Friday, July 13, 2018

Movie Review: "Gerald's Game" (2017)

Believing is feeling.
Tonight, I watched Gerald's Game for only the second time, and I am pleased to report that I enjoyed it just as much on revisit as I did when it first began streaming last September.
Having recently reread (and blogged about) the novel, I was a little worried that King's version might be too much in my brain for me to let go and enjoy Mike Flanagan's adaptation.  I needn't have worried; this is top-notch stuff, an instant classic that has, I think, already joined the ranks of agreed-upon King classics.
If such a thing even exists anymore.  I think it still does, but our culture, popular and otherwise, seems to be in the midst of a series of profound shifts in how we view it and ourselves, and in the face of that only a fool speaks of things being commonly agreed upon.  Granted, I kind of am a fool; so there's that.  Still, I've retained enough self-awareness to know that whereas one probably could speak about "agreed-upon" things in 1988, or 1998, or maybe even 2008, the ability to do so in 2018 is increasingly meaningless.  We agree on virtually nothing these days.  We don't even agree upon what we disagree about.
That's not lost on me, is what I'm saying.
Still, to the extent such a thing as consensus exists, the consensus among people who care about movies based on the work of Stephen King seems to be that Mike Flanagan's Gerald's Game is a big-time winner.
How did this happen?  For decades, that novel was considered to be damn near unfilmable.  Flanagan's movie works so well, though, that one wonders what all the fuss was ever about.  "Oh," one might say watching it; "fuck, that was simple."  I'm sure it was anything but, but it does play somewhat effortlessly, and that's a bit of a marvel.
Let's see if we can celebrate it a bit.
The key initial decisions Flanagan seems to have made are these: (1) deciding that the novel itself fundamentally works from beginning to end; and (2) deciding that despite that, not every aspect of it was a slam-dunk for adaptation into an audiovisual format.  From there, along with co-screenwriter Jeff Howard (to whom I apologize in advance for the many times I'm going to simply refer to Flanagan as the auteur of this adaptation -- I do know it's not the case, and regret the shorthand), he seems to have decided to keep as much of the novel as possible without losing sight of the fact that in order for it to work as a cohesive whole, things would have to be sacrificed.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Books I Read in 2018, Part 2

Part Two beginneth now, with:
Sleepwalkers by Stephen King

Not technically a book, but I'm counting it, because it's book-length and I did, in fact, read it during 2018.
I wrote about it at considerable length here.  The short version: it's a readable screenplay that is kind of cheesy and nonsensical, but is nevertheless worth the time of any serious King fan.  It's mostly the same thing as what you seen if you've seen Sleepwalkers, but there are a few significant differences, including a very different ending.
Date of completion: March 6
Grade:  B-
The Listener by Robert McCammon

I wrote about Robert McCammon's new novel The Listener here, and not in any spoilery detail.
It's about a kidnapping, a telepath, and my determination never to go to a swamp.  It's quite possibly one of the best books McCammon has ever written, and that's high praise.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Film Score Review: Danny Elfman's "Dolores Claiborne" (1995)

Here is a partial list of the films Danny Elfman had scored by the time he accepted the job on Dolores Claiborne:
  • Pee Wee's Big Adventure (1985)
  • Beetlejuice (1988)
  • Midnight Run (1988)
  • Scrooged (1988)
  • Batman (1989)
  • Nightbreed (1990)
  • Dick Tracy (1990)
  • Darkman (1990)
  • Edward Scissorhands (1990)
  • Batman Returns (1992)
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

What you've mostly got there is a list of colorful/moody fantasy films of one type or another.  Most of what's left is comedy; some are both.  I would argue that a minimum of five are stone-cold classics of film scoring. 

I'm not sure you'd be able to argue that a filmography like what Elfman had at the time would make one an inherently good choice for a film like Dolores Claiborne, which is neither a comedy (and how) nor a colorful fantasy film.  It's a psychological drama with expressive elements; and that's not true of, say, Dick Tracy.

However, Elfman had been working up to make a transition of this nature.  He'd scored the underrated Jodie Foster / Richard Gere drama Sommersby in 1993, and had done a good job of putting himself in supporting mode; many of his previous scores had (and this is in no way a sleight of his phenomenal work) been much more front-and-center.  That sort of approach can work for dramas -- Taxi Driver, anyone? (I'd answer "yes" if I were you) -- but most directors opt not to go quite that expressive with the music.

Case in point: Dolores Claiborne, which has virtually nothing in the way of hummable themes.  One thing you could NOT accuse Elfman of is being deficient in the hummable-themes department in the course of scoring those films listed above.

Of course, this in no way implies that Dolores Claiborne lacks impact or is deficient.  It's impactful and really rather terrific; just not in the way Beetlejuice is, you know?  And I think it's worth going on a bit of a deep dive here, and closely examining the role the music plays in the movie.  So what I'm going to do is this: I'm going to rewatch the movie, and take notes on each and every scene in which Elfman's score appears, and then pass my thoughts about it along to you.  After I'm finished, I'd then like to compare that to the soundtrack album (which, like most score albums, contains only some of the music Elfman wrote and recorded).

But first...

I might be about to test the patience of some of my readers, but I think it might be a useful experience for me personally to go on a brief tour of Elfman's career as I understood it around the time of Dolores Claiborne's release.  There's no better way of doing that than going track by track through the contents of this album:

This is Music For A Darkened Theatre: Film & Television Music Volume One, which for my money is one of the great film-composer compilations of all.  It might well also be one of the most-played CDs in my library; I got this sucker when it came out in 1990, and it got featured heavily in my rotation.  (Technically, my first copy was on cassette, but let's not be pedantic, shall we?)

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The "Dolores Claiborne" opera (2013): reviewing the reviews

As you may know, I am a Stephen King fan.
This surprises you?  Feign surprise all you want, but it is merest truth.  The truth inside the lie, one might say.
Or one might not say such a lame thing as that, but evidently that was how my brain wanted to begin this post.  Fuck it, let's regroup.
Point is, AS a Stephen King fan, I'm kind of used to being able to indulge my fandom.  King puts out a new book or story, I buy it and read it.  A new movie comes out?  I go see it.  A new television series comes on?  I watch it.  A new comic book comes out?  I get one.
Generally speaking, I am able to keep up with all but the most ephemeral such bits of King-dom.  And that suits me just fine.
But every once in a while, something comes along that scoots right past my defenses and escapes from me.  One such instance came in 2013, when the San Francisco Opera staged Dolores Claiborne, an opera by composer Tobias Picker based on the novel (and movie) of the same name(s).
Dolora Zajick as Dolores Claiborne, a performance that would never be

I'd happily have attended a performance if I could have done so, but it was not vaguely feasible.
To date, there has been no commercial video or audio release of any kind.  No bootlegs exist that I am aware of; no performances (apart from a highlight reel, more on which in a bit) exist on YouTube.  For all practical purposes, the opera just plain doesn't exist for this King fan and blogger.
And this vexes me.  Yes, it vexes me mightily.
That said, I thought it made sense to go ahead and pound out a post on the subject while I was in Dolores Claiborne mode (having recently covered both the novel and the movie).  I can't review what I can't see/hear, but I can compile all the interesting information about it I can find, and if nothing else serve as a sort of repository for information about the opera.
If you're game, follow along, and let's see if we turn up anything interesting. 

