I don’t know why she’s leaving, or where she’s going to go

First, there was Alice.

http://nac-cna.ca/englishtheatre/event/8444You have lived your whole life in the lap of storytellers; everything you have learned, everything you remember, is from stories told over and over. The reason we tell stories is because this is how we learn. History is nothing without the narrative; every religion began as a story – some way of shaping what’s around us, some way of making sense of who we are and why we are the way we are.

At some point, you read Lewis Carroll. Maybe you were just little. Maybe you were older, in University, and a girl you liked read Alice Through the Looking Glass. That girl liked you too. An awful lot. She won’t remember, years from then, which of you most resembled the White King, but she will think it is you, because she…SHE…is the one who sometimes believes a half dozen impossible things before breakfast. You were one of them.

Later, a different boy would hear her read Alice in Wonderland and would give her both stories bound in cloth, cuddled together in a sturdy red box with foil reproductions of the woodcut illustrations on the cover. That would be the moment she knew she was in love with him.

Look, verbs are difficult. Tenses muck everything up. Because even later than THAT, the girl would be in a far-away city (relatively speaking), and she would go and see Alice, on stage.

Alice Through the Looking Glass
Alice Through the Looking Glass

And it would be the most magical, the most achingly beautiful thing she will ever have seen. Better yet, she will have gone to a dress rehearsal, and she will have been one of the first people to see the performance on stage; on this stage. On the chessboard.

It will have started with Alice. Then, two Alices, as the mirror rotated in a complete circle, over and over and over. Where did that other Alice come from? The girl will have spent the evening full of so much joy she wept. She laughed and wept and laughed and cheered and there will have been jellybeans. JELLYBEANS FALLING FROM THE SKY FOR EVERYONE. And the jellybeans made it rain on stage and verbs. Verbs are tricksy things. Very slippery. Very verby.


Amazing Stories Blog Tour

As part of the Amazing Stories Blog Team, I have completed a book review for a blog tour. The review was published today.

I’d like to point out that the first story in the collection I reviewed (called Tomorrow: Apocalyptic Short Stories from Australian publisher Kayelle Press) was penned by a friend of mine from Saskatoon who now lives in Calgary. His name is Calvin D. Jim, and his work has also appeared in another collection I happen to enjoy quite a bit. (Rigor Amortis from Edge Science Fiction Fantasy Publishing. It’s a collection of “zombie erotica”. I know, I know. You can’t picture it. It’s okay. But I love that book.)

The collection is worth a read. One thing I didn’t mention in the Amazing Stories review (because, believe it or not, it felt TOO NERDY) was that the minimal design in the ePub version was really cool.

Anyway. I could republish the review here, but I kind of like leaving it at Amazing Stories and giving you the link. Because, really, the AS website has a lot of really cool other stuff you should take a look at.


Stones for my Father

A while back, I learned about a new book tour. More specifically, it was a book tour that would be taking place entirely in the, as they say, ‘blogosphere’. This isn’t the first blog book tour that’s ever been done, but it’s the first one I’ve got to take part in. Now, let’s just step back and think about this for a moment: they send cenobyte a book, and the cenobyte reads the book, and then they ask cenobyte to write about the book on her bournal. Gee. That would totally suck.

Stones For My Father blog tour
Stones for my Father by Trilby Kent

As I write this, I have a refrigerator full of turkey and stuffing and vegetables and fruit. I have a deep freeze full of beef and veggies and home-made stock. As I write this, I am preparing soup stock, while my children sleep peacefully (and snorefully) upstairs. I reflect that I have never had to live through war, insurrection, revolt, resistance, or rebellion. I have never been forced from my home.

Santayana put it so well when he said, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. I don’t know what happened when you studied history in social studies, but in our high school, the Boer Wars were glossed over, barely touched upon. It was my father who told me about the Boers (the Dutch living in South Africa) , and the battles waged between the Boers and the British. Specifically, between two independent Boer republics and the British.

