Carrie: Part Twenty

by thethreepennyguignol

Well, we’re back with the final Carrie recap! And before I get into the chapter, I just want to give a shout out to my friend Pasuht – he’s been so supportive and a dedicated reader of these recaps for months, despite my fuckin’ inability to post any of them on time, and is generally just a top-notch human person whose presence vastly improves my internet experience. Go follow him, you won’t regret it. Anyway! On with the round!

We open with Sue explaining to the investigators after the incident that she was drawn to a dying Carrie through her psychic field, and frankly I’m just glad we’re back with the best character in this book once more: for all the faults that this book has, and they are booberous numerous, Sue has been a consistent pleasure of a character to come back to. Her attempts to convince herself and those around her that she’s a good person, while constantly second-guessing her true moral decency, lay the groundwork for some of King’s best morally complex leading characters (Larry Underwood in The Stand, Ben Mears in ‘Salems Lot).

Back in Sues POV narration at the time of the incident, Sue comes across an unconcious Carrie seemingly on the brink of death, half-turned over in the street.

“Able to start fires, pull down electric cables, able to kill almost by thought alone; lying here unable to turn herself over.

Sue knelt, took her by one arm and the unhurt shoulder, and gently turned her on to her back.”

Any Carrie/Sue business is My Jam in this book, and I think this tiny interaction here is more significant than it seems: for all the power that Carrie has, what she lacks is the basic touch of human kindness to do what she can’t, a notion that has been represented by Sue for Carrie through the book.

Honestly, this scene is bloody excellent. Sue and Carrie share a psychic conversation as Carrie accuses Sue of tricking her, like all the rest of them, with the prank at the prom and everything else that came before:

“Now girls throwing sanitary napkins, chanting, laughing, Sue’s face mirrored in her own mind: ugly, caricatured all mouth, cruelly beautiful.

(see the dirty tricks see my whole life one long dirty trick)

(look carrie look inside me)

And Carrie looked.

The sensation was terrifying. Her mind and nervous system had become a library. Someone in desperate need ran through her, fingers trailing lightly over shelves of books, lifting some out, scanning them, putting them back, letting some fall, leaving the pages to flutter wildly”

This is just awesome stuff. As I’ve said all the way through these recaps, Carrie is a book packed with faults and problems and problematic shit, but once in a while King just unleashes with a masterful bit of prose that makes you forget all of it. Carrie, looking at Sue and still seeing her as beautiful despite what she’s inflicting on her, because for Carrie that beauty comes from the acceptance on the people around her, something Sue never fought for the way she did. Sue inviting Carrie inside her, and while Carrie finds some disdain for herself in then (“she does just look like a GODDAMN TOAD”), there’s nothing of the plan to hurt and humiliate Carrie at the prom. The only way Sue saves herself here is by allowing Carrie into her mind, metaphorically and literally, providing her access to every intimate part of her – that human connection is what Carrie craves, but this time it isn’t a trick, it’s real, and it’s the most profound interaction in the whole book by far.

Carrie dies, and Sue, unable to disengage from her mind, feels it: death in the King universe has rarely felt as impactful as Carrie’s expiration does, as a terrified Sue tries to get away from the actual mental act of her death. I don’t want to just dump great chunks of text here, but this is gorgeous writing and I love it so much.

Sue flees the scene, and of course, before we close out the book, we gotta have one more fucking gross misunderstanding of how periods work:

“Her rapid breathing slowed, slowed, caught suddenly as if on a thorn

And suddenly vented itself in one howling, cheated scream.

As she felt the slow course of dark menstrual blood down her thighs.”

Look, I don’t want to beat a dead horse here, but this is NOT HOW PERIODS WORK. I know this might not seem like a big deal to some people, but it really does pull me out of the book. It might seem ridiculous to nitpick this, given all the supernatural shit that’s gone down over the course of the novel, but this is still ostensibly set in our world and that’s just simply not how menstruation works for the vast majority of people (and Sue would be in a crippling amount of pain if the blood was actually pouring down her thighs). I get it: Sue comes into her power and ability to express herself as Carrie did in the first chapter, but every time I read this blatant misrepresentation of what periods are, it just breaks the flow (hah) of the book for me. If you’re trying to depict a bodily function that you’ve never had, talk to someone who has, maybe? If I was writing a book and described an erection as “the penis suddenly thwapped to life with a cheerful “ping” sound”, people would rightly be fucking confused, because….no? And that’s how I feel about this, and why it annoys me so much. Ah, maybe I’m just on my period or something.

