Right, let me just get this out there before my inbox explodes, okay? No one, but no one likes a big grey problem lurking in the corner…
Yes, I know: my last blog was July 2013… (Oh and yet again, it isn’t Tuesday, but what the hell. For today’s purposes, we’re telling it like it is on a Thursday)
There, I said it. But hey, guess what? Go and read it (here), it’s quite amusing and a LOT has changed since then. Not least, that my beloved country finally has a new Wimbledon champion! Yay! Great news for us Brits and what a deserved victory it was…
*insert picture of Andy Murray kissing said trophy here*
…however, the blob on the field scene, is that the twisted and futile battle between writers (also mentioned in the blog post) of all persuasions still has legs and is currently running around the ‘net like a jam-covered Twinkie at a wasp reunion. There’s a few interesting posts here and here if you can stomach any more of it. Personally – as I have said before – I would rather write, but it does make you feel better about said writing when you read them. *big smiley face*
Soooos, anyho’, let’s not allow that to scar this latest post. It’s Thursday not Tuesday, it’s Thanksgiving. You’re here, I’m here and we’re telling it like it is, right?
Let’s do this thing!
What is all this ranting in aid of today?
Well, it’s about a cat.
And little lockable mind- boxes where we store our deepest, darkest fears.
And bad people who want to steal your very life-essence.
It’s about good triumphing over evil.
Oh and some bloke who fancies himself as a horror writer.
Meet Azzie, the real star of the show…
Of course, I am referring to the sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep. But beware – this is NOT a review. Okay, I will mention the book and what I thought of it (and possibly give some bits away, so go do something else if you haven’t read it yet and intend to) but that is not the purpose of this post, so don’t start bitchin’ if that’s why you came.
Here’s the actual cover (well, the Amazon UK version of it anyway. There are many more, but this is my fave):
Okay, so for me, as a die-hard SK fan, this book coming out was a BIG deal. My love for the master of horror has seen more ups and downs in recent years than a roller-coaster ride built by a drunken Tourette’s sufferer (no offence intended here btw before you start, I have been known to unleash the occasional uncontrollable barrage of profanities myself and share the odd bottle of wine or three) so I was skeptical – if not a little wary – to say the least. Would he really be able to follow up The Shining after all this time? Would readers be comparing it to the film? Are SK’s stories even scary anymore or does he just churn out books that he knows fans will buy because they have his name on them, regardless of the quality of the plot or the writing?
Well, let me tell you, the answer is a resounding: I DON’T KNOW.
I am totally on the proverbial fence with this one. There’s always markers for me regarding whether I thought a book was good or not, first one being, did I finish it? In this case, yes, I most certainly did. And did I rush home to read it every day? Yet again: Yes. Did it hold my attention? Yup. Did the characters resonate with me? Aye and did I care about what happened to them? Most definitely. I thought the concept was unique and typically strange, and the members of the True Knot were not the type of retirees that you would enjoy sharing a natter and a coffee with at a rest stop. It was great to see what had happened to Dan Torrance and how his life had panned out (although no great surprise that after his experience at The Overlook Hotel he would become a messed-up, single alcoholic) and the supporting characters were as believable as they were lovable. All in all, it was a great story. It had everything you would expect. Suspense, weirdness, plausible fantasy that treads the fine line between real-life and what we all hope actually exists - and a cat. You just gotta have a cat, right? According to numerous articles on the web (this one being my fave), the story about a real-life cat named Oscar, who reportedly knew when people were going to die, prompted SK to start work on the sequel in the first place, so why didn’t I love it, instead of just liking it?
I gotta be brutally honest – it didn’t scare me.
There were no shivers, no heart-stopping moments where I held my breath and stared in disbelief at my Kindle, nor did I switch the light off with reluctance when I had finished reading. It was good. That’s as kind as I can be.
I get the feeling, that A) Mr King was physically compelled to write the sequel as Dan Torrance was tapping him on the shoulder, begging that his story be continued and B) that this will undoubtedly make a great film and was written as such a book.
I found the parts where the MC and Abra (token tween who also had shineability but to a greater extent than Dan’s because hers hadn’t been dulled by booze) communicated telepathically, jarring. They were written in italics and strangely, without punctuation, so were very difficult to follow and I found myself going back over what had been written frequently and also, I kept getting the peripheral characters mixed up. There was a doctor and family friend, and some other bit-part groupies who went to AA meetings, as well as Abra’s family, and this I found rather disjointed.
I loved the True Knot characters and the names he gave them and the fact that they disguised their true purpose as innocent oldies, wearing crap t-shirts and trundling around in sparkly SUVs, but aside from the odd arched eyebrow when Rose (one-fanged leader of the True Knot) got inside Abra’s head, I wasn’t too disturbed. Which is a little disappointing as a fan.
But here’s the sucker-punch. The big ‘but’. The golden ticket as far as a writer (or indeed, a reader) is concerned.
SOMETHING FROM THE STORY STUCK.
Some line/scene/character/throwaway comment nestled itself into someone’s psyche and settled down for the Winter, if not forever. Burrowing deep, laying its hat and calling that new, warm, cosy place home.
As a writer, that is all you could ever wish for.
Sure, I have no doubt that my fellow scribes would also have a NY Times bestseller chart position and a yacht on their wish-list, but when you sit back in your chair and type THE END (which is usually about ten years before the book is actually properly finished), all you can hope for is that someone reads the story and one little, tiny, miniscule mote of story-magic, is inhaled and sparkles for eternity.
How do I know that this happened with Doctor Sleep, I hear you ask?
A friend of mine is going through a pretty crap time of it just recently. I won’t name them, nor will I divulge the circumstances around said crapola period of their lives, but what I WILL do, is show you this. This is a reply to a text I sent the other day, insinuating that even the super-humans among us have to admit that life and emotions can get in the way of being the incredible hulk sometimes. This was their reply to a comment I made suggesting that worry over a relative had possibly affected how they had behaved in the last few weeks:
If only eh? If only we could compartmentalize our feelings, anger and sadness and stick them in a little drawer in our heads, turn the key and leave them there until we were strong enough to deal with them or just set them on fire – blow the box up – whichever came first. How cool would it be and what would life be like? Much different methinks.
The truth of the matter is, we can’t.
So the point of the this post is two-fold (phew, Saffi, I can hear you say. We wondered when you would get to that bit):
Stephen King is still a great writer and is the undisputed master of mote-leaving magic in the Universe, even though he has probably made peace with his demons and that shows in his writing these days and…
No-one has the key to the aforementioned box.
Sure, you can put things away for a while and sit on the lid whilst they bounce around like a kangaroo trying to get out of a suitcase, but you can never really silence your fears. Not forever.
Things sting. Life is shit sometimes. Crap things happen to okay people. It’s the way of the world.
What you can do, is smile the next time you pass someone who looks like they could use a bit of extra help shutting that lid. Even if it’s just for a while. Just long enough to store that box in a filing cabinet, then blow the dust off and have a look inside at a later date.
Maybe Stephen King’s story has a deeper meaning. Maybe it’s just a good book that turns out okay in the end. Who knows? Not me.
All I do know is – whilst we’ve still got steam, we’re still alive and no amount of scary monsters can keep us down forever.