Needful Quotes

The following are quotes from Stephen King’s Needful things.

download.jpg“At fifty-one you had to keep running just to escape the avalanche of your own past.” (p. 99)

“Brian had uncovered one of the great truths of small towns: many secrets—in fact, all the really important secrets—cannot be shared. Because word has a way of getting around, and getting around fast.” (p. 111)

“She didn’t like lying to Alan; she believed that lies and love rarely went together, and never for long.” (p. 220)

” ‘We call this store Endsville,’ the voice said. ‘Because it’s the place where all goods and services terminate.’ ” (p. 254)

” ‘Men and women who can’t get over the past,’ Aunt Evvie said. ‘That’s what ghosts are. Not them.’ She flapped her arm toward the coffin which stood on its bands beside the coincidentally fresh grave. ‘The dead are dead. We bury them, and buried they stay.’ ” (p. 304)

” ‘When you deal with me,’ Mr. Gaunt said, winding up to throw, ‘you want to remember two things: Mr Gaunt knows best…and the dealing isn’t done until Mr. Gaunt says the dealing’s done.’ ” (p. 331)

“He had known it would, just as  he knew that some tears have to be cried no matter what the hour—until they are, they simply rave and burn inside.” (p. 421)

“Mr. Gaunt steepled his fingers under his chin. ‘Perhaps it isn’t even a book at all. Perhaps all the really special things I sell aren’t what they appear to be. Perhaps they are actually gray things with only one remarkable property—the ability to take shapes of those things which haunt the dreams of men and women.’ He paused, then added thoughtfully: ‘Perhaps they are dreams themselves.’ ” (p. 473)

“Sonny Jackett and Leland Gaunt—just a couple of grinning men of the world.” (p.572)

“Because every choice had consequences. Because in America, you could have anything you wanted, just as long as you could pay for it. If you couldn’t pay, or refused to pay, you would remain needful forever.” (p. 587-588)

“Some went running, with the wide eyes of men and women who have glimpsed a frightful fiend licking its chops in the shadows.” (p. 748)

“Times changed; methods changed; faces, too. But when the faces were needful they were always the same, the faces of sheep who have lost their shepherd, and it was with this sort of commerce that he felt most at home, most like that wandering peddler of old, standing not behind a fancy counter with a Sweda cash register nearby but behind a plain wooden table, making change out of a cigar box and selling them the same item over and over and over again.” (p. 748-749)

“He looked down and saw that he was still holding it. He opened his hand and it fell to the kitchen linoleum, making a bloody splatter there. He stood looking at this splatter for almost a full minute with a kind of idiot attention. It looked to him like a sketch of his father’s face drawn in blood.” (p. 780)

“Aunt Evvie! Polly cried in her dream. A vast delight and an even vaster relief—that relief we only know in happy dreams, and in the moment of waking from horrid ones—filled her like light.” (p. 858)

“I wanted so badly for the pain to be gone, Alan. That was what I wanted, but I don’t need it to be gone. I can love you and I can love life and bear the pain all at the same time. I think the pain might even make the rest better, the way a good setting can make a diamond look better.” (p. 913-914)

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Deus Ex Machina In The Maze

The following is in response to The Maze Runner series (excluding the prequels) by James Dashner.

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Having seen the film based on the first book of this series in 2014, I was excited to finally get a chance to dig into Dashner’s words for myself. It is very evident right off the bat that the movie and the film have their differences, as most film adaptations do. I probably sound like a broken record at this point, pointing out yet again that in most cases the book is better than the film, however this one seemingly ubiquitous truth is, as it turns out, not so ubiquitous. Meaning: the film was better than the book. My mouth feels dirty when I say it and my brain is irksome when I think it, but it’s true. The writing was mundane and didn’t linger much on the adult themes and perils that the teenagers face in these books. I was want of an existential dialogue on what it means to witness death.

The broader theories were there. In the series, the teenagers come to find out that all the hell that they have been put through is so that their brain patterns can be mapped into a cure for a disease that has ravaged the planet. In the trials that they go through, many of the kids are badly wounded and even killed. Does the ends justify the means? The idea was brought up briefly by the main character, but I needed more. The question of means and ends and their justifications in between were decided, but there was not much inner turmoil going on in the characters that made this decision a hard one. It just felt like the author answered this question for the reader without much of the reader’s involvement.

Another disappointing feature about the series is the ending. After all the deaths that the trials have caused, the cure is not found and the remaining kids are saved at the last minute by an unseen character that magically has a place for them to go to and restart the human race. It was very much out of left-field, a deus ex machina that really took me out of the story.

