Carrie Recaps: Part Six
We’re back! And, in the time it took me to get to this recap, I finished Sleeping Beauties and was just thoroughly unimpressed and bored witless by the entire third act, so basically it falls into the category of “Every Stephen King Book Written After 2000”. What is it about SK books that just go on at least a hundred pages too long? Is it that, after a dozen or so brilliant books, editors were too nervous to go “er, Stephen, this is all well and good but what’s the bloody point of any of this nonsense?” and then they just sort of had to let it slide when he kept handing in this bloated corpse of a manuscript? Is he too much of a sacred cow to even edit any more? Sigh. But there’s still some hope for those written before the turn of the millennium, and with that convoluted and grumpy opening, let’s get back to Carrie!
We left off last week with the headmaster of Carrie’s school threatening to countersue Chris Hargensen’s father for bullying Carrie. We pick up with another excerpt from one of the books written after the Carrie incident, this time a comment from a teacher who saved a piece of poetry a much younger Carrie wrote-
“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?”
Interesting to put this little piece of poetry, underlining Carrie’s isolation and the overwhelming feeling that she has that the people meant to protect her (represented by Christ, obviously) are failing to do so, right after a section where someone has actually stood up for Carrie, even though she’ll never know it. And then we’re back to Sue Snell (who is turning out to be my favourite/the most interesting character in this book, which I didn’t expect) as she waits for Tommy at the mall and runs into Chris Hargensen. I thought it was a little funny the way that King introduces Chris’s boyfriend, Billy Nolan, as ” some strange time traveller from the 1950s with his greased hair, zipper-bejewelled leather jacket, and manifold-bubbling Chevrolet road machine”, because it definitely feels like King was trying to invoke the shorthand for a bad-boy teenager but could only come up with something straight out of Grease because the cultural lexicon for a shitty jock in the seventies just wasn’t quite formed yet. Anyway.
Sue is angry at herself for even acknowledging Chris, seeing Chris as a representation of the badness in her that allowed her to torment Carrie in the locker room; she wonders “why couldn’t she just cut her [Chris] dead?”. Now, I dig this little excerpt because it underlines the fact that what Carrie does isn’t some completely abnormal, inconceivable thing – in fact, most of the book is dedicated to explaining exactly how this happened, from Carrie’s perspective. But this throwaway line, about Sue wanting to ignore someone she doesn’t like, and the specific words she uses to describe that, nod to the fact that Carrie isn’t the only teenage girl with violent tendencies towards the people she sees as responsible for her inner turmoil. Man, I love Sue Snell.
Of course, we’re introducing a female character through a new POV here, and God forbid we skip out on the chance to point directly at her chest while yelling “TITTIES!”. Well, okay, not quite, but still, “a tight basque blouse that accentuated her firm, upthrust breasts”, is pretty fucking weird and oddly gross. And, once again, women do not think this way about other women’s bodies for the love of fuck. Tits aren’t novelties worth constantly offering comment on. I don’t know, maybe King is attempting to work in this sapphic undertone with Sue’s character? Not that all lady-loving women constantly comment on tits, but still… If he is, then almost all of his female characters must be secretly gay given how much this turns up. Actually, that’s my headcanon for all female SK characters now and you’ll never convince me otherwise: it gives all them about ten times more depth. Groundbreaking lesbian fiction, our Steve, all through the medium of constant commentary on them titties.
Sue and Chris discuss the fact that Chris has been banned from prom, and Sue actually stands up for Carrie, suggesting that they deserved their punishment because they did “a suck-off thing”, which I think is going to be my new expression of distaste from henceforth onward. Chris accuses her:
“I seem to remember you were in there pitching with the rest of us.’
‘Yes,’ Sue said trembling. ‘But I stopped.'”
It’s thin, and Sue knows it. I think I kind of missed out on some of the nuance of Sue’s character, or at least forgot about it since my last reading of this book, because I find the way her ultimate good deed to Carrie is framed so telling about who she is as a character. She’s a hypocrite, and far more concerned about the way she’s percieved and judged by other people than the actual moral choice in the matter. She feels guilty, but not neccesarily for tormenting Carrie the way she did – for being seen as cruel for doing so. She admits, in the next paragraph, that the only reason she took her punishment detention “had nothing to do with nobility. She wasn’t going to miss her last Spring Ball for anything. Not for anything.” She’s neurotic selfishness masquerading as decency, and I just love that. While I haven’t gone back to watch either movie any time recently (Should I? I just hate Brian De Palma so fucking much, you guys), I feel like this nuance to Sue’s character was lacking in the adaptations.
We get little flash-forward to one of Chris’s friends recounting Chris planning to pull a “big fucking surprise” at prom in retaliation for being banned for tormenting Carrie, and then we’re back with Carrie herself as she mulls on the fact that she has to go back to school and face her classmates again. But she’s also cultivating her powers – moving a hairbrush, and even lifting her bed off the ground and dropping it back down with a crash – ” She waited, a small smile playing about her lips, for Momma to call upstairs angrily. She didn’t.”. She lingers on the thought of herself as a witch (“the devil’s whore”, as she describes it), and it’s clear that she’s beginning to understand the power she has over her mother with these telekinetic skills, both physical and emotional. And if she has power over her mother, then who else can she gain power over using the violence of her telekinesis?
We’re then into an excerpt of Sue Snell’s book on the Carrie White incident, in which she explains that the one thing that everyone missed was the fact that “we were kids”. And then, more interestingly, she declares: ” if I am to clear my name, I must begin by recalling scenes which I find particularly painful …”. This for sure ties in to what I was saying about Sue earlier in this recap, that there’s this trial she feels like she must go through to clear her name of the badness she inflicted on Carrie – but look at the way she phrases this sentence. She talks about having to recall scenes she finds painful, presumably including those depicting what she did to Carrie. She bears no consideration to what the people she may have hurt feel, but frames this pain of disclosing her badness as worthy of her own penance. Not earning the forgiveness from those she inflicted that badness on.
We’re back with Sue and Tommy now, as Sue proposes the Carrie Gambit. Nah, they don’t call it that, but from now on I certainly will.
“‘Wait. Just wait. Let me talk. You want me to ask Carrie White to the Spring Ball. Okay, I got that…”
And with the pieces falling into place for the final act, that’s where we’ll leave it this week. As ever, if you enjoyed this post and want to see more stuff like it, please consider supporting me on Patreon!