Part IV is focused on book five, Wolves of the Calla, and as with all of these posts, there will be so many spoilers.
When I first started reading this series as a teenager, I tore through each of the books, eager to get to the end, only to come to an abrupt halt when I discovered the fifth book had not been written yet. It took Stephen King six years after finishing Wizard and Glass to finish and publish The Wolves of the Calla. During that time, I had lost the thread of the narrative. I always intended to finish reading the series, but it settled comfortably into the back burner and stayed there — until now.
Wolves of the Calla is the first book in the series that’s new to me, and that newness might be why it took me ten months to get around to reading it. Lately, I’ve been having a hard time coming back to stories (TV shows especially), finding myself simultaneously caught between wanting to know the ending to the story and at the same time not wanting to know what happened to the characters. Reading books one to four was comfortable, stepping into the fifth book was a risk, the witness of terrible things, or worse, disappointment in the story or characters.
“Dreams either mean nothing or everything — and when they mean everything, they almost always come as messages from . . . well, from other levels of the Tower.” He gazed at Eddie shrewdly. “And not all messages are sent by friends.”
— from Wizard and Glass
Part IV is focused on my reread of book four, Wizard and Glass.
Fair warning: Spoilers ahead.
The third book ended on such a massive cliffhanger — with Roland and his ka-tet set to begin a battle of riddles with a homicidal AI train — that it was a great relief to finally get around to reading Wizard and Glass. This was even though I’ve read these books before and knew how the scene would play out.
Wizard and Glass opens right back with the start of the riddling competition between Blaine the Train and Roland, Eddie, Susannah, and Jake a scene I remember being delighted by when I first read it. And it was just as entertaining to read again, because of how King manages to create intensity in a game of wordplay. I also just really like the idea of riddling, even if I’m not particularly good at it myself. The game plays out, with the group growing more and more desperate each time Blaine smugly answers — with everything wrapping up in a maniacal and humorous form of heroism.
Our heroes all survive of course, arriving at the destination of Topeka, which turns out to be an alternate version of our Kansas — a Kansas emptied of life due to a plague that killed off the population (which I’ll come back to later). All of this is an introductory endcap to what is ultimately the heart of the novel, Roland opening up to the group with the tale of his first mission as a gunslinger and his first love.
Here’s Part I of my journey through Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. These are my thoughts on rereading The Drawing of the Three, the second book in the series — and as such, there may be spoilers ahead.
The Drawing of the Three opens precisely where the first book left off, with the gunslinger Roland alone, collapsed from exhaustion on the shore of a great ocean. As the tide rolls in, he is woken by the incoming tide (which douses his bullets) and is greeted with horrors that drag themselves out of the water. These lobstrocities with their strange questioning sounds attack him as he’s waking — and this attack, which happens in the first five pages, is brutal, leaving him catastrophically wounded.
Undeterred, Roland continues his long, plodding journey toward the Dark Tower. As walks up the beach, with infection from his injuries spreading, he discovers the first door, the first drawing.
In the first book, The Gunslinger, the man in black laid out Roland’s future using a form of tarot cards, presenting three cards in particular that represent the people he would need on his journey to the Dark Tower — The Prisoner, The Lady of Shadows, and Death (but not for the gunslinger). Each door represents one of these cards. When opened, the doors reveal our own world at different time periods, from where (and when) he must draw out the people destined to join him in pursuit of the Tower.
In the afterward to The Drawing of the Three, King wrote, “This longer second volume still leaves many questions unanswered, but I feel that it is a much more complete volume than the first.” And I am in agreement with this sentiment. I enjoyed my reread of The Drawing of the Three more than I did the first book. Where The Gunslinger felt a little disjointed, as though all the pieces didn’t quite fit together, The Drawing of the Three feels whole. The storyline is simple on the surface, with the gunslinger finding three doors and opening them, but each door presents it’s own complications in terms of how the gunslinger can obtain who and what he needs. As new companions are added to the story, things become increasingly character driven, with their flaws driving much of the conflict — as they tend to do in relationships. It makes for interesting character growth for all three of the main characters, and that growth more than anything else is what makes this such a great novel.
My love for Stephen King’s books began in high school. At least, that’s when my passion was at its highest peak, a time when I sought out every copy of his work I could find through book stories, libraries, and garage sales and read book after brick-thick book full of nightmares and horrors. Over the years I’ve read over 25 books by King, mostly the novels now considered classics published in the ’70s and ’80s along with several short story collections. I even dedicated a video poem to his work a few years ago to show my appreciation.
Of all the numerous King classics I’ve read, the book I held with most love in my memory was The Gunslinger, the first book in The Dark Tower series. I remember being hooked immediately by the opening sentence, “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” It seemed at the time the perfect opening sentence, setting the main characters into place upon the stage and presenting an immediate mystery as the reader wonders, Why? In fact, I loved that opening sentence so much, I memorized it and the line has often come to mind at random moments over the years.
I remember being blown away by the story, with the plodding gunslinger dragging himself through the desert, the man in black, the boy torn from another world. It leveled me and, although purely in a fantastical way, opened up new ways of perceiving the universe (or universes, as the case maybe). It became one of those books I clung to after reading, not wanting it to be over yet. Continue reading “The Gunslinger – Returning to The Dark Tower, Part I”
Last week, I took a business trip that took me through Nashville, northern Alabama, and into Kentucky. I spent quite a bit of this trip driving from location to location and with all the work meetings and industrial site visits, there was little time for hanging out.
I checked out the Nashville City Cemetery and would have loved to have explored it more, but it was sweltering hot and humid out and I couldn’t handle it. Not even in the shade.
Most importantly, I made sure to get my good eats on while at Nashville by visiting Hatti B’s for some great fried chicken and Biscuit Love for some bonuts.
What I’m Reading
China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station presents an incredible detailed portrayal of one of the strangest fantastical cities I’ve read. There’s a strange mixture of magic and science combined with a gritty seedy feeling — the entire city being filled with grime and refuse and other more disturbing images. It’s not a nice place to visit (or live), but it’s also beautiful in its way. The characters, too, are rather interesting — one being an artist pursuing a dangerous commission and the other a scientist of magic (it seems) who has been provided with a seemingly impossible challenge.
Still reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, as well.
And I’m reading The Plant by Stephen King — an unfinished novel about a plant that invades the office of a small publishing house — for THE POEMING (which I’ll talk about below). I’m sure many sinister things are abound to happen in the story, although I’m not sure how deep into the story it goes before it just drops off into unfinished territory.
What I’m Writing
Due to the traveling, my writing was sporadic last week. I attacked some poems in an attempt to meet an anthology deadline, but trying to combine the submission process with being on the road stressed me out. So, I let it go for now. But at least I have a couple of solid poem starts that might find homes elsewhere.
At the moment I’m getting prepped for THE POEMING — an October challenge in which 50+ plus poets have been each been assigned one of the 50+ novels written by Stephen King. Each poet will write/create a found poem from their assigned novel (mine is The Plant) and will post one new poem per day in the month of October. All of the poems will be shared on Tumblr — my challenge page is Tendrils of Leaves.
Goals for the Week:
Work on that short story or one of the poetry collection projects