Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Stand The Complete and Uncut Edition by Stephen King

The Stand
Hello Book of the Month Book Club, you did me right.
The Stand is a post-apocalyptic horror/fantasy novel.  It was originally published in 1978 and re-published as this expanded edition in 1990.  King restored some text originally cut for brevity, added and revised sections, changed the setting of the story from 1980 (which in turn was changed to 1985 for the original paperback release in 1980) to 1990, and updated a few pop culture references accordingly.  The Stand is split into 3 books/sections; Captain Trips, On the Boarder, and The Stand.

Because this is the extended version, I have a two part preface; it talks about how book will probably be a movie and who he would want as actors, none of whom did actually act in the movie. It also says King republished because he had to cut out parts of the original manuscript for cost reasons not by editing choice. He added back in stuff he thought add a "richness and dimension" to the story.
The plot of this book is that a plague wipes out most of the population, then there are the good guys whom form a community and the bad guys who form a community. The bad guys want to wipe out the good guys and the good guys have to stop the bad guys. Add in some elements of magic and the devil and we have our plot. I could do a complete plot breakdown, but to me the characters were more interesting, and as I took my notes while reading I took them based on characters not plot movement.
Stuart “Stu” Redman – he is just a good’ol boy, does the right thing and stands up for what he knows is right. You can count on him to stand by you when times are tough, hell he already did with his Mom and Brother, he won’t complain, he just does what needs to be done. He is one of the good guys. When reading about his character I thought he must be old, then I find out he is just 30. He has seen a lot of hard times and it has aged him, but we need a character with the wisdom of an old man and the youth to do the work an old man couldn’t do. I love the fact that he has been kidnapped and essentially erased and he refuses to just roll over. Go Stu! When Stu was leaving the hospital place and thought he was being chased it totally made me think of Dr. Who. “The idea grew so strong that he became afraid to turn around, afraid that if he did he would see a white-suited figure striding after him, a white-suited figure with no face but only blackness behind a Plexiglas plate.” Was River in the suite?
Frannie Goldsmith – I can imagine how scary it is to be 22 years old, pregnant, single and with a judgmental mother, she is scared about the direction her life has taken. Then BAM the end of the world comes! But she has a solid head on her shoulders. She is a no-nonsense type of girl, who makes decisions based on facts. She isn’t willing to do what is wrong because someone tells her to, she proves that when she refuses to marry Jesse her boyfriend just because she is pregnant. She admits she doesn’t love him and isn’t willing to be unhappy for the rest of her life. But she is not so realistic that she can’t have a fantasy every now and then.
I love that she sees her Father’s workshop as an Alice in Wonderland place, and that she someday hopes to walk in and find a Hobbit hole. I admit I have often hoped to find a Hobbit hole of my own with a Bilbo Baggins to show me how to make smoke rings and fix me a second breakfast. Speaking of her Father, I am so happy that he finally stood up for Frannie to Carla, she needed a setting down as it was. I’m glad that Frannie knows her father has her back. I did find it interesting that Fran never looked for Jesse. She fell out of love with him and all, but man she didn’t care at all that the father of her unborn child was alive or dead. That is a little harsh. When her father died I thought she might look for Jesse then. Peter’s passing made me very sad. He was a good guy and he would have been a great grandfather. I think that is the one character that I am most sad didn’t make it.
Some of Fran’s things in her diary made me sad to think that her social commentary issues have never been resolved.  Where is our 60 mpg prowler? Ha my research showed it got between 19 to 22 mpg. I guess the same issues of fuel economy existed in 1999 as it does now. I’m a little sad that we aren’t really any further along, besides Toyota that is.
Harold Lauder - wow he is a gas bag isn’t he. So full of himself and can’t back it up. The fact that he sees Frannie as his is absurd and will lead to nowhere good for his character. I can’t stand Harold, and I think King planned it that way. Leaves room for Stu to be attracted to Fran. Harold has green eyes, I guess with his jealousy he is the incarnate “Green Eyed Monster.” Finally at the end Harold gets ousted.
Larry Underwood – is a classic never do well musician. He gets in trouble and runs home to Momma. He wants to be a better person, but he just isn’t. King was really not subtle in his foreshadowing that Larry is a redemption character, and will be an important part of the finale. His Mom is great, Alice see the world as it is, she has no illusions about her son, but that doesn’t stop her from loving him. I wish she stayed around, she was a great, I think she would have been a great survivalist.
