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.

King, on pages 20-1, allows Dolores to deliver a fairly spectacular monologue about how much misery comes along with having to hang wet sheets in cold weather.  It's a long, unbroken paragraph, and we're not going to look at the whole thing, but let's check out about half of it:

You take the basket out to the lines, and the steam comes risin off the top, and the first sheet is warm, and maybe you think to y'self -- if you ain't never done it before, that is -- "Aw, this ain't so bad."  But by the time you've got that first one up, and the edges even, and those six pins on, it's stopped steaming.  It's still wet, but now it's cold, too.  And your fingers are wet, and they're cold.  But you go on to the next one, and the next, and the next, and your fingers turn red, and they slow up, and your shoulders ache, and your mouth is cramped from holdin pins in it so your hands are free to keep that befrigged sheet nice and even the whole while, but most of the misery is right there in your fingers.  If they'd go numb, that'd be one thing.  You almost wish they would.  But they just get red, and if there are enough sheets they go beyond that to a pale purple color, like the edges of some lilies.  By the time you finish, your hands are really just claws.  The worst thing, though, is you know what's gonna happen when you finally get back inside with that empty laundry basket and the heat hits your hands.  they start to tingle, and then they start to throb in the joints -- only it's a feelin so deep it's really more like cryin than throbbin; I wish I could describe it to you so you'd know, Andy, but I can't.

Oh, now, Dolores; don't you sell yourself short, you did just fine.

I don't know that King's powers of description have ever been better than they are right there.  He's been as good on plenty of occasions, but better?  I don't know.  You'd have to convince me of it.

And here's the thing: I have no idea if what he's saying is true.  I assume it is; it feels true, and sounds true, but I don't know it.  So I wonder: how did King know it?  Had he heard someone talk about it at some point?  Did he simply imagine his way into being able to describe it?  Or does he possibly have experience of that nature himself?  None of the above would surprise me.

Regardless, it's obviously true for Dolores herself, and one suspects not only that Vera herself has no clue about that, one also suspects that if she did she would insist on it all the same.  I probably would if I were her; sheets ain't gonna hang themselves, after all.  I don't think I'd be crazy about it, the way Vera is, though.  And when I say "crazy," I mean mentally ill.

And while you were goin through that, hands numb, fingers purple, shoulders achin, snot leakin off the end of y'nose and freezin tight as a tick to your upper lip, she'd more often than not be standin or sittin there in her bedroom window, looking out at you.  Her forhead'd be furrowed and her lips drawed down and her hands workin on each other -- all tensed up, she'd be, like it was some kind of complicated hospital operation instead of just hangin sheets out to dry in the winter wind.  You could see her tryin to hold herself back, to keep her big trap shut this time, but after awhile she wouldn't be able to no more and she'd throw up the window and lean out so that cold east wind streamed her hair back, and she'd howl down, "Six pins!  Remember to use six pins!"  (21-2)

Dolores, an empathetic soul despite her feistiness, continues, "I guess I always knew there was a part of her that hated yellin down that way as much as I hated hearin it."

But Vera just can't help it, and apparently gives in more often than not.  King transitions from here into an observation Dolores has about Vera's failing eyesight during her waning years.

Some days she could see a little bit out her left eye and pretty damned good out of the right one, but most times she said it was like lookin through a heavy gray curtain.  I guess you can understand why it drove her crazy, her that was such a one to always keep her eye on everythin.  (23)

Yep, I sure can.  I'm in my mid-forties now, and my own eyesight is beginning to worsen.  Not radically; not in any way that is cause for alarm (and I had a routine eye exam just a few weeks ago).  Nah, just part of getting older.  I have noticed enough of a degeneration, though, that I can imagine a bit about what it might be like to actually lose one's eyesight to this degree Vera has experienced; and I don't like it, nosir, do not want.

By the way, remember back in our first post in this series, when we talked about how these two novels had a running subtheme in which the color gray represented the loss of happiness from life?  The above-mentioned quotation is waving hello at that idea.

