Sunday, March 4, 2012

Constant Reading Project: Good doggy

Carrie White died, but Sue Snell got to live. So did Mark Petrie, Danny Torrance and Charlie McGee. But poor, doomed Tad Trenton never breathed another live breath outside of his mom's blue Pinto.

Tad isn't the last doomed child in Stephen King's works. We'll get to Gage Creed soon enough. But really, was anyone surprised that Tad didn't survive? I was the first time I read Cujo but mostly because I'd seen the damn movie when I was younger. The kid lives on and eventually has Tony Danza washing his Underoos.

Cujo is a prime example of how King fills in the lives of the people around the central event. Nothing that happens happens in a vacuum. Sometimes that means a whole heap of shit can happen to one person all at once, such as the stretched a million ways Vic Trenton. Sometimes things can happen while you are away, as it does with Vic and Charity and Brett Camber. The left just time to avoid the massive shitstorm their dog leaves behind. Unlike the Trentons, they don't seem much worse for wear at the end of it all.

Multiple subplots in a short novel (Cujo, in paperback, chimes in at 304 pages) can seem like filler, upping the page count -- and the retail price. When they work, it helps us to understand the characters better. When they don't, fills like wasted space. The various subplots in Cujo go both ways. At one moment, it's easy to see that certain things had to happen in a certain way for Donna and Tad Trenton to be stuck in that damnable Pinto with little hope of rescue. All too often, these devices reek of a type of  dues ex machina. The hero who just happens to have the one key to open the locked dungeon or the cracked baseball bat that has been laying in the weeds the entire novel. Forced subplots to reach a certain end can feel arbitrary and unorganic (how I feel about Firestarter, for example). Sometimes those subplots can come before the main plot or can be taken from failed story ideas. Cujo gives me that sense. That if the big dumb dog hadn't chased a rabbit one day, Tad Trenton would have faced some other monster down the road. Or his daddy might have had a harder time with the cereal that made kids puke and shit red. Who knows?

What I do know is that I like this book. It moves. Even when we're sitting with someone else outside the broken car in the Camber's yard, the book doesn't stall. It picks up sped right until it crashes us head first into the wall of Tad dying, just when it seemed everything would be OK.

Life doesn't have too many happy endings, the lesson could be. One day you win the lottery, the next your abusive husband is killed by your rabid dog. One day you find out your business is going under and your wife cheated on you. Then you find out the affair is over and your job might be saved after all. Then your kid dies.

Life sucks sometimes. Let's move on to the next book, The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger.

For those keeping score, we've read nine books and 4,403 pages. Yes, we're behind, but we have five books to go until we get to another 600-page plus behemoth.
 

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