I finished “Under The Dome” in under 10 days. Not bad for a book that is 1074 pages.
What I found the most compelling about it all is that while I was reading it and enjoying it thoroughly, I had a little inkling that Steve was trying something a little different. Not literary. Just a different kind of story telling.
Take “From a Buick 8” for instance. It was essentially a plotless novel. A series of anecdotes told by a small town police force about a mysterious car from beyond. Sure, there was a boy there that wanted to learn more about his dad and how who his dad was had alot to do about everything about that car, but there wasn’t any real story to speak of. And it just ended. Plop. Like that. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but I challenge you to come up with a novel that you have read that is plotless yet is carried all the way through by a plot device. I try to stay on top of literature and all it’s permutations, but I have to tell you, that one has me stumped. I think that Steve’s own book, “Cujo” kinda comes close to that but I think that even Steve would discount that. He doesn’t even remember writing “Cujo”. He was too stoned and drunk.
As I was reading “Under The Dome” I trudged out my copy of “Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire” and glossed over the map in the front flap, thinking that maybe Steve (though I know he despises allegory) decided to write an allegorical tale – Chester’s Mill is after all shaped like a sock, which is kinda like a boot. And there is quite a bit of religion as well, which made me think even harder about it. I glossed over a few chapters of “Decline” trying to find names of emperors and names of generals and other characters and cross reference their initials with the names and initials of the principle characters, but I threw the idea away. Steve is a great story teller and has an energy none can beat (even his two boys, both professional writers, do not attempt to come close to their fathers output – Steve would put out 2000 words a day, 365 days of the year ; and while not all of it was publishable, it is still stuff that he hangs on to – reference the fact that “Dome” was started in 1976. Steve now, after sobering up and after his accident, has toned it down to about 1000 words a day. Myself, on my best day, would do 500 words a day. Though, I have been known to write as many as 7 000 words in one day, but those occasions usually happen only when the story idea comes to me all at once ; like Athena from the cracked skull of Zeus, fully formed) and while he is a great story teller, our Good Friend Steve is not a bright ball of intellectualism. He is the first to note that in “The Green Mile” the initials for John Coffey were chosen for a reason and he tried to be subtle about it.
So, all in all, “Dome” is an excellent yarn that tells us so much about ourselves that you almost gloss over it. You kind of ask yourself if you would behave like that and whose side would you fall on. Even the characters themselves, when you are privy to their thoughts, marvel at their own behaviour when all along they thought they were different people.
There was another thing I noticed. Something I’ve only ever noticed in works like Nabokov. The almost total absence of the author in the work. Chester’s Mill is rendered so completely, and it is real in Steve’s head, that all he has to do is create characters to put into the town and they manage to interact among themselves with little or no help from Steve. Their conversations and actions are all plausible and there is no discernable pause in the action where he would have to throw in a plot device that is way out of left field. The only device of his in the whole work is the dome itself. The rest of the work is done solely by the characters, which is why a work like this must be so damned long.
I did see Steve’s hand in a couple of places (most notably of which the children’s premonitions) but other than that the work belongs to the characters. I find that to be the biggest departure in this work.
But, my reading list for this year is done. Which is really why I started writing this in the first place. So, with my birthday having passed and me having received my customary gift certificates from my mother, father and grandmother, I have made a list of the books I want to read in the next 12 months.
Oh, for sure I am going to read more than this. These are just the ones I want done by around this time next year:
Stephen Hawking, “The Grand Design”
Phillip Roth, “Nemesis”
Stephen King, “Full Dark, No Stars”
Larry McMurtry, “Lonesome Dove”
Cormac McCarthy, “The Road”
Alice Walker, “The Colour Purple”
Norman Mailer, “The Executioner’s Song”
Douglas Hofstadter, “Godel, Escher, Bach – An Eternal Golden Braid”
Will Durant, “Story of Civilization, Vol X, Rousseau and Revolution”
Those of you who think I’m missing out on something important and cool, let me know and I’ll check it out.