Revisiting Carrie by Richard Chizmar
THAT WAS THEN…
So, I sit down a couple weeks ago and write my introduction to Stephen King Revisited and I go on and on about how King’s books carry so many personal memories for me — where I was when I first read them, who I was, what I was thinking — and now it comes time to discuss the very first King book, CARRIE, and I realize…ummmm, my memory of this one isn’t quite so clear, folks.
Great way to start this journey, huh?
But it actually makes sense when I think about it.
CARRIE was originally published in April 1974. I was eight years old at the time and busy fishing and collecting baseball cards and playing whiffle ball in the side yard with my friends. My only exposure to horror at that early age were comic books and the Saturday afternoon Creature Double Features on television.
But all that would change once I entered high school and my sophomore English teacher (thanks Mr. Gallagher!) passed out photocopies of a scary story for us to read one morning in class. It was a nasty little story called “The Monkey” by an author I had never heard of, and at first I was just thrilled to have the opportunity to read the word “fart” out loud in class (that’s pretty much a rule, by the way: all fifteen year olds love to talk about farts); but reading that story quickly turned into something far more significant for me.
By the time we’d finished reading and discussing the story, my path was clear. It was as if a secret door had been opened and I had caught a glimpse of my future in the landscape beyond. I wanted to do to others what this Stephen King guy had just done to me: he’d somehow managed to make the real world around me disappear and replaced it with a fairy tale. A dark fairy tale, to be sure, but that’s what the whole experience felt like to me: magic.
And I immediately knew that’s what I wanted in my own life.
Did I have any clue, at age fifteen, that I would eventually accomplish this as a writer, editor, publisher, and screenwriter?
Heck, no. I just somehow knew that’s where my path would eventually lead, and — with the shining stars of Steve’s wonderful books to light my way — I saw the path and followed it.
Okay, back to CARRIE…
It’s 1983 now. Senior year at Edgewood High School in northern Maryland. I’m mainly focused on lacrosse and girls, not necessarily in that order. I’ve read a couple Stephen King books by this time, but CARRIE isn’t one of them. I have seen the movie, however; the first and only time I have ever seen a King movie before reading the book. I’d liked it quite a bit. I wasn’t a big Sissy Spacek fan — what teenaged boy was? — but she was good in the film, and I remember everyone was talking about the shock ending where the hand pops up out of the grave. The movie was a bonafide hit, and the book was a runaway bestseller.
But, for some reason, I still hadn’t read it.
Until one Saturday afternoon, when I was walking the cramped aisles of Carol’s Used Bookstore, and there it was: a tattered copy of the movie tie-in paperback edition of CARRIE. Home it went with me. I didn’t sleep much that night. Or the next night. The following Monday morning, I walked the hallways of school in an exhausted daze, feeling like a zombie — and looking at my classmates in a whole different light.
Once again, the work of Stephen King had opened a door for me.
Not necessarily a good door this time around, but it was too late to turn back now.
More on that in a moment. First, some background…
I was raised in a church-going Catholic household. Like most of my neighborhood friends, I was forced to attend Sunday School, or CCD as it would later be called, until I graduated from high school (guilty admission: once I was old enough to drive, I often played hooky from Sunday morning CCD and snuck to the local McDonald’s with my friend Bobby Crawford to eat breakfast). But that was the extent of my religious upbringing. There were no extreme views preached in my house. No overbearing pressure to conform to certain beliefs or practices. No fire and brimstone (unlike my friend Ray Garton; see his chilling essay, also appearing on this website).
My parents simply exposed me to their church and encouraged me to listen and learn, while also giving me the freedom to explore these beliefs at my own pace once I became an adult.
Obviously, I was a lucky kid — and my upbringing was very different than that of the character of Carrie White.
All of which (hopefully) brings me back to my original point:
As I was curled up in my bedroom, reading CARRIE for the first time that long ago weekend, I quickly realized that it wasn’t the religious horrors of the novel that were frightening me nearly as much as the numerous scenes of every day teenage angst and social interaction (in this case, the bullying and tormenting and slow-motion destruction of a very sad girl named Carrie White).
You see, while I felt little personal connection to Carrie White, the daughter that existed with her crazy mother within the confines of their house on Carlin Street in the town of Chamberlain, I did feel a very close connection to Carrie White, the student who walked the halls of Thomas Ewen Consolidated High School.
