what that expression had been, for he was seeing it now.  Ka was a wheel, its one purpose to turn, and in the end it always came back to the place where it had started.  So it had ever been and so it was now; Susannah was once again facing the bear, and her face said she knew it.

There is some language in that passage that bears even more weight within the context of the overall Dark Tower series; the reference to the two of them being at the edge of a clearing is loaded, for example.  But the notion of ka being a wheel is like a black hole formed of condensed meaning, given how the final novel ends.  Utterly inescapable ... and for it to pop up in altered form as the rueful observation of a different man here in Revival deepens the suggestion even further.  So does the fact that another statement of the idea also appeared as the final lines of the uncut version of The Stand:
"Life was such a wheel that no man could stand upon it for long," writes King.  "And it always, at the end, came round to the same place again."

It's intriguing that King uses the idea differently in Revival than he does in either The Stand or The Waste Lands.  In those novels, there is a degree of supernatural/science-fictional meaning attached to the notion of the wheel; plenty of supernatural content exists in Revival, but King's consideration of the circular nature of things mostly has non-supernatural meaning.  Jamie thinks this thought because something -- perhaps fate, perhaps coincidence -- has brought two figures from his past (Charlie and Astrid) into his present, and there is nothing inherently supernatural about it.  Yeah, sure, Jacobs uses his "secret electricity" as part of the plan to make this happen, but that's inconsequential in terms of how it impacts Jamie in this particular scene: he hasn't been summoned by supernatural means, but by the very natural act of Jacobs having written him a letter.  Supernatural?  No.
Magical?  Yes.
Jacobs has cast a spell upon Jamie by putting Jamie's memories to his own use.  Anyone possessed of a sufficient amount of knowledge could perform exactly the same act; the supernatural is irrelevant in this particular case, but it certainly qualifies as magic if we accept the Mooreian definition of the word.

For my money, most of Revival's best moments are similarly unshackled from the supernatural.  I've had occasion in the past to feel that King sometimes imposes the supernatural upon a story that really wants only to be a straightforward character drama: witness Cujo.  I'd make a similar claim about The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, and maybe about both Lisey's Story and Rose Madder, too.  I wouldn't go quite so far with Revival, partially because I think the supernatural elements work better here than in any of those novels; but also because the "straightforward" stuff is frequently so effective that it overpowers whatever ill effects are suffered from the supernatural material.

But, as I said earlier, we're going to devote a separate post to those elements.  For now, let's continue to look at some of the novel's highpoints, a few of which I would refer to not merely as highpoints of this novel, but as highpoints within King's entire career.
Take, for example, the tale of the sad fate of Patsy and Morrie Jacobs.  These, of course, are young Charlie's wife and son, and we are introduced to them in a way designed to make us fall in love with them.  Does it work?  That's for each reader to determine individually; it worked on me, though, for sure.

We get our first proper description of them in Chapter II, where King/Jamie tells us that "Patsy Jacobs was beautiful..  Her hair was blond, her complexion creamy, her lips full.  Her slightly uptilted eyes were green, and Connie claimed she had witchly powers, because every time she happened to shift those green eyes his way, his knees turned to water.  With those kind of looks, there would have been talk if she had worn more makeup than a decorous blush of lipstick, but at twenty-three, that was all she needed.  Youth was her beauty."  Jamie continues:

     She wore perfectly proper knee- or shin-length dresses on Sundays, even though those were the years when ladies' hemlines started their climb.  On MYF Thursday nights, she wore perfectly proper slacks and blouses (Ship 'n Shore, according to my mother).  But the moms and grandmoms in the congregation watched her closely just the same, because the figure those perfectly proper clothes set off was the kind that made my brothers' friends sometimes roll their eyes or shake a hand the way you do after touching a stove burner someone forgot to turn off.  She played softball on Girls' Nights, and I once overheard my brother Andy -- who would have been going on fourteen at the time, I think -- say that watching her run the bases was a religious experience in itself.
     She was able to play the piano on Thursday nights and participate in most of the other MYF activities because she could bring their little boy along.  He was a biddable, easy child.  Everyone liked Morrie.  To the best of my recollection even Billy Paquette, that young atheist in the making, like Morrie, who hardly ever cried.  Even when he fell down and skinned his knees, the worst he was liable to was sniffle, and even that would stop if one of the bigger girls picked him up and cuddled him.  When we went outside to play games, he followed the boys everywhere he could, and when he was unable to keep up with them, he followed the girls, who also minded him during Bible Study or swung him around the the beat during Sing Time -- hence the nickname Tag-Along-Morrie.
     Claire was particularly fond of him, and I have a clear memory -- which I know must be made up of many overlaid memories -- of them in the corner where the toys were, Morrie in his little chair, Claire on her knees beside him, helping him to color or to construct a domino snake.  "I want four just like him when I get married," Claire told my mother once.

