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.

We don't actually spend much time with Gerald, who goes dick up on the floor pretty early on and is subsequently heard from mainly as dog food and as an airport for flies. 
We do, however, find out a few things about him, and I was intrigued to find myself thinking of him as a sort of grown-up (and more socially capable) Harold Lauder from The Stand.  "He was, after all," we are told on page 3, "no devil-may-care adventurer like the ones in the men's magazines over which he had spent the furious ejaculations of his lonely, overweight puberty," a description which brings to mind the one of Lauder as the kind of guy who jerks off in his own pants.
Moreso, he "had been a fat kid with thick glasses, a kid who hadn't had a date until he was eighteen -- the year after he went on a strict diet and began to work out in an effort to strangle the engirdling flab before it could strangle him."  (7)  Harold might well have ended up going that route himself, given the opportunity to live in a world where no civilization-toppling plagues ran amok.
We will also find out later that in college, Gerald belonged to the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity, and this this "wasn't a very bright star in the fraternity universe -- the other frat-rats used to call it Alpha Grab A Hoe" (37).  We don't find out much more than that about Gerald's frat days, but imagine, if you will, that a formerly overweight and sexually inexperienced teenage boy hears about a fraternity called "Alpha Grab A Hoe."  Do you think he would pick up on the idea that the designation was not intended positively?  Or do you think he might instead be inclined to think that that was the fraternity for him? 
This conjures images of a frat house with a culture of misogyny and likely sexual misdeeds, and doesn't that seem like the kind of system which might well produce a man who, years later, would be willing to rape his wife in a moment where she is restrained and (presumably -- though not actually) incapable of stopping it from happening?  Yep, it does to me, too.
And I kept thinking that Harold Lauder would have loved it.
Here's something about Ruth that caught my eye.  "She hadn't thought of Ruth in years and now Ruth was inside her head, handing out little nuggets of wisdom just as she had in days of yore.  Well, why not?  Who was more qualified to advise the mentally confused and emotionally disturbed than Ruth Neary, who had gone on from the University of New Hampshire to three marriages, two suicide attempts, and four drug-and-alcohol rehabs?  Good old Ruth, just another shining example of how well the erstwhile Love Generation was making the transition to middle age."  (23-4)
We know less about Ruth even than we know about Gerald, which is not unusual, since Ruth never actually appears in the novel.  We hear a version of her in Jessie's thoughts, but this version of her is clearly one stuck in the past, beaming in from a sort of idealized place in Jessie's own perceptions of her. 
This is something that will, obviously, inform King's later book Hearts In Atlantis.  And not only there, but elsewhere in his career (not necessarily just within his fiction, either), King has written about how his generation had a real opportunity to change the world but ended up settling for yuppiedom.  This hangs over Gerald's Game like a sword over Damocles, what with Gerald being an oh-so-eighties white-collar type and Jessie being more or less just a dishrag who exists to be a wife and little else.  I'm not saying that it's bad to be a stockbroker, or that it's bad just to be a wife; but I'm saying that those things are arguably refutations of what the supposed Love Generation was supposedly all about.  King knows this, and while he's not making that a primary focus of Gerald's Game, it's definitely a topic that interests him and to which he will return on occasion.
We find out a little bit about Jessie having undergone therapy: "Six years ago she had spent an abortive five-month period in counselling, not telling Gerald because she knew he would be sarcastic . . . and probably worried about what beans she might be spilling."  (33)
A few things about this stand out to me.  For one, it's clear that even going back several years, Jessie had a need to sort her past (and perhaps also her present) out.  This makes it less surprising and more credible that by the time she finds herself trapped in a pair of handcuffs all alone in the wilderness, she is at a point where she is primed and ready to turn a corner.  The cuffs are less an inciting incident than a culmination.
But also, it's interesting that she doesn't tell Gerald because she worries that he will think she is saying things she ought not be saying.  Let's keep in mind a fact: we don't know that Gerald actually would think that; we only know that Jessie believed he would.  What kind of "beans" might she even have to spill that would concern Gerald?  One might be forgiven for reading that and assuming that there are dark secrets in their marriage, but I personally don't think that's the case; maybe she's afraid that Gerald simply wouldn't want to be talked about at all.  This seems likely to me; it's not like he's a serial killer who's afraid Jessie is going to give away his secret identity or something.
However, let's remember that to some degree -- even if only subconsciously -- Jessie equates Gerald with her father.  And there are definitely beans to be spilled about that fellow.  My feeling, then, is that Jessie is less worried about Gerald being worried than she is worried about doing what she almost did with Ruth one day during college: talking about her father abusing her.  She has a vested interest in continuing to keep that corpse buried, and Nora Callighan, her therapist, is precisely the kind of person who might just grab a pickaxe and get to digging.
The Ruth-voice in her head says precisely that on page 70: "Any time the truth gets too close, any time you start to suspect the dream is maybe not just a dream, you run away."  As we know from our previous explorations of the novel, the idea of unmasking a supposed dream as in fact being reality is an important one to this novel.
We also find out (page 71) that Jessie's visits with Nora were apparently prompted by her stopping her hobby of painting; the content of some of these paintings scared Jessie.  No further info on this is given, but I don't think there's much doubting that what happened there was a little too much truth began to seep into the paintings; to seep out through them.  So she went to therapy to find out what was up with that, found out what was up with that, and ran away from it lickety-split.  She ran away from her therapist, "who kept shoving her toward doors she didn't want to open, who kept assuring her that the present can be improved by examining the past -- as if one could improve the taste of today's dinner by slathering it with the maggoty remains of yesterday's."  (114)
Raymond Andrew Joubert might have some thoughts on that theory of dinner, mightn't he?

