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Archive for September, 2014

Cujo

cujo

I just finished reading Cujo and holy shit what a book. It’s a short book, but similarly to how I’ve read other Stephen King novels, I read the first half of the book slowly and in short sittings. But I couldn’t put the book down once the climax was in site. The premise of the story doesn’t seem like it could have supported a novel much longer, though.

I felt so sorry for Cujo. Stephen King isn’t afraid of trying to write through an animal’s eyes (Kojak’s one chapter in The Stand blew me away), and it really breaks your heart to see how the poor dog is interpreting everything going on around him. It makes the climax even more emotional – I knew that Cujo had killed and that he was very dangerous, and I knew that his fate only had one door open for him. And when he finally dies…I just felt so sad. Is it bad that I was more sad about Cujo than Tad?

I had been spoiled that Cujo was going to kill four people throughout the book. I was NOT spoiled as to who were going to be the victims. When three people had succumbed to the rabid dog, I had been 95.3% sure that Donna was going to be the fourth victim. It was twelve thirty when Donna Trenton stepped out of her Pinto for the last time. That ominous line had bumped my certainty up to 99.98% sure that Donna was going to be the fourth victim. Honestly, I would have been OK if Donna had died…but I like being surprised in the book, and when it was Tad that died instead, I was both shocked and glad – glad that I was wrong about what I had been SO certain about. Being spoiled about the number of victims but being dead wrong about the fourth victim. It just reassures me that getting those less concrete spoilers doesn’t always ruin a book.

What I found so fascinating and well done about the novel was just how circumstantial the whole situation was. Cujo could have been dealt with by a gun or some sharp weapon or object. Donna could have been saved much sooner. But Stephen King crafts every event that leads to the seige with such cleverness, that the entire situation was believable to me. It didn’t come across as corny or forced. This was just an unfortunate chain of events. I think the fact that I was completely convinced of these circumstances, and how much detail and depth the characters are given, was what really led to my enjoyment of the book.

I was very antsy during Cujo’s attack scenes and I literally stood up from my chair and was reading the book standing up during the final confrontation. In classic Stephen King style, every action is described vividly, and while I would never tolerate watching a gory horror flick, reading it, and being able to imagine it for myself, turns it into an enjoyable but intense experience.

I love how Stephen King writes characters. Any character that gets a point of view chapter is always fascinating and it’s insane how human they behave. Charity sometimes has these emotions of hatred towards her son that comes in flashes. I don’t think any parent would ever want to admit that they at one point, maybe for just ONE second, hated their child. But it’s believable, and it really makes me think back to my childhood, and whether my own parents ever had these flashes of negative emotions towards me. Of course they did – I was no angel child. Still, it’s something that I’ve never really stopped to think about, and when these characters behave in sometimes such shocking ways, you stop and go “huh”, and contemplate it for a bit. I don’t dislike Charity for her seemingly bitchy hate flashes to Brett. It makes her a fuller character for me, and the book makes sure that I understand what causes these flashes and that she recognizes these flashes and feels horrible afterwards. 

I really liked the faint connection to The Dead Zone. I read The Dead Zone back in February of this year, and I really enjoyed that book, too. Reading the initial page for Cujo, I was pleasantly happy that I picked up that Frank Dodd’s actions were being described before it explicitly mentioned his name. It was one of those “I know what he’s talking about and I don’t need it spelled out to me!” moments. On the other hand, I didn’t connect Bannerman when he turned up in this story. When I did make the connection, I ran back to my book shelf, brought out The Dead Zone just to confirm that it was who I thought it was. And of course, that connection…having experienced Bannerman’s character, even if not in depth, in The Dead Zone, that made me feel so sad and regretful for what happens to him. I knew it was coming before it happened, too. As soon as that damn Masen decided that Bannerman could check the Camber’s property by himself.

Stephen King books don’t really have happy endings…at least not the ones that I’ve read. This one’s no different. I put the book down full of emotions. Sadness, regret, fear, anxiety, relief. I had been really worried at one point that Vic was going to be the fourth victim. I really didn’t want him to be. It wasn’t until that aforementioned ominous line that pushed me back to believing Donna was gonna get it. Vic was the character you rooted for. Nothing in the book seemed to be his fault, he was a genuinely good guy, and I would have been so devastated if, after everything he went through in the book, he died. Some people probably felt that the death of his child was worse for him, but for some reason I didn’t feel sad for Tad. I was shocked – definitely shocked. But I guess my attachment to Vic was strong enough that when it was Tad that died, I only felt relief that it was Tad and not Vic.

I guess one part I was disappointed in with the book was the lack of supernatural elements. Now, after having completed the book, it’s not disappointing anymore and I prefer it being grounded in reality – something that is real and plausible is always so much scarier than anything supernatural (at least for me). But given Stephen King’s track record for writing about the supernatural, PLUS the description of the book within the cover sleeve (A big, friendly dog chases a rabbit into a hidden underground cave – and stirs a sleeping evil crueler than death itself. […] The little Maine town of Castle Rock is about to be invaded by the most hideous menace ever to savage the flesh and devour the mind.), it led me to expect one thing and I got another. Now that description I just quoted, you could easily interpret that as something real – in this case rabies. Yes, rabies is a frightening disease that does horrible things to its host. But the way it was described kind of led me to expect that Cujo was going to become possessed or something and that that would be the reason for his frenzy and reign of terror. And to support my point even further…Tad’s “monster in the closet” that is introduced AT THE BEGINNING OF THE BOOK strengthened my expectation that there was something supernatural waiting for Cujo. I guess, after being led on in such a way, when Cujo stumbles into the cave and it’s just a freaking bat that bites him and gives him rabies…well it felt underwhelming at the time.  I thought, “Wait, you mean it’s just a book about a rabid dog?”. Well, I consider that a foolish statement now because I don’t think this book could have extracted the emotional response it got from me if Cujo was merely possessed by some “sleeping evil hiding in a cave”. As I said, the fact that something grounded in reality, rabies, was the source of Cujo’s frightening behaviour – it just has so much more punch to it. Poor Cujo…you were a good dog and it wasn’t your fault you got infected.

Anyways…these are my fresh thoughts after finishing Cujo just 2 hours ago.

 

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