About twenty pages later, King begins Chapter III with a story about Patsy and Morrie.  "On a warm and cloudless midweek day in October of 1965, Patricia Jacobs popped Tag-Along-Morrie into the front seat of the Plymouth Belvedere that had been a wedding present from her parents and set out for the Red & White Market in Gates Falls," the opening to the chapter reads.  In the very next paragraph, Jamie tells us that three miles away, an epileptic farmer named "Lonesome George" Barton was pulling out of his driveway in his pickup truck.

You don't have to be a genius to feel what King is laying down here: something awful is about to happen.

I'd never want to assume that everyone who reads Revival is a dedicated reader of Stephen King's books.  It'd be a reasonable assumption to make, but something tells me it might also be a fallacious one.  So I don't know if those who can't call themselves Constant Readers would be in tune with the mood he's creating on these pages of Revival, but I think most longtime King readers would be.  We've read Cujo and Pet Sematary and Duma Key and "1922" and Apt Pupil.  We know that King has darkness in him, and that once in a while, he seems to need to unleash it in a way that hurts.

Even so, what comes next in Revival turns the darkness-dial up to 11.

Not long after Patsy and Morrie set out for the Red & White, Mrs. Adele Parker came down Sirois Hill, a tight and treacherous curve where there had been many wrecks over the years.  She was creeping along, and so had time to stop -- barely -- before striking the woman staggering and weaving up the middle of the highway.  The woman had a dripping bundle clasped to her breast with one arm.  One arm was all Patsy Jacobs could use, because the other had been torn off at the elbow.  Blood was pouring down her face.  A piece of her scalp hung beside her shoulder, bloody locks of hair blowing in the mild autumn breeze.  Her right eye was on her cheek.  All her beauty had been torn away in an instant.  It's fragile, beauty.

Those last two sentences give me chills; literal chills, man.  As I typed them just now, a shiver ran through me.  But King isn't finished.

"Help my baby!"  Patsy held the bundle out, and when Adele Parker saw what it was -- not a baby but a little boy with his face torn off -- she covered her eyes and began to scream.  When she looked again, Patsy had gone to her knees, as if to pray.

King then does an interesting thing: he reveals that the story about Patsy and Morrie is, nesting-doll-fashion, part of another story.  Jamie mentions that we are probably wondering how he could know all of this about what happened to Patsy and Morrie, since he was only nine at the time.  He explains that he was told the story by his mother, who in turn had been told by Adele Parker herself.  Okay, as an explanation that works just fine for me.  But does it really matter?

Well, yes, of course it does.  It matters very much to Jamie, because of the circumstances under which he got the story from his mother.  It was the result of her being hopped up on pain medication while she was dying of cancer, later, in 1976.  Jamie is distressed by the memory of those days; he tells us about his mother wearing "a hideously gay pink nightgown that seemed to have nothing inside it," which is surely one of the grimmest descriptions in all his books, even coming as it does mere paragraphs after we find out how fragile Patsy's beauty truly was.  As a horror writer, King has been confronting ideas about death his entire career, mostly at a remove that is comfortable for both himself and for his readers; but lurking behind that facade -- the truth inside the lie, one might say -- is the recognition that that remove is a temporary one.  In life, you don't get to fight death by figuring out how to slay the monster in the sewers; in life, you get a husk of a woman leaving too much empty space inside her nightgown.

It gets worse, if you can believe that.  Jamie remembers talking with his sister, Claire, who "was closing in on thirty by then, and was more beautiful than ever.  Because she was finally in love?  If so, what a bitter irony."  That bit about "bitter irony" might fly undetected beneath your radar.  Even on a reread, it flew under mine; it was only in re-examining this scene for note-taking purposes that it occurred to me what Jamie was referring to: Claire's eventual murder by her husband.

Consider what is actually going on in this scene: Jamie is giving us his memories of being in his parents' house while his mother is dying, hearing from her drug-addled lips details of the bleak fate of a young woman and child who were well-loved by everyone who knew them.  The fact that King is presenting all of this to us as memories wrapped within memories makes it incredibly vital.  The reason I see it that way is that it seems utterly inescapable; it's already happened to the people to whom it happened.  Patsy and Morrie were never alive during this novel; neither was Jamie's mother, nor Claire.  All dead, all now completely removed from existence except for their existence within the memories of those who remember them.  If you want Tad Trenton to be alive again, you can simply turn the first page of Cujo, begin reading it again, and hope for a different outcome; you won't receive it, but you can hope, and after all, while you are reading about him, he seems alive.

In rereading Revival you will find that the characters I named a few sentences ago never feel alive; not really.  Jamie's memories of them feel vital; but this is not the same thing, is it?

Never has death felt like more of an inevitability in King's work than it does in Revival.  Jamie will eventually remember his mother telling him about Charlie screaming "Where's my little boy's face?" after seeing Morrie's body at the funeral home.  I don't think there is anything more horrific -- more terrible, more affecting -- than that in all of King's fiction.  This feels as real as fiction can feel, to me.  And I think much of the credit for that lies with the perspective King is using: that of an old, broken man looking backward.