Here's a bit that stood out to me:
What lay between her hips was a triangle of ginger-colored, crinkly hair surrounding an unassuming slit with all the aesthetic beauty of a badly healed scar.  This thing -- this organ that was really little more than a deep fold of flesh cradled by crisscrossing belts of muscle -- seemed to her an unlikely wellspring for myth, but it certainly held mythic status in the collective male mind; it was the magic vale, wasn't it?  The corral where even the wildest unicorns were eventually penned?
     "Mother Macree, what bullshit," she said, smiling a little but not opening her eyes.
     Except it wasn't bullshit, not entirely.  That slit was the object of every man's lust -- the heterosexual ones, at least -- but it was also frequently an object of their inexplicable scorn, distrust, and hate.  You didn't hear that dark anger in all their jokes, but it was present in enough of them, and in some it was right out front, raw as a sore: What's a woman?  A life-support system for a cunt.  (34)
In the year 2018, it is probably a really, really bad idea fur a guy like me to comment on the vagina.  How dare I?
Well, personally, I don't think I ought to feel obliged to steer clear of such a topic.  I support vaginas both implicitly and explicitly.  Why feel shy about saying so?  I ain't never been much of an oppressor, so I don't have much of a sense of guilt in the matter, if any at all.
I'll say this: I've never cared for the description of the organ as a "slit."  A slit is a thing that happens as the result of violent alteration of a pre-existing surface of some sort.  Calling a vagina a "slit" implies that a thing was normal, then got altered by a sharp implement of some sort, and not has a slit in it, sitting there preventing it from being normal.
What could be more natural than a vagina?
To be clear, I'm not sure it's King himself who is referring to it as a slit; instead, I think he's having Jessie herself think of it that way, as an indication of how relatively unlovely she finds her own gender to be.  It's a sign of her own degraded self-worth.
As for the whole "magic vale" thing...?  Well, I'll cop to being somewhat onboard with that.  I'm thinking of Rivendell in The Lord of the Rings; a secret place where one finds delight and comfort, a place that is not necessarily the type one wishes to leave once one has gotten there.  But also very much a place of power; around it the world turns, even if the world may not recognize that it is doing so.
Every so often, King produces a reference to something that flummoxes me.  One such moment came on page 93:
She cupped both hands around the bedposts this time, rubbing them up and down until they produced squeaks.  She held up her right hand and wiggled it in front of her eyes.  They laughed when I sat down at the piano, she thought.
Uh ... what?
Here's what:
Thanks to Google, I found out that this was an advertisement that ran in magazines during the 1920s.  It was for piano lessons, and the essence of it is "dweeb with no evident redeeming values sits down at piano, produces exceptional performance that stuns surprised onlookers."  It was an ad that was selling perceived confidence.
So why does Jessie think this to herself?
I think she's being somewhat self-sarcastic.  She's just gone through the ordeal of getting the water glass into her hand, only to find out there is no way to then get the water into her mouth.  So in a sense, she has sat down at a piano primed and ready to play a sonata, only to find that she can't play a note.
But she's developed a new plan, one involving turning a blow-in card -- which is evidently what you call the flimsy subscription cards that used to (and may still) litter the insides of magazines -- into a straw.  This venture will be much more successful; so while she may be showing signs of sarcasm here, I think it ends up being a rather appropriate reference, not merely for this scene but arguably for the entire novel.
Here's a fine sentence on page 121: "Dreams on waking were like the empty cocoons of moths or the split-open husks of milkweed pods, dead shells where life had briefly swirled in furious but fragile storm-systems."
I am put in mind of Sleeping Beauties here, in which the planet's women go to sleep and (in some cases) have rather an extensive dream.