Trilby Kent’s Stones for my Father takes place in the Transvaal, one of these two indepedent republics, during the second (and longest) Boer War.

About writing this book, an historical fiction based around one family chased from their home and interred in a concentration camp, Kent says :

[the most challenging thing] was probably trying to tell a story without reading history backwards, if that makes sense. I realised that for many people South African history basically means ‘apartheid’, but although the seeds of that terrible regime were already being sown in the early years of the twentieth century, I felt that it was important to tackle the Boer War on its own terms, and in context. I was also hesitant to soften or sanitize the racist attitudes of the day, while at the same time remaining sensitive to the sensibilities of modern readers.

I like the idea of ‘reading history backwards’, but it only works if you know the history to begin with. Otherwise you run the risk of a misunderstood past. When we read history with a modern mindset, we begin to try to explain historical figures’ actions, ascribing to them our own moralities. To us, it’s morally abhorrent to ‘own’ another person. Slavery is wrong. But that’s a relatively new concept; in fact, it’s only a couple of hundred years old. So writers have to first centre you in an historical place and time before you, the reader, can look at the rest of the story and say, “yes, I understand this, and these are not Bad People. They are simply products of their time.” In other words, writers of historical fiction need to set history in its proper context. And I think Kent does this particularly well.

Stones for my Father
Stones for my Father by Trilby Kent

The story itself centres around a girl called Corlie, her brother Gert, and their family (younger brother, mother, aunts, uncles, cousins) who live in the Transvaal at the turn of the 20th century during the 2nd Boer War. They have a small amount of land, and a somewhat emotionally distant but close knit family living nearby.

Kent explores, with a somewhat rough treatment, the landscape of Corlie’s heart. The roughness is necessary and is not unkind. This novel, geared toward young adult readers, is neither simple nor pandering. Like the savannahs and dusty plains of the Transvaal in which it is set are the savannahs and dusty plains of a young girl’s uneasy upbringing. The Transvaal itself is familiar, while still achingly exotic, to anyone who’s lived in rural southern Saskatchewan, Alberta, or Manitoba. Or the northern/midwestern States. And the Canadian connexion in this book, which I don’t want to tell you too much about because of the spoiler alert, reinforces some of those similarities and differences.

Corlie sees her father in everything, her father who has recently died, and though she yearns for acceptance from her mother, she does not know where to begin with a woman who is emotionally remote, and indeed, at times cruel. In those in-between ages, who has not felt utterly alone and abandoned? Yet, Corlie manages to find some degree of closeness whatever happens, in spite of her mother’s viciousness. When the British soldiers come and burn down her home, her bother Gert and her lifelong childhood friend Sipho, who had been a gift to her at birth, share her fears and provide some joy. As her family flees from the encroaching troops, she discovers and cares for an abandoned monkey. Even when they are incarcerated in a concentration camp, Corlie summons the strength and ingenuity to survive.

An important part of this story is the experience Corlie, her mother, and her two brothers have in a concentration camp. We all of us know about the German concentration camps in WWII. But how many have learned that there were similar camps in many other countries, even in Canada? Ostensibly, people sent to the camps in the Boer War were called ‘refugees’, but as Corlie Roux describes it, and certainly according to her mother, they were prisoners of war. It is a difficult subject to broach, particularly in a Young Adult novel, but Kent does so brilliantly. She does not shy from describing, through Corlie Roux’s eyes, the desolation, disease, and desparation people are driven to. It is a section necessarily meant to be unsettling, and because Kent does not shy from the grittier, more difficult details, it is vivid and weighty.

This is Trilby Kent’s second novel for young adults. Medina Hill, her first novel for young adults, again deals with an historical time frame in a very real and very relevant manner. I imagine readers of Stones for my Father being left, as I was (far, now, from ‘young adult’) breathless, teary, and proud. Part of the book’s appeal will be, of course, the fact that Kent does not shy away from colonial mindsets, and does not offer a heavily moralistic tale – for those who know the history of slavery, the inherent racism of the Boers may well leave an uncomfortable feeling. But on the other hand, it’s very easy to look at history backwards…it’s much more difficult to present a protagonist whose ideas are distasteful but who is a likeable character in spite of those ideas, and who does ask some of the same questions we do.

