STEPHEN KING – OWEN KING – SLEEPING BEAUTIES - 2017
This is a lot more than ONE novel. It is a saga in the most extensive comprehension of the term. It is enormous and it mixes various genres and styles. It is difficult to differentiate the style of the father from the style of the son, though the very detailed story always based on the psychological vista and understanding of the various moods and moves of the characters is quite typical of the son. The father often centers his story-telling on the action more than on the psychological or psychic contradictions of the characters.
This novel embraces the problem that is erupting right now in our society: the fact that women in spite of all their improvement and progress are still secondary people in society as compared to men who have all the rights they want to take all the time, at least some of them all the time and some more from time to time. Sexual harassment it is called. In fact, it is a lot more prosaic. It is pure sexual domination and possession, even of strangers, completely unknown and never met before women. As soon as they are in front of some males they are their possessions, their sexual rattles and toys, and the only thing these males can think of is taking them, possessing them, penetrating them, using them till their impulses are gone and till later and next time when their impulses start again. Take, discard, take again and discard again, forever and ever. The identity of the taken and then discarded object is totally unimportant.
The only element missing here (apart from one or two very discreet allusions) is the fact that some women are exactly the same with men, particularly young men. They are called cougars and they are ever present in any society that reaches a few thousands. This consideration makes the story limited. We are dealing here with a human trait in all human societies: some people cannot but dominate and it is not a question of gender, gender orientation, age, social position, education, or whatever. In fact, the reduction of this human trait to a complete and full opposition between men and women is a caricature that excuses at least half the crime because that domineering attitude is a crime against humanity. An extremely spread and perfectly shared crime but a crime nevertheless/
The story, magically or miraculously, by magic or by some divine entity, one day decides to open a door between two worlds. The real world in which all women, as soon as they fall asleep, get wrapped up in a cocoon of some white tendrils growing from them and their living being, semblance, or doppelganger moves beyond the gate represented by a tree to another version of their city, a version that has aged tremendously but in which they can rebuild some kind of a world or life without any men from the other side though with the few male babies they give birth to as soon as they have crossed. Note those babies are the sons or daughters of men on the other side – and they carry their genes, so that they will never be totally new. In the same way the mothers, the women on this magic side of things come with their culture, their psychology, their impulses, their wants and desires, etc. This is by far neglected. It is too easy to say that only men have sexual impulses that force them to be domineering baboons. Women do have the same impulses and that makes them submissive and at times conquering female baboons too.
In fact, this fundamental element is dealt with on the side, in the margin. Since the city has a female prison many of the women who go to sleep and cross to the other side are inmates from that prison, or their officers and administrative controlling personnel. Some of the women are also beaten women who cross with their past and memory. One inmate kills the other inmate she is in love with and who is in love with her. She kills her because that’s her instinct and then she kills herself because that is justice, or so she writes in her suicide note. Another woman, a divorced mother, is totally unable to step over the mistreatment she got from her ex-husband against whom she had successfully rebelled and whom she had divorced, and in the name of her daughter also present on the other side she wants to block any possible passage back to the normal world in spite of the clearly expressed desire of the daughter to go back because she misses her father. A man can be a divorced husband but he will never be a divorced father for his kids. And this is true for women too. A woman can be a divorced wife but she will never be a divorced mother for her children. In fact, this is alluded to at the end with the fact that most women want to go back because of their sons. The artificial division of the world between men and women is just that: artificial.
The novel is a beautiful action novel but it is based on this assumption that if you separate women from men, men will become even worse than before and women will be able to build a new life for themselves in the new circumstances in which they find themselves. This is purely absurd and difficult to accept. Not to speak of long distance social running: the sons born in these conditions will only be a few if not even only few and then what will happen? They will build a crazy inbred society that even cows refuse naturally: a bull does not naturally impregnate his own daughter. That question is never even raised. So these women decide to go back on totally fake arguments because they do not consider the real materialistic, biological arguments they should consider. In fact, that could bring up another story of another sort in which women could be world-crossing cougars (or amazons) who would cross the divide to capture some men or young men or boys from the other side and bring them to the female side of things for human biodiversity. Obviously that kind of slave capturing and slave trade and slave owning would show how brittle the hypothesis of this novel is.
The most interesting part or dimension is that this magic happening is the result of some extra-cosmic decision from who knows who, who knows what. This decision is carried out by the opening of a door between the real world and the other world, and the transformation is “controlled” – and this word is by far too strong – by a certain Evie Black, a “supernatural being” that is captured after she destroys a meth lab in the forest and kills a couple of men there. She is deposited like some asset and evidence in the women’s prison of the city for her own security and protection. And the sleeping cocooning of women can start. She is a perfect liar who will try all along to provoke the males of the community into drowning in more violence. All the violent ones will naturally get on that path and a few characters are essential for the plot. All evil minds will try to prosper on the situation and they sure will. They will be motivated by the haunting desire to capture Evie Black and destroy her in a vigilante lynching operation. The bad ones in the community who are not real criminals just extremely angry people will find in this situation the perfect occasion to let their anger run freely. That will lead to a real scene of civil war around the women’s prison in order to take it or defend it.
