When I was in high school, I wanted to be like Carrie. I wanted to have strong, mental powers to defend myself from the bullies, the teachers, and sometimes from family itself. I wanted to have them on the palm of my hand, unable to escape after one joke too many. I’m pretty sure I’m not the one.
Surprisingly, more and more teens shared this disdain and desire. Not necessarily absolute misfits. A few Halloweens later, this beautiful Suicide Girl chick from university went dressed as Carrie to one of the most decadent parties I’ve ever been to. Mind you, the same party had a bloke dressed like a member of the Ingsoc Thought Police, and I think I saw many Alices in Wonderland, Alex DeLarge and even the Aztec god Tlaloc. Accidentally on purpose, it was a literary themed party. Nobody killed anyone, though. Some people shagged, some people threw up and some people threw up while shagging. Nothing like Brian de Palma’s apocalyptic film adaptation, nor like the straight-to-TV alternate fantasy featuring Angela Bettis, which, quite ironically, we were watching before going to the party.
It seems embarrassing, but it wasn’t until very recently that I read the original novel by Stephen King. The first film gave me so much life, yet I didn’t know what was printed on paper.
To those unfamiliar with the story: it’s about a teenager who is hated at school and at home. Her classmates treat her like little more than a cockroach, while her fundamentalist fanatical mother tends to lock her in a closet for several hours whenever she commits acts of impurity – such as having her period. When she finds out she has telekinetic powers, her self-defence skills grow in monstrous proportions right on time for Prom Night, where she falls prey to the prank to kill all pranks and… well… let’s say pranks are not the only ones that get killed.
While the book is short and easy to drink in one day, King presents it gradually and slowly, bit by bit, unveiling the facts and rumours behind the second-largest tragedy in post-war America. We get to know the circumstances in which Carrie was conceived, born and raised – her birth story being re-imagined on the latest film adaptation, directed by Kimberly Peirce and starring Chlöe Grace Moretz being more Hit Girl than Shit Girl. We read people’s research and speculations intercalated with the omniscient narrator’s telling of events, including every single thought that’s gone through Carrie’s head. We get to compare testimonials and interpretations with the “truth” as it happened. Supposing it did.
Can’t help but wonder if the Black Prom happened in real life, on the 27th of May of 1979, would still be remembered today. How would it stand compared to other school tragedies such as the ones in Columbine, Virginia Tech, Red Lake and Sandy Hook? Or, after learning out lesson with the Black Prom, and knowing that children indeed are our present and future, would these other massacres have happened at all? It was a work of fiction, but couldn’t we learn from it anyway and do our best to not give the perfect soil and nutrients to turn it into a reality?
The adaptations have forgotten several things from the book, unsurprisingly. None of them mention the Rain of Stones, perhaps a very large piece of the puzzle of Carrie White’s life. And the genetic background goes unmentioned in motion pictures. So, movie-watchers infer that Carrie’s powers just happened all of a sudden and weren’t around until her first menses.
On the other hand, something I was missing that was not included on the book was some mention of the books Carrie read on telekinesis. On the films we see her diving into piles and piles of them, and I expected some “quotations” or “page selections” from these books in particular. Just like Yukio Mishima included an entire book-within-a-book on Runaway Horses, where lawyer Shigekuni Honda reads The League of the Divine Wind; and this reading, enthusiastically suggested by the young Isao Iinuma, explains the deadly consequences at the end of the story, the entire Sea of Fertility saga, and even Mishima’s own life.
However, contrary to the Japanese author’s example, Carrie was King’s opera prima and not his Swan Song. It was a lesson to learn, but not a testament. And he was not twisted enough (yet) to leave books within books within quotations within annotations like Mark Z. Danielewski in House of Leaves. I am unaware if he actually does it in later works of his extensive catalogue, but this is still a compelling effort for a first book – or for a book in general, full stop.
Many years after Carrie, Stephen King is still a very influential storyteller, and whether you’ve read him or not, you can relate to his stories in one way or another thanks to his innumerable adaptations for film and TV. Up next, I will be reading The Shining – which inspired my favourite Kubrick film – and Misery – to force myself to keep writing and stop Annie Wilkes from breaking my legs with a hammer.