Yet this is what Kent has done, and I’m not quite sure how she’s done it. But done it she has, and there are so many levels to this book, presented in such a small package (fewer than 200 pages) that I cannot even begin to talk about all of them. But, you know, I will. There’s the Boer angle – the white Dutch living in colonial South Africa, who were in support of slavery and indentured servitude of blacks. There’s the tween angle – a girl is having to deal with being half grown-up and half littlekid. There’s death – Corlie is learning to understand and to come to terms with the death of her father, a man …more than a man – a hero to her. Don’t forget about sexism – the best Corlie can hope for is to become well wed. She is treated vastly differently from her brothers. There’s the issue of living in wartime, and then, of course, trying to survive in a concentration camp…and another angle, another storyline that bubbles along through the entire novel, but which isn’t revealed until quite near the end…but it’s all so tightly woven and so well written that you don’t realise how much “stuff” is in there until the end. And it seems that any one of these layers, any one of these topics, would be an excellent starting place to use in a classroom setting.

I asked Trilby Kent if she would be willing to draw a couple of characters from her book, but unfortunately, I was a Poop and asked FAR TOO LATE to include any such forthcoming drawings on the centre of the universe bournal. But I would really like to see some drawings of Corlie (whose full name is CORALINE, which just makes me love her that much more) and Gert, her brother. I’d like to see Sipho and the little twins. And the monkey! Oh! I’d love for someone to draw a picture of the monkey! So please read the book and then forward me pictures of these characters. And I can send them on to Ms. Kent. Which, if I were a writer, I would think was pretty cool.

I’m probably way over my word limit here, so let me just finish with: Trilby is the most beautiful name I have ever heard (and I’m sure Ms. Kent is tired of hearing that). She’s a Canuck, you know! Although she lives in London now (yes, THAT London; not the one in Ontario), she was born in Canada, and that makes her Cool For Life. And she writes about really, really cool stuff. I mean, her novels, of course, but she’s also (in her own words) “written a piece on the handling of race in historical fiction for young adults for the summer issue of Canadian Children’s Book News. It’s a huge subject, of course, but one which I think deserves frank and open discussion”.

It absolutely does, Trilby Kent.

[Goodreads is doing a giveaway for Stones for my Father! If you’re a Canadian or American member of Goodreads, you’re gold; if you’re not, you have to sign up. There are five copies available, they tell me.]

Blog Tour

Stones For My Father blog tour
Stones for my Father by Trilby Kent

I’ll be participating in a blog tour for Trilby Kent’s Stones for my Father. I’ve never done a blog tour before, and I’m not really sure what’s going to happen here, but on 28th April, something related to Kent’s book will appear at the centre of the universe.

Some things are better left unread

I got into this discussion twice in the last week. Granted, once was because I started the discussion, but still.

A while ago, a friend of mine suggested I read a certain book. It was, the friend said, a favourite. The sort of book one reads over and over so that none of it is forgotten. The sort of book that changes lives. I read the book (as a side note, I do try to read most of the books people recommend to me).

I don’t like to think I’m one of those literary snobs who only reads books that are incomprehensible or that have been shortlisted for an award no one has heard of. I don’t like to think I’m the sort of person who starts a book discussion with : “The perspicacity of the characters are reminiscent of early Dickensian writings, although in a far more parochial, muted sense”. You know what I mean…the kind of high-brow academic malarky that basically makes everyone think you’re an enormous jerk. People like that usually go on to compare *something* in the book to some Greek philosopher, or to some obscure French medieval poet, and then start talking about how *important* the book is. This is usually a precursor to ripping apart everything about the book, from the opening title pages to the author’s photograph on the inside leaf. Maybe I *am* that sort of person and just don’t recognise it in myself.