But Evie Black has convinced most people she has to be killed to bring normalcy back again. This is a lie and only one person, the prison’s psychiatrist, has understood. Evie Black is the go-between and as such she has to bring the women back from the other side by going there herself and convincing them they have to come back. But this very twist in the fabric of the tale is extremely debatable. It negates the absolute right of any individual to take any free decision they want. Women have to decide they want to come back but if only one refuses it becomes impossible. This is a monstrous blackmailing pressurizing unacceptable duress typical of any police state. Any individual has no personal freedom that goes against the decision of the majority. It is majority ruling rights with no majority duties: and the first duty of any majority, no matter how big, is to respect the rights of the minority. In this tale there is no right for no minority at no moment in no place. The authors do not seem to see it destroys the ethical value of the tale. Nothing can be considered as good when it is based on something wrong, bad, evil. I am surprised with this element because I always considered that Stephen King, even in the most far-fetched horror stories of his always kept that ethical credibility without which there is not humanity. Even in his very first novel, Carrie, the main character is justified in her fury that kills a lot of people because she is the sole direct victim of her mother’s religious terroristic fanatic fundamentalist bigotry. Evil always produces evil, and in this present case evil is overlooked just as if it were nothing at all.
Another bothering problem is the racial status of most characters that is not specified. An essential character is Frank. We only learn, on the side and incidentally, he is black half way through the novel (page 364). What we know about him is more than disquieting about the racial vision that should be clear and is not. This Frank wanted to be a cop in his city. He was refused and made a dogcatcher. He is systematically described as angry, violent, terroristic even, when the welfare of an animal, wild or not, is at stake. Several examples are given and dramatically amplified by his ex-wife who divorced him because he could not control his anger though he never was violent with her or their daughter, Nana. He is also shown as a control freak in the crisis that engulfs the city. He Volunteers himself, though he has no legitimacy to do so, into the second position after the deputy sheriff who becomes the acting sheriff when the sheriff herself goes to sleep in a cocoon. He manipulates that acting sheriff into drinking himself into unconsciousness and he will manage it so well that this acting sheriff will commit suicide before the end because he is unable to control this Frank and the urban civil war he is leading in the city. And this monstrous control freak is black. What other black characters are there in the novel? We do not know. The only other black character will be finally assessed as black when the sheriff, who is a white woman in a cocoon hence living on the other side, shoots her on that other side as a fast reflex because this black woman has a gun and is menacing a woman who is planning, unknown of the white sheriff, to burn the tree-gate between the two worlds. This fire starter is the “ex-wife” of Frank and we could assume she is black too though it is never said. The white sheriff, once back on the normal side of things will resign from her sheriff position because she will never be able to decide why she shot dead a black woman who was in fact innocent, though an inmate in the prison, and was protecting the tree-gate, hence the escape of everyone from this illusionary phantom exclusively female world. We learn about this only page 691, eight pages from the end: “. . . the names of white police officers who had shot innocent black civilians (like Jeanette Sorley).”
I have already condemned such color-blindness in other books supposedly written for old male teenagers and young male adults (“Color Blindness is Evil White Supremacy,” about Connie Corcoran Wilson — The Color Of Evil Trilogy Series — 2017, https://medium.com/@JacquesCoulardeau/color-blindness-is-evil-white-supremacy-96e70f170478). Color blindness is for white people the sign of the Post Traumatic Slavery Stress Syndrome all whites inherit from their previous generations and ancestors and it is the absolute symmetrical mirror image of the Post Traumatic Slavery Stress Syndrome of the descendants of slaves in the USA. These two diseases are typical of the USA today and it is this color blindness of politically correct white people that explains the resurgence of racial bigotry in recent years in the USA, and the systematic killing of young black males by the police here and there and over there in the USA. In the book it is the black version of this PTSSS that explains Frank’s constant anger and control freakiness. This dimension is regrettable and it is high time people start speaking about it. We could and should expect from the great writers, white or black, of the USA to embrace the problem fully and responsibly. If that had been done before, racial bigotry would not be what it unluckily still is in the USA. (See Charlottesville for one example).
