So, Needful Things eh?
It's really very good. Or at least very enjoyable. This isn't literary criticism, it's a blog, so that's as qualified a summary statement as you're going to get.
It has that classic slow-burning build up before it all kicks off. The thing is, when it does hit its high gear (with about 300 pages to go!), it pretty much keeps its foot to the floor until the very end. The energy and thrust is all very visceral too and literally (like totally) had my pulse racing. It's people doing shit to other people in pretty terrible ways. Instigation and evil agencies aside, it's a very people centric story and, in spite of the inevitable and perhaps even unfortunate supernatural grounding, has more to say about humanity and our desire, weakness and the price we're willing to pay for these than the potential existence of 'outside evil' - whatever that means.
It's also classic King in the construction a narrative with such a fully fleshed out community of characters. His exposition and the character traits that emerge during the action foster the image of King having painted each one by hand like those dudes who are into miniature wargaming and paint all of their tiny figures under a magnifying glass. Some folk find this dull. Not me. I don't think he overstepped the exposition mark here, and with a girth of almost 800-pages, that's not bad going.
I think I'm past the point of rating the books better or worse than the others. I don't see a lot of worth in that. I really only judge on how much I enjoyed it. I know that makes me sound a bit simple and devoid of critical thought but, as I keep saying, this is a blog. I'm not judging the books on how good they are as objectively as reviewers are supposed to (although I agree with the idea I read recently, and am completely at a loss to properly credit, that reviews are always autobiographical because the reading of a book is experiential - I apologise for totally fucking mashing up the sentiment there) so an objective review is pretty much a paradox. I will say that Needful Things has sprung into my top 5 favourite King books. I'm not sure what the others are. Off the top of my head, the ones I've liked best so far are Pet Sematary, The Running Man, Thinner, The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three and The Long Walk. That's right, The Stand isn't up there. Neither are IT or The Shining. I have much more time for the latter two I've just mentioned, but they didn't get me the same way as the ones in my shortlist. One day I'll probably revisit The Stand, because the mythic status so many seem to ascribe it is a little lost on me thus far. One day.
Another thing that makes such weighing of the quality of one book against the others pointless, particularly at this stage is that, as I've said previously and will say a little more about in the next post, once I get past Gerald's Game, everything is new to me. I haven't read a think King has written in the last twenty+ years. Yep.
Anyway, one last thing about/around Needful Things. That it took me so long to finish bears no reflection on my enjoyment of it. My having started, got bogged down with and eventually abandoning Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer didn't help. Nor did re-reading Kafka's The Metamorphosis for the umpteenth time and deciding I should brush up on my German by reading it again and deconstructing it in the original language. That didn't go as well as I'd hoped. The height of my German scholarship and understanding was nearly half of my life ago. We have these ideas... I've promised myself I'll come back to this one.
There was an other thing that distracted me from ploughing through Needful Things as quickly as I should have done considering how much I buzzed off it, but this post is quite long enough. I'll bore you with it in the next one.