For my money, all of this is effective enough that as the novel continues to progress, all of the stuff about "secret electricity" and whatnot seemed like icing that had been put on the wrong cake.  I think that what King was really interested in with Revival was Jamie and his reflective nature, and the types of things he was apt to remember.  King here has done something he has perhaps never done before: created realistic drama that utterly overpowers the supernatural trappings which accompany it.  This is not to say that the supernatural material is without merit; it isn't, and we'll focus on that in the next post in this series.  However, I do think it is very much secondary to the more realistic aspects of the novel.

It's those aspects which I responded to during this reread, and for me, they are very strong indeed; so strong that they almost stand apart from everything else, and create a sort of duality in my opinion of the novel.  If I can be affected by its good qualities  as much as I have been, then does it really matter that some aspects of the monster-movie stuff don't work for me?  From a critical and would-be objective standpoint, yes, it does.  From an enjoyment-of-reading standpoint?  Not much, if at all; there's just too much of the good.

Before we wrap this ramble up, let's briefly consider some of the novel's other highpoints:

  • The story of Conrad losing his voice for months before finally being healed by Charles Jacobs is terrific.  All told, it runs about the length of a moderately-sized short story; it could have been a novella, and I'd have been happy to keep on reading it.
  • After the funeral for Patsy and Morrie (to which we are not privy, because Jamie was not allowed to attend), Claire begins crying while telling Jamie about it.  Jamie realizes Con isn't there.  "I saw him out in the backyard, standing by the elm from which our tire swing hung," Jamie tells us.  "He was leaning his head against the bark with his hands clasping the tree and his shoulders shaking."  Prose is a powerful tool because it gives us perspective, and allows us to obtain an insider's knowledge of things to which we normally must remain outsiders.  Here, King has purposefully kept us outside of Con's experience; but in doing so, he's powerfully given us an insider's access to what it was like for Jamie to be outside Con's experience.  A small moment, but an extremely effective one.
  • MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship) is canceled on a more or less permanent basis after the deaths.  Jamie says that certain aspects of it would be terrible to face: for example, Toy Corner, so greatly associated with little Morrie.  "And who would play the piano for Sing Time?" he wonders; this had been Patsy's primary contribution, and we'd learned earlier about how she would sometimes mix in songs by The Beatles to liven things up.  She was a good enough piano player that the church deacons approved the purchase of a piano tuner to help keep it pitch-perfect for her performances.  No replacing that type of presence; a mere substitute wouldn't do.  "I suppose someone in town could have done it, but Charles Jacobs was in no condition to ask, and it wouldn't have been the same, anyway, without Patsy's blond hair shifting from side to side as she swung the upbeat hymns," Jamie continues.  Then comes the gut punch: "Her blond hair was underground now, growing brittle on a satin pillow in the dark."  That's a strong contender for Best King Sentence Ever (and no, I'm never writing that post, unless I do, in which case I will).
  • Jacobs's so-called Terrible Sermon runs about nine pages.  There is some marvelously uncomfortable stuff in it, and I can easily imagine readers of faith tossing the novel across the room somewhere about halfway through it.  Some others of us, though, might have a different experience, one not unlike Jamie's.  He experiences "a wild, inchoate exultation, a feeling that at last someone was telling me the exact unvarnished truth.  Part of me hoped he would stop; most of me wished fiercely that he would go on, and I got my wish."  I never sat though a Terrible Sermon, but I did sit through a sermon in which the preacher railed briefly against (I paraphrase) "black boys' love of tennis shoes being greater than their love for the Lord," and what a shame that was.  After the sermon, I overheard a congregant say that he'd loved the part of the sermon about the "nigger boys."  I'd been taught that (A) you never referred to black people by using that word and (B) that you only said things in church you wanted the Lord to hear.  This incident stuck in my mind for days; and eventually, it led me to the same sort of realization about religion that Jamie ultimately has.  It's not quite a Peter-Parker-was-bit-by-a-radioactive-spider moment of origin, but it'd be in that issue of Bryant Loses His Faith somewhere, for sure.
  • Virtually all of the music-related content works for me.  I'm going to defer discussion of that for the third post in this series, though.
  • "The thing I find most charming about the movies is the fluid way time passes," Jamie tells us early in Chapter V.  "You might start off with this nerdy teenager -- no friends, no money, lousy parents -- and all at once he turns into Brad Pitt in his prime.  The only thing separating the nerd from the god is a title card that says 14 YEARS LATER."  Jamie goes on to tell us that his mother's response to ideas like this was to say, "It's wicked to wish time away."  Given the content of much of this post, I'm inclined to agree with her; but Jamie feels that in some circumstances, maybe it's not so wicked.  For example, if one found oneself a drug addict with no ability to shake the habit.  "Now here comes the dissolve," Jamie says after a paragraph about a band he played in during college; there's a page break, and he picks up the narrative again: "Fourteen years later, Jamie Morton woke up in Tulsa."  King, no novice, knows that while movies might be well-suited to work magic with time, prose can do it, too; he's certainly done it here, and even he even told his audience exactly how he was going to achieve the trick before doing so.  Genius.
  • I was struck by an observation in Chapter VIII: "I think most people who have suffered great losses in their lives -- great tragedies -- come to a crossroads," Jamie opines.  "Maybe not right then, but when the shock wears off.  It may be months later; it may be years.  They either expand as a result of their experience, or they contract."  Charles Jacobs, he tells us, had contracted.  He does not mention which way he himself went; my feeling is that Jamie, too, contracted.
  • In Chapter IX, we find out that Jamie had a casual sexual relationship with the daughter of one of his associates.  He admits up front that some people might find that distasteful, and I'm sure that's so.  My theory as a middle-aged man is that if you have the opportunity to take part in a series of such dalliances, you'd be crazy not to.  But King's focus ends up not being prurient; it's another aspect of the reflectively melancholic content inherent in Jamie's narrative.  He soon tells us about his relationship with Bree coming to a natural and amicable end, and relates to us an observation he had at that time: "I thought there would be no more lively young women for me, and on that score I have been proven absolutely correct."  I suppose that time comes for all who delight in lively young women, doesn't it?  Also for those who delight in lively young men, one supposes.  Jamie is aware that the clock on his youth has long since run down; King allows us to be there with him as his remembers it shall never be wound again.
  • In Chapter X, Jamie visits his brother Terry at the home where they grew up.  "For a moment," Jamie tells us about walking in to find his extended family gathered around the dinner table, "I felt as if I had flipped back in time to the years when I could tell my age with a single number."  I suppose I could be a grump and say that 70 is a single number; but I know what he means.  This section is great; not much supernatural in sight, just family interactions and melancholic reminiscences.  I especially like Jamie's unexpected bond with his great-grandniece, whom Jamie says "looked back at me with what I could have sworn were my mother's eyes."  What need is there for extra-dimensional monsters when you've got riches that like going for your story?
  • "We walked across the dooryard, listening to the crickets sing in the high grass," Jamie says in Chapter X.  "They always sing the loudest in late August and early September, as if they know summer is ending."  If they do, they have more awareness than most people, who never seem to know when summer is ending.

