Monday, February 1, 2010

Brief thoughts on Under the Dome

Except for a brief period in late high school and early college where I thought I wasn't supposed to, I've always liked Stephen King. He writes way too much to be consistent, so he has a lot of crap out there, but the good stuff is really something.

His most recent, Under the Dome, which I just finished about five minutes ago, is the good stuff. You need to have a high tolerance (which I understand not everyone has, and that's fine) for his folksy-pulpy writing style and for sentences that include words and phrases like "upper body," "intestines," "splatters," and "like a juicy bug" (taking just one sentence as an example) to make it through, because there's over a thousand pages of that, but if you can, it's worth it. There are some tiresome Bush/Cheney parallels that are definitely shoved up into the foreground, but the parallels have some emergent phenomena that make them worth it, if that makes any sense; interesting things that I doubt King was doing on purpose but which he nevertheless did. As for the ecological allegory (because a small town trapped inside a mostly impermeable barrier undergoes ecological collapse much more quickly and simply than the entire Earth, but for the same reasons), it's not remotely subtle but is I think very well-done.

This is all very vague, because I don't want to go into too much detail. But I think my favorite thing about the novel is that it combines, first, the kind of Lovecraftian nihilism I find so simultaneously aesthetically appealing and accurate as a description of the universe, with, second, a sort of warning (because this is in many ways a massive cautionary tale) that we need to care about each other, be nice to each other, and be one with one another, or else, which I think is necessary. Aesthetically appealing, accurate, and necessary is a good combination.

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