I really prefer to find something wonderful about every book I read. It’s not always possible.

It wasn’t possible with this book. I agonized over what to tell my friend. In fact, I might not have ever told my friend what I thought of this book. I might have just decided to cop out with something like : “Well, it’s not something I would ever choose to read. Again. Ever.” But the truth of the matter is, the book was a total and complete waste of my time. Now, I know my friend reads my bournal, and I just want to be clear that my opinion on your most favourite book of all time in no way colours my opinion of you, so none of the vitriol and yellery that follows is directed at you. I know I probably don’t have to say that, but. Favourite books are sometimes like dear friends and I’ve discovered purely through trial and error that if I insult someone’s best friend, I often raise ire.

Although I cannot imagine what one could say about this book that could be insulting. There is nothing *rude* you can say about it that isn’t true. Except maybe that it’s pornographic. But that’s not rude. It’s also not true. It also would have made the book tolerable.

It’s important to me, when I don’t like a book, to really think about *why* I don’t like it. There was one book I read (also recommended by a friend) that I didn’t like. In the end, I figured out that the writing was extremely well done, and the book itself was amazing, but I just hated the protagonist so much it made me dislike the book. Which is ultimately a *good* thing, because it certainly highlights the writer’s skill. But that character was a total douche.

So. What didn’t I like about this book?

Well, I didn’t like *anything* about this book. Not. One. Redeeming. Factor.

The Shack, by William P. Young (Self-Published)

First of all, it’s a thinly veiled attempt to talk about Christianity without talking about Christianity. As if you could slip it in there without anybody recognising what you were up to. This pisses me off. It’s insulting. First of all, to assume that your reader isn’t going to figure out in less than five seconds what you’re up to is, frankly, a gross misunderstanding of your readers’ capacity. Second, why beat around the bush with this? Why try to be coy? Why not just come right out and say: “I’m trying very, very hard to write one of those…whattayacallits…ALL-A-GORY…thingummies” Because unless you’re CS Lewis or Tolkien (which you’re really, really not) or any number of other writes who’ve written allegorical stories, you’re not going to do it well. Do you know how difficult it is to write a competent, workable allegory for any religion’s theology? It’s REALLY HARD, without sounding like a simpering idiot or a pretentious jerk.


The basic premise is offensive. I mean, it’s even offensive to Christians.

The execution is terrible. It’s a book full of meandering, pointless prose, and dry, repetitive narrative. It’s hackneyed and trite, and there isn’t, I don’t think, a single original thought in the entire manuscript.

On to the thinly-veiled and horribly executed ‘allegory’ of the Trinity.

Jesus, of course, is a young middle-eastern fellow with a beard. He wears jeans and a plaid lumberjack shirt. And workboots. Or no boots. I don’t remember if he has stigmata, but it wouldn’t bloody surprise me. The Holy Spirit is some kind of weird, garden-tending hippie that is ‘shimmery and difficult to see’. I know a lot of hippies. Many of them are shimmery, some of them are difficult to see, and all of them tend gardens. I think the Holy Spirit might also be Asian. I don’t remember now. But his/her name is Sarayu, and I think s/he is supposed to be Asian. The ethnicity of any of the characters really oughtn’t be important, but the writer makes such a big deal of it, I suspect what he wants us all to know is that HE IS INCLUSIVE. HE IS NOT RACIST. HIS HEAVEN CAN INCLUDE THE YELLOW PEOPLES AND THE BROWN PEOPLES.

Which brings me to God. The Holy Father. Who is an African-American woman. Who calls herself Papa. And Elouisa.

I mean. ELOUISA? Really? You get a note in your mailbox after you’ve just announced to nobody that you’re giving up on your faith, and the note is signed from “Papa”, and your own father is dead, and you come to the conclusion that the note must be from God, and not from some weirdo who wanders around putting notes in people’s mailboxes? And God – I mean ELOUISA – *puts a note in your post-box*?? I guess things have really gone south since the whole burning bush thing. Modern-day equivalent would probably be a slightly charred and smoking potted plant, which just doesn’t have the same panache.

