Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Duma Key - Stephen King

2008; 609 pages.  New Author? : No.  Genre : Contemporary Horror.  Overall Rating : 9*/10.

    Edgar Freemantle is a broken man.  A construction site accident took away one of his arms, crushed a leg, and scrambled up the insides of his brain.  His wife has divorced him, and he's contemplating suicide.

    At his therapist's suggestion, he's moved from Minnesota to a small island just off the west coast of Florida ("Duma Key"), and has taken up drawing and painting.  Seascapes mostly, cuz that's what he sees out his upstairs window.

    Edgar discovers he has a flair for painting.  His works are moving.  And powerful.  In fact, they're becoming too powerful.

What's To Like...
    Duma Key opens as if it's going to be a straight-up person-finding-himself drama.  Then the tension creeps in, with Stephen King oh-so-gradually ramping it up a notch with each chapter.  The drama segues into mystery; the mystery segues into horror.  And in case the tension-increase is too subtle for you, he puts a "hook" at the end of almost every section.

    The characters are fascinating, complex, and develop nicely as the story progresses.  Wireman is a hoot.  So is Elizabeth Eastlake.  There are unexpected twists and an exciting and satisfying ending.  No "to be continued" hogwash here.

Kewlest New Word...
Expatiate : to speak or write at length or in detail.

    What I remember most clearly about that visit is how embarrassed and ill-at-ease Tom seemed.
    I offered him a beer and he took me up on it.  When I came back from the kitchen, he was looking at a pen-and-ink I'd done - three palm trees silhouetted against an expanse of water, a bit of screened-in porch jutting into the left foreground.  "This is pretty good," he said.  "You do this?"
    "Nah, the elves.  They come in the night.  Cobble my shoes, draw the occasional picture."  (pg. 17)

    I smiled.  I tried to put the champagne bottle back and missed the bucket.  Hell, I missed the table.  The bottle hit the carpet and rolled.  Once the Daughter of the Godfather had been a child, holding out her picture of a smiling horse for a photographer's camera, the photographer probably some jazzy guy wearing a straw hat and arm garters.  Then she had been an old woman jittering away the last of her life in a wheelchair while her snood came loose and flailed from one final hairpin under the fluorescent lights of an art gallery office.  And the time in between?  It probably seemed like no more than a nod or a wave of the hand to the clear blue sky.  In the end we all go smash to the floor.  (pg. 405)

"Abyssus abyssum invocat."  "Hell invokes Hell."  (pg. 590)
    Stephen King has proven over and over that he's a masterful story-teller, and here he delivers yet again.  Think it's easy?  Consider this.  He takes 600 pages to tell you about a geezer that paints beachfront sunsets.  And somehow turns that into a horror story.  And keeps you ravenously turning the pages the whole way.  Do you think any other author could pull that off?

    9 Stars.  Yeah, a good editor could've shortened Duma Key by 150 pages or so.  But telling Stephen King to be short-winded is like telling Allen Ginsberg to keep it clean.  It might be possible, but why would you want to?

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