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The Stand - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
The Stand
I re-read The Stand on my trip. It's still a damned fine book.

I don't think spoiler warnings are needed on a book whose basic plot has been around since the '70s and whose expanded plot has hung around since the '90s, but I'll probably ramble bit, so I'll cut, and on the off-chance that you don't know the plot of The Stand, there will, in fact, be spoilers.

The first thing that hit me was just an unfortunate coincidence in timing. Harold Lauder, the intellectual English major who thought that he was better than everyone else and the whole system was lousy, and who later perpetrated a huge violent crime, really happened to creep me out this time around. King has written this character a few times (Harold, the kid from Rage, Carrie), and I guess we all know him on some level, but still... creepy. I felt a real urge to have someone do something about Harold, keep him from the Dark Man's business, just... do something. Not kill him, just get him someplace where he could get help seeing things clearly and keep him from hurting anyone.

The second thing was probably part of traveling cross-country while I read it. It strikes me as one of the most deeply American books I've ever read, and not just because King shrugged off whatever was happening elsewhere with a couple of offhand sentences. Both the good guys and bad guys are deeply American types--the bad guys are American Dionysian, the good guys are American Apollonian. Randy Flagg is described as an American guy who appreciates check-gingham and apple pie; Mother Abigail sings "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the Grange and weeps over each acre of land she's had to lose in Nebraska. The three men who end up in Vegas represent the glitzy coast, the intellectual coast, and the heartland; they are to be executed by a one-time criminal and a one-top policeman. If anyone in the post-plague world had felt like drawing a political cartoon, it would have been Lady Liberty with a cheerleader angel on side and a drum major devil on the other (or vice versa; you get the point). The split of the country is very, very notably not along political lines. You have right and left on both sides of the Rockies. It's the real split, between the thoughtful Apollonian and the destructive Dionysian. Mother Abigail is a conservative religious person and Glen Bateman a liberal agnostic intellectual; Flagg carries tracts from every wacky political group on the spectrum, even those who think they're violently opposed to each other... but are all part of the same conduits that Flagg moves through. There are plenty of ideological lines that each side could split on, but King wisely doesn't get into them, because they aren't the real split.

Random other things:

Interesting parallel between Flagg's use of Trashcan Man and Nick's use of Tom Cullen--one is driven by greed but manages to feel the only actual emotional connection we see, while the other is guilt-ridden the whole time, but finds a bit of coldness necessary to do it.

The phrase "King needs an editor" is usually used to say "He needs to write shorter books for people with brief attention spans," which I think is silly, but I'll say it in another sense. He just needs someone to catch him when he uses the same phrase (without any apparent stylistic effect) several times in one chapter.

Larry's still my favorite.

I'd love to know how Leo grew up. And little Peter, too. (Hey, Black House picked up Jack Sawyer!)

King's gotten better at writing women since this one. Fran's okay, but Nadine's a lost cause and Lucy's a cipher. Mother Abagail, as always, rocks out.

Good job giving Mother A flaws, while I'm on the subject. I'm sure it must have been tempting to have the emblem of good hold all the right views at all times, but her eyerolling at New York Democrats and her distaste for the Pope made her seem more real in her milieu as a heartland Protestant of a certain era--a real person being used as a vessel by God, rather than a tin god herself. She's not perfect. She's human.

I wonder when they'll start up the printing presses in Boulder again and publish people's plague memoirs. They'll have to get the television station running so everyone can do Oprah-style interviews on them.

Will Frannie and Stu come back to Colorado when the children are getting older, so they might meet other people around their age? Or will Boulder itself start spreading out, repopulating the country as the population grows?

I guess I better wind it up; have to get ready for work.

PS: Is it so deeply odd that I think it would be refreshing to just say "Chuck it," put on a backpack, and start walking? I could use unplugging for a while.
9 comments or Leave a comment
threnody From: threnody Date: May 17th, 2007 04:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
See, I got bored when the masses on masses of rotting corpses ran out. I don't even think I finished the book, though at some point I saw the tv movie.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 17th, 2007 05:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I'm the other way--the plague half is kind of a drudge, but it really picks up when the societies get together.
maidenjedi From: maidenjedi Date: May 17th, 2007 05:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
I dearly love that book.

A really interesting point re: The Stand as an American book. I think that's pretty spot-on, especially when you consider King's cited influences for this novel (The Lord of the Rings notwithstanding), and just the fact that journey novels tend to feel more "American" in general. The concept of "the West," things like the traffic jams and the cars, the way Ralph greets Tom and Nick, the description of the parlor at Frannie's folks' place.

And now I need to go and reread it with that in mind!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 17th, 2007 05:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
To truly freak yourself out... imagine Flagg with several political blogs, all from different angles, but with that purely Flagg perspective...
hobbitguy1420 From: hobbitguy1420 Date: May 17th, 2007 05:43 pm (UTC) (Link)


Tag, you're it!

See my own LJ for the rules
ani_bester From: ani_bester Date: May 18th, 2007 12:21 am (UTC) (Link)
You know, I'v never really been able to finish that book. It's only the first half that reall interests me. I love how he portrays well the center failing to hold, which I think is a great theme.

I've never liked the second half as much, though I relaly can't explain why. I think maybe he uses similar themes in The Dark Tower serires, but with characters I connect with more (Susannah is still one of my all time favorite character from him) I pretty much loose interest in the story after Harlod and Nadine leave Colorado.

I'm like that a lot with King's writing though. I'll either speed through the whole thing, unable to put it down (Like Insomnia!)or I won't be able to ever get much past the half way mark. I think he's a much better character writer than he is plot writer, so if he's written characters I enjoy, I don't care what's going on because I love seeing them react and be challeneged by whatever wierd turn of events he creates.

With The Stand, I think maybe I just don't connect well enough to anyone to keep reading past the "everyone dies" part which was a storyline I enjoyed..

ani_bester From: ani_bester Date: May 18th, 2007 12:25 am (UTC) (Link)
OH and *L* I guess the other practical issue I keep having is . . BOy I hope someone who survived knows how to safely shut down nuclear power plants because ummmmmmmmm there's gonna be a real problem.

In a lot of places around the wrold.
So I hope someone who survives can shut down nuclear power plants
and I hope someone else can fly.

And I hope they don't run outta fuel.

Which I think is another kind of scary thought. I most of humanity dies suddenly, what we leave behind will probably take out the planet when it breaks down 0.o
doomandnachos From: doomandnachos Date: May 18th, 2007 03:39 am (UTC) (Link)
Now that I've actually finished The Stand, I can read and comment!(And yes, I am kicking myself for not having read it years ago.)

Anyway, a giant WORD to being creeped out by Harold. Harold is, to me, the creepiest character in the book. Sure, Flagg's the Adversary, but he's so over-the-top evil that his fictional seams show. Harold, though - I've known lots of guys like Harold. I didn't make the current-events connection you did, but I think Harold gets under the skin because he's plausible.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 18th, 2007 04:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Understandable, too. I was kind of with Stu when he found Harold's body--I wanted to get Flagg for Harold as well as the others. Harold's one of the weak ones, the ones the evil force could work on pretty easily, not because he's inherently particularly evil, but because he's wounded and it's easy to poke wounds with a stick and rub salt in them. For me, the saddest part of Harold's story is the end, when he realizes that he really could have set his injuries aside and made a good life, and takes the nickname that was given to him on the Burial Committee.
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