Review of “Gerald’s Game” by Stephen King

At first, it might seem odd why a young man, with a critical penchant, would decide to subject himself to a story in which, no doubt, the subject matter would be ripe for critique. Why does a man subject himself to something he hates, only to complain about it? It must be that he actually enjoys the complaints. But that’s not the full story here.

No, this story has some personal history with me. I first started to read “Gerald’s Game” as a kid. I forget the specific age, but it was somewhere between the ages of 10 and 14. My father was a frequent reader on the pot (the shitty kind), and, one day, while on the pot myself, I discovered this book. I don’t even think I realized that there were handcuffs on the cover. In fact, I don’t even think I realized what they were until I had already started reading the book for the second time, this year. I’m an odd combination of attention to detail, yet a lack of contextual awareness.

At any rate, I first began to read this book at a young age. I think that was a very significant act which has, believe it or not, gone a long way to shape my philosophy today. That might seem like an exaggeration, but I do not believe it is. For I believe, if my memory serves me correctly, that it was this book, that I first began to read as a child, which made me realize that one can make a conscious decision to put “controversial” things into writing. This was the first “adulterated” book that I had ever attempted to read. I do not recall how far into the book I got back then, but I know I didn’t finish it. But I remembered reading about a woman handcuffed to a bed, and a man, with an erection, getting kicked by said woman, and dying. And I recall reading about a dog eating said dead man. From when I was a child. And I was hooked. It was so graphic that I was hooked. I wasn’t scared of it, but I had this weird fondness for it. There was a bravery to writing something like that. I greatly admired it, even back then. I wasn’t disgusted, but impressed.

Fast-forward several years later, when my desire to write for myself grows, and so does my desire to read more often. My history with reading is a pretty complicated mess, but suffice it to say that I have recently desired to go back and reread some stuff that I had either completely read or partially read from my youth. And this was one of the books. Here is the official “review”.

I was hooked by the concept. As I reread, I recalled what I had read before. Was it more captivating back then than it was now? That’s hard to say. My youthful inexperience may have made it more captivating back then, but I still enjoyed the concept this time around. I really loved the concept. As I was reading, I was fascinated by thinking of how he could keep this storyline going for so many pages. I don’t like the way Stephen King writes. I don’t like how he writes. I don’t like his “voice”, I guess you could say. His “ebb and flow” is very clunky. But I liked the overall message. I liked the “impression”. A woman is handcuffed to a bed. How does she get out? I like that idea. I like the fact that it goes on and on and on and on. What in the Hell is going to happen to her? I was hooked, despite the writing that made me want to grit my teeth from time to time. I enjoy what happened in the book, just not how they were told. Her struggle to get a glass of water. Her flashbacks to her childhood. There was a theme to the book that I found quite humorous.

To the dedication of the book: “This book is dedicated, with love and admiration, to six good women: Margaret Spruce Morehouse, Catherine Spruce Graves, Stephanie Spruce Leonard, Anne Spruce Labree, Tabitha Spruce King, Marcella Spruce”. The following page provides a quote, as King is one to do in the few books of his that I’ve read: “[Sadie] gathered herself together. No one could describe the scorn of her expression or the contemptuous hatred she put into her answer. ‘You men! You filthy dirty pigs! You’re all the same, all of you. Pigs! Pigs!’ – W. Somerset Maugham, ‘Rain'”. I suppose this is “sexist” of me, but my first instinct to realizing that this was going to be a major theme in the book was laughter. I couldn’t help but think of modern feminism. The book credits King’s copyright to 1992. Being born in that year, and being raised in the 90s (but mainly in the early 2000s), I believe that I can say that the current feministic trend is stronger than ever, but was growing even during my childhood. Words are annoying, and tricky. They can mean different things, and unraveling them is annoying. Truthful words are only valuable to those who value truth. But modern-day feminism is a disaster. And I couldn’t help but think of this as I started to realize what a major theme of this book was going to be.

However, I also understand that a man can dedicate something to influential women in his life without being a “cuck”. I’m cynical, but not that cynical. King wanted to dedicate something to the women in his life. Ok, I’m fine with that. Let’s continue with the story.

There’s an interesting reference which runs through the book of a certain “smell”. The main character of the book, Gerald Burlingame’s wife, Jessie (before any feminists get their cum-stained panties in a bunch, “Gerald’s” name came first because his name is actually in the title of the book), gets emotionally uncomfortable around a certain smell. Gerald and Jessie are in a lakehouse, spending time alone together. Jessie associates lakehouses with this certain “smell”. The damp smell of the lake. But it also brings to her mind the smell of semen.

For, you see, when Jessie was a little girl, her family spent the summer at a lakehouse as well. The family (Jessie, her brother, and mom and dad) were going to meet up with some other people to witness the eclipse that was going to happen, but her father wanted alone time with Jessie. The mother was reluctant, but, ultimately, it happened.