Friday, June 8, 2018

Movie Review: "Dolores Claiborne" (1995)

Today, it's movie-review time, and we're threading the 1995 Warner Bros. adaptation of Dolores Claiborne through the handy-dandy Truth Inside The Lie projector.
Confession: the foregoing sentence is an example of the kind of bullshit you write when you can't quiiiiiiite figure out how to begin a blog post but are determined to begin it nevertheless.  Vamping ain't just for podcasts!

One thing I always struggle with when writing these reviews is a question: should I primarily think of them as a thing separate from the novels/stories upon which they are based, or should I instead think of them as a reflection of that source material and judge them accordingly?
It's a difficult question to answer in some cases, but I'm being somewhat disingenuous in having even posed it, because I've got my answer all lined up, and have had it for many a year now: I do whatever I feel like doing at the time I'm doing it.  So do I sometimes feel perfectly content to consider the movies as their own thing?  You bet I do.  Do I at other times feel like either praising or (this is more common) cursing the movie for the degree to which it hews to its source material?  Oh, for sure.
And there are still other times where I seem to take a hybrid approach, feeling both things simultaneously.
It's a case-by-case thing with me, and if that strikes you as being wishy-washy or flip-floppy or just plain old hypocritical, well, you don't need my permission to be thus struck, so go on ahead.  I'd only point out that this adaptation game is a tricky one; there are no rules, only a shifting maze of approaches that may or may not lead you to the end goal that is "success."
On the whole, I think I'm pretty consistent in my own approach to appraising this stuff: I just want to see something good.  Great would be even better, and okay'll do in a pinch; but give me something good, and I'll not only roll with you, but I'll ride shotgun and keep an eye out for bandits.
No point in burying the lede any further: I think this is an awfully good movie.  It might even get close to being a great one; I said I thought more or less that the last time I ranked all the King movies (this one came in at #10). 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

A Brief Review of "The Outsider"

Well, in the words of Rustin Parr, I'm finally finished.

I'm going to give you as bare-bones and spoiler-free of a review as I can possibly manage.  I'll be able to manage it pretty well, too, although there is one major plot point that, frankly, it's kind of nuts for me NOT to talk about.  But since it's been absent from the book's marketing, I'll leave it for you to find out on your own; seems like the right thing to do.
I ingested The Outsider -- which spans 561 pages -- in a mere two days, and that right there ought to tell you something about the novel.  That's a big chunk of reading and not a long span of time in which it was accomplished.  So was it compulsively readable?  You better believe it.
Unfortunately, that's not enough for me to give the novel anything more than a weak recommendation.  Allow me to explain.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A look at recent King-family short stories

I have a real brief one for you tonight: just wanted to give you a brief set of reactions to four recently-published King-family short stories that I read this week.
We'll proceed in the order in which they were published, which gives us the added benefit of saving Big Steve's story for last.
Up first:
"All I Care About Is You"
(by Joe Hill)
published in The Weight of Words, December 21, 2017
When he's at his best, Joe Hill makes you want to fuck someone, or punch someone, or donate a bunch of money to charity, or run outside and tump a car over.  Do something passionate, at any rate.  I had none of those options available to me after reading this story, which finds Hill either at his best or real damn near it; so I just ate some Moon Pies.  Story of my fuckin' life, that.
I don't really know why it took me this long to read the story.  Well ... I do know, it's just for a fundamentally silly reason.  
See, a few years ago, I made a sort of vow to myself: that going forward, when I buy anthologies -- I do not extend this courtesy to magazines (for reasons that don't even make sense to me, much less to any hypothetical people with whom I share them) -- so as to have copies of stories by authors such as Hill, King, etc. whose work I enjoy, I will not allow myself to merely read their contributions and then toss them aside.  I used to do that all the time; and when I say "used to," I mean from, like, 1990-2015.  It's insulting to all those other authors!  Plus, I have a tendency these days to ONLY read the Kings and Hills of the world, i.e., people who are already on my approved list.  Reading anthologies is a good way to pick up at least a modicum of familiarity with other authors.
Understand, it is like an ice-pick in my heart to realize I can't find the time to read more or less every genre author there is (and I'd love also to read copious amounts of non-genre fiction, nonfiction, poetry, you name it).  But I can't, so I kind of don't worry about it much.
Insisting on making myself read the entirety of these anthologies is my way of not throwing in 100% of the towel; if I can keep 0.05% of it, well, better than none, right?
So basically, I was waiting to find the time -- which I apparently needed to be just right -- to settle down with The Weight of Words.  I got the book in late 2017, and here, halfway through 2018, the time had just not been quite right.
But when -- and apologies for this full-tilt detour into crazy-town, but hey, this IS a blog, so you asked for at least a little bit of crazy -- I read new, published-online stories by both Owen and Stephen King last week, and (spoiler alert!) loved them both, it got me to thinking that there was a major new story by Joe Hill just sitting there on my shelf, waiting forlornly to be read.  And so, I've broken my rule, and dove right into The Weight of Words, flipped to very near the end, and consumed "All I Care About Is You."  All I cared about for the moment was that story.
That said, I will read the entirety of the anthology before the summer is out; I may well make it the next thing I read once The Outsider has been vanquished in fact.  We'll see as to that, but before the summer is out, for sure.
And when I do read it, I will 100% reread "All I Care About Is You," which immediately became a lock for a spot in my top three Hill short stories.  "Pop Art" and "20th Century Ghost" are the current #1 and #2; I'm not sure I had any kind of formal pick for #3, but I feel like if I'd had to choose one, it would have been either "In the Tall Grass" or "Bobby Conroy Comes Back from the Dead."
Well, no more; "All I Care About Is You" vaults immediately into at least the #3 position.  I think "Pop Art" is safe at #1, but a reread might find the #2 spot up for grabs.  Regardless of where they get slotted in, this story is sheer dynamite.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Ocean She Was Adrift On Was Time: "Dolores Claiborne" Revisited, Part 3

I'd been working my way up to these posts about Gerald's Game and Dolores Claiborne all year, and my primary goal for them was to get them finished before May 22.  May 22, you Constant Readers may know, is the day King's new novel, The Outsider, hits shelves.  As is typically the case, my plan for that day involves not working, dragging myself out of bed at some point after noon, going to a place where the book would be apt to be sold, purchasing a couple of copies (one of which will be for some future me's reread-note-taking pleasure), and then spending as much of the next few days as possible reading it.

