In case you didn’t come directly from there, maybe take a look at part one before tackling this?
Ben Hanscom Takes A Fall
Circumspect little Ben Hanscom was a bookish fat fuck back in 1958, which makes it hard to run from the bully you wouldn’t let copy during your English final. After mooning out at the library and gorging on candy and sending an anonymous love haiku to Beverly Marsh, the Man They Called Haystack runs into son-of-a-bitching Henry Bowers and his two cronies, Victor Criss and Belch Huggins, down by the old canal. Henry gets an ‘H’ carved into Ben’s tit before Hanscom goes super-nerd and escapes. Then he trips Bowers as he chases him, and beats the living crapsteak out of him while he’s down.
Andrea: “He thought that fat boys were probably only allowed to love pretty girls inside.”
Pat: Ben is my favorite. By far.
Andrea: What a heartbreaker.
Pat: Maybe it’s because I was an only child and was always reading books, and it kind of both did and didn’t bother me that I didn’t have many friends.
Andrea: You had a ton of friends. They were just nerds.
Pat: When I was a KID. Like, 11.
Pat: I had a fair few, but not many.
Andrea: Ben whispers her name and then blushes.
Pat: Yeah, his crush on Beverly is perfect. That’s so how it is for boys.
Andrea: This chapter also marks the appearance of Freddy Roth and the FABULOUS GUM STICK
Pat: That is one thing out of the amnesia ether. The fucking Fabulous Gum Stick. Everything as a kid had some sort of superlative. Kids are way into superlatives.
Andrea: I know. And games were so dumb. We used to play “Dandelion Factory,” which involved squishing up dandelions into a paste.
In the winter, there was a variation called “Snow Factory”
Pat: I’m surprised the slow bus didn’t come for the two of you and drive you out to the Canal where Pennywise could get you.
Andrea: They were too busy capturing [NAME REDACTED]. Remember him?
Pat: Sounds familiar.
Andrea: He was our age, but he was “bad.” Once I was like 12 and babysitting some kid and [NAME REDACTED] told me I needed to get laid.
THEN I WENT HOME AND LOOKED UP “GET LAID” IN THE DICTIONARY
Pat: The whole bit about Ben being so excited about the map of the US he gets to fill in with read books so he can get a free book is one of my favorite parts. Just his fat-kid joy at reading, and the stuff about the older kid books. It doesn’t explicitly say so in the book—that would ruin it—but the books are like little forts he can hide out in, where he isn’t fat.
Andrea: Oh! That totally reminded me of Book-It. If my kid’s school doesn’t do Book-It I’m gonna be mighty pissed.
Pat: Reading Is Fundamental.
Andrea: Yes. That is the reason why I just fundamentally don’t understand people who don’t read. It is the best possible escape.
WITH A BOOK YOU ARE NEVER BORED
Pat: And there’s just so much goddamn time when you’re a kid.
No end of hours to fill.
Andrea: Yeah, every once in a while I get an existential panic that I’m never going to be able to read all the books.
Pat: Not to sound all crusty. I guess video games and TV and movies make a pretty good case for themselves these days.
Andrea: Yeah, they aren’t the same though.
Pat: If the take-away is the same, then they’re the same. It isn’t like playing Mario 3 when we were growing up, where you are ZERO PERCENT richer for having played it.
Andrea: Except that you had bragging rights.
Pat: An 11-year-old kid playing The Last Of Us today is going to carry that story around with him for the rest of his life.
Andrea: Yes, I can get behind that. I feel like video games are a great kid-bonding thing too, while books are solitary and private.
Pat: You’re right. I never thought about that. I wonder if kids still hustle out to the fields to play pick-up games of baseball anymore.
I guess kids will always want to be outside.
Andrea: Yup. If it is raining, it’s meltdown city at our house.
Pat: The detail of Ben kind of sexy-eyeing the glass atrium at the library, and the nod to the Great Big Communications Center he’d build for the BBC 20 years later was basically that on its side. That was cool. You almost get no other peeks into the others’ futures like that. Bill, maybe. Richie, I guess, if Doing Voices can really be a peek into the future.
Andrea: And getting beaten. That was a peek into Bev’s future.
Pat: I meant occupations.
“Getting beaten” ain’t no occupation.
UNLESS YOU PLAY FOR THE METS
Andrea: No, but it was her future.
Pat: Did you see my Mets joke just now?
Because it was KILLER
You are consistently the worst.
Pat: And the whole bit about him scrambling out of class on the last day of school, hoping to beat Henry Bowers and his douchegang out of the building. It’s all so perfect and true. The degree to which everything seemed like it was going to either be the BEST or the WORST.
Andrea: Being a kid is seriously intense.
Pat: Like, Henry and Co. catch up with Ben? It is literally going to be the End Of The World. He will die. That’s what he thinks.
Andrea: Well, he actually might since they are frigging carving him up. Henry, anyway. The others are just minions
Pat: Meanwhile, it’s not enough to keep him from kind of dicking around on the steps to moon over Beverly, who is talking to him.
UGH GOD IT’S LIKE A NOSTALGIA ARROW TO THE HEART
To be a kid again! To have everything be that fucking exciting and life-or-death!
Andrea: You are circular and made of corn.
Pat: Let’s talk about the framing device.
Every one of these sections starts with the grown-up in 1985, present time, on their way back to Derry.
I think it’s fucking killer. Like my Mets joke.
Andrea: Well, I already expressed my beef with it, which is that it is hard to make the connection with the kid characters at first. But it is a seriously genius way to introduce both the story set-up and all the characters without dragging on or being confusing.
Pat: I’m a big fan of the way the preludes all kind
…into the past.
Pat: So when Ben is on the plane, the last part of that section is:
And then the next section starts with:
Andrea: Ah, got it. Yeah, that was cool.
Pat: Kind of like falling into a dream. And the flight attendant thinks he’s dead.
Pat: ?She went quickly down the steps and Ben saw everything with his lover’s eye: the bright tartan of her skirt, the bounce of her red hair against the back of her sweater, her milky complexion, a small healing cut across the back of one calf, and (for some reason this last caused another wave of feeling to sweep him so powerfully he had to grope for the railing again; the feeling was huge, inarticulate, mercifully brief; perhaps a sexual pre-signal, meaningless to his body, where the endocrine glands still slept almost without dreaming, yet as bright as summer heat-lightning) a bright golden ankle-bracelet she wore just above her right loafer, winking back the sun in brilliant little flashes.
