Carrie

Carrie
September 10, 2009 Constant Readers

Carrie White, daughter of a crazy Jesus person, is picked on at school. She’s chubby but not entirely ugly, and she may have a history of telekinetic manifestations. The story starts with her first period at the age of sixteen, as she starts bleeding in the gym showers and gets pelted with tampons. The clique gets in trouble and fractures into a group that wants to get Carrie back for getting them in trouble, and one singular girl, Sue Snell, who apparently symbolizes all the kindness youth can muster. That girl, who we know survives what comes to be called, simply, “Prom Night,” convinces her boyfriend Tommy—the only other human being in the school—to ask Carrie to the Spring Ball, while leader of the anti-Carrie clique, Christine, assembles a cadre of townies to prepare her revenge plot against the telekinetic, far-fatter-than-Sissy-Spacek Carrie.


Pat: So far, Sissy Spacek is scarier than the novel, but we’ll leave that for the movie.
Andrea: She looks like a frog, which I guess is why they picked her since Carrie is oft-compared to a frog in the text. I laughed out loud at the part when it said the principal “did not understand women and had no urge to discuss menstruation.”
Pat: That’s true of all men, though, not just principals. What do you make of that? The fact that the theme of the story seems to be blood? Carrie’s first period, the blood of Christ, the red circle, the pig’s blood.
Andrea: It’s his first horror novel, and blood is scary. I don’t think it’s particularly groundbreaking as a motif.
Pat: It’s not even scary. It’s not even horrifying. Well, the period part was horrifying, but in a different way.
Andrea: For a 20-something backwoods guy, Stephen King really had a handle on the female psyche (at that time). His women characters have basically been ciphers ever since though.
Pat: He’s got a keen eye for juvenile and adolescent minds.
Andrea: Agreed. So then what about the Sue/Tommy sex scene? Where Tommy is gazing pensively out the window with his pants around his ankles? Clearly I read this in my formative years, because the phrase “reamed out with a hoe handle” has stuck with me to this day.
Pat: Wait, there’s a Tommy/Sue sex scene?
Andrea: Yeah. I don’t know if they actually go into it, but she talks about their first time, and then afterward he is gazing out the window and she says it felt like “being reamed out with the hoe handle.”
Pat: Is Tommy the most sympathetic character in the book? He’s so goddamn likable.
Andrea: I know. And he’s so hunky and 70s in the movie. HOWEVER I still find it highly unrealistic that he took Carrie to the prom, and that Sue asked him to. Can you picture anyone we went to high school doing that? It’s a clumsy plot device, I think.
Pat: I disagree. The excerpt from Shadow Exploded concerning the way Tommy Ross is perceived versus what is actually known about him sets him up as the kind of guy who would do a thing like take the school pariah to prom. Especially if it was something his girlfriend wanted.
Andrea: What if I had asked you to take our school’s Carrie White to the prom?
Pat: I am no Tommy Ross. Didn’t you read the parts about him being a baseball star and straight-A student?
Andrea: That’s true. That makes it somewhat more believable. Somewhat. But so who was the Tommy Ross of our high school? I can’t think of one guy from our high school who was nice and popular.
Pat: There wasn’t one. Tommy Ross is a Platonian archetype. A whisp of perfection, never to be glimpsed on the mortal planes.

