Reading, for me, is entertainment and an escape from the real world. But it can also inform and stretch the boundaries of the life I live.
Although I first came to this book at a time when I was too young to see the rated R movie and a few years before my family even owned a VHS player or had purchased a membership in a video rental store, it is impossible for me to read this book now without reference to the 1976 Brian De Palma movie. The book has none of the movie’s humor. None. It’s dead serious, and any teenaged antics are experienced through the POV of someone who is forever outside the fun.
King describes the book’s main character with brutal realism, but treats her sympathetically. She’s not a pretty actress who has been uglified with stringy hair and tacky clothes, easily transformed with a makover. She’s chunky, acne-ridden, and not very bright. Her mannerisms are described as dully bovine, and a lifetime of abuse from mother and peers has deeply scarred her personality and psyche. She fantasizes about the ability to turn the tables on her tormenters and immediately begins contemplating it when her powers begin to manifest. That defensive violence is always bubbling away under the surface. But we also ache for her humanity, because she wistfully dreams of social acceptance and normality, and, despite suspicions born of unhappy experience, she can’t repress the hope she feels at going to the prom with Tommy.
In the foreword, King tells us that Carrie is a mashup of two girls he knew in middle school, tormented only because they were different and because kids always seem to need someone to ostracize. Likewise, I knew a girl who was always the butt of the joke – an inoffensive girl who seemed to get through the bus rides every morning and every afternoon with her head down and her shoulders hunched, while a nasty group of kids relentlessly picked on her. Likewise, I never joined in, but I never tried to stop it, either. I felt sorry for her, but stayed well away for fear of having that same negative attention turned on me. I already caught a little of the bullying on occasion, and I was selfish enough to be relieved when it was directed elsewhere. I wish now that I had been kinder and more courageous. Wherever she is, I hope that she’s living a happy and fulfilled life.
Re-read with the audio version, and it was interesting to hear Sissy Spacek's performance of it, but I found her pronunciation of menstruation as "menestration" a little distracting.