Larry and Rita, when you say not if you were the last person on earth, be careful he/she may be. That is the only reason they would stay together. When they first found each other Rita filled the role of Mother for Larry. He needed someone to take care of him and she seemed to be the person for the job, but then after time he finds out she isn’t as together as he thought. In fact she’s a little crazy. Larry and Rita were not a well matched couple, they brought out the worst in each other I think. And Larry began to see her more as a burden than a savior he thought he had found. He tried to be better and take care of her, but I’m not sure anyone could have taken care of Rita. I think that even if the world hadn’t ended she would have OD’d in her Manhattan apartment. The fact that Larry sees himself as a bad guy for her death, give credence to my theory that he is a redemption case. Larry wanted to take care of her, he wanted to be the good guy, but circumstances were out of his control and he blames himself, just as a good guy would. The relief he feels is normal, he was in a bad relationship, and when you leave a bad relationship you feel relieved it’s over. It just happens that the end of this relationship was death not breaking up.
Reading about Larry’s adventure in the Washington tunnel gave me the willies! I think that when Larry was camping in the park alone and he heard the dusty boots on the pavement, Flagg was looking for him and it was a good thing Larry stayed quiet.
I think it is interesting how Larry was recruited to the council, but we as readers knew that he would be. He was not really wanted but he was still recruited.
Joe and Larry, I do love watching their relationship develop. Joe/Leo is like Tom in a way, able to see into things and read peoples minds. Joe/Leo foreshadowed Larry’s death, when talking about Nadine going away, Larry says to Joe/Leo that Joe/Leo can always talk to him or Lucy-Mom and Joe/Leo responds “But not for always!”
Nadine – She is always making the wrong choice. Wanting Flagg instead of Larry is her biggest. Mother Abigail is right, she does have a good one and she makes the fatal mistake and goes for the bad boy. Sigh, we all learn about that one the hard way though don’t we? And the more bad things Harold and Nadine do, the more her hair turns white. I guess we could judge her moral compass by the color of her hair.
Nick Andros – a 22 year old deaf mute, who left the system at 16 and hasn’t let his disabilities or his aloneness stop him from bettering himself and being a good person. He stays out of trouble and has been attempting to get his GED through correspondence classes while never staying in the same place long enough to make home. That shows some drive and makes me root for him. He stays to take care of the Sherriff and the Sherriff’s wife because it was the right thing to do, even though he had a chance to run, and I hate to say that most of us would have gotten the hell out of Sick Shoyo and not looked back. I felt bad for Nick, getting his eye damaged, because the poor guy needs one more handicap right?
I think that is interesting that everyone defers to Nick – He is the Mastermind! So we know that
Nick was special, and he was supposed to lead the boys west, but then he was killed. Why? Why wasn’t he protected more? Did Flagg take out his biggest threat? I truthfully forgot that Nick died, for some reason I thought it was Glen, so it was a bit of a let down when he died.

Mother Abigail – I think it is funny that Mother Abigail is described as being the Oldest Woman in the states, it isn’t hard to be the Oldest Women when most of the world had died. That phrase makes me think of someone who is over a hundred or something, but she could easily be 52 and still be the Oldest Woman. Mother Abigail is 108 and is the hand of god. Prophecy is the shinning lamp of God. Love that Mother Abigail distrusted Harold immediately.
Glen Bateman and Kojak - I felt a very Zen sense when reading his portions and his philosophy’s. I love the fact that Glen talks to Kojak like he is an errant child, just bring a happy mental picture to my mind. I know King doesn’t include dogs in his stories as often as say Koontz does, but he always does them justice when he does. Just for fun, I researched the James D. L. Staunton study on no-shows for cancelled flights. I only found him in connection with The Stand. Many have had a similar experience in their search for Staunton, and so they conclude that Staunton was not real but merely fictional.
Very sad they originally left Kojak behind.  But I always knew that Kojak came back. It just sucks that he got so beat up, poor baby. I really love that King lets us know that Kojak is not a fatality of the final battle. Which I assume everyone has figured out is coming.
So it is done, and because I knew what was happening on this second read through I caught something I hadn't noticed the first time. Glen called it! Glen essentially laid out the entire plot of the book when talking to Stu in Ch. 37, but man he did. Then in Ch. 50 he does it again.
Tom Cullens - I forgot about M-O-O-N spells Tom. He is a bit of a sideline, but he is a good supporting character.
Lloyd Henreid – a man in over his head. He is a villain from the start robbing and killing without a second thought or any regrets until he learns he will get the chair. Then boy is he sorry. I think my favorite part about our introduction to Lloyd is the image of Bill Markson in his Stetson holding a pack of Luckies shooting Poke, calm and collected as any gunfighter. I imagine him to be a cross between the Marlboro Man and Clint Eastwood (as Blondie not Dirty Harry).
Randall Flagg – our main villain, he is Satan or the Grimm Reaper, depending on whose review you read. I just see him as a bad Mamma-Jamma. Ohhh...Eye of the Dragon is my favorite King and I never made the Flag connection, just got goosebumps!
