The title of this post refers to an often-repeated line from Stephen King’s most recent book, Lisey’s Story. At first seemingly nonsensical words spoken by a madman, the entire phrase (which is something like “I’ve got to end all this ding-dong for the freesias” – I returned the book already) takes on an eerie resonance later in the book and this, I think, is one of the more remarkable things about Lisey’s Story; by the time you reach the conclusion, King has sucked you completely into the private marital language of Lisey and Scott, so much so that words like bool and phrases like everything the same become a part of your vocabulary that you *almost* feel like using. The way King structures language in this book is astounding, and Lisey’s Story is worth reading if only to observe language in the hands of a true master.
I must admit, I did feel a little betrayed by the publicity surrounding this novel, including interviews with King himself. Bikeprof has written some excellent posts about this book, one of which discusses the strangeness (my words, not his) of placing a blurb from Nicholas Sparks on the back of the book, and all that conveys. Sparks’ blurb gushes with enthusiasm for the book, calling it a wonderful love story with characters he ‘loved’ and ‘didn’t want to leave.’ This quote, combined with an interview I saw King give where he stated “I just wanted to write a story that reminded me of a good old-fashioned country song” convinced me this book would truly be a departure for King, that I really would be reading a feel-good love story and to be quite honest, that’s the kind of mood I was in when I started the book. Readers, be warned: Lisey’s Story certainly could be read as a love story, but it’s also chock-full of horror and fantasy and for me this book scared me more than many of his others. At times I even had to set the book down for a moment.
I thought an awful lot about how to blog about this book. Would I write about the relationship between Scott and Lisey? Go on and on about the remarkable use of language? Examine the ideas of madness? Certainly I couldn’t analyze the whole entire thing and so I’ve decided to talk about Scott’s “going to the pool.” In the novel, Lisey’s husband, Scott, can transport himself to, for lack of any better language, another dimension, another world. Various and sundry reasons exist for this ability, and we could go on and on forever about whether King means this world to be real or metaphorical or both, but as a reader I chose to accept Scott’s other world as a very, very real one that he physically could go to. This other world, with a forest and a great pool of water and a graveyard, both threatened and helped Scott – in it he is stalked by creatures intent on killing him, but if he follows certain rules he can generally protect himself and in this world Scott can also ‘cure’ himself if he’s hurting or ill. I’m incredibly oversimplifying this world, this world of Booya Moon, but the point I want to get to is this: Scott has another world he travels to. This world fuels the novels he writes, haunts his imagination, and continually seeks to draw him over, once and for all, to its side. Lisey, because she is Scott’s wife, is aware of this world and even occasionally must travel there herself.
What struck me most about this novel is this idea of otherworldliness, of the places we go, either actual physical locations or places in our minds or even, yes, to other dimensions, and how those places inspire, protect or harm us. For me, my own Booya Moon is our cabin in the woods in Northern Michigan. When there I alternately feel completely safe and protected or utterly vulnerable and scared. It either inspires me to write, so much that I don’t leave the little cabin to wander down to the lake or go for long walks, or it inhibits me so much that all I do is swim and walk and fish, never picking up a pen at all. And I’ve long decided that my own idea of heaven is me, at the end of our dock that extends into the lake, sitting cross-legged with my eyes closed, a slight breeze rustling the aspen and birch trees, the sun long and low in the sky, the momentary flip-flopping of fish jumping, their bellies breaking the water, the muted call of our lake loon across the way, and everything else still. With my whole heart, I hope that is my after-life.
I go to this cabin in the woods, this cabin that my great-grandfather bought over a decade ago, I go when I am happy and I go when I am sad, I go when I need the solace of its front porch or I want to celebrate life with friends. It’s where I go when I can’t write, and when I can and it has provided me all I’ve ever really needed. I think I am fortunate because I am, quite frankly, a naturally happy person – no matter how angry or sad or frustrated I may be I seem to fairly quickly revert back to contendedness, to happiness. Within me, at my core (I know this to be true) is a certain baseline of joy running that is able to combat other, perhaps more dominant emotions.
So for me, my default emotion is happiness, and the place where I go when I am not here is an actual, physical place. All of this really makes sense and if you met me in person it wouldn’t surprise you. But for Scott, and while I recognize yes, he is a character in a book, he’s not so lucky with his nature and the place he goes to is not a concrete place with a gate that can be opened with a key. And I happen to believe that there are many, many real people in the world like Scott, who have experiences the rest of us could never imagine or accept, who go to places we will never visit or even be made aware of, and King’s novel, for me, explores the question of ‘what happens when a Scott marries a Lisey (for Lisey’s nature is arguably like mine)?’ What happens when grounded meets ephemeral, when dark meets light, what happens when the fanstastic happens to you? Is one capable of saving the other, or will someone always end up damaged? Do you take that leap of faith and suspend your disbelief, or do you refuse the possibility that there is more between heaven and earth than you or I could ever understand? *
In the worlds of Bikeprof, this is a good book. Read it.
In other reading news, I’ve decided to join two reading challenges happening in the blogosphere right now. The first challenge, to read five books from my own stacks, coincides nicely with my fall reading challenge and will continue that challenge until January 31st, I think. I started my first book for this challenge last night – The Kite Runner – I don’t have the author’s name in front of me. I’ve heard nothing but raves for this book, and while it begins with two of my least favorite devices, for lack of a better word (a mother dying in childbirth, a writer as narrator) I believe those who have recommended it. The other challenge is a classics reading challenge and I’ve seen various versions of it all over the internet, from reading five classics in two months to reading 13 classics in 2007. I’ve decided to go with the 13 new -to – me classics in 2007, since I have my own particular reading challenge when I turn 30 (to reread old favorites and see if they match my memory). Unlike others, I don’t have the books planned that I will read yet. I’ll just take that as it goes. Happy reading, everybody!
* Please forgive the butchered Shakespeare. I can’t even remember what play its from. My gut says Hamlet, but the lurking doubter in me wonders if its Julius Caesar…