Here’s the book that started it all - King’s beginning climb to literary fame and library glory. Carrie is a 245 page book, almost a novella instead of a novel, telling the story of a young adolescent bombarded with the verbal torture and cruel tactics of fellow peers, not to mention religious corruption and abuse from her mother. But instead of being just another teen weighed down by the miseries of the world, Carrie has a gift, a unique one that enables her to move objects by using the power of her mind.
The plot for Carrie is a good one; it’s fascinating, revenge filled, and satisfies all the old hatred in any one who’s been victimized in high school. I have no objection to the story itself, for it is a story filled with dysfunction, social torture, mental isolation and torment, all real horrors people face on a daily basis. It also deals with the fascinating, rare gift of telekinesis. King really invested big when he brought up this power in Carrie and the power of pyrokinesis in Firestarter.
However, a good plot does make a good book. To be frank, direct, and brutally honest: I found Carrie to be boring as sin. Not because of the story, no, and not because of characters, although they weren’t up to par in every way either, but because of the method it was told.
King almost constantly interjected into the story with passages from fiction works such as newspaper articles, books, and interrogations. These were to come after the disaster with the prom, when the story was publicized and Carrie White was made famous. From the start the reader gathers what eventually happens and that Carrie herself is dead. The reader even knows that the real protagonist of the story, Sue Snell, remains alive, for excerpts from her book, which occur after and as a result of the incident, are peppered in the story.
King puts these passages in so often, literally every second to third page, that I couldn’t stay focused on reading. This method, while a unique one (and I applaud him for being gutsy and trying that), had the side effect of bringing me out of the story often and remind me that I was reading.
Because of this detached, narrative method of telling the events, I never came to care much about the characters of the events, feeling like someone who gets told a story by a second party after already knowing what happens and is just enduring it to be polite.
The characters are well written to a degree; Kings evident talent of bringing paper people to life is already showing. However, I stayed distant from them for the above mentioned reasons. Carrie’s motivation at the end toward her mother shouldn’t have come as such a surprise, since being in a characters head, we should know such things.
Kings writing shines in works such as The Stand, Pet Semetary, and The Shining. Here, though, it came across stiff and lacking in detail he later becomes famous for. While his wording can’t be faulted, there were some things that irked me.
As one example, King would utilize the little parenthesis internal dialogue he’s so fond of. I disliked when he did it here, though, because it was all run on and lowercase, and usually the internal thoughts were more annoying than dramatic.
(mommy i want my mommy where is my mommy)
See how that would get old after awhile?
I read Carrie years ago when I was a young reader. I remembered not being impressed. I thought that, since I was less mature then, that maybe I would appreciate it more now. I was wrong. It’s still the same as I remember it ¬ flat and basically un-enjoyable, much like Carrie must have felt when pig blood was dumped on her head.
There were good things, of course. I loved how he focused on the menstrual blood and explored through works how this probably incited the full strength of her power. I also love the ending and the realization Sue Snell has about menstrual blood after Carrie White’s death. It was clever to include this, and hints at greatness to come in some of King’s other efforts.
In short, Carrie just doesn’t have much heart. This, folks, doesn’t make a good book. No matter how famous the author is now, or that this book brought him into the limelight, or that DePalma made it into an incredible movie. It’s rare to hear this, but I recommend the movie instead.
"Jesus watches from the wall
But his face is cold as stone
And if he loves me
As she tells me
Why do I feel so all alone?"
King's Inspiration, from his website:
The character "Carrie" was a composite of two girls Stephen knew during high school. The story is largely about how women find their own channels of power, and what men fear about women and women's sexuality. "Carrie White is a sadly mis-used teenager, an example of the sort of person whose spirit is so often broken for good in that pit of man- and woman-eaters that is your normal suburban high school. But she's also Woman, feeling her powers for the first time and, like Samson, pulling down the temple on everyone in sight at the end of the book."