Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Review #99: Carrie by Stephen King

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Another instance of the book being better than the movie, Stephen King’s debut novel Carrie hints at the author he would grow into, while also displaying some bad habits I don’t think he’s liable to ever shake. Here starts King’s obsession with the fanatical person of faith, and here it’s also at its most hyperbolic. As you probably know by now, Carrie is about a young lady named Carrie who discovers, through unfortunate events, that she harnesses a special ability by the name of telekinesis, similar to the main character ofMatilda. Separating the two is that Carrie, though years older than Matilda, is noticeably more immature and rash in the usage of her powers. In essence,Carrie is what you’d get if Matilda were raised by Miss Trunchbull turned religious nut, plus tossed in the wildcard known as teenagers. Matilda would’ve surely handled such a situation with more, shall we say, tact, but she too had somewhat of a vengeful streak, meaning her having a meltdown like Carrie’s wouldn’t be impossible to imagine.

Furthermore, Carrie’s mother is a grimmer specter of adulthood than the Trunchbull ever was, so of course Carrie was driven madder than even her mother by book’s end. It’s this piling on with regards to her mother that bothered me in the film, which I saw first, and likewise in the book. I know how King likes to use Christianity and psychosis as forever interlinked, but Carrie’s mother is God Warrior levels of batshit. You know, except I can’t have a laugh at her expense like I could that she-beast from Trading Spouses because this is what I imagine said woman is like when the cameras are off, all of her frantic, unhinged insanity directed at one child instead of multiple children. I still fear for the mental well-being of that woman’s children, yet with Carrie I wonder why no one’s called Child Protective Services, since her mother is a “God Warrior” 24/7, 365 days a year. Were they simply as petrified by her as Carrie was? That’s the only reasonable explanation I can conjure up.

Likewise, Carrie’s eventual blowup seemed, to me, to be a case of King overdoing it. Not to the same degree as with her mother, obviously. Still, her massacring an entire town over bullying seems a bit much, even by the standards of modern society, where large-scale shootings are growing bigger and more frequent with each passing day. It’d be like the US starting a war with Sweden over Daniel Gildenlow’s scathing indictment of our nation in the Pain of Salvation song “America.” Carrie seeks to kill practically everyone as punishment for the wrongdoing of a select few. Keep calm and carry on, Carrie. It will get better. And a dozen other cliches phrases. By all means, kill your mother, the root cause of all the physical and mental abuse you’ve endured, and even the ones who’ve bullied you if you think they’re deserving. Don’t leave your entire hometown a smoldering disaster zone because there were a few rotten apples in the apple grove, leaving this as the only acceptable reaction.

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Though, taking things too far is, admittedly, another of his bad habits. He did it in Christine, for example, and this is where that tendency got its start. It’s also the beginning of his trademark schizophrenic writing style, infused with scatter-brained, mentally ill thoughts on every page, these characters arguably his most in need of drugs, therapy, or institutionalization. That’s compelling in a sense, but I’m glad the book ran so short, because I don’t think I could’ve handled a whole lot more of it. And its that brevity that kept me from hating it in spite of all this negativity you’re seeing from me. Carrie bothered me in a number of ways, some I haven’t even mentioned, yet it doesn’t go long enough for them to overshadow the fact that, even in his debut, King still displayed a knack for storytelling.

 

Travis Smith’s blog, containing this review, as well as others, photography, and more, can be found here.

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3 thoughts on “Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Review #99: Carrie by Stephen King

  1. Did people really call Child Protective Services that much in the ’70s? I think I was able to buy because of the time period in which it was written and set.

    • I think it speaks to my outlook. Even today, stuff like this could be allowed to go on. There was a family on Wife Swap or Trading Spouses who lived in and ate filth, and CPS had people on their case about it after the episode aired, but they decided it was a suitable living environment for these people’s children. Likewise, bullying still goes by unnoticed or, at the very least, downplayed more than it should be. So I’d like to think that, even in the 70s, people would’ve done something about the treatment Carrie received from her mother, peers, and teachers, but I know it’s realistic that she wouldn’t have… and I hate that.

  2. Agreed with Jen on this one… plus it was set in a tiny town in Maine… the culture probably set it up so CPS was never a consideration or an option… but perhaps that’s also why Carrie’s vengeance was so total? The town ignored her plight… so it went beyond bullying? I haven’t read this one in a while, so don’t remember everything. Good review.

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