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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Come Closer, Children, and See the Living Crocodile

     Putting Fingers to keys after freshly finishing "From a Buick 8" by Stephen King for about the fourth time.

     I'm going to say right off, two things. Three. First, this is my absolute favorite book by Stephen King, and one of my favorite books period. Second, I hope to Primus this never gets made into a movie. Third, I hope it gets made into a movie and done right.

    Contradict myself much? Part of the magic of the human brain is that we can hold contradictory concepts right next to each other without too much spillover.

     I'm going to try not to spoil too much here. The book takes the form of narrative from several Pennsylvania State Troopers as they tell the story of a mysterious sort-of 1954 Buick Roadmaster that they impounded, and stayed custodians of. The tale is told to Ned Wilcox, the son of trooper Curtis Wilcox who died in the line of duty on a routine stop. It is told by Sergeant-Commanding Sandy Dearborn and others, each weaving their own piece into the tapestry of the tale of a thing that was not quite a Buick, and the things that came of it.

     On the Surface, this is a book not unlike King's others-in that it's about ordinary people dealing with extraordinary circumstances. I think what sets it apart for me is that it is not about a struggle of good to destroy evil, like The Stand, or 'Salems Lot. It is about a struggle to understand something so alien to our human perception that we can only think of the sights, the smells, the sounds, as "like" something. More like something than anything else you could compare it to. And as the book "matures", it's the struggle to accept that some things cannot be understood, only managed.

     I say managed here, rather than accepted, because the State Troopers in the book keep the Buick locked away to protect the world, or their little slice of it, safe. If the Buick is a gate, they become the guards at that gate, holding it against invaders, keeping secret traditions and rituals of their own to protect those they are sworn to. And all around them, Pennsylvania happens, and they protect their corner of it, business as usual.

     Also what sets it apart for me is how extraordinary circumstance becomes just another routine, without ever becoming sloppy. Even if the Lion is old and sleeps most of the is still, now and forever, a LION. And it will do what a Lion does, probably if you turn your back on it.

     I mentioned contradictory thoughts, earlier. Sandy, the prime narrator, goes through a lot of these as he tells Ned the story, and Ned reacts. He loves the boy, so like his father, but at times he is enraged by Ned's responses, and hates him a little bit, too. This is some of the most human storytelling I have ever heard. I think we all have felt that way, to some extent, and I think King is pretty brave for putting that out there.

     The movie version of Christine barely scratches the surface of the transformation of good natured Arnie into the sinister and sullen would be hard to do, and tricky for audiences weaned on Jason and Freddy to feel the more subtle horror of the loss of identity and replacement with "other". This one would be, I suspect, even harder to convey in a movie or a mini-series.

The Photos that follow may be disturbing, spoilerish, or just downright photographically amateurish- view at your own risk

the midnight blue Buick Roadmaster
Generates from time to time what the Troopers call 

and gives birth to MONSTERS
with that toothy, 1950s grill

     Final words...the book references a poem called the Wonderful "One-hoss Shay": here is a link to that work.

      Really final words... the ultimate point of the book is that some things can't be understood, only dealt with in the best fashion you can. You deal with them, make them part of the job at hand, and then you get on with that job. Toward the end of the book, Sandy quotes another character, who likens the Buick to a jigsaw piece that doesn't fit into the puzzle. and one day you flip it over and discover that the back of the piece is red, and all of the other pieces have green backs. He cautions him against spending too much time worrying at it, because...

"There are Buicks everywhere"

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