“IT” (Post 1/9)

02

IT Month Introduction

[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

In this part, we’ll cover:

Chapter 1

Chapter 2


[1] Dedication page:

Kids, fiction is the truth inside the lie, and the truth of this fiction is simple enough: the magic exists.

(p.vii)

[2] Reference:

“This old town been home long as I remember

This town gonna be here long after I’m gone.

East side west side take a close look ‘round her

You been down but you’re still in my bones.”

The Michael Stanley Band

(p.viii)

 

Michael Stanley (b.1948) is an American singer-songwriter and radio personality. Both as a solo artist and with the Michael Stanley Band, his brand of heartland rock was popular in Cleveland and around the American Midwest in the 1970s and 1980s.

The band’s last Top 40 hit was “My Town” in 1983.

[3] The second quote on the opening page is by George Seferis. Is was also used in the Prologue of Salem’s Lot (note [1]) and is from the poem “The Return of the Exile”:

“Old friend, what are you looking for?

After those many years abroad you come

With images you tended

Under foreign skies

Far away from your own land.”

(p.viii)

[4] The third intro quote is from Neil Young and refers to two of his songs which bookend the (pretty great) album Rust Never Sleeps. The first is called “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)”, the second is called “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)”. King makes “Out of the Blue/Into the Black” a motif through the entire book.

Patty thinking about Stan:

The face of a man who was heading out of the blue and into the black.

(p.54)

Richie:

Out of the blue and into the black, yes, that was it. Where anything might be waiting.

(p.71)

In Mike’s first Derry Interlude:

We went deep together.

We went into the black together.

(p.161)

 

It’s always the desire, never the time. Maybe that’s all we get to take with us when we go out of the blue and into the black.

(p.916)

 

they were

(out of the blue and)

into the black.

(p.1027)

We finally learn that “the black” is the eternity where It and the Turtle (note [14]) live:

Whatever lived out here in the black might be invulnerable when It was here and nowhere else.

(p.1072)

 

He was in the black again, up to his shoulders inside Its convulsing body.

(p.1110)

 

He stands under the blue and into the black and watches the Barrens fill up with darkness.

(p.1130)


Part 1: The Shadow Before

Chapter 1: After the Flood (1957)

This is possibly the greatest opening chapter of any book. I don’t think you could read it and not want to continue.

[5] Chapter 1 includes an invisible narrator who never shows up again. After this, only Mike Hanlon’s Derry Interludes have an “I” voice. This “I” is not Mike. It’s someone else entirely. This establishes a fable/fairy tale feel, easing the reader into the story.

First paragraph of Chapter 1:

The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years – if it ever did end – began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.

(p.3)

Last paragraph of Chapter 1:

I do not know where [the boat] finally fetched up, if ever it did; perhaps it reached the sea and sails there forever, like a magic boat in a fairytale. All I know is that it was still afloat and still running on the breast of the flood when it passed the incorporated town limits of Derry, Maine, and there it passes out of this tale forever.

(p.16)

One of my favorite things about It are the chapters which feel like short stories in their own right. The Derry Interludes, the asides about townspeople (especially Patrick Hockstetter). I’ve always been more fond of King’s short stories than his novels and my enjoyment of his tales-within-tales might come from that. If I complain about a King book being overlong, I’m rarely pointing toward his development of side-characters; usually I get annoyed by drawn-out climaxes (Dreamcatcher, The Stand or Tommyknockers, anyone?).

[6] Always the foreshadowing with King:

In that autumn of 1957, eight months before the real horrors began and twenty-eight years before the final showdown, Stuttering Bill was ten years old.

(p.3)

[7] Reference:

Witcham Street was blocked to motor traffic by smudgepots.

(p.4)

 

A smudge pot (also known as choofa or orchard heater) is an oil-burning device used to prevent frost on fruit trees. The smudge pot is placed between trees in an orchard. The burning oil creates some heat, but more importantly, a large amount of smoke, particulates, carbon dioxide, and water vapor. The deliberate smog forms a “blanket” that blocked infrared light, thereby preventing radiative cooling that would otherwise cause or worsen frost.

[8]

In Derry such forgetting of tragedy and disaster was almost an art, as Bill Denbrough would come to discover in the course of time.

(p.4-5)

[9]

Their buckles made a jolly jingling as George Denbrough ran toward his strange death.

(p.5)

[10]

He did not even like opening the door to flick on the light because he always had the idea – this was so exquisitely stupid he didn’t dare tell anyone – that while he was feeling for the light switch, some horrible clawed paw would settle lightly over his wrist…

(p.6)

[11]

It was the smell of something for which he had no name: the smell of It, crouched and lurking and ready to spring. A creature which would eat anything but which was especially hungry for boymeat.

(p.7)

[12]

The sound of the piano came from what his father called the living room and what his mother called the parlor. It sounded like music from another world, far away, the way talk and laughter on a summer-crowded beach must sound to an exhausted swimmer who struggles with the undertow.

(p.7)

I love how much is said about Bill’s parents in that simple statement (what his father called the living room and what his mother called the parlor). This chapter is masterful, front to back.

[13] Reference:

Cans of Kiwi shoepolish.

(p.8)

 

Kiwi is the brand name of a shoe polish, first launched and sold in Australia in 1906 and as of 2005 sold in almost 180 countries. It is the dominant shoe polish in some countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States, where it has about two-thirds of the market.

[14] A huge, other-dimensional Turtle guardian plays a large part in the climax of It (this animal guardian/beam business also plays hugely into The Dark Tower – see Post 4, note [137]). References to the turtle/turtles show up a lot in the first half then drop out, so that when the turtle actually appears, we have an almost subliminal “Oh yeah” reaction:

An old flat can of Turtle Wax. For some reason this can struck him, and he spent nearly thirty seconds looking at the turtle on the lid with a kind of hypnotic wonder.

(p.8)

 

That turtle, George thought, going to the counter drawer where the matches were kept. Where did I see a turtle like that before?

But no answer came, and he dismissed the question.

(p.9)

 

“The turtle couldn’t help us,” [Stan] said suddenly.

(p.45)

 

Crazily, she thought: I would call the turtle, but the turtle couldn’t help us.

(p.57)

 

Maybe it was the voice of the turtle.

(p.148)

 

Part of me – the part Bill would call the voice of the Turtle – says I should call them all, tonight.

(p.149)

 

I’m the only one that hears the voice of the Turtle, the only one who remembers, because I’m the only one who stayed here in Derry.

(p.150)

 

He had been sleeping, dreaming something, dreaming about some

(turtle)

funny little animal, he couldn’t remember just what.

(p.335)

 

When the time comes, they will hear the voice of the Turtle.

(p.446)

 

[Ben] looked down at the sidewalk and for a moment saw the shape of a turtle chalked there, and the world seemed to swim before his eyes. He shut them tightly and when he opened them saw it was not a turtle; only a hopscotch grid half-erased by the light rain.

(p.543)

 

He had a chance to note the remains of a very old hopscotch grid that had been done in pink chalk on that old sidewalk. Then, for just a moment, it swam and looked like something else. It looked like a turtle.

(p.795)

 

[Bill] came back a minute later with a pair of cheap Turtle wraparound sunglasses that had been languishing in a kitchen drawer.

(p.860)

 

Ah Chüd this is the ritual of Chüd and the Turtle cannot help us.

(p.914)

 

Something spoke strongly against the idea – the voice of the Turtle, he supposed.

(p.930)

Finally, confirmation (of a sort) of what the Turtle is:

Before the universe there had been only two things. One was Itself and the other was the Turtle. (…) Even if the Turtle had vomited the universe out whole, that didn’t change the fact of its stupidity.

(p.1023)

 

He rushed toward it and saw it was a great Turtle. (…)

I’m the Turtle, son. I made the universe, but please don’t blame me for it. I had a bellyache.

(p.1070)

 

(the Turtle is dead oh God the Turtle really is dead)

(p.1080)

[15] References:

Buffalo Bob was just about the only one who could understand Clarabell.

(p.13)

 

Buffalo Bob Smith (1917-1998) was the host of the children’s show Howdy Doody (1947-1960). The mute Clarabell the Clown who communicated in mime, by honking horns on his belt, and by squirting seltzer. Originally played by Bob Keeshan who went on to create the children’s TV character “Captain Kangaroo.” He was later played by Robert “Nick” Nicholson and finally by Lew Anderson.

