Friday, April 11, 2014

Exploring personal mythos

Book: It
Author: Stephen King
Published: 1981 (Signet)
Pages: 1091

This does not make my top three or five Stephen King novels, but it does sneak into my top ten for reasons I want to use this checkout as an excuse to explore.

To me, these 1000+ pages are the quintessential example of how King can manage to relate a good story through clunky writing. He uses his own recycled trope of the Magic of Group Friendship (tm) (played with better subtly and emotional dependence and way less freaky clown in "The Body") to discuss the pervasiveness and fluidity of evil, brushing up hard against infinity in the process. 

 So those are great themes, right, and a cycle of violence paints a suitably creepy vibe for the town that tries to stuff all its horrors down the sewer drains when children go missing every 28 years or so. But the vagueness of the evil both does its job to keep the creeping sense of dread high and frustrates the reader - okay fine me - by not *quite* explaining its reasons for being or defeat (which seems disappointingly easy for such a big book).

 The group of ragtag Losers manages to fight their way through their fears and Derry's underground sludge to avenge the death of one of their brothers. They improvise with the all-consuming imagination of kids, and then they finally put It to sleep through an act that expresses their growing emotional complexity into adults.

 And this is the part that I have the most problems with - again, not the thematic intent behind it, but the chosen way that theme is expressed - the only girl in the group unleashes the group's collective powers of love and desire by taking each boy into her by turn.

 They have sex, is what I mean. All of them, with her, one by one.

And it's totally consensual, and the boys are sweetly reluctant, and it works, but - Mr. King, you are leaving your writing door wide open for a feminist rant, so don't say I didn't warn you.

 All the women in this book are either shrill worried hags who want to keep their men from getting things done or victims who need to be rescued. Don't even try to protest about Bev, the main girl, either, because she's the one who gets beat up by her dad and then marries the same kind of guy later on and has to be taken in by the guys in the group to escape. For protection. And she doesn't get to save the day except with her ladybits, because that's the only power a woman can handle, right, and even then she doesn't get to be the one who kills It, just puts it in the same passive sleep It's always gone into, just maybe a little faster and a little deeper, and so 28 years later her boyfriend has to really get it done.

 Also, when the gang gets back together to fight It for good one last time, the Jewish guy and the black guy are the two who die before they even get to help face the monster. JUST SAYING.

I still liked reading this book. It's been at least ten years or so, and rediscovering some of the details felt a bit like I was mirroring the group's return to the hometown they started to forget as soon as they left. And whether he's repeating himself with it or not, King does an excellent job of portraying childhood friendships with that weird combination of spit and true bond that none of us ever really understand. And beyond the fact that all of the guys are in love with her(because why else would she add any value to the group - sorry, reflex), I like young Bev a lot and wish she had a stronger more independent future to look forward to.

 This is going back to the library. Like I say, I am fond of the story, and King never explores these elements in quite the same way, but it's not a favorite.

What I ate with this: the one remaining snickerdoodle muffin I made by mixing together snickerdoodle dough and plopping it into my muffin tins. I'm getting to that dangerous stage of improvising in the kitchen, y'all.

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