The father tells Jessie to put on this tight dress because it makes her look pretty. Jessie, being young, feels good that her father compliments her because she loves her father like children do. He tells her to sit on his lap, he gets an erection, and ends up cumming on her butt. He then tells her to go clean up.

She, obviously, is confused. She goes to remove her clothes and take a shower, and her distress grows as she realizes something smelly on her underwear. As she’s changing clothes, her father comes into the room. Jessie doesn’t want to tell her mother about what happened, and her father manipulates her by making sure that Jessie doesn’t want to tell her mother.

Jessie has these flashbacks as she remains handcuffed to the bed. The majority of the book is her talking to herself. A great concept. She goes through ebbs and flows. A dog comes in and starts eating Gerald. She starts battling thirst, and tries to get a glass of water that is left on the bed to drink. And that’s about it. She’s handcuffed, the door to the house is banging open and shut by the wind, she’s thirsty, and there’s a dog. And flashbacks, and her own thoughts. I liked the concept. She keeps talking to herself and talking to herself. But she talks to herself as other people that have existed in her life. There’s a feminist that she went to college with who was her “strong” side, who motivated her to try to figure out ways to get unhandcuffed. Her mother. That was the main point of the book: just her voices in her head, and what was going to happen to her. It was “ok”. I cared more about her situation than the voices in her head. I like the idea of one talking to oneself the whole time while in a situation like this, but it just felt forced to me. It felt like forced, annoying feministic crap. Perhaps I’m too cynical, partly because of the time in which I live. But it felt forced. “I love you, women in my life! You’re powerful!” Eh. I might be able to tolerate that a little more if King was a better writer. But my thoughts on King’s writing style is “Eh. Clunky.” Felt that way about “It” as well. But, as I said, as I was reading this, I realized that I’m a little jaded. It’s fine for King to dedicate something to the women in his life. And, I’m sure, he was influenced by stories they have told him throughout the years. They probably had strong feminist friends in college, and that influenced him. But it was just annoying to me, especially considering today’s climate. And the way King Tweets.

Just as an aside, at one point, more than halfway through the book, the passage of fictional time is about 21 hours. And the book is 445 pages. Yeah. I won’t say “typical King”, however. After reading the 1,000+ pages of “It”, this was a relief.

There’s this strange thing that comes into the room at night and Jessie isn’t sure if it’s her imagination or if there is something there. It’s got unnaturally long arms and big hands, and it opens up this bag to her and has golden rings and fingers in it and probably some other stuff I’m forgetting, like nipples. She isn’t sure if it’s real or her imagination but she decides, after a few nights, that she isn’t going to wait around anymore to find out. She breaks the glass after she’s drank all of the water, and uses a giant shard of it to cut her hand so that her blood can provide lubrication so she can slip out of her cuff. Nice. I liked that. I like fictional gore. There’s some drama, and eventually, she gets out of the house. The long-armed thing is chasing her and she’s still not sure if it’s completely real or not but she assumes it’s real, gets into the car and has trouble starting it (of course). But it finally starts, and she’s driving away. Slowly. Something whispers in her ear and she looks in the rearview and sees the creature in the backseat (I might have that order swapped) and she ends up crashing into a tree.

Turns out the “creature” was real, and it was this guy who dug up corpses and fucked them and took rings off of their fingers and kept body parts as well. Anyway, he gets caught, and she goes to his trial in secret, as people in town know about her story. Can’t remember if it was from the cops talking to the paper or if she wrote about it herself. Maybe both. I don’t really care. She sits right behind him, gets his attention, and spits in his goofy, aloof face. Then, she documents what happened to her. And that’s it.

This story really strikes me as “difference between the sexes”. I could see women liking this book more than men. But it’s written by a man (King, no less), so how much women are actually going to be able to relate to it is uncertain, to say the least. Once again, I can appreciate that King loves the women in his life, and wanted to really write something for them to show them he cares about them and appreciates them. But, it’s King. The writing style leaves a lot to be desired, and it came across to me with a significant amount of feminist crap. I suppose I’m contributing to rape culture, as I’m not emotionally invested and siding with a woman who gave in to her husband’s fetish against her better judgment, but this story isn’t very good. King’s writing still annoys me, the “feminist” twinge, for lack of a better term, annoyed me, even though I could also simultaneously appreciate it, but I liked the idea. I like the idea of someone being trapped in a helpless situation for a long time. That’s a good idea for fiction, and I can definitely see myself being inspired by this in something I may write down the road.

Basically, I guess what I’m saying is that this is very obviously a book about women written by a nerd. And that, like many things in life, makes me laugh.

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