Randall Flagg is Legion, both in this book and in the Dark Tower series. So I researched it. A legion is 2,000 roman soldiers or the demon from Gadarene from the bible. The Demon in the bible says to Jesus “My name is Legion, for we are many.” And Jesus cleansed the man by having the demons leave him and enter pigs.
So then I did more research and Randall Flagg has appeared in 9 of King’s novels: The Stand, The Eyes of the Dragon, and The Dark Tower series ( 7 books). There are suggestions that Raymond Fiegler from Hearts in Atlantis is Flagg.
From Wikipedia: “Stephen King initially attributed Donald DeFreeze, the lead kidnapper in the Patty Hearst case, as his inspiration for Randall Flagg. According to King, he was remembering the Patty Hearst case when he began to write a description of DeFreeze. King started by writing, "Donald DeFreeze is a dark man.” He remembered through the photographs taken of the bank robbery that Patty Hearst took part in that DeFreeze was only partially visible, hidden under a large hat. What he looked like was based on guesses made by people who only saw a portion of him. This inspired King, who then wrote, "A dark man with no face." After reading the motto, "Once in every generation the plague will fall among them," King set to work writing The Stand, and developing the character of Randall Flagg
In 2004, King stated that Flagg's real inspiration just came to him "out of nowhere", while he was attending college. According to King, he just had this image of a man in cowboy boots, denim jeans and jacket, who was always walking the roads. This character inspired King to write "The Dark Man", a poem about a man who rides the rails and admits to murder and rape. To the author, what made Flagg interesting was the fact that he was a villain who was "always on the outside looking in". King has stated that he believes that Flagg has been present since he first began his writing career.”

I think the book title come from Ch. 65 when Flagg is eating his rabbit in the desert after Harold tried to shoot Nadine. “Once, he was quite sure, he would have done a quick fade when things began to get flaky. Not this time. This was his place, his time, and he would take his stand here.”
When Flagg was talking to the new minions in the end he said "I've come to teach you how to be civilized." And Glen said somewhere, I can't find the reference though was that civilization was the downfall of men. Organization = politics and intrigue does it never end.
Trashcan man - Great character, I love the fact that he is a crazy pyromaniac. See electric shock therapy helps no one. Is he a pyromaniac because he was meant to be one, because his dad was crazy or a combination? I think a psych major could have fun doing an analysis of his character. I didn’t realize the first time I read the book how much foreshadowing happened in Trashcan’s chapter. “My life for you” sounds familiar and I can’t remember if I remember it from the first reading or if it is some other of King’s works.
Makes me sad that to be accepted trash can man needs to go to Flagg (bad camp). I wonder if he had gone to Mother Abigail instead, would he gave been as easily accepted? Are the bad guys really bad through and through or do they just do bad things. I sympathize with trashcan man, I know he is a bad guy, but I guess I wonder if he is a character that is just created for a nature vs. nurture argument. Was he the way is because it is his nature, or is he irredeemable because he wasn't helped early enough, and shock therapy does not count as helping.
Dreams bring back the supernatural element. King does a lot with dreams in his books, sometimes I think it is a fall back technique, because it is an easy way for him to get his characters connected and to meet.

I think the scariest thing about this book is how realistic the possibility of this happening is. This is King and there are some supernatural occurrences, but for the most part he plays on a very realistic scenario. I know that in this day and age there is germ warfare research going on, and it isn’t just conspiracy theory paranoia, I think most people in America know the possibly of virus fuck-up is possible. The truly scary thing is how the government reacts, by trying to contain, when that fails, spreading to rest of the world, and killing anyone who resists. I have faith in our government, but that doesn’t mean I’m a blind fool I see this reaction as completely plausible, possibly even likely. The military keeping everyone in the dark is part of the fear factor. The military does lots of things and they call it classified so they don't have to explain themselves, or even explain amongst themselves.
As a final comment, I last read this book before being a mother and I admit, reading about sick and dying babies makes my heart hurt, and when Sammy came into the room with a runny nose I had a moment of panic. The first baby taken by Captain Trips Virus is the same age as Sam and I teared up some. That is the magic of King, 10 pages in and I am already invested enough in the story and the characters to cry when a minor one dies. So Chapter 38 was depressing talking about how even stupid people survive and still can die stupidly after the world ends. I think it was meant to show that King didn’t save just the brilliant characters. Although I HATED the part where Sam Tauber (5 ½ years old) falls down a well and dies. Stupid King hitting my Mommy button. What is King’s obsession with wells anyways?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye
Another BOTM Club read.  I went into it dreading it, thinking it was going to be another boring classic.  I was wrong, I loved it!  I loved the conversational style of writing, and the ease of reading.  
