(February 16 – 20)

Cover for the paperback Halloween edition of Carrie by Stephen Kind
I love these “Halloween edition” covers for select Stephen King novels – possibly because the typography for Stephen King’s name mimicks the covers for the editions that I read when I was growing up.

One of the best things about starting a reread of every Stephen King novel from the start, is that Carrie is little more than a pamphlet on the King Scale. At somewhere around 250 pages it would be hard for it to intimidate even a poorly disciplined reader like myself.

As such it’s something of an outlier (in my opinion) in the King canon. Initially conceived as a short story, and written at a time when King had no idea if he’d be able to carve a career as a novelist (despite his short stories proving to be a steady source of income) it’s far more restrained and disciplined that most of his works. There is still extensive background detail provided for many characters, but it comes as exactly that: background, as opposed to the veritable biographies that we will eventually get for characters that often survive no further than that very same chapter.

The inner voice motif is also very much present (through which mechanism King’s third-person narration frequently gives us direct glimpses into a character’s immediate train of thought).

This is only the second time I’ve read Carrie; the first being some decades ago when I was most likely in my late teens. Consequently, most of my memories of the story come from the excellent Brian de Palma film adaptation, so there was some extra fun to be had here in picking out where the film and novel differ. While there are numerous divergences, I’d say the main thing I noticed was the character of Carrie herself. The film, quite naturally, wants to play up the horror aspect so we eventually get to Carrie as a scorned and vengeful spirit. The book, of course, ends up in the same place but there’s far more tragedy to it. We get a far better picture of a young girl just starting to understand her place in the world, and in the earliest stages of assert her own identity—before being irrevocably swept down a different path.

I read this one over five nights (which, despite its brevity, is good progress for me). One of my goals in returning to paperback books was the hope of rediscovering that very physical impulse of not wanting to put a book down (while obviously not wanting to succumb to that impulse for risk if inviting a night of insomnia). Carrie makes this fairly easy by not being broken down into chapters, though its semi-epistolary structure does offer frequent breaking-off points. The biggest joy was getting to bed and actively wanting to put my screen away so I could pick up my book instead and start reading.

Next up: Salem’s Lot.