In reviewing Sleeping Beauties, I'm going to do something a little different than what I normally do: I'm going to offer day-by-day journal entries about my reading for that particular day.
Not sure I'm going to like the format, but if I get to the end of the process and think it's a colostomy bag in blog-post format, I'll simply scrap it ... and nobody will ever know it existed...! Waa-hah-hah! Ahem.
I will try to not be very spoilery, but I can't swear as to how successful I'll be. So I'll pledge to conclude the post with a determinedly non-spoilery wrapup section, where I'll give you an indication of how I feel about the novel without ruining anything for you.
So if you want to skip straight to that, scroll down until you see another image, and read what comes after.
September 26, 2017
The book was delivered by Amazon today. Much appreciated, fellas! Sadly, I won't be taking it out of the box today; no point, thanks to an unexpected "opportunity" to work on a day off. Ah, the perils of being full-time! (I'm happy to have 'em, FYI; if I grouse, it's mostly good-natured.) I'd initially taken three days off in a row in the hopes of being able to return to my heyday of plowing through a new King book -- even a weighty one like this -- as soon as it hit shelves. But events conspired to prevent it, and so, see ya in a few days, book.
September 28, 2017
I cracked the book open tonight, finally, and worked my way through ... uh, well, almost none of it, to be honest.
I did read the cast-of-characters section which appears right up front. I was sort of ambivalent about doing so, but I figured if the Kings took the trouble to write it out and have somebody print it that way, I'm nobody to ignore it.
I also read the opening epigraphs, plus the one-page italicized narrative section that seemingly introduces us to the novel's main (?) character. It didn't make much of an impression on me; didn't grab me. But it didn't seem designed to; it seems more of a dreamy, elusive thing than a grab-'em-by-the-shirt thing. I'll be curious to see how it reads once I'm familiar with the entire novel.
September 29, 2017 -- Part One, Chapter One
Why am I putting the "2017" on all of those headers? If it somehow turns into 2018 and I'm still working on this book, I'm turning in my fuckin' license to blog.
Anyways, I made it through the first chapter tonight. It was pretty good. A few thoughts:
- My utterly shite memory is likely to be on full display during this process, but maybe that's okay. Seems honest, at least.
- The novel opens with a scene between two female inmates, Ree and Jeanette, whose names I am shocked to remember.
- My initial feeling is that this chapter is heavily weighted toward Owen King's style and perspective. This is fine by me; I'm a fan, so if it sounds 100% like his previous work, that won't fash me none. [I hereby pledge to try NOT to be the guy whose primary goal in reading (and writing about) this novel is to "figure out" who wrote what. Interviews have made clear that it was an intensely collaborative process, and that the end result is one in which practically -- if not literally -- every sentence was rewritten by both Owen and Stephen at some point.]
- We soon shift perspectives and meet a middle-aged psychiatrist, whose name escapes me. He's married to a sheriff and is employed by the state as a resident at the same prison where the chapter opened. This doctor character is immediately sympathetic and likeable (he's lightly distraught over the buff pool guy working in his back yard, but in a way that implies no actual fear that the pool guy will invade his life in any way -- sort of a theoretical and/or on-principle distress), and there's a nice rapport with his son that kind of mirrors the sort of jocular relationship the Kings themselves have shown in joint interviews.
- We shift to what appears to be a backwoods meth lab, where a strange young woman -- and we immediately doubt that she actually IS a woman -- kills several people. This is Evie; "a stranger," as she is referred to in the cast of characters. Speaking of that cast of characters, I recognized the names of several of her victims from having seen them in that list. Somehow, that made their deaths here seem more shocking, which is an interesting side-effect. It's almost as if seeing their names all together like that put them on equal footing, so that when one is dispatched so quickly, it subconsciously feels like a real person has vanished from the story.
- When Evie shows up at the meth lab -- or the trailer next door to the meth lab, I think, if you want to get technical -- she greets the guy who answers the door with a "Hello, man." You don't actually "see" this happen; you hear it from the perspective of another female character. She also hears one of her trailer-mates ask Evie in a drug-addled manner if she is the Avon lady. She assuredly is not, and the Kings, in the next section, after she has bloodily dispatched several people by hand, refer to her as "the Avon lady who was not an Avon lady." I love that phrase, and am probably going to name this post after it.
- Part of what I love about the phrase is the use of "was not" as opposed to "wasn't." That's a deliberate choice the Kings made, and it means something to them. Therefore, it means something to me. So ... what's it mean? Well, my impulse is to say that it means that the story -- at least while we are (in a limited sense) in Evie's perspective -- is operating at a more formal level in some way. It implies a lack of emotion; and since Evie showed virtually no emotion during her dispatching of the druggies, it mirrors her and keeps us in her point of view to some degree.