African cockadoodie oogy dirtie birdie: A response to Misery by Stephen King

Ummmmm…. yeah.  This was an interesting one.  Misery is the first Stephen King book (aside from On Writing) that I’ve ever read.  I like the style and the story idea.  It’s creepy and there were many times when Paul is struggling to write that I wondered if that was autobiographical for Mr. King.  He certainly captures my plight as a fledgling writer.

It took getting about 2/3rds through the novel before I realized why this one bothered me more than Psycho, Church of Dead Girls, Red Dragon, and Silence of the Lambs combined.  And then it dawned on me.  Misery is written from the point of view of the victim!  I internalized it more and it freaked me out more.  I honestly can’t say that I would have tried to last as long as Paul did.  That is partly what I feel is unbelievable about Paul.  He’s unconnected from everyone yet he finds a reason to stay alive for so long.  I have a wife and two kids and I’m still close to my extended family.  I’d only keep going because I wouldn’t want them to have to deal with my death.  I wouldn’t be fighting to stay alive for myself or for a “cockadoodie” story.  But, as the novel progresses, I can understand to a point why he’s so attached to finishing the novel.

Photo from  Creepier cover than the one on my Nook book version in my opinion.
Annie Wilkes was pretty creepy to begin with.  Super fan to the extreme.  Yeah, then she dumps soapy water in Paul’s face forcing him to drink it.  Oh, and then shattering his already busted knee!  So I was pretty convinced that she’s psychotic.  And that’s all before Paul sneaks a peak at her book of memories.  I screamed at him to get back to the room every time he “thought” he heard a car coming.  I can’t remember the last time that I actually vocally yelled at a character in a book!  Mr. King, I applaud you and your astounding story-telling abilities.  I didn’t fly through this book like the others because it was more painful to read.  Not that anything was wrong with the story, craft, grammar, etc.  As I said earlier, it was simply because I internalized Paul more than I internalized Will Graham or Dolarhyde for example.  Now I understand why our fearless leader, Scott Johnson, warned us at the beginning of his syllabus for this course.  
I’m struggling to find ways to articulate how this affected me.  It will lend to interesting reads from my classmates as they post their reviews (see horror blog roll on the side).  One thing I can say is that I can see now why Mr. King has such a following.  We’ve read a number of scary stories in the class so far.  Most of those just intrigued me with questions like “How does someone get like that?” Misery didn’t do that as much for me.  If I questioned anything it was “Would I last as long? Don’t think so.” I seriously think if I had been in Paul’s place I would have succumbed to the pain and horror long before I found out about Annie’s past.  Just goes to show what a tale you can make by putting your character through some truly horrific situations.

4 thoughts on “African cockadoodie oogy dirtie birdie: A response to Misery by Stephen King”

  1. The point you made about this being from the point of view of the victim is a good one. I didn’t think about that when I read it. I also wonder if that is why so much of psyho fiction does nothing for me. Not a lot of it is about an actual victim, it is always other person, whether law enforcement or not, that tells the story and they may try to empathize, but it’s not the same as being in the shoes of Paul. Good supernatural horror will do that, and I think that’s why I stay in that section of the genre so much.

  2. I really like how King portrayed Annie. Even in the beginning when she pours on the ‘superfan’ as you call it, it is apparent that she isn’t all there. I just love how she degenerates as the story progresses until, just like Paul, she’s hanging on by a thread at the end.

  3. The point of view really makes the story. Annie Wilkes is a terrific character, but seeing her—experiencing her—the victim’s point of view is what makes Misery horror, rather than just psychological suspense. (Not that there is anything wrong with the later. A book can be a good tale of psychological suspense but not be horror. Misery is both.)

  4. Very awesome how you point out the story’s being from the victim’s point of view. I, like Will, didn’t think of that. I also have never thought about whether or not I could have survived crazy Annie. I think the snow would have killed me off before she got me back to the house…

    Awesome post.

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