Inspiration for Pennywise was taken from Bozo and Clarabell.

[16] Bill Skarsgard does a fine job in the 2017 film, but Tim Curry’s performance in the 1990 version is still the one I see when Pennywise speaks. In both cases, it’s amazing how the essence of such a sprawling book is retained while condensing. The trick in the films is simply to hit these beats that King has supplied in the opening chapter. He gives you everything you need in this opening. It’s amazing.

“I, Georgie, am Mr. Bob Gray, also known as Pennywise the Dancing Clown.”

(p.14)

 

“Do they float?”

“Float?” The clown’s grin widened. “Oh yes, indeed they do. They float! (…) and when you’re down here with me, you’ll float, too-”

(p.15)


Chapter 2: After the Festival (1984)

The second movie has to start with this event, though I wonder how it will be modernized…

[17] Vocabulary:

Loggers’ bitts, axes, and peaveys from the 1880s.

(p.20)

 

bitts

noun – a pair of posts on the deck of a ship for fastening mooring lines or cables.

A peavey or peavey hook is a logging tool consisting of a handle, generally from 30 to 50 inches long, with a metal spike protruding from the end. The spike is rammed into a log, then a hook grabs the log at a second location. Once engaged, the handle gives the operator leverage to roll or slide or float the log to a new position. The peavey was named for blacksmith Joseph Peavey of Upper Stillwater, Maine, who invented the tool in the 1850s.

[18] Reference:

It was so much better to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative, as the old song said.

(p.20)

 

Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive” is a popular song which was published in 1944. The music was written by Harold Arlen and the lyrics by Johnny Mercer. The song was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1945 after being used in the film “Here Come the Waves.” It is sun in the style of a sermon, and explains that accentuating the positive is key to happiness.

[19] Reference:

His IQ was 68, according to the Wechsler he had taken during one of his three trips through the seventh grade.

(p.24)

 

The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) is an IQ test designed to measure intelligence and cognitive ability in adults and older adolescents. The original WAIS (Form I) was published in February 1955 by David Wechsler (1896-1981), as a revision of the Wechsler-Bellevue Intelligence Scale, released in 1939. It is currently in its fourth edition (WAIS-IV) released in 2008 by Pearson, and is the most widely used IQ test, for both adults and older adolescents, in the world. The new version will be available in 2019.

[20] Random, but I like when King drops characters named Stephen and Steve into his books. We have a Steve Dubay (p.24), Steve Covall (p.66), and Steven Johnson (p.512) and he even works a couple of Kings in: King & Landry (p.106) and Eddie King (p.901) (which is also the third Eddie of the book).

[21] I’m not sure if King’s trying to say something about It’s powers or if this is just an unsettling image he likes, but all of It’s victims are found with their eyes open (if their eyes are mentioned).

[Georgie’s] eyes stared up into the white sky, and as Dave staggered away (…), they began to fill up with rain.

(p.16)

 

When they brought [Adrian’s dead body] up from under the Canal bridge, his eyes had been open, bulging with terror.

(p.25)

 

If [Stanley’s] staring eyes had still been capable of seeing, she would have looked upside down to him.

(p.59)

[22] References:

Ramrod-Style outrageousness or Peck’s Big Boy-style outrageousness.

(p.27)

 

Ramrod (1947) is a Western film directed by Andre DeToth. This cowboy drama from Hungarian director DeToth was the first of several films based on the stories of Western author Luke Short. The film stars Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake. “Ramrod,” at least in the film, refers to a ranch foreman.

Henry “Hennery” Peck, popularly known as Peck’s Bad Boy, is a fictional character created by George Wilbur Peck (1840-1916). First appearing in the 1883 novel Peck’s Bad Boy and His Pa, the Bad Boy has appeared in numerous print, stage, and film adaptations. The phrase “Peck’s bad boy” has entered the language to refer to anyone whose mischievous or bad behavior leads to annoyance or embarrassment.

[23]

“He said it might be a terrible novel, but it was no longer going to be a terrible unfinished novel.”

(p.28)

[24] References:

“This is, after all, the era of Ronnie Moron and Phyllis Housefly.”