“A sound—some sort of sound—escaped him. He went down the steps like a feeble old man and stood at the bottom, watching until she turned left and disappeared beyond the high hedge that separated the schoolyard from the sidewalk.”
I think I like Bev so much because of how she is described through Ben’s eyes.
Pat: I mean, you could just stop at “Ben saw everything with [a] lover’s eye.” Because let’s be honest, “his lover’s eye” sounds like he’s seeing with Beverly’s eyes.
Andrea: Yeah, that is weird.
Pat: He’s constantly whispering, “I love Beverly Marsh.”
Andrea: And then blushing and having to shove his face in the grass! Which was my favorite thing about it. What a lovable goober.
Pat: I just love Ben Hanscom. I want to give birth to Ben Hanscom and raise him as my own.
Andrea: And then I love how the other boys are just nonchalantly like, “yeah, you’ve got tits. big deal.” Oh, the fellowship of other misfits.
Pat: AH BUT HIS LOVE MAKES HIM BLIND. He doesn’t notice the cretins laying in wait!
Clearly, Henry Bowers is fucking batshit. As Stephen King has observed several times over the last few books: “crazy as a shithouse rat.”
Andrea: We all have our pet phrases. With mine being “masterful” “cipher.”
Pat: I mean, I say, “I mean” before a lot of sentences.
I think a lot of what cleaves me to Ben’s ample bosom is that, after all this fat-kid sadness and torment, he shows incredible mettle against the bozos.
Andrea: He is a solid dude. I can’t stop laughing at “cleaves me to his bosom.”
Pat: He basically uses his fatness to break the railing and fall down the hill before Henry can carve his whole name into his stomach. Then he trips Bowers when he starts running down the hill after him. Then he bashes him while he’s lying there insensible like Ralphie in Christmas Story.
Andrea: That was AWESOME. So far the nerds in this book are pretty badass.
Pat: It is a moment of exultant joy. Until Victor and Belch start pelting him with rocks and he high-tails it.
Then we get our first real It encounter!
Ben takes off—surprisingly fast for a fat kid, we learn—and hides in some sort of pipe in the woods, where he takes a nap. Blood sugar spike, kid; that’s how you get the Diabetes. He dreams of the Incident In January (It Experience #1), when he saw a Goddamn Freaky Clown out on the ice of the Canal, its balloons floating forward, into the wind. Pennywise gets a finger on his boot, tells him we all float down here, the way homicidal, eternal-evil-embodied-as-a-clown performers generally do, and Ben takes off, again.
Pat: It’s amazing how fucking sinister and creepy Stephen King can make the word “float” sound. It’s a soft and playful word, and he just stuffs it full of terror like a fucked up Christmas goose.
Andrea: I like that he doesn’t show the underground sewer world at all. Much like It itself, it conforms to the readers’ worst imaginings.
Pat: Well, not YET. But I never thought of that before. It kind of mirrors the way the book deals with the unreal. You only get these glimpses of the very edge of what’s underneath: the pipe Ben hides in, the Standpipe, the little stream in the Barrens that’s full of turdwater but isn’t actually part of the sewer system proper. Which makes super extra literary sense because when they DO go down into the sewers, the It manifestations go from hallucination-level to OH HEY, WE’RE ON THE ETHEREAL PLANE NOW
Andrea: And sometimes they don’t even realize anything is wrong until they start seeing weird shit. Like, “oh hey, it’s just a clown,” and then they notice the blood on his teeth.
Pat: The creepiest part of Ben’s It experience is that he looks away for a second, and It goes from being on the ice in the distance to being RIGHT UNDER THE BRIDGE. I kept imagining being Ben, standing there on the bridge, and seeing Pennywise move towards him in this skittering stop-motion.
Andrea: ARGH LIKE THAT HORRIBLE GIRL FROM THE RING
Pat: Sort of, but not as all-out sinister. That’s scary, but what I’m imagining Pennywise doing is an almost flip-book sort of goofy version.
And he’s standing still in each frame, like an action figure being moved towards a camera shot by shot.
Andrea: ugh, I legit just got chills. and looked behind me even though it’s daytime and I’m in my office with other people here.
Pat: Ben is my pudgy little hero. He makes me think of the end of Invention Of Lying where Jennifer Garner doesn’t want Ricky Gervais’s fat pug-nosed kids, and then she meets this fat little pug-nosed kid in the park who’s got ice cream all over his face, and she’s like, OMG FAT PUG-NOSED KIDS FOR LIFE
Andrea: I did not see that, and I don’t know if I want to based on that description.
Pat: In other words, I would probably be the wrong parent for a fat kid.
Because I’d be into him being pudgy and winning.
Pat: “My kid? He’s great. He’s winningly pudgy.”
Andrea: Cue five years in the future when you name your child Ben Hanscom Hipp.
Pat: You know what? I wonder if this book is where that came from, me wanting a kid named Ben.
Andrea: Perhaps. I always assumed it was from your friend Ben.
Pat: And that first script I wrote had a Ben in it that was my favorite character.
Andrea: Benjamin is a pretty great name.
Pat: Benjamin is a bozo name. BENS’ FOR LIFE
When he emerges from the pipe, boy oh boy does Ben make a lucky find: friends! A stuttering kid and an asthmatic with a bloody nose. They are Bill Denbrough and Eddie Kaspbrak, who were making a pissant dam before Bowers & Co. came along looking for Ben and smashed their dam.
Pat: I mean, seriously. A fat kid with tits, a kid with a stutter, and the young version of Cameron Fry from Ferris Bueller.
Andrea: I love how seamlessly Ben integrates into the group. And his initial shyness around them and slow warming is right on.
Pat: THAT WAS ME AROUND NEW FRIENDS
OH GOD BEN I LOVE YOU
Andrea: ME TOO. STILL IS.
Pat: I don’t know about girls, because I never was one, but building a dam in the middle of the words for no real apparent reason is the height of boyish industry.
We were always building things because, I don’t know: boys?
No odder creatures on God’s green earth.
Andrea: Girls like that stuff too but I feel like it gets sucked out of women at a younger age.