In fact, I knew many other kids just like her.
They shuffled the halls of my own high school. Usually with their heads down. Not making eye contact. Doing their best to remain invisible.
One such boy dressed at the locker right next to me every morning for gym class. He always smelled horrible, a sour combination of body odor and either cow or pig shit that I assumed came from the dark crud that was caked on the bottom of his rotting cowboy boots. This observation, and the fact that he had a scattering of shotgun pellets embedded in his chest and the greasiest hair any of us had ever seen, somehow combined to make us all believe that he was the son of a crazy farmer, although none of us could think of a single nearby farm.
And then there was the poor girl who always wore out-of-fashion skirts and pants and sweatshirts that were too big for her and whose limp, colorless hair fell straight down onto her pale face and thick glasses, and whose father had been forced to scatter cinderblocks throughout their corner yard to try to prevent the older kids from tearing up their lawn with their cars. It worked for about a month and then the kids just started zig-zagging their way around the blocks.
These were the scenes and images from CARRIE that I could most closely relate to — and these were the scenes and images that most terrified me as a seventeen year old about to graduate and enter the real world.
After all, I knew these kids well, right? The outcasts. The jocks. The burnouts. The nice girls. The smart kids. Hell, I was one of them.
I dressed next to these kids. Sat across from them in class. Walked the hallways with them. Saw them every day at lunch and gym.
But it also felt like I didn’t really know them or see them…until I read CARRIE.
Like so many of Steve’s other books, CARRIE not only made me look at those around me in a different light, it also made me look in the mirror at myself. Trust me, these were complex feelings for a teenager growing up in a blue collar neighborhood like Edgewood.
I remember thinking: it’s okay, I’m a whole lot more like Tommy Ross and Sue Snell than I am Chris Hargensen and Billy Nolan. I talk to the smelly guy with the locker next to mine. I’m nice to the girl whose father put up the cinderblocks. I stick up for kids when one of the dumb jocks tells them they can’t sit at the same lunch table.
But then I would remember the weekend I egged a classmate’s house with my friends or the time I laughed when someone tripped in the hallway and their books went flying, and I couldn’t help but wonder — and want to do better.
I wondered about all of us after reading CARRIE. I wondered a lot.
In the simplest of terms, CARRIE, the novel and Carrie White, the character, opened my eyes and broke my heart. Into about a million pieces.
I turned the last page, and it was all I could think about: how poor Carrie White had been treated and made to feel — and how utterly hopeless and joyless her entire life had been.
And then that’s where it got a little confusing.
Because, yes, ultimately she had consciously made the choice to cross the line from bullied and abused to becoming the ultimate bully herself. But, knowing what we know, what other choice did she have? How could any of us blame her? What would any of us have done if we were in her shoes?
It was a sobering thought back then.
THIS IS NOW…
And is even moreso now.
Bullying and school violence are no longer whispered about behind closed doors. We all know the headlines. The names of the schools. The faces of the victims. And the faces of the killers. They are etched in our collective memories.
The world has been introduced to far too many Carrie Whites over the past decade or so, and more and more of them are being “made” even as I write this. Made in schools just like Thomas Ewen Consolidated High School where Carrie attended classes, and my own Edgewood High School, and schools very much like the one your own children attend.
But it’s interesting.
I am much older now with two young boys of my own, and while the Carrie Whites of the world (and the Chris Hargensens and Billy Nolans, for that matter) still strike fear in my heart, it’s the religious aspects of CARRIE and the tragic relationship Carrie has with her own mother that now frighten and disturb me most deeply.
Last week, after rereading only the first 50 pages or so, I emailed Steve and told him: “Margaret White scares the hell out of me. She is one of your finest villains.”
I may have written this in slightly more colorful language, because frankly I was astonished at how much dread and disgust I felt each time Margaret White appeared on the page. And I was equally astonished that I recalled none of these feelings from the first time I read CARRIE as a teenager.
I wanted to believe this was because I was older and wiser now. Or maybe because Momma White represented so much of what is wrong with the world today. Religious fanaticism and lunacy (Isis, anyone?). Shitty parenting (pretty much anywhere you look these days).
