Wednesday, November 07, 2012

My Thoughts on All Things “The Stand” by Stephen King

My mind is a boggle of thoughts these days, which is preventing me from writing much that is coherent.  For me, this is a form of writer’s block.  It’s not that I can’t write, in fact I have plenty of ideas and continue to write them down in order that I won’t forget them when the time comes to write more than a page or two without wandering to some other far off unrelated subject other than the one at hand.  This blog is an attempt, of sorts, to focus on the culprit of my wandering thoughts.

I am blaming Stephen King for this dive into self-absorption as a couple of days ago I finished reading his novel TheStand.   This is not the first time I read this novel, in fact I believe it is the forth.  However, this time, having found it in audio format at the library, Grover Gardner (an excellent narrative reader) read it to me over the course of 37 CD's  Whether or not I was a fan (or Constant Reader as Mr. King refers) of Mr. King’s work, I would have to dub The Stand as the best apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic story ever published. 

The Book

As per always, Mr. King fleshes out his characters in such a way that the reader knows them on an intimate basis.  He delves into their experiences, both past and present, and gives a clear explanation of the affect those experiences have on their psyches.  We know how they think both of themselves and of the people and the world that they presently inhabit.  As readers, if we were to meet these characters in the real world, we would know them well enough to have a sit-down conversation with them.  Once we have this grasp on the characters Mr. King then goes further to take these characters to very unusual, frightening, and horrific predicaments and circumstances. While Mr. King’s stories are in the genre of Horror, the horror does not always spring from a purely supernatural force but combines with the horrible acts of human beings upon one another. Hence, Mr. King evens out his stories to bring them into both character and plot driven supernatural adventures.  

However, in The Stand, Mr. King goes even further by touching on subjects and rounding them out as well as he does his characters. This novel forces the reader to look at the human condition in the face of an apocalyptic occurrence. The reader begins to consider what resources are important to the survival of the human race and to weed out the items that are not required for survival.  As well, the reader reflects on not only the psychology of an individual, but also the psychology of individual groups.  Other subjects come into play as will such as Sociology, Theology, Spirituality and the importance of the individual within the group.  These subjects then combine with mysticism and paranormal experiences that in some ways bring about an almost evolutionary advance in human brain development.

Three of the most important individuals to the group’s survival are those that society would pass or judge insignificant in normal circumstances – Nick Andros, a deaf/mute, Tom Cullen, a high functioning mentally challenged man, and Abigail Freemantle, an extremely elderly woman.   Even with their very different belief structures—Nick as an atheist, Abigail as a bible/religion based Christian, and Tom as a man who has the simple concept of right and wrong—all three join forces and work well as a whole.  Some characters, such as Stu Redman, Larry Underwood, Frances Goldsmith, Harold Lauder, Nadine Cross, and Ralph Bretner, each battle their own personal demons, and in turn, question their own abilities and make life altering decisions in either facing or  joining the very real demon that threatens not only the group’s but their own personal survival.  

On the evil side of the story, a group of characters forms their own community under the rule of a demon, Randall Flagg, who takes many forms including human.  Again, some individual characters question their choices and their abilities in their importance to the group’s survival.  Others in the group find that as outcasts in the world before the apocalyptic event, they have found their place in this post-apocalyptic society.  However, as time and events go on, some find that they might be on the wrong side of the fence.

As the story ends, more questions arise as to what form the new world should take.  Do the survivors wish to go back to the old ways of government and economic structure, or should they reform to a new society, a more advanced and equal society? Is it even possible to regroup? And, what of the dangers that still lurk both within and beyond their borders?  These questions and others Mr. King leaves for the reader’s imagination to ponder.

The Mini Series

After completing the novel, I watched the four part made-for-TV miniseries.  Again, this was not for the first time.  The mini-series does not live up to the novel and I feel it is in many ways disappointing.  The series focuses on plot more than characterization, even though it is through the characters who in the book tell the story.  In fact, the characters as portrayed in the series are mere shells of their true selves.  The story is there, however, it is more of an outline of details rather than an in-depth portrayal of the horrors that occur in the written version.  The combination of the characters of Nadine Cross and Rita (the woman who Larry Underwood meets in NYC) fails to portray Nadine’s personality and her difficulty in making her ultimate decision.  The series version of Harold Lauder does not show his superior intelligence or the changes of his physical appearance over time spent on the road.  As well, the characters look in too good condition as they take their perilous journey half way across the United States.

There is talk periodically of producing a theatrical movie version of The Stand, consisting of three or even for parts.  I hope that this comes to fusion in the future as I think this epic novel deserves an epic film.  If you have not read the book, I highly recommend that you do either in print of audio format.  Don’t depend on the mini-series to tell you the story.  However, I warn you, that whether you read the print version or listen to the audio version of the book, the story will cause you to have very deep thoughts that occupy both your waking and even sleeping moments.

Thanks for stopping by… ~Yvonne~
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