King has other ways of expressing the same sentiment of course, such as this bit from page 24:

She had her confused days, yes -- days when she didn't know who I was, and hardly even who she was.  On those days she was like a boat that's come loose from its moorins, except the ocean she was adrift on was time -- she was apt to think it was 1947 in the mornin and 1974 in the afternoon.

The word "Alzheimer's" is never spoken in this book, and it's not clear whether what's going on with Vera would fit that bill; it comes and goes a bit too much for that to be the case, perhaps.  But here again, I find myself empathizing.  As I've likely mentioned before one one or another of my blogs, my memory is really a bit shite.  This is especially true of my short-term memory, and it's very true if I'm not consciously putting forth an effort to focus.  When I do that, I do alright; but when I don't...?  Not great.

In my case, it's from sleep deprivation; but I kind of have a creeping suspicion that the end result of all of that is going to be Alzheimer's.  My grandfather had it, so it's in the bloodline.

Even without it, though, I kind of feel this adrift-on-the-ocean-of-time thing.  Shit, aren't we all?  Who doesn't find themselves having stray thoughts as though the year ends in two completely different digits from time to time?  So in many ways, I continue to think that Vera is more or less an understandable person; just one who goes to extremes most of us hopefully will not go to. 
It's not all bad news with Vera, though.  King also takes some pleasure in noting that "she had a way with words, and when she really talked a thing up, you could almost see it."  (47)  Dolores says this in reference to Vera's love of Paris.  "Sometimes she talked about it when she was feelin perky -- the caf├ęs, the nightclubs, the galleries, and the boats on the Seine -- and I loved to listen."
For me, this summons up the idea of Vera as someone who was once very happy in life; but her happiness faded -- probably, I would speculate, as the result of her husband's infidelity -- and she became a harder, bitterer, more obsessive/compulsive person.  She tries to find ways to keep her brightness alive -- think of her excitement about renting the boat to go out during the eclipse (on a body of water very different from the Seine) -- but mostly fails.  Vera's is quite a sad story, really.
Nevertheless, she did have a way with words, and here are a few examples:
  • "The only sheet worth having on a decent person's bed is a sheet that's been dried out of doors," "because they smell sweet.  They catch a little bit of the wind that flapped them, and they hold it, and that smell sends you off to sweet dreams."  (19)
  • "You've got a matching set of Louis Vuitton under your eyes, and your hands have picked up a piquant little quiver."  (143)
  • "An accident" "is sometimes an unhappy woman's best friend."  (147)
  • "Sometimes being a bitch is all a woman has to hold onto."  (169)
Another of the better lines of King's career, that last, I might add.

Speaking of being adrift on an ocean of time, that'd be one way to describe Dolores's narrative throughout the novel.  She weaves from one era to another gracefully, but weave she does.

Let's have a look at her recollections of why she married Joe St. George in the first place.  She says, "at first I couldn't do it.  After awhile I got into a kind of panic about it, like Vera when she'd get the idear there was a snake inside her pillowslip.  Then I realized what the trouble was -- I was lookin for the love part, like I was one of those foolish little girls Vera used to hire in June and then fire before the summer was halfway done because they couldn't keep to her rules.  I was looking for the love part, and there was precious little of that even back in 1945, when I was eighteen and he was nineteen and the world was new."  (54)

Dolores is trying to remember love she barely felt half a century previously, which is about as sad a thing as I can think of.  All she can come up with in the end is that she liked Joe's smooth forehead, and wished she could touch it.  "And when he asked me to the Junior-Senior Prom, I said yes, and I got my chance to touch his forehead, and it was every bit as smooth as it looked, with his hair goin back from it in these nice smooth waves."  (55)  From this simple desire sprang a lifetime of unhappiness, and finally, closer by far to the end than the beginning, she seems to have at least an inkling of a realization for what a mistake she has made: "Sittin out on the stairs today by the East Head,thinkin over those old times . . . that was damned hard work.  It was the first time I saw that I might have sold myself cheap, and maybe I did it because I thought cheap was the best the likes of me could expect to get for herself."  (55)

Oh, wait; I guess there is something sadder, isn't there?

