This book is excellent in so many unexpected ways. Probably mostly because last year's October horror classic [b:The Exorcist
William Peter Blatty
1945267] came off as dimly executed pop lit that really just sufficed as a decent outline for an excellent movie. Carrie, however, is rich on all fronts. It's beautifully written, and intense as fuck, and now I understand why they made a remake of a movie that not only does everyone know the ending of, but the whole appeal of the story is based around how it ends. I mean, I still think it's a bad idea, even if they intend to be closer to the book than the 1976 movie was, but the choice is a little more understandable now.Carrie, as a character, is surprisingly unsympathetic. Impressively, in a way. It's not everyday that an author is willing to make an underdog protagonist that you don't wholeheartedly root for. In this, King simulates what its actually like to be bystander in a bullying situation. You empathize because you're human, but you don't want to because you don't want to believe that it could be you. No one wants to admit that they're a few zits, one crappy parent, one social faux pas away from being gum stuck under the popular kids' shoes. So you make justifications - why doesn't she stand up for herself, why doesn't she make an effort to look better, blah blah. We see all this through Sue Snell's eyes, how aware she is of her own hypocrisy and her desire for redemption, even if it is ultimately selfish. And doomed, of course.Carrie herself is all of our darkest desires, all of our self-hatred, all of our animosity towards the outside world that views us as an interloper. At one point she might have become a healthy happy girl, but even before prom night something had gone crooked inside her. Her inner monologue echoes that of a would-be school shooter, filled with frothing rage and cruelty. She never feels guilty for what she wants or what she does, she only grieves at the price she had to pay for it. She would have made a great supervillain.And that's another aspect that I loved about this, the metatextual side. Chapters are sandwiched between government reports and newpaper articles about the world's disastrous introduction to telekinetic individuals (TKs, decades before Looper). There's an implication of a slow soft apocalypse, as the world cowers at the thought of another Carrie rising up and perhaps doing even more damage. I like that King takes this story beyond the claustrophobic world of female bullying, even within the town of Chamberlain, Maine. Even though many connections are made to femaleness (Carrie's brutal bullying as a result of her first period is not the last significant mention of menstruation in the book), there is also a point made in how maleness serves as an accelerant on the fire. While female characters choose to act for good or ill, male characters serve as enablers or downright failures in quelling the oncoming storm. Unless of course, a storm is exactly what they had in mind.Chris Hargensen is merely an entitled brat, but her boyfriend, Billy, who for a time is willing to slaughter pigs just to satisfy her whims, is a budding sociopath. His calculated glee at enacting the prank to end all pranks reminds me of something that I've read said about making light of rape. When you tell a rape joke, you're telling rapists that what they do is perfectly normal, that everyone else is in on the joke. They think you agree with their urges to do harm. That's what Billy thinks what Chris comes to him with her idea. “Pigs blood for a pig,” he says. He doesn't even know Carrie. It's his opinion of all women. Billy, far from being a disturbing side character, is a significant detail in how Carrie, and other people like her, unravel. Pranks and bullying are all fun in games until they land in the lap of a bonafide sadist, which they inevitably will. At which point, you might as well have started World War III.I thought this might get me excited for the remake, which is coming out in a few days, but honestly, I think everything about this story that really makes it great is almost impossible to portray on film. The prose has a stream of consciousness style that's so fast and visceral it feels like the rapid fire of synapses. It's both cerebral and character-driven, as well as messy and gore-filled as the bodies we're born with. Everyone portrayed in this story is scrubbed down to the basis of who they are. But the movie might be worth it just for Julianne Moore.