Pat: Which is why Beverly is so cool when she pops up.
Andrea: Beverly rules. She is truly queen of the dudes.
I had a lot less freedom to just run free and be a kid than the boys in my family.
Pat: I would assume it was mostly because you had proven to your parents beyond a shadow of a doubt that you would be an inveterate, lifelong klutz.
Andrea: Prooooobably that too.
Pat: So Eddie is having a massive asthma attack from the confrontation with the Winners Gang.
Bill Denbrough Beats The Devil (I)
Bill Denbrough’s got a bike, by the way, that is way too big for him—and he’s a tall kid—and flies like to beat the devil. After the older boys tromp through, he and Eddie meet Ben, who tells them their dam sucks, although he doesn’t know how to build dams. He’s just that damn good with damn building. Ben sits with Eddie, who is having a severe asthma attack, while Bill rides into town to get his medicine. When he gets back, with a slight detour to the Time He Went Into His Dead Brother’s Room And The Photo Album Talked To Him Sinisterly And Then Bled When He Dropped It (It Experience #2), the three boys are now Totally Friends.
Andrea: This is also where we find out that the pharmacist is either placating or fleecing Eddie’s mom.
Pat: This is kind of just glossed over a bit, and then King sneaks up on you with it about 600 pages later, but Eddie’s asthma medicine is water with a little touch of something else to make it taste medicine-y.
But he’s definitely placating Mrs. Kaspbrak. That’s pretty explicitly stated.
Pat: The trick here is that he is doing for her what she is doing for Eddie: giving her the psychosomatic cure. Beats her thrashing about screaming that her son really does have the asthmas and gimme the real aspirator!
“THIS IS FILLED WITH BATTERY ACID, ASSHOLE”
Pat: The whole Bill and Silver thing is goofy as fuck. I keep picturing that bike as the thing on the cover of Christine.
Andrea: It is silly as hell but also totally realistic for their ages, I think.
Pat: And I don’t understand what about this bike makes it so demonically fast. Because it’s big? That doesn’t make bikes fast, particularly. Except on downhills. You’d have to walk it uphill.
Andrea: I think he is imagining/exaggerating its turbo quickness.
I never thought of it that way.
THAT’S ACTUALLY KIND OF AWESOME
Andrea: Yeah! I thought that was obvious. Like, he loves his bike so much that in his mind it has special power.
Pat: But Richie also has to be imagining it too, later. He keeps thinking Bill is going to kill them both.
Goddamn it, Andrea, that is a killer thought. That shades everything about the bike, all the way to the last Bill Denbrough Beats The Devil. And it ties in so seamlessly with the whole power-is-in-believing motif.
Andrea: Sometimes I come up with gold. In between musings about boobs and whatnot.
Pat: No matter how hard you believe in boobs, doing so will never make them bigger or more powerful.
Andrea: “I must, I must, I must increase my bust.”
Pat: Please tell me that isn’t a thing girls say.
And here we also have Are You It Experienced? #2.
Is Bill’s It experience the creepiest one? I’ve got one vote that says YES OH GOD YES
Andrea: OH GOD THE FUCKING DISEASED LEPER
Was that his? It was, right?
Pat: That’s Eddie, you douche.
Are you even reading the summaries?
Andrea: Okay, well then, Eddie’s was obvs the worst. he creepy photos are pretty bad, though.
Pat: A photo album just flipping itself to a certain page is Primo Spooky.
Andrea: But are they worse than a lecherous leper? For real?
Pat: Also, it being a six year old kid in a fucking school photo is even worse. Also, blood oozing out of a fucking book.
So Bill brings the medicine back, and Ben is like, hey fucktards, THIS is how you build a fucking dam.
Cue the Zack Attack’s “Friends Forever.”
One Of The Missing: A Tale From Summer of ’58
Newspaper clippings go right ahead and tells us the story of Eddie Corcoran, who disappeared mysteriously, and how that led to his stepfather getting charged in the long-ago murder of Eddie’s little brother and, subsequently, Eddie’s disappearance.
Andrea: I loved this whole section.
As you know.
Pat: This was interesting in an almost Shawshank way.
Which, I believe the stepfather goes to Shawshank.
It’s a good device, unlike in almost every other fucking book he’s used it in, because it’s this intense look into how the adult world deals with the disappearance of a kid and puts the pieces together to explain it.
And then King’s like, yeah, no, actually a clown murdered him by the Canal. “All the adults in the house say ‘what.'” “Whaaaat?” “Say, ‘whaaattt.'” “Whaaaattt?!”
I don’t know what the fuck a “recoilless hammer” is, but for some reason it sounded worse than the little brother Dorsey getting skull-smashed by a regular hammer.
Andrea: It doesn’t bounce back. It hits harder.
All the force goes into whatever you’re hitting
Pat: I guess the physics of it don’t make any damn sense to me.
Andrea: With a regular hammer some of the force is propelled back into your hand.
Pat: This video is telling me that a good recoilless hammer will cause less damage to the material you’re hammering.
Andrea: Well then.
My half-baked assumptions are totes wrong.
Pat: I guess so you could hammer a brick into place without it getting smashed up in the process? Which makes it sound like it would just give a kid severe brain damage and hemorrhaging without fucking the skull up too much.
Andrea: The most harrowing part of the whole section was the stepdad’s suicide note. “I saw Eddie last night. He was dead.”
Pat: A little taste of what’s to come.
There’s something in the fact that this adult is convinced, in the end, that he probably did kill Eddie. Even though he should really know he didn’t.
The downside of not having the childlike ability to explain things any other way but logically.
What actually happened was this: Eddie got a shitty report card, and instead of going straight home to get his face punched by Stepfather Dearest, he went on down to the Canal, where Pennywise turned into his dead brother —who the stepfather really did kill years back—and tried to haul his ass into the Canal. Eddie runs, for it, sure, but then Pennywise turns into the Creature From The Black Lagoon and gives him a good ol’ dose of death.
Andrea: Oh god–the part where he dies looking for the zipper on the creature’s back.
Pat: He’s almost, what, blasé about it?
“Oh hey, this Lagoon Creature is trying to tear my head off my neck, but come on, there has to be a zipper here somewhere.”
Andrea: He’s just totally convinced it’s not real.