Andrea: So, do you think King tips his hand with the telekinetic thing too early? He reveals it in the first couple pages.
Pat: No―I think he does it intentionally. He never treats telekinesis like it’s an unusual ability. He treats Carrie like she’s a kid who’s learning she can sing really well. It’s interesting, though, because Carrie is a story everyone’s familiar with; everyone knows how it ends. EVERYONE. That’s probably all anyone really knows, and now it’s part of the cultural lexicon. Reading the book, you’d think it would ruin the reveal of what happens.
Andrea: It doesn’t make it any less shocking when it happens.
Pat: Except that King basically tells you Carrie lays waste to an entire town right off the bat. And throughout Blood Sport, he never shies away from saying all but outright that she’s telekinetic.
Andrea: What about the whole conceit of telling the story with passages from fake books, studies, magazine articles? The Shadow Exploded? Dumb name.
Pat: I hated it at first. I may even still hate it on my death bed. But I will never be one hundred percent sure.
Andrea: Like, it seems to be a really hokey way to get the back story in there.
Pat: I’m not sure the story wouldn’t be better without it. It’s not like he’s telling the story from a first-person perspective that needs a mechanism for unknowable history to be revealed. It’s third person omniscient!
Andrea: Clumsy. Very first-novel.
Pat: I’m curious about the effects of Carrie’s powers. Based on the passage about how her blood pressure spiked, her temperature dropped, and her heart raced, and then the part about the prematurely senile grandmother with the same powers who died of a heart attack.
Andrea: How about the circumstances of Carrie’s birth? That was a notable section.
Pat: Roadhouse rape?
Andrea: Margaret White thought she had “a cancer of the womanly parts.”
Pat: Quite the opposite of Queen Elizabeth who thought she was eternally pregnant and just had uterine cancer.
Andrea: I didn’t know that. Also, what the hell are Mortimer Snerds?
Pat: It’s the name of one of Edgar Bergen’s ventriloquist dummies. As opposed to the more famous Charlie McCarthy, who everyone knows.
Andrea: That makes this book seem kind of dated. I wouldn’t have known Charlie McCarthy either, to be honest.
Pat: I didn’t need to know what it was, the name is indicative of what it means. It’s a nerdy name, the name of an outcast.
Andrea: Understood, but I wanted to know more. I AM HUNGRY FOR KNOWLEDGE.
Pat: Speaking of dated, the only time I’m thrown clear of the story is when King uses “Dig” or, later, “Dig it?” Because other than that, the dialogue doesn’t tip its hand to any period. No pun intended.
Andrea: Okay, so Mrs. White only had sex once and pregnancy resulted?
Pat: She was pregnant twice. Didn’t she admit to “falling down the stairs” and having a miscarriage?
Andrea: That’s right. So she had sex twice and got pregnant twice. Hmm.
Pat: Let me tell you some of the song titles from Carrie: The Musical: “Open Your Heart” with Margaret and Carrie White, “Do Me A Favor” with Sue, Tommy, Chris, Billy and chorus, “Out For Blood” with a male chorus.
Andrea: Why did we not go and see this? Is it on DVD somewhere?
Pat: We were 7 at the time. According to Wikipedia, there is a featurette on the Carrie DVD.
Andrea: The lady who played the gym teacher in the movie, Betty Buckley, was in the musical, too. So something that isn’t in the movie: the day of the stones. It’s in the miniseries remake, but not the Brian DePalma movie. This was one place where I liked the conceit of interviewing the woman who had been the girl in the bikini meeting the young Carrie because she was a really good character whose POV we would not have gotten otherwise.
Pat: That was a great way to elucidate Carrie’s childhood. Probably the best possible way he could have done it.
Andrea: It humanized her, to think of her as a pretty little girl As did the scene when she was all dressed and ready for the prom. It’s heartbreaking when she says to her batshit mother that she has to start trying to get along with people. But the part in that section that was so creepy―the creepiest part of the book so far― is when the woman talks about seeing the drunk lead a little girl in the blue dress who is crying with a bloody nose. WTF is that supposed to be/mean??? Is it her dad or a random molester?
Pat: Dad and molester are not mutually exclusive pastimes.
Andrea: True. That’s why I said random molester. Slash kidnapper. And nobody helped her. It’s those weird, creepy little details that make his books for me.
Pat: For me, it’s the evil errands. He’s obsessed with telling the side stories of the evil errands his characters engage in. The quest for pig’s blood. Patrick Hockstetter in IT. Should discuss the possibility that he came up with the idea for Christine when he was writing the passage about Billy’s car? Or that the car is, in fact, Christine?
Andrea: I think that’s a possibility.
Pat: Think about it: here’s a car that is owned by someone who seems, by all accounts, to be a psychopath. He drives it around, into animals in the street. It’s routinely being stained with blood. Those are the circumstances that get a car possessed, son.
Andrea: I don’t know if the car is Christine. Because I think in Christine they have a history of all the owners of Christine. It will be interesting to find out if Billy Nolan is among them.
