Carrie Recaps: Part Twelve

by thethreepennyguignol

I’m attempting to keep to something remotely close to a schedule with these recaps, so we’re back this week with another delve into Carrie! Thanks to all the brilliant people who’ve been keeping up with this so far, and if this is your first time at the rodeo, you can catch up on the last recap here! And, just on the off-chance that you’re interested in other horror-related writing, I wrote a piece on the future of found footage earlier this week that might be of interest to you.

We start where we left off (funnily enough) last time, with Carrie and Tommy arriving at the prom. Carrie is stunned by what she perceives as the high glamour of the event:

“The air was redolent with the odour of flowers, the nose was constantly amazed by it.”

Yup, that’s a…way of putting that, I guess. This paragraph also mentions the “actual cleavage” of the, let me remind you, teenage girls at this prom, but I’ll let it slide as he’s going through the clothes and looks of everyone in the room to underline Carrie’s amazement.

A friend of Tommy’s compliments Carrie’s dress, and Carrie makes a sarcastic comment back, then revels in her embarrassed reaction, because if there’s any running theme in this book it’s that Women Don’t Like Each Other. Which isn’t necessarily a terrible theme for a story, but it is a pretty fucking rote one and if I never have to read another book where all the women characters Just So Happen to be foul to each other it’ll be too soon. It doesn’t even really make sense for Carrie to be catty here anyway, given that King goes to such great lengths to display how romantic and beautiful and perfect she finds the prom. But anyway.

Carrie and Tommy flirt over candelight, and Tommy takes her hand while the audience dips back in to one of the written accounts of the event. And I’ll be honest – it’s so jarring to have the book jumping so randomnly from narrator to narrator, most of whom exist only as nameless authors of fake books that are so easy to confuse as the book goes on. That’s always a risk of that, when you’re telling an epistolary story like this, but King often doesn’t use it to enhance or inform the stuff we’re currently reading, but rather drop in really clunky foreshadowing that serves to undermine the shock factor that should be present in the third act of this story (here, it’s to outright announce the fact that Carrie will kill Margaret later on prom night). Fuck, you know, I don’t think I actually like this book very much. Never recap your heroes, folks.

We head over to Margaret’s POV, where she’s brewing at home thinking about Carrie’s childhood and their family tree. It’s really handy how the epistolary sections act as chapter headings and thesis statements for these inexplicable POV sections, huh? The ones that don’t make sense within the rules of this book? It doesn’t do much to inform Margaret’s character beyond what we already know, as she seems to come to terms with the fact that she must, in her twisted-up mind, hurt Carrie in order to repent for the sins her daughter will commit with Tommy. Following that, we get a long section recounting exactly which songs were played at the prom. One of them is 500 Miles by The Proclaimers, which is what I want you to imagine in the background of every scene at the prom from here on in. Yes, including that one.

Carrie is cautious when we return to her POV at the prom, and she runs into Miss Desjardin (and King actually restrains himself from describing her by making reference to her books, so, kudos?). This is actually a sweet scene and I like what it shows about Carrie’s slow turnaround into believing that what she feels at prom, the normality that she has been allowed to glimpse, has almost been enough to wipe clear the memory of her last encounter with Desjardin, in the showers at the start of the book:

“The words that rose to her lips were: I don’t blame anyone any more. She bit them off. It was a lie. She blamed them all and always would, and she wanted more than anything else to be honest.”

I like this. Carrie is still profoundly hurt by what her classmates did to her, which makes sense, but she also wants to put it behind her, because she knows that continuing to carry (heh) it with her is one of the things that underlines the differences between them and her. But she can’t. And that contradiction, that desire to fit in but inability to let go of the awfulness meted out to her in the past, keeps her just on the right side of docile.

That’s all for this short chapter, as we close out with Tommy shooting googly eyes at Carrie and telling her she looks beautiful. And, at this point, just past halfway, I’m just struggling to remember what I liked about this book in the first place. Yes, looking at any book this intently is going to throw up problems even with the tightest of books, but Carrie falls apart at the merest examination. The POV mixed with epistolary storytelling leaves the narrative feeling disjointed and clunky, and often serves to undercut tension and surprises as the book moves forward. Carrie, as a character, could be interesting but I’m not sure if I’m projecting Sissy Spacek’s interesting performance on to this or if it’s actually impressively present in the book, where, just once too often, she’s characterized as too dumb and docile to be properly engaging. Sue Snell interests me but she has only just turned up again (right at the tail end of this chapter) after a few chapters away to talk about how Chris doesn’t wear a bra and how she’s got a UTI now. There are some frankly bizarre writing choices. And, of course, that’s not even touching on the constant barrage of tittery. Honestly, if I were to read this as a debut now, I don’t think I’d bother to follow up on anything else the author did. And damn, if that’s not a little sad.

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