Pat: It’s kind of like the constable in Cycle trying to take off the werewolf’s “mask.” Sorry bro, that is 100% pure werewolf.
Andrea: And then: “As Eddie’s picture of what It was began to fade, It promptly began to change into something else.”
Pat: It would’ve been cool if It was like, he wants a mask, I’ll give him one, and have him find a zipper and pull off the mask to see Pennywise and his deadlight eyes.
Andrea: You pull off the mask and there’s something worse under the mask? Genius.
Pat: I mean, that would’ve made Corcoran’s last moments fucking horrifying.
Mask comes off and SURPRISE it’s Dean Koontz.
Andrea: Is the joke that Dean Koontz is a shitty writer or is there another joke I’m not getting?
Pat: The joke is that Dean Koontz is a cut-rate Stephen King.
Or maybe it’s Ryan Gosling under that mask, and he just stares and stares into Eddie’s eyes. And Eddie dies screaming, “AH! ONE OF THEM IS WONK, HOW DO GIRLS NOT NOTICE THAT ONE OF HIS EYES IS WONNNNNKKKKKKKK—” and then he’s dead.
Andrea: I knew his eye was wonk.
The newspaper might think Eddie Corcoran was killed by his stepfather, but Mike Hanlon knows better, man, because he went down to the park and found Eddie’s old knife shortly after. He follows the damn tracks made by It carry Eddie off into the Canal, sees the blood, and decides, hell, let me just drop this knife into the water and get the fuck on out of here.
Pat: I like that Mike is sort of this solo kid for most of the book. It does something to highlight his loneliness as the only adult member of the group still living in Derry. Plus, he’s just an industrious, bright kid, and super likable. He might be the second most likable after Ben.
If he was also fat, man, FORGET ABOUT IT
Andrea: Do you think they have Mike find the knife to give the Losers a tie to one of the dead kids?
AND does that make It notice them?
Pat: “They” being “Stephen King”?
Pat: No, because Bill comes up with it on his own before they ever meet Mike.
And It notices them because, as far as you can tell, those seven kids are the only ones It appears to but DOESN’T get.
Andrea: So what do you think makes them special? Are they destined to have to fight It as adults?
Pat: I don’t know about that, but they are sort of chosen by circumstance to be the only ones who can fight It as kids. Ben talks about it earlier, that feeling that something is happening, binding them together. It’s mentioned the next time at the dam when Bill brings that Bradley kid, who—I think it’s Ben who thinks this—is so clearly not one of them and doesn’t matter.
In the Gunslinger world, they’d be a ka-tet.
Andrea: Right. And Bev says that in her memory of that day, he seems fuzzy.
Pat: Which is saying a lot for a person whose ENTIRE FUCKING CHILDHOOD IS FUZZY
It didn’t occur to me until the next Derry Interlude that I don’t think King ever expressly says that Mike is black.
You figure it out later, when every third word is “nigger,” but hell, I don’t recall King describing Mike as black at all, maybe because he’s mostly introduced in the first person.
Andrea: He doesn’t.
Which is weird because Derry doesn’t strike me as a town of tolerance, and Stan’s being Jewish is kind of a thing.
Pat: Stan being Jewish and essentially no one—Stan included—really knowing what the hell that means is hysterical.
I think at one point, Richie says, “Oh yeah, he killed Christ.”
Like Stan personally killed the Lord Jesus Baby Nazarene.
Andrea: Yeah, and at one point aren’t they all confused about what circumsized means?
Pat: I think so. God, white people are goofy.
In the middle of all that detective work, though, we get to hear about the time when Mike went to the old Kitchener Ironworks, Home of Derry’s First Easter Egg Massacre, on the advice of his father, who often sends the kid around town to look at things and learn stuff. Except when he gets there, this huge shaft in the ground is hiding a Gigantic Fucking Bird that is Not Technically Rodan From The Godzilla Movies (It Experience #3). It tries its damnedest to kill him, but Mike’s savvy and hides in a silo, where he can safely blind the thing with tiles that are imbued with CHILDLIKE MAGIC. He escapes unscathed, mostly.
Pat: I really like the relationship between Mike and his father, who by the way, doesn’t start sounding all jive-ass until the next interlude, which threw me a bit.
Andrea: Man, Mike’s dad seems cool.
“Go around town and look at some stuff.”
Pat: “Hey, go check out those train tracks. Really stare at them. Then come back and tell me about it, because I am the Coolest Fucking Dad For The Weirdest, Simplest Reasons.”
The Ironworks seems pretty solidly fucking creepy. I mean, even without the giant sparrow or whatnot.
Andrea: Um, yeah. It reminded me of this thing in West Philly called the oilcans, where you could literally climb a ladder into an old refinery
Pat: These are the kinds of places kids are drawn to and yet there is ALWAYS A WAY to get in. It’s like adults are stupid. And I guess that’s kind of the point of the book. “Who the fuck would want to dick around a refinery?” Uh, every kid ever?
Andrea: Yes. The weirdness in the cracks.
Pat: So there’s a huge bird that attacks Mike. I got the feeling it was like forty feet tall. And maybe looked like the bird on our blog header.
But I think it was more like a sparrow or something un-menacing.
STOP MAKING SEEMINGLY CUTE THINGS EVIL, STEVIE, JESUS
Easily the tensest It experience so far. I kind of wish it had been the real Rodan from the Godzilla movies, but the scale of a huge bird makes Mike seem tiny and in more severe jeopardy.
Into the smokestack!
Andrea: OK GOING HOME NOW
Pat: BIG HELP ON MIKE’S IT TRAUMA
Andrea: WE CAN CONTINUE
NO COMPLAINTS UNTIL YOU APPEAR ONLINE BEFORE 2 P.M. EST
Pat: YOU ARE A BOZO
Andrea Hallowell: oh hi
Pat: HEY NOW
MIKE BIRD ATTACK GO
Andrea Hallowell: FUCKING BIRDS MAN
Pat: Not a fan of them?
Andrea Hallowell: All I could think of was it ripping a chunk of his scalp off.
Someone at a barbecue I was at once said, “Birds. They’re just a bad idea.”
Pat: I think chunks would be small for a bird that’s two stories tall.
Andrea Hallowell: The stuff nightmares are made of.
Pat: There are all these little magical ways the kids survive the It experiences.
