The Stand Chapters 13, 14, and 15

The Stand Chapter 13 and 14

 

We now return to Stu Redman, who has been locked up in the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia. He has just informed the doctor that he will not cooperate until someone talks to him about what’s really going on.

Finally a man enters who is wearing a nose filter. He introduces himself as Dick Deitz. He asks Stu what he wants to know.

“First, I want to know why ou’re not wearing one of those space suits.”

“Because Geraldo there says your’e not catching.” Deitz pointed to a guinea pig behind the double-paned window. “Geraldo’s been breathing your air for the last 3 days, via connector. This disease that your friends have passes easily from humans to guinea pigs and vice versa. If you were catching, we figure Geraldo would be dead by now.”

I would really be interested in knowing if the CDC figured this out before or after the Captain Trips got out to the general public. That seems like something the military would do, create a ridiculously strong disease to use as a weapon against humans and then experiment on poor innocent guinea pigs.

Stu notes the nose filter, and Deitz points out that taking chances is not in his contract. Stu asks what disease he has.

“As to what disease you’ve got, well, so far as Denninger and his colleagues have been able to ascertain, you don’t have any at all.”

When Stu asks what the others have, Deitz says that that’s “classified.”

“My guess was that he was in the army. And there was an accident someplace.”

In the original novel, the prologue showing Campion running away from said accident didn’t exist. In the original novel, we are almost as much in the dark as Stu is.

Deitz refuses to confirm or deny any of this, saying he could go to jail just for telling Stu he doesn’t have the virus.

Then why is he in there? If he still won’t tell Stu anything, why bother sending him at all? You need permission from higher up, then go GET permission from higher up.

“You should be glad we’re not telling you more than we are,” Deitz said. “You know that, don’t you?”

Stu needs it spelled out for him, so Deitz obliges.

“You’re classified too, you know. You’ve disappeared from the face of the earth. If you knew enough, the big guys might decide that the safest thing would be for you to disappear forever.”

Stu is exactly as horrified by this as I am.

Deitz said he didn’t come here to threaten Stu, but to obtain his cooperation. He tells Stu that most of the people who came here with him are dead, except a 4 year old girl named Eva.

“Well, how is she?” Asks Stu.

“I’m sorry, that’s classified.”

Stu gets angry, then. He gets up and shakes Deitz. Some people in “space suits” come to stop him, but Deitz waves them off. I’m not sure if it’s because Deitz knows, somehow, that he deserves this, or if it’s because he doesn’t want to risk making the situation worse.

And then we get to the part that should really make Stu angry.

“Listen to me,” Deitz said. “I’m not responsible for you being here….if there was a responsible party it was Campion, but you can’t lay it all on him, either. He ran. But under the circumstances, you or I might have run, too.”

When I read the original novel, the prologue had ben taken out. It seemed to me like Campion knew that he was infected, but he left anyway because he was an asshole coward who didn’t care about anyone but himself. Because we have the prologue, we know that Campion had reason to think he wasn’t infected, and so we can sympathize a little bit (though I still do not cut him much slack. On some level, he had to know it was possible he was infected.)

“The situation exists. We are all trying to cope with it, all of us. But that doesn’t make us responsible.”

“Then who is?”

“Nobody,” Deitz said, and smiled.

Fuck you, Deitz. And fuck you Stephen King if you expect me to accept this. Because somebody is responsible. Like the people who developed this fucking virus in the first place. But of course the US military would never take responsibility for its actions. At least, not in this universe.

“On this, the responsibility spreads in so many directions that it’s invisible.”

Well, let’s see, there were the people that made the virus (the US military), the people who allowed the people who made the virus to make the virus (the president?), there’s “that imbecile Campion,” who had to have known on some level that he was infected….

Actually, let’s talk for a minute about this. In the movie, it is heavily implied that Randall Flag, aka the Dark Man, is responsible for the spread of the plague. In The Dark Tower book…. 5 or 6 I believe, the protagonists actually go to this universe and meet up with Randal Flagg, who outright states that he caused the plague.

So as he is writing this, on some level, conscious or unconscious, Stephen King has to know that the Dark Man is ultimately responsible for the spread of the plague, if not the disease itself.

But regardless of whether the dark man caused the spread of it, the military is absolutely to blame for creating it in the first place, and maybe if we all spent as much effort helping people as we did trying to kill each other we wouldn’t even need a military in the first place.

Stu either accepts that nobody is to blame, or he doesn’t feel like arguing, because he asks about some of the other people who he came in with. Deitz says that they are classified, and asks if he is going to shake him some more. Deitz tells Stu to go ahead and shake him if it will make him feel better, and despite not liking Deitz, I like Deitz. He understands that Stu is frustrated, and even though he’s a little shit who sides with the “it’s totally not our fault” creators of he virus, he’s trying to give Stu what little information he feels he can give him without putting Stu in even more danger than he’s already in.

Finally, Deitz tells Stu that some of the other people from Arnette are alive, and that eventually, Stu may see them.

Hang onto that though. I’ll be discussing it again in a few weeks.

“What about Arnette?”

“Quarantined”

“Who’s dead there?”

“Nobody.”

“You’re lying.”

“Sorry you think so.”

Deitz, you just told him that nearly all the people that came from Arnette with him are dead. Of course he knows you’re lying through your teeth.

Stu asks when he can leave, and Deitz says he doesn’t know. When Stu bitterly asks if it’s too “classified,” Deitz tells him it’s not, it’s just that he really truly honest to God doesn’t know.

“You don’t seem to have this disease. We want to know why you don’t have it. Then you’re home free.”

My guess is that they are planning to let Stu go when they find a cure for the disease, which they hope to do by studying him.

Stu and Deitz start arguing about whether or not Stu will be allowed to shave himself, when Stu starts coughing violently. Deitz scrambles to leave the room. But Stu laughs at Deitz, saying he was faking it the entire time.

“But why? Why would you want to do something like that?”

“Sorry, that’s classified.”

“You shit son of a bitch.”

Well, can you blame him? Because I can’t.

Next we are shown Stu’s dream. I get that these dreams are important to the plot but Christ on a cracker I hate reading about them. Not just these dreams, any dreams. And I generally hate reading books where dreams are a huge part of the story.

Stu dreams of a black woman in a house near a cornfield strumming a hymn on a guitar. Then Stu feels the presence of the Dark Man and gets scared.

