I finished the second Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three today.
I’ve never been a big Stephen King fan. In all honesty, the only novel I’ve actually read of his was the first Gunslinger novel and it barely kept me interested. I read it in Salt Lake City, sometime either in Christmas or summertime, it’s weird that I can’t remember which, but I do remember finishing it in my mother’s long bathroom, standing against the wall after I had blow-dried my hair.
The reason for even reading the second book, especially when the first one kept me so enthralled, happened when I stumbled upon it while scanning GoodReads. I was looking for a way to write a synopsis that would entice potential literary agents for my own novel, and The Drawing of the Three’s sucked me in so quick it almost could be considered embarrassing. A heroin junkie? A schizophrenic woman called the Lady of Shadows? It had all the right key words that made me want to drive to my local bookstore and purchase it. Now.
Still a Stephen King story though. The Master Writer. King of Horror. I knew he was good, hell, at a writing conference one of the panelists said if you hadn’t read The Shining, you simply hadn’t lived the right kind of life. I just didn’t believe he made it anywhere near my Top 100.
I read the reviews, lackadaisical about spoilers, and found one that matched my sentiments exactly. Only when this poor reader picked up the second book, it floored him into reading the whole goddamn series.
So I was intrigued. It tickled my fancy. But remembering that long stretch slugging with the Gunslinger to find the man in black (whose name, Walter, just made me laugh) seemed hardly interesting. I put the book on my Christmas list and kind of forgot about it.
Fast forward to present day. After having the novel for the last six months, I decided to bite the bullet and take a chance on it. It was the middle of summer, I needed a paperback long enough and light enough to cart around in my bag between work and my lunch hour, and the Gunslinger Roland fit the bill. And then it happened. Slowly, yes, but surely, I got addicted to the Dark Tower.
It looked like it wouldn’t happen at first. The story had me wobbling on the fencepost, but I’m a firm believer in finishing what I’ve started.
The Beloved Reader finds Roland waking on a beach swarming with lobstrosites, creatures that snip off two fingers on his right hand and his big toe. He ends up finding a doorway, allowing his mind to come forward and climb into the mind of his first drawing.
King’s diction hardly wooed me, his use of the passive tense had me clawing out my hair at some points, but after a rocky first mile, I hit my stride when we met Eddie Dean.
I always know when I’ve transitioned from merely accepting a book, movie or television show for its story, to liking/loving it when I’ve cultivated a fanatic adoration for Favorite Character.
Favorite Character is a beast that can transform throughout a series and can seriously affect my love for said series. Generally, my motivation for caring and my worry about a series focuses on my motherly stress for Favorite Character.
Eddie Dean became Favorite Character.
I’m enamored with brotherhood these days. I die for two guys, be they strangers, brothers, friends, or mere acquaintances, who develop a fraternal bond that twists them into being unable to live without the other. Make one of them psychologically damaged in some way, give me some unconditional love, and I’m hooked. I know it sounds wrong, but I’m obsessed with the trope these days. Don’t even get me started on Supernatural’s Sam and Dean. I’ll talk all goddamn day.
Eddie Dean had it all. As the younger brother, Eddie gets sucked into every vice his veteran and fellow heroin junkie brother, Henry, can get him into. He’ll put up a good fight for a few months before he stands next to his brother, snorting coke and shooting up like a pro. God, the hero-worship. That beautiful destructive hero-worship.
Henry’s dependence is masked in self-deprecation. I applaud Henry’s ability to string Eddie along. Well done sir. Masterful. Well done at fucking up your brother.
“The day came when Eddie caught Henry not snorting but skin-popping. There had been another hysterical argument, an almost exact repeat of the first one, except it had been in Henry’s bedroom. It ended in almost exactly the same way, with Henry weeping and offering that implacable, inarguable defense that was utter surrender, utter admission: Eddie was right, he wasn’t fit to live, not fit to eat garbage from the gutter. He would go. Eddie would never have to see him again. He just hoped he would remember all the…”
Eddie’s been raised to think Henry could’ve been someone if Eddie hadn’t needed someone to care for him and bring him up. He’s blinded by Henry’s manipulation that’s keeping him hooked on Henry. It doesn’t help matters that Eddie ends up looking out for Henry more than Henry ever did.
“Because whether or not Eddie understood the truth (deep down Roland believed Eddie did), Henry must have: their positions had reversed themselves. Now Eddie held Henry’s hand crossing streets.”
And to solidify it:
“He was haunted by all the things Henry had given up for him, and haunted by something more pragmatic: Henry wouldn’t last out on the streets. He would be like a rabbit let loose in a jungle filled with tigers. On his own, Henry would wind up in jail or Bellevue before a week was out. So he begged, and Henry finally did him the favor of consenting to stick around, and six months after that Eddie also had a golden arm.”
It goes without saying that Eddie isn’t only the Prisoner because of his heroin addiction; he’s a Prisoner because of his need for people to need him. As Eddie tells Roland:
“’There are people who need people to need them. The reason you don’t understand is because you’re not one of those peope. You’d use me and then toss me away like a paper bag if hat’s what it came down to. God fucked you, my friend. You’re just smart enough so it would hurt you to do that, and just hard enough so you’d go ahead and do it anyway. You wouldn’t be able to help yourself. If I was lying on the beach there and screaming for help, you’d walk over me if I was between you and your goddam Tower. Isn’t’ that pretty close to the truth?’
Roland says nothing, only watches Eddie.
‘But not everyone is like that. There are people who need people to need them…It’s just another way of being hooked through the bag.’”
This part floored me and cemented Eddie as Favorite Character. It made the ending that much more gut wrenching knowing that Eddie wants Roland to need him as much as he needs Roland. Roland is a better, nobler version of Henry with the same fix. He needs his Dark Tower more than he needs anything else in the world and if he has to take Eddie down with him, then so be it. He knows it. Eddie knows it. It’s that blasted hero-worship, the belief that Eddie is no good without the people he loves, coupled with Roland’s doom that made The Drawing of the Tree a top contender to enter my Top 100 Hall of Fame.
Now that Favorite Character rant is complete, onward.
- I adored Roland’s confusion over modern day words. ‘Astin’ was good, but ‘tooter-fish’ had me rolling in the awes. Complete with Roland’s glee at sugar, paper, and his ability to orchestrate a shootout over penicillin gave me all sorts of amusement. What can I say? I’m a sucker for childlike wonder at things that are commonplace in my world.
- King’s ability to make me squirm. There were two in particular that had me punching out a sympathetic ouch. The first one was when the pharmacy man, Katz broke his jaw and the second was a medical intern’s disturbing dream.
“…driving Katz’s head against the floor and breaking his jaw in two places.”
“…he had awakened from a hellish nightmare in which the thing resting on top of the charred Samsonite suitcase had not been a teddy bear but his mother’s head, and her eyes had opened, and they had been charred; they were the staring expressionless shoebutton eyes of the teddybear, and her mouth had opened, revealing the broken fangs which had been her dentures up until the T.W.A. Tri-Star was struck by lightning on its final approach and she had whispered You couldn’t save me, George, we scrimped for you, we saved for you, we went without for you, your dad fixed up the scrape you got into with that damned girl and you STILL COULDN’T SAVE ME GOD DAMN YOU…”
- The fact that King could turn stereotypical and offensive Gone With the Wind black southern talk into something I had some difficulty deciphering really solidified his writing ability. Sho, mahfahs, sho.
- Who knew the lobstrosities would become so horrific? When Eddie is trussed up and nearly strangling himself on the slipknots connecting his throat and ankles, waiting for sundown for the lobstrosities to come and tear him apart, deciding whether he’ll strangle or die by their claws? So much fear for Favorite Character.
Things that Rubbed Me the Wrong Way:
- Right after the Beloved Reader learns that Favorite Character is tied up and deciding between his two fates of strangulation and death-by-claw, King proceeds to write a misleading paragraph describing the lobstrosities tearing into him and how one of his eyes is clawed into jelly. Oh wait. That’s just Roland imaging what could happen. Jerking my chain, Stephen. I don’t appreciate it.
- Getting Eddie out of the strangulation/lobstrosity situation felt like a whirlwind. I understand that we’ve gone from tossing a flambéed Jack Mort into the A-train’s path, but this is Favorite Character here. You’ve already written astounding action scenes as it is, let’s see this one be fulfilled.
- I feel like King writes books like he’s viewing a movie. I think that would get me in trouble in a creative writing class. All the more power to you, sir.
- The Eddie and Odetta/Detta love story. It was…okay. Now that Odetta/Detta is Susannah, hopefully we will see more of actual love going on that isn’t driven by survival and the terror of dying. It almost felt like King had to put it in here because a love story is required these days for a story to get anywhere. It’s expected. Because of that, I wasn’t a fan. I may be persuaded later, once Eddie and Susannah have more meaningful interactions. Eddie falling in love with her was just too sudden, too based on pure survival instinct, in a way that makes me think it isn’t going to last. I need something more powerful than just “Oh man, I think you’re the one!” and she’s like “Where are we?” Eddie and Roland’s bromance was stronger than this.
In conclusion, I knew I liked the novel when I closed the book. My small paperback copy had creases in the spine and I imagined Eddie as this one-eyed badass gunslinger following Roland on his quest for the Tower. Still the Prisoner, still fighting not to lose the very few people he has left in this world. Roland’s already lost everything, so it’s not a stretch to see him ditching his followers, even though they cling to him with everything they have. I’m ready for the third book, The Wastelands. Excitement pools in my belly, I’ve got warm tingles just thinking about Favorite Character’s perils, and hope King made the rest of the series just as wonderful as the second book.