Andrea Hallowell: Par example?
Pat: It’s goofy but somehow believable. Stan recites names of birds, Richie does voices and throws sneeze powder, Ben… I don’t remember what Ben does. They all do something imbued with childhood magic.
Andrea Hallowell: A lot of this book is how much childhood magic you lose, I think.
Pat: Well, dur.
The Dam In The Barrens
Bill, Ben, and Eddie build a dam, and are eventually joined by Richie Tozier and Stanley Uris. Much talk of how to successfully build a dam in a turd river is had. Bill tells the other boys about his dead brother’s photograph bleeding all over the damn place, which freaks Eddie out because a leper hobo tricked to suck his dick.
Andrea Hallowell: I don’t know how you could possibly think an amorous hobo whose nose fell off is better than the bird.
Pat: I wouldn’t say that it is.
“‘Blowjob,’ the leper whispered, and tottered to its feet.”
Andrea Hallowell: ad;laksjd;lkfja;slkd
I like how he offers to do it for money and then for free.
Pat: You’re a sucker for a bargain. I think it’s intensely unsettling that Pennywise keeps introducing himself as “Mr. Bob Gray.”
Andrea Hallowell: That makes It even grosser for some reason.
Pat: Right after he first runs into the hobo, when he’s just a hobo still, and he’s all asking Richie and Bill what the hell syphilis is, there’s a bit where a guy named “Boogers Taliendo” describes that what you do is aim your dick at a chick’s belly button when you’re about to come.
Andrea Hallowell: OMG OMG
Pat: “His big brother had told him that the really scientific word for it was jizzum.”
Andrea Hallowell: Can you imagine aiming at anything while you’re coming?
Let alone something as small as a belly button?
Pat: I’m not answering that question.
This is so Mysteries Of Sex As Parsed Out By Kids.
Kids are fucking goofy about coming up with explanations for stuff.
What happened was, Eddie was dicking around by the trainyards one day, and a homeless dude crawled out from under a porch and offered to mouthfuck his penis for a quarter. A quarter! In 1958! Figuring for inflation, that’d be about two bucks now! But for some reason, Eddie is not a blowjob bargain-hunter. But he is intrigued by the whole situation, and goes back to look for the hobo for reasons unknown. Except now the hobo is a monster with splitting skin that rockets through the basement window underneath the porch, calling himself Bob Gray and offering a whole rundown of blowjob prices (It Experience #4)! EDDIE ESCAPES.
Andrea Hallowell: Barely. I have to say, all the descriptions of the hobos rotting teeth and bad breath and holes in face made me want to retch.
Pat: Again with the inexplicably drawn into bad situations involving It, which I guess is the thing’s power.
Andrea Hallowell: Yeah. Like they can’t look away.
Patrick Hipp:I might have glossed over the finer details of his rottingness.
Andrea Hallowell: You might be a puss.
Pat: But also, I mean, the motherfucker goes BACK to check if the hobo’s still there. Which is highly suspect.
“Let’s see if that BJ-offering hobo is still around!”
Great idea, Eddie.
Hewants to get sucked off like his inhaler.
Andrea Hallowell: I wouldn’t be surprised if something about sexual abuse came out later and that’s why the blowjob hobo was It for him, but I don’t think that is addressed.
Pat: Maybe it’s just that late childhood fear of the Great Sexual Unknown, coupled with Holy Fuck That Guy’s Nose Is Missing, which he thinks is an STD in the first place.
So yeah, my vote is for Generalized Sex Fear.
It appears to everyone as something different, usually their worst fear or something they’re at least intensely afraid of. But there’s always a bit of clown to whatever for It takes. ERGO: Stephen King is saying that everybody is afraid of clowns.
Andrea Hallowell: I think that’s probably true. I mean, at the very least, there’s John Wayne Fucking Gacy to contend with.
Pat: He was a sad clown.
Andrea Hallowell: John Wayne Gacy was a sad clown?
Pat: He sure wasn’t a happy clown, now was he?
The guys are weirded out by that story. Ben tells the story of the Clown That Was Also Kind Of A Mummy, and the boys are like, well shit, Stan, you ever seen anything? And Stan the Man Uris is like, NO OF COURSE NOT EVEN THOUGH MY RESPONSE MAKES IT CLEAR I ACTUALLY DID! LEMME ALONE! A bozo Irish cop comes by and informs the boys that their dam is fucking up the entire town’s drainage system, and they’re all standing knee-deep in poop-water to boot.
Andrea Hallowell: Ugh, Stan.
Pat: See also: reasons Stan is going to die in 27 years.
Andrea Hallowell: Cause he sucks too much for this planet?
Andrea Hallowell: I LOVE THIS IRISH COP.
He should be the model for all law enforcement.
Pat: Clippy says, “I see you’re trying to insert a Stereotypical Irish Police Officer. Would you like to see the Tropes Template?”
Andrea Hallowell: Why are you obsessed with Clippy all of a sudden?
Pat: When was the last time I brought up Clippy?
If It appeared to me, it would take the form of Clippy.
Andrea Hallowell: The other day. Unless it was someone else which would be REALLY weird.
Pat: It wasn’t me.
Andrea Hallowell: Since I literally forgot all about Clippy until this week.
Pat: So why is the officer awesome? Because he lets the kids slide and also tells them how the drainage system works and that they’re standing in poopwater and waits to watch them destroy the dam whilst also drinking?
Andrea Hallowell: Yeah. He was nice. That’s basically why.
And he was caring toward your besty Ben.
Pat: Who isn’t caring towards Ben? He’s a goddamn prince.
Georgie’s Room And The House On Neibolt Street
Bill and Richie head to the Denbrough residence to check out the photo album, because kids are fucking morons. And of course the picture isn’t there! It’s been replaced by a street scene that starts moving—way before Harry Potter A.D., by the way—and features kids that look like them. Well now! And the GODDAMN CLOWN IS THERE. Bill reaches into the picture and gets a bunch of cuts on his fingers because Magic Is Real, Kids, if you just believe! They realize that there is a monster in Derry that looks an awful lot like a clown, even when it’s a mummy or creature or hobo, and it’s killing kids.
Pat: I intensely dig the ratcheting up of the story where It experiences are concerned. They’re interesting when it’s just one of the kids by himself, but when it’s two of them, it’s ten times better.
