No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

#33: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon -- Stephen King

The world had teeth and it could bite you with them any time it wanted. She knew that now. She was only nine, but she knew it, and she thought she could accept it. (p.141)

Trisha is nearly ten, tall for her age, pretty smart. Her mother is keen on Family Activities: this week's is a walk on the Appalachian Trail, but Trisha can't enjoy herself with her mom and Pete sniping at one another about her parents' divorce. She steps off the path to pee, and gets lost. Very lost.

In her pack she's got a packed lunch, her Walkman and her Gameboy. The Walkman lasts longest and probably saves her life: at night, she curls up under a dead tree and listens to a baseball game, the Red Sox, with her hero Tom Gordon pitching.

She cried in relief. She would be found. She was sure of it. Tom Gordon had gotten the save and so would she. (p.76)

The woods are empty -- empty of humans, anyway. Trisha sees beavers, deer, a meteor shower. She wades through swamp-water and munches on fiddlehead ferns. The search parties have no idea how far she's gone, and are still scouring the area where she was last seen. Trisha feels utterly alone, except for her radio: but there's something watching her, something that is clearly not a figment of her imagination. (As she slept, something came and watched her. It watched for a long time ... (p. 129)

There's a dark voice from inside her too, a jeering mocking voice that tells her she'll never be found. Trisha is less afraid of what the voice says than of its existence within her.

King's narrative voice is interesting though sometimes jarring. We mostly see events from Trisha's point of view, but occasionally (as with the watcher in the woods above) we zoom out, to discover that the searchers are looking in the wrong place, that the thing in the woods is real, that Trisha's turned away from safety. The reader is informed of dangers, threats, horrors that Trisha's only peripherally aware of.

There are some wonderful images: watching a meteor shower, bits of rock further off the path than she could ever get dropped into earth's well of gravity (p. 157); all the air between these woods and the world she had so foolishly believed was hers (p. 124). On the whole, the style is simple, matter-of-fact, descriptive: a nine-year-old's stream of consciousness. And like a stream there's a lot going on beneath the surface: Trisha missing her father, growing up suddenly and drastically, discovering the stuff that TV and radio never tell you, discovering the darkness within which will never entirely leave her now.

The Girl who Loved Tom Gordon is a subtle horror story and a rite of passage. It's also a fascinating lesson in writing point-of-view.

No comments:

Post a Comment