Better by far if I've got no in-the-works blog posts waiting to be finished.
And hey, whattaya know!  I managed to get across the finish line before the deadline arrived.  Not with a whole heck of a lot of time to spare, but that don't confront me none; it got done, and it got done reasonably well, and so I'm gonna pat myself on the back for just a second.

After which, I will point out that I didn't quite finish: deep-dives into the movie adaptations of both Dolores Claiborne (1995) and Gerald's Game (2017) were intended to be part of this series, and those, alas, I am not going to be able to get done pre-Outsider.  This, I think, is okay; I'll be all to happy to let those sit for a week or two, because after all, I'd kind of like to deal with them as their own thing, and not merely as reflections of the books.  So putting a mild amount of distance between the books and the movies by slotting in a different book altogether...?  Not the worst idea in the world.  So I'm claiming, anyways, and you can't prove I don't mean it!

Heck, I may even wedge a post about recently King-family short stories in there for good measure.  On the score, we shall see.

Regardless, let's now conclude our revisit of Dolores Claiborne the novel with a roundup edition of stray thoughts I failed to work into the first few posts.

Don't look too closely at the join in those two pages; this was not my most graceful ripping-and-taping job.  It's another lovely Bill Russell illustration, though.
We're gonna just sorta work our way through in chronological order, mostly, and hit whatever seem worth hitting. Let's begin with what is, for me, one of the most memorable sections of the novel: Dolores's description of dealing with Vera's bedsheets, particularly during the winter.

"That was one thing you didn't ever want to get wrong," says Dolores (19).  "They had to be hung perfectly even over the lines -- so the hems matched, you know -- and you had to use six clothespins on each one.  Never four; always six."

Fair enough, right?  I mean, they're Vera's sheets; and those hanging them are being paid Vera's money to hang them.  If I were the kind of person who was particular about such things, and was paying somebody to do this work for me, I'd be particular about this thing, and no mistake about it.

Monday, May 21, 2018

She Had Three Ways of Bein a Bitch: "Dolores Claiborne" Revisited, Part 2

Depicted above: the Hodder & Stoughton edition of the novel's hardback.  Ain't it a beaut?  I probably still prefer the American edition from Viking, but our British cousins did well with this one, and if I can find a reasonably inexpensive used copy, I'mma have me one.

That acquisitorial note made, let's now crack on with part two of our Dolores Claiborne revisit.

Today, I want to look at the novel's two most prominent supporting players, Joe St. George and Vera Donovan, beginning with the latter.  (We already talked about here some here, but there's plenty more left to be said.)

Dolores's relationship with Vera is probably the most important of the novel, and it's one of the most compelling relationships in all of King's work.  It's difficult to put a label on exactly what kind of relationship it is.  It's not romantic or sexual (a thing which is likely not in doubt, but may nevertheless need to be stated); it's an employer/employee relationship, but one which morphs into caregiver/patient; it can't quite be considered a friendship, except in the numerous ways which it behaves as one.  What are these two women to each other?

We don't quite know, and since Dolores is the narrator, this can mean only that she herself doesn't know.  And since she isn't exactly the kind of person who is prone to waste a great deal of mental energy figuring such things out, it remains somewhat ill-defined throughout.

As such, I think it manages to be incredibly compelling.  It is infuriating at times, it is thrilling at other times, it is moving at still others.

This is life, isn't it?

Friday, May 18, 2018

The World's A Sorry Schoolroom Sometimes: "Dolores Claiborne" Revisited, Part 1

Having traipsed our way through Gerald's Game, we now turn our attentions to Dolores Claiborne, and I immediately sense -- perhaps to the relief of some of you! -- that I'm not going to have anywhere near as much to say about this novel.  In no way should this be taken as a reflection on its quality.  Its quality is substantial, and in fact I'd say that of the two, I prefer Dolores Claiborne pretty handily ... and that despite being unreservedly impressed by Gerald's Game on this revisit.  Both are grade-A stuff; but in my opinion, Dolores Claiborne is an A+.

That doesn't mean I've got nothing to say, though.  Let's find out what it amounts to!


We're going to begin with some business.  You sometimes see Dolores Claiborne listed as a 1993 publication, and that's quite reasonable given the fact that the copyright date in the book -- and it's listed this way in all three editions I own -- is, in fact, 1993.

Despite this, it was published in 1992.  I have no clue why the book itself says 1993; my best guess is that it was an error of some sort that became legally binding and has therefore been permitted to stand.  But who can say?  Not this blogger.  This blogger CAN say that he is almost positive he read the book during the Christmas break after his first semester of college; specifically, I read it while visiting my grandparents in Creola.  This would have been in the waning days of 1992, so let's say probably December 26 or 27.

I say "almost positive" because I cannot rule out the technical possibility that we visited Creola later that year than usual, and that it might have been in the first days of 1993 that I actually read the novel.  But I put the odds of this as being very slim indeed.

Regardless, let's look at a few hard facts:

  • in an interview with W.C. Stroby in the July 1992 issue of Fangoria, Dolores Claiborne is said to be earmarked for publication in December 
  • Kirkus evidently reviewed the novel in the September 1, 1992 issue, and they list the publication date as December 7
  • the New York Times reviewed the novel in its November 16, 1992 issue
  • an interview with King in the Times on November 18 said that the novel "is being released this week" 
  • Kevin Quigley's Chart of Darkness lists the publication date as December 6, and says that the book went straight to the #1 position on the Times list of bestsellers, remaining there for the remainder of the year
  • a second Times review (this one in brief) seemingly followed on December 27

Add all that up, and I feel pretty good about saying that this book definitively WAS published in 1992, regardless of what it says inside the book itself.  (And I feel similarly good about continuing to claim -- for the one people in the entire world [me!] who care about this -- that I read the book shortly after Christmas.)

So there you have it; done and dusted.  All you suckers out there who keep saying 1993, you've been misled, but adjust your lists accordingly because it's 19 and 92 and that's just all there is to it.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

An Unlikely Wellspring For Myth: "Gerald's Game" Revisited, Part 3

Well, we've reached the third and final part (excluding a look at the movie adaptation) of our revisit with Gerald's Game, and has been the case a few times in the past when I've tackled King's novels, this final part is going to be less a cohesive thing than it is me pointing at a bunch of stuff and saying, "Hey, lookit __________!  Isn't that cool!"  Like I'm hosting the Chris Farley Show or something.
 I'm cool with that, and anyways, Gerald's Game has lots of stuff to point at and get enthusiastic over.  So let's get to enthusing, beginning with this:
This frontispiece illustration by Bill Russell is a beaut.  I love the three frontispieces Russell did for King novels; he did three in a row, back-to-back-to-back (Needful Things in 1991, Gerald's Game and Dolores Claiborne in 1992).  I don't know much about him, but I think his style was well-suited to King's books, and I wish their collaboration had been more extensive.
We'll see more of Russell's art in this post; he also created smaller illustrations that appeared at the beginnings of chapters.  I'm going to use them to separate topics, because bulletpoints get old and don't allow for paragraph breaks.  And anyways, we will in fact have some bulletpoints when we get to the end.  Do you care about this?  I doubt it, and if you do, I don't know why.  Why'm I even bringing it up?  What a weirdo I am sometimes.
Speaking of weirdos, let's talk a bit about Gerald Burlingame.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

You're Only Made of Moonlight: "Gerald's Game" Revisited, Part 2

Welcome back for the second part -- third, if'n you count this one -- of our revisit of Gerald's Game.  Today we're going to focus on the space cowboy himself, Raymond Andrew Joubert.