Andrea Hallowell: Well first of all, old-ass photos are inherently scary.
Pat: That is patently untrue.
Andrea Hallowell: There is a really scary Australian movie called Lake Mungo where a dead girl shows up in photos. This part reminded me of that.
Pat: Which came first?
Andrea Hallowell: The book by years and years. It’s not at all similar except for the photo thing and that both things are SCARY AS SHIT.
Pat: I don’t think a single old photo has scared me before.
Andrea Hallowell: Well yeah, cause nothing appeared in it.
Pat: Granted, if it started moving and showing me a town scene where someone who looks exactly like me is murdered by a clown, that’s another story.
Andrea Hallowell: That photo was not subtle at all.
Pat: I like Richie’s little internal freak-out. “Age 6 forever! Anybody could! Shit! Fucking anybody!”
Andrea Hallowell: Oh man. I definitely highlighted that too. Then I tried to remember if I had ever had a moment like that.
Pat: A “holy-jeezly-crow” moment?
Andrea Hallowell: Well yeah, but about mortality specifically.
Pat: Yeah, I get what it was about.
Later, Richie, Ben, and Beverly end up going to the movies together, and Henry Bowers and his cronies lay in wait, because Ben’s still got some coming to him. There is a dust-up, and Ben acquits himself admirably, and Beverly gets a notion that he’s probably the one who sent the love haiku.
Pat: Subtitle: Richie might just be in love with Beverly, too, now that he thinks of it.
Andrea Hallowell: They all are. Isn’t that really obvious?
Pat: Not so far. Not Eddie. It’s not even clear with Bill at this point.
But that whole scene with Richie running into her after she got smacked around by her dad and offering to take her to the movies with Ben.
What a magnanimous kid.
Andrea Hallowell: That part was really sweet. What is Bev’s magical quality? Is it the red hair? Is she the original Manic Pixie Dream Girl?
Pat: Who says they have magic abilities?
Andrea Hallowell: You don’t think she is kinda magic to them?
Pat: Girls are magic to boys, period. And every one of the Losers is kind of magic to the others. They’re 11 year old friends.
FRIENDSHIP IS THE ONLY REAL MAGIC, ANDREA
Andrea Hallowell: Are you a secret brony?
Pat: We KNOW what her talent is. She uses it later on. But even she doesn’t remember it until hundreds of pages hence.
Andrea Hallowell: I don’t remember it yet either.
Pat: You’re the worst.
So Ben is all a-flutter when he sees that Bev is with them. Then they see fucking Bowers and Co. in the theater. TENSION
Andrea Hallowell: This part really made me want to go to a theater with a balcony. Except, you know, not the Troc.
Pat: That’s hardly a good movie theater anyway.
It seems like every time in this book someone is trying to use a secondary exit to elude Henry Bowers, Bowers is there.
Andrea Hallowell: Maybe that’s his magic power.
Pat: This, so far, is better than Ben standing over Bowers in the Barrens and going:
“Ugh,” Henry says.
“Right,” Ben says.
“Ugh,” Henry says.
“DAMN right,” Ben says.
Andrea Hallowell: Agreed
Pat: This is also the first time they fight together as a group. Not a huge one, but a group nonetheless. And yet again, Ben proves himself to be a badass underneath all that flab.
Andrea Hallowell: Why does Ben rock so hard? Who played him in the movie?
Pat: I’m picturing Jerry O’Connell, but that isn’t A. right, or B. badass.
Brandon Crane, whoever that is.
Oh god. He’s Doug Porter from The Wonder Years.
Andrea Hallowell: OH NO
Pat: He is zero awesome.
Andrea Hallowell: Wait, I kinda like that kid. The blond mushy-faced kid?
Pat: Way mushy. But he’s got no mettle!
Andrea Hallowell: Well he’s an actor. Maybe he can act mettle.
Pat: After they escape, they get two milkshakes, one for Ben and one for Richie, and Beverly just has her own straw she puts in whichever damn milkshake she wants at the moment.
Andrea Hallowell: Awww that was so cute! I need two boy besties. That are 11 years old and like milkshakes.
Pat: I was about to say, you had me and Rob.
Andrea Hallowell: True, but you jerks wouldn’t share milkshakes. You would just mock.
Pat: Get your own fucking milkshake, GOD
Andrea Hallowell: SEE??
Pat: It blows that none of these kids ever really existed.
Andrea Hallowell: They do exist. In your heart.
Pat: John Ritter as Ben Hanscom: not bad. Not perfect, but not bad.
Andrea Hallowell: Yeah, it’s serviceable.
Pat: Where the fuck do you even get these words?
Then these dumb motherfuckers Bill and Richie go out to the house on Neibolt Street to check on Eddie’s story. Or so they say—they probably just want some hobo-blowjobs, because who doesn’t? And they go under the porch because they’re idiots. Then they go into the basement, because they’ve got a gun and a slingshot with them AND they’re idiots. And of course It is there. Bill sees it as a clown in a Derry High School varsity jacket, and Richie sees it as a wolfman in the same. They escape thanks to Richie using his Irish Cop Voice and a bit of sneezing powder, but barely! When they’re safely away on Silver—that’s Bill’s bozo name for his bike, by the way—Bill turns and sees a GODDAMN CLOWN slipping into a storm drain. Jesus Fucking Christ On A Carousel!
Andrea Hallowell: I forget, does just he see It or does everyone?
Pat: Does who see It?
Andrea Hallowell: All the kids or just Bill
Pat: “All the kids”? It’s just him and Richie, and they both see It as described above.
Andrea Hallowell: Well sometimes you write a lot of shit. I admit to skimming.
Pat: Of course they both see it, it comes out of the window of the coal chute after they escape the basement. That’s when Richie uses the sneezing powder, and it melts the fucker’s face.
Andrea Hallowell: OH YEAH. I thought the whole sneezing powder deal was sorta goofy. And doesn’t Bill have a slingshot?
Pat: Yes, that’s why I mentioned the slingshot in the summary.
The chase through the streets was pretty harrowing. Richie almost falling off of Silver and shit.
Andrea Hallowell: Harrowing! You stole my word.
Pat: Fine, you can start your next sentence with, “I mean.”