Ultimately, I think a big part of what makes this novel work for me is that it's deeply concerned with memory; which, as you may have noticed, is a thing that is of importance to me, also.  In Chapter II, Jamie says that "writing is a wonderful and terrible thing" that "opens deep wells of memory that were previously capped."  Reading can be that, too, and (as I've written about before) there is no doubt in my mind that my love of King's work is driven in part by the memories prompted by rereading his work.  It doesn't even have to be reading; sometimes, just seeing the cover of the novel is enough, as is the case with It.  That green claw poking out of the sewer reminds me (as you will find mentioned in that post I just linked to) of sitting outside on the curb in front of our house, reading the novel; this led to us adopting a kitten that wandered up to me, so when I see that cover, I'm usually transported for a split-second right back to that curb, to the moment when I look up from reading and see little black Phoenix sitting on the other side of the road, eyeing me speculatively.  She'd be in my family for over twenty years from that point, and when I see the cover to It, she still is, if only for a nanosecond.

Sweet though she was, she was never really a lap cat; but in 2001, I obtained a lap cat: Duncan Idaho is his name, and our bond began to solidify partly due to him occupying my lap in my then-apartment while I read Black House.  Not a single King book has come out since that didn't procure some significant lap time for Duncan Idaho, the prototypical Constant Reading Companion.  That streak will end one of these days, I guess; but two decades' (or more) worth of Stephen King novels have his furry warmth baked into them for me.

If you followed that link above, you visited a piece that I wrote about -- ostensibly -- The Waste Lands.  It was really a vehicle for discussing my memories of reading that novel for the first time over Christmas break in 1991, while visiting my mater-paternal grandparents' house.  (My Dad's parents got divorced before I was born, and both remarried; so I grew up with three sets of grandparents.  This is a very fine way to experience childhood, but it does create occasional problems for a blogger in terms of how to refer to them in a distinct manner.  I have no idea if "mater-paternal" is the correct way or referring to one's father's mother, but that's how I'm using it here.)  Remember earlier, when I mentioned my own version of the Terrible Sermon?  Well, that occurred at the church my grandparents attended, on this same trip.  So I sometimes think of that when I think about The Waste Lands.  And I sometimes think of The Waste Lands when I think about my personal thoughts on either racism or religion.  ("All that shit starts with E," Jamie Morton might say; a misuse of the saying, but with the correct underpinning philosophy.)