Joubert is a somewhat controversial figure among King fans, thanks to the question of whether King does right by his own concept for the character.  He is initially presented as a figure who might not exist at all: a figment of Jessie's taxed and overactive imagination, quite possibly.  And even once Jessie accepts that he IS real, she goes through rather an ordeal trying to reconcile that he is with the possibility of what he is.  The reader, obviously, goes along with her on that journey, and then along comes Stephen King at the end to upset everyone's apple cart.
So say some, at least.
We'll get to my feelings on the subject in due course, but let's first take an abbreviated stroll through the ways in which King depicts this monstrous figure during the bulk of the novel.
And where is there to begin except at the beginning?

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Body Disdained Memory: "Gerald's Game" Revisited, Part 1

Gerald's Game was released during the summer of 1992; July 13 is the date I've found that seems the likeliest to be accurate.

This was my first summer post-high-school, and I don't think I will ever think of Gerald's Game without remembering a bit about who I was during those weeks.

I'm going to indulge in some walk-down-memory-lane type stuff now, and I forgive you entirely if you just rolled your eyes and said, "Oh, fuck that noise" and are considering bailing out.  I'll make it super-duper easy for you to skip straight to the part of the post where I analyze Gerald's Game the novel and not Bryant Burnette the phantom teenager.  Alls you've got to do is scroll down a bit, find the photo of the Gerald's Game hardback, and voila, you have arrived at your destination.

Those of who who feel like taking a bit of a walk with me, you are welcome, you are thanked, and you are now walking.

I graduated from high school in the spring of 1992, and I had only a few weeks before beginning summer-school classes at the University of Alabama.  This was advice I'd been given by somebody; probably my dad, designed to just to sort of get my feet wet.  Nervous?  Boy howdy.  I never got comfortable in high school, and that was the same place day in day out, with the same people, for four years.  (Well, two places, actually; ninth and tenth grades were one campus, eleventh and twelfth another one across town.)  I had friends and was not by any means a complete outcast or anything like that, but the niceties of being a social animal just never clicked for me, and it was the cause of a not inconsiderable amount of distress.

For example, I never had a girlfriend the entire time I was in high school.  For that matter, I never went out on a single date.  This is not much of a surprise, considering that in all four years, I literally only asked one girl out.  And that didn't go terribly well.  ("I don't know if you like movies, but would you like to go see Lethal Weapon 3 with me tomorrow night?"  "I haven't even seen the first two, so not really."  Awkward silence ensues.  Wouldn't have been so bad if I hadn't had to expend what seems in retrospect like enough courage to power a bullet train on working up the nerve to even ask.  But I did, so it was pretty bad.)

I worried then that there must simply be something wrong with me.  How else to explain not being able to interact with people the way seemingly everyone else in the entire world could and did?  And I don't think I was incorrect; there was something wrong with me, but I had zero idea of how to fix it, and so consequently, I found it a lot easier and less stressful to just bury my head in a book whenever I had the option to do so.

My author of choice, of course, was Stephen King.  Hey, I bet you knew that already, didn't you?  There were other authors I was reading, too, but none of them filled the void that King's books filled; not even close.  Remember the section in Carrie in which Carrie tries to impress upon her mother the need for her to fit in and get along?  That spoke to me.  The whole novel spoke to me; I never took it as a horror novel, it was always a tragedy in my eyes.  And all the other losers in King's books, too, spoke to me.  Not just the losers, either; the winners, as well, most of whom seemed like people worth aspiring to be.

I'm not going to go so far as to say that Stephen King's books got me through high school; that would be sensationalist exaggeration.  But they were a big part of what made it bearable.  No doubt about that in my mind.

Anyways, I graduated, and jumped more or less straight in to the college life, and I did so with a determination: I would not be the loser in college that I was in high school.  I figured it all boiled down to the same thing many another high-school dweeb has figured it boiled down to: man, just wait 'til I get someplace where nobody knows me, then I can really turn some things around.

Spoiler alert: it didn't work that way.  (Has it ever, for anyone?)

But let's not worry about that.  That's not what this post is about; this post is about the fact that during the summer of 1992, I had a spring in my step and a smile on my face.  I had a job (my first actual job -- and at the office I mention in the Pet Sematary section of this post, by the way), and whereas a lot of my friends thought I was crazy for starting classes during the summer break, I thought it was cool.  I enjoyed walking around campus, learning where all the buildings were and visiting the library and seeing all the new people, and most especially knowing that college was going to be a different sort of life for me than high school had been.  Ah, yes!  The unmistakable feel of optimism blowing through the air, wrapping you in its embrace as you went about you new daily routine!  Wonderful.

Things were not, in actuality, one whit different.  But I didn't know that; or if I did, I thought it was only because the changes had not actually kicked in yet.  But they would!  Any day now.

Turns out that you have to actually make things like that happen, but 1992 Bryant didn't know that.  And 2018 Bryant wonders something:

How can a person get through high school without learning that simplest of lessons?  How can a person be allowed to get through high school without learning that?

I was taught how to read, and how to do mathematics, and how to drive a car, and how to dissect a fetal pig; I was taught various history lessons, and how to block a defensive lineman when a fullback is behind you carrying a football, and so forth.

But I was never taught how to be a normal and functional social human being.  And not only that, I was never even taught the fact that it was MY responsibility to teach myself how to be that; never taught that if I failed to do so nobody else was ever going to pick up the slack.  I'd have earned an F in that class or maybe a D-), and if somebody had been there to actually GIVE me an F, maybe that would at least have been something useful.  A lot more useful than math has ever been to me, I can tell you that goddam much right the fuck now.

So maybe it's no surprise that while the optimism and the hope was there during those first couple of college semesters, the self-determination and drive were not.  Let's not blame poor old 1992 Bryant for it, though; he just thought it was a thing that happened somehow, so he kept on waiting, and waiting.  He figured that part of it out, though, eventually, but not for several more Stephen King books into the future, I am sorry to report.

Gerald's Game was released on or around July 13, which if I'm not mistaken was between the two terms that formed summer school at UA.  It was also around my birthday, and was also around the time my family went on our annual summer vacation to Gulf Shores.

Gulf Shores plays a crucial role in the blog's origin story, by the way.  My love of Stephen King was kicked off on our family vacation there in the summer of 1990, when my father told me about a review of The Stand that he'd read and mistakenly told me it was written by Steven Spielberg.  If you're interested enough to read more about that, you can do so here.  The short version is that I found out it was by Stephen King instead, read it despite the lack of Spielbergian authorship, and have been a massive King fan ever since.

