Unexpectedly creepy aspect to "Doctor Sleep"

Discussion in 'Doctor Sleep' started by Hamilcar Barca, Apr 25, 2014.

  1. Hamilcar Barca
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    Hamilcar Barca New Member

    I know, I know, people will say I’m reading far too much into ‘Doctor Sleep’, but I think King is actually dancing around the edge of a real-world horror. Consider the following:

    --We only ever know the surnames of about seven members of the True Knot. Two of those seven are Steiner and Rothman. One is O’Hara. The rest are all generic surnames. No Gonzalez, no Fabiani, no Hajidakis.

    --The Knot are described as nomadic people who once ‘rode camels across the desert’, and traveled across Europe in ‘caravans’, and across ‘Eastern Europe’ in wagons. These people, now wealthy and powerful, kidnap and murder children and use their blood in an arcane ritual, while they chant vaguely Hebrew-sounding incantations (sabbatha hanti, etc). Oh, and they call themselves (among other things) ‘the chosen ones.’

    That adds up to more than a vague suggestion here that the Knot could be Jewish, (with touches of Romani and Irish Traveler thrown into the mix)—actual (albeit fictional) perpetrators of what history has come to call the ‘blood libel’ falsehood about Jews sacrificing Christian children in a bizarre parody of the Catholic Mass.

    And as if all this weren't enough, he actually has Henry Rothman (Crow Daddy) quote Shylock to Abra! ‘If you prick us do we not bleed? etc.’ How was King not thinking of Jews at the moment he had Rothman quote Shylock?

    Yes, it’s a ghost story, but did/does King know what he was hinting at? Perhaps not wholly, but maybe his editors caught it, because then in two throwaway references, he has Abra reading, as her assigned schoolwork—of all books--Bernard Malamaud’s ‘The Fixer’, the novelization of the case of Mendel Beilis, the innocent Russian Jew accused of murdering a Christian child in 1903: an actual 20th Century outbreak of the ‘blood libel.’ This is pretty arcane reading for a 13-year-old: no ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, no ‘Cold Sassy Tree’. Instead, the Mendel Beilis case. And: King doesn’t even tell us what ‘The Fixer’ is about or why he selected that book. Those who know, know.

    Far too many coincidences here not to add up to something. But what? If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that many of the Knot’s ‘Jewish traits’ were unconscious on King’s part. And then maybe someone (his editors?) pointed them out to him and (rather than just change Rothman and Steiner to, say, Jackson and Young) he decided to toss ‘The Fixer’ into the mix, as if to say, ‘Well, I don’t really intend what it might seem like to some readers. My Jewish readers will probably know about ‘The Fixer’ – hope this’ll set their minds at ease.’ King has danced up to the edge of the precipice and then away again.
  2. FlakeNoir
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    FlakeNoir Beta/Moderator Moderator

    Welcome to the site. :