Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Stephen King: The Dark Tower VI: Song Of Susannah (2004)

The events depicted in Song of Susannah take place over one day immediately following the events in the previous book, Wolves of the Calla, with members of Roland Deschain's ka-tet travelling to New York City and rural Maine.

As I have stated in previous entries, The Dark Tower series is far from my cup of literary tea, but I'm determined to plow through these books. My main interest in reading the sixth book of the series was seeing how Stephen King introduced himself as a fictional character in his own epic - and how he fits into Roland's life-long quest for the Dark Tower.

In Wolves of the Calla, Donald Callahan saw a first edition of 'Salem's Lot and was extremely confused when he read the events of his life portrayed in a work of fiction. Roland, believing the author of 'Salem's Lot to be a key in his quest, takes Eddie Dean with him to East Stoneham, Maine, to have a talk with Mr. King. They arrive in the year 1977.

But that is merely one of the book's subplots and "Stephen King" does not appear in the narrative until the chapter entitled "The Writer", on page 265. The main story is the emergence of Mia, who has taken control of Susannah Dean's body, and the expected birth of her "chap". (A fuller telling of the book's plot can be found either here or here.)

King describes The Writer as tall, ashy-pale, bearded and wearing thick glasses, "starting to run to middle-aged fat". He's a bit confused by the appearance of the two gunslingers. "I made you. You can't be standing there because the only place you really exist is here" (pointing to the center of his forehead).

"King" tells his visitors about the first Gunslinger stories that he wrote, how he felt about them ("It was going to be my Lord of the Rings), and why he ultimately left them alone ("I ran out of story - and stopped."). He tells Roland: "I couldn't tell if you were the hero, the anti-hero or no hero at all. ..."
You started to scare me, so I stopped writing about you. Boxed you up and put you in a drawer and went on to a series of short stories I sold to various men's magazines. Things changed for me after I put you away, my friend, and for the better. I started to sell my stuff. Asked Tabby to marry me. Not long after that I started a book called Carrie. It wasn't my first novel, but it was the first one I sold, and it put me over the top. All that after saying goodbye Roland, so long, happy trails to you.
Roland hypnotizes "King" and while in the trance, "King" talks of being a slave to the Crimson King since the age of seven. "I love to write stories but I don't want to write your story," he pleads with Roland. "I'm always afraid. He looks for me. The Eye of the King."

Roland tells him that he must go back to the Gunslinger story.
"... The only real story you have to tell. And we'll try to protect you."

"I'm afraid . . . I'm afraid of not being able to finish. I'm afraid the Tower will fall and I'll be held to blame."

"That's up to ka, not you."
Roland then tells The Writer something that the real-life Stephen King has said many times in recent years, that all of his novels and stories are part of the Dark Tower universe. "You'll go on with your life," Roland instructs the Writer. "You'll write many stories, but every one will be to some greater or lesser degree about this story. Do you understand?"

While some of what "King" says in the manuscript about writing the Gunslinger stories may be fictional, a lot of it rings true. The book closes with an epilogue containing entries from a journal kept by the fictional King (or the King who inhabits the particular world that Roland and Eddie currently happen to be in). The entries correspond rather closely with publicly-known events in the "real" Stephen King's life, except for the fact that this fictional King dies on June 19, 1999, after being struck by a van.

Next: The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower.


laura k said...

Yay, you did it! Or is that the next one...?

allan said...

It's the next (and last) one I am stuck on. This post was sitting in drafts for a few months!