Back to 1992.  I'd made a conscious decision to become a different person, but this certainly did not mean that I was going to give up being a Stephen King fan.  Why would I do that?!?  When Gerald's Game came out, I bought it, and (I'm assuming) waited until the first summer term ended to begin reading it.  I spent the ride down reading it.  I have no clue how far into it I already was when we left, but I have a vivid memory of reaching the degloving scene while we were still on the road.

It took all the fortitude I had in me not to make hurking noises, and it may even have required conscious effort not to straight-up vomit.  I am almost positive that I stopped reading lest I find myself (A) hurling up a damn storm and -- worse by far, potentially -- (B) having to explain what was going on.  Look, man, let's face facts: if you're a somewhat shy and retiring young man straight out of high school, and you're in a car with your parents and your younger brother, you do NOT want to have to explain the contents of fucking Gerald's Game.  This is not a thing to be desired.

It occurs to me now that I might have the chronology slightly wrong.  We may not have been driving down to Gulf Shores while I was reading that part; we may instead have been in the car driving from one destination in town to another.  And indeed, now that I stop to reflect on things, I am 99.9% positive that I actually bought my copy of Gerald's Game in a Gulf Stores bookstore I usually visited while we were there.  And now that I'm remembering things, I am fairly certain that not only did I buy Gerald's Game there, but that I also -- flush with cash from my first job (or perhaps lingering graduation-gift money) -- bought these:

I know for a fact that I bought all three at that bookstore, and that I was gobsmacked to find hardbacks of each in pristine condition; and I am fairly certain that I'd gone to the bookstore specifically to get Gerald's Game, and that I waited to get it until the vacation specifically to have a reason to go to it.  Hey, cool!  I love remembering stuff like this.

I also have a very vivid memory of being at a beachhouse, sitting alone in the house, reading while everyone else was outside.  This was not a beachhouse we were renting; we stayed in a condo.  However, one of my dad's cousins (who was married to a doctor) owned a beachhouse in town, and every summer, that side of my dad's family got together there, typically around the fourth of July (although it seems to have been later this particular year).  I got to see all these aunts and uncles and cousins that I typically only saw at Christmas otherwise, and I loved it, because I loved them all.

In terms of reading Gerald's Game, what I remember just as much as nearly hurking in a car is that it was about a woman trapped by herself in a room, all alone in the world, and that meanwhile, I was reading it alone in a room, but able to hear all these excellent family members outside.  Sometimes some of them would float inside for a while, to check on something in the kitchen or go to the bathroom or whatever, and they'd say something to me (ask me how college was), and I'd say something back (pretty good so far), and then we'd go back to our respective things.  I can only speak for myself, but I was pretty well content.

I finished the novel probably in a day or two, would be my guess, and was very confused and disturbed by a lot of it.  Asked, I'd have told you that I didn't like it very much.  It probably became my new least-favorite King novel.

In retrospect, this is not the least bit surprising.  Gerald's Game ain't the kind of thing a wet-behind-the-ears kid is going to grok.  This had happened to me before with King's books; not often, but Cujo flummoxed me, and so did Roadwork, and so did a lot of The Tommyknockers.  It was not a totally foreign experience to dislike a King book, but it was out of the ordinary, and I can remember being disappointed that my first new King novel post-high-school had been that one.

Rereading the novel last month, I found myself thinking of that version of me, and feeling a little bit haunted by the conjunction between the novel's content and my naive summer optimism.  There's no correlation between the two, really; there's not much in Gerald's Game that speaks directly to my own experiences.

Why, then, does this novel seem to be speaking to me as much as it is? 

It's a good question, and I'm guessing it's got something to do with the way in which my memories of reading it harmonize with the content.  But I think there's more to it than that.  Gerald's Game is, among other things, about the process of examining one's past so as to find a better future.  It's about reconciling oneself with the things with which one must be reconciled.  It's an admission that some damage can't be repaired, so it simply has to be embraced.  These are ideas that resonate with me.  Not for the reasons they matter to Jessie Burlingame, but that's no prerequisite, is it?


Good ol' Stephen King.  He meant a lot to me in high school, and has meant a lot to me ever since.  I'm still finding new aspects to the nature of that one-way relationship, even in books that I'd written off at one point in time.  A great deal of my life feels like an extension of that image of me sitting alone in that room, while the world goes on outside and I content myself with being removed from (but not entirely distant from) it.  It's no great chore to be content in that room; it comes sort of naturally for me, when the worries of the world and adulthood quiet down enough to permit it.  I think to some extent, that's just who I am: a guy in a room while everyone else is outside. 

Being that with a Stephen King book in hand seems a lot more agreeable than being one without.

I'm going to explore this novel over the course of three posts, each of which is going to be devoted to a small handful of topics.  There will be a fourth devoted to the Mike Flanagan movie adaptation, as well.

I wasn't sure how to structure these posts initially, so I opted to listen to my gut, which in this case told me to begin by considering the sad case of the dog who makes a meal or two out of Gerald Burlingame's stiffening corpse.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

In the Path of the Eclipse: "Gerald's Game" and "Dolores Claiborne" Revisited

Here are a few words from Stephen King, as quoted in an interview by Wallace Stroby (conducted September 16, 1991 and published in the March 1992 issue of Writer's Digest):
I thought for awhile that I could put [Gerald's Game] together with Dolores Claiborne and do one book.  Sometimes that happens.  I've done that before with Different Seasons and Four Past Midnight, where the stories actually seemed to group together, although they were novels.  But these things were a little bit longer and just would not be harnessed together.  So eventually I decided to do them separately.  Since I went to work on Gerald's Game first, I decided to go with that one.

It doesn't seem as if these plans ever got out of the just-thinkin'-'bout-it stage, so a what-if is all it is, and all it will likely ever be.

Regardless, it's an interesting idea.  I think a lot of Constant Readers who were around at the time these books came out probably still think of them as a one-two punch; not as formal as the one-two punch that is Desperation and The Regulators, maybe, but similar.

And at some point over the years, this would-have-been combination of the two novels even picked up a title: In the Path of the Eclipse.  I know of three secondary sources where that title is mentioned.  I'm sure there are plenty of others, but these are the three that came to mind for me:

  • 2001 -- In their book The Stephen King Universe, authors Stanley Wiater, Christopher Golden & Hank Wagner have this to say: "Originally intended to be one half of a single volume entitled In the Path of the Eclipse, Gerald's Game is a companion piece to King's next novel, Dolores Claiborne."
  • 2003 -- In his book The Essential Stephen King, Stephen J. Spignesi has this to say in his Did You Know? section for Dolores Claiborne:  "Dolores Claiborne and Gerald's Game were written 'in tandem,' so to speak, and were intended to be a two-volume set called In the Path of the Eclipse."
  • 2008 -- In his book Stephen King: A Primary Bibliography of the World's Most Popular Author, Justin Brooks mentions The Path of the Eclipse [sic (?)] in the sections of both of the component novels, adding the wrinkle that they were two parts of a planned trilogy alongside an unwritten third novel.