Like Gerald's Game before it, Dolores Claiborne has a lot to say -- not always directly -- about the notion of women selling themselves short.  In this manner, entire lives are squandered; the years pile up like leaves fallen from a tree, and eventually blow away.  Who even knows they were ever there in the first place?

One of the novel's highlight scenes is probably the one in which Dolores laughs at Joe's pants having a tear in the backseat.  He wallops her in the small of the back with a piece of firewood, and she later bashes him in the head with a pitcher of cream and tells him that if he ever does such a thing again, he'd better kill her.

Do I have much of anything to say about this?  You know ... not really.  I kinda thought I did, but as it turns out, not so much; apart from simply pointing at it and saying, "Hey, awesome scene!"

I do want to point something out in the following sentence, however: "He slang the stovelength he hit me with back into the woodbox, then sat down to read the American."  (64-5)  This is the only instance I know of in which the word "slang" is used as a verb.  I love it.  The dialect of the novel was worth doing if only for this one sentence.

Similar to this scene, I kind of expected to have a lot to say about the one in which Dolores visits the bank and is informed by Mr. Pease, the bank manager.  It's another great scene, one in which we see exactly the kind of injustice women like Dolores were potentially subject to, certainly in days of yore.  Probably still, in many cases.  For Dolores, marrying a guy like Joe St. George meant divesting oneself of one's own identity and self-determination.  And let's be clear: that was part of the allure.  In those days, and possibly still, many women looked upon getting married as an achievement in which life had been solved.  There was no expectation of needing anything else; it was not necessary for a woman's money to be kept separate from her husband's because ... well, I mean, why the fuck would that even be an issue, right?

And hey, maybe that system worked just fine for millions upon millions of people.  For all I know, without a few marriages of that sort being made, I myself would never have existed at all.  However, this novel makes it clear that as long as that is the only potential people know, there will be people who fall through the cracks into a life that fundamentally does not suit them.  Dolores Claiborne, who ought to have had some sort of different and better opportunity, is one such person.

Even with copious evidence that this life has failed her, she sometimes risks sliding back into the clutches of that way of thinking.  As the eclipse approaches and her final plans for doing away with Joe are being enacted, she has a moment's weakness.

I had a second there when I kinda wavered -- I ain't gonna sit here and say different.  It was a second when it wasn't Joe puttin his hands all over Selena that I saw, but the way his forehead looked in study-hall back in 1945 -- how I saw that and wanted him to kiss me just the way he was kissin me now; how I thought, "If he kissed me I'd reach up and touch the skin there on his brow while he did it . . . see if it's as smooth as it looks."
     I reached out my hand and touched it then, just like I'd dreamed of doin all those years before, when I'd been nothin but a green girl, and the minute I did, that inside eye opened wider'n ever..  What it saw was how he'd go on if I let him go on -- not just gettin what he wanted from Selena, or spending the money he'd robbed out of his kids' bank accounts, but workin on em; belittlin Joe Junior for his good grades n his love of history; clappin Little Pete on the back whenever Pete called somebody a sheeny or said one of his classmates was lazy as a nigger; workin on em; always workin on em.  He'd go on until they were broke or spoiled, if I let him, and in the end he'd die n leave us with nothin but bills and a hole to bury him in.
     Well, I had a hole for him, one thirty feet deep instead of just six, and lined with chunks of fieldstone instead of dirt.  You bet I had a hole for him, and one kiss after three years or maybe even five wasn't gonna change it.  Neither was touchin his forehead, which had been a lot more the cause of all my trouble than his pulin little dingus ever was . . . but I touched it again, just the same; traced one finger over it and thought about how he kissed me on the patuio of The Samoset Inn while the band inside played "Moonlight Cocktail," and how I'd been able to smell his father's cologne on his cheeks when he did.
     Then I hardened my heart.  (180-1)

In case it is ever in doubt whether King is a heavyweight, right there sluggin' in that ring alongside the burliest and best-toned writers, see that last sentence.  It's a round-one knockout; you step in the ring and dance around and whap your gloves together and then, before you know it, you're dick up on the mat, stars dancing in front of your eyes.  Somewhere, a cartoon cuckoo sings just for you; you got knocked the fuck out.

