Friday, June 14, 2013


Sin, fun and crime under the sun


If you still believe Stephen King is still the master of horror and nothing else, you will be highly disappointed. This book is partly a thriller, but essentially a social novel that deals with questions that have nothing to do with horror, except the mental horror that some extreme religious preaching and bigotry can represent in a society of liberal and free humanistic thinking.

But this book is a masterpiece and you will spend a full night reading it from cover to cover. So I would advise you to start it on a Friday night since on the following morning you may not be obliged to get up early and go to work. At least if you are one of these lucky schmucks who do not work on Saturdays, nor on Sundays. Not true of the people in this book since the employer is an amusement park owner and the industry is that of amusement parks, or carnivals, the ancestors of theme parks and other Disney Land and Disney World.

What makes it such a masterpiece, such a short and mesmerizing story?

First the story teller: an older man who tells us what happened to him when he was 21 or so, after his first year of college, when he accepted employment in the amusement park Joyland in North Carolina for the whole summer. The distance this older story teller establishes between himself and the character is very interesting: the vision of an older man on what he was when a young greenie in social experience. This life in 1973 for a young man and his college acolytes just one college year after high school graduation is fascinating, sex life of course which is in fact very limited, love life which is slightly more developed though it is more lover dumping for him and it is the poor young greenie man who is dumped by his high school sweetheart who left him a virgin on the shoulder of the road with the memory of just a few soiled pants and underwear by indirect manipulation. The vision of the world by this young man, Devin Jones, Jonesy for the Carnival world, is absolutely amazing and extremely moving and emotional. We have to fall in love with this young man, fully in love, including when he is playing the bigger than nature doggie for the kids in the amusement Park, when he is wearing the fur as he says.

Second this first chap is surrounded by two close friends, friends for the summer who will become friends for life and who will be crucial in the story. Tom and Erin become a love-at-first-sight-and-for-life couple and Tom will be able to see the “ghost” of the girl who was assassinated in the park some years back, whereas Erin will do the research necessary to find the killer. The fact is that Devin will stay in the park after Labor Day to button it up for the winter as a permanent employee because he wants to know the secret, because he is not sure he just wants to go back to college, because he wants and needs some real time to think about the future. And beyond these three young people there are many other people, including a serial killer who killed many girls and the suspense is to find out who he is.

Third and that is probably even better Devin manages to get acquainted with a young mother with a physically challenged young child who is bound to die soon. The woman is very reluctant at first to let Devin come close but the child, Michael, insists because he has some kind of psychic power and sees that Devin is his last chance before dying to go to the amusement park. With this woman and her son we reach a tremendous level of emotion: how can you satisfy the expectation of a ten year old child who knows he is going to die in the coming months and who just wants a last pleasurable experience before going back home, before stepping beyond the screens of the living. At this moment Stephen King proves his mastery in human emotions and sentiments and we are totally possessed by his tale. Even if it were only for that emotional level you should read that book at once.

Stephen King adds a theme of his he has often touched. The mother’s father and Michael’s grandfather is one of these radio cum TV preachers who were starting to become more than famous in these early 1970s.  How can we accept the vision of hail, brimstone and fire that rejects the daughter when she rejects the bigotry and starts having some kind of free life that made her pregnant? How can anyone decent accept the idea that Michael’s physical challenge is the punishment of god against his own mother who did not respect the bigotry of her father? There are many pages of pure joy and pleasure in the deepest emotional experience we can feel in our heart, mind and senses, joy and pleasure that brings up the light of some better future that might be free of such fundamentalist fanaticism.

Then the thriller part is fascinating too, but I will not reveal the killer, of course not. I will not reveal the end either but rest assured that Devin will become the prisoner, hostage and next victim of the killer. And Michael knew it all along, without maybe knowing the identity of that monstrous serial killer.

And you will absolutely share in full communion the last scene of the novel after Michael’s death. So beautiful, so alas impossible in so many countries where funerals are over regulated. But Stephen King imagines the last voyage of dead Michael in the most realistic way that nevertheless makes him fly to the sun. The dream of all children who are doomed to live in a wheel chair.


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