Carrie: The Curious Case of George Chizmar by Richard Chizmar
On page 82 of the first edition hardcover edition of CARRIE, we are introduced to a character by the name of George Chizmar:
“George Chizmar, Ewen’s most artistic student, had done a small chalk sketch of gondolas on a canal at sunset and a gondolier in a huge straw fedora leaning against the tiller as a gorgeous panoply of pinks and reds and oranges stained both sky and water.”
I remember being stunned, and more than a little pleased, the first time I read that sentence. I had never before seen my last name (trust me, it’s not a common one) in any work of fiction, so for it to appear in my favorite author’s debut novel was quite a thrill.
Of course, it also led to many years of inevitable questions: did Stephen King name Ewen’s most artistic student after you, Rich? Did he know your father? Your uncle?
While I would love to spin an elaborate tale of how a grade school-age Richard Chizmar crossed paths with a young Stephen King one afternoon during a summer vacation to Maine with my family and so impressed young Steve that he named a character in his first novel after me… it’s simply not true. Dammit.
The truth — to me — is equally fascinating and is as follows: as noted in his 2000 non-fiction release, ON WRITING, one of King’s high school classmates was named John Chizmar (no relation, as far as I know, to myself, or my real life older bother, John Chizmar). On page 88 of the Scribner hardcover of ON WRITING, King writes in colorful detail about his first experience with getting drunk and how it occurred during a senior class trip to Washington. His cohorts that wild night were a few other classmates named Peter Higgins, Butch Michaud, Lenny Partridge, and JOHN CHIZMAR.
So, there you have it: CARRIE’s George Chizmar was named after King’s real life friend, John Chizmar.
I recently asked Steve what, if anything, he remembered about his old school buddy, John Chizmar, and his answer was succinct: “he was a big galoot.”
I’m tickled that there was a real-life “Chizmar” in Stephen King’s early life, and that his — and my — name made it into CARRIE. Somehow, that feels right to me. Like maybe it was supposed to happen that way.
But there is one thing that still keeps me up some nights, wondering…
Do you think our artistic friend, George Chizmar, made it out of the burning Ewen Consolidated gymnasium that fateful night?
(With my thanks to Max Hunt for reminding me that I somehow had forgotten to mention The Curious Case of George Chizmar in my initial essay.)
You can read Richard’s original essay about Carrie here or you can read Bev Vincent’s post about the history of Carrie or Ray Garton’s essay about his personal experience with the book. The complete list of the books to be read can be found on the Stephen King Books In Chronological Order For Stephen King Revisited Reading Lists page. To be notified of new posts and updates via email, please sign-up using the box on the right side or the bottom of this site.