But I think it’s simpler than that. Margaret White haunts me. Her voice, her words, her face, the paintings in her dark, little house, the crucifixes hanging on her walls, and that horrible closet of hers…sometimes now that closet comes to me in my dreams.
And I have Steve to blame for that. Again. Even after all these years.
Margaret White, for me, is the biggest bully of them all in CARRIE. And while I come away from revisiting the novel feeling deep sorrow for Carrie White, I close the book with no pity whatsoever for her mother.
I believe that our monsters are made, not born.
* * *
It’s pretty easy to see why Stephen King catapulted to stardom and bestsellerdom on the heels of CARRIE. While raw and melodramatic at times — especially some of the dialogue — all of the trademarks of vintage Stephen King are present in his first published novel: an amazing sense of place and time; a cast of characters so real you feel like you know them; characters you learn to care about and see and feel and hear so vividly; and an absolutely incredible narrative drive that has you turning the pages as fast as you can to find out what happens next, even as you are dreading it.
* * *
The eyewitness accounts of Carrie White walking through a burning town. Bathed in blood. Eyes wide. Smiling as she disables the fire hydrants. Thinking: it’s time to teach them all a lesson.
I feel a chill just typing these words. I can see her, and like the characters who witnessed her passing that fateful night, I can feel her.
When Carrie first walks into the dance on Tommy’s arm and hears how amazing she looks and how beautiful her dress is. We can feel her happiness and relief, this poor girl who has never known a moment of pure joy; we can feel how proud she is of her dressmaking skills; how proud she is to be standing in front of the entire school with Tommy at her side. She even cracks a joke! It’s probably the one truly hopeful moment of this poor girl’s life…and it’s about to be over.
After the buckets of blood have dropped onto Carrie and Tommy, and Carrie has stumbled out of the gymnasium and chaos is breaking out, a student named Stella looks over at Norma Watson (as recounted in Norma’s Reader’s Digest article) and says, “Carrie’s back” — and then all the lobby doors slam shut.
For me, that says it all: “Carrie’s back.”
SCENE THAT STILL MAKES ME CRINGE…
When a young Carrie stumbles upon her next door neighbor sunbathing in a bikini in her back yard and Margaret comes outside and finds them talking:
“For a minute she just goggled as if she couldn’t believe it. Then she opened her mouth and whooped. That’s the ugliest sound I have ever heard in my life.
“She was shaking all over. I thought she was having a stroke. Her face was all scrunched up, and it was a gargoyle’s face.
“…and then Margaret White looked upward and I swear sweet Jesus that woman bayed at the sky. And then she started to…to hurt herself, scourge herself. She was clawing at her neck and cheeks, making red marks, and scratches. She tore her dress.
“The woman was grinning. Grinning and drooling right down her chin…”
CHARACTER I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO…
Miss Desjardin, the good intentioned, yet flawed gym teacher. I don’t think her story is over.
START DATE – October 31, 2014
FINISH DATE – November 5, 2014
You can read Richard’s follow-up post about George Chizmar 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.
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Your experience growing up rings very familiar to me and others, I’m sure. Great start to the journey!
Nice writeup. I didn’t read Carrie until a year or so ago. It is a raw and emotional story. It really moved me.
On a side note, it was neat to see that you went to Edgewood High. I am a North Harford HIgh graduate. Go Hawks!! 😉
Carrie impacted me when I read it precisely because I was one of the misfits in school. I are still an oddment pretty much everywhere I go. Even Margaret White made an impression, because I’d met Margaret Whites in my life, had one of them scream at me once when I was very young. I don’t think I’d ever do so myself, but I understand why someone can climb a tower with a rifle and a scope.
I read Carrie for the first time when I was 13. At that point in my life, other than the bizarro religious stuff, I WAS Carrie White. I remember reading the book and being jealous of her powers, wishing I could get even with the other kids like she did. As an adult, and a parent, I now have an entirely different perspective. I think every parent should have to read Carrie – either to learn to not raise a bully, or to gain some perspective on what it’s like for a kid to be an outsider, and to help them through it. Great site!
I have seen both Carrie movies, with the original DePalma one being the better, although the new one with Chloe Moretz did a good job with updates (like cell phones), I have not had the pleasure of reading Carrie the book….yet. After reading your comments Richard, I really need to get myself a copy of this. It sounds like it goes into way more detail in the book. I have a daughter who is 15 years old, and has been battling depression, etc. as a result of bullying. I am sure we all can relate to kids like this in school, and of course the religious crazies like the one portrayed in the character of Carrie’s mother. Of course, King always seems to take the ordinary fears in life and twist them to the extreme.
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When people wonder why an intelligent person like myself wastes her time reading horror stories such as Stephen King’s, I tell them how I ignore the monsters and enjoy the characterization, scene setting, life lessons, and beautifully choreographed story. Yes, the “monsters” are thrilling and scary, but you can’t beat Mr King when it comes to creating vivid, lovable, hate-able, memorable characters!! And, he seems to know how we think and what we are afraid of and how we will react. He is amazingly talented! M-O-O-N.
This is a fantastic article, Richard. In re-reading the novel, I began to think about how odd it is that King was so quick to let “Rage” fall out of print as school shootings became more rampant in America, and yet “Carrie,” to my knowledge, never really entered into the equation. Now I know there is a fundamental difference in the reality of each story, but I honestly feel that if you took away Carrie’s telekinesis, the result would be the same (albeit to a less bloody degree). Food for thought.
I can’t wait to see what you have to say about ‘Salem’s Lot. I’m cranking away at my copy – although Revival just came in the mail…
Rage was taken out of print was because it was directly implicated in several school shootings.
Richard – unlike you, I was 15 when Carrie came out & I was one of the “victimized” kids at school, so I immediately understood Carrie’s desires to “make them pay”. Unfortunately, I was also very familiar with the religious fanatics as well. Fortunately, it was not my mom or dad, but a close acquaintance. My mom knew that books were my escape, so she did very little “censoring” of what I read. Basically, as long as I felt I could understand a book, she let me read it. I remember very well the summer that I read Carrie. I had been severely bullied the last 3 days of school & I was reading Carrie. I wanted to have her powers so that I could make them pay. I also became an AVID Stephen King fan, because he understood the victim’s point of view. Since that summer, I have bought every one of his books. Now, thanks to Cemetery Dance Publications & all of the amazing people there, I can boast of a complete Stephen King library with a lot of first editions & collectables.
Richard, I too was one of those misfit kinds in school — always was. I was picked on for looking like Annie, for being short, for being overweight, for writing about people… I could totally empathize with Carrie in many ways. The scene where Carrie and Tommy enter the dance… That scene was filled with dread for me. I loved Carrie being so happy and excited — but Steve had already foreshadowed that something BAD was going to happen at the dance. I ached for Carrie. I ached for her because I know all too well what it’s like to be happy one moment and then have something BAD happen to you the next. I wanted Carrie and Tommy to be happy together — but I KNEW it was going to be impossible. If there’s an afterlife for fictional characters, I hope they’re together and happy as they could possibly be.
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My second reading of Carrie actually took place in 1980. I recently finished this novel for the fourth time as I joined Richard in revisiting all of Stephen King’s works. I felt that this book reads as if it could have been written in the last few years, without diminishing the growth that the author has achieved over the decades. Things I associate with Stephen King that I noticed while revisiting this story include the creation of characters I come to love (or hate), a great sense of dread throughout (I have started Revival and am already worrying about what the protagonist is going to reveal about later events in his life), a GREAT ability to write about young people we identify with, and the beginning of his use of parentheses to insert thoughts and ideas into the middle of the story; this is one of the elements I strongly associate with a Stephen King novel. His writing style is so distinct (to me) that when I read The Long Walk for the first time I REALLY had the sense I was reading a Stephen King novel in disguise; I was excited to later find my inclination was true! I, too, felt for Carrie White as I read of her troubles not only at school (where many youths are picked on and bullied) but at home (where she should have been able to feel safe). I appreciate that in the novel not everyone died at the prom, as was depicted in the Brian De Palma film, but that some were able to escape and we are in some small way able to hear how this incident and the events leading to it affected their lives. I also like that in the novel, although Carrie definitely causes her mother’s death, it is not in a grandiose, religious way as depicted in film. I also like that she is able to escape the house and have at least one more moment of contact with Sue, and even give her some comfort that Tommy will in some small way continue through their child. This novel feels timeless to me in the characters it portrays and the issues it raises. I am sure it is one of Stephen’s novels that I will revisit more in the future.