And that’s it, for now. The end. Boring. At least the other dreams people will later have have actual content.

Chapter 14

Chapter 14 wasn’t included in the original edited version of the novel, and I like having it in here because it humanizes Deitz. I can kinda see why it got cut, because for the most part it just develops character for a person we will never see again. It’s also basically a recap of the previous chapter from the other person’s point of view. Valuable in the writing process, not necessarily something the audience wants to read. And so I can see why this got the ax.

However, I feel like some of the information in here was needed in the original novel because—we’ll get there.

The chapter is basically Deitz sitting by a tape recorder making records. He refers to Stu, for some reason, as “Prince.”

Deitz is talking about the incident where Stu fake coughed and scared him.

“I was almost pissed enough to hit him, because he scared the living Jesus out of me. I am not pissed anymore, however. The man put me into his shoes, and for just a second there I knew exactly how it feels to shake in them.”

See, Deitz is capable of empathizing.

But then he goes on to say that Stu could find all sorts of ways to mess with their tests, and that it’s a pity he has no close family they can use to “put a hammerlock on him,” and sweet satan Deitz, that’s horrible. Bad Deitz, bad. I don’t care how dire the situation is, you shouldn’t threaten an innocent party.

We are then told that Denninger wants to use physical force, but Deitz wants to hold off, partly because he thinks it will take more force than Denninger realizes, and partly because he believes that you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Anecdotal: I once was trying to trap fruit flies. I set out two honey traps and 2 vinegar traps. The honey traps caught zero flies, the vinegar traps caught about 2 each. Make of that what you will.

Dietz goes on to state that more people have died, including Joe Bob Brentwood, which is unfortunate because Brentwood did seem to be responding to the vaccine they were trying out on him. But the vaccine didn’t work for very long before the disease took over again.

Hang on, is “vaccine” the right word here? Aren’t vaccines preventative? I don’t think you can use a vaccine as a cure. What they are testing out on Brentwood are cures, not vaccines. Vaccines innoculate. They prevent you from ever getting the disease in the first place. But from my understanding, by the time you’ve caught the disease, it’s already too late.

In any case, the medical team believes that it was the vaccine that killed Joe Bob Brentwood rather than the actual disease. Which might be, but I mean, the disease was going to kill him anyway, so meh.

Deitz says he saved the worst for last.

“We can declassify Princess back to plain old Eva Hodges, female, aged 4, caucasian. She’s downhearted of course, but other than that seems perfectly normal…”

Huh. I have no idea why Stephen King thinks a 4 year old is going to be more cooperative than the grown-ass man. See, a scared child who’s just lost everyone she’s ever known and is taken to a scary place where nobody will tell her anything isn’t likely to be very compliant for very long. Stu’s refusal to accept treatment is nothing compared to a 4 year old’s tantrums.

In any case, Eva Hodges is sick. She has the virus, and I wonder why she was negative for so long, because literally everyone else we’ve seen has shown symptoms right away. So, was she actually negative and one of the nurses somehow infected her? Tthey tried to say that Campion was negative for a while too, but we all know that’s bullocks because he definitely showed symptoms as soon as he was infected. We know this because we read the prologue. In the original novel where the prologue didn’t exist, this was a lot more believable.

So this thing about Eva Hodges not showing any signs of being infected for days and days would’ve made more sense if the prologue wasn’t there. But we also just plain didn’t have this chapter in the original version, so it wouldn’t have been an issue.

“Denninger showed me her sputum slides, and they’re lousy with those wagon wheel germs he says aren’t really germs at all, but incubators.”

Unfortunately, Deitz says that Denninger just spews jargon at him when he asks him to clarify what that means. –I– want to know what that means because this part of the book is the msot fascinating to me.

But at least we get to know what happens to her. In the original novel we just don’t get to know.

“We’ve got a disease that’s got several well defined stages…but some people may skip a stage. Some people may backtrack a stage. Some people may do both. Some people stay in one stage for a relatively long time and others zoom through all four as if they were on a rocket sled.”

Ellipses are original to text. I did not leave anything out.

I wish this chapter had been kept in the original, just for this paragraph. I spent the entire first half of the original novel wondering if Stephen King was aware that the speed at which the virus kills is flexible depending on the needs of the plot. Apparently King is very aware and this was intentional, which got lost somewhere in the edits. Good to know.

Deitz goes on to talk about Stu. The CDC is desperately trying to find out what’s different about Stu, but can only come up with about 4 things:

1. He has more moles than usual

2. A slight hypertensive condition, too slight to bother medicating

3. Mild tic under his left eye when he’s under stress

4. Stu dreams more than average, almost all night.

 

That last one may be more significant than Deitz thinks. It has been speculated in discussion groups that the plague survivors survived because they’re the type who can receive the dreams. It is even speculated that no atheists survived for this very reason; their brains don’t allow them to believe in the supernatural.

Deitz then goes on about how this disease scares him because nobody will go to the doctor over what they think is a slight cold. Deitz says that this is because it’s too hard to get a doctor to look at you unless you’re dying, so people don’t bother. Deitz ignores the fact that it is just as likely a cost issue—no one can afford to go to the doctor unless they think they’re dying, and he also ignores the fact that educating the public would help with this.

I get that you want to avoid panic, but still, if you tell people the facts, you’re more likely to get a handle on stopping this thing. Or at least save some lives. But no, Deitz would rather sit there and piss and moan about it on his tape recorder than actually suggest that someone educate at least the doctors.

“So far, no one who’s coming down with it has gotten better. Those sons of bitches out in California did this job a little too well for my taste.”

Yes. Those sons of bitches out in California who are totally not responsible for the plague that they created. Wankers.

That’s the end of that chapter. I may go ahead and do chapter 15, here, because it’s the last chapter before we actually change gears and move on from the CDC.

 

Chapter 15

The chapter opens with Patty Greer, one of the nurses, sitting at the nurses station thinking about her patients. Hap, who will still be awake, watching TV, and joking about how hard it is to pinch her ass through the hazmat suit Patty has to wear.

I thought we were supposed to like Hap.

Patty then compares Hap, who is a “good sport” with Stu, who is an “old poop.” To Patty, all patients are either good sports of old poops. Patty has very little patience with the latter category.

It sounds like Patty is terrible at her job. I’m currently in a CNA course, and the instructors are heavily emphasizing compassion and empathy. People like Patty Greer would not last long in my class. But this was the 1980s when this was originally written and maybe attitudes were different then.

The clock strikes midnight, and Patty starts to make her rounds. On her way to be helped into her suit, she starts to sneeze. Patty thinks nothing of this whatsoever, even though there’s a sign on the nurse’s station that says in big bold letters that any and all cold symptoms are to be reported to the supervisor at once.

They were worried that whatever those poor people from Texas had might spread outside the sealed rooms, but she also knew that it was impossible for even a tiny viurs to get inside the self contained environment of the white suits.

I’m not sure if Patty believes this because Patty has been told this and is gullible enough to believe it, or if she believes this because she is just not the sharpest crayon in the box. 

In any case, the chapter ends with Patty infecting at least 3 different people, and thus the CDC has been breached.

 

 

 

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The Stand Chapter 12

Well, shit. I had this entire post already written and was just coming on here today to edit it. Unfortunately, WordPress has decided to eat it.

This chapter is going to take me longer than usual to grind out. Apologies.

I have been looking forward to this chapter for some time.  This chapter does not exist in the original edition of The Stand, and was something Stephen King really didn’t want to take out.

Is it a good thing for him to have put back in? Well, that depends. Normally I’m the type of person who loves more content and hates edited editions.

However, I’m going to have to go with King’s original edition on this. The scene where Fran tells her mother that she’s pregnant isn’t really necessary to the overall plot of the book. It advances character development for people who we’re never going to see again, and it just drags out the story.

With that out of the way, let us begin.

The chapter starts with Frannie Goldsmith comparing her mother’s favorite room, the parlor, to her father’s favorite room, his workshop. This goes on for like, 10 pages.

You know, even if King did want to include Fran’s argument with her mother, he still could’ve taken out a lot of this and we would have lost nothing.

We get another few pages of description of the grandfather clock, which sounds like a really cool clock but Fran hates it, mostly because it’s in the parlor and her mom really likes it. Get over it Frannie, that’s an awesome clock. Jeez.

Then we get a list of Fran’s memories of her mother, and things start getting a little more relevant.

Someone built a gas station that was visible from the parlor window, and Fran’s mom, Carla, begged her husband to do something about it, so he planted a hedge. Carla then nagged him to do something to make the hedge grow faster.

More descriptions of the parlor. I don’t care.

It was in the parlor that her mother had talked to her after she caught Frannie and Normal examining each other in the barn. How would she like it, Carla asked as the grandfather clock solemnly ticked off segments of time in a dry age, if she took Frannie out for a walk up and down US Route 1 without any clothes on? Frannie, then 6, had cried.

This is a sadly realistic reaction to a very normal childhood development. It is also comparable to Alice’s reaction to her son Larry writing a naughty word. In that case, she actually did write the word on his forehead and take him down a busy street where lots of people saw him.

Both these punishments are horrible, but you could argue that at least Carla didn’t actually follow through with it. It’s a weak argument, though.

When Fran was 10 she had ridden her bike into the mailbox post while looking back over her shoulder to yell something to Georgette. She cut her head, bloodied her nose, lacerated both knees, and had actually grayed out for a few moments with shock.

What were mailbox posts like in the 1960s? I don’t remember even being able to ride my bike into mine.

Fran’s father was at work, so Fran went to her mother after this incident. Her mother was in the parlor serving tea to Mrs. V and Mrs. P.

“Get out!” Her mother had screamed, and the next moment she was running to Frannie, embracing her, crying “Oh Frannie, oh dear, what happened, oh your poor nose!” But she was leading Frannie back into the kitchen, where the floor could safely be bled upon. And even as she was comforting her, and Frannie never forgot that her first two words that day hadn’t been “oh Frannie” but “Get out!”

Her first concern had been for the parlor. Perhaps Mrs. P never forgot either, because even through her tears Frannie had seen a shocked, slapped expression cross the woman’s face. Mrs. P had become something of a seldom visitor after that.

House guests do pick up on these things more than people would hope. When someone cares more about the carpet than the fact that their child is badly injured, that says a lot about a person’s character.

In fact, let’s talk for a little bit about Carla Goldsmith’s character. Yes, she’s a terrible mother. Yes, she’s a terrible person. There is not one redeeming thing I can think of to say about Carla Goldsmith.

And that’s a problem. It’s a problem because people aren’t like this. People are a mixture of good and bad. Yes, my father was verbally and emotionally abusive to me all my life. Normally, if you interrupted my father while he was working, there was hell to pay. However, if I had walked in with an injury like this, he would’ve dropped everything and gotten me to a doctor. He absolutely was  more concerned with me and my well being than he was with his precious work, and his boss could suck his dick if he had a problem with that.

My father is an asshole, but he also loves me. I think a lot of us could say the same thing about our parents.

Look at Larry’s mother, Alice. Yes, she’s emotionally manipulative and abusive. But she also loves her son. She may have different ways of showing it (buying Larry’s favorite foods vs saying “I love you”), but she clearly does love her child even though she also kind of hates him.

Frankly, I’m a little surprised to see such a non nuanced character in a Stephen King novel. Most of his characters are well rounded individuals. Even the people who wind up becoming the villains of the book get more character development than this.

Which, in my opinion, is another reason this confrontation should have been kept out. Carla Goldsmith isn’t a person, she’s a cardboard cutout character of the mean mother stereotype.

And it only gets worse from here.

When Fran tells Carla she’s pregnant, Carla asks “How did this happen?”

Which, as a first reaction, isn’t terribly out of line.

It was Jesse’s question. That was what really pissed her off. It was the same question he had asked.

Yes. How dare your boyfriend and your mother ask how you got pregnant. You especially shouldn’t be mad at Jesse about this, because, he knew you were on birth control. Unfortunately, most men assume that birth control has a 100% success rate. I suspect what Jesse and Carla actually mean is “how did your birth control not work?” Actually, that may be what Jesse was thinking. Given what Carla later says, she may be thinking something like, “how did you go against your Christian training?”

Fran snarkily replies that Carla, having had 2 kids already, knows damn well how Fran got pregnant. Naturally, Carla finds this upsetting, but her reaction is, frankly, over the top.

