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Gurglings of a Putrid Stream

Thoughts on books and other assorted topics.

See also:  http://goppf.wikidot.com/swstart

My name:  Brian Martin

Carrie by Stephen King

Carrie (Movie Tie-in Edition) - Stephen King

CARRIE is a potboiler about a severely put-upon high school girl who discovers she can control the telekinetic powers with which she has been genetically endowed and who, eventually, uses them to exact revenge on her tormentors. Then she really goes crazy.

That she is never entirely sane is understandable. Her father died when she was young and her mother's idea of child-rearing owes nothing to Dr. Spock and everything to Torquemada. During her pregnancy, Carrie's mother initially thought the child in her belly was a cancerous growth -- God's punishment for the sin of fornication. As she frankly tells Carrie with her every word and action, she's seen nothing since to change her mind.

Carrie's classmates share this opinion, more or less. Who wouldn't want to pick on cancer, if it was anthropomorphized right in front of them? Led by a chick named Chris, they seize any opportunity to torment Carrie. This includes throwing tampons at her in the gym showers when she gets her first period and screaming at her to "plug it up!" They ignore an overhead light bulb exploding during this incident, though it is the beginning of the end for most of them.

Add to the mix Chris' boyfriend Billy and you see what we've got here. Billy is a sadistic, woman-beating rapist-in-training who helps Chris pull off a particularly nasty stunt later in the book. CARRIE is anything but subtle.

No big. Pots boil much faster when extreme heat is applied. And this is a short book.

It isn't a great book. But it's direct and forceful and, unlike some of King's later books, it's full of action. Originally, the hardback didn't do so well, but the paperback hammered its way onto the bestseller list. Which, I think, is a fair and reasonable indicator of its quality.

What doesn't work, not really, is the epistolary approach King employs. It isn't a bad idea, turning this story of an isolated series of events into an epic disaster with global implications; it even makes sense, given that Carrie can't possibly be the only person in the world with telekinetic power. But King doesn't pull it off, and I think the reason for that is that none of the excerpts from fictitious reports, books, and letters really add anything to the narrative other than backstory. Nor is there any contradiction among them. It would have been nice if all these different perspectives had yielded a few competing interpretations.

Had he scrapped this approach, King could have used the additional word count to shore up the book's most glaring implausibility. This occurs when Carrie gets asked to the prom by one of the most popular boys in school and immediately says yes. The moment is pivotal -- and it's impossible to believe. King provides very little motivation for the boy and disregards Carrie's entire psychology to make this date happen. With all that extra verbiage, King maybe could have made us feel for Carrie the way, in the movie, Sissy Spacek did.