I had a very good friend that was bullied in school, and it would make me mad to see the other students standing around watching and laughing at every word. I took up for my friend because I could see it was really getting to her. It’s like the old adage, sticks and stones.
in a way, Carrie was letting the other bullies know, “I’m just giving you a taste of what you have been giving me a whole lot of,” and she fought back.
I first read Carrie in t g e 80’s as a teenager, and my reaction was just “wow!” Honestly, I’ve never been one to reread books, but your article has inspired me. I’m curious to see how my reactions to the book may have changed with the passage of time.
I don’t know if I’d call this a “review”, an “essay” or a “short story”… but one thing I do know, this was a wonderful read! Very well done sir! I couldn’t stop reading once I started. I can’t wait for your next one… So, get reading! ☺
Rixh, a truly excellent article that brought back stark memories of high school for me and of reading Carrie later in life. You were very poignant and thought-provoking, and I greatly enjoyed what you had to say. Thank you.
I’ve always found the words and deeds of people to be far more terrifying than the supernatural. Ghosts don’t exist and telekinesis doesn’t happen; for me, it’s easy not to fear such things. So the idea of Carrie staggering through town leaving a path of destruction in her wake was, for me, a little boring.
The scenes where Carrie is at home, at the mercy of her crazy mother? Scariest $#!+ ever. Because that level of crazy is really out there.
Thanks for the essays, reading well written words about Stephen King’s work…wonderful! How many people remembered that the pig’s blood was kept cool until it was placed above the stage? Thanks Mr. and Mrs. King!
I finished Carrie this evening. I first read this book in 2001 when I was a senior in high school. In my English class, we were assigned by our teacher, Mrs. Campbell, to pick a book of our choice and do a book report on it. I had been reading King for about two years or so at this point and I had heard a lot about this book and the 1976 movie, but I had not experienced either of them yet, so I chose to read this one. I remember flying through the pages to see what would happen and I finished the book and my report way before the due date. I felt sorry for Carrie who had no place in the world at school because of constantly being bullied, and who was constantly under the thumb of her religious nut bag mother, Margaret White. Nobody writes crazy people better than Mr. King and Margaret is one of his best still to this very day. This is a very disturbing book that exposes the evil within schools and bullying, and the evil within religion. I can see why it’s considered a horror classic these days. One nit pick I have, and it’s really just a minor thing, is the way the book is structured. It’s made up of a third person narrative, news articles, book passages, and interviews. And it jumps back and forth a lot between all of these and especially within the last third of the book, and it gives a lot of the conclusion away before you actually get there. I think I would just have preferred a straight narrative. But it doesn’t take any of the enjoyment or suspense away from the book. If anything, it just makes you fly through it even faster and maybe that was King’s intent. I know he added a lot to this book when he originally wrote it to make it novel length, so this formula might just have been a clever accident. Either way, this book was just as great as I remembered when I first read it at 17 years old.
THE HEART OF CARRIE
Finished reading Stephen King’s first novel, “Carrie.” 1 down, 73 more to go… here are my random thoughts. #stephenkingrevisited
Even in this, his debut novel, Stephen King is… Stephen King. No matter what he’s writing, there is almost always a similar format. When you start a King novel, you feel for over the first half of the book as though you are being fed more information than is necessary. Endless scenery descriptions, internal dialogues… all of which are King’s brilliant set up and it works nearly without fail. By the time you reach the half-way mark of the story, you now know these characters — this town, even — like the back of your hand, making you that much more emotionally invested once the shit hits the fan.
And, once it hits… There is not one word that feels superfluous, and you can’t. put. it. down. You carry it with you when you need to get yourself a glass of water. It’s still in your face as you pour your dog too much food because you can’t be bothered to look up. And it stays there in your face until you have turned the very last page.
In short, Stephen King often requires patience. Patience which, in the end, pays off greatly.
What’s most interesting to me about “Carrie” is the human emotion it evokes, namely that of heartbreak. While people may associate King with horror, it’s rarely the pervasive feeling one gets as a reader. Sometimes it’s nostalgia. Sometimes it’s desperation. With “Carrie,” it’s heartbreak. It is a heartbreaking story, and one that moves to tears. For we all knew — or perhaps were — a Carrie White in school. We may feel shame for how we treated them when we were “just kids,” or maybe we stood idly by and allowed such bullying to occur. But to read “Carrie” is to be enlightened as to what it is like to be in their shoes; to know the madness that ensued behind the closed doors of their homes by night, which made them so awkward by the light of day.