“How could you do something like this to your father and me? Was it that boy Jesse?….How could you do it? We did our best to bring you up in the right way. This is just…just…” She put her hands to her face and began to weep…..”How could you do it? After all we’ve done for you, this is the thanks we get? For you to go out and…and…rut with a boy like a bitch in heat? You bad girl! You bad girl!”

She dissolved into sobs.

Fran’s father, a few chapters ago, told us that Carla was the way she was because Freddie’s death made her stop growing as a person. That Carla’s values were….locked in an older time. However, I’m not seeing this. What I am seeing is probably not altogether different from how this still happens in Christian families.

Carla goes on like this for a while, until Fran has had enough and gets up to leave. Alas, she is so upset she trips over her own foot, lands on the coffee table, and accidentally knocks over a vase, which spills water onto the carpet.

Carla then proceeds to get upset about the carpet. Fran opens her mouth to tell her mother that it’s just water, but, having just hit her head, she is confused and disoriented.

Carla then tells Fran that she is kicking her out. She doesn’t want a pregnant daughter, because what will the neighbors think?

Fran tells her mother that she doesn’t want to stay here, to which Carla responds “where are you going to go?”

So wait, does Carla want Fran to leave, or doesn’t she? She seems rather contradictory, here. She wants Fran to leave, but she also wants Fran to beg to stay. When Frannie doesn’t do this, Carla throws a fit.

I’ve never been pregnant. Any of my ex SDA friends want to chime in and tell me if this is how their parents reacted when they got pregnant? I have a feeling a lot of this confrontation is realistic, but there are some parts that make me scratch my head.

Fran tells her mother she might go live with some friends, and that where she ends up going is none of her business.

“No business of mine? no business of mine? What you do when you’re under my roof is no business of mine? You ungrateful little bitch!”

Technically, Fran and Jesse did it on the beach. Also, if she moves out, she’s not under your roof anymore, so yeah, what business is it of yours?

She slapped Frannie, and slapped her hard.

Carla rants for a while about how Fran will have to quit school and marry Jesse. When Fran says that she isn’t going to do any of those things, Carla thinks Fran means she is having an abortion, and gets even more upset.

So, to recap:

  1. Carla doesn’t want Fran to have an abortion, because ZOMG you want to be a murderer too?!?!?!?!?
  2. Carla doesn’t want Fran to be pregnant

Has Carla realized that she can’t have both these things at the same time? I mean yes, ideally Fran wouldn’t be pregnant. But the pregnancy is here now, so it’s a little too late for that. Carla is still stuck on “ideal situation” mode even though the time for that is long past, and frankly, there’s no way Fran can win, here. She can’t make herself unpregnant without an abortion, even if that was what she wanted.

Though Clara is being contradictory, I do not find this an unrealistic reaction. That’s sad, but that’s how it is in a lot of Christian families.

“I’m going to have the child. I’ll have to take the spring semester off, but I can finish next summer.”

That’s a big assumption. I think you’ll find babies are too much work for that, unless you have a helluva lot of money and support.

Carla informs Frannie that she is not going to pay for her to finish school, and that she will not get any of her money. Carla goes on for a bit about how heartbroken Fran’s father will be, which of course is Fran’s father’s cue to finally show up. Apparently he has some kind of 6th sense, because he switched shifts with someone just so he could be here for this.

“Fran’s already told me, Carla. We are going to be grandparents.”

“Grandparents!” She shrieked. “You leave this to me. She told you first and you kept it from me. All right. It’s what I’ve come to expect of you. But now I’m going to close the door and the two of us are going to thrash this out.”

I don’t blame Carla for being upset that Fran told Pete first and then waited a few days. However, if I were Carla, my upsetness would have more to do with the fact that my child didn’t trust me enough to come to me first, and then I would sit there and try to figure out why. Because at that point, clearly I have done something to shatter my child’s trust.

But Carla isn’t me, and doesn’t react that way at all. Carla tries to shut Peter Goldsmith out of the parlor. Peter tries to prevent Carla from shutting the door on him.  Carla tries to ram into him with her head, Peter just tries to ignore her and keep her from shutting him out of the room. When Peter Goldsmith is unable to budge Carla, he slaps her.

All the fight goes out of Carla. Peter immediately apologizes–sort of.

“You have had that coming for 10 years or better. I always told myself I didn’t do it because I don’t hold with hitting women. I still don’t. But when a person–man or woman–turns into a dog and begins to bite, someone has to shy it off. I only wish, Carla, I’d had the guts to do it sooner. ‘Twould have hurt both of us less.”

I don’t actually have much of a problem with Peter slapping Carla. At this point, it was in self defense. However, to say that she’s had that coming, that she deserved it… yes Peter should have stood up to Carla before. Yes Carla probably did deserve to be hit. However, hitting her isn’t necessary in order for Peter to stand up to his wife.

Violence should be the last resort, not the answer. And so, while I have a hard time faulting him for slapping her in this situation, I also have a hard time with allowing the character to justify it to himself.

Peter then gives Carla a lecture on how selfish she’s being, about how she stopped caring about Fran after Fred died because not caring was safer. Yet Carla does care– about what other people will think of her.

“It’s my fault for letting you go on. For not wanting any unpleasantness. For not wanting to rock the boat. I was selfish, too, you see. And when Fran went off to school I thought, well, now Carla can have what she wants and it wont’ hurt nobody but herself, and if a person doesn’t know they’re hurting, why, maybe they’re not. I was wrong. I’ve been wrong before, but never as bad as this.”

Peter gets points for admitting this. Yes, he was wrong not to stand up for Fran before. Yes, he should have said or done something a longass time ago. But at least he’s able to admit that, and I think that speaks to his character.

“Now, I am telling you this as your husband. If Frannie needs a place to stay, this can be the place–same as it always was. If she needs money, she can have it from my purse–same as she always could. And if she decides to keep her baby, you will see that she has a proper baby shower….. I’ll tell you one more thing, too. If she wants it christened, it will be done right here. Right here in this goddamned parlor.”

It almost sounds like Pete thinks he can do this because he is Carla’s husband. It would have come across better if he’d said something like, “Fran is my daughter, too, and this is my house, too.” And in any case, he can’t make Carla plan the baby shower.

Carla protests that the baby can’t be christened in the parlor, because that’s where Fred’s casket lay. Peter responds that he can’t think of a better reason to celebrate new life there.

