I am back to The Stand. Hello old friend!
I dived head first into The Dark Tower, and read with eagerness the first two books. I started the third when we decided to take a family trip. Given the options: The Stand or The Wastelands, my daughters chose The Stand. (Yes, those were the options.) They like the movie, why not the book?
Since then, I have been listening to The Stand everywhere I go. I should go back to The Wastelands, but I can't break away. The story engrosses me even still. I read the abridged version recently -- via Mr. Gardner. I am thrilled he did the reading again. If anything, his performance is even stronger and crisper.
Reading The Stand this time is like being reunited with old friends. I feel this way when I read Pillars of the Earth for the 100th time! Stu, Larry, Fran and many long forgotten small characters reappear in all their glory to live out the story one more time.
I have not read the unabridged version since high school. There are scene's I really don't remember -- I must have skimmed! (Okay, I know I did.) For instance, the scene with Franny's mother was brand new to me.
King does something I appreciate: He casts characters who hold moral positions different from his own in a positive light. He doesn't always stereotype In particular, he shows a depth of understanding when discussing abortion and the pro-life position. I believe King is strongly pro-choice, so I cringe when a character goes to discuss the pro-life position Are we about to get a straw-man argument? Is he just out to make pro-lifers look dumb? Well, that's not what King does at all. He allows a sympathetic character to lay out the view without feeling the need to insert a counter argument.
Peter Goldsmith says,
“I think abortion’s too clean a name for it,” Peter Goldsmith said. His lips moved slowly over each word, as if they pained him. “I think it’s infanticide, pure and simple. I’m sorry to say so, to be so ... inflexible, set, whatever it is I’m being ... about something which you now have to consider, if only because the law says you may consider it. I told you I was an old man.”It's not a scientific case study, just an old man's opinion. But it takes guts for a writer to allow a character to hold a view contrary to their own without painting that character a nut case.
Small nods to the larger Stephen King universe are more evident to me this time. When I read the novel the first time, it was the first King book I ever thumbed my way through. I was unaware that King connected his books. In particular, I was struck by the use of The Shop -- which comes from Firestarter.
Stephen King has an unusually strong grasp on people and characters. I often find myself agreeing with observations he makes about people -- but surprised that such observations came from what was at the time a young man. Larry does a lot of introspection. It is a powerful scene when his mother reveals to him that he's just a user. Now what's neat is having read the book already, I know that Larry will overcome that trait. He will take his stand for what he believes is right. A sign of a good novel is that characters evolve and grow. That is certainly true of Larry.
Also when it comes to Franny's parents, King does a remarkable job portraying a couple in grief. Peter has moved on, but is sympathetic to his wife -- who is lost despair and selfishness. The scene where Peter holds a mirror to his wife's behavior and shows her what she's really like is quite good. I suspect it would have come across melodramatic had it been included in the mini-series. But it the writing carried it and did what screen could not have.