The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
“Good, as in God, the style of Henry, or if I might call him so, Mr. James, author of The Turn of the Screw, who in the late nineteenth century wrote the thin ghost story, is torturous, as a stretching on the rack. One might imagine, if so inclined as to imagine such a horror, a horror beyond compare, the voice of Shatner, William Shatner reading each phrase, set off with a preponderance of punctuation in the form of commas, commas that precede every unnecessary phrase, like a water torture of Chinese design and implementation, dripping prose into one’s mind in an effort to present a story, a tale, of ghosts and other mysteries.
Woof. It’ll drive you nuts but perhaps that’s the point.”
When I read that quote from James Brush I busted out laughing. If you have never read Henry James then you should know, that is how it is. It is EXHAUSTING! Thank goodness The Turn of the Screw was short because the entire story is written that way.
It’s been a few years since I read The Turn of the Screw but I do remember it was a spooky ghost story. There is a governess hired to take care of two young children while their father/uncle/someone is away. The governess dotes on the children and continues to care for them even after she begins seeing ghosts in the house and on the grounds. The children begin to show signs of being aware of, perhaps even in control of, all the ghostly happenings. It’s never clear about what is going on and that adds to the spookiness. The children are creepy but they are still children and as the reader you’re left not really sure what to think about it all. It is an enjoyable read, if you can sit back, relax and be ok with reading about three times as many words than are needed to tell the story. Lots of words, lots of ambiguity.
Carrie by Stephen King
I almost wimped out and didn’t read this one. I remembered seeing scenes of the movie when I was growing up and it was gory and scary. But I decided that I had set a goal for myself to read the whole LOST list and I needed to be a grown up about it and not dodge a certain book because it made me uncomfortable. And even though there was enough content in the book to confirm my hesitations, I’m glad I went through with it. It was good to actually read and know the story that put Stephen King on his life-long path of literary super stardom. It is, at it’s core, an interesting and intellectual piece of work, and other than the supernatural/psychic element, it serves as a reminder of the damaging effects and consequences of bullying.
The story begins in a girls locker room after P.E. class. Carrie is showering, and it is then that she begins her first menstrual period. She is frightened because she has no idea what it is. (Way to go, mom.) The other girls begin to laugh at her and mock her and throw feminine products at her. (It’s at this time that I would like to ask where the P.E. teacher is.) She shows up eventually, a little too late though. The damage is done.
Life after the locker room incident continues to disintegrate and in Carrie’s anger and hurt, she discovers she has some kind of psychic powers. Her mother, who is a cray-cray, misguided, religious fanatic, is aware of Carrie’s powers and thinks she is possessed by the devil. It’s all creepy and sad. There are a couple of people who are kind to Carrie, one girl in particular is sorry for the way she treated her in the locker room, but for the most part Carrie is alone.
Months later Carrie is invited to Prom.The students arranged ahead of time to vote her the Prom queen. (More mocking). And as she is being crowned, they play a horrible practical joke on her that incites her to such a level of humiliation and rage that she summons all of her powers to wreak havoc on the entire gymnasium. It’s all horrible.
Here’s what I liked though, and what I didn’t expect. Many times the story is interrupted and you realize there is an investigation going on. Those that were witnesses of the Prom night episode are telling their story. Articles are written and referenced. Studies are conducted on psychic behavior, letters written, etc. I loved that aspect of the book and it provided, for me, a reprieve from the heaviness and a bright spot that showed a future for the survivors. (Carrie’s rampage is pretty extensive.)
So this one is featured on LOST in the episode titled A Tale of Two Cities. Juliet is hosting book club and her pick is Carrie. She leaves Ben out of the meeting though and and when he finds out, he gives us one of my very favorite lines and moments of the whole six seasons.
“So, I guess I’m out of the book club…”