On page 232, King brings onto the stage what I'd say might be the novel's only misstep: county medical examiner John McAuliffe, "a genuine bottled=in-bond Scotsman who turned up in these parts right after World War II ended, hoot-mon burr n all."

Over the course of the next few pages, Dr. Groundskeeper Willie, M.E., will interrogate Dolores, and through his mouth King will victimize us thus:

  • "Ma deepest sympathies, Mrs. St. George."
  • "I'm verra, verra sorry for your grief and misfortune."
  • "Will ye sit doon, madam?"
  • "No, madam.  I do na just think so; I have a moral sairtainty."
  • "Yes indaid.  Poor . . . auld . . . Joe."
  • "Mon, will ye not shut op!"

Couldna have said it any better maself!

It's just too much.  Does it kill the novel?  By no means; doesn't even wound it.  Truth is, it's a dynamite scene, Scots dialect or no.  But it is too much; it's a big ask King is making here, bringing on a pitiless and intimidating medical examiner in the final stretch of the novel.  Adding atop that the notion that he's a Scottish immigrant (and atop that the fact that he's as Scots-sounding a Scotsman as any who ever kilted himself) is just a bit much.

But hey, we all got through it, didn't we?

I am now going to make it part of my headcanon that in the television version of Mr. Mercedes, Hodges being Irish is somehow related to McAuliffe in this novel being Scottish.  Like, Hodges came over from the Emerald Isle seeking vengeance against McAuliffe, who, under another name, committed heinous acts of anti-Irish violence during the war.  Hodges gets here, tracks him down in his doddering years, cuts his throat and leaves him for dead, but then decides to get into law enforcement in Ohio.  Works for me.

And, by the way, let's not let that serve as anti-Gleeson sentiment.  He's great on Mr. Mercedes, and I couldn't care less that it's a little odd to see an Irish cop on an American television show in 2017.  This sort of thing is easier to accept (A) in the real world and (B) on a television show, since there's an actual person behind the character.  I mean, if you have a chance to get a guy like Brendan Gleeson to play a cop on your television show, you take that opportunity and let the audience figure it out; they're gonna be happy to do it.

But novels don't necessarily work the same way, and for my tastes, John McAuliffe does not work.

Alrighty, let's go into bulletpoint mode and check off a few smaller things, and then we will call it a day on this gem of a novel.