He tells Carla that it’s way too late for Fred, but it’s not too late for Frannie and her child. He tells Carla she can drive them off if she wants to, but he won’t let her, and even if he did let her succeed, Carla would have nothing but the house, the parlor, and a husband who hated her.

Peter then helps Carla up the stairs to the bedroom, with Carla ranting the whole time about how Fran may as well just destroy everything in the parlor.

Peter comes back down and reassures Fran that her mother will come around. Fran disagrees, and says she should leave. Peter says she should stay, because he wants her to stay, and he’s pretty sure her mother will too–eventually.

The chapter ends with Frannie crying on her father’s shoulder about how sorry she is, and her father telling her to hush.

I know that Stephen King did not take this confrontation out of the original edition because he wanted to. I know he took it out because of printing costs. However, I think that, if he really wanted readers to be able to enjoy them, it would have been all too easy to just make the deleted scenes available on the internet for free and not redo the entire book. Or perhaps I am just salty because it is difficult to get a copy of the original edition, as it is now out of print, and I absolutely cannot get a kindle copy of it.

I’ll try to get another post up sometime next week, whether it be The Shack or The Stand. Writing has gotten difficult lately, partly because of depression and partly because…. well, that’s another post entirely. I’ll get there, though, eventually.

 

The Shack Chapter 10

I promise I will start posting more regularly. This is a promise I make to myself as much as to you guys, since it really helps me to just write stuff out. Sometimes I even write one page flash fiction stories. But those stories don’t get posted on this blog, for reasons I do not wish to discuss.

I was going to do another Stand post tonight, but I am really in the mood to tear into something awful, so, let’s progress with The Shack.

WADE IN THE WATER

We last left off with our protagonist, Mack, finishing up a conversation with Sarayu, the Holy Spirit. She has just told Mack that children do not have the right to be protected. Not only that, nobody has the right to be protected, and that abused people like to whine about their rights instead of put in the work it would take to fix the relationships with their abuser.

This is the book that the publishers want distributed to battered women’s shelters across America. I’m not even remotely kidding. Look up “The Missy Project.”

This chapter is about Mack having (yet another) conversation with Jesus. Because there hasn’t been enough of those lately.

Mack enters Jesus’ workshop and sees “what looks like a casket” on Jesus’ worktable.

Foreshadow, CLUNK!

Jesus tells Mack that the coffin is a special project for tomorrow, and Mack asks Jesus why they keep talking about tomorrow, like it’s something special.

I’d like to remind you all that, in the very rambly prologue, Mack’s friend Willie went on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on about how SO. VERY. INTELLIGENT Mack is!

But here, Mack looks like he is either stubbornly refusing to put 2 and 2 together, or like he is really really dense. Either way, it doesn’t exactly demonstrate his superior intellect.

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: Willie is the unreliable narrator.

Jesus tells Mack that tomorrow is a big day, then changes the subject to going for a boat ride on the lake. But it’s worded so badly that it seems like Jesus is saying they will go for a boat ride tomorrow rather than right this second.

Mack assumed they would be taking one of the canoes nestled against the dock pylons…reaching the end of the dock, Jesus turned to Mack and said, “after you.”

Yup, that’s right. Jesus is seriously about to let Mack walk on water with him. I have to admit, this is kind of cool. It’s fun to read about, makes for an interesting movie trailer, and must have been fun to write. In fact, if you took out almost all of the dialogue, this chapter would be perfect.

Mack is a little slow on the uptake. He tells Jesus he’s not really up for a swim.

After Jesus reassures both Mack and the reader that Mack is a really great swimmer, that Mack was even a lifeguard, and a bunch of other unnecessary details that could have been cut out… because we can’t have our audience thinking Mack doesn’t know how to swim. That would be unacceptable, I guess.

Finally Mack grasps what Jesus is saying.

“You’re a quick one, Mack.” Said Jesus. “Nobody’s gonna slide anything past you, that’s for sure.”

You just showed us Mack being slow on the uptake. So either you are presenting Snarky!Jesus (a valid authorial choice) or you are presenting Jesus as the unreliable narrator. (Not a great authorial choice considering your target audience.)

As a Christian, you know you’ve fucked up if you’ve written your god as the unreliable narrator.

But actually, most Christians believe that Jesus is actually incapable of lying, because when he says something, it comes true. So if Jesus says Mack is quick on the uptake, behold, Mack is quick on the uptake.

Unfortunately, the author acts as though that’s how writing works, too. Jesus said Mack was a quick learner, therefore Mack is a quick learner, despite the fact that this has just been demonstrated not to be true.

I actually don’t mind the rest of this scene so much.

How do you step off a dock onto water? Do you jump as if you are landing on concrete or do you step over the edge as if you are getting out of a boat? He looked back at Jesus, who was still chuckling.

Mack is way overthinking this. It’s probably just like stepping off a dock onto ground, if there was ground to step on.

“Will my feet get wet?” queried Mack.

“Of course, water is still wet.”

I would love for someone to rewrite this book with Snarky!Jesus. That would be awesome.

Anyway, Mack is afraid to step out onto the water, but he doesn’t know why. Even *I* know that it would be very hard to trust that I wouldn’t sink, even if I was around people who had previously demonstrated supernatural powers. It’s this little thing humans developed called “self preservation.” We don’t tend to trust people who tell us they can break the laws of physics.”

Jesus and Mack talk for a bit about how scared Mack is, about how powerful the imagination is… how Mack likes to live in the present…..

Then Jesus tells Mack to relax, because this isn’t like, a test or something, jeez!

Someone should rewrite an entire gospel with Snarky!Jesus. I bet it’d be brilliant and you’d sell millions of copies and be able to go on the Christian speaking circuit and make millions. Huh. *I* should write this.

You know, I was expecting this conversation to be about Mack’s trust issues with Jesus. Not this weird conversation about imagination and living in the present and future and past and you know what let’s just move the fuck on because this is stupid.

When Mack and Jesus finally shut the fuck up, the scene is actually fairly decent. Mack is kinda disturbed by how not solid the water looks, so he fixes his gaze on the opposite shore and steps off the dock.

The landing was softer than he had thought it would be. His shoes were instantly wet, but the water did not come up even to his ankles. The lake was still moving all around him, and he almost lost his balance. It was strange. When he looked down, it seemed that his feet were on something solid but invisible.

This is good. This is done well. Or at least, it’s not horribly written, which for this book is an improvement.