So many more things could be said. Just one about the two parallel worlds, one under the other, or behind the other. This was used in The Talisman, and of course vastly used in The Dark Tower by Stephen King. There is another similarity with the latter in the first and last sentences which are identical in The Darker Tower and similar here. “The moth makes Evie laugh. It lands on her bare forearm. . . “ is the first sentence. The last one is “A moth flutters from the branch of the old oak tree and settles on her [Lila’s, the ex-sheriff’s] hand.” And this moth is in the text identified as a sign of the invisible presence of Evie. Such a trick in the story leads us to wonder: what has been achieved in the seven hundred pages? And that’s where what I have said before and so far resounds in my mind as meaning after all, apart from the entertaining story, nothing. Such a catastrophe is common in Stephen King works but it is very far from The Stand. The several allusions to the dysfunctioning of social services and the foster system are also in phase with many allusions to the problem in other books. But the deepest evils of US society that are the very causes of the overexploitation of women in our societies are just ignored, I specifically mean religious bigotry, racial bigotry, white supremacy and naturally in our present time national US-centeredness that is the source of all American vanities that could lead us to a Third World War.
We definitely need an Evie BLACK as she is called in the book that could alleviate our fate of nationalistic, supremacist, racist vanity and freak control. I am sorry to say but I feel trumped by the book, poker-wise since the real master cards are not actually in the hand of the authors.
AN – SWEET BEAN – LES DÉLICES DE TOKYO – 2015
This film is very emotional but we must not let ourselves be taken over by our emotions or our empathy. The subject is a lot more complicated and even deeply frightening.
The subject of the film is social exclusion in the Japanese society in the twenty-first century. Several cases are envisaged. The central male character is an ex-con who had to buy his reinsertion in society after his prison time and he had to borrow money, which made him dependent on the lender who turned him into the manager, caretaker and only worker of his small shop that prepares and sells dorayakis (Dorayakis are a type of Japanese confection, а red-bean pancake which consists of two small pancake-like patties made from castella enclosing a filling of sweet Azuki red bean paste). Unluckily the sweet bean filling is industrial and very average. He can thus survive for as long as the widow of the man who lent him money does not decide to get rid of him to install a protégé of her own, a cousin or a nephew. In fact, it could be a lover too, since she is the owner and hence the real boss. Don’t misunderstand me: we are not dealing here with capitalism or whatever you may consider as economic exploitation. We are dealing with the tendency for those who have power and control to impose their decisions, even if they are not the good ones. It would be just the same in a system that would not be based on private property but on collective property that has to be managed anyway by an elite.
The second segregation is typical of Japan, though not only. Leprosy is a phenomenal disease. Lepers have always been expelled from society. They had a rattle in our Middle Ages they had to play all the time to warn people against themselves. In Japan, that exclusion was enforced rigorously up to 1996 when it was repealed, but society remains segregative and continues to expel lepers from daily life and they are forced to live in some kind of ghetto and they are provided for by the state. They do not have to beg for their survival but they have no future, though they have plenty of time to observe society and as such to build a refuge for themselves under the small dome in which they have to survive right through till they die. But once again let me be very clear. We may have very few cases in our countries, in the West, but we have other groups of people we reject in a way or another, be they the gay and other LGBTQ people, or AIDS patients, women or men alike, not to speak of women often rejected because they are too fat, too skinny, too anything that does not correspond to the standard norm concerning them. And I could, of course, add the segregation based on racial criteria, religious parameters, and so many other elements. The rejected end up poor without any future and they will have to move into our modern suburban ghettos of council flats, subsidized apartments or housing, and these “social” projects with choke them to slow decaying and death.
In fact, that segregation can go very far. For example, “The New York Department of Housing Preservation and Development has approved plans for an apartment complex that has separate “rich doors” for luxury apartment owners and “poor doors” for those who live in its fifty-five affordable housing apartments, units the developer had agreed to include in the building in exchange for tax breaks.” (https://www.theonion.com/nyc-approves-apartment-building-with-separate-rich-doo-1819562284). Is it typical of the West, of developed countries, or of humanity? Does humanity always discriminate against some groups of people who become the open scapegoats or the victims of rejection and intolerance?
The film is quite brutal about it. As soon as the rumor has it that a leper is working in the store, the customers who had multiplied before thanks to the work of Tokue, the woman with leprosy, just immediately disappear, not to come back. So the owner is quite justified in firing the “manager” to refurbish the store and give it to her nephew or cousin, her singled-out human pet. Is human society that segregative? Is it that “racist”? Is it that intolerant to any difference or deviation from the norm?
Then the film is showing how even in such a dead-end or even cul-de-sac, the rejected person can help another rejected person who can start anew from scratch. Thus Tokue after dying gives her equipment to make the sweet bean filling to Tenkarô so that he can start working again, if not in a shop, at least in public venues and in parks. Luckily humanity is resilient and the resilience of human beings is very often amazingly limitless. And it is true most men and women need that resilience to just bounce back up after the numerous and successive failures society imposes onto them.
A beautiful film and blooming Japanese cherry trees are very nostalgic for me since, in Roubaix, where I lived 19 years, one avenue was lined on both sides with Japanese cherry trees that were blooming marvelously in April-May.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU