“Christine” (Post 3/3)

Christine 03

[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

Post 1

Post 2


[56] Reference:

Sheb Wooley was singing “The Purple People Eater.”

(p.291)

Shelby Fredrick “Sheb” Wooley (1921 – 2003) was a character actor and singer, best known for his 1958 novelty song “The Purple People Eater.” He was also in High Noon, The Outlaw Josey Wales and Rawhide. Wooley is also credited as the voice actor who produced the Wilhelm scream sound effect.

[57] Reference:

Both of them played chess as if maybe they thought Ruy Lopez was some new kind of soft drink.

(p.292)

The Ruy Lopez, also called the Spanish Opening or Spanish Game, is a chess opening named after 16th-century Spanish bishop Ruy Lopez de Segura.

[58] References:

The radio spilled out a steady flood of golden oldies, and today all of them seemed to be instrumentals – “Rebel Rouser,” “Wild Weekend,” “Telstar,” Sandy Nelson’s jungle-driven “Teen Beat,” and “Rumble,” by Linc [sic] Wray, the greatest of them all.

(p.292)

Rebel-‘Rouser” is a rock and roll instrumental recorded by Duane Eddy and released as a single in 1958. The song was used in Forrest Gump.

Wild Weekend” is the best-known song by The Rebels, released in 1961.

Sandy Nelson (b.1938) is one of the best-known rock drummers of the early 1960s and had several solo instrumental Top 40 hits. He released “Teen Beat” in 1959.

[59]

This Thursday afternoon and evening were taking on the maroon tones of nightmare. Beyond the glass walls of the booth, strange faces drifted dreamily past, like untethered balloons on which someone had crudely drawn human faces. God at work with a magic marker.

(p.293)

[60] Vocabulary:

The abandoned hulks with their stellated glass.

(p.300)

In geometry, stellation is the process of extending a polygon (in two dimensions), polyhedron in three dimensions, or, in general, a polytope in n dimensions to form a new figure.

[61] Reference:

The woman he kept at a safe distance in King of Prussia had not protected him from it.

(p.313)

King of Prussia (also referred to as KOP) is a census-designated place in Upper Merion Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. As of the 2010 census, its population was 19,936. The community took its name in the 18th century from a local tavern named the King of Prussia Inn, which was named after King Frederick the Great of Prussia. King of Prussia is considered to be an edge city of Philadelphia.

[62] Reference:

The cops in their off-the-rack Anderson-Little suits.

(p.313)

Anderson-Little was an American clothing manufacturer and retailer of the 20th century, particularly of men’s suits. It operated in the eastern United States, and in New England in particular. The brand has been revived in the 21st century as a small internet retailer.

[63]

Upshaw thought suddenly, almost with relief, It’s the end of everything.

(p.313)

It reminds me of David Mitchell’s good line from Ghostwritten (note [16]):

And then, so strangely, I’m relieved it’s all over. At least I can stop running.

(Ghostwritten, pages 31 and 267)

[64] Reference:

“Lots of cops eat the gun. Melvin Purvis did it, you know. He was the man who got Dillinger.”

(p.315)

Melvin Purvis II (1903 – 1960) was an American law enforcement official and FBI agent. He is noted for leading the manhunts that tracked such outlaws as Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, and John Dillinger. Purvis captured more public enemies than any other agent in FBI history. J. Edgar Hoover claimed that another agent had been put in charge of the Dillinger case as of his capture. In 1960, Purvis died from a gunshot wound to the head. The FBI declared his death a suicide, although the official coroner’s report did not label the cause of death as such. A later investigation suggested that Purvis may have shot himself accidentally while trying to extract a tracer bullet jammed in the pistol.

[65]

He felt halfway through a dark story that might prove too terrible too finish. Except he had to finish it now, didn’t he? Yes.

(p.316)

Compare with John Fowles’ The Magus (note [204]):

“This experience. It’s like being halfway through a book. I can’t just throw it in the dustbin.”

(The Magus p.261)

No surprise that authors have their characters describe their situations in fictional terms. Also no surprise that I’m drawn to these lines.

[66] References:

The manuscript of his third book, a study of the ironclads Monitor and Merrimac [sic].

(p.319)

The USS Monitor was an iron-hulled steamship. Built during the American Civil War, she was the first ironclad warship commissioned by the Union Navy. Launched in January 1862, she was lost at sea in December of 1862. The wreck was located in 1973.

The USS Merrimack was a frigate, best known as the hull upon which the ironclad warship CSS Virginia was constructed during the American Civil War. The CSS Virginia then took part in the Battle of Hampton Roads (also known as “the Battle of the Monitor and the Merrimack”) in the first engagement between ironclad warships (in March 1862). The two ironclads fought for about three hours, with neither being able to inflict significant damage on the other. The duel ended indecisively and the ships did not fight again.

[67]

He waited until he had some kind of control, and then he got up and went downstairs to tell Regina what had happened. He would tell her and she would think of what they were going to do, just as she always had; she would steal the forward motion from him, taking whatever sorry balm that actually doing things had to give, and leave him with only sick sorrow and the knowledge that now his son was someone else.

(p.321)

…and completing some odd literary trifecta (notes [63] and [65]), this is very Ordinary People.

[68]

She had had to cope with a seemingly endless flood of rancid curiosity masquerading as sympathy.

(p.322)

[69] Dennis ultimately proves unnecessary to the story. Leigh could have been the narrator the whole time (if we even needed a first-person narrator; I’d argue we don’t). In any case, it would have been nice to give Leigh more personality or motivation. After turning to Dennis, she dissolves into a weepy, frightened child. He even goes so far as to call her “kiddo” repeatedly in the climax, which made me cringe every time. She reminded me of Susan in Salem’s Lot (note [8]), leaning on Dennis as though he was older and wiser and stronger, though they are the same age.

[70] Reference:

It was on a slotcar track surrounded by HO-scale scenery.

(p.328)

HO or H0 is a scale used in model railroading. Is it the most popular scale of model railway in the world. The precise definition varies slightly by country. The standard predominately used in North America is 3.5 mm representing 1 real foot (a ratio usually rounded to 1:87.1).

[71]

“You’re smiling again,” Regina said.

“I was just thinking about how much I love you both,” Arnie said. His father looked at him, surprised and touched; there was a soft gleam in his mother’s eyes that might have been tears.

They really believed it.

The shitters.

(p.332)

[72] Reference:

He was reading one of his father’s fuckbooks, a deeply incisive and thought-provoking tome titled Swap-Around Pammie.

(p.337)

Looking this up only refers to Christine. Guessing King just made this one up.

[73] Reference:

Like Gaul, all of Libertyville Heights was divided into three parts.

(p.340)

According to the testimony of Julius Caesar, Gaul was divided into three parts: Gallia Celtica, Belgica and Aquitania.

[74]

The look of mad joy in his eye was not so different from the look in the eye of a man Will had known twenty years before, a fellow named Everett Dingle who had gone home from the garage one afternoon and murdered his entire family.

(p.343)

[75] After taking over narration again in Part 3, Dennis pretty much admits that he was also the author of Part 2 (or is at least aware of its contents), which makes me wonder again why we switched at all:

She talked, first hesitantly, then more rapidly, until it was pouring out of her. It is a story you have already heard, so I won’t repeat it here; suffice it to say that I tried to tell it pretty much as she told it to me.

(p.356)

[76] Reference:

He sounded like Andy Devine crossed with Broderick Crawford.

(p.371)

Andy Devine (1905 – 1977) was an American character actor and comic cowboy sidekick known for his distinctive whiny voice.

Broderick Crawford (1911 – 1986) was an American stage, film, radio, and TV actor, often cast in tough-guy roles and best known for his role in All the King’s Men.

[77] Reference:

“What Guy Lombardo and all that happy crappy.” (…)

“Well, maybe Dick Clark or someone. Guy Lombardo’s dead, Arnie.”