Returning to It, I also connect that cover to my pater-paternal grandparents' lakehouse (not as fancy a thing as it sounds).  My parents and brother and I would go stay with my grandparents there sometimes on weekends, and I'd always take a book or seven with me.  I remember I spent one trip almost wholly engrossed in a reread of It.  The connection to my grandfather is deepened by the fact that I got in the habit of reading on the curb in front of our house because of him: when he was visiting us, I liked to sit there so I would know when he arrived.  So in a way, my grandfather is how we got that kitten.

As for the lakehouse, you got to it by driving through a very treacherous hilly path that was wooded and unpaved; the drive up to Skytop in Revival reminded me of that drive.  And the rural setting of the early stretch of the novel put me in mind of my maternal grandparents' house; any time I visualize the Morton family home, it's that frequently-visited place from my childhood that I see.  Both of those grandparents are long departed now; the house still stands there, I assume, presumably occupied by some other family.  When I think of that, I wonder at how that can possibly be.  Am I not still welcome there?  Could I not still go there and run through the back yard to the field beyond it, running to the train tracks to see if I could find a flattened penny?

How can that be?  How can it be that I'm not still there, right this moment?

I think Jamie Morton would understand these things; I think Stephen King would understand them. 
I'll conclude this post by saying that in rereading the novel, I definitely find it to be a noteworthy one within King's oeuvre.  That oeuvre is such a large one that making definitive statements about it is unwise, but I think it's safe to say that within it, the Dark Tower series is a potential magnum opusThe Stand is another, and the extent to which Revival shares with those books a theme about life being a wheel is intriguing.  What it suggests to me is that this theme might be a strong candidate for the thesis of King's oeuvre.

In other words: Revival might well prove to be essential among his novels.

In a few days, we'll continue our look at Revival, this time from a different and slightly more negative angle.  See you then!


  1. I'll read the whole post later dude, but seriously
    Giant Ants will be our masters totally ruined this book for me.

    1. I did for me, too, at least on the first read. I enjoyed the novel a lot more the second time, though; knowing that was where it was headed didn't make that aspect work for me much better, but it did enable me to focus on other thing I liked better.

  2. I was somewhat surprised when I read your first Revival review, I thought it was one of King's best books in years. I was actually shocked by how bleak and mean-spirited it was, reaching Cujo and Pet Sematary levels of nastiness. I honestly didn't think King had it in him in 2014, but was happy to be proven wrong.

    I know people have compared this tale to Lovecraft's work, which is accurate and fair, but I think Revivial is unique in the sense that, unlike in Lovecraft's work, death is not an escape. In Revivial, there is no escape, and the central idea that there is an afterlife and it's basically Hell, is horrifying. This is a story that I think benefits from avoiding any Tower/Multiverse references…I'm sure they're in there somewhere but I chose to consciously avoid looking into the matter as I think placing this story inside King's multiverse undercuts a lot of the horror of the third act. It's somehow less frightening to me to think that these insane, ancient Gods in Revivial are just a small part of a larger multiverse.

    Anywho, I'm glad you enjoyed the story more on your second reading, and I enjoyed your review.

    1. Thanks!

      Your vantage point makes sense; and what I'll say about it is, if you can keep avoiding the multiversal aspects, you should absolutely do so. They are a big stumbling block for me, as my next post will illustrate. Unencumbered by those feelings, I would probably be much more receptive to what King is doing with the Mother part of the plot. As is, I don't hate it, per se; I just don't find that it lives up to the rest of the novel for me.

      Interesting point about Lovecraft! His name will come up frequently next post, too.

    2. Kevin, it's funny bc I think everything Steve writes now is depressing bleakness. I might have this feeling more bc I always felt his short stories were fun, now even those are dark and lack any kind of humor.

      Maybe I felt a little torched by this book's ending a little more bc of how great it was for 90% of it, I could let some other bad ending slide but I felt this book was one of his best and the ending was just so dumb, ANTS, guys! Giant ants! uggh sorry I felt the book deserved better. Maybe he's saying something philosophical that I'm not getting or care enough to get.

  3. There are several interesting aspects to this post, so I'll address them in levels of importance (in no particular order).

    On the use of the "Gothic tropes" as icing.

    What I find most interesting is the insight about the question of whether the supernatural always works in King's fiction. You wondered if King is sometimes more interested in characters than in the Gothic tropes that make up a lot of the supernatural creations in his work. At the sometime, I noticed that this same question occurs in relation to King's occasionally bringing up various important themes. In this case, memory and its possible relation to time and perception.

    If I had to guess, I think King is more broad focused on the work as a whole, and willing to let the themes emerge organically from the text. In fact, I think King admits in "On Writing" that "Once you get beyond the short story...I'm not much of a believer in the so called character study; I think that in the end, the story should always be the boss (King 189, mass market paperback ed.)". Based on statements like that, it seems King is more oriented toward the novel as a whole.

