Stotan, Cycle of the Werewolf, and the Talisman


Earlier this week I got an email that mentioned a book called Staying Fat for someone somebody; a title I found intriguing. (It didn't actually say someone somebody, I just can't remember what it actually said.) It's by Chris Crutcher, who turns out to have been writing award winning novels since the mid 80s. I grabbed one of his older books, called Stotan, from my library and gave it a try. For a skinny little book, 183 pages in paperback, it's quite intense, with an awful lot going on. It's ostensibly the story of four friends who are on the swim team who go through an intense week long training exercise called Stotan Week but it also touches on quite a lot outside of sports, like bigotry, white supremacists, first amendment rights, domestic violence, the importance of honesty, and more, that I don't want to spoil. It seems as though that would be too much; jamming so many problems into one little book, but Mr. Crutcher pulls it off deftly. Told from the perspective of Walker, a young man who is somewhat alienated from his family, Stotan is a physically and emotionally grueling journey. I didn't think I was going to like it because I'm not a big fan of sports stories in general, but I did and the swimming details flew by as quickly as everything else.

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Cycle of the Werewolf, the Talisman
I'm still in my Stephen King reread phase. I thought it would take me most of the year but at this rate it will take me a lot longer. I am only up to 1983, Pet Sematary. There are two books by Mr. King that I have never wanted to reread; Needful Things and Pet Sematary. They both crossed a line I didn't want to cross and left me feeling depressed and just plain bad. I'll see if the same thing happens on the reread. When I first read Clive Barker's Damnation Game I actually threw up partway through. I reread it this past week and I didn't even gag. I don't know if it was because I knew the disgusting scenes were coming up or if it was because I was pregnant when I read it the first time and throwing up was a daily habit. Either way, I'm hoping Pet Sematary won't be so painful on the second go round.

I also zipped through Cycle of the Werewolf and didn't like it one bit. This has always been my least favorite of Mr. King's work, followed by Carrie. Cycle of the Werewolf is told in vignettes, one for each month of the year. The writing comes off as somewhat pretentious and it's just mildly irritating. I would not recommend it.

I did finish the Talisman, by Stephen King and Peter Straub. I don't know how many times I've read this novel but it never gets old. It's the story of a 12 year old boy called Jack who can flip into another world called the Territories. As the novel begins he is told that he can save his dying mother's life by traveling from New England to the west coast and bringing back a talisman. Naturally there about a million obstacles, some of them pretty gruesome. The novel clocks in at 900 plus pages and is a nice leisurely read. (My copy, which came from the library, reeked of smoke, giving me a glorious headache. How much do you have to smoke to stink up a book you only have for three weeks?) One of my all time favorite characters is in this book, a teen werewolf called Wolf. He is the best.

Like many of Mr. King's works the Talisman is essentially about the battle between good and evil, but it is also an adventure story and never bogs down in ethical or moral quandaries. (I can't say if Mr. Straub's work deals with the battle between good and evil because his novel Shadowland scared me so much I haven't read any more of his work.) I would love to see this novel turned into a television series.

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Bonus Treat:
This week's bonus treat is a video of the wail of the loon. In Pet Sematary Louis hears a cackling, laughing cry and is told it is the sound of the loon, so I looked them up to see if they really sound like that. This particular cry sounds a bit like a wolf, or a lonely dog in a backyard.