Anyone who is anyone knows about Stephen King’s Carrie. Most predominate, perhaps, horror junkies and fans of the man himself – a literal King by name and a figurative one of the genre.
First published in 1974, Carrie was a tale like no other and took many by surprise, author included. In his new introductory preface, King speaks of the process behind the book – how the first few chapters laid crumpled in a wicker bin until his wife picked out the transcript and began reading. She encouraged him to complete the compelling tale of Carrie and her school friends; a tale which spawned a 1976 adaptation with the infamous Sissy Spacek playing ‘the girl with the gift’.
With a remake planned for release in 2013, a re-reading of the classic was due.
The most striking aspect of the book is its focus on perspectives. Carrie’s life is told through various newspaper cuttings, journal articles and interview transcripts, along with other characters and witnesses. In the characterisation of Carrie, King provides us with a spectre, a shadow, a character that knows only innocence and nothing about social reality. He also makes clear the knowledge that Carrie White is doomed, inevitably, from birth.
In one of the book’s more pertinent scenes, King’s linguistic skill is evident by his delicate handling of that matter of utmost importance (and abhorrence) to women: menstruation.
Carrie, goggle-eyed and doused in confusion, simply murmurs ‘Ohuh?’ through the caterwauling of teenage girls crying ‘PER-iod!’ She is in a daze – never before having seen a tampon when it strikes her on the chest, falling to the shower-tiled floor. There is something terribly amusing when King describes the showering of tampons ‘like snow’, building the explosive chanting of the girls to a metaphorical snowstorm through the words ‘plug it up’.
It is the image of Carrie however, quivering in the corner of the stalls, bleeding and showing no sign of coherence that makes the reader begin to empathise. King’s dark and humorous writing forces Carrie’s innocent and dull-witted character to life and it is this that makes the ending all the more exciting.
Though films may give you a larger perspective of Carrie’s world, it is King’s writing that keeps you grounded to the action. Through a range of perspectives we see Carrie, teetering on the edge of her telekinetic powers, gradually become the woman she was born to be – a woman who knows blood intimately.
Book Review by Colette Stirling