I can’t believe you have nothing to say about Bill turning to see a clown scrambling down a storm drain. I’d have figured that visual would scare you for weeks.
Andrea Hallowell: I mean, this clown be poppin’ up every damn place.
Pat: “YOU KILLED MY BR-BR-BROTHER, FUCKER.”
My bad, Bill does not stutter when he says that.
Andrea Hallowell: I think Pennywise needs to tone it down a little. He’s frigging everywhere.
Pat: This is the first time the danger seems real. Every other time one of them sees It, it’s in backstory, and you know they’re safe. Even knowing that they both survive to adulthood, the present-ness of the Neibolt Street Open House and Street Chase is nerve-wracking.
Andrea Hallowell: That is true. Important distinction.
Pat: I was the stereotypical black guy in a horror film the whole time they were heading into the basement. “OH HELL NO DO NOT GO IN THERE ARE YOU STUPID?”
Andrea Hallowell: Which kinda begs the question, how much is their free will and how much is Fate? Which, like: we always get to this question.
Pat: You mean Black People in Movie Theaters?
Andrea Hallowell: NO
Andrea Hallowell: I mean the Losers, duh
Pat: It’s KA, biatch!
No surprise here: Beverly Rogan, née Marsh, had an abusive father who was a lot like Tom Rogan. For example, he wasn’t fond of his daughter screaming when voices started coming from the bathroom sink and a huge bubble of blood burst from it, covering the bathroom (It Experience #5). Well, he couldn’t see the blood, so it was mostly just the scream.
Andrea Hallowell: I have too much to say about this to discuss it in the next five minutes.
Pat: You’re a toadwhore.
Of the lowest strata.
Andrea Hallowell: I mean, WTF Bev’s dad? I’ll leave it at that.
Pat: I worry about you, Andrea. I worry a lot.
Andrea Hallowell: The hairs on the back of my neck just stood up. EEEP
Bev’s dad is almost as scary as Pennywise.
Pat: This is some Popsy-level shit.
Or is that the finger?
Pat: Is “Popsy” the finger-in-the-sink-drain story?
Andrea: No, “Popsy” is the vampire grandpa who flies I think?
Pat: OH SHIT YEAH
Andrea: “Finger in the Sink Drain” does not need any other name
Pat: Whatever, you know what I mean. Finger, drains.
It was probably called “The Finger.”
Andrea: With its fucking nail-tapping self.
Pat: I think the detail of adults not being able to see most of what Pennywise is up to is boffo.
Makes the book.
Andrea: Totally. And the slow reveal of all the kids’ stories to each other.
Pat: It isn’t even alluded to, but, uh, is this more SK period-fear shit?
This seems very young-girl-horrified-that-she-will-bleed-everywhere-and-piss-off-her-parents.
Although I should state for the record that I have never had a vagina.
Andrea: Yeah, it definitely is, coupled with the fact that her dad gets scarier the more mature she becomes, culminating in: “I want to see if you are intact.”
Pat: Oh god, that was part of what I had to summarize the other night. YEESH.
She tells the boys what happened, and they’re like, “Hey, let’s go look at it.” Again: idiots. They help her clean it all up, because man, they see it too!
Pat: The moment when they’re like, HOLY FUCK YES WE SEE IT ARE YOU NUTS LOOKIT ALL THAT BLOOD LADY! is tender and endearing.
Andrea: I love that. And I love how brotherly they all are toward her.
At least until the moment of gangbang.
Pat: STOP SKIPPING AHEAD, THESE PEOPLE DON’T EVEN KNOW ABOUT NO GANGBANG YET
Which is how they trick you.
Andrea: What do you mean?
Pat: They don’t know the gangbang’s coming. That’s how a gangbang always gets you.
BUT FUCKING SURPRISE, Stan the Man is the one who’s like, fuck, let’s clean this up.
Andrea: And then the part where they take all the rags to the laundromat.
Pat: That guy is wound way too tight. I guess we already knew that, what with him being DEAD from SLASHING HIS ENTIRE UPPER ARMS.
This book is full of childhood sweetnesses without every getting mawkish or saccharine, which is a fucking feat.
Andrea: Yeah, I am still baffled about how SK writes childhood so realistically. Maybe from observing his own kids?
Pat: It’s probably just the writerly temperament. And we kind of get a cipher for that in Bill, who is always writing about a childhood he doesn’t even fucking remember. So maybe it’s trying to recapture the things about childhood that have fallen out of memory, bolstered by what he does remember.
I DON’T KNOW I AM NOT A DETECTIVE.
That’s when we get Stan’s story at long last. There’s a water tower in Derry, you see, called the Standpipe, and one day, while bird-watching (the least believable detail in It, by the way), Stan notices the door of the Standpipe is open. He heads on in and hears circus music and smells circus smells. Then the dead children of Derry start to come after him (It Experience #6)! He escapes from the now-locked-again door by shouting the names of birds at his pursuers. What?
Pat: My 1992 imagery from the standpipe was being INSIDE a water tower, which obviously is not possible.
Andrea: I still thought about it in that way. That’s one thing King is not so good at all the time—making you understand the space of the places he’s talking about.
NEEDS MOAR DIAGRAMS
Pat: It’s always some sort of water conveyance. too. Like the goddamn pipe in Running Man, which I guess I’ll be bitching about right up until the end of this blog in 2053.
I imagined everything about this It Experience differently back then. It’s still right in my head. But it totally didn’t jive with real life this time, so I imagined it differently.
Andrea: The idea of smelling the carnival before you see anything untoward is super creepy. Especially when you’re talking about kids who probably just think “hey, cotton candy!” and make a beeline.
Pat: It’s the supernatural version of a windowless van lurking in the neighborhood.
This was probably the least tense of the Experiences. Even at the end, it’s like, whatever, he’s going to get away, I ain’t bothered. Also, shouting birds’ names goofied it up a lot.
Andrea: I basically didn’t care about Stan at all, in any incarnation.
Why do you think SK made him so patently unlikeable?
Pat: I don’t think he made him that way intentionally. Everyone LIKES Stan. I think that we don’t is a complete accident on King’s part. I don’t think he knew that having Stan beef it right at the beginning of the book would probably exasperate people with the character for the rest of the book.
“Oh come on, Uris, you fucking pussy.”
SACK UP MANBITCH
Andrea: Yeah, there’s no reason to care about him because you know he’s dead, and he’s a total afterthought for the rest of the book. Except when his ghost makes a few appearances later, which is actually awesome.
That idiot Beverly goes home and talks to the sink drain again and is rewarded for her brilliance with more blood. For fuck’s sake, kids!
Pat: LEAVE IT BE, BEVERLY, CHRIST.
Let it be said that these are not, when you get right down to it, particularly sensible kids.
Andrea: Well, do you know any sensible 12-year-olds?
Pat: Ones that would not tempt fate by fucking with the HELLISH BLOOD SPRINKLER in their sink TWICE?
Uh, yeah, I could probably find a couple that would be once bitten, twice shy about that.
Andrea: I wouldn’t even do it once. I was a huge fraidy cat.
Derry: The Second Interlude
Kids be dying. We get a lot of Mike Hanlon backstory, including Butch Bowers—Henry’s father—killing Will Hanlon’s chickens, and the police siding with ol’ Hanlon, and Bowers having to pay out of pocket to replace them there chickens, which pisses Señor Bowers off to no end. It bears mentioning that Butch Bowers came back from the war more than a little loopy, and reality done been pulling on that knot, making the loop looser and looser in the years since.
Andrea: This part was okay. I get bored with the small town feudin’ type stuff.
Pat: Now we have King trying to set up Henry being really truly batshit insane by giving him a batshit insane father.
Well, it at least gets us to why Henry hates Mike. Instead of it just being the very boring, very unconvincing, “OMG NIGGERS EVERYWHERE GO BACK TO BLACKFICA” shit.
He at least gives us a whole generational look at how it propagates.
Andrea: Have you ever heard anyone actually call it “Blackfrica”?
Pat: Have you ever heard me tell you to suck it?
But the important thing is the fire at the Black Spot, an army bar for black soldiers that Will Hanlon helped build (with the dubious help of a soldier named Dick Hallorann, on loan, apparently, from the Overlook Hotel). This was so that the white women of Derry wouldn’t be raped at the regular bars by The Evil Negro Soldiers and their Gigantic Insatiable Cocks, of course. But everyone likes the Black Spot better, which, of course, since they would have the best and most swingingest jazz musicians in the whole county, don’t-ya-know. So a group of Upstanding White Folk—which you’d think was about as goofy a name as you could think of for a northern Ku Klux Klan affiliate until you found out it was actually called the Legion Of White Decency and laughed fit to die—hauls off and sets fire to the place, burning everyone inside alive. Dick and Will escape, and damn it if Will doesn’t see some HUGE GODDAMN BIRD carrying off those Decent White Legionnaires!
Pat: OH HEY DICK HOW YOU DOING?
Andrea: This part was pretty awesome, although I felt like it dragged on forever and ever. I think burning alive inside a crowded building and getting trampled is my worst fear.
Pat: Shades of Carrie.
Andrea: Spurred as I have been by Carrie, the Great White concert incident, and my mother’s paranoia.
Pat: And I’m sure there was something like this in Firestarter that I’ve forgotten.
Andrea: I don’t think there was.
Pat: The problem is the length of the setup for the Black Spot being built.
Andrea: Agreed. If I was SK’s editor that would be the first section I’d cut. And you know I am usually all about these little side excursions.
Pat: King goes very linear a lot of the time, instead of pushing backstory into the cracks of a narrative that starts later chronologically.
Pat: ButDick Hallorrann: is this a happy Easter egg, or an annoying elbow-in-the-ribs moment?
See also: he basically has a SHINE about the fire.
Andrea: I thought it was a happy Easter egg., in that I was like, “Oh, hey, it’s Dick!” but I didn’t feel like it detracted from or distracted me from the story.
Pat: I think this constitutes a drink in the Drinking Game, because someone or something is described as running like tallow.
Andrea: Oh god, that’s so gross.
Pat: I didn’t understand what the gigantic bird was doing, whether it was swooping the Legion to safety or something or carrying them to MurderTown.
Andrea: I thought it was kind of surveying the wreckage.
Pat: You thought it was surveying the wreckage by carrying Legionnaires off?
Andrea: Yeah. And rescuing those he saw fit to rescue.
Pat: Your answer leaves me unsatisfied.
“And I thought… Birds can’t hover… but this one could, because… …it didn’t hover… it floated. There were big bunches of balloons tied to each wing, and it floated.”
Andrea: OMG OMG
So creepy. I couldn’t help but tie the balloon motif to the fact that they are something that is ubiquitous in childhood, but also really deadly.
Pat: Congrats, you’ve made a huge bird floating on balloons, which should be ZERO FUCKING SCARY, totally scary.
Andrea: Did you know if you are choking on a balloon, the Heimlich won’t work?
Pat: I didn’t know that, but it also never occurred to me that someone could be dumb enough to choke on a balloon.
Andrea: Well, a child, you jackass.
Pat: In this part, Will Hanlon says to Mike, “I’ll give you three guesses, and the first two don’t count!”
Which, I can report to you, I have been saying on and off for twenty years with absolutely no recollection where I picked it up from.
Again, Mike muses that it’s started again, that he’s going to have to recall the Losers Club back to Derry to face It again, once and for all, even though they’re all already on their way. The Interludes are a little chronologically skewed, you understand. He wakes up one night in the library to find a single balloon floating from a reading lamp with his face sprinted on it, minus, you know, his eyes and plus some blood gushing from the empty sockets. Mike screams, because, well, that’s what you do in that situation.
Andrea: They kind of set Mike up to be the fall guy here.
Pat: In what way?
Andrea: He’s stuck in Derry, he has to give everyone this bad news, Stan kills himself, he’s poor, his life is just such a downer.
Pat: So you don’t know what a “fall guy” is.
Andrea: No. I knew as I was typing this that I was using the wrong word, but “guy whose life sucks” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Pat: I knew the second you typed that sentence that you didn’t know.
He wasn’t set up for anything. The wheel turned, and he was the one that ended up staying in Derry. Someone had to, and fate decided.
Andrea: Fate is racist, apparently.
Pat: Your racist for only thinking of Mike in terms of his blackness.
Andrea: You’re racist for using your instead of you’re.
Unless you’re racist, turn to Part 3.