  • "I told you your wife would give you merry hell about buying that day-old bread -- penny wise and pound foolish, the old saying is -- and I bet I was right, wasn't I?"  (1)  I wonder how many King fans read this and all of a sudden had part of It make more sense to them.  A few, I bet; and I wouldn't be surprised if 1992 Bryant was one of them.  (I'm equally sure that somewhere out there, there's a reader who is convinced this novel and It are related due to this sentence.)
  • "Do you think things like that ever happen in real life, or only in those cheap newspapers they sell down to the grocery?"  (53)  Look, you are under no obligation to follow me down this path, but I, for one, am going to count this as a reference to Inside View.
  • "I almost told him Gary Cooper coulda been sittin in the corner with Rita Hayworth and I wouldn't have known it, and then thought, Why bother?"  (58)  This is not a Shawshank Reference in and of itself, but let's hang onto it for a moment or two.  Shawshank itself is mentioned ten pages later, when Dolores tells Joe that's where he'll end up when and if he kills her.  Then, on page 109, Dolores thinks about she would end up in "South Windham" if she killed Joe, which in my mind says that South Windham must be the Shawshank for ladies.  This is very exciting, because putting it all together makes me wonder if on some other level of the Tower, there might not be a novella titled "Gary Cooper and South Windham Redemption" in which all the same stuff happens, but with vaginas.  I assume the answer is yes, and will be crushed if it isn't.  (Octavia Spencer and Elisabeth Moss equals Oscars; I'm just saying.)
  • Oh, hey, and while I'm at it, I don't think I mentioned in Gerald's Game that a new facility of that nature is also briefly mentioned.  We hear tell of Juniper Hill (which is already known to Constant Readers), but we also hear -- on p. 319 -- about a place called Gage Point which is kind of like an adolescent recovery center.  To the best of my knowledge, neither South Windham nor Gage Point  ever popped up again in King's work, which seems like a shame.
  • "Lookin at her that way made me think of a story my grandmother used to tell me about the three sisters in the stars who knit our lives . . . one to spin and one to hold and one to cut off each thread whenever the fancy takes her.  I think that last one's name was Atropos.  Even if it's not, that name has always given me the shivers."  (144-5)  This, of course, is a bit of foreshadowing to King's next novel, Insomnia, in which Atropos and "her" "sisters" play a very important role indeed.
  • " 'Dolores!' she says.  'Dolores Claiborne!'  It never occurred to me until a lot later that she'd called me by my maiden name, even though Joe was still alive n well that morning, and she never had before.  When it did occur to me I shivered all over, the way you're s'posed to do when a goose walks across the place where you'll be buried someday."  (172)  There is a great deal of symbolic power in a name, of course; perhaps even real power.  So when Vera calls Dolores by her maiden name, she is saying something about who she thinks Dolores to be.  And it's probably not lost on you that the novel has been titled with this idea in mind.  That idea hangs over the entirety of the 300 pages and change that the novel runs; nobody anywhere, in the real world, thinks of this woman as Dolores St. George.
  • Speaking of Dolores's name, the Dog Star Omnibus review of the novel brings up an interesting issue, first put forth in the contemporary New York Times review by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt.  He points out that her name evokes notions of her having been "Clay-born," which is an idea one can find in all manner of myths.  Rather stonkingly obvious, that, isn't it?  but it had to be pointed out to me, to my discredit.
  • I will, however, attempt to redeem myself by adding that "Dolores" is evocative of the word "dolorous," which means "causing, marked by, or expressing misery or grief."  I won't take credit for this idea; I'm sure gobs of folks pointed it out long before I came along to do it.  But I will say that I take credit for recognizing King's playing with the word in crafting Dolores's name.  Name symbology like that doesn't always work for me, but both "Dolores" and "Claiborne" here work for me 100%, because King didn't have to break a sweat to get the job done.  That's a very natural name for a person to have.  Plus, add the names together and you come up with the idea of "miserable humanity" hanging over the novel like a pall; and that is very appropriate.  Well done, Stephen King!
  • Oh, and to add onto that: the Greek-myth elements of both Insomnia and (especially) Rose Madder -- King's next two novels -- arguably reflect back to the notion of being born from clay.
  • "Although it was only one-fifteen or so when I got to the village and the start of the eclipse still over three hours away, the streets were so empty it was spooky.  It made me think of that little town down in the southern part of the state where they say no one lives."  (174)  Because I have been conditioned to think this way about King's work, I initially took this as a reference to 'Salem's Lot, and then immediately thought, waitaminit, this is happening a decade and change prior to 'Salem's Lot taking place!  And then my mind flashed onto Storm of the Century, which is also set on Little Tall Island and involves a threat to turn it into an abandoned town like Roanoke.  But that clearly wasn't it.  So then I had to stop and see if I could figure out what Dolores was talking about, and what I found was that this seems to be a reference to a real place in Southern Maine by the name of Perkins Township.  Also known as Swan Island, apparently nobody really knows why it was abandoned.  Anyways, this is my best guess as to what King is referring to.
