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Pet Sematary by Stephen King

“Sometimes dead is better”

Wow, Pet Semapet sematarytary by Stephen King really did live up to expectations. It’s scary as hell; personally the film also scared the crap outta me too.

In the introduction King writes:

‘When I’m asked (as I frequently am) what I consider to be the most frightening book I’ve ever written, the answer comes easily and with no hesitation: Pet Sematary.” (p.xi)

In fact the novel nearly wasn’t published, King continues:

“All I know is that Pet Sematary is the one I put away in a drawer, thinking I had finally gone too far” (p. xi)

Luckily for us, King had one book left on his Doubleday deal before he could leave,  and instead of writing something new, he sent them Pet Sematary.  

Now it’s being review by literaturefiend.

The novel follows Dr Louis Creed and family as they move into a new house in the small town of Ludlow. The house is on a main road and it isn’t long before Jud Crandall (a neighbor from across the road) warns the Creeds about the dangers of the passing trucks. Louis – whose father died when he was young – discovers a paternal connection with Jud. The role of the father is to protect, but it is Jud who shows Louis the Micmac burial ground which ultimately leads to the catastrophic events in this novel.

There is a path which leads from the Creed home to the Pet Sematary. This is a  lovely concept, started by the town’s children to bury their beloved pets; the majority of which killed on the road by oncoming trucks. Death is something all children must come to terms with and you really feel their innocence with little devices, such as the misspelled Pet Cemetery sign which has an “S” instead of “C”. Also I loved the handwritten grave markers with little messages from the children:

“TRIXIE, KILT ON THE HIGHWAY SEPT 15, 1968” and “HANNAH THE BEST DOG THAT EVER LIVED 1929-1939” (P. 38)

Things are no different for the young Ellie Creed who takes her first visit to the Pet Sematary (and experience of death) pretty hard. She has a beloved cat named Winston Churchill (or Church for short) who she would like to live forever.

“He’s my cat! He’s not God’s cat! Let God have his own cat! Let God have all the damn old cats He wants, and kill them all! Church is mine!”

When Ellie’s cat is killed by a trucchurchk,  Jud tells Louis about the Micmac burial ground which lies beyond the Pet Sematary.  This is a place of evil, a burial ground that somehow brings what is buried back to life – only when they return, they aren’t the same.

When Church returns King writes:

“The feel of the cat caused Louis to break out in gooseflesh, and he had to clench his teeth grimly to keep from kicking it away. Its furry sides felt somehow too slick, too thick – in a word, loathsome” (p. 162)

You get the idea right?

The book then gets even darker. Think of the horror, chasing your young son who is running towards the road, a speeding truck coming from the opposite direction. King explores this scenario when it happens to Gage Creed (Louis’ son); would you just accept it, or… exhume your sons grave, and bury him in a place where you know he’ll return?

Read it to see how it plays out…

The central theme of this novel focuses on coming to terms with grief and the loss of a loved one. There is Rachel Creed, haunted by the memory of her sister who suffered from spinal meningitis before her death; Pascow,  a young student who is killed by a truck on the main highway to mention a few.

I can see how Pet Sematary scared King, as much of it is based on personal experience. His own child Owen running for that main highway (thankfully King tackled him in time), his daughter’s cat Smucky flattened by a truck (thankfully, not coming back from the dead) and the real  Pet Sematary (thankfully, the burial ground beyond is fiction).

This all happened and I think it shows King’s creativity at its best. He certainly highlights the notion that “sometimes dead is better.”

Section that Stayed

A university student is brought into the campus surgery after being hit by a truck. The finality of this passage stayed with me throughout the whole novel.

“He was a young man, age approximately twenty, and it took Louis less than three seconds to make the only diagnosis that mattered: the young man was going to die. Half of his head was crushed. His neck had been broken. One collarbone jutted from his swelled and twisted right shoulder. From his head, blood and a yellow, pussy fluid seeped sluggishly into the carpet. Louis could see the man’s brain, whitish-gray and pulsing through a shattered section of his skull.”(p.70)

What did you think of the novel? As always Literature Fiend would love to hear any discussions points, or suggestions for further reading. Please contact us, or leave a comment below, it would be great to hear from you.  