The book closes out with what amounts to an epilogue, with various sections covering the impact of the aftermath of the prom night: Carrie is dissected and some abnormalities are found in her brain, suggesting that her telekinetic powers may have basis in the physical. The town has basically ceased to exist, with hundreds dead and most of those remaining leaving or living in a state of hopeless limbo. Honestly, I would actually read a sequel just exploring the impact of the grief and shock of what happened on the residents of the town, told from their point of view – this story is well-told from actual POV writing, and the epistolary stuff feels too detached for the depth of emotion King is trying to convey.

Sue’s book closes out, and she hopes that it will sell well and she can leave to where nobody knows who she is. And the very last section of the book is an excerpt from a letter with seems to describe a young girl with similar powers to Carrie, suggesting that the process will begin once more. And, we’re done.

Thank you so much for joining me on these recaps! You can read them all starting right here, if you’re so inclined. It’s been a really interesting series for me to complete, and I have a lot of thoughts now it’s over.

 Our house, growing up was full of books, thousands of them, covering every wall and every surface, up the stairs and stacked on bedside tables and piled up under boxes, and it was always the King books that I was drawn to. We communicated by passing books around the family – sometimes, we couldn’t wait, and three of us would be reading the same thing at once just because it sounded so damn good. My dad has always been somewhat of an evangelist for Stephen King – my mum never him (though I’ve got her to thank for Sue Townsend and Clive James, but that’s another story), my older brother seemed uninterested in them, and when I got to the appropriate age, so I was his last hope that someone else in the family would enjoy the books.

He gave me a battered-to-hell copy of The Stand and I fell in love in a way I had with no author before in my life. I still have most of the copies of his Stephen King books (including the ‘Salems Lot in which the entire second act just fell out of the book one day when I was reading it), and reading them changed my life in a way almost no other author has. Stephen King is and always will be one of my heroes, the writer who confirmed to me, deep down in my heart, that I didn’t just like writing, I had to write. His compulsive production of stories, characters, worlds, is something I relate to and want to emulate every way I can. Honestly, writing this makes me a little emotional, because it’s very hard to convey the impact that Stephen King has had on me as a person, as a writer. Nobody has taught me more about writing than Stephen King and my dad, and nothing has taught me more about myself than writing.

And yet, writing these Carrie recaps has underlined the fact that his writing does have a lot of flaws. Are they insurmountable? Sometimes, I think so. I talk to my father a lot about Stephen King, and when I mentioned these recaps to him, he told me that the first King book he ever picked up was ‘Salems Lot and that he was utterly enamoured with him from there on out. When he read Carrie years later, he had to admit that he wouldn’t have followed King’s career if this had been his introduction to his work, and I’m inclined to agree. It’s indulgent at points, simplistic at others, the unsettled point-of-view shifts kill momentum, the character work is often lacking, and, despite flashes of excellent writing, it’s just not that great. So there it is: my review on Carrie. Not great, read something else instead.

But my love for Stephen King can’t be killed off. I have my first book coming out this year, and I can say for a fact that if it hadn’t been for my father handing me that beaten-to-shit copy of The Stand, if it hadn’t been for the myriad worlds and characters that King has weaved over the course of his career, I wouldn’t be here writing this right now. So, for all my snark across these recaps, this book, like all King books, is important to me, and always will be.

And with that, I’m drawing these recaps to a close. If you enjoyed these recaps, I also write ones for TV shows too – I’m currently following Sharp Objects, but also do Riverdale and Doctor Who, amongst others. If you’re interested in reading my dad’s work, you should check out his excellent true crime books right here. And if you liked what you’ve read over the last few months, please consider supporting me on Patreon!

(header image courtesy of Den Of Geek)