Do I have more to say about that than that?  I do not.
There are several places where the flies which soon begin farming Gerald out get used wryly by King:
  • "She realized that what she was hearing didn't really sound very much like a smoke detector at all.  It sounded like . . . well . . . like . . .  It's flies, okay, toots?  The no-bullshit voice now sounded tired and wan.  You've heard about the Boys of Summer, haven't you?  Well, these are the Flies of Autumn, and their version of the World Series is currently being played on Gerald Burlingame, the noted attorney and handcuff-fetishist."  (170)
  • "The dog stepped back as delicately as a dancer in a movie musical, its good ear cocked, the meat dangling from its jaws.  Then it turned and trotted quickly from the room.  The flies were beginning resettlement operations even before it was out of sight."  (218)
  • "She looked from the bathroom door to the framed batik butterfly to the bureau to her husband's body, lying benaeth its noxious throw-rug of sluggish autumn flies."  (226)
  • "As soon as she had left Gerald behind, the blanket of disturbed flies resettled and resumed their day's work.  There was, after all, so much to do and so little time in which to do it."  (247)
These are equally amusing and horrifying, and what I take away from this small running subtheme (apart from the verve with which it is presented) is the notion that Nature is very much at work here.  As soon as a thing's usefulness and energy has dissipated, Nature sets to work turning into useful again and harnessing what little of its energy remains.  One might argue that Raymond Andrew Joubert is doing something similar to what the flies do; although in his case, he is doing so not on behalf of Nature but on behalf of himself, and his efforts thus seem perverted.  The former Prince, however, is arguably acting as an agent of Nature; he acts out of motivated self-interest as well, but then again, so do the flies.
Here's a thing I didn't quite understand.
Jessie has a voice inside that she thinks of as "Goodwife Burlingame," which evokes images of Puritan attitudes and beliefs, and comes complete with a mental image of this aspect of herself being placed in stocks for her transgressions. (Gerald was a stockbroker, eh?  I see what you did there, Stephen King.)
On page 204, the adolescent-Jessie voice ("Punkin") is now in stocks, but:
Next to Punkin was another set of stocks, with another girl in them.  This one was perhaps seventeen, and fat.  Her complexion was blotched with pimples.
Now, who is this supposed to be?  It'd be natural to think that it's an older, slightly-pre-college version of Punkin (meaning Jessie); but this does not square with what we know about the Jessie of those years.
It sounds like Carrie White, to me.  Don't misunderstand me; I'm not saying King is making some sort of weird Carrie reference here.  But when I think of pimply, overweight teenage girls in King books, I think Carrie White; and since I have no clue who this actually IS supposed to be, it's where my mind is going.
Later on we will find out the "fate" of this other girl:
The fat girl hadn't been as lucky as Punkin; there had been no escape for her, unless death itself was an escape in certain cases -- a hypothesis Jessie had become quite willing to accept.  The fat girl had either choked to death or suffered some sort of seizure.  Her face was the puple-black color of summer thunderheads.  One eye bulged from its socket; the other had burst like a squeezed grape.  Her tongue, bloody where she had bitten it repeatedly in her last extremity, protruded between her lips.  (225)
Nope, I don't get this at all.  I'm tempted to think it's another bit of the Dolores Claiborne crossover, but I can't square this with what I know about Selena in that novel.  Is it some outsider/alien consciousness infiltrating Jessie's?  If so, why isn't Jessie making a bigger deal of that.
Nope.  I just don't get it.