Reading and Re-reading Stephen King in 2016

maxresdefaultIf you’re regular visitor to this blog then you’ll know how much I like Stephen King as a writer. I think he is a master storyteller who’s work will still be messing with the minds of readers way into the future. Recently, after an evening reading and watching interviews with King,  I came to realise that there are so many novel and short stories I’ve yet to read.

I’m ashamed to say that there are the ones like:  Firestarter, Christine and The Eyes of the Dragon that I’ve never heard of.

Not to mention the Dark Tower series.

I just never got around to reading it, not with the plethora of other Literature in the ethos. I think I missed these titles because King has been, and still is a prolific writer; with books splattering the high street before I was born and then consistently since (now I’m 32 by the way)

This idea prompted me to think about the more ‘well know titles.’ You know,  the ones that scared the hell out of you as a child (well, I was a child) like: Pet Sematary, The Shining, Carrie and Cujo.

Or the ones with the unforgettable characters: Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and Stand by Me.

As I was thinking this over, it dawned on me that it was the films that I remembered from my childhood and not the King novels. I mean, I read some of them but the novel slash film blurs into one (FYI, it was called Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption and Stand by Me was adapted from a short story called: The Body.)

To add insult to injury I read an interview where King said that out of all his novels, Liseys Story was the one he enjoyed most.

Well, this one must’ve slipped my radar too.

Right. This is no good I thought to myself; I’m going to read, or re-read a selection of King novels, as I don’t really know him as a writer. The film adaptations are the ones etched into my memory. Many of which according to King completely ignore the message of his novels.

Being born in 1982, means that I was -6 when Carrie was published. This was the novella that granted King the freedom to write full time. He certainly did that alright:  releasing 54 novels to date, hundreds of short stories and two books on the craft of writing.

So, I’ve been to the second hand bookshops.  I came back with: The Stand, Misery, Liseys Story and IT. 

That’s the story; for the first half of 2016, I’m going to get Kingafied.

 

If you have any suggestions or discussion points then get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

imgresI’ve been thinking about what to write since I finished Tartt’s masterpiece a few weeks ago. An epic work which weighs in at 864 pages, which I really loved reading.

The length of The Goldfinch may put some people off; but the investment is well worth the effort.

Throughout the novel the themes of loss and friendship are dealt with on so many different levels; too many to mention in this short review.

It follows Theo Decker from childhood to adulthood, after the loss of arguably the most important figure in his life – his mother. Theo sort of imprints the memory of his mother onto a painting he steals after a terrorist attack on the Metropolitan Museum of Art, his mother’s favorite painting, I might add. Worried about what the authorities will say (as Theo ponders coming clean) the painting sparks an obsession, and not just for the protagonist.

It is important to point out that the painting of The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius, is a truly remarkable piece of art asimgres you can see from the image on the right. It is said to be one of a dozen surviving works by the Dutch Artist; many of which were lost when his studio was destroyed by the explosion of the Delft gunpowder magazine on October 12, 1654. Fabrititus – a pupil of Rembrandt – died in this explosion aged 32.

Tartt’s novel is full of memorable characters, apart from Theo. For me, I really enjoyed the lifelong friendship with Boris – a Ukrainian with so much depth to his personality – and was really touched by their relationship, not to mention their crazy adventures.

In this section of the novel Boris talks to Theo about girls:

“Here is my experience. Stay away from the ones you love too much. Those are the ones who will kill you. What you want to be happy in the world is a woman who has her own life and lets you have yours.” (p. 667)

And who can forget Hobbie, the furniture restorer who I imagined for some reason to be a blood relative of the BFG; but more than that,  he is a simple character, more than content spending his days in his workshop restoring furniture – I really admired this about him.