(p.379)

Guy Lombardo (1902 – 1977) was a Canadian-American bandleader and violinist. He formed The Royal Canadians in 1924 with his brothers and other musicians from his hometown. He is remembered for almost a half-century of New Year’s Eve big band remotes (remote broadcasts), first on radio, and then on television, up to 1976.

[78] It’s a bummer that Detective Junkins, the most interesting character in this whole thing, is killed completely off-screen.

[79] Reference:

The way he had started combing his hair like Fabian, or one of those other fifties greaseballs.

(p.401)

Fabiano Anthony Forte (b.1943), professionally known as Fabian, is an American singer and actor. Forte rose to national prominence after performing several times on American Bandstand. He became a teen idol of the late 1950s and early 1960s.

[80] Vocabulary:

Overhead, big box-shaped heaters pointed their louvers this way and that.

(p.443)

louver

noun – 1. each of a set of angled slats or flat strips fixed or hung at regular intervals in a door, shutter, or screen to allow air or light to pass through.

2. a domed structure on a roof, with side openings for ventilation.

[81] Reference:

A pile of Beeline Books.

(p.444)

Beeline” appears to have been a series of adult novels (including such titles as “Lawfully Wedded Nymph” and “Gardener’s Plaything”).

[82] Reference:

A bent cotter-pin lying on the floor straightened itself.

(p.458)

“Cotter pin” has different meanings for U.S. and British use, which can cause confusion when companies of both countries work together. In the U.S., it can refer to:

Split pin – a metal fastener with two tines that are bent during installation used to fasten metal together.

Hairpin cotter pin – more commonly known as an “R-clip”.

Bowtie cotter pin – a formed wire fastener that resembles an R-clip, except it positively locks when installed.

Circle cotter – a formed wire fastener that is shaped like a circle.

In Britain, a cotter is a pin or wedge passing through a hole to fix parts tightly together.

[83] The feeling that Dennis is older than twenty-two is reemphasized at the end. He speaks of Leigh as though it’s been ages since he’s seen her:

So we drifted apart (…) Leigh left college to be married, and then it was goodbye Drew and hello Taos. I went to her wedding with hardly a qualm. Nice fellow.

(p. – forgive me, I somehow failed to mark down the page for these next quotes. They are in the last five pages of the book)

 

Last Christmas season, when I sent Leigh her annual card, I added a line to my usual note on the back.

(p.see above)

I’m four years older, and Arnie’s face has grown hazy to me, a browning photograph from an old yearbook. (…) I made it through, made the transition from adolescence to manhood.

(p.see above above)

Dennis and Leigh dated for about two of those four years. So there have only been two Christmas-card exchanges. Not the long-standing tradition he’s making it out to be. Dennis’ whole tone is of an older man, nearer to the end of his career than the beginning. After nailing teenage-hood so well, I’m perplexed at how King bungles this up.

Though, looking through King’s biography, he had a degree, was married and having children before his mid-twenties, so the problem here might be that Stephen King never experienced what it was like to be a drifting, immature twenty-something. He probably was as adult-sounding as Dennis by twenty-two.


 

The first time I read Christine, I was thirteen and thought it was flawless. When I re-read it at twenty-three, I gave it a 4-star rating. At thirty-one, I’m giving it a 2. What happened?

The obvious: I got older.

Christine works best if you first encounter it as a teen. If you’re past your mid-twenties, I would actively try to talk you out of reading this one. Read Pet Sematary or The Dead Zone if you’re looking for a good work around this era of King’s career.

I’d still recommend Christine to younger readers with horror interests. The teen-angst worrying-about-college and struggling-against-parents aspects have an authentic ring; my biggest compliment to King on this one is his ability to tap into how teens think getting older is like. The excessive 70s references might go over most modern heads, but some things about being a teenager haven’t changed.

Next week, you’re in for a good one: William March’s The Bad Seed.

 

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