And let me go back here, a moment. I’m not saying it’s ridiculous to picture God as a black woman. I’m saying that by making it such a big deal in the novel, and by making the main character have to work so hard to get his own mind around the idea, you’re basically saying: “Look! Readers! God can be anything! EVEN a  black woman!” And “Even ASIANS can be included in theology! Even though many of them are godless communists!” And “Not ALL Middle Eastern men are terrorists who want to destroy western culture and eat your babies! Some of them are Jesus!”

One of the tenets you’ll hear as a writer is “show, don’t tell”. It’s really not a difficult concept to grasp. Except for William Young (the author of the book).

Apparently, he wrote the book as a Christmas gift for his children. And then, as is the way with things like this, some of his friends made the mistake of telling him that the book was *really good* and that he should get it published. And it’s books like this that sometimes make me disparage the relative ease with which people can now publish their own work. Don’t get me wrong, self publishing has been around since the 1600s. William Blake, for God’s sake (or should I say for “Elouisa’s Sake”), was a self-publisher. I don’t even know, to be fair, whether William Young tried to shop The Shack to traditional publishers, but if he did, it would have been rejected by most. Why? Because it’s trite, it’s not well written, it’s pedantic, the narrative is plodding, unnatural, and forced, the dialogue is stilted and ridiculous, the premise is tenuous, and even the editing is shaky. There are self-publishers out there who are extremely professional, who wouldn’t want anything out under their name that isn’t perfect. William P. Young is not one of those sorts of self-publishers.

So aside from the story itself, the actual writing, the production quality, and the narrative, what’s left to criticise?

The page numbers are stupid.

Okay, I say that kind of in jest. But it was also clear to me that the people who produced this book didn’t give a fiddler’s fart about design. And design is important. But then again, the people who produced this book didn’t care that it was terribly written to begin with, so there are a few strikes against them already.

Other Christians have spoken out against this book, from ministers who say there are heresies in the story, to apologists who claim there are “theological errors” in the book. Of COURSE there are theological errors in the book; the author is not a theologian. He’s probably never even read the church fathers. He probably hasn’t even read anything but the biblical passages he’s required to read in church. I don’t doubt the man’s devotion to his faith and to his family, and that’s all lovely, but his book sucks.

I mean, sure, theologically, if you happen to be Christian, or Jewish, or Muslim, the book is rather terrible on a religious front. The basic message it gives you is: “if you’re having a terrible time of things, if things are really hard, you should know that God will do everything He can to make it better, provided you pray hard enough and properly”, and “God is whatever you want Him to be”, and “God makes everything happen for a reason”. If you’re Christian, or Muslim, or Jewish, and if you’ve actually taken the time to learn what your faith teaches, you’ll know that all three of these premises are incorrect, hurtful, and are damaging to your faith and to the expression of your religion. I mean, I could go on about the horrible depiction of the Trinity as three separate persons, but that’s probably a little too heavy for a Monday morning, and you probably don’t care much about deeply theological arguments like Trinitarianism. (Incidentally, what Young offers in his book is not a Trinity. It is a Tritheism, which is very, very different…or, I suppose, you could argue that it’s Modalism, but again, Heavy. Monday. Stop.)

In short, don’t waste your time. Or your money. I’ve no idea why this book is so popular, except perhaps that fundamentalists think it’s incredibly clever and hopeful, like The Celestine Prophecy was, or The Secret (both of which were terrible books that attempted to disguise a thought pattern/belief system either in narrative or in a series of revelations…not unlike any holy book, I suppose, but the ancients did it so much better…I mean, at least the Old Testament is a good, rip-roaring fantasy adventure, right?), and that it bolsters their belief that prayer is about God helping them. Which it isn’t.

So, I’m sorry that I hated your favourite book. No, ‘hate’ is the wrong word. I despise your favourite book.