  • During the interrogation scene, McAuliffe asks Dolores if she knows what it means when you put together the blood evidence with the broken ribs and the lung injuries.  She pauses before answering: "One, my-pretty-pony . . . two, my-pretty-pony . . . three, my-pretty-pony.  'Nope,' I says."  (237)  I don't remember much about the short story (actually an excerpt from an unfinished novel) "My Pretty Pony," so I can't recall whether it is made clear therein that the phrase is used to mark off time.  Around my parts, we do so by saying "one-mississippi, two-mississipi, three-mississippi," and so forth.  I thought that was what everyone did!  Apparently not.  Cool!
  • On page 282-3, there's a scene in which Vera's lawyer calls Dolores to tell her that she is the sole beneficiary of the wealthy woman's will, meaning about thirty million dollars.  Dolores at first doesn't understand the words coming out of the man's mouth; she simply can't fathom what she is hearing.  This reminds me a bit of the way King tells the story of learning what the paperback rights to Carrie sold for; he initially insisted on hearing a much smaller number than he was actually being quoted.
  • The final three pages of the novel -- titled "Scrapbook" -- break the structure so as to allow us to step outside Dolores's point of view and be presented with a few bits of concluding information.  We learn the following: (1) that Dolores is "absolved of any blame" in Vera's death by a coroner's inquest; (2) that an orphanage in Massachusetts receives an anonymous donation of thirty million dollars; and (3) that island gossip indicates that both Joe Junior and Selena are visiting the island for the holidays this year.  It's a touching way for the novel to end, and that's enough for me, but I can't help wondering whose scrapbook these press clippings appear in.  Conventional wisdom would say that Dolores began keeping one, but I've got my money on it being Nancy Bannister, the stenographer who was present during Dolores's long talk with Andy Bissette and Frank Proulx.  If you were of a mind to do so, you could see the entire novel as being Nancy's transcription of Dolores's side of the conversation; and from there, it's not hard to imagine Nancy walking away from that long night shaken to the very core of her being by some of the things she heard.  What sort of impact did it have on her?  Were there echoes of her own life in anything Dolores said?  Did it set her on a new path of any sort?  Fascinating questions about a character who we glimpse only by the presence of her shadow at the end of the frame, as it were.
Final note: I was unaware of this until beginning this series of posts, but the paperback edition of Dolores Claiborne included -- I say that in the past tense because I can only vouch for the initial printings -- a three page "Foreword to Paperback Edition."  Not quite fitting the bill as either fictional or nonfictional in its approach, this foreword seems to have been designed to make readers familiar with some of the events of Gerald's Game so that ... so that they wouldn't be confused by the crossover elements in Dolores Claiborne, I guess?  However, I've found no evidence that the same foreword -- or any other, for that matter -- ever appeared in paperback editions of Gerald's Game, so I'm not really sure why the one received this attention and the other did not.
It's a somewhat inconsequential foreword, if you ask me, but a few things seem worth mentioning:
  • The town surrounding Dark Score Lake is identified as "Sharbot."  Whether this is ever mentioned by name in Gerald's Game I do not recall.
  • "This small green grain is Little Tall Island, population 204 in the 1990 census, down from an all-time high of 527 in the census of 1960."  Interesting!  The population has dwindled by more than half since the eclipse.  Either Dolores went on a big-time killing spree she never told us about or Little Tall is in danger of becoming as abandoned as Perkins Township.
  • [I]"n the summer of 1963, the last summer before America -- and the whole world -- would be changed forever by an assassin's bullet, Sharbot and Little Tall were linked by a remarkable celestial phenomenon: the last total eclipse visible in northern New England until the year 2016."  I wonder what Jake "George Amberson" Epping was doing during the eclipse, and if it was in any way visible in Texas.
  • King divulges that the eclipse began in Sharbot at 4:29 P.M., EDT; and at 4:34 on Little Tall; the periods of totality ran, respectively, from 5:39-5:41 and 5:42-5:43.  "As this strange darkness rolled its wave across the state, stars came out and filled the daytime sky; birds went to roost; bats circled aimlessly above chimneys; cows lay down in the fields where they had been cropping and went to sleep.  The sun became a blazing fairy-ring in the sky, and as the world within that swatch of unnatural blackness lay suspended and hushed and the crickets began to sing, two people who would never meet sensed each other, turned toward each other as flowers turn to follow the heat of the sun."  Now, this is lovely writing in and of itself, but it also strongly reinforces the the theme of nature being out of balance that runs through both novels.  This is a topic rich for exploration; I probably ought to have done so myself.  But alas, this did not happen, and so I settle for pointing out how lovely it is for both Jessie and Dolores to be compared to sunflowers here.
  • "Both heard owls hoot in the daytime.  Both lay in deep valleys of terror, nightmare geographies of which both believed they would never speak.  Both felt the darkness was entirely fitting, and thanked God for it."  Hmm.  Interesting.
  • "Jessie Mahout would marry a man named Gerald Burlingame, and her story is told in Gerald's Game.  Dolores St. George would take back her birth name, Dolores Claiborne, and she tells her story in the pages that follow.  Both are tales of women in the path of the eclipse, and of how they emerge from the darkness."

