stand in the place where you are

So I listened to Stephen King's The Stand. And then I listened some more. And some more. And some more. 

It's a long audiobook. 

But I finally made it through, long after I had stopped caring about the characters or the action or much of anything really. It was like a challenge, a marathon, and I just had to make it through to the end. 

I'm not a big Stephen King fan, nor have I even read much of his work. I'm a huge fan of the movies The Shawshank Redemption and Dolores Claiborne, and for awhile I had a weird fascination with the miniseries Rose Red. I did read The Green Mile, back when it was first published, in excerpts, longer ago than I care to count. But I think that's about it. I saw the miniseries for The Stand years ago, so I had a vague idea of the story, although I had forgotten much more than I remembered. (By the way, a peek at imdb's description and cast list brings back a few more forgotten facts, and that is stellar casting! All I really remembered cast-wise was Jamey Sheridan as Randall Flagg, which brought about many conflicting feelings years later when I got hooked on Law and Order:Criminal Intent. I know there's a difference between the actor and the character, but some characters linger in your memory for a long time.)

I knew, going in, it was 47+ hours of my time. I knew, going in, that it was a devastating story. I didn't know, going in, was that it would piss me off the way it did. The edition I listened to was unabridged, from the 1990 re-release of the book that put back 400 pages that had been removed from the version originally released in 1978. I agreed with the original editor. It was way too long. 

This was the first thing that pissed me off. There was a lot of narrative that didn't move the story forward. That manuscript needed to be edited with a heavy hand. I realize that it is a horror book, but there was some unnecessary violence in it, which made it more like pulp than good fiction in my opinion. But that was an irritation, a mosquito buzzing around my head.

The thing that really pissed me off was the sexual politics, and we got a great deal of that, thanks to major character Frannie Goldsmith. Aside from her getting pregnant by her boyfriend and deciding to raise the baby on her own instead of marrying (a decision that becomes moot within days as everyone around her dies of the superflu), it felt to me like I was back in the 1960s, if not the 50s. The way she deferred to the men in her life, the way she lived her life around them as opposed to alongside them, equal to them, did not make this fun to read. 

Originally this was written in 1978, with an eye towards the 1980s. The re-release changed the date of the superflu to 1990. And it was really frustrating to me to see the sexual politics of the 1960s being brought into the 1990s. There didn't seem to be any awareness that women in 1990 would have more strength, more autonomy, than they did 30 years prior. And although Frannie was the main female character, it felt to me like almost all of the female characters had that same wishy-washy mildness (the one notable exception was a lesbian; coincidence?). 

Anyway, the story. There was a big flu, government created, or perhaps government mutated, that gets out and wipes out almost all life on earth. Those who remain form two camps, driven by dreams to either a farm in Nebraska or to Las Vegas. The good on one side of the Rockies, the evil on the other. And eventually, they have to meet. Spoilers? Not really. That's in the title. 

And oh yeah, the last thing that pissed me off. It's in the title. This book is about a stand. The good people standing against evil. And you have to wade through a lot of disease and death, a lot of journeys, a lot of everything, before you even get to the point where there are two camps. Either edit the book or change the title. 

So now I can say I've read The Stand. And I've gotten to rant (thank you, if you read this all the way to this point. I tried to keep the ranting to a minimum, but some leaked out). And now I'm done with The Stand for the near future.