Jesus is standing beside Mack, holding his shoes and socks in his hands.

“We always take off our shoes and socks before we do this.”

Yanno Jesus, the time to tell Mack this is before you tell him to step out onto the water, you douche.

Or maybe Jesus just thought this was too obvious to mention. Maybe he thought that because Mack was SO VERY INTELLIGENT, he would just think of it.

But Jesus knows everything, so that’s not an option. That’s why Jesus kind of sucks as a literary character. He’s all powerful and all knowing. Not much story can be created there because his all knowing and all powerfulness create large plotholes. I might write a whole post about that, actually. For now we kinda need to move on.

Other than a few minor things, this scene is fairly well done and well written. And if one was a Christian, how cool would it be to actually imagine yourself walking on water with Jesus? I like that the author did this and I wish he’d do more of it.

Jesus and Mack sit down on the opposite shore and…. talk some more.

You know, the book is much better when Jesus and Mack aren’t talking. You know what would make this book better? Have Jesus show Mack some more of his miracles. Have Jesus take out a cup of water, turn it into wine, and then enjoy a nice wine on the beach?

The author is at his best when he describes cool things God and Jesus and Sarayu can do. He is not so great at writing dialogue or theologies.

Jesus tells Mack that the planet is in terrible condition. It almost kinda sounds like Jesus is an environmentalist, which is surprising because most Christians hate environmentalism, and I’ve never understood why.

Mack asks Jesus why he doesn’t just fix the earth already if it’s that important.

“Because we gave it to you.”

“Can’t you take it back?”

“Of course we could, but then the story would end before it was consummated.”

Mack gave Jesus a blank look.

For once you and I agree, Mack. I have zero idea what the fuck Jesus is on about.

That’s also a really weird use of the world consummated. It’s probably technically correct, but to see it in this context is a little jolting. I’m sure a better word could have been used.

Jesus brings up the subject of freewill, and how he never forces humans to make certain choices.

“I’ve never taken control of your choices or forced you to do anything, even when what you were about to do was destructive or hurtful to others.”

Because the freewill of the abuser is somehow more important than the freewill of the victim. Even as a Christian I never understood this logic.

“To force my will on you,” Jesus replied. “Is exactly what love does not do. Genuine relationships are marked by submission even when your choices are not helpful or healthy.”

Oh this is so not the type of book I would ever want to distribute to a battered women’s shelter. Do the people who set these things up ever think about the implications of what they’re doing? Don’t they know that women have died because they tried to go back and submit to their abuser?

Jesus then goes on to talk about how he, Sarayu, and Papa all submit to each other. Which…. ok, so, you have an equal relationship. Why even bring submission into it, then? Because submission, by definition, is not equality.

Jesus even tries to argue that he submits to Mack just as much as Mack submits to him, which we all know is bullshit because the Bible is pretty clear on the idea of God and Jesus being authority figures and humans are supposed to submit wholly to God’s will. In fact, how do Christians not see this as some sort of blasphemy? Is it because it’s coming from one of their own? Is it because they want to like this book so badly that they are willing to overlook its inconsistencies?

Is the author trying to pander to the more liberal Christian audience by trying to paint our relationship with Jesus as mutual submission to each other, while then stating in the next few pages that we are to let Jesus live in us and make all our decisions?

Jesus then goes on to say that he doesn’t want slaves, but equals. Then he says this

“When I am in your life, submission is the most natural expression of my character and nature, and it will be the most natural expression of your new nature within relationships.”

He doesn’t want slaves, he wants submissives. Totally not the same thing.

“And all I wanted was a God who will just fix everything so no one gets hurt.” Mack shook his head at the realization.

Why is this unreasonable? It’s probably supposed to have been explained in the previous paragraphs about mutual submission in relationships, but it doesn’t seem related at all.

Mack says that he’s not good at relationship stuff, but Nan is. Jesus says that that makes sense, because men tend to find fulfillment in their achievements, while women tend to find it in relationships. Relationships are “more naturally [Nan’s] language.”

Ummmmm what? Seriously? We’re back to ridiculously rigid gender stereotypes? I thought God told Mack that this weekend was not about reinforcing stereotypes? Bad Jesus, bad!

Mack says that it’s difficult for him to love others because of Missy. Jesus says it’s not just Missy, it’s what happened in the garden of Eden.

“By choosing to declare what’s good and what’s evil, you seek to determine your own destiny. It was this turning that has caused you so much pain.”

Doesn’t this kinda contradict what Jesus said earlier about submission not actually being submissive? And heaven forbid humanity try to control their own destiny and use their brains to determine good and evil rather than have a deity do all their thinking for them. Yes, that is why the world is so messed up. Really.

Jesus then goes on to say–with very awkward phrasing…. well I’ll just let you read it.

“But that isn’t all. The woman’s desire–and the word is actually her turning–her turning was not to the works of her hands [like it is for men] but to the man, and his response was to rule “over” her, to take power over her, to become the ruler. Before the choosing, she found her identity, her security, and her understanding of good and evil only in me, as did man.”

I wonder if this is the author’s attempt to gloss over this verse in Genesis.

Genesis 3:16

To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

If you read the chapter in context, God is punishing Eve with this. It’s not that women, any women, ever actually turned to their husbands to find fulfillment, which created in the husbands a desire to rule their wives. It’s literally a punishment from God. If you read the verse after it, the man’s punishment is that he will work the ground with his hands.

None of this is stuff that just cropped up because of sin, this is something Jesus actually did to them because they ate a piece of fruit.

Again, how do Christians not see this as some sort of heresy? Well, I guess the more liberal ones might not, and good for them. The conservatives should absolutely be freaking the fuck out at this clear twisting of scripture.

Jesus says that the solution to all of this–the solution to men turning to “the work of their hands” (seriously, who talks like this?) and women turning to their husbands is to come back to Jesus.

“Women in general will find it difficult to turn from a man and stop demanding that he meet their needs, provide security, and protect their identity, and return to me.”

Actually, most women nowadays do not want their men to do any of these things. Yes there are certain needs that romantic partners could and should meet. But if you’re looking for a single man to meet all your needs, provide financial security, and your identity is tied up in a man….none of that is actually healthy.

Fortunately, none of this is what is usually found in relationships. I would venture a guess that most relationships are fairly healthy. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking, I don’t know.

