Carrie Recaps: Part Sixteen
It’s a fine Sunday afternoon in my city of choice, I’m sipping watermelon-mint kombucha and wearing cat-eye sunglasses like the unacceptably awful motherfucker that I am, and it struck me that it’s been a while since we had a Carrie recap. Let’s change that and get back of the Kingwagon!
We left off last time as Carrie began her rampage around the town, and I’m going to be brutally honest here and say that’s what most of the rest of this book is going to be about – we have five chapters left after this one, and, for better or for worse, we’re into the messy third act battle. It’s interesting, actually – at the time that I write this, my other half is watching Age of Ultron in order to write the next part in his excellent MCU retrospective series over on our film site No But Listen, and the third act of that (and so many other superhero movies) is actually kind of reflective of this one: there’s a lot of action going on, most of which overtakes the really interesting character stuff that a third act requires. I think the action is relatively well-done here, and quite unsettling in both the distance Carrie has from it and the intimate way she is acquainted with it (“Naughty. She slammed (the door) shut again, catching somebody’s fingers-it felt like Dale Norbert – in the jamb and severing one of them”), but all the really fantastic stuff character-wise is behind us (aside from the final confrontation with Carrie’s mother, which is yet to come, but frankly doesn’t stand up to some of the Tommy/Sue/Carrie stuff we’ve already seen).
I think that, for all the problems I’ve had with Carrie’s POV in this supposedly epistolary (a word that I have never once spelled right first time, for what it’s worth) novel, I don’t think the action is remotely as compelling when you move it away from her. The immediacy of her narration, with regular cuts to the noises and grunts she makes inside her own head in reaction to what’s happening, gives in a forward momentum that comes to a grinding halt when we go back to the post-incident extracts.
Carrie rends destruction through the town after she traps her classmates in the hall, and I’m afraid I have to be juuust a little bit of a dick here because I’m a nightmare version of a literary critic who might as well as only ever have read Macbeth in my entire life: King describes Carrie as “scrubbing her bloodied hands against her dress like Lady Macbeth” which is actually a really cool comparison because Lady Macbeth never actually commits any violence with her own hands in that play, removed from the murder of the King by her husband despite her poisonous encouragement of it, rather like Carrie is removed from the violence she metes out here by her psychic power. I don’t know if it’s just as easy literary image (scrubbing blood out of hands = Lady Macbeth), but death of the author and all that – I’m claiming this one as a metaphor with some serious nuance, about guilt and culpability, and since it involves Macbeth (my favorite piece of writing of all time, apart from that sarcastic Wendy Cope poem about what a bag of wank Ted Hughes is), I love it even more.
We take a sidestep into an extensive Q&A session with the sheriff, and honestly, much like the last recap, it only really serves to slow the narrative down. One of the notes I give back to people I edit for most is to put us in the moment as much as possible; sometimes, you can’t avoid doing stuff in flashback, but drawing us out of the immediacy of this sequence when it’s so not necessary is a mistake and drags the story down with it. Giving us the reactions of the characters in that moment, responding to stimuli as they happen, is so much more punchy. The sheriff describes running into a hysterical Sue Snell begging to know what’s happened to Tommy, slapping her in the face to calm her down (!), and then leaving after being told by Sue that Carrie was the one to capture to put an end to all of this. I wish we could have gotten this from Sue’s perspective instead – there’s been a lack of her these last few chapters and she’s the only one except Carrie who we have real stakes in at this stage in the game. Why not have her recounting this, given she would have to have seen everything the sheriff describes here, and it could have given us the vital immediacy to pick up from the speed of the Carrie-narrated section we just finished? Blah.
Add to that the fact that the section that immediately follows this one is a description of the night as it unfolds, still told from the sheriff’s point of view. Why couldn’t this entire section have been described this way? It’s a really clunk of a transition, as the Sheriff does his best to soothe an injured citizen:
“He clutched Doyle as an amorous swam might clutch his lady in a hug dance.”
Oh, right, like that. We close out the section as it’s confirmed to the Sheriff once more that Carrie is responsible for the events at the school and the town at large, and I can only hope that next chapter King has a little more confidence in his action writing and doesn’t feel the need to indulge in these endless cutaways. Oh, and that Sue Snell actually turns up in the narration proper, as opposed to tantalizing us with tiny glimpses of the book’s most intriguing character.
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(header image courtesy of Empire)