Books and Other Pleasures

“To write is a dangerous job”

It’s Winter, full night, the sky has decided to come down in buckets while lightning and thunder are breaking down. A sudden drop in current almost makes me scream, I can barely keep from running into my parents’ bed as I did as a child. But it is certainly not the storm that terrifies me, it is the book that I am reading in one breath in the weak light of the lightshade in the grandparents’ house that creaks and rasps and already makes me anxious. I started the book a few hours earlier, but I can’t get away from it, despite the cold, the sleep, the anguish that is rising up page after page.

I had already read Stephen King’s novels, but usually given the eternal description of every detail, even the most useless, I never found myself anxious  Not even when I read IT, except in a couple of scenes. The merit of King is also his defect in my opinion: the ability to draw his characters in an excellent way, offering the reader small details disseminated here and there that allow you to have a complete picture especially of the psychology and physicality of that precise character ; the talent to describe places and atmospheres in such a detailed way that look like pictures.. The problem is, as I said, that it usually takes so long that I lose not only the thread of the speech, but also all that concoction of terror and excitement that he would /should transmit.

Still, it will be that the cover up slams against the glass, the lightnings almost illuminate the room, the shadows draw scenes of terror on the wall, Misery[1] is making me die of anguish!!!

Page after page, I feel more and more inside the story, I sigh, I twist, I close my eyes and then I go on reading avidly; I am tempted to interrupt but I am afraid of the nightmares that I could bring to sleep.

What if I dream of Anne Wilkes and all the torture she’s inflicting on the poor Paul Sheldon?
The plot[2] is not as surreal as “The Dome”, “The dream catcher” or “Carrie”. No aliens, killer dolls or supernatural phenomena to alleviate our anxieties and console us with the clear perspective of << It is pure and simple invention! >>. No, here the characters are real like us! Real, realistic. No voodoo magic, nothing extra-terrestrial.

A psychopathic fan and a tired writer.

 

 

“Writers remember everything…especially the hurts. Strip a writer to the buff, point to the scars, and he’ll tell you the story of each small one. From the big ones you get novels. A little talent is a nice thing to have if you want to be a writer, but the only real requirement is the ability to remember the story of every scar.
Art consists of the persistence of memory.”[3]

 

Many writers have taken inspiration from this story, even Castle starts like this, with him deciding to kill his main character and a fan who who is not happy with this,  begins to emulate the murderer of the novels.

But everything there, is seasoned with irony, paradoxes, funny jokes. “Misery” instead is a succession of suffering. Why read it then? Why undergo such a torture?

Because it is absolutely brilliant, it devours you, spew you up, forces you to read it.

First of all, I recommend it to aspiring writers, especially those who, taken from the Martin-mood, intend to take out all the most beautiful and loved characters from the readers …

I would think about it twice.

And then I recommend it because it almost looks like an “interactive” book-game: we are Paul’s fans and we encourage him to rebel against the disturbed one. During the experiments of the initial escapes from the room, we rejoice when he manages to open the door and rejoice every time he rebels answering her in the right manner.

“In a book, all would have gone according to plan… but life was so fucking untidy — what could you say for an existence where some of the most crucial conversations of your life took place when you needed to take a shit, or something? An existence where there weren’t even any chapters?”[4]

 

 

But he pays for every rebellion at a high price. I don’t want to spoil anything but let’s say that having suffered a lot from a knee injury at some point I felt in full empathy, to the point of finding myself in tears!

Not everyone knows that at the time King was writing stuffed with drugs and drowned in alcohol and the story of “Misery” unconsciously reflected his addiction condition, but it shouldn’t be surprising since there are totally dreamlike and crazy passages in the novel. Yet it is a madness so plausible as to be a source of nightmares for nights and nights.

The real particularity is the story in the story: on the one hand the accidents of the ‘strange couple’ Sheldon-Wilkes and within them, King frames the pieces of “The Return of Misery” – the novel that Anne forces him to write, which reveal the fundamental and crucial parts of the story, and  allow the reader to hold the general thread of the intrigue but  at the same time attracts the reader himself who would aspire to have more news about the whole adventure.

 

 

“He felt as he always did when he finished a book — queerly empty, let down, aware that for each little success he had paid a toll of absurdity.”[5]

 

When the winter storm subsided at 4 in the morning, I was only a few pages away from the conclusion. << Will Paul be saved? Will Annie get away with what she did to him? >> I wondered. I remember collapsing with the book in my hands, having had troubled dreams and that when I woke-up I had decided never to read such books again.

I finished it the next night, and didn’t keep my promise, I read about it, thriller, noir, horror; but still today Anne Walkes remains one of the most chilling women who come to visit my nights from time to time.

 

“Writing does not cause misery, it is born of misery. – Montaigne”

 

 

 

 


[1] Trivia: Annie Wilkes was voted the seventeenth-largest criminal of all time by the American Film Institute during the centennial party.
[2] Paul Sheldon, the author of the best-selling series of Victorian-era romance novels featuring the character Misery Chastain, has finished the series’ final installment, Misery’s Child, in which Misery is killed off. After completing the manuscript for his new crime novel, Fast Cars, which he hopes will receive serious literary acclaim, Paul acts on an alcohol-induced impulse to drive to Los Angeles instead of flying back home to New York City. He is caught in a snowstorm in a remote section of Colorado and crashes his car. He awakens to find that he has been rescued by Annie Wilkes, a local former nurse who is a devoted fan of the Misery series. She keeps Paul in her guest bedroom and refuses to take him to the hospital despite his severely broken legs, and nurses him herself using her illicit stash of codeine-based painkillers, to which Paul quickly becomes addicted; Annie withholds pills in order to threaten and manipulate Paul. She begins reading Misery’s Child and coerces permission to read the manuscript of Fast Cars, but disapproves of the darker subject matter and profanity. Paul soon assesses that Annie is mentally unstable; she is prone to trailing off into catatonic episodes and has bouts of unreasonable rage. When she learns of Misery’s death, she leaves Paul alone in her house for over two days, depriving him of food, water, and painkillers. Upon Annie’s return, she forces a weakened Paul to burn the manuscript for Fast Cars in exchange for his painkillers. Annie sets up an office for Paul – consisting of an antique Royal typewriter with a non-functional N-key, writing paper and a wheelchair – for the purpose of writing a new Misery novel that will bring the character back from the dead. Biding his time and likening himself to Sheherezade, Paul begins a new book, Misery’s Return, and allows Annie to read the work in progress and fill in the missing Ns. The text includes excerpts of the new book as Paul writes.Paul manages to escape his room using his wheelchair on several different occasions, searching for more painkillers and exploring the house. He discovers a scrapbook full of newspaper clippings that reveal Annie to be a serial killer;
[3] From the book.
[4] From the book.
[5] From the book.

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