But either way, if you have your identity wrapped up in Jesus, you still have your identity wrapped up in another man. Which is the very thing Jesus just said he wants to avoid….

In any case, Mack then says something that I’ve been wondering my entire fucking life.

“I’ve always wondered why men have been in charge. Males seem to be the cause of so much pain in the world. They account for most of the crimes and many of those are perpetrated against women and children.”

Or rather, I used to think this. I’m not sure what the actual statistics are, but I’d be willing to bet that males and females are responsible for an equal amount of crime, even those perpetrated against women and children. But I don’t really know where I would get the statistics on that, or even if there are any statistics on that….so let us merely note that this is not exactly stereotype breaking and move on.

And then Jesus admits to Mack that if women were in charge, the world would be a much better place.

Which doesn’t exactly sound like a ringing endorsement of the patriarchy. I admit, I’m shocked.

Jesus then says this:

“We want male and female to be counterparts, face to face equals, each unique and different, distinctive in gender but complementary, and each empowered uniquely by Sarayu…”

Oh, I see. Jesus is a fan of separate, but equal. I heard a lot about complementarianism growing up. Men and women have different roles, but these roles are equal and complement each other.

As a Christian, all I could think about was the mural in the Smithsonian Museum of American History. On one side of the mural was a picture of 1960s children in a white school, and on the other side of the picture were children in a black school from the same decade. In big bold letters were the words “separation is not equal.”

The idea that women and men should always have separate roles–the exact same separate roles–is inherently not equal.

I do not understand this next paragraph at all.

Jesus tells Mack that, when Adam was first created, the woman was inside of him so that God would take her out from within him. Man was never created to live alone. From the very beginning God knew Adam would need a woman.

By taking her [Eve] out of him [Adam], he birthed her in a sense. We created a circle of relationship, like our own, but for humans. She, out of him, and now all the males, including me, birthed through her, and all originating, or  birthed form God.

“Oh, I get it,” Mack said, “If the female had been created first, there would have been no circle of relationship, and thus no possibility of a fully equal face to face relationship between the male and the female, right?”

“Exactly right, Mack.” Jesus looked at him and grinned.

I’m trying to put my mindset back into Christianity mode in the hopes of better understanding this…. I still do not fucking understand it.

Anybody want to chime in?

Jesus then tells Mack that there’s one more thing he needs to tell him. He tells Mack that he can’t submit outside of Jesus, and I’m nodding along, fairly standard conservative Christian type stuff. Then there’s this and I get all confused.

“Seriously, my life was not meant to be an example to copy. Being my follower is not trying to “be like Jesus,” it means your independence is killed.”

How did Christian!me not see this? Maybe Christian!me was too busy quietly freaking out at the idea that Jesus wanted to kill my independence to notice that the rest of this goes against everything I’ve ever been taught about Christianity.

Jesus does say that he needs to come live inside Mack in order for him to have a relationship with God. He tells Mack that he shouldn’t just do his own thing.

Jesus then tells Mack that he needs to go do something. It’s very abrupt.

“You have an engagement. Follow that path and enter where it ends. I’ll wait for you here.

And so Mack goes, and thus ends the chapter.

Ooooh cliffhanger! What is Mack off to do! The suspense!

Just kidding, I really don’t care.

 

 

 

The Stand Chapter 10 and 11

I apologize for the lack of posts lately. I took a summer class that was particularly brutal. Also I moved, and have temporarily misplaced my abridged copy of The Stand. And also my copy of The Shack, so we’ll have to get to that book later.  For now, we are doing chapter 10 of the unedited version of Stephen King’s novel.

 

Ugh. More Larry Underwood. Well, let’s get it over with.

Larry woke up with a hangover that was not too bad, a mouth that tasted as if a baby dragon had used it for a potty chair, and a feeling that he was somewhere he shouldn’t be.

Not gonna have a good ending, this chapter.

Larry pieces together that the night before, he got drunk and wound up sleeping with some random woman. His first thought is that his mother is going to freak, because of course he didn’t call her.

At least he realizes that this is a dick move on his part.

The girl’s name was Maria and she had said she was a….what? Oral hygienist, was that it? Larry didn’t know how much she knew about hygiene, but she was great on oral.

I like this line.

Larry tries to piece together what happened the night before. His mom left him a note saying that the yankees weren’t playing, and that most of his friends aren’t around anymore, except for one.

Just thinking of the note made him wince. NO “dear” before his name, no “love” before her signature. She didn’t believe in phony stuff. The real stuff was in the refrigerator….she had gone out and stocked up on every goddam thing in the world that he liked….. no “dear” no “love, mom.” Sometimes, he thought, real love is silent as well as blind.

Maybe it’ll be more obvious as we go along, but I’m not seeing Alice Underwood as a “horrible mother.” Yes, she’s a bit abrupt. Yes she does things I don’t agree with (why can’t you write “love mom” AND buy Larry all the things?) but she’s not horrible. At least, she wasn’t in the edited version. Maybe the upcoming confrontation with her and Larry will make things a little more obvious.

Anyway, that was Larry remembering. Now Maria comes back. She informs him she made “kippers and bacon” for breakfast. Larry has too much of a hangover to eat, and anyway, he has to go, although he does it in the worst way possible.

“No, honey, I’ve got to run. Someone I’ve got to see.”

Yeah, that doesn’t sound like you’ve got a wife to run home to. Really now, Larry.

She and Larry get into an argument, during which he insults her quite a bit. Finally, Larry tells Maria that the person he’s got to go see is his mother. Maria doesn’t believe him.

“What am I supposed to do with all the stuff I just cooked?”

Which is a silly argument, but I could think of at least 5 better responses than

“Throw it out the window?” Larry suggested.

At which point Maria throws the spatula at Larry, cutting open his forehead.

He advanced two steps with the spatula in his hand. “I ought to paddle you with this!” he shouted at her.

Really Larry? Look, I get that she threw it at you first, but couldn’t you just leave it there and walk away?

Maria cries, and screams, “you ain’t no nice guy!” over and over again as Larry leaves.

And she’s not entirely wrong. Larry isn’t very nice. King probably intends to show us Larry’s growth over the course of the novel, but I’m undecided as to whether or not that’s shown very well. I’ve read this thing twice and I still don’t like him.

In any case, after Larry leaves, he realizes he could have handled that situation better.

He had treated the girl like an old whore on the morning after the frathouse gangbang.

