Sunday, July 13, 2014

#ROW80 3RD QTR 2014, SUNDAY CHECK-IN – POST 3 – BUT IS IT ART?


I've gone back and finished “Under the Dome” by Stephen King, and I cannot say that it was my favorite King book ever, or even up there in the 50 percentile. I don't really know why this is, but as time has passed and books like “The Stand”, “Salem's Lot”, “Dead Zone” and even “The Shining” come up on their 30th plus years' anniversaries, they look more like books written by someone who was truly serious about literature in general and in horror specifically. One of his finest books, “Different Seasons” produced three exemplary novellas; an extremely difficult form to master, and they were rich in language and satisfying, even in their brevity. “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption”, “Apt Pupil”, and “The Body” each left behind the supernatural and horror genres King was famous for at the time and they were resoundingly wonderful to read.

courtesy: firewireblog.com

There is a television show of the same name. I got through about 14 minutes of it and had to turn off the tee vee. I understand it's been renewed.

But, it seemed to me, that after the publishing of “It”, King had hit a wall, or gotten into a rut. I'm not saying his writing became formulaic, although, after so many books, some of the characters do take on a sameness. What bothers me specifically is that his writing voice has become artificial. It becomes harder and harder, with exceptions to buy into whatever his characters' scrapes, situations, life-and-death perils and choices are about and I find myself dwelling more and more on the voice that is telling the tale, and to me it is not ringing true.

Maybe all wildly successful authors go through this; they hit their stride and they find just the right note with an audience, and subconsciously, they begin writing TO that audience, rather than just spinning out their tales. One of my favorite authors, Aldrea Alien, says in her bio “Since discovering the love of writing at the age of twelve, she hasn't found an ounce of peace from the characters plaguing her mind.” I love that; she puts her stories out there and they are hum-dingers. She's writing currently about a race of lizard-people and there are all sorts of things afoot. Being totally rational, and given to reading history books, I was a bit skeptical at first, but she makes it so damned REAL, that her world is easy to buy into. Her worlds are spectacular and her plots are action-filled. Lizard-people, huh. Who'da thunk it? Her characters are fully-fleshed and their actions spring organically, from their previous experiences and lives.

courtesy: thardrandria.blogspot.com                                       

 
"The Rogue King" Available on Amazon.com. Again, as one who reads crime fiction, or history books, I became instantly captivated with Aldrea's Koral and his struggles and the world he lives in.
 
Back to the “Dome”, and King's writing; a quick synopsis can be found here. Some of King's characters make this kind of organic sense, most notably, Dale Barbara, the protagonist of the book. As a veteran of Dubya's mis-informed incursion into Iraq, Barbara is familiar with the techniques of torture and humiliation that were de rigueur as a part of an occupying unit in the Army, but that was not who he was, and ultimately, his decency and humanity win out. After a brief stint in Chester Mill's jail, which sees his life threatened by Junior Rennie, who conveniently has a brain tumor, which is causing him to be not just evil like his father, but overtly batshit, Barbara is freed, to lead the good faction, that eventually wins out.

courtesy: schmoesknow.com

"Big" Jim Rennie, as portrayed by the awesome Dean Norris, late of "Breaking Bad". This man can do good and evil equally well, and it's too bad King didn't have him for a template in the book. As it is, he is infinitely creepier in the show (so I've heard and can believe) than what King originally wrote.

The problem for me is the antagonist, Big Jim Rennie, used car salesman and 2nd town Selectman, who is just pure evil, through and through and of such a cartoonish quality, I find it hard to buy into ANYTHING he is selling, whether it be a car, or his own home-spun philosophy, regarding who should run the town after the Dome has fallen. No reason is given, as to his badness; did he wet the bed as a kid? Were his parents dysfunctional? Who the hell knows and I really was well-nigh fed up with him and his stupid dialogue.

courtesy: fanpop.com

Dale Barbara is played by actor Mike Vogel in the series; he seems to have made little impression on me, as I registered him as a cipher. He also seems to be a bit younger than your average Iraqi war vet, but hey, that's tee vee!