“Carrie” is also quite the yellow light for anyone religiously inclined. While no one wants to consider themselves as fanatical as Carrie’s mother, if you are a man or woman of faith you cannot help but see just a little of yourself in the things that Mrs. White rattles on about. Much of what she says, any believer by today’s standards would agree with. It serves as a greater reminder that religion without compassion is not only useless but very dangerous. At the end of the day, it’s the heart that matters.
Those were great thoughts on the Stephen King book, Carrie, and you are right, once you start reading it you can’t put it down.
As a writer, my “comments” inevitably turn into essays…
Off to start re-reading ‘Salem’s Lot….
I first read Carrie a year or two after publication…which would have made me a sophomore or junior in high school. This is my first re-read since…and while there were a lot of details (and characters) I didn’t remember, for the most part it was like visiting an old friend – one that changed my life and likely set me on a different path than I may have otherwise followed. I too, was a (male) Carrie in school. Mainly due to shyness and a chronic neuro-muscular disorder that makes me “different”. Let me say that I’m dismayed by the number of replies above from people that were bullied. What a huge problem we have. In 1975, bullying was part of school but it’s something much talked about these days. Here’s hoping it’s getting better (it is at my daughters’ school) and around the country (the world). Anyway, it wasn’t long after reading Carrie that I finally stood up to someone at school and while it ended in a lot more blood on me (mine!) than on the other guy, it gained me respect that I wouldn’t have had without the fight…there were “easier pickin’s to be had”…kids that wouldn’t “surprise you with a left hook”, in other words. I can’t say that I was thinking “Carrie White” when this happened but I know that her story stuck with me like velcro. I was so pissed off at the kids (especially Chris Hargenson and Billy Nolan, of course) that I remember my eyes watering when reading some of the scenes of “peer cruelty”. So the “friendship” with Stephen King began then and I’ve been a “Constant Reader” since. I went on to get a degree, have worked in a TV station for near 30 years and have 2 wonderful high school daughters that are each smart, athletic and compassionate. Thank you Stephen.
Enough of that…about the book! I have only a few comments that haven’t already been mentioned and I agree with many of the comments above.
I loved the combination of “REAL, THIS IS HAPPENING TODAY” scenes, (bullying and “Mom”) alongside the telekinetic storyline. You just knew from the start the two would intersect but you didn’t know how.
I thought it was an interesting choice to use the last name “White”…what a subtle oxymoron.
I also noticed on this read the mention of “The Black Man” which I tend to believe is the same character we’ve read about in so many wonderful SK works.
I also thought the addition of the “nice couple”, Sue Snell and Tommy Ross was interesting and of course, crucial to the story. That was a bit “fairytaleish” (my word), if you will but for many, it may have seemed more plausible…remember, I was bullied and never met either of those people in my school days, so it seemed a stretch but it was comforting to think about.
I thought the last scene with Sue and Carrie was very touching.
And I hope Richard is reading this…did your dad know SK? I was shocked when re-reading the book to find the soft spoken, artistic George Chizmar!!! Seriously? That’s not Jones or Smith, folks…that’s Chizmar. So Richard, please share!!!
Lastly, I’d like to briefly comment on a couple of posts…Robert Walton, I too, have always been enthralled with SK’s style of using parenthesis (you may have noticed if you’ve read this far). It’s typically used to interrupt a 3rd person description of what someone is doing to allow a 1st person comment or perspective and I think it’s stylistically awesome! I also agree with your take on some students living in the book. How else would the story have been retold? And that takes me to a comment by Adam Hall. You didn’t care for the interjection of book outtakes within the story…some of which gave away things we’d later experience. I’m not saying you’re wrong but you got me thinking. How many times have we read a shocking sentence, usually at the end of a chapter or subchapter that say’s something like, “and that was the last sunset (insert name) would see in this life” or something to that effect? It pissed me off a few times in earlier stories but I came to expect and love when it happened because when you eventually get to the narrative in which that person dies, it does something…you know what’s going to happen in the end but somehow, in that knowing, getting to the climactic scene makes you pay more attention to what is happening (i.e., heartbeat quickens a bit more) than if you didn’t know how it would end up. Weird maybe but for me, it’s just more “SK genius”.
