Monday, February 25, 2008


Well, let's see, it's been almost two weeks since my last post, which was a tiny, mini-review of Let's Go To Prison. It's been over a month since my last 'Tales From The Discount Bin', several weeks since I did my last 'weekly' comic book spotlight, and I can't even remember how long it's been since I actually reviewed a movie(Let's Go To Prison was more or less just some random thoughts I jotted down to keep the writing muscles limber). I'm going to offer an excuse, because it plays into the general train of thought I'm on, but for future reference, when you see a lack of updates on this site, you can rest assured that I'm either too busy, or too apathetic, to write. As much as I love doing this blog, I find that it's best served by me only writing when I feel like it. If I try to force myself to write something when I'm not in the mood, it tends to prolong the feeling of writer's block. But, there comes a time when you have to get right back on that horse. I have a few movies stacking up that I need to review for Spout, and a couple of projects I do want to get into eventually, and this may help to prime the pump, as it were.

So, what have I been up to in the last few weeks? Working, of course. My job is winding down at KTUU, and the fact that I'm now in my last few weeks before the automation robs me of a job may be adding to my general lack of interest in writing. I've been planning a vacation for mid-summer to Tennessee so that Amber can visit her father, and, oh yeah, I gots me a tattoo! Pictures will be forthcoming as soon as I can upload them. Pandora broke my digital camera, and frankly I've entered that unattractive scabbing & peeling period, and I should probably wait until that clears up before I show the world. Amber and I decided that, instead of diamonds on our 6th anniversary, we should get tattoos! It's something I've been pondering since I was 18, but I just finally committed to it. I think it's pretty baddass, and am VERY happy with how it turned out. And for the record, don't listen to anyone who tells you getting a tattoo doesn't hurt, or that it feels good. Those people are masochists. Or sadists who only want to see the surprised look of pain on your face as the needle starts punching holes in your skin. Imagine a continuous bee sting that you can't flinch away from. Still, it was an experience, and after awhile you stop feeling the worst of it.

The other big event that's been eating my time like nobodies business is Stephen King's Dark Tower series. After three tries, and over 15 years, I'm finally finishing the journey. In fact, I'm so close to the end that I'm fighting the urge to turn off the computer and resume the story, but I need to write something today, so here I am. The reason I've tried to read the series three times is basically due to the large gaps between releases. By the time the new books came out, I had forgotten most of the particulars of the earlier entries. It really was a form of self-torture, because I have come to the conclusion that most of those first 4 books are really goddawful. So why read them 2(or 3) times? Well, for the same reason I made myself finish Gregory Maguire's Wicked, or the Da Vinci Code; because no matter how bad it is, I can't turn away from a book(or series) once I've started. I'm in it until the end.

Perhaps it's because I read it in Jr. High, and everything your exposed to at that age holds some charm later in life, but The Gunslinger is still an enjoyable read. It's the next three books that lose me.

The Drawing of the Three, especially by the time I tried reading it for the third time, nearly threw me off the path of the beam forever. I enjoyed the hell out of the first half, where Roland wakes up after the endless night seen at the climax of the previous book, and begins to find doorways into 'our' world, where he draws three people to join in his quest. The first person to be drawn, Eddie Dean, was sometimes an annoying character, but he seemed true. I think that's because Stephen King had enough experience to get inside the head of a 20-something junkie, and was perhaps trying to wrestle with his own addictions through this character. The second character, Odetta Walker, was simply ridiculous. I buy that King can get inside the head of a strung out junkie, but I don't really think he has the life experience or imagination to get inside the head of a young black woman in the mid-sixties. Let alone a double amputee with schizophrenia dealing with racism in the civil rights movement. It's a problem King faces time and again. I get the idea that he really likes black culture, and he really wants to be 'down', but at heart he's an uber-nerdy white guy, which makes his endless attempts to seem hip and with it just sad and mildly amusing at best, and outright racist at worst. His attempts at writing for Black characters always slip into slightly stereotypical jive talk, or he employs the oft-used 'magical black man(or woman)' approach, where the African American characters are there mainly so that the white characters learn important lessons and defeat the baddies. Think of the old lady in The Stand, or Michael Clarke Duncan in The Green Mile, or even Halloran in The Shining.

It took me over a year to finish The Drawing of the Three this last time(I put it down for several months, unable to bring myself to jump back in), and then suddenly I was interested again and forced my way to the ending. The next book went quicker, but it took more determination to keep reading, and that's because the entire novel The Waste Lands seems like Stephen King is spinning his wheels. I guess it gets the characters from point A to point B, but so much of the book just goes nowhere, while King is apparently selling by the pound(a point King himself makes in the seventh book). Wizard and Glass is the favorite of many people, and while I enjoy the overall story, and it has a couple satisfying gunfights, it feels a little hollow to me. Probably I'm not used to Stephen King trying to be romantic, and it didn't feel natural. But, again, while this fleshed out Roland's back story, it could have been edited by a couple hundred pages and been stronger for it. And in the end it didn't further the story at all.

So imagine my surprise when I not only liked book five, The Wolves of the Calla, but loved it. Sure, it's a direct homage to Seven Samurai(or Magnificent Seven, take your pick), but it was just an overall fun read, with a quick-paced, intriguing story. The difference here, I think, is that King knew the end was in sight, and so wrote accordingly. The first four books he didn't know where to go, and so cast about aimlessly for awhile, but with the end in sight everything matters, and the books become eminently more readable.

Part of this is personal preference, on top of the aforementioned purposefulness. I'm a big fan of breaking the fourth wall in fiction, and Stephen King not only breaks the fourth wall, he brings it down like the Berlin Wall, putting himself into the story in a move that could seem egotistical(and sometimes does), but really gives the story a sense of weight and urgency. A lot of people cried shenanigans, but I dug it all. There are a few things he did that annoyed me, like naming the robot servants 'Dobbie' models, or 'House Elves' in slang, or calling the mechanical explosive balls 'Sneetches' and 'Harry Potter Models'. We get it, you loved Harry Potter, but naming fictional elements of a fantasy world for characters in that series is just silly. Others are more forgiving of this, because Stephen King has had elements of our world show up in the Dark Tower series from the get-go(the bar in the first novel contained several drunken cowboys singing Hey Jude), but the Harry Potter references were really, really stupid.

But those pale in comparison to his references to 9/11, which crassly imply that the terrorist attacks were real-world manifestations of his novels, or the fact that he name checks the man who ran him over as a servant of evil. I guess I'd be pissed too, but come on, this is a real guy, who made a stupid fucking mistake and had the bad fortune of making it with a world famous author.

I'm still a hundred or so pages from the end of all of this, and King always has trouble keeping his endings on track(remember the Stand? 800 pages of buildup only to have the literal hand of god come down and stop things at the last minute), but I'm hopeful. And if he pulls this off I'll happily reread the series AGAIN when he republishes them in a planned revised format that will eliminate any continuity errors and tie the books together better.


The Effete Bomb said...

ughh... books without pictures...

The Working Dead said...

Ah! I forgot! Marvel is doing the comic book adaptations, in chronological order(because Wizard and Glass mainly takes place YEARS earlier than the first book). The first series- by Peter David no less! - Was pretty good, and the next series comes out sometime in March. I expect that I'll be talking about it more later.