Stephen King’s “Fairy Tale”: Ignoring Today’s World As It Once Was

“Fairy Tale” is the latest book written by the famous Stephen King. This very large novel begins with a first-person narrator (we later find out that it is Charlie Reade). He begins by appealing to the reader “…I’m sure I can tell this story…no one will believe it.” He warns us of the fantastic nature of the story he will tell, of the place where it was made (Sycamore Street) and of the co-star: Mr. Bowditch.

He will immediately tell us about the place: provincial, far from the big cities, foreign to modernity. Without a doubt, the best scenario for a story of this kind. We immediately find out what happened to the mother who left the house to buy fried chicken: “…I should do gymnastics, but I’m wearing Little Red Riding Hood’s raincoat”.

In a sense, the narrator names fairy tale characters, just as the author has titled this book. Unfortunately, the fatal fate will end the life of the mother, who will be run over by a clumsy driver and, to the greatest misfortune of this boy, his father, an insurance policy salesman at the Overland National Insurance company, will fall into depression. and he drinks every day, until he loses his job; a heavy blow for a teenager who will have to pass quickly from puberty to maturity. However, with the help of a colleague, Lindy Franklin, he was able to attend Alcoholics Anonymous and begin detoxing under the Sober Dawn program.

In this sort of stability for Charlie, one day, returning from his Hillview Institute, he will discover the House of Psychosis, an elegant Victorian-style house where Mr. Bowditch lived (known for his bad mood and for his German Shepherd: Radar). From that moment on, the first bond between the two characters will be established. One afternoon Charlie will hear the dog howling from the Victorian house, he will approach, he will be curious to find out that old Mr. Bowditch was in mortal danger and he will call 911 and save his life.

This incident is the creative impetus for a story that only Stephen King could build. A few days pass when the boy takes care of feeding Mr. Bowditch’s dog. They stay home alone. Nothing special happens.

Except that for the first time the narrator mentions a basement and a shed which —with too much creative obviousness— will become relevant clues in the 840 pages that remain to be read. It happens that the stock level is slow and there is no speed in the story; the author spends a lot of time describing episodes that could be solved in one sentence.

A narrative economy is missing. The scenes postulated as demonstrative (dialogues and infinite details), could be of a narrative type (summary of facts). Despite this, we are left with a slight sense of mystery to solve: who is Mr. Bowditch? What is he hiding in that old house?

There’s still no suspense in the way Hitchcock defined Truffaut: “…if there’s a bomb in this room where you and I are having an anonymous chat and nobody suspects a thing and, suddenly, the bomb goes off: well this is a surprise, but if the bomb continues in this room and the reader (spectator) knows it because he saw a terrorist put it there, the same anodyne conversation -which will be our last conversation- ceases to be insignificant and acquires relevance because the reader partakes of her and knows what is to come for us, something you and I do not know, yes the reader (spectator), therein lies the suspense, Mr. Truffaut.

The type of story in this long segment could be called realistic. The events that happen to the characters are covered in the field of what exists. After a season in hospital, the elderly Mr. Bowditch returns home to be cared for by the young teenager with whom he becomes very familiar. At the head of the dog and the mysterious old man, one afternoon he will discover strange noises in the shed.

He will ask the old man, but will not give him an answer. She immediately confesses that there is money in the safe (actually gold balls) with which he can pay for the clinic; First you need to go to the company of a man with whom the old man makes all his transactions to convert gold into money. Surprised that besides the golden balls there is a pistol and a tape recorder in that safe, if the young man does this, Bowditch will feel very grateful. A new mystery is born that will have gigantic repercussions in terms of history. Especially when the old man dies of cardiac arrest. He leaves him a will, all the property (with everything inside, including the safe) and a riddle that haunts the teenager and that he will try to decipher.

We could say that here begins the fantastic of this dense story, once again with a young man as the protagonist, not a child as in the previous texts. In this regard, King states: “…if in one of my stories I give a gift to a child as happens in ‘The Shining’ with Danny’s ability to shine, to see the future or Carrie White’s telekinesis is another way to tell the reader: look at the child in you, what talents that child has, have you noticed how he thinks, because children don’t have straight thinking, they take detours, they are ductile”.

“One of the things that interests me a lot about children is their ability to open up to a world of dreams and fantasies, they will believe anything, if you tell them that people can fly they will believe it, and they believe it because they are crazy, and we we will allow them to be crazy. Children talk to people who don’t exist until the disease of rationality settles in them. And then from the age of 8 we tell them why they don’t mature, they mature! And they do. They become doctors, in engineers, as far as their imagination is concerned, it shrinks as their body grows.Their ability to imagine the full range, the whole world of wonder shrinks, you pay a price to mature and it’s a heavy price And the adults who come to my books is because they know they can imagine again with me.

What happens next? There is an unexpected twist to the story. After Mr Bowditch’s death, a series of inexplicable events came crashing down for the teenager. The old man, in addition to the total inheritance of his goods, leaves him a secret; a dangerous secret and telling relationship with the shed. Through a tape recording (of those that no longer exist, but which the old man used for this purpose) he describes the place he will begin to inhabit. Here is a kind of homage or tribute to two great novelists – Kafka and Bradbury (in fact, the young man names Ray Bradbury twice).

The first takes place weeks earlier —on the basis of the noises that the young man observes from the shed — when the old man enters it and fires two shots at what the boy will later verify to be an enormous cockroach, of terrifying dimensions. And the second is to Haruki Murakami —I don’t know whether intentionally or not—, after the old man’s death and after hearing the recording which is actually an amazing and terrifying sentence, Charlie, already with the keys that the old man left him, you will open the shed and discover a well. In the midst of the frightening construction, he will see what the old man had warned him about: it is the well of worlds, in which he will have access to another dimension, to other unspeakable beings and, most surprisingly, to eternal youth.

The Japanese author in two of his novels – “The death of the commander” and “Chronicle of the bird that goes around the world” – uses this element of the fantastic as a door to other unimaginable places. The difference with King is that this author will add the frightening and the unexpected, where the fear of the unknown will arise without limits. And he does it by writing spectacularly, as only he drives terror.

Stephen King’s stories seek to revive our ability to dream by inviting us to seek fantasy in the most mundane, most dehumanized reality.

Deeply rooted in a rural and often poor America, Stephen King’s work is considered easy literature, accessible to most, a particular literary style that specialized critics perceive as vulgar and inferior.

From his nightmares to his stories, King always tells us the same thing: only an awakened mind can defend itself against monsters, and in the image and likeness of the heroes of his story “The Body”, King invites us to face our fears to get out of that try a little better, a little wiser. Over seventy years, Stephen King occupies an unparalleled place in contemporary literature, philanthropist, loving family man, in half a century he has become one of the most important storytellers of our time, local and universal artist at the same time, profound and always accessible; and it is the force of his nightmares that continues to make us believe in the possibility of an ideal dream.

In this regard, he says: “For me the trick was to find some kind of bridge between the gothic horror stories written in the 80s. XVIII and the world we live in today. Because Frankenstein and Dracula are both set in Europe and there’s a sense of antiquity to them, there are castles, there are wastelands and I don’t live in that world, so I set the horror in places that were familiar to me. What worries me the most is the emotional aspect. But there can be more to a book, this is what happened to me when I was writing ‘Carrie’, when I realized that besides being a story about a sad girl with psychokinetic powers, it was a story about blood and the meaning of blood to us, the real substance that means deep connections with things like religion, the relationship with the blood of the lamb, with adulthood which in women is symbolized in part with the first menstruation.

“The well of worlds” that will begin to trouble Charlie Reade has just begun and we still have more than six hundred pages to access this other world that the author offers us. To read it takes a lot of time just like the classics did when there was no television, radio or anything else, the most important distraction was reading large volumes; “The Count of Monte Cristo”, for example, by Dumas was published in an edition of 1791 pages. Perhaps this should be appreciated by Stephen King: who has once again written an infinite novel and invites us to read it at a time when reading is in crisis in the face of digital technology. However, there are always readers to save the world from words, if you don’t ask all those teenagers who read Harry Potter or the prodigious 5 volumes of “Game of Thrones”.

It is worth reading “Fairy Tale” and leaving the current world as it once was. And we deserve it, no doubt.

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  • The content expressed in this opinion column is the sole responsibility of its author and does not necessarily reflect the editorial line or position of The meter.

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