The writing style is typically beautiful. However, there is a section in the last third of the book when Theo is contemplating his own mortality and whether he should continue to live. The descriptive quality and somber subject matter is well captured. I mean throughout this section the “Black Mood” was transferred from the page and really affected me to the extent that I had to put the book down on a regular basis; it seemed to suffocate me.

Depression is a theme that is re-visited throughout the novel. In this passage Theo describes the difficulty of living a normal life after tragedy:

“…and though the darkness sometimes lifted just enough so I could construe my surroundings, familiar shapes solidifying like bedroom furniture at dawn, my relief was never more than temporary because somehow the full morning never came, things always went black before I could orient myself and there I was again with ink poured in my eyes, guttering around in the dark” (p. 573)

I’m not surprised that The Goldfinch won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2014 and unlike other reviews I’ve read I don’t care it was a decade in the making. Tartt openly admits that she’s a slow writer, but the descriptive detail and depth of research really does help to  pack a punch.

And you know what? I’m happy to wait another ten years if I get to read something as well crafted as The Goldfinch again.

See you in 2024 Tartt. It’s a date!

Wait Until Spring Bandini by John Fante

Wait-Until-Spring-Bandini

 

 

I was so impressed by Ask the Dust, that I went straight to Amazon and ordered the “Bandini Quartet.” It has the four novels: Wait Until Spring Bandini, The Road to Los Angeles, Ask the Dust and Dreams from Bunker Hill.

It works out much cheaper than buying them separately, and if you want to read them all – which after reading one Fante novel, trust me you will – is well worth the investment.

In this novel we get an insight into what things were like for Arturo Bandini (or Fante, however you want to look at it) as a child. And the answer is pretty bleak; the family are poor – like most during the depression era – and constantly struggling to pay their food bill at the local shop, let alone the rent.

Arturo – in typical fashion – has his mind consumed with a girl from his school, Rosa. She however, doesn’t reciprocate his feelings:

“Rosa, his girl. She hated him, but she was his girl. Did she know that he loved her? Was that why she hated him? Could she see the mysterious things that went on inside him, and was that why she laughed at him?” (p.42)

Svevo,Arturo’s Father, is a bricklayer and hates the winter; he is constantly being “rained off” as we say in England, due to bad weather. He is ashamed that he cannot bring more money into the household; in the first few pages we see these worries as he walks into:

“…the yard of his house that was not paid for..” (p.8) and  to his “…house that was not paid for” (p.7).

On the other hand his wife is a deeply religious woman, rich, in the sense that she makes the home a home. She is described as angelic and despite the lack of money, the love in the household is strongly felt:

 “Maria had a white rosary, so white you could drop it in the snow and loose it forever” (p.7). 

The routine of the Bandini household is torn apart – partly through miscommunication and partly through the local rumors in the neighborhood, when Svevo goes to work for the rich widow Hildegarde to earn money for his family. It is his pride that obstructs his true feelings:

“Bandini sobbed – a grown man, forty-two years old, weeping because it was Christmas Eve and he was returning to his sin, because he would rather be with his children” (p.137)

Through the use of a omniscient narrator the reader can identify with every character at one stage or another; this way their love, thoughts and feelings towards each other really shine through. That said,  I much preferred the first person narrative (from Arturo) in Ask the Dust, which made me laugh out loud on many occasions.

This novel, is an excellent piece of writing; which is poetic throughout, not to mention heartbreaking at times. The more Fante I read the more I begin to understand the term “way ahead of his time” because if it wasn’t for the popularity of Bukowski we may have seen Fante’s work buried deep in dark attics and second hand bookshops.

And that my friends, would be a tragedy in my eyes.

 

Best Part

Arturo is trying to be a little more “saintly”,  but for reasons I’ll not reveal he lashes out in frustration. He is in his garden when:

“He [Arturo] found a lump of coal the size of his fist, stood back and measured his distance. The old brown hen nearest him got the blow in the neck as the whizzing lump all but tore her head loose and caromed off the chicken shed” (p.46)

This was a harsh act, but the reason I liked it so much is that a few pages later the hungry family are tucking in to a succulent roast chicken.

 

Rating: 7/10

 

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