What I've been utterly unable to find is where those books got the title In the Path of the Eclipse (or the variation missing the word "in") from.  Was it some interview King gave?  A nonfiction piece of some sort?  A lecture or signing?  I do not know.  If you do, please let me know in the comments.  
Now that that's out of the way, I thought it might be fun to explore these two novels with a post that recognizes and embraces the ways in which they intersect; not merely in the literal sense, but also thematically.  There's a sort of danger in doing that, though: the points of literal crossover excepted, both of these novels stand firmly on their own, and should not be downgraded to being a mere subset of something else.  But I think we can avoid that pitfall; and even if we can't, I'll be exploring both novels individually, as well.

I'm not quite sure how many posts I'll be devoting to that exploration, but my tentative plan is for three each, plus one more for each of the two movie adaptations.  That's not set in stone yet, but that's my thinking as of now.  So yeah, I'll be giving them each their individual due; they deserve it, quite richly.

But first, let's have a look at the book that never was: In the Path of the Eclipse.  We're not going to go quite so far as to pretend that that book exists; I think that would taking the notion too far.  But we can consider the two books to be individual halves of a sort of whole even though they WERE published separately.

So howsabout let's do just that?

We'll begin by looking at the manner in which King established the eclipse itself.  

Friday, April 20, 2018

A Few Words About That "Riverdale" Episode

Say, remember that Guided Tour series I did late last year?
That sucker was a lot of fun, and though I was caught up by the time it ended, that certainly didn't mean the end of the Kingdom.  I've already begun Part 16, which will span the year 2018 to the year ... well, who knows?  I'm guessing it will run through 2020 or 2021, which means you fine folks won't be seeing it anytime soon.
But I thought it made sense to post an excerpt from the work in progress, just so as to give us an excuse to talk about the episode of Riverdale that aired a couple of nights ago.  The episode in question, "A Night to Remember," involved...
...well, read this, and you'll see.
Riverdale season two episode eighteen: "Chapter 31: A Night to Remember"
(television episode)
  • broadcast on The CW on April 18, 2018
  • directed by Jason Stone from a teleplay by Arabella Anderson and Tessa Leigh Williams
  • inspired by and featuring songs from Carrie The Musical

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Movie Review: "Ready Player One"

"Oh, good, look ... another post at The Truth Inside The Lie that ain't got jack squat to do with Stephen King!  This guy..."
I hear ya, I hear ya.  But here's the thing.  This movie I'm about to review in brief, it's absolutely germane to a discussion on this blog.  Or any Stephen King blog.
You'll have to read all the way to the end to find out why, because I can't talk about it without being a little bit spoilery.
The setup for the movie is this: in the future -- it's, like, 2047 or something -- Americans (and maybe the world) are obsessed with a virtual-reality service called The Oasis, which is a place where you can "go" so as to escape the bounds of reality.  It was created by an eccentric genius named Mark Halliday, who has died and has left a will decreeing that the winner of a game he's written into The Oasis will inherit control of the board which runs it.  Along with this comes half a trillion dollars or so.
The game has been going on for some time when the movie begins; our hero, a teenager named Wade Watts, is one of the many, many, many people trying to win it.  His digital avatar is named "Parzival," a reference to the fact that he does not "clan up"; i.e., he is a solo gamer who avoids joining with other gamers.  
Plenty of folks have no such compunction, however, including a massive corporation called IOI, which employs gamers to do its bidding in the virtual world.  They are apparently able to purchase debt and more or less enslave people to do menial tasks within The Oasis so as to advance their cause of trying to forcibly take control of Halliday's estate.
So basically, the movie is a mix of live-action scenes within the real world of 2047 (or whatever it is), and the virtual landscape of The Oasis.  Parzival makes some friends, and begins making some headway in playing Halliday's game.  But, of course, the minions of IOI are on his trail the entire time.  Who will prevail?  I'm not telling.
This is a very, very busy movie, and if you want to know the truth, I'm not sure it made a lick of sense.  I am sure that I didn't care; I loved this movie, and while it's not perfect, it's got a lot to recommend.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Movie Review: "Children of the Corn: Runaway" (2018)

I recently had the opportunity to be interviewed by myself, and me decided to take I up on the opportunity.  This despite the fact that me only wanted to speak to us -- ? -- on the subject of Children of the Corn: Runaway, the recently-released fauxquel that marks #9 in the series.  Or #10 if you count the remake.
We'll get into that below, among other things.

Q:  Hi, Bryant!
A:  Uh ... hi.
Q:  Thanks for taking my call!
A:  *sigh*  You bet, man.  Happy to ... uh ... yeah, happy to do it.
Q:  So my first question is this: Children of the Corn: Runaway was released onto VOD services on Tuesday, March 13, 2018, which -- let me consult my calendar here and make sure this is correct -- uh-huh, yeah ... which was LAST Tuesday.  It is now March 20, 2018.  So my question is: why did it take you a full week to watch a new Stephen King movie?
A:  I'm not sure anybody cares what the answer to that is, but I can answer it.
Q:  Well, don't let me stop you.
A:  Right.  Well, see, I bought the Blu-ray, which...
Q:  You bought this on motherfucking Blu-ray?!?

Monday, March 19, 2018

A Look at "The Twilight Zone," Season 1

Your humble blogger acquired the complete Twilight Zone Blu-ray set for Christmas (all the way back in 2016!), and decided it might be nice to share his journey through Serling's masterpiece as he works his way through it.  I'd seen only a handful of episodes through the years; for all practical purposes, the series is uncharted territory for me, which is exciting, given its reputation.  To me, it made sense to blog my way through it (an urge prompted, it must be credited, by the Twilight Zone Tuesdays posts at Dog Star Omnibus).
I had not initially intended for this walkthrough to appear on The Truth Inside The Lie.  Instead, I planned originally for it to be part of Where No Blog Has Gone Before, my infrequently-updated sci-fi blog.  But as I was reaching the end of the first season, it occurred to me that not only is The Twilight Zone almost certainly of interest to many Stephen King fans, it's also germane to a discussion of King's career.  Germane enough, I think, to allow it fit in nicely here.
In his 1981 nonfiction book Danse Macabre, King devotes about ten pages to The Twilight Zone and its creator, Rod Serling.  These are not uniformly sycophantic, not by any means; King admits to preferring The Outer Limits, in fact.  Nevertheless, King recognizes the program's unique position in the pantheon of fantastic storytelling.  "Of all the dramatic programs which have ever run on American TV," King writes, [The Twilight Zone] "is the one which comes closest to defying any overall analysis.  It was not a western or a cop show (although some of the stories had western formats or featured cops 'n' robbers); it was not really a science fiction show (although The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows categorizes it as such); not a sitcom (although some of the episodes were funny); not really occult (although it did occult stories frequently -- in its own peculiar fashion), not really supernatural.  It was its own thing, and in a large part that fact alone seems to account for the fact that a whole generation is able to associate the Serling program with the budding of the sixties . . . at least, as the sixties are remembered."
King's storytelling has sometimes been described as evincing a Twilight Zone influence, and he has often mentioned that the work of Richard Matheson was influential upon his development.  Matheson was perhaps the second most notable writer for The Twilight Zone behind Serling himself.  King would also eventually be published in the eighties Twilight Zone Magazine on numerous occasions, and even had a story ("Gramma") adapted for the revival of the television series during that decade.
So all things considered, I thought it made sense to put these blog posts up here.  I was going to be writing them one way or the other, and while I've gotten some feedback that my King blog doesn't always have as much writing about King as it might optimally contain, I think this side-step is permissible.  It's not going to be super in-depth; just an episode guide and some relatively brief comments from yours truly, conducted in as un-spoilery a manner as possible.
With that in mind, let's get to side-steppin'.
There's a signpost up ahead...
There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man.  It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity.  It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition; and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge.  This is the dimension of imagination.  It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.
"Where Is Everybody?"

