Wednesday, October 10, 2012

"She can’t be dead!” Annie Wilkes shrieked at him."

"Her hands snapped open and closed in a faster and faster rhythm. “Misery Chastain CANNOT BE DEAD!”

~Misery - by Stephen King (1988)

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My husband hated the movie made from this novel. He still does. Hates it with a passion. And Kathy Bates did such a good job in her hobbling scene that he can't stand to watch her in a movie ever again.

Like so many of the other assignments in this "Readings in the Genre" course, I'd seen the movie Misery a couple of times, but only read the book once several years ago. I was grateful for the opportunity to read it again last week and it brought back a ton of sketchy memories.

I won't do a synopsis of the story because synopsis of stories are overdone, but I will describe what I really enjoyed about this novel and what I thought could have been improved in it along the way.

Stephen King is a MASTER at character creation, and his development of Annie Wilkes is priceless. Paul Sheldon's character is stale in comparison, but I think the part is meant to be that way. Annie Wilkes is the colorful bird in this story. Zany, crazy and as whacked out as they come. Scary part is she always reminds me of my mother, 'whoever/whatever is out/in there, her soul.' 

I identified pretty strongly with Paul throughout the novel (feeling trapped and powerless) although I think I would have wised up faster than him and made my dear fan worshipper happy with whatever the hell she wanted just so I could get out of there. But King's dialogue that came from Annie, and the descriptions of her, burst disturbingly to wicked life throughout the pages. I admit I kept seeing Kathy Bate's face as I read. Movies do that. Replace imagination with something you've seen. But I certainly didn't sleep well the night I finished the book.

The one thing I could have done without in the book, and where I thought improvement could be made, were the minute details that seemed to drag the story down. Details are good things in a novel, but there's such a thing as too many good things. As an example, the long diatribe about the Royal typewriter was unnecessary. A few of the details were fine but after a while I was ready to smack the writer hard and tell him to get on with it. I wanted to pound that typewriter into steel granules, and overdone scenes like this make me want to stop reading (or at the very least, skip to the next good part.)

But despite some of the long and painful descriptive passages, I enjoyed this book and it reminded me of what an incredible writer Stephen King is. There's one book of his which I haven't read yet and really need to (as my friend Gina keeps reminding me) and that's the book "IT." When I get the time, "IT" will be next on my list. Send in the Clowns.


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  1. I agreed King has a habit of fixating on an inanimate object or scene and describing the hell out of it. I always think it must be reeeaally important, but I can never figure out why. Like you I end up skimming, but I also pay attention to the amazing detail he uses.
    When you get around to reading IT do NOT watch the movie. Loved the book and thought the movie sucked. The movie reminded me of a horror version of the Posiedon with all of the has-been actors in it. Probably too harsh, but the book is better. I used to like clowns. Not anymore.

  2. Replies
    1. Chris, you and Gina are sooo right. I know. When I retire and get to write and read full time I WILL read everything you guys recommend and more. I feel so behind in the genre readings but I'm grateful for you and my other dearest friends. I'd be lost without you, and gobbled by zombies. :) Soon. I will read IT soon! :)

  3. Dwight, Tim Curry is not a has-been actor! The others though... yeah, you might be right.

    I think in the introduction to The Stand King discusses how movies have a problem of cementing the faces of actors and actresses into our heads and hesitates in their creation because of this. I know I couldn't get Bates's face out of my mind while I read.

    I agree Annie's character stole the show. Paul almost becomes a mirror by which she's reflected. Also, I didn't pick up on the typewriter, but there have been scenes in other Stephen King books that seem to drag on for me. I'm a little surprised I didn't catch it here.

  4. I love the man, and that probably makes me not the best critique of his work. Ok, let me stipulate this is a "healthy" love. I'd go for the autograph, not the jugular. However, I do have to agree - he does have some fixations and repetitive phrasing, but nobody does characters like him. And to second Chris - get on [IT]! I'll bring you a copy at residency.