I spent some time during the note-curating process of writing these posts waffling on the extent to which I was going to confront the allegedly feminist-political stances King takes in both this novel and Dolores Claiborne, and I rather quickly ended up deciding that I didn't much care to dive off that board.  It's just not what this blog is built to do.  Do I think the reputation Gerald's Game has as trash-pop feminism (of a mostly unsuccessful variety) is earned?  Nah, sure don't.  I think that's mostly hogwash.  And, happily for me, I'm mostly content to just roll my eyes at the idea and move on.
To that end, I found myself wondering if this book could have been told from a male point of view.  What would a hypothetical Jessie's Game, with Gerald as the suffering protagonist, have been like?  Gerald Burlingame, a meek and mild __________ (we could probably just go ahead and say "writer"), is handcuffed by his wife Jessie, a high-powered attorney whose need for sexual dominance over her husband both excites and repels him.  She gets mad that he can't get it up during their most recent "game" and has a heart attack and dies.  Can he get out of this bed?  Can he get the jobs done that he needs to get done?
There's something there, probably.  I don't know if an abuse-related angle would be involved, and I'm not sure what kind of role a space cowboy would play in it, but there's probably something there.
And that something sounds about a thousandth as interesting as Gerald's Game.
A few straggling bits and bobs:
  • On page 11, Jessie remembers her brother Will goosing her at a birthday party, and all her friends laughing about it.  She thinks, adopting their collective persona, "Har-har, preety fonny, senhorra, I theenk."  What is it with Stephen King and satirical Mexican dialects?  This pops up in his work on occasion (Richie Tozier in It uses it a good bit), so it's clearly a thing with him.  I can't say it's one of my favorite aspects of his work.
  • King is also prone to creative descriptions of various bodily functions.  This bothers me a good bit less.  After all, what can possibly be more relatable than the need to piss/shit/puke?  Who among us is not thus affected on occasion?  I don't necessarily want to talk about it all the damn time, but the occasional amused observation is aces in my book.  So, on page 38, we get, in reference to the simultaneous needs she is feeling to urinate and obtain a drink of water, the idea that "the need to ship was stronger than the need to receive."  I love that.  You got a thing you need to get rid of?  Postal-service metaphor for the win.
  • The novel is set partially (via flashback) on Dark Score Lake, which I believe is making its first appearance in King's work.  It will be a primary setting for Bag of Bones, with which it shares some thematic overlap.
  • Page 70-1: the first image of the young girl ("Punkin") in the stocks happens.  "This particular daughter of Eve was too young to have even begun her monthly courses, let alone have a husband," Jessie thinks.  Another voice speaks up inside her head and says that this is not true.  "She started when she was only ten and a half.  Maybe that was the problem.  Maybe he smelled blood, just like that dog out in the entry.  Maybe it made him frantic."  The "him," we will eventually discover, is Jessie's father; the girl is Jessie herself.  Linking her father's possible sexual desire to the magnetic allure of her womanly blood is compelling and unsettling, given where the novel goes.  But I couldn't help thinking of Margaret White in Carrie, who warns her daughter about the men who come sniffing like dogs after the blood to see where the smell is coming from.  
  • On a (probably) less concerning note, it is mentioned on page 81 that Gerald is evidently a reader of Star Trek novels, which he "read and then dropped like used napkins."  Was I still reading Star Trek novels in 1992?  I had to do some research to find out, but yeah, I sure was.  Released that year and definitely read by me: Peter David's Imzadi, the novelization of "Relics," L.A. Graf's Ice Trap, and Diane Carey's Best Destiny.  I think it was about another year/year and a half before I got out of that game.  Anyways, Gerald's approach is probably the right one; although King's evident contempt for Gerald is likely such that he feels even such paltry literature as Star Trek tie-in novels deserve better than to be discarded like used napkins.