Pat: Well, it is the wrong car. Christine was a Plymouth Fury. Billy’s, however, was not.
Andrea: It was interesting that the dog thing was just kind of an aside―oh, by the way, he runs dogs over sometimes.
Pat: I know! That’s what I mean. And while I assume he dies in the story, he may have had time to name it after his girlfriend. Or maybe, just maybe, that when the car became self-aware―or whatever you’d call it–it thought that’s what its name was.
Andrea: But he didn’t really like the girlfriend; he actually kind of hated her. He thought she was a rich bitch. And he smacked her around a little. Anyway, I loved the line on the first page “the subconscious level where savage things grow.”
Pat: Hokey.
Andrea: I disagree. It’s lyrical. Another line I wrote down: “joints passing through the dark like eyes of Cerberus.”
Pat: I give that sentence a 2 out of 10.
Andrea: I liked it. I feel like we like the opposite sentences.
Pat: I really like how often he puts buttons on sections of the story.
“It’s not over by a long shot.”
She was right, it wasn’t.
Andrea: That whole gym scene was really good. It was replicated pretty much word for word in the movie and it was pitch perfect.
Pat: Which gym scene? In which Chris says like hell she’ll go to a week of detention?
Andrea: Yeah. When the gym teacher is first admonishing them for the period thing.
Pat: I’m not entirely sold on Christine’s maliciousness. Her meanness isn’t ever illuminated. Billy’s character is more developed than hers. I buy him as a malicious shit. Her, not so much. There’s nothing behind it.
Andrea: Well, there’s that part where the principal brings out her file, and it’s all about the people she’s tormented. She’s not so much evil so much as horrendously entitled. “You can’t treat me like this, my father is a lawyer,” etc. etc.
Pat: That’s not enough for me. Everyone else is fleshed out brilliantly, deftly; she isn’t. She’s painted with really broad strokes. I think Stephen King thought that a high school bitch wouldn’t require the kind of characterization the other people did. Which, normally, it wouldn’t. Except that with the development he did on everyone else, she seems skeletal, peripheral. Maybe that’s intentional. Even if it is intentional, I don’t dig it.
Andrea: Sue Snell is really not all that well-developed either. Beyond “nice girl.”
Pat: I also don’t buy Carrie flipping out yet. Based on the first section of the book, she was teased and tortured, at home and at school, but so was I. I never had my period in the shower, but she’s really set upon by two well-meaning teens looking to atone for what Sue has done. And Carrie knows what it is, she’s cognizant that it’s some sort of atonement deal. And everything is going swimmingly for her. And you can tell that besides Tommy and Sue, there are people who are excited to see her, as one girl puts it, “rejoining the human race.” Is it ridiculous to put forth that the time frame of this book is, very possibly, one lunar month? And that she’s got PMS?
Andrea: It is possible. But I think the fact that she finally thinks things might be okay for her is why she snaps. Because it’s all taken away so quickly. So you are saying that by the time the prom rolls around, her cycle is coming to an end and she has PMS again?
Pat: Yes! And if so, is this book one long, drawn-out (and well-written) allegory for Stephen King thinking women who are premenstrual are devil’s spawn, the most evil, destructive beings in the world? Remember, these telekinetic powers only surface in women.
Andrea: It’s like that movie Ginger Snaps. Where the girls get their periods and turn into werewolves
Pat: Let’s not even get into a discussion of why you’ve seen Ginger Snaps
Andrea: It’s funny that a five-figure income was enough to join the country club.
Pat: It’s funny that he says Billy was “whistling a popular tune” as though he doesn’t want to date himself, then goes on to list a Jefferson Airplane album and an entire prom full of dated songs.
Andrea: It’s not so funny when you get to Cell and King seems like your 100 year old grandfather trying to figure out the iPhone.
Pat: I don’t know. I sort of don’t buy that. It struck me as a conceit, the way you’d expect to play into how “out-of-touch” you are when you’re old for comedic effect. I plan on doing that nonstop.
Andrea: He does do that. Have you ever read his Entertainment Weekly column? He actually refers to himself as Uncle Stevie, and he has this weird folksy persona.
Pat: Stephen King is a creepshow.
Andrea: But probably a fun creepshow.
Pat: Totally. Except for watching baseball. That’s the most horrifying thing about him.
Andrea: I like baseball. It’s the only sport where i know what’s going on.
Pat: I’m not sure how you got a higher SAT score than me because you’re clearly mentally deranged.
Andrea: You are.
Pat: Does Carrie destroy the entire town in the movie?
Andrea: Yeah, I think so
Pat: I can only clearly remember the dirtypillows scene and the scene where she’s giving the alien-eye to the door and shit at the prom
Andrea: That’s cause you were probably feeling that girl up in the corner.
Pat: Did we watch that with her?
Andrea: Yeah, we did it on horror movie night one year. The year that we also watched the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Pat: Horror movies are such unutterable crap.
Andrea: You are.