The hero-narrator of The Catcher in the Rye is an man-child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield.  Holden leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. Finally his little sister is able to bring him home, and from there he is in a rest home for metal distress, which is where he is telling this story from.  But nobody really reads book reviews for the plot summary, they want to know what someone else thinks of the book.  If you want a plot summary, read the back cover.
I think Salinger did a great job of capturing a teenager character, when I read Holden's thoughts I can totally picture the greaser teenager rebel boy from the 50's, trying so hard to be a "cool" guy. Do you remember being a teenager and thinking you knew it all and nobody, especially not an ADULT could understand you or your problems?  Salinger captured that feeling and made me remember those many years gone.
And of course a teenager thinks he is better than everyone else, teenagers are egotistical beyond belief, that is what drives their parents so nuts. I mean to an extent teenager think about other, but mainly they think about themselves and what will may them the coolest or most popular. I think Salinger did a great job of capturing the teenager mindset in Holden. Nobody understands him and when he is talking to his professors you can get that he knows the adult is trying to help him, but how can he help Holden if he doesn't understand where Holden is coming from?  I remember as a teenager that we picked stupid fashion, and clung to it as a way to express our individuality, the hunting hat just leads more credence to the teenager persona. I'm trying to think of something stupid that was big when we were kids, the only thing that comes to mind is the guys in high school wearing those stupid dog choke chains as necklaces, but I'm sure there were other things.
Holden also has a ton of misconceptions about women, and I’m not sure if that is his nativity or the era. Although he does seem to be a flop with women, mainly I think because of his misconceptions of them.  Gosh teenage romance was always more dramatic than it needed to be, too many hormones and not enough confidence. Holden didn’t interact with girls anywhere in a mature way because he thought he might look uncool, then he gest frustrated with himself for not speaking up.   Then when a classmate  (Stradlater) has a date with Jane (a girl Holden likes) he get jealous and starts a fight for no apparent reason, or at least no apparent reason to the other guy.  Again falls inline with teenage character acting without thinking.
I think that lately all the teenagers in books are these deep, profound, mature characters. Teenagers aren't really like that, they are whiny, self-centered and conflicted. They often have shallow thoughts and come up with hair-brained ideas, that an adult would never do because they have too much sense to do stupid stuff. Teenagers cuss a lot, because especially in the 50's, it was a taboo thing, they were not supposed to use that language and to rebel its goddamn this and goddamn that.   It makes me laugh a little at my lack of annoyance at Holden, I usually have low tolerance for self-centered characters. But I am able to remember what drama teenagers create in their own lives, and how disconnected from adults that they can feel. I get it, I get what Salinger is trying to do he has captured a teenager boys perspective of the world around him during a troublesome time.
Holden is quite the liar, he lies to everyone, although they aren’t malicious lies, in fact they are almost benevolent lies, when he tell the kid’s mom that the guy is swell and was nominated for class president, it was to make her feel better not himself. And I know a liar is a liar, I just find it interesting that the nature of his lies are for the benefit of others and not so much himself.
This kid has lost a brother and I bet he is having so many problems in school and with people because he probably didn't really deal with the death, it was the 50's its not like they put him in grief counseling, he was expected to be a man and just get over it. Remember in the 50's men were men and not emotional, so how does a teenager who has tones of puberty hormones and emotions also deal with the grief at the loss of his brother, he takes it out on the world around him.   I think Holden is just a very lonely boy, who is trying to find someone, anyone he can connect with. I think that is why he asks such oddball questions of complete strangers and gets so upset when they don’t respond in a kind manner. I think it was another cry for attention when he just wanted to talk to the prostitute, a bit cliché but still it is what it is.  I think the questions are trying to find a deeper meaning in life and death.
I think Holden is still just trying to deal with Allie’s death, he is really focusing on his memories of his brother and trying to deal with them on his own, it makes me sad for him. Also the poor kid got his ass kicked twice in one day, I wonder if he is looking for fights because the physical pain of getting his ass kicked takes away from the emotional pain of missing his brother.
I thoroughly enjoyed  this book, and I love the line "I'm quite illiterate, but I read a lot." To me it summed up so many teenager contradictions, I have actually thought about this line multiple times since I read the book. What was Holden getting at, did he mean that he read a lot, but didn't retain what he read? Did he mean he read a lot, but not what would be considered by Adult's to be good books? Did he mean that he read a lot, but that he didn't understand what he was reading? Did he mean he read a lot of types of books, not just a genre?   Someone who reads a lot can't be illiterate, by definition. But Holden is using the word to express other people's standards. I think that what he really means is "I don't read what they want me to read, but I read a lot."  Throughout the book Holden does what he wants, but it still doesn’t make him feel good.  That element of approval is missing, and so he reads a lot, but not what would be approved, and so he fails again.