I wouldn’t know out that, but, sure?

Larry hails a cab to go visit his mother at work, and the chapter ends as he wonders how he’s going to explain this one to her.

This chapter was short, so we’re gonna go ahead and do chapter 11 as well.

The next chapter begins with Larry visiting Alice Underwood at work. This part was absolutely not included in the edited edition, so this will be interesting. If this is Larry’s confrontation with his “horrible mother,” I’m really interested to see it.

Larry finds his mom and apologizes, saying he should have called her.

“Yeah. Good idea.” Replies Alice Underwood.

Ok she’s a little abrupt,  but she’s also right. Yes he’s a grownass man, but when I lived with my parents, I always let them know if I was going to be gone overnight.

Alice is on a ladder doing inventory, and Larry can kinda sorta see up her dress. King goes on about it for quite a while, actually.

“Is that all you came to tell me?” She asked, looking around at him for the first time.

“Well, where I was and to apologize, It was crummy of me to forget.”

“Yeah,” she said again. “But you got your crummy side to you, Larry. Do you think I forgot that?”

“Mom, Listen–”

“You’re bleeding. Some stripper hit you with a loaded G-string?”

I think I get where King is coming from now with the “horrible mother” bit.

Actually, let’s talk about this. Alice Underwood is out of line with that last comment. She is absolutely emotionally abusive and probably a little bit verbally abusive too.

But, like most horrible mothers, she’s also a human who loves her son. Most people think it’s an either or thing; either a woman is abusive or she loves her son. And it’s clear here that Alice is both. She is a well rounded well written realistic character.

I wanted to point that out because I plan to compare her to Fran’s mother later. The differences between the confrontations are…. striking.

After a bit more back and forth about exactly what Larry was doing last night, Larry softly begs his mother not to be mad at him.

“Larry,” she said gently. “Larry, Larry, Larry….is that all you can say? ‘Don’t be mad at me, please Ma, don’t be mad’? I hear you on the radio, and even though I don’t like that song you sing, I’m proud it’s you singing it. People ask me if that’s really my son and I say yes, that’s Larry.”

I don’t get it. She’s making fun of her son, then telling him she’s proud of him…. in the same sentence?

Usually my father picks one or the other, so I don’t really get this. This is some emotional manipulation going on here.

Alice then tells Larry she’s not sure why he’s come back, but that she knows he’s in some kind of trouble. When Larry argues that he’s not, Alice tells him she knows better.

“Am I mad? No. Am I disappointed? Yes. I had hoped you would change out there. You didn’t….you know why I think you came back home? I think you came home because you couldn’t think where else to go, or who else would take you in. “

Alice isn’t wrong. Still. This is hardly the time nor the place.

“Since you’ve pushed me to it, I’ll tell you exactly what I think of you. I think you’re a taker. You’ve always been one. It’s like God left some part of you out when he built you inside of me. You’re not bad. You would’ve gone bad if there was bad in you.”

Alice then reminds Larry of the time she caught him writing a bad word on the stairway of the apartment complex they lived in once.

As punishment, she wrote the word on his forehead and then paraded him around the neighborhood.

That’s a terrible punishment. It’s terrible because it’s clearly just meant to humiliate him. What the hell Alice?

Alice tells Larry she never would have done that if she knew a better way to fix him, which…. what? Alice did that because she was trying to make Larry not be so selfish? How on earth is that going to teach him anything except that you are a horrible person? Good god.

Larry says he’ll move out this afternoon, if she feels that way. But even as he says this, he knows he can’t afford to do that. Because Alice was right, he is in trouble. Even if he won’t admit that to her.

But Alice’s tone softens. She begs Larry not to leave. She bought him all the food, and she was hoping they could play card games. Larry agrees to stay, even while feeling slightly guilty for being a “taker” again.

Yanno, if one is in trouble, it’s not wrong to take help. I can’t tell if this is Alice’s emotional manipulation indicating this, or if that’s what King actually thinks. Knowing King, it’s probably the former.

Alice tells Larry to take $10 out of her purse so he can go watch a movie.

So, Alice yells at him for a while, then gives him money and begs him to stay. Yeah, that’s not emotional manipulation at all.

Larry promises to pay his mom back at some point. His record is selling really well, he says. Alice asks why, if his record is selling so well, doesn’t he just pay her now?

You know, I get the feeling a lot of problems could be solved if Larry would just tell her what the fuck is going on.

“Well, nevermind. My tongue’s like a horse with a bad temper. Once it starts running, it just has to go on running until it’s tired out. You know that. Take $15, Larry. Call it a loan. I guess I will get it back, one way or the other.”

She insults him, then tries to make up for it by giving him more money. I get that this would be heartbreaking, but if Larry wants to play this right, he could make a killing.

Larry then tries to tell his mom about exactly what kind of trouble he’s in, but she coldly replies that she doesn’t want to hear about it.

Oooookay then. Well.

So Larry goes and watches a movie “with a roman numeral after it’s name that seems well attended.” Larry deduces that there is probably going to be a sequel.

But Larry doesn’t know that

The sound behind him signaled the end to all that: there would be no more sequels, and in a very short time, there would be no more movies at all.

In the row behind Larry, a man was coughing.

When King is good, he’s really good.

So, let’s talk for a bit about why this got cut from the original novel. King wanted to include it, obviously, or he wouldn’t have put it back in.

He claims that the reason he took a lot of stuff out had to do with printing costs and logistics rather than wanting to remove the actual content. Now that he’s a more established author, he can do things like put back the edited content. He probably thinks the novel is much stronger for it.

However, I am finding that much of the stuff King put back in was probably better left out, the possible exception being the prologue. (though even that is debatable.)

Is Larry’s confrontation with his mother essential to the novel? No, not at all. King probably felt it was important to emphasize that Larry is a taker, but honestly, we could’ve gotten that from just about every other thing he’s done so far, and everything he will continue to do for the next half of the book.

We do not need Alice Underwood to tell us that Larry is selfish. We do not need to see how he reacts to his mother berating him to understand that Larry has a sensitive side. All of this could (and arguable will) be shown elsewhere.

This chapter didn’t just get taken out due to printing costs. It got taken out because it mostly develops character of a person who is going to die in the first fourth of the novel and never be seen again. Alice Underwood serves no purpose to the plot, and neither does this confrontation.