So in case you had any lingering doubts as to some of the thematic crossover between the novels, in this foreword King has formalized it and brought it from subtext to text.

And with that, our revisit with Dolores Claiborne has reached its own eclipse.  It's been fun.  I've got to say, this novel blew me away on reread.  I'd always loved it, but it seems even better to my now than ever before.

You've got to love it when that happens; and I've had that experience with quite a few King novels in the course of this blog project of mine.  That's reason enough for me to keep it going right there.  Such was never in doubt, but just to give you a peek at what's on the horizon for The Truth Inside The Lie, in addition to the plans I mentioned at the top of this post, I want to do at least some of the following over the course of the summer:

  • review the movie "adaptation" (sheesh) of The Dark Tower, and possibly the one and only season of The Mist as well, under the title "How To Get Stephen King Wrong."  This is a post well worth writing.  But I've got to be honest: it pains me to think about actually doing it.  I'd want to rewatch and fully screencap The Dark Tower so as to maximize my bile potential; and I remember so little about The Mist that I'd have to do the same with it.  And frankly, the thought of rewatching The Mist makes me a bit nauseated in my heart.  So I'd put the odds of this post happening at a mere 40/60.
  • produce an overview of the known juvenile writings of King's; I ought to have done this back in the day as a prelude to my sloth-like series on King's short fiction (which itself is in dire need of resuming -- "The Fifth Quarter" is in the on-deck circle there, if I'm not mistaken)
  • and tackle the next books in my explorations of the works of Tabitha King, Peter Straub, and Robert McCammon.

What will actually end up happening with any of that remains to be seen.  But that's the sort of thing that is in my mind.  Looking ahead after that, the next King book on my to-be-reread agenda is Nightmares & Dreamscapes.  I'm not sure how I'll handle that from a blogging perspective; probably a single post with brief reactions, would be my guess.  After that comes the Rock Bottom Remainders book Mid-Life Confidential (which I've never read, King's essay excepted), and then a whopper: Insomnia.

I'm looking forward to all of that, and if I get it all done in 2018 I will be deeply impressed by myself.


  1. (1) So was King just diving into Greek myths a lot in the early 90s? Maybe myth-reading/ religious stuff in general (I'm thinking of that Indian parable from NIGHTMARES AND DREAMSCAPES.) If so, he did some fun stuff with it all during this period.

    (2) This is all great stuff pulled from the book. Unsurprisingly - the thing flows just nonstop from beginning to end. Though you are correct: seems to stutter and stall a bit once Groundskeeper Willie shows up. There must be something to that to explain it - an homage to some character we know? (I mean, presumably not Willie). Someone King knows? King's Scots version of his Little Black Sambo tourette's? (shrugs) Like you say, not a dealbreaker.

    (3) Nice catch on "dolorous!"

    (4) Interesting stuff re: the deserted towns in Maine! I think I just assumed it was SALEM'S LOT, too. Nice catch again!

    (5) We grew up saying "one-mississippi" too. King is the only person I've ever heard use "one pretty pony... two..." etc. Did he invent it? Is it some deep Maine-backwoods thing? No idea. I think King likes making his own idioms. (For the record, I now use one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, and somewhere along the way, when I count like that in my head, I've started "hearing" Shatner himself counting it. Which throws off the rhythm/ counting completely and makes it impossible, as the whole point of adding the extra syllables, be they pretty-pony, mississippi, one-thousand is to approximate the passing of an actual second, and when Shatner's doing his thing in your head, elongating some sounds, pausing before others, the time barrier is smashed to bits, and you can end up counting thirty seconds for three minutes.)