This was great and I’m having trouble reading Revival and ‘Salem’s Lot at the same time. Geez, thanks a lot Richard! 🙂
The Black Man?? Ok, now I have to go dig through my copy of it and find it!!
I too wondered about the Black Man relating to other characters along the way in SK’s writings. (On pg. 33 and 42 in my ebook.) Of course evil is evil and equals blackness/darkness, which can be seen throughout time. It would be really nice to hear SK’s take on it. Is the Black Man in reference to the Dark Man or other such characters? My apologies if this is answered below, I was at a SK book signing in DC and just returned. He’s such a hoot to listen to.
I, too, was reading ‘Salem’s Lot and Revival at the same time. In my post on ‘Salem’s Lot I remarked that (on the strength of the writing alone) I think it would be hard to determine these two novels were written 40 years apart. He is (and always has been!) that good.
I Did not read Carrie for Forty years ….I started off my experience of SK by walking into theatre class for 3 days with someones book they had forgotten underneath the water fountain…. …I look at it (avid reader that I am) and could not make out what it was or who wrote it ….all black with one spot of red on it ……I am jumping ahead and will come back to this once re-read ..moving on …..Like Richard says I had seen the movie …..liked it …kinda quirky but loved the ending!!!! Teenager angst!!! Now I am into Audiobooks ….visualization to the max!! Yea SK loves Audio and so do I !!!! SK Revisited forces me to READ/Listen to Carrie …….Totally blows my socks off!!! I think waiting this long to finally hear the master tell the original Lines is the best thing that I could have done….Salem’s Lot was such a powerful novel for me that if I had read Carrie first I might not have read it. Meaning ….Carrie is about teenagers and school life and bullying and then the private hell of home life that no one really see’s in high school! After living my dysfunctional growing up life and then having a child way too young then raising to step children (I call my Own) and living life …I can now see all points of perception and the ignorance and why they THOUGHT they were doing the right or wrong thing! In Carrie I see all the generations and how they were brought and HOW they sometimes just don’t get along! It’s a cycle that we must all live thru………..
I started rereading kings books in chronological order earlier this summer. So far I’m up to roadwork. Its great to see I’m not the only crazy person attempting to reread them all.
I would also like to know Stephen King’s thoughts on the black man or dark man, relating to other characters.
Can somebody please enlighten me as to what “some mythic honcho yelled frog” refers to?
If I remember correctly, it’s referring to someone working a boring 9-5 job. I think that “some mythic honcho” is the boss/petty tyrant, and “yelled frog” is another way of saying “jump”. To me, it was another way of saying “When he says jump, you ask how high.” Then again, it’s been a long time since I read Carrie, and I could be mistaken on the meaning of that part.
These are such wonderful comments! I’m so grateful for your contributions, and I hope you will all encourage others to join us!
UPDATE: I finished reading ‘SALEM’S LOT this afternoon. Look for a post in the next few days!
I am reading Salem’s Lot right now and it is beginning to creep in on me as I go through each chapter.
That was a beautiful essay that I found very moving. I was particularly touched by the idea that you were such a sensitive teen that the book truly caused gave you pause to really consider your behavior and treatment of your peers.
Hello Richard, WOW! I was notified of your essay about CARRIE by Cemetary Dance because I ordered their upcoming version of the book. I have been reading King since SALEM’S LOT first came out (then went back immediately to CARRIE!). I don’t even remember the year, but I was a teenager. I have purchased every book he has written RIGHT AS THEY CAME OUT, and still have each first edition in my collection. I have never thought to go back and re-read any of them, except THE SHINING, which creeped into my Nook a few months ago. Hmmmmmmmmmmm. With so many books being released so often, and being an inhaler of books in any event, I’ve not been one to re-read books… Although I do remember them dearly. Stephen King and Anne Rice are my favorite authors and, of course, they both just recently released new books — which I read ravenously upon receipt. The point of this is to let you know two things: 1. I signed up for all your essays regarding King, and 2. I’ll be re-reading my first editions right away. THANKS! Linda
Linda– sure am glad to hear I am not the only one who has kept up year to year with his new books coming out. My mom gave me every Christmas Stephens new book. I now have my entryway in my hall covered with many King posters, it is too cool. Thanks for your comments and letting me know I am not alone.