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Characterizing The Dog

The following is in response to Stephen King’s Cujo.

cujoStephen King famously wrote this book while addicted to alcohol and doesn’t remember writing it at all. Miraculously you couldn’t tell by the book which is written amazingly well; at least I couldn’t tell. I guess he was as good at drinking as he was at writing, picking up bottles like pencils and putting them to his lips like graphite on paper. Practice makes perfect.

This is a good book to reference for characterization. We get to know the characters so well, even the dog’s (pre and post the rabies), and it makes the penultimate stand off between Cujo and Donna that more meaningful. And the more we get to see the characters the more a dichotomy of relationships bears its ugly head. On one hand you have Donna and Vic (and their son, affectionately nicknamed The Tadder). Donna has cheated on her husband and their problems are spread across miles of the country because Vic has to leave the state for his job. Joe and Charity (and their son Brett, who is Cujo’s owner) are on the other hand. Charity hasn’t cheated on Joe, at least not in the same sense. She has been looking for a way to get some time away from her overbearing, country, and often abusive husband and when she wins five thousand dollars from the lottery that opportunity to get away presents itself. Charity and Brett board a greyhound for her sisters and the miles roam steadily by. The characters are different—Joe is country man who drinks too much and Vic is a respected ad-man who nearly cried when he finds out his wife was cheating—but they end up in similar situations.

But which of the ones left behind will survive the rabid, mutant-minded canine? To find out you have to read the book. The funny thing is that when I read this book I was sitting in my car, not trapped but in my car nonetheless like Donna and her doomed son. I read a lot on lunch breaks in hot parking lots, sometimes in Castle Rock (Colorado not Maine as in the book, but eerily the same name). The immersion was real.

The final thing I want to talk about is the connection between this book and The Dead Zone. In The Dead Zone, the future-seeing-hero John Smith encounters a serial rapist and murderer Frank Dodd (It’s a good book-the killer turns out to be a cop and that’s not even the main antagonist). Frank Dodd, who kills himself in The Dead Zone, seems to be haunting the Tadder. Tad’s bedroom door mysteriously opens by itself during the night and Tad swears he can see someone inside; he depicts this man as Dodd. However when Tad falls asleep one afternoon he wakes to see the real face of the monster haunting him: “He saw it only for a second, loing enough to tell it wasn’t the man in the shiny black raincoat, Frank Dodd, the who had killed the ladies. Not him. Something else. Something with red eyes like bloody sunsets (P. 223).”

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Searching For The Color of Magic

The following is in response to Terry Pratchett’s first Discworld novel The Color of Magic.

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Ahhh. Can you smell that? It’s the first book of the year, and like the first cup of coffee in the morning this book will wake you up and crank-start the gears in the old noggin. My preamble to this post is that I started my journey of Rincewind the wizard (or should I say excuse-for-a-wizard) and the tourist from elsewhere, Twoflower, with the second book in the series. That is, I read The Light Fantastic before The Color of Magic. Luckily for me the story doesn’t follow some central plot; Pratchett does weave treads through his work, but they are more about humor than creating a fixed story line. Anyways, I mention this to share this anecdote: I found The Light Fantastic (and Witches Abroad and Eric for that matter) at the dollar store I worked in after college. They were a dollar each, cradled haphazardly in a metal display rack that swiveled with a flick of the wrist. Of course the entire thing, books and all, was covered in a layer of dust—I guess no one wants to read one-dollar-fantasies but this guy. In one full rotation of the metal rack, I found these gems stuffed between the rough of cheesy romance novels with cowboys and half-naked heroines on the cover. I sat on them for a while, as one does after exiting college, and I didn’t read them until last year.

Fast forward to me buying The Color of Magic, which I had to find online for around ten dollars. That’s right, ten times more expensive. It was worth the search and the money.

The Color of Magic (which is Octarine by the way) was about how Rincewind came to know Twoflower. As it turns out, our first and only tourist of Discworld is from the island of Bes Pelargic and he is an insurance agent. A few pages in the book and he manages to start a fire in Ankh-Morpork and the two have to flee the city only to get separated and then reunited at the temple of Bel-Shamharoth, the eater of souls. And there’s more. The story jumps around a little, as most of the Discworld fantasies do,  and there is over six months of adventures for our two characters. They ride dragons, a plane, and a boat to the edge of the world. Pratchett’s brew of fiction-coffee is a little strange at first but it will have you laughing and turning pages.

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A (Cat’s) Cradlefull of Quotes

The following are quotes from Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, the twenty-seventh and final book that I read this year.

9k“She fired me. I shall never forget her. She believed that God liked people in sailboats much better than He liked people in motorboats. (4-5)”

“The fat woman’s expression implied that she would go crazy on the spot if anybody did anymore thinking. (33)”

‘He shuddered, “Sometimes I wonder if he wasn’t born dead. I never met a man that was less interested in the living. Sometimes I think that’s the trouble with the world: too many people in high places who are stone-cold dead.” (68)’

‘”She broke my heart. I didn’t like that much. But that was the price. In this world, you get what you pay for.” (128)’

‘”A pissant is somebody who thinks he’s so damn smart, he never can keep his mouth shut. No matter what anybody says, he’s got to argue with it. You say you like something and, by God, he’ll tell you why you’re wrong to like it. A pissant does his best to make you feel like a boob all the time. No matter what you say, he knows better.” (130)’

‘”I think, therefore I am, therefore I am photographable.” (151)’

‘Newt remained curled in the chair. He held out his painty hands as though a cat’s cradle were strung between them. “No wonder kids grow up crazy. A cat’s cradle is nothing but a bunch of X’s between somebody’s hands, and little kids look and look and look at all those X’s…” (165-166)’

‘He faced the sheet of water that curtained the cave. “Maturity, the way I understand it,” he told me, “Is knowing what your limitations are.” (198)’

“So I wrote my speech in a round, bare room at the foot of a tower. There was a table and a chair. And the speech I wrote was round and bare and sparsely furnished, too. (225)”

“When a man becomes a writer, I think he takes on a sacred obligation to produce beauty and enlightenment and comfort at top speed. (231)”

‘”I wonder what happened to a lot of things,” said Angela. The question echoed back through time—woeful and lost. (249)”

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The Gunslinger

The following is in response to Stephen King’s The Gunslinger.

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This book is part one of the Dark Tower series, the longest series that Stephen King was penned amounting to a total of seven (eight if you count The Wind Through the Keyhole, which I believe is set in the same universe as the other seven). This book is also the twenty-sixth book that I read this year as part of my goodreads.com challenge. The Gunslinger, our protagonist Roland, is on a journey to find The Man in Black. To be honest it is a relatively simple story, spattered with a few complex sections and ideas.

To sum up the overall demise of the dystopian world that King has created here I turn to a scene early on in the book; Roland has stopped is journey for a moment in a border town of Tull. “Alice watched them and felt a pang of fleeting despair for the sad times of this world. The loss. Things had stretched apart. There was no glue at the center anymore. Somewhere something was tottering, and when it fell, all would end. She had never seen the ocean, never would. (55)”

One of those complex ideas that I mentioned is from a flashback. Roland has an interesting childhood that made him the man he is today. When talking to his father about the cook, who turns out to be a traitor, he father says, “Perhaps, not for a while. But in the end, someone always has to have his of her neck popped, as you so quaintly put it. The people demand it. Sooner or later, if there isn’t a turncoat, the people make one. (159)” This line on turncoats ruminated with me for some time. I asked myself, has this happened in our society? Who has been a traitor in the US that was created only by the people? Does this really happen?

The Man in Black took a boy, Jake, out of a time that resembles our own and plopped him down in the path of Roland, in order to stymie is pursuit. Ultimately the boy had to die—the most important thing to Roland is that he reach The Man in Black—but that does not mean that Roland does not feel for the boy and that his death does not phase him. “It came to him that there would be further degradations of the spirit ahead that might make this one seem infinitesimal, and yet he would still flee it, down corridors and through cities, from bed to bed; he would flee the boy’s face and try to bury it in cunts and killing, only to enter one final room and find it looking at him over a candle flame. He had become the boy; the boy had become him. He was become a werewolf of his own making. In deep dreams he would become the boy and speak the boy’s strange city tongue. (291)”

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Doomed

The following is in response to Chuck Palahniuk’s Doomed.

imgresDoomed is the twenty-fifth book that I read this year as part of my goodreads.com challenge. This book is the sequel to Damned, a story in which a little girl, Madison Spencer, dies and goes to hell. In this story, little Maddy is back on Earth as a ghost in purgatory. I wonder if Palahnhiuk will do a third book  where Madison is in heavan, thus completing the modern Dante-like series. I really enjoyed this book. It had me hooked from the start (pages nine and eight) with a metaphor comparing the stomach and the brain—the brain indeed does look like “brown intestines” as if it were “thinking bowels”. And then there’s the metaphor of Tourette’s Syndrom being prayer on page sixty that I thought was interesting.

Madison relives her past, when she was forced to live with her Nana. She is miserable at first, but she then starts reading Darwin’s The Voyage of the Beagle. This coincidentally brings up memories of the old debates of creationism and evolution. In a scene (on page one hundred and five), Maddy is fording a river of traffic with her hands sticking together because of a glass of tea in her hands. The entire thing is reminiscent of evolution—I imagined her as a creature wading through Euphrates with webbed fingers, a water-breather becoming an amphibian. Darwin’s natural selections, evolution, it’s all here in the protagonists past like it’s in the past of all mankind, forming a sturdy foundation not just for Palahniuk’s character but for all of his readers as well.

 

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