If I was going to rate this book, I wouldn’t even flip the bird once. I’d just toss the book in the recycling bin.


Endings are Heartless

I think the key to Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series is at the very end of the very last book. More importantly, I kind of feel like most of the world got completely ripped off with this series, and I’ll tell you why in a minute. One of the things that King says in the “Coda” for the penultimate book in the Dark Tower series (up until very recently, the seventh book in the series, The Dark Tower was considered to be the last book, but another one is slated to be released in 2012):

I can close my eyes to Midworld and to all that lies beyond Midworld, yet some of you who have provided the ears without which no tale can survive a single day are likely not so willing. You are the grim, goal-oriented ones who will not believe that the joy is in the journey, not in the destination, no matter how many times it has been proven to you. You are the unfortunate ones who still get the lovemaking all confused with the paltry squirt that comes to end the lovemaking…you are the cruel ones who deny the grey havens where tired characters go to rest. You say you want to know how it all comes out. You say you want to follow Roland into the tower. You say that’s what you’ve paid your money for – the show you came to see.

I hope most of you know better. Want better. I hope you came to hear the tale, and not just munch your way through the pages to the ending. For an ending, you only have to turn to the last page and see what is there writ upon. But endings are heartless. An ending is a closed door no man or Manni can open.

I tell you this. Should you go on, you will surely be disappointed. Perhaps even heartbroken … There’s no such thing as a happy ending. I never met a single one to equal “Once Upon a Time”. Endings are heartless. An ending is just another word for goodbye.*

– Stephen King, The Dark Tower

I want to tell you this: I stopped reading Stephen King’s books sometime in the late 80s/early 90s. I started getting really tired of reading the same phrases over and over. I got tired of reading the same scare tactics, the same drudgery, the same town, over and over. But what I *loved* were his fantasy stories: The Talisman (written with Peter Straub), The Eyes of the Dragon, the original 1980s EDITED version of The Stand, and the Dark Tower series. Well. I stopped reading after The Drawing of the Three because I made the mistake of a) reading another of his ‘regular’ books and I got pissed off at his formulaic crap, and b) I *hated* one of the three main characters in that book, and so decided the rest of the series would not be worth my rage. I’ve been over how much Detta/Odetta/Susannah bites the wax tadpole, so I won’t revisit it.

But let me tell you this: the rest of the series is SO WORTH all of the shite. These will be hours of your life you won’t WANT to get back. And you can always just flip past all the stupid bad bits with Detta/Odetta/Susannah/Mia, most of the crap with Pere Callahan, almost all of the drivel about Mordred (Worst. Plot device. EVAR), and a goodly chunk of the business with the villain at the very end.

I think in truth, this series ought to have been three books long. Maybe four at the outside. When I remember this series, I will remember it as three or four books long, and I will remember it well. Because the truth is, the good bits stay with us even after the details of the chaff have been blown away by, as King would say (AT LEAST SEVEN TIMES IN ONE BOOK ALONE), “the sough of the wind”. This is also the idea behind a writing technique known as a blank page rewrite, which is terrifying but is also often quite effective.

I don’t want to review the last book in the series. There were good bits in it, and some things happened that had to happen, and there were plenty of bits that ought to have been edited out, or at the very least edited way far down. In fact, I agree with the author that everything after Roland entering the dark tower itself ought to have been left out.

I’ve told you rather an awful lot of what I *don’t* like about this series, and what I don’t like in the last book really mirrors what I didn’t like in the last five books, period. I don’t need to name names. So I want to focus on what I *do* like about this series.

Wait. I’ve talked about that, too. Instead, I’m going to tell you what I think this story is really about.

One of the questions that writers get when people ask them about their work is “where do you get your ideas?”, and another question is, “is your work autobiographical?” The answer to the first is pretty straightforward (the same place you get yours, except I listen to the unbelievable) and the answer to the second is usually “not really”, but I think the answer is really closer to “you can’t get away from being at least somewhat autobiographical, because art is an extension of the self, at least to some degree.”

