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.
The core of Wizard & Glass is a flashback told in a completely different style than any other King book I've read. It certainly stems from the same language of The Gunslinger, but it's done by a writer with twenty bestselling novel years behind him. He doesn't tip his toes into a new vernacular, he cannonballs into it, and it works. This is the five star section of the book, and takes up nearly 500 of the 675 pages. If someone wanted an example of Stephen King's best writing, I would have them read just this ("Just" he says) 500 page section of Wizard & Glass. Yes, it is more affecting if you're already embroiled in the story of Roland and the Dark Tower, but it would also be a hell of an introduction to the series.
If you are a teenager then you are romance. You are sex. You are a body. Maybe heart. Maybe brain. But definitely body.
You may say yourself alone. You may dress yourself independent. Wear books. Say video games. Build happy solitude like medieval armor.
But if you boy, you at fourteen are want girls. Even if you also want boys. Even if you grow up all boys and know at fourteen only boys, you will want story girls. You will want fictional flutter heart girls. Because boys at fourteen think every girl Juliet. Because boys at fourteen all body. All romance. All sex. Every fourteen boy loves nonreciprocal girl. Maybe classmate. Maybe neighbor. Maybe older woman. Probably fictional. Maybe book girl, maybe TV sweetheart. Maybe Princess fucken Leia. But girl. Even if woman, fourteen boy thinks of as girl.
Girl doesn't actually exist. Or is not who fourteen boy imagined. Either way doesn't love him heart sex. Boy moves on. Maybe not until fifteen. Maybe not until twenty. Maybe thirty. Maybe him die fourteen at age seventy-nine. Those boys live ugly. Those boys troll computers and women. Stalker boys. Creeper boys. Cult boys. Men's Rights Activists. Republican politicians. Gross boys old men. Hearts broken by their dumb eyes. Can't see difference between teenage romance and real life. Always think themselves hero. Fourteen boys always protagonists of their own dull stories. Fourteen boys insufferable. Never adorable. Don't believe any writer any storyteller who says fourteen boys men. Men can lie. But men Know when they are lying. Fourteen boys think every lie true.
At the heart and the body of Wizard and Glass is fourteen boy. Is love. Is romance. Is death and heroes and trust and manhood and magic and all those things that fourteen boys color in the background of romance because they are so afraid of romance. Afraid because friends say romance is girl thing. And fourteen boys fear being girl things. Because stupid. Gendering anything stupid. Romance languages give nouns gender. English killed that overt declaration of gender. Keeps gender in shhhhhhh background. Because stupid.
Roland gunslinger in this section is teenage boy. Moves to strange new world. Adolescence. Bring friends. Everyone changing. World moving on. New temporary home is ancient. Everything about themselves is a lie created by their fathers. Roland finds intrigue. Roland finds danger. Roland finds love. World crashes down around him like world always crashes around fourteen year old gunslinger bodies.
Adult Roland we've known for so much of this list. No love. Only heartbreak. Only him fourteen in the back of his solitude. Not hate women. Not fear women. Not think less women. Roland stupid. Roland flawed. But Roland not misogynist, though of course misogyny courses through Roland like the blood in all humans it is. Now this story why Roland so lonely. So gunslinger. So eyes and cold caliber. So wet shells. So dark tower always at horizon.
--Despite it being referenced in the title of the book and on the cover, I'd forgotten about the crystal ball mythology in The Dark Tower.
--My reading chronology offers a bunch of breaks from the ka-tet that still fit in The Dark Tower journey. This five hundred page flashback focus on Roland is a fun journey, but it made me wish Susannah, Eddie, and Jake had sequences like this. Then I remembered that they all do have their own sequences in other books, they just don't stand out as starkly as this one.
--We are 5,239 pages closer to the tower than when we began, say thankya.