<strong><span style=”color: brown;”>Andrea:</span></strong> I cracked up that one of the fake books or articles was called “I Survived The Black Prom.”
<strong><span style=”color: #4e517e;”>Pat:</span></strong> I didn’t like the name “White Commission,” but if he had called it the “Black Prom Committee,” that would’ve sounded weird.
<strong><span style=”color: #4e517e;”>Pat:</span></strong> Chamberlain is near Cumberland, yes? Because in <em>Salem’s Lot</em>, Cumberland is right near the town, and I was wondering if Stephen King is creating disappearing towns all the time. Also, he mentions Mechanic Falls in ‘Salem’s Lot, the town in Secret Window, Secret Garden
<strong><span style=”color: brown;”>Andrea:</span></strong> I don’t remember the names of the towns in all the books! Except for Derry!
<strong><span style=”color: #4e517e;”>Pat:</span></strong> Well, you are the sucky partner!

<strong><span style=”color: #4e517e;”>Pat:</span></strong> So what about Carrie? I feel like Chris Hargadfgklaen’s character is all over the fucking place. She’s a paper-thin mean girl at the beginning, then she’s a malicious, plotting cunt in the middle.
<strong><span style=”color: brown;”>Andrea:</span></strong> And then at the end she kind of just… trails off…
<strong><span style=”color: #4e517e;”>Pat:</span></strong> At the end, she’s a battered woman with no real will of her own.
<strong><span style=”color: brown;”>Andrea:</span></strong> It switches from being about her to being about Billy. I wonder if that was a conscious choice or if it is poor character development.
<strong><span style=”color: #4e517e;”>Pat:</span></strong> His entire reason for writing <em>Carrie</em> was to prove he could write women, so says the Tabitha intro.
<strong><span style=”color: brown;”>Andrea:</span></strong> And then there is that really chilling line, “He was beginning to think it was alright if it was Chris herself (that got hit by the blood)”
<strong><span style=”color: #4e517e;”>Pat:</span></strong> Pig’s blood for a pig!

