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.
I spent much of my vacation this year rereading It, as well as intensely reading a couple of poetry collections, and I thought I might lose steam in this project. The decision to split The Waste Lands into two parts ended up being very fortuitous, as only having half a book to read to keep the chronology going didn't seem too difficult. It was also nice to get back to the ka-tet,as It didn't have as deep a connection via The Turtle, as I'd hoped it would.
When I was still in elementary school I was fascinated with both impressions and riddles. There was some Apple IIC computer game that contained some very basic math-themed riddles. I don't remember much about it other than that I was determined to get 100% of them right. And without an internet or a set of encyclopedias to help me, I merely went through the series over and over again until I succeeded.
The impressions were another thing entirely. As far back as I can remember I was a mimic. I remember being about five or six when an uncle (technically a sixth or seventh cousin via marriage probably) taught me to do Woody Woodpecker. I could also do Mickey Mouse and Goofy, and when Roger Rabbit came out when I was in fifth grade I made sure the voice was in my repertoire. But the voices were pretty much for me, my family, and my close friends, who were also dorks.
In sixth grade, I had written a story for class that read like a script, and my English teacher asked me to read it to the class. So I read it. With the voices.
I don't remember how the class as a whole reacted, other than, as I went to take my seat, a girl who I had a crush on said "You don't sound like anyone but you."
When Good Morning Vietnam came out, I really wanted to be Robin Williams as Adrian Cronauer...except not in a war...or even in the army. I believed that impression was the height of comedy. So when I first read about Blaine The Mono in The Waste Lands, and saw that this riddle-happy impressionist was viewed as psychotic, I thought...maybe I should ease down on the celebrity impersonations. I didn't remove them entirely from my life, but they became less frequent, and I tried to only use them when a particular character was brought up by someone else, and when I had a punchline that I was at least 75% sure would get somewhere between a chuckle and a meltdown.
Very few of us ever want to be reading a story, and see our behavior reflected in the villain. Having never murdered anyone, not finding myself rubbing my hands together while plotting someone's failure, or making dolls out of the hair of my enemies, I didn't imagine how any of my behaviors could lead me to being seen as a villain. But at fourteen or fifteen, I was seeing myself as maybe others saw me, an attention-seeker, trying to impress people by being like someone they probably already liked and were comfortable with. It was a negative behavior. And while I might have ignored a friend or teacher who told me this, perhaps imagining they were jealous of my "talent", I knew Stephen King had never met me, and had nothing to gain by declaring this behavior as annoying and a red flag of villainy. I wondered how many other people would hear my Roger Rabbit, and think "this annoying fraud is going to lead me to nothing but unhappiness."
I imagine many adult men around my age have felt something similar since the rise in awareness about misogyny, sexual assault, homophobia, and racism. We read a story about someone who has clearly Fucked Up And Hurt Someone, and thought "Oh shit. I said something like that to someone once." or "Didn't I fill an entire Livejournal with posts about someone I loved putting me 'in the friend zone' before I knew how creepy and entitled the concept of 'the friend zone' was?" or "Oh, my edgy humor when I was twenty was just punching down for validation. Why didn't anyone tell---Oh, hmmm...Why didn't I listen when people politely hinted that I was Fucking Up?"
Reading The Waste Lands now, thankfully, felt quite different. I didn't see myself as anyone in the book. I recalled being in similar situations (but with less of a Western apocalyptic theme) but I didn't identify with anyone in the second half of the book, the way I had the first time I read it. When I got to Blane The Mono's appearance, I was instantly annoyed. As much at who I think I used to be, as I was annoyed at the type of people who I now see behaving that way.
--I had forgotten how many literary references echo throughout The Dark Tower. I remembered the major ones: Wizard Of Oz, Harry Potter, The Waste Land. But I had forgotten about the small references, such as the bear being named Shardik or the people of Lud acting out Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery"
--I want a billy-bumbler
--the second section of the book brings us 192 pages further, tick-tock, tick-tock bringing us to 4,567 pages as we barrel towards Topeka