Monday, October 03, 2011

{Photos by rocketlass.} It's that time again . . . And where better to start our October journey than with Stephen King, a passage from Pet Sematary (1983):
It's probably wrong to believe there can be any limit to the horror which the human mind can experience. On the contrary, it seems that some exponential effect begins to obtain as deeper and deeper darkness falls--as little as one may like to admit it, human experience tends, in a good many ways, to support the idea that when the nightmare grows black enough, horror spawns horror, until finally blackness seems to cover everything. And the most terrifying question of all may be just how much horror the human mind can stand and still maintain a wakeful, staring, unrelenting sanity That such events have their own Rube Goldberg absurdity goes almost without saying. That may be the point at which sanity begins either to save itself or to buckle and break down; that point at which one's sense of humor begins to reassert itself.
When King is at his best--as he is for large parts of the frequently terrifying Pet Sematary--he is remarkably convincing on that point, putting his characters under more and more pressure, stripping away one by one the defenses of disbelief and rationality, leaving them to confront the horror plain. Like no other writer I can think of except Dorothy Dunnett, he makes us believe in--and understand--just how far a person can keep going, keep pushing, keep fighting despite exhaustion, pain, injury, and loss. As Ambrose Bierce put it in "The Boarded Window,"
There is a point at which terror may turn to madness; and madness incites to action.
When the choice is to surrender to death or to keep fighting the impossible battle, King's characters choose to fight--a reminder that even as his books are about death and destruction and fear, he ultimately believes more in what's in the human than what's in the darkness.

1 comment:

  1. George Marques (Brazil)2:43 PM

    Indeed, very good remark about King.

    Only because of prejudice, I admit, I have stayed away from Stephen King's books. This year, however, I did read "Thinner", which King wrote under the pseudonymn of Richard Bachmann.

    The plot of "Thinner" is very simple and terrifying: a man is coursed by a gypsy and starts to loose weight continuously, no matter how much he eats, and this process is drawing him to death by starvation.

    The narrative fits exactly with what you stated: driven by horror and desperate with the lack of alternatives, the protagonist decides to fight back, against an opponent with powers he cannot fully understand. The most chilling aspect of the story is how this man fights fiercely for his own survival, despite the lack of support from his wife and his doctor.

    Stephen King is a much better writer than I could possibly imagine.