<strong><span style=”color: #4e517e;”>Pat:</span></strong> The pre-prom confrontation with Margaret White was awesome.
<strong><span style=”color: brown;”>Andrea:</span></strong> It was. Carrie is a bad-ass bitch.
<strong><span style=”color: #4e517e;”>Pat:</span></strong> The post-prom was even better, So, to Margaret White’s thinking, Carrie was the result of an almost satanic evil spell in her husband.
<strong><span style=”color: brown;”>Andrea:</span></strong> In the book Carrie just stops Mrs. White’s heart. In the movie she pins her up against the wall with like 30 knives. And I love the part where Margaret talks about Carrie’s conception. What the hell made her so twisted that she thinks sex is wrong?
“He touched me in the woman place AND I LET HIM” (paraphrase)
<strong><span style=”color: #4e517e;”>Pat:</span></strong> HE TOOK ME AND I LIKED IT
<strong><span style=”color: brown;”>Andrea:</span></strong> I am going to start yelling that at inappropriate times, like maybe when I am in labor.
<strong><span style=”color: #4e517e;”>Pat:</span></strong> In the end, did Carrie become as crazy as her mother?
<strong><span style=”color: brown;”>Andrea:</span></strong> Yes, definitely. What about when she is showing Sue all the suffering she suffered through the years?
<strong><span style=”color: #4e517e;”>Pat:</span></strong> She started to think of herself as the archangel Gabriel, essentially. Killed her mother for her sins, then rained fire and brimstone on the town. There’s a part where she says that if God was there, he was cowering in a corner. There’s an allegory there. Margaret White is supposed to be this pure, holy-rollin’ lady, and she gives birth to a child that is, for all intents and purposes, an abomination, to science, to religion, and so on. She creates a child that is almost all-powerful in a way and when the child realizes this, all the mother can do is cower, fearfully. What I think is that there’s an implication there because when she’s in the church and feeling like God’s instrument with the fiery sword—a reference to Gabriel the archangel—she thinks that bit about how God isn’t there, or if he is, he’s cowering in a corner. Maybe King is trying to say something about how, perhaps, in the mania of creation, God created things more powerful than Himself, with the power to destroy him. The archangel Gabriel may be a metaphor for the fiery sword of the human mind? Is Stephen King implying that perhaps we’ve thought God to death?

<strong><span style=”color: brown;”>Andrea:</span></strong> Another chilling scene was Carrie looking in from outside while everyone stampeded for the door, and then slamming the guy’s fingers in the door when he almost gets out. And when it talked about the people who ran for the fire door, and he said “those were the ones who lived.”
<strong><span style=”color: #4e517e;”>Pat:</span></strong> Agreed, but why the shit didn’t Carrie care about them?
<strong><span style=”color: brown;”>Andrea:</span></strong> It addresses that. She says that she can’t worry about it for some reason, I forget why. She knows they are getting out but can’t focus enough on two doors at once.
<strong><span style=”color: #4e517e;”>Pat:</span></strong> It seemed like she was holding a lot of doors closed.
<strong><span style=”color: brown;”>Andrea:</span></strong> Do you think it’s significant that Tommy dies quickly and is spared the horror for the most part?
<strong><span style=”color: #4e517e;”>Pat:</span></strong> I think Tommy is killed mercifully, yes, because King had made him such a sympathetic, likable character. We should probably keep our eyes peeled for how King treats the most likable characters in his books. This book’s two most likable characters die mercifully, or not at all. In <em>Christine</em>, the guy and girl you’re rooting for both survive.
<strong><span style=”color: brown;”>Andrea:</span></strong> Does he ever kill anyone we are rooting for? That’s something to consider.
<strong><span style=”color: #4e517e;”>Pat:</span></strong> He kills someone in <em>The Wastelands</em>… but brings him back to life. In <em>Hearts In Atlantis</em>, Branagan dies, doesn’t he? He was super lovable.
<strong><span style=”color: brown;”>Andrea:</span></strong> Yes. The little boy in <em>Cujo</em>.
<strong><span style=”color: #4e517e;”>Pat:</span></strong> I was just going to ask if that kid dies or not.
<strong><span style=”color: brown;”>Andrea:</span></strong> He dies in the book, but not the movie.
<strong><span style=”color: #4e517e;”>Pat:</span></strong> I think we should resolve to not mention the third part of the book because it doesn’t add anything to the narrative. Also, the end is a goddamn clichéd horror ending: “IT’S OVER…. OR IS IT!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!” At least in Christine, it’s kind of awesome.
<strong><span style=”color: brown;”>Andrea:</span></strong> The smell of human flesh burning is described as like sweet pork. He uses that again, in that short story from <em>Night Shift</em> that was the precursor to <em>The Stand</em>.
<strong><span style=”color: #4e517e;”>Pat:</span></strong> “The Beach”?
<strong><span style=”color: brown;”>Andrea:</span></strong> Yes.
<strong><span style=”color: #4e517e;”>Pat:</span></strong> “Beach Shift”? “Raft Party”? “Dawn Patrol”?
<strong><span style=”color: brown;”>Andrea:</span></strong> “NIGHT SURF.”
<strong><span style=”color: #4e517e;”>Pat:</span></strong> That too.