    (6) Maybe the older census for Little Tall reflects a previous culling from Mr. Linoge. (Took half the population with him!) Except this wouldn't quite fit the continuity of STORM OF THE CENTURY, so, probably not.

    (7) Nicely done, sir! I hear you on that "How to get King wrong" post. I think of posts like that all the time and then have the same realization: sheesh, to do this properly, I'd have to not only read/ watch that again, I'd have to SCREENCAP it. (shudder) That's like hating strawberries and to prove it, eating a hudnred boxes of them. Not that anyone hates strawberries, that I know of, but you get me. Anyway! It'd be a blast to read, I bet, so I for one vote yes on inflicting it on you for our enjoyment.

    1. (1) I'd love to know the answer to this question. The timing might be right for one of his kids to have been in college and have taken a course and told their father about it and sparked an interest. Or maybe it was a long-held interest of his own that flourished for a few years there. A good question!

      (2) You know, I wasn't thinking of this, but I guess Groundskeeper Willie DID exist by this point in time, so it's not beyond the realm of possibility that that is where King got McAuliffe from. Seems unlikely, though; my money is on him having read some book set in Scotland, and from there not being able to help himself.

      (4) I was intrigued to find out about this, but I think King's editor should have told him to leave this out lest it confuse people not in the know. Because how can it not have?

      (5) Of course! One-one-thousand, etc., would be the most well-known variant of this. Didn't think about that one. As for the origin of "one, my-pretty-pony...," I'd bet my left nut -- for which I admittedly have very little need -- that it came from Ruth King. That's a "my momma said it" type of thing if I ever heard one.

      I empathize with your ... SHATNER...condition. And kind of envy it.

      (7) Your vote has been noted and recorded and will be weighed appropriately. I think I could stomach it with "The Dark Tower," but a full ten-hour rewatch of "The Mist" might break me.

    2. 1. That's a fairly interesting question. What's kinda annoying about it is King strikes me as a guy prone to come memory loss of his own. Nothing like Alzheimer's, just naturally forgetful half the time. So I'm not sure even a direct question would be able to get results on that one.

      The speculation did yield one interesting revelation, though. In 1996, Edward J. Ingebretsen wrote a literary study called "Maps of Heaven, Maps of Hell". During that time, King wrote both "Green Mile" and "Desperation".

      If you look at the top of the Ingebretsen book, you'll see it referred to as "The smartest, most savvy overview of American horror fiction". Look at the name attached to that quote:


      Maybe the Ingebretsen book gave someone ideas. Who knows? Either way, it sounds interesting.

      6. About Linoge, I think another way of looking at that is that Mike Anderson wasn't the only one who ultimately felt compelled to escape Little Tall after the Storm.

      8. I enjoyed both book and film. I might prefer "Gerald's Game" out of the two (with each sequentially starting with DC and ending with GG), but both are still of equal value, I think.


    3. 6. I'd love for King to follow up on that story.

      8. If pushed to choose between the two, I'd probably also choose Gerald's Game." But I agree, they are on more or less equal footing.

    4. 6. Well, technically, I'm just starting on the book here, but already I'm wondering about the exact nature of Ralph Anderson in "The Outsider". I'm remember Hank Wagoner holding a theory Mike Anderson was simply "no quitter", and he might try and hunt down Linoge in order to get his son back.

      The irony here is, it may at least be possible for "The Outsider" to be a big clue that, in essence, Mike was successful.

      Just a theory though.

      As for "Outsider" itself, I was given a clue by several media reviews about the switch that happens mid-story, so I think I'm prepared in terms of what to expect.


    5. I didn't find even the tiniest shred of evidence that the Ralph Anderson in "The Outsider" is the Ralph Anderson in "Storm of the Century." If that WAS King's intent -- and I don't think it was -- then it is a monumental failure.

      Which is fine. I mean, it's a common enough name that I can let it slide. It's just an odd decision on King's part.