(season 1, episode 1)

airdate:  October 2, 1959
written by:  Rod Serling
directed by:  Robert Stevens
The place is here; the time is now...

Monday, March 12, 2018

A Review of Robert McCammon's "The Listener"

Today, I've got a review of the new Robert McCammon novel The Listener, which was released by Cemetery Dance on February 27.
Before we get to the review itself, I wanted to mention that on the day of the book's release, I was lucky enough to meet McCammon at a signing hosted by the Alabama Booksmith in Birmingham.  I suppose you may feasibly care nothing about that; if so, you are more than welcome to scroll down to the photo of The Listener, after which the review will begin.
Everyone else: assuming you don't mind indulging me a bit farther, I request that you click here to read a bit about the Alabama Booksmith.
Go on, it won't bite!
Isn't that a cool bookstore?  I'd never been there prior to this McCammon event, and I intended to take some photos that I could use in this very blog post.  I got there and got to browsing and chatting with other attendees, and I plain old forgot about taking any pictures.  I kind of remembered it on the way to my car, but thought it might be weird if I walked back in and started snapping photos.  Sorry about that!  Hopefully I will have occasion to visit them again at some point, and can rectify my blunder at that time.
Here's a link to their website, and I'm sure they would be more than happy to mail a book to you anywhere in the world.
I wasn't sure how events like this signing worked, so I labored mentally over whether I could/should take some of my old McCammon books and ask the man himself to sign them.  I worry about shit like that.  I don't want to breach etiquette if I can possibly help it, and this is especially worrisome when I don't even know what the etiquette is.  I figured it'd probably be okay, since I would be picking up a copy of The Listener while I was there ... but I wasn't sure.  So I left the four books I'd brought in the trunk of my car and went inside to get the lay of the land.
The event began at 5pm, and I went in about 4:40 so I could look around for a while.  I ended up buying two books:

El Paso, I bought as a gift for my father.  He ain't getting it until Father's Day, though, so don't mention it to him.  Plus, I have to say, I'm tempted to just keep it for myself; it sounds like the sort of thing I'd enjoy.
As for The Border, I already had a copy of that novel; but (as I mentioned in my review) I have the limited edition.  This is the mass-market edition, which apparently turned out to not be all that mass, since it is thoroughly out of print.  I didn't feel as if I could pass up the opportunity to get a copy of this edition, since who knows if such an opportunity will ever come again.  They had two copies, and I was strongly tempted to buy both, but I feared that this might make me look like a crazy person.  Plus, I was doing my damnedest not to spend money like a hog-wild fool.  Trust me, the temptation was there; this is the kind of store that makes you want to buy books by people you've never even heard of, not to mention by the ones you have.
Anyways, my books purchased and my copy of The Listener (which I'd pre-ordered) retrieved, I got in line for the signing.  I immediately overheard people talking about the literal sacks of books they had brought to be signed; one lady, on a previous visit, had evidently brought literally every McCammon novel she owned (which was every McCammon novel), and he had graciously signed every single one.  I looked around, and sure enough, several other folks were clutching older books.  So I turned around, walked back to my car, stowed my new purchases and retrieved my older McCammons.  As I walked out, I neurotically explained to one of the store's staff members what I was doing and she just sort of nodded in a "cool, thanks for the info, nerd" kind of way.  Not rudely -- the staff seems awesome -- but in the way you nod when you've seen a thing a gazillion times, up to and including the person you're observing do it thinking that they are the first person in the history of ever TO do it.
Looks, folks, here's the bottom line: I'm not exactly the most socially graceful person you've ever met.  A shocker, I'm sure, but it's true.  I never suck at it AS much as I expect to ... but I do suck at being in places I've never been, especially if I'm solely around people I don't know.  So did I trip and drop my books as soon as I walked back in the door...?
No!  But I did drop one of them, minus the tripping.  I dropped it right in front of a lady at the back of the line, with whom I had a good conversation while we stood waiting.  The book I'd dropped was the paperback version of Blue World, and she noticed it and we talked for a while about the cover art for that Pocket Book series of paperbacks, of which Blue World was seemingly the final entry.  She mentioned that the cover to Swan Song had scared her silly back in the day, and I mentioned the fact that -- as previously related here to you fine folks -- the cover to that edition of Mystery Walk had scared me so much that I had put off reading it until it was literally the only McCammon book left for me to read.
As we were standing there, I noticed that a lady at the front of the line was having McCammon sign a copy of the original Dark Harvest Swan Song hardback.  This was not the novel's first edition; it was a paperback original, but Dark Harvest published a limited-edition hardback a year or so later, and if you've got $400-800, you can buy one on the secondhand market.  I was immediately struck by a wave of envy, and I strongly considered joking with her about it when I saw her leaving a few minutes later.  "Hey," I was going to say, "I just wanted to mention that I absolutely will NOT follow you to the car and steal that copy of Swan Song from you, but it's kind of a temptation."
But of course, that would be a creepy and offputting thing to say, and might well earn me a maceing in the hashtag era of 2018.  So while I wanted to mention the book and ask her if I could check it out, I decided against it.
Eventually, I made it up to the front of the line and immediately apologized for bringing old books.  McCammon said that was no problem at all, and proceeded to sign for me the following books:
  • The Listener (already signed, but I asked him to personalize it, as well as the others I'm about to mention);
  • my original paperback edition of Blue World;
  • Shadow Show, an anthology honoring Ray Bradbury, in which McCammon's story "Children of the Bedtime Machine" is a standout;
  • and my limited edition of The Border.

We chatted for a bit about "Children of the Bedtime Machine," which I told him is, in my opinion, probably his best short story.  He was either surprised to hear that or he didn't agree with my assessment; probably the former, but the neurotic side of me fears McCammon might have judged me in that moment and found me lacking.  Which, to be fair, I kind of am.  Either way, he told me a quick story about how he came up with the title, which I really enjoyed.
Goes like this: in writing his rock-and-roll-centric novel The Five (which, to the shame of my clan, I have not yet read), he needed a name for a rock band.  So he went to a band-name generator, and what it gave him was "Children of the Bedtime Machine."  He was struck by this and the mental gears began a-turnin', and it eventually resulted in this story.  (He chose another name for the fictional rock band in The Five.)
I was intrigued by this and said so, and wondered whether he had already been approached about doing a story for Shadow Show.  He said he had, but had not come up with anything up to that point; so when the gears began turning, they steered his thoughts toward something in the vein of Bradbury.  It's a case of beneficial dovetailing, and not only is the story ("Children of the Bedtime Machine") beautifully Bradburian, but this story about the story is pretty dang Bradburian in its own right.
I love that.
I also talked to him for a bit about The Border, which I confessed that I had not read until just a few weeks prior to the Listener launch event, and had loved.  He was pleased to see a copy of the novel's limited edition, and showed it off to a few people, including the gentleman who runs the Alabama Booksmith.  I thanked him and said it'd been a pleasure to meet him (which it had), and got out of the way so somebody else could take my place.
As I was walking out, a lady at the back of the line said, "We've been talking about following you out to the parking lot and stealing that copy of The Border from you."  I looked up and saw several people grinning at me, so I stopped and chatted with them for a bit, and showed off my copy of The Border.  I even told them about seeing the lady earlier who had the copy of Swan Song that made me feel the same way.
Ain't that funny?
All in all, it was a fine old time.  I loved the bookstore, I enjoyed being around (and chatting with a few of) a bunch of fellow McCammon fans, and, of course, it was very cool to meet McCammon himself.  He was one of those guys who just seems friendly as all get-out, and happy to talk with his fans for a bit. 

I wouldn't be surprised if The Listener earns McCammon a few more of those fans.  This is a crackerjack of a novel.

Friday, March 9, 2018

"Sleepwalkers" Revisited, Part 4: The Music of "Sleepwalkers"

Well, werecats, our time with Sleepwalkers is drawing to a close.  It's been fun for me, and hopefully it's been of use to a few of you, as well.  (You can find the first three segments here, here, and here.)
We're going to conclude with a look at the music of the film, beginning with -- but not limited to -- the Music From The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack album.

A word about the word "soundtrack."  This is going to sound pedantic, but I think it's a good thing to remind people of every once in a while (myself included).  At this point, I'd say the most common use of the word "soundtrack" is in the denotation of "the music in a film or television show" (or video game, nowadays).  Even more specifically, it often refers to a commercially-available album collecting that music.
But in fact, a sound track (or soundtrack) is exactly what it, uh, sounds like: it's the entirety of everything you hear in a movie.  Music, yes; but also sound effects, dialogue, and even silence.  The word itself comes from the days of film -- actually, physical film -- when the sound was imprinted onto the celluloid.  Eventually, when music from films began to be marketed as its own thing, the word became commonly used simply to denote those albums (or cassettes, or CDs, or downloads) of songs and/or score.
Seeing the "Music From the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack" designation on the Sleepwalkers CD made me think of it, and the way my blog posts work is that typically whatever jumps into my mind is what ends up on the screen.  In this case, though, I think it's permissible.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

I Am Like the King of a Rainy Country: "Sleepwalkers" Revisited, Part 3

The screenplay for Sleepwalkers has never been published.  There's nothing peculiar about that; the only King screenplays that HAVE been published are Silver Bullet, his Tales from the Darkside episode ("Sorry, Right Number") a segment from Cat's Eye ("The General"), and Storm of the Century.  I don't think I forgot anything.
If you're anything like me, you think this is a shame.  The ones that did get published are all very readable; whatever you think of them AS screenplays, they tend to be more readable than your average screenplay.  King's writing voice and sense of humor come through loud and clear.
Before I began this series of posts (the first two segments of which can be found here and here), I knew I was going to read the screenplay.  A fellow collector sent it to me a couple of years ago, and I'd been intended to read it; this seemed like the perfect excuse.  And I also knew that I wanted to write about it.
What I wasn't sure about was whether I should write about it.  After all, this IS a piece of unpublished fiction; so an argument could be made that I shouldn't even have a copy of it, much less put proof of it out into the world.  Would Stephen King want me NOT to review it?
If you're me, you ask yourself questions like that sometimes.
Obviously, I decided to go ahead with it.  Would King approve?  Eh ... probably not.  But I figure Uncle Steve has better things to do than worry about some fatso in Alabama expressing his enthusiasm in blog-post format.
The case I'd make FOR it goes like this.  For one thing, I think it's instructive -- rarely (if ever) necessary, mind you, but certainly instructive -- to read a movie's screenplay in order to better understand the movie.  For another thing, screenplays tend to be very commonly traded among film enthusiasts; they are not always super easy to find, but this IS a different thing than a manuscript of a short story or novel that has never been published.
What decided me, however, is that there are places where the screenplay is being sold.
Now, say what you will about enthusiasts sharing the screenplay among themselves for the simple pleasure of the reading.  That's one thing.
Attempting to profit off the work is another thing entirely.  But in researching the issue, I found for-sale copies of the same draft of the Sleepwalkers screenplay that I was sent; their price ranged from $20 to in excess of $100.  These were not in uncommon places, either; they were in the types of places one would be most likely to think of if looking for something like that online.
When I saw that, I thought, well, if THAT sort of thing is being allowed, then I doubt me simply talking about having read it is going to cross anyone's eyes.  It's not like I'm posting the screenplay for others to read.  And it can be a public-service announcement of sorts: there's really no need to give some fuckhole $100 for a bootlegged copy of this screenplay.  Just make a friend in a screenplay community, and you'll almost certainly be able to get it for free eventually.
The draft we will be considering is the sixth draft, dated March 20, 1991.  As far as I know, none of the previous drafts have ever leaked into the world; I know that Rocky Wood, in his book Stephen King: Uncollected, Unpublished, says that an initial draft was titled Tania's Suitor.  I also do not know if this was the final shooting draft; there may well have been further drafts, since the finished film does have some differences.
But since this is what we know, this is what we will review.
The reason to compare screenplay to film, in my eyes, is pretty simple: to gain insight into some of the creative choices that went into the finished product.  There have been cases where the "final" screenplay would not be particularly final at all; a director can make huge changes, actors' performances can change the meaning of scenes, and the editing process can radically change the writer's intent.
So: is King's screenplay for Sleepwalkers a radically different animal that demonstrates director Mick Garris ruined and distorted his original vision.
Nope, this is essentially the movie you know and love/hate/endure/ignore.  There ARE some significant and highly interesting differences, though; by the time I finished reading it I was -- even apart from the sheer enjoyment of the reading -- very glad I had decided to do so.