Sandra, ain’t it great?!
My friend and I co-host a podcast talking about books and movies. It’s called “Book Vs Movie” and we talked about Carrie last month. If any of you are interested–it’s on iTunes and Sticher. I would love the feedback because I found myself regretting how I described Carrie in the book.
The movie still haunts me as well. I can’t imagine anyone than Piper Laurie as Margaret White.
No need to go so far afield as the middle east to find religious fanaticism–anyone turned on the 700 Club lately? “Our version of God can beat up their version of God” is alive and well on your block and mine. Margaret White may live next door. And while there is not much point in wasting the pity on her, she is nevertheless pitiful. Because, guess what, all that crap she dumps on her daughter, somebody dumped it on Margaret when she was a girl. She’s just passing it along. Hence one of the values of Stephen King’s book, to reveal fanaticism for what it is. Plus, it’s just a darn good tale. Take your pick.
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This is a 5 out of 5 book. For some reason I missed or skipped the book when I was younger and finally read the first time while in Iraq in ’05. I reread it last year. I have vivid memories of reading the final chapters while in a bunker waiting for the mortar strike to be over!
Any other Tower fans notice Billy’s “beam-walking”? And Carrie’s perception of glammer…er, Glamor, a few pages later?
I don’t remember when I first read CARRIE. It was probably around 1985 or so and I found it to be an interesting read. I had seen the movie before reading the book I’m fairly sure. I have the gift Edition on pre-order with CD already and will be pre-ordering SALEM’S LOT as soon as it is offered. If they are all as nice as the pics of seen of CARRIE they will be nice book for sure.
Richard, I joined the party a little late but just finished Carrie. This is at least my third time through and I still love the book, even though, as you mentioned, it is probably King’s rawest work.
Near the end of the book, I began wondering what happened to Chamberlain. All of the townsfolk were listing their homes and moving away. It could make for a good story if someone explored what might happen if someone with financial means bought all those abandoned homes and buildings…
I don’t remember if Carrie was the first King I ever read or if The Shining was my first.
I really like Carrie cause King really makes the young kids believable, he can really make you feel the terror, insecurity and all other emotions. same with the kids’s stories in It, the story of young Roland Deschain, The Body,….)
My favorite scene is when Carrie has put on her dress for prom and her mother tries a last time to convince her not to go to the prom. But Carrie very firmly stands up to her.
Most moving scene: when Tommy arrives and Carrie, very afraid the whole thing was a joke, asks him if he likes her.
Wow. That was such a good essay, Richard! Brought me right into your world.
I just finished reading CARRIE tonight, and, although I had read Bev Vincent’s historical context as well as your other article on George Chizmar, I hadn’t read this one. I’m quite glad, since it really resonates with the feelings I got when reading. Otherwise, I would probably have thought I somehow manipulated my opinion subconsciously while reading the book. You see, my actor self remains quite present from time to time. “Overly sensitive,” as they say…
I wanted to sleep on my impressions on it all before posting, however I will say this:
Like you, I didn’t read CARRIE when it came out. The reason is, I hadn’t come out yet. My first contact with Stephen King wasn’t with his first novel, yet, I went back to read it and it felt all too present in my high school years. I had a very good friend like Carrie (no, TK not apparent…) and the scariest thing about the book, if I recall properly, was the mind-blowing devastation caused by people pushing her to the edge. I felt like I wanted to help all the Carries at school, but I only new one.
Like you, now, as a parent, I read this, and I TOTALLY want to dive into the book and shake that “villain” (like you say), that word-piercing-dagger-tongue-overly-cruel-religion-obsessed mother… Bullying scares me, and drives me quite nuts, in ways only parents understand.
So. Bottom line, great read! I’ll post some more tomorrow.
Then, off to Salem’s Lot!
Thank you again for this marvelous journey. Such a blast.
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I’ve decided to also do a read- along, or listen-along, as I listened to a few books on audio. My favorite line takes place when Tommy and Carrie have arrived at the prom, and he starts mock- fighting with a friend. At first Carrie thinks they are serious: “Then she realized it was an old game often played, well loved.”
I think I’ve read similar lines before, but I just loved the sound of it.