    For my part, I think the novel worked as a whole, although I still don't think it belongs in the same category as "Pet Sematery" but I can understand how it could come close, if not quite making it.

    As for that preacher you mentioned. Well, I don't know how much consolation this is but it's pretty safe to say that if he's still alive, he won't get what he wants out of this election. Right now all signs point to someone who's willing to be a total GOP playbook tool. It's sort of the equivalent to a man dying of thirst in the desert refusing an offer of water.

    Jaime's casual relationship with Bree puts me in mind of a passage from a bio I read about an old Victorian writer named A.E.W. Mason. The passage went as follows:

    "...throughout his books and plays the same philosophy is implied; marriage to the one woman, that is the ultimate earthly felicity to be desired; the transient affair ends only in misery if it is not recognized by both parties for what it is - a mere relaxation; the passing flirtation - a pleasant convention of society, and in later life the gateway to real friendship (Roger Lancelyn Green 106)".

    I'll admit, I don't even know how such a sentiment would play now. On the one hand, it could be argued that is is speaking for a mature, yet liberal understanding that might fit in more with today's more open sexual standards.

    On the other hand it reminds of an old Dennis Miller joke which goes as follows: "Psst! Monica! It's me Bill! I have to talk to you!"


    It always comes up

    1. Heh. "It always comes up." Yeah, I bet it does!

      "I think King is more broad focused on the work as a whole, and willing to let the themes emerge organically from the text." -- I think you are probably right about that. Personally, I think that if his focus was truly on story first and character second -- and not even second, but as a natural outgrowth of the story -- then he failed with "Revival." It's not a massive failure, but Jacobs is too absent from the proceedings. Jamie meets him every few decades. Which is fine -- but if that's the way things are going to go, then much of the material involving Jamie needed to be cut out. Focusing on the story, this would have been a hundred pages long. And it might have worked better that way; but the other three hundred pages, the character stuff, is what worked for me here, and I just don't think it entirely meshes with the story. But that's just me -- and I think it's a strong novel even with those "problems."

      "Well, I don't know how much consolation this is but it's pretty safe to say that if he's still alive, he won't get what he wants out of this election."" -- Oh, the election. It would be a bad idea for me to talk much about that here. Long story short: I agree with you. I could say a lot more about my responses to that incident in church, but this is probably the wrong venue for it. Short version: neither the preacher nor the congregant spoke in a manner that implied nooses-and-sheets type behavior, nor even a huge amount of actual hatred. It was certainly racist, but in a more casual manner than might at first seem like the case. It was actually that disconnect that really set my mind to spinning. Easy to deal mentally with dudes wearing white sheets; not as easy to deal with people who seem a lot like your grandparents. Makes the mind work.

      I'm probably also well-served to specify that in no way do I want to imply that that sort of experience is typical of churchgoing, or of faithful people. I'm not saying it isn't present, but I wouldn't want anyone to think that I'm trying to equate faith with bigotry. Nor do I believe that the choices I've made in that regard make me superior to anyone. My actions alone can do that, and I'll let those who are impacted by them judge me as they see fit.

      That quote from Mason intrigues me. It seems, frankly, like a fairly reasonable way of looking at things. Personally, I feel that as long as nobody is getting hurt, people should be able to do as their hearts desire. I think the problem with older-man/younger-woman relationships is that there has historically been such a huge risk of older men using their power and privilege to unduly influence younger women into such a relationship by making promises that are, in and of themselves, unethical. Let's say you are an older man who, oh, I dunno, runs a cable news network -- maybe you end up doing some things you really ought not to do in the pursuit of hot young tail. That's a problem. If the possessors of all that hot young tail come to you of their own accord -- as might still be the case with aging rock stars or actors or whatever -- then that, to me, is a different thing. And it's likely a thing close to what Mason is describing. But for me, it's ethically sound on both parties' side. As long as that's the case, man, have at it, whatever IT is.

      Thanks for the comments, Chris!

  4. Mr. Burnette,

    I've realized from reading this particular post that it's quite an investment you make in time, energy and cash to keep us entertained and informed. Thanks very much.

    I really like the Revival picture up top. Your artwork?

    Sometimes memory that isn't real can be just as powerful, or perhaps moreso, than one that is. When it's got the polish of our imagination to sear it into our mind.

    I can tell you that attempted mind control over a pretty classmate didn't work for me. Maybe I should have tried the note.

    1. You can't possibly have had worse success than I had with my note -- it'd be almost literally impossible! I'm sure most of us have some similar failure in our pasts.

      You make a good point about false memories. There is a lot of science fiction that tackles that very subject, and it's a powerful idea that a false memory can be just as powerful as a true one. Perception is everything.

      Definitely NOT my artwork. If you commissioned me to draw you a stick figure, you'd ask for your commission back once I delivered. No, that's from a Polish calendar, and the art is by Darek Kocurek. I found the image here: http://www.liljas-library.com/article.php?id=4366

      I do invest quite a bit of time and energy writing my blogs, but there's no need to thank me for it -- I enjoy it very much. Still, the thanks are appreciated, so thank YOU!

