Monday, May 7, 2012

Time to eat?

Book: Thinner
Author: Richard Bachman
Published: 1984 (Signet)
Pages: 309

Free Comic Book Day, you guys. It means half-off Heroes and Dragons’ fairly new section of used books, too, and Liberry Tom had just sent me a list where Vulture ranks Stephen King books, and I’ve been wanting to read Thinner ever since I learned Richard Bachman was a thing, and $4 for a good-condition hardback, and…well. Second verse, same as the first.
To the story!  Spoilers ahoy!
It’s a combination of King’s sense of macabre justice and Bachman’s ability to blaze through that with slightly more gore and a lot less padding. This fat lawyer dude runs over an old Gypsy lady while his wife is touching him in the car and he gets off manslaughter charges because he knows the judge and so the Gypsy lady’s dad curses the guy to lose weight until he dies. Lawyer dude starts wasting away, hunts down the Gypsy man to make him take off the curse (using a handy mob connection he picked up through his firm work). Along the way, lawyer dude grows intense hatred toward his wife and how she hasn’t been cursed for her role in all this until by the end he decides to throw the curse onto her and live happily after with his daughter. But the curse is contained in a pie that the mom and daughter both end up eating as a make-up gesture from a fight they had while lawyer dude was out, and so in the end he’s like, “Fuck it, won’t be worth living after this starts working on  the daughter I still love” and eats some too, putting the curse back on himself.
A few things:

  • Once it gets to a certain point, his thinness is constantly described as scaring people, like literally causing strangers to turn away in horror, yet physical descriptions of him are a hell of a lot less gory than his fellow lawyer who got him off (skin turned into an alligator-like hide) and the deputy sheriff who tussled with the Gypsies when they were setting up their camp (they cursed him with face-boiling acne).
  • I sense faint racism in how the Gypsies are a big part of the story yet are written with much less nuance and sympathy than the guy who ran over and killed one of them. Bachman is usually better at streaking his antagonists with complexity so neither side gets a hold of the moral high ground.
  • Very nice blend of psychological cracking up and driving plot. Yet it didn’t dig as deep into me as I thought it would.
  • I have my next reading project, which will be to get through all the Stephen King books I haven’t read yet. That’s mostly the Dark Tower series, plus a few strays like Cujo and From a Buick 8 and Desperation.
Glad I finally got to read this one. It reads like a graceful hybrid between King and his alter ego.

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