This is another thing about King that drives me batshit. In “The Stand”, people, including Randall Flagg, acted and talked like normal people; you could buy into Flagg's brand of Evil, because it was so subtle; so seductive. But with Big Jim, I find it hard to believe that he could hoodwink an entire town and run a successful methamphetamine lab out of the Christers' radio station WCIK and people NOT know about it; the guy is as subtle as a lead balloon. The kind of lead balloon that has a gondola and people would ride in, not a kid's balloon; he's that obvious and non-creepy. Everyone's a "cotton-picker" and/or a "Son of a Buck" which wears thin, and that falsity of his language piles onto the falseness of his character. If we're meant to believe that he is a Town Selectman (one out of three, who all seem reasonably sane, although one of them has a drug addiction, which she manages to kick, 40 seconds before her gruesome death at a town gathering; very King-esque) then, we must assume the rest of the town doesn't give two hoots and a holler, or they're all on meth, which turns out not to be the case.

courtesy: collider.com

Julia Shumway, played by Rachelle Lefevre, on the show "Under the Dome". In the book, Julia is the town's sole editor of the newspaper and is several years older than Dale Barbara, but that doesn't usually play well in tee vee land. In the book, Julia goes to the Space Kids and makes a lone plea for mercy to be let free. It works, but the ending feels tacked on, rushed and there's no sense of resolution.

The ending didn't work for me either; it was more Star Trek (to quote Wikipedia) in the “Can't we all just get along” school of reasoning by Julia Shumway, than anything else. The idea that Space Kids were looking at these people under a Dome from a jillion miles and observing their goings-on, much in the way kids have looked at ant farms is not a new one, nor is the idea of sequestering a bunch of individuals – people, pigs, cows, whatever – as in “Lord of the Flies” to see what they do in the absence of authority. But most certainly, Julia's little heart-felt plea at the very end of the book, resulting in the presto! change-o! lifting of the Dome, to sweet, sweet fresh air and then, bam! The End. Well, it just all seemed rather hastily written to me, and didn't resonate as a satisfying ending.

In reading over some other critiques before writing this, I do admire King's antipathy for the Bush-Cheney administration and understand why he chose Dale Barbara as a vet of the War in Iraq, as his protagonist, and why he touches so often on the idea of wanton and casual torture; not as a means to an end, or because people are callous and cruel necessarily. It can be as simple as something to ease boredom, which is a hugely frightening thought. 


This is an un-retouched, un-Photo-Shopped picture. You can just see the evil dripping off this man. I have a short, short list of people I would dearly love to see underground; he's on it. I make no excuse for my lack of acceptance, tolerance, or forgiveness for those particular individuals, nor do I think that how I feel is a bad thing; at least I'm honest.

The metaphor and/or idea of raging little kids not being able to do anything but lash out at an unseen enemy when it was demonstrably clear that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 would seem preposterous, were it not for the fact that the Bush Administration proceeded to go ahead and do just that: invade Iraq, after the invasion of Afghanistan, and months of gleeful trumpeting about hidden WMDs in Iraq, which never existed, nor could they. Anyone paying two minutes of attention to current affairs in the 80s, 90s and 00s would know this; Iraq had not the infrastructure, nor the will after having their asses kicked in the Iran-Iraq conflict that was only ended, when a brokered peace eight years into the war, brought about a re-establishment of the pre-war borders. Iraq then went on to fail miserably in the invasion of Kuwait and subsequent ass-kicking from the U.S., so they were not really inclined to start up a new conflict. We saw a weakened country; a corrupt and teetering tyranny and took full advantage of it. But, I digress.

I was agreeing with King's assessment of the Bush-Cheney administration, although, King saw Cheney as Jim Rennie and Bush as Andy Sanders, the do-nothing selectman, who discovers the joys of becoming a tweaker. That part may be true; I've always had my suspicions about Bush. But, Cheney? Rennie is no where near as evil as that man. Enough said. Also let me add this; parts of the book were written a long time ago, and parts are new. Much of it is allegorical and I have to be honest. I have seldom read an allegorical book that worked, with the sole exception being C. S. Lewis and his “Chronicles of Narnia”. It's just always so painfully obvious to me, what the writer is trying to convey and it usually falls flat.

courtesy: narnia.wikia.com

Chronicles of Narnia, C. S. Lewis

Anyway, I had to force myself to finish the book, which is something unusual for me. I would love to read King's “November 22, 1963”, and see if that doesn't have a more adult tone about it. I didn't post earlier this week, as I just started a Clinical Trial, was gone all day, and stupidly didn't have a post ready for Wednesday. I will be hosting a cover reveal for a friend tomorrow, and can't wait! Anyway, happy rowing, fellow ROWers and more to come!
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