Saturday, March 23, 2013
Biting on tinfoil
Stephen King's The Stand is very long. Too long.
This is the first time I've read anything by Stephen King (except for his essay on taxes and a page or so that was excerpted from On Writing and referenced in an editing workshop I attended).
Its treatment of characters is unbalanced, in a seemingly random way. We get little backstory for some characters that are major endplayers, and too much of others. I'd've preferred them to be threaded together more evenly, symmetrically.
As it is, King risked losing me a few times. Lucky for him I'm not a book abandoner, and it's the only book I brought with me on vacation.
Taken on their own, several of the vignettes that make up these backstories are deeply affecting.
The summary on the back cover mentions Mother Abagail. She first appears on page 455. Another 130 pages go by before she enters the story proper.
It drove me nuts that Mother Abagail's name was spelled that way, and not "Abigail." Nuts! Every time I read that name was like biting on tinfoil.
The ending was disappointing. After all the build up to armageddon, I wanted something more biblical than it was. The nuclear explosion is too neat, too '80s.
It made me seriously flinchy to be reading this on vacation — people coughed on the plane, sneezed in the dining room. I mean this in a good way, a sign that the book got under my skin.
As far as post-apocalyptic dystopian novels go, I liked it way better than Cormac McCarthy's The Road, but not nearly as much as Doris Lessing's Mara and Dann, the point of comparison being that they are stories of struggle for survival after "natural" disaster and involve epic journeys.
I know I sound down on this book, but I really enjoyed it. I love the premises on which this story is built.
There's the story of the world dying from the flu, and the story of surviving after the world has died. And the fate-and-prophecies armageddon story. All separate stories really.
I think my daughter would like this story, and while the novel is still far too advanced for her reading level and I judge some elements on the sex and gore front as too graphic, we have started watching the TV miniseries together.
I am realizing: I loved the story, it's the novel I had trouble with.
I love how Fran ends her journal entries with a list of "Things to Remember." I should list more things to remember.
I will consider reading more Stephen King in the future, but I feel no sense of urgency to do so, certainly not before I get around to The Brothers Karamazov.
A.V. Club: "Post-plague, the characters of The Stand live in a world where they can know evil when they see it."
The Guardian: "The sickness was a flu that killed 99.4% of the world's population, and it's terrifying, because we all get the flu."
New York Times: "The characters and situations are virtually all reproductions of American cultural icons."