In this series, King does more than that. He writes himself into the story. I was told I would hate this, and at the beginning, I did. I thought it was self-serving, egomaniacal crap. But then I started really listening to how King characterised himself: lazy; frightened; unwilling; reluctant; disbelieving; self-absorbed. At first, I thought, ‘well, yeah. You are. Anyone who casts himself as God in his book is being more than a little pretentious’. But then I really focused on what King was saying about writing. About storytelling. And therein, I found something beautiful.

In the story, Stephen King finds himself almost taken hostage in his kitchen, when two characters out of a novel he wrote fifteen years earlier show up and tell him that he has to finish the story. He (the character Stephen King) reacts about as you would expect a newly-famous writer to react, particularly one with substance abuse problems. But then, through the course of the story, it becomes clear that Stephen King is *not* God, nor *a* god, nor even really a prophet. He’s just a mouthpiece. And he’s being used.

When you write, or paint, or compose, or dance, or *create*, it’s as if a force flows through you. When you hit a really good stride, you cannot ignore this creative force; you cannot will it away. You fall before it, and it takes hold of you and fills you with such ideas, such feelings, that to keep it all in check would drive you mad. You become a mouthpiece, and although you are the creator, that which you create is something *other* than you. It’s bigger than you. When it’s good…when it’s *really* good, it becomes…real. And this is difficult to explain, but I’m sure that even as a reader, you know when something is *good*, because you smell the dust in the air, and you hear the train whistle blowing across the prairie, and you feel the heat bearing down on you even after the sun has dipped below the horizon. You can taste your own sweat, and imagine what a drink of cold water would feel like on your parched throat. You *live* it, when it’s good. When it’s really good.

And that, I think is what this series is about. It’s about being a writer. It’s about telling a story. Because even though Roland is a gunslinger, he’s a storyteller. And he’s more than a storyteller. He’s a god. And he’s less than a god; he’s a man. He’s a Christ-figure, and he’s a King-figure, if that makes any sense at all. And I see where King has written aspects of himself into the *good* characters in this series.

He’s there as Jake. I certainly see the author in Eddie and in Cuthbert. He’s in John Cullum, and of course, as Stephen King. I don’t think as much, though, in Roland. I think Roland is someone very dear to King, though. And I think the whole point of this series is to talk about what it means to tell a story. About what it means to be a writer. Particularly considering the ending of the soon-to-be-penultimate book.

And this is why I’m willing to forgive King his many, many, ma-hany peccadilloes (some of which are far greater, I think, than small indiscretions); because the *nub* of this story is important, and brilliant, and enduring, and heart-rendingly beautiful. Stephen King has created *entire worlds*, as do all writers, and Roland gets to explore them. If King is a mouthpiece for the god of creative exploits, then Roland is his prophet, his messiah. It makes sense.

In this manner, I don’t think King writing himself into the series is “deus ex machina” as he claims it is when Roland and Eddie first visit him in Song of Susannah. I think it’s much more of a commentary on the creative process, on what it’s like to be so compelled by characters you meet during the course of writing a story.

When I used to host a radio show about books and writing, I often heard writers talking about what it’s like to hear voices in their heads, and to find out that they didn’t know anything about such-and-such a character when they started out, or that the character they pictured or dreamed of turned out so vastly different that it was essentially a completely different person. Psychiatrists *medicate* people for this shite! But as writers, we give rise to characters, places, scenes, and entire worlds that we have no control over.

So ultimately, to borrow a form of usage from this series, Stephen King, you say true; I say thankya. If you want to know what it’s like to be a writer, read the Dark Tower series. I know that King has written a book about writing; I think it’s called On Writing, and from all accounts, it’s a good read. That one *is* autobiographical as well, and it comes at things from more of an historical perspective. But I think the Dark Tower is really about what it is to BE a storyteller; a writer. It’s also just a hell of a good story.

A Little More About That Series I’m Re-Reading

This will be a short post.


That is all.