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Monday, 22 November 2010

CUJO - STEPHEN KING

This is the first time I've read this book and although I enjoyed it, particularly the last quarter of the book when the suspense was cranked up to maximum it left me a little puzzled. The book starts of by telling us about a monster who once came to Castle Rock - he was not a vampire, werewolf or ghoul but a cop named Frank Dodd with mental and sexual problems. This is in relation to the character in a previous King novel, The Dead Zone .  Dodd killed himself after being discovered by the extra sensory perception of John Smith. We are then told that one day a monster returned to Castle Rock. However this seems to have no relevance to the rest of the novel and I'm not sure what King was trying to say here - some people have said that the spirit of Frank Dodd possessed Cujo and made the animal go crazy but as King's painstakingly outlines the development of the rabies infection I just don't buy that. It's almost as if King started the book intending to use Dodd is a much more central fashion., indeed there seem to be some vague hints that Dodd is possessing Cujo, but then gave up on the idea and took the story in another direction.


I just can't figure out what one had to do with the other - in his memoir, On Writing, King claims not to remember having written Cujo and that it was during the height of his drink and drug problems, but if that is so then surely an editor should have picked up on this. You know maybe King is just saying that there are many kinds of monsters but it just does seem odd, particularly as Dodd isn't mentioned at all in the later parts of the novel. The again maybe King is just saying that Dodd has achieved a kind of bogey man status in Castle Rock, but as I say it seems to have no relevance, or at least none that I could find, on the novel, Cujo. Of course there is always the possibility that King used the references to the character in order to create a feeling of the Castle Rock universe and that's fine but it seemed odd to mention it in the first paragraph, giving the feeling that this was an important point to the story that follows when it clearly was not.

".I had added drug addiction to my alcohol problem, yet I continued to function, as a good many substance abusers do on a reasonable competent level. I was terrified not to; but then I had no idea how to live any other life." Stephen King.

Nevertheless King is a superb writer and he deserves kudos for dealing with his drug and drink problems so honestly in his memoir and Cujo is certainly not a bad book - on the contrary it is excellent but I thought I'd mention the Dodd thing as, after reading the book, I'm still puzzled and wonder if I missed some salient point.


Cujo is a stunning read and the character of the dog is brilliantly handled, provoking much sympathy for the creature as it transforms realistically from a lovable hunk of a dog to a rabid killing machine. A large part of the book concentrates on the two main characters trapped in their broken down car while the dog runs rampage and these scenes are absolutely thrilling. Not for nothing is King one of the bestselling writers in the world - the man has the common touch with his narrative and makes each and every character seem as real as the guy or gal next door, and that makes everything all the more terrifying. I think any writer would give away a limb to possess only a fraction of the seemingly natural, instinctive talent Stephen King (the lucky bastard) possesses.

Overall I thought this was an exceptional book but I'm sure I missed something with the Frank Dodd thing.

1 comment:

Randy Johnson said...

I think King has reached a level where editors are afraid to mess with his manuscripts. Don't know whether you've read IT, but there was a subplot where he brought two characters, spouses of two of the main characters, into the novel and killed them off before they ever made contact with their mates. It made no sense to me, almost as if, as you remarked, he started in one direction, then changed course.