  • Page 101-1: in the wake of having finally gotten a drink of water using her makeshift straw, Jessie feels herself returning ever so slightly to normal, her panicked physical needs having been partially addressed.  She thinks of her impulse-versus-thought dynamic like this: "for now the white-collar guys on the top floor -- the ones with all the good views -- had once again wrested control away from the day-laborers and shop stewards who ran the machinery; the mutiny was over."  This is an odd way of looking at the mind/body relationship; it may be something King has done before, and he will definitely do it again in the short story "Stationary Bike."  I'd point out that it might be unlikely that Jessie would think of this in terms of "guys" running her various processes; this seems like an instance of a male writer writing a female character and not quite managing to do so successfully.  Plus, I'm not sure Gerald's Game actually comes down on the side of "white-collar" issues, given Gerald's status as a stockbroker and the need Jessie has to return to a more Love Generation friendly point of mental view.
  • Page 120:  Jessie wakes up with no idea how long she has been asleep.  "All she knew for sure was that it was full dark and the moon was now shining through the skylight instead of the east window."  No word on whether there were no stars.  (The collection Full Dark, No Stars, of course, shares a great many thematic similarities with this novel.)
  • Page 127: there is a reference here to "the Lakeview Man, that legendary brain-blasted survivor of the Koren War."  This is evidently a reference to a song by The Rainmakers; this may well be a song based on an urban legend, for all I know.  I'm not quite interested enough to dig deeper and find out, but I'm interested enough to field comments on the subject, so if you've got any additional info to share, please do share it.
  • Page 278: as Jessie is driving away, she passes a gate with the words RIDEOUT'S HIDEOUT on a sign.  I'm guessing there is nothing to be inferred from this, but a character named Rideout will later appear in the short story "The Little Green God of Agony."
  • We haven't talked about this much -- I may not even have mentioned it -- but Gerald's Game can be seen as a sibling novel to Misery.  Both novels obviously feature protagonists who are more or less stuck in one room, but Jessie's use of her imagination reminds me heavily of Paul Sheldon's mental game of "Can You?"  This is an exercise he uses while writing that he then applies to his real-life situation; it arguably saves his life, and Jessie's imagination arguably saves hers.  Beyond that, the novels are obviously very different; but I think they make for a solid example of how King can and does explore and re-explore ideas in useful and entertaining fashion without seeming as if he is ripping himself off.
  • Page 315-6: Sheriff Norris Ridgewick and Deputy John LaPointe apprehend Joubert in Homeland Cemetery.  Ridgewick has gotten a promotion since Needful Things!  It's always fun to get updates like this from King on what others books' characters are up.  Homeland Cemetery has been mentioned in other King books, of course, going back at least as far as The Dark Half; but I've got the movie Sleepwalkers fresh in mind, which also includes that place ... but is, quite weirdly, set in Castle Rock, Indiana.  I don't get it.  Anyways, I wonder if having Ridgewick pop up here actually works in the novel's favor.  Seems to be like there's a reality-versus-fantasy thing going on in Gerald's Game wherein we are asked to accept the extremely-acceptable notion that real-life monsters are much more frightening than made-up ones.  (Heck, Jessie even says so herself, on page 293: "There is no magic stake to drive through the hearts of the real monsters, and oh Ruth, it makes me so tired.")  But since Ridgewick comes from a reality in which a demon can open a curio shop and a pseudonym can come to life and start murdering people and so forth, I'm not sure connecting Gerald's Game to the King multiverse is a useful tactic in selling this real-monsters-are-scarier idea.  So I enjoy the connection; but I think King dropped the ball somewhat in making it.
  • Page 322: there is a reference to "having to go all the way around Robin Hood's barn," a country saying that also appeared (and somewhat befuddled me) in Revival.