(p.29)

 

Ronnie Moron may be referring to Ronald Reagan and Phillis Housefly is probably a reference to Phyllis Schlafly (1924-2016), an American constitutional lawyer and conservative activist. She was known for her staunchly conservative social and political views, her proposition to feminism and abortion, and her successful campaign against the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (Thanks to this thread by Auturgist on the StephenKing.com Message Board for the tip.)

[25] References:

This was the part that was going to send at least two of these assholes to Thomaston.

(p.30)

 

The Maine State Prison was erected in Thomaston, Maine in 1824 and relocated to Warren in 2002.

[26]

The timing was just right enough so that things worked out wrong for everyone.

(p.31)

[27] Reference:

The letters stood for the Dead Bugs, a metal band he particularly admired.

(p.33)

King made up the name the Dead Bugs (I think) for It, though there is a band using the name currently. (Their demo.)

[28]

“The clown looked back. I saw its eyes, and all at once I understood who it was.”

“Who was it, Don?” Harold Gardener asked softly.

“It was Derry,” Don Hagarty said. “It was this town.”

“And what did you do then?” It was Reeves.

“I ran, you dumb shit,” Hagarty said, and burst into tears.

(p.36)

[29]

Boutillier had been sitting at his desk, playing with a pencil. Now he put the pencil down, got up, and walked over to Harold Gardener. Boutillier was five inches shorter, but Gardener retreated a step before the man’s anger.

(p.37)

[30] Reference:

“I don’t care if it was Kinko the clown.”

(p.38)

 

Ogden Edsl (shortened from “The Ogden Edsl Wahalia Blues Ensemble Mondo Bizzario Band”) was an American band, formed in 1970 in Omaha, Nebraska. Their music was often darkly comedic and satirical, and was frequently featured on Dr. Demento’s weekly radio program.

Popular songs from Ogden Edsl included “Dead Puppies”, “Kinko the Clown“. and “Daddy’s Money”.

“Kinko the Clown” is about a pedophile clown.

[31] References:

Christopher Philip Unwin was (…) sentenced to six months as the South Windham Boys’ Training Facility.

(p.39)

 

South Windham is a census-designated place in the down of Windham in Cumberland County, Maine. The population was 1,374 at the 2010 census.

I can’t find record of a Boys’ Training Facility there.

[32] Is this a reappearance of the narrator from Chapter 1 (note [5])?

At the time of this writing, all three sentences are under appeal.

(p.39)


Post 2

 

Advertisements

6 thoughts on ““IT” (Post 1/9)

    1. Context for others: on page 38 (note [30] in this post, though I don’t include the full quote there), a detective says: “I don’t care if it was Kinko the Clown or a guy in an Uncle Sam suit on stilts or Hubert the Happy Homo.”

      I take “Hubert” to be a flippant remark (an invented, sarcastic alliteration) and not referring to anyone/anything specific. The detective is being cruel about the fact that the murdered man was gay.

      Doing some Googling, I found a passage containing the Hubert quote from Douglas Keesey’s essay, ” ‘The Face of Mr. Flip’: Homophobia in the Horror of Stephen King” (from the book “Bloom’s Modern Critical Views: Stephen King”, edited by Harold Bloom, 2007):

      “The D.A. thinks that It might be ‘Kinko the Klown or a guy in an Uncle Sam suit on stilts or Hubert the Happy Homo’ (It, 37). Later on in the novel, the police speculate that It may be a ‘sexfiend,’ a ‘fiend for boys’ (It, 180). And, as if in response to young boys’ fears (‘It’s one of the queers the big kids are always talking about’), It appears as a hobo, frightening to boy Eddie with the proposition, ‘Come back here, kid! I’ll blow you for free’ (It, 260, 309).”

      Keesey doesn’t appear to see “Hubert” as a specific reference, either (the essay itself is pretty interesting. If you want to read more I found it over on Google Books):

      https://books.google.com/books?id=HFwYTN9MNdsC&pg=PA73&lpg=PA73&dq=%22hubert+the+happy+homo%22&source=bl&ots=1WL_cV5kxy&sig=2xiBWc0DDKWdm1AvaiIvTg_B-mQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjK7LicqbrcAhUlhOAKHU-TDagQ6AEIQjAI#v=onepage&q=%22hubert%20the%20happy%20homo%22&f=false

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s