Okay, THIS post is going to be short. Seriously.
If Stephen King had cropped out 95% of the priest’s story from Wolves of the Calla and 95% of the garbage he wrote about Susannah in Song of Susannah and combined what was left into one book, everything would have gone much better for the Dark Tower series.
Seriously. The guy prattles on for, what, TEN CHAPTERS about a woman in labour. No, longer than that. Half the goddamned book. I totally “got it” after the first scene in Susannah’s “Dogan” (snicker) and did not need to be beaten about the head and neck with it any further. I don’t know if King figured that he had to throw “more stuff in there chix would dig”, or if he really thought that page after page of repetitive dreck was *appealing* to his readers (I’ll reserve my comment about a large part of what he’s produced in the last ten years being repetitive drivel), or if his publisher just said, “Steve, this is good, but we’re going to need another 150 pages to market it to all those people who like the series but who want to get their money’s worth if they’re going to spend thirty bucks on a paperback”. In short, I don’t know what happened there, and I don’t care.
I could even live with the expository narrative of the priest in Wolves of the Calla if that had been the worst of it. But, like that feeling you get after you throw up a couple of times and are sitting in front of the terlet, pale and sweating, and thinking “I’m sure most of it HAS to be over by now”, and then you’re surprised and disgusted when whatever it is decides to erupt explosively from your body at both ends simultaneously, it was not the worst of it. If the priest’s rambling, plodding tale in Wolves of the Calla was the uncontrollable vomiting, then Susannah Mia’s one hundred page labour (and three paragraph delivery) is the explosive watery diarrhea of this series.
Now that may or may not be seen as particularly harsh. And I want to make the point that I *really like the Dark Tower series*. I LOVE the story of the Dark Tower. But what I *don’t* like is when Stephen King, like the character of the same name who appears in Song of Susannah gets lazy and forgets that he really can be a wonderful writer. What *bothers* me about those two narratives is that they are pedantic, and they do not add anything whatsoever to the story.
The old maxim “show, don’t tell” is about expository writing in a narrative. Which is to say, don’t do it. I mean, I think there’s a real danger in assuming your reader either doesn’t have the required information or cannot suss it out from the context of what’s happening in a narrative scene or passage to really grok what’s going on. That danger, of course, is in, once again, insulting your reader and their intelligence. The very best books out there just assume you can follow along, and if you can’t, well, then, you’ll just have to catch up.
The real downfall of both of these two books, the fifth and sixth in the series respectively, is that King departs from what he’s *really* good at, and that’s narrative, and instead forcibly removes the story from itself. It’s jarring, and it’s not effective. And it’s MADDENING. If that was the point, I think there would have been far better ways to do it. It’s just another one of those cases of a bunch of information that bogged down the novel rather than propelling the focus forward.
To be completely honest, the first time I went through Song of Susannah, I skipped over most of those parts. I then went back, after I’d got through the *good bits*, and re-read the boring and pedantic ones. It was a whole lot of blah-blah-blah, self-reflective bullshit, if you’ll pardon my language.
And I’m not even talking about the Deus ex novella (heh). To be completely honest with you, I LOVE how King has written himself into this series. I think it’s excellently done, and I think it says an awful lot about what this series really is about. But that’s for another post. What’s got me, once again, is what seems to me to be a disregard for the reader’s intelligence and imagination. And/or just sheer laziness.
For all that, there really was a lot that was good in the Song of Susannah, but it was overshadowed by the sheer baddery of all the crap surrounding it. One of my favourite characters in the series is introduced in this book. Why is he one of my favourites? Because he’s real, he has imagination, he has depth, and he makes sense. He FITS. Just…just flip through the crap with Susannah and move on.
I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall for the discussion with his manuscript editor wherein they talk about what bits to leave in the book and what books to remove. Actually, I would have liked to have been the editor with whom King was having that particular discussion. I would also like to be independently wealthy, weigh 60 pounds less than I do, and have a cabana boy called “Gustave” who is proficient with massage and who is on call at all hours of the day and night. But, as they say, poop in one hand and wish in the other and see which hand fills up first. (It’s the poop hand.)