<strong><span style=”color: #4e517e;”>Pat:</span></strong> So, the whole destruction of the town. Pretty amazing. And the multiple-angle narrative worked well, I think.
<strong><span style=”color: brown;”>Andrea:</span></strong> The whole thing was awesomely written. So much so that it was more vivid in print than in the movie. What about the buildup to it, when Sue is home alone and thinks “there was no reason, really no reason, to feel that the world was coming to an end.”
<strong><span style=”color: #4e517e;”>Pat:</span></strong> I don’t understand why she drove towards it. Was she being impelled by the town-wide Carrie brain-bomb?
<strong><span style=”color: brown;”>Andrea:</span></strong> Yes, I think so. But I also kind of thought it was because she wanted to know what happened to Tommy
<strong><span style=”color: #4e517e;”>Pat:</span></strong> Here’s a question: why didn’t carrie just pull the fucking knife out of her shoulder with her mind?
<strong><span style=”color: brown;”>Andrea:</span></strong> I dont know. Maybe cause she couldn’t see it? It seemed like she wanted to die though, so maybe that’s why.
<strong><span style=”color: #4e517e;”>Pat:</span></strong> She knows what a knife sticking through her shoulder would look like. She could have also probably held her wound closed with her mind And she could’ve killed herself so much more peacefully, and wrought more damage.
<strong><span style=”color: #4e517e;”>Pat:</span></strong> Bonus points for the scene where Billy and Chris get into the car, and Carrie is right. Fucking. There.
<strong><span style=”color: brown;”>Andrea:</span></strong> That was chilling. I could picture it. So scary.
<strong><span style=”color: #4e517e;”>Pat:</span></strong> This book wasn’t scary, though. Nothing about this book is haunting me
<strong><span style=”color: brown;”>Andrea:</span></strong> I agree. That was a shocking image, but it isn’t coming to mind when I pee at 3am.
<strong><span style=”color: #4e517e;”>Pat:</span></strong> meanwhile, I still think Mort Rainey (from Secret Window, Secret Garden) is in my shower. The movie sort of ruined that for me though. I’m not scared of John Turturro. Shit, he lives in my neighborhood. It’s not altogether unlikely that i would find him in my shower.
<strong><span style=”color: brown;”>Andrea:</span></strong> I like the part when he says I WILL BURN YER LIIIIFE. I am dreading if we read anything really scary while I am still pregnant. Everything seems creepy when I am awake alone in the middle of the night. I always check the shower.

<strong><span style=”color: #4e517e;”>Pat:</span></strong> The epilogue to <em>Carrie</em> sucks my dick
<strong><span style=”color: brown;”>Andrea:</span></strong> Agreed. ‘Melia my ass.
<strong><span style=”color: #4e517e;”>Pat:</span></strong> I thought the dude from “The End Of The Whole Mess” was writing the letter.
<strong><span style=”color: brown;”>Andrea:</span></strong> Or the dude at the end of “Survivor Type” when he is all crazy.
<strong><span style=”color: #4e517e;”>Pat:</span></strong> Is that the ladyfingers story?
<strong><span style=”color: brown;”>Andrea:</span></strong> Yes.
<strong><span style=”color: #4e517e;”>Pat:</span></strong> Thumbs up to that.

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