And with that, I guess we are mostly out of the Gerald's Game business around these parts.  It's been fun for me, and hopefully you got something out of it, too.  If not, sorry 'bout that.  We'll return to that lonely bed and that pair of handcuffs fairly soon, when we embark upon an exploration of Mike Flanagan's film adaptation.
First, though, we've got a three-part revisit with Dolores Claiborne on the agenda.
See you for that soon, I hope!


  1. 1. I can still remember Bill russell's illustrations after all these years. It's a shame he never did more work for King, really.

    2. There's an irony of seeing a connection to "Hearts in Atlantis", and then finding a mention of the "Boys of Summer" a few paragraphs later. To me, that book and that song go together like bread, peanut butter, and jam.

    3. I was taken aback by Russell's illustration of the dog. In my mind, Prince is a lot more cuddly, evoking a level of sympathy from the audience. That picture though looks like the Hound of the Baskervilles.

    4. I don't mind the shout-outs to either "Needful Things" or the future projection of "Bag of Bones at all, really. To me it just has a nice keeping it in the family vibe. Though I guess it is an irony, considering the nature of this particular book.

    5. Okay, here's the way my mind works. My reaction to the idea of a "Jessie's Game" was: Sounds like a bad James Thurber novel. Then my mind skipped to a late 60s TV show based around Thurber and his stories. One episode features a scene that pre-empts the "Little Boy Sweet" scenes of National Lampoon's Summer Vacation". From there, my mind does a strange cross-stitch back to that Jessie's Game idea, only now the main character is Clarke Griswold.

    ...I'll go take my meds now.


    1. 1. I agree. Something about the style really meshes well with King. This may have something to do with it reminding me of woodcut illustration, which I first encountered as a very small child flipping through a book of Poe stories.

      2. Oh, absolutely. Good call! And quite possibly another of my all-time top five songs, by the way.

      3. I hadn't thought of that, but I totally agree. The former Prince should look emaciated and desperate, but like an adorable dog turned savage by circumstance. And one ear should be destroyed.

      4. I don't mind it either, to be honest. My mind takes note of it and objects slightly on technical grounds, but my heart is happy for the tie-in.

      5. You know, I can totally see that happening to Clarke Griswold. So have some meds for me; I'm onboard with that idea. (Don't actually have any extra meds, of course; I am not a doctor and do not recommend changes to any dosages.)

  2. I loved this post! Great job.

    Will you be reviewing THE OUTSIDER?

    1. Thanks!

      I will be, but in what form remains to be seen. Probably only a very brief one, would be my guess at this time.


  3. (1) King's take on his generation is essentially EASY RIDER's, isn't it? (i.e. "We blew it.") I know there's more to it than that, and I definitely need to read HEARTS IN SUSPENSION.

    (2) One thing that very much comes through in these posts - especially reading them all one after the other as I am this evening having carved out a little time to do so, with glass of pinot and some Chopin for company - is how like so many of King's works it's at the very least (and it's not small "least") well-constructed. He went over the manuscript well, I mean, and used word choice and allusion to keep hammering away at the theme(s). Like it or not like it, it's always good to see the craft respected!

    (3) "as if one could improve the taste of today's dinner by slathering it with the maggoty remains of yesterday's." Hey now! That is great. When I re-read my own review in between posts earlier, I was impressed at the number of lines I plucked as great turns of phrase. Not my own judgment in doing so, just the number of them, like hey now (Hank Kingsley) this novel has a lot of well-turned phrases. As with the above, like it or dislike it, successfully or unsuccessfully, there's a lot of great writing in here, and it's always nice to see that. I feel that way with Straub constantly: even when I have NO fucking clue what he's writing about, I admire the crap out of the way he spins those sentences. Beautiful prose is to be respected wherever it is encountered.

