Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
In September, I suggested a reading order for the extended universe of Stephen King's The Dark Tower, a series I loved, but hadn't read any of since Volume 7: The Dark Tower came out in 2004. I realized that I missed the characters from the series, and wondered if the reading order I suggested would really hold someone's interest all the way through. I scoured some local bookstores, and then the internet for the hardcovers of the books, and prepared for my quest to read a Super Long series of books.
In my Goodreads review, I noted how conflicted I am by this book. This set of intertwining short stories shifts focus, shifts narrators, and shifts timeframes. Something Stephen King is usually very good at, but which I found clunky in this collection. I think the first and final stories are excellent but the journey between them is lackluster. But the first story did inspire me to start the companion series of blog entries: A Masochist's Journey To The Dark Tower For People Who Hate Stephen King. I imagine if you're still reading these entries, though, you're probably somewhere with me riding on this Stephen King bandwagon.
1. Low Men In Yellow Coats
I'm a reader.
You know this. You're reading a series about me reading.
I've enjoyed books since I was young. I'm happy to talk with you about which ones I liked and which ones I didn't.
My step-grandfather on my father's side encouraged me toward books that were better than what I'd found on my own. Upgraded from Garfield to Calvin & Hobbes. From Jay Leno's "Headlines" series to E.E.Cummings's poetry.
The first story in this collection is about an old man who influences a young New England boy to read better books.
Its also about the Low Men who we will encounter more and more often during the final stretch of the Dark Tower chronology.
It's a 5 out of 5 star story for me.
2. Hearts In Atlantis
I went away to school. I played Hearts.
My high school years occurred during and after the Persian Gulf War. An unpopular war. A war much of our country was against.
I still couldn't care about this section of the book. It dragged. I had to force myself to finish it.
It's 2 out of 5 stars for this story.
3. Blind Willie
I am not a veteran. I am infrequently blind.
Despite its connection to Low Men In Yellow Coats and the return of a character who is probably Randall Flagg, I was not excited to read this story, either.
2 out of 5 stars again.
4. Why We're In Vietnam
I am still not a veteran. I'm not a TV activist lawyer. I'm not an alcoholic.
There are many stories about Vietnam that are important to me. Particularly those by Tim O'Brien. But growing up in the 80s and 90s, Vietnam was THE era of discussion that led nostalgia culture. So many TV shows. So many movies. So many books.
There are people who love to read about eras. Become experts on World War 2, or Civil War era America, or The Roman Empire.
I'm not one of them. I did feel a bit more for the characters in this section than the previous two, so I'll say it's 3 out of 5 stars.
5. Heavenly Shades Of Night Are Falling
I've gone back to the place where I grew up. I've reunioned with old flames. I've attended funerals of those I was only passingly close to.
This story is a solid coda to the book.
It reminds me of nostalgia. But in a good way.
4 out of 5 stars.
--I could die happily never reading another Baby Boomer's remembrance of Vietnam.
--I, initially, skipped over entire swaths of the second and third stories, but felt guilty, and went back and read them. I wish I hadn't.
--While I like reading this book at this place in the chronology, it is interesting that this is the first way we will encounter The Low Men, and it will be quite a bit before the characters become directly connected to The Dark Tower. But I suppose it's not as long a separation as the chasm between Salem's Lot an when Salem's Lot becomes relevant to the larger story.
--Think of ice cream. Think of cigarettes. Think of anything except that we are 5,762 pages across this crumbling beam. Don't let the Low Men suspect that you're here.