  5. Very interesting discussion of memory and magic and spellmaking. And that "lachrymose" business while painful was well-applied to the situation at hand. (I thought when I first clicked on the Senior Year dedication that it was just going to read "Do You Like Me, Yes or No" and I was going to be like "Ohhh... ouch." The dramatist in me, I guess, was ready to re-write your life for this specific purpose.)

    I'm curious to revisit this one myself, since I liked it quite a bit on my initial read (and a half.) I loved the way it unfolded, I loved the real tragedy and life-story-arc of it all, the layers of memory, the religious charlatanism as mixed with "real" science-magic, and I like how it all combined in the end. Count me among Team Giant Ants, I guess; it just felt right (and was such a genuine shock). To me the supernatural elements of the book sit alongside the other elements just fine, maybe even complement them agreeably for me. I can see how you'd say "icing on the wrong cake" but maybe it's just I like the particular taste combo. Or something. I think I'd even see some of the stuff at the studio/ rock-and-roll-studio-guy thoughts to be icing on the wrong cake, if I had to pick some.

    Good pull with that "growing brittle on a satin pillow in the dark" line. Wow.

    "When I think of that, I wonder at how that can possibly be. Am I not still welcome there? Could I not still go there and run through the back yard to the field beyond it, running to the train tracks to see if I could find a flattened penny?"

    Verily, brother, you speak my language here. I liked this section of your post very much. I sometimes wonder when blogging/reading takes me to some personal memory that is incredibly vivid and powerful for me "Yeah but is this of any possible interest to anyone else?" And I think the answer is yes, or at least "It could be." As when I read stuff like this, I time travel with you back to all these moments, and feel the revelations of things as they were revealed to you.

    Time travel, magic, yadda yadda yadda - just another day at the office.

    Look forward to the next few parts!

    1. "Yeah but is this of any possible interest to anyone else?" -- I find myself wondering the same thing, and anytime I get a little antsy about it, I just remind myself that I got into this game to amuse myself. Any interest I manage to spark among others is just gravy for me, and I am much more interested in quality than quantity in that regard -- by which standard I am thoroughly pleased.

      "I thought when I first clicked on the Senior Year dedication that it was just going to read "Do You Like Me, Yes or No" and I was going to be like "Ohhh... ouch." The dramatist in me, I guess, was ready to re-write your life for this specific purpose." -- That'd be a pretty creepy plot device for, like, a serial-killer story or something. The killer leaves one of those at every crime scene, with a dot of the victims' blood in the "no" box. That's kinda dope.

      I'm definitely going to be making the ants a focus of the next post in this series, which promises to be less self-indulgent but perhaps more ego-centric. Strange but true!

    2. "I sometimes wonder when blogging/reading takes me to some personal memory that is incredibly vivid and powerful for me "Yeah but is this of any possible interest to anyone else?" And I think the answer is yes, or at least "It could be."

      That seems about the best answer I've heard so far. I actually once had a series of thoughts similar to this. I was thinking about the nature of the relationship of the audience to any given book or film, and my thoughts went like this.

      You can Lewis Carroll's lice as a pre-teen girl, what she looks like as a girl is up to the individual audience member. I’ve even seen some editions where Alice is portrayed as an African – American. Let’s take a more interesting case, that of Huck Finn and Jim. Obviously, they are fixed in a certain way. However, is Huck a Red – head? Is be blond, or dark haired? Is he tall, or short? Does he speak in a light or deep voice?

      The crux is that is possible for any audience member to have a different image of the character from what another is expecting. If these contrasting ideas were compared, each may find the other lacking. However, I think the answer to such conundrums might lie in the possibility that such ideas of the “look” of any given story might have to do with questions of “personal taste”.

      In other words, it may be possible that each member of the audience will construct a certain image of the characters, events, and settings precisely because this or that image is the only way that audience member will be able to “get into” the story at all. If that is the case, then what we are dealing is the mental abilities people either have to use or else believe they must use if the story is to work for them at all.

      I don't know how that must sound, yet it still sounds like being "onto something here", for me anyway. I also wonder if the same train applies to life in general as well.

      Who knows, that's just what Bryan's thought got me thinking about.

      Incidentally, Bryan, I don't remember the page number, but I may have found the moment of possible foreshadowing you were after. It comes during the intro of Astrid to the story, and it takes place as the narrator is making love to her in a mountain cabin. A big lightning storm is happening outside, and one flash of thunder reveals the shadow an ant crawling up the wall.

      I don't know if that's the scene you were looking for, but it was interesting to me, and I may have more to say about that next post.


    3. "I also wonder if the same train applies to life in general as well." -- I think it does. The longer I live, the more it seems to me like that's a big part of what life is: just perception. And part of what fascinates folks like us about discussing our diverse opinions on a single work of art -- or a series of singular works of art -- is the way that makes able to peek into one anothers' minds. It seems like a trivial thing, and in some ways is; but in other ways, it isn't.

      I somehow missed that moment of the ant crawling up the wall during the first Skytop sequence. Thanks for pointing it out!

      That African-American version of Carroll's Alice is a fascinating idea. I wasn't aware it had been done. God, what a topic race is! I find myself getting worked up by it once in a while -- my initial thoughts about Elba as Roland, for example -- but then I also find myself wanting to just wrap my arms around anything that celebrates racial differences (as cheesy as that sounds). And that's my response to learning that there are editions in which Alice is a young black girl: I give it maximum thumbs up.

      Speaking of which, boy do I love seeing a black Santa Claus. I -- as a 42-year old white Alabamian -- can remember that being an idea that enraged people in my school. I always thought, "Well, why the fuck CAN'T that be a thing?!?" And as I've gotten older, there's just something about a black Santa that really does seem a little extra jolly to me.

      I hope none of that sounds condescending or insincere or like that. It's just ... man, it's SUCH a divisive topic these days. I don't wanna go all SJW when discussing it, but I do feel the urge to state where I stand a bit when the topic comes up. It's virtue-signaling, no doubt about it; but fuck, man, maybe it's time to light that signal and shine it onto the clouds every so often.

      Sorry for the tangent there. As the idea relates to what you're talking about, Chris, I think that most audience members are bound to go through a process of SOME sort, consciously or otherwise. I find myself visualizing setting moreso than characters, for example. With characters, it's more a process of identification than visualization; I either do or don't develop this sort of emotional notch for characters to slide into, and I hang onto the (for lack of a better explanation) size and shape of that notch. It need not be that I feel like the character represents ME in any way, although, yeah, sometimes. Or sometimes they represent an aspiration of mine; or sometimes just a hypothetical aspiration (sort of a if-I-lived-some-other-life-maybe-I-could-be-this type of deal).

      I love shit like this!

  6. I have been waiting for this review for a long time and it didn't disappoint. This is one of my favourite books, I seem to like more "imperfect" ones over the masterpieces everybody agrees on, and listening to the audiobook made me unable to sleep for a few nights. Cannot wait for the rest!


    1. I haven't listened to the audio version -- I like David Morse as an actor, though, so I want to.

      I had hoped to have the second post out by now, but life intervened. Soon, though, I hope!

  7. Hey BB - totally off topic - but I wanted to ask you if you knew if Creepshow 2 ever had a soundtrack release? I'm a big Yes fan and found out recently that Rick Wakeman did the soundtrack for CS2 so wondered if you knew if it ever got a release on CD or vinyl...Have you ever heard of the early 80s movie The Burning? Wakeman did the soundtrack to that one and it is coming out on vinyl soon so maybe there is hope..and lets be honest, that's a great sleeve! https://www.amazon.co.uk/BURNING-ORIGINAL-MOTION-PICTURE-SOUNDTRACK/dp/B01I465E6Q/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1481808600&sr=8-1&keywords=rick+wakeman+burning

    1. I love Wakeman's stuff. I go on a Wakeman and/or Edgar Froese bender at least once a year.

      That IS a great sleeve. I can't answer on Creepshow 2 (not that you were asking me!) but Wakeman and "great sleeve" put me in mind of "Rhapsodies," which is my personal go-to for wonderfullly-crazy sleeve/crazier-inner-sleeve:


    2. Haha - yeah Rhapsodies is a pretty wonderful sleeve. No Earthly Connection has to be my favourite crazy sleeve. Wrapping the inner metallic sleeve into a tube and placing on the middle of the front cover to reveal the picture - but that's the mid 70s for you! Its funny, Wakeman left Yes because they were getting too pretentious! Then goes on to release possible the most overblown pretentious record every made and it was a massive hit! what a guy!

    3. There has never been any sort of official "Creepshow 2" soundtrack so far as I know. Maybe someday!

  8. I'm currently reading "Hearts In Suspension" and found a tantalizing nugget in an essay by King's college classmate Frank Kadi (photographer of the infamous King image found here [https://static1.squarespace.com/static/4f576e2a24aca8d4f8e9b846/t/50c0a8f8e4b0d3c4be8cadf8/1354803452061/Study-Dammit.gif]):

    "I knew Steve mainly in college, but I do remember that I knew his mother briefly at Pineland Center where she worked. I worked there for a number of years as a mental health worker after I graduated from college. I sometimes worked overtime in the building where she was a domestic worker. She was well liked by everyone. One night Steve came by and we went to supper at her house. I remember Steve telling me that she would sometimes go to the church next door and play boogie-woogie on the piano. I think Steve got a lot of his empathy from his mother, who was a very nice lady."

    I could not help but think of Patsy Jacobs when I read this.