    (4) I really could have gone without that "life support system" motif. Once or twice, okay: brutality serves theme. Repeated beep-beep-ritchie style (I exaggerate) and it just felt like too much. There's that great Judd Apatow anecdote from filming WALK HARD where he talks about just how much screentime an audience will take of male genitalia on screen. They kept tweaking it until they found the right amount, but it was a fascinating and disturbing process. I think perhaps this anecdote is poorly chosen for the point I was trying to make, but just too much of something genital-related, maybe, and the audience is lost.

    (5) God these illustrations are dynamite.

    (6) I'm not sure I get the pimply fat girl thing, either. That's curious.

    (7) King's generation or anyone who grew up on TV from the 50s and 60s (or radio from either era too) seems to share that lapse-into-accents thing, eh?

    (8) Nice Rideout catch! You've got to wonder if all these characters were discarded parts of other books and end up scattered throughout the Kingverse. I love that idea. Who the hell else is around Dark Score Lake? I bet a Reploid.

    (9) Along those lines, Ridgewick. Does he pop up anywhere else?

    (10) Thank you for a quite entertaining ride through this book. Well-done! I really want to read this, BAG OF BONES, ROSE MADDER, INSOMNIA, and DOLORES CLAIBORNE again and probably will before 2018 plays out. How I don't know, I may have to just stash the books downstairs by the washer and dryer and do a lot of laundry. Luckily, that's easy to do with 3 kids!

    1. (1) Yeah, I'd imagine "Easy Rider" is a strong comparison. And if I'm not mistaken, he reviewed that movie during his college-newspaper-column days. So there's probably a hella-fine essay waiting to be written that tracks his career through this prism. I suspect there's a lot of fertile ground there.

      As for "Hearts In Suspension," I enjoyed it quite a bit. I was worried the stuff not be King would bore me, but that was not the case. And I was shocked by how much the context worked to make rereading the novella "Hearts In Atlantis" worth the doing.

      (2) Speaking of being shocked, I was shocked by how well-written I found "Gerald's Game" to be on this rewrite. There are occasional stumbles, of course. (And maybe some major ones, if one objects to the extended coda.) But I spent a LOT of time highlighting or underlining sentences I was impressed by. And I spent twice as much time doing that with "Dolores Claiborne"!

      (4) I swear I think it's only mentioned twice in the entire novel! I didn't track it, but I don't think it's more than two or three times. It does sort of stick out, but not in what I personally feel is an unreasonable way.

      As for that "Walk Hard" analogy ... man, that movie. I only saw it once, but I thought I might die from laughing. I'm reluctant to ever watch it again, because I've built it up in my mind as this sort of perfect thing. And the scene where Dewey is sitting on the floor of the hotel room on the phone and some dude walks in hanging brain and just sort of stands there for a bit...? Genius. Not sure why I respond that way, but it just makes me laugh even to think about it. It still baffles me that that movie wasn't a colossal smash hit.

      (6) It must mean something, but I'll be doggone if I can figure out what. I should add that to my list of questions to ask King if I ever get to interview him!

      (7) Yeah, maybe that's it; maybe it was something comedians of their era were prone to do. I'm sure there are equivalents from our era that must be similarly eyebrow-raising to younger people.


      (9) Without researching the matter, I'm going to say that he is perhaps mentioned in "Bag of Bones" at some point but does not otherwise reappear. I'll be curious to see if the Hulu "Castle Rock" series remembers he exists. They've got Scott Glen playing old-as-dirt Alan Pangborn, so it's not out of the realm of possibility.

      (10) Man, I bet it is. The sheer amount of laundry I myself generate is amazing, and I'm just one dude. I hope you don't have to hang any of it outside in the freezing cold, like Dolores Claiborne.

  4. Oh, by the way: I had a thing pop up in my King-related Google alert that mentioned the whole "They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano" thing, and I briefly got excited that this post might have gotten noticed by Google.

    but no, it was something else, and in it it mentions that King first used the reference in "The Shining." I'd forgotten all about that!

    Thought I'd better mention it here, though.