Saturday, March 24, 2012

Constant reading project: unending Fury

Christine is a heavy book. It's full of teen angst: dealing with high school bullies, first loves, first cars, first jobs, losing first friends, fights with parents, and getting ready to face the world on your own.

The transition isn't easy and it's harder for some. Poor Arnie Cunningham is one of those kids whose parents cradled him until he had to break out. Those kids are usually the ones who fall hardest. Arnie falls as hard as one can for Christine, the 1958 Plymouth Fury from hell. He falls for teen queen Leigh Cabot almost as hard. Tragically, the two compete for Arnie's love and Christine came first. Heck, Christine even trumps Arnie's lifelong friendship with narrator Dennis Guilder.

Christine is divided into three parts, each reflecting the dominate character of the arc. Part one is told by Dennis in first person. He's there for the action. Part two is still told by Dennis, but in a third person limited. He knows a lot but he wasn't there. He was laid in the hospital while bad things happen. For the final segment, Dennis is back, he's all there, but the last part is all about how to beat Christine and hopefully save Arnie.

Did I mention this was a tragic tale? Nobody would care about "The Leader of the Pack" if he didn't die and leave his girl to tell about it.

What stands out is the relentlessness of the violence in Christine. The car doesn't just run over people it doesn't like. It (she?) backs over them until they're pulp. It pursues until what's left is so much flaming wreckage the bodies are identified with dental records. It's not enough for Christine to scare a man to death by crashing into his house. She (it?) has to be sure the job is done.

The action sequences are drawn out and feel like they last longer in this book than in some of King's other work. I often feel that things happen too fast. In Christine, scenes are stretched out to their excruciating limits but it doesn't feel gratuitous. Less would be disappointing; more would be too much.

The relentlessness -- King uses the phrase "unending fury"-- is in Arnie and Christine's original owner Roland Lebay. Lebay is an angry old coot who plays a larger role in the book than in the film. He dies, but never goes away. In the film, we see Christine mend herself with only Arnie's love to feed on. In the book, we see more of Arnie's blood, sweat and tears as he must push the car around the lot behind Darnell's garage in order to turn back the odometer and thereby time itself on Christine. He hurts his back doing and ends up in a brace just like Lebay.

King brings more questions to the table than answers and I'm sure he likes it that way. Would Christine have turned into the malevolent bitch she did if Lebay hadn't been such an ass? Is it Lebay who haunts the car or is Christine self-possessed? Can Arnie be saved from the horrid couple (Christine and Lebay) and saved from himself?

In any tragedy worth its salt, everyone suffers. Redemption is reserved for survivors. There is always collateral damage.

And, in case you forgot, high school sucks.

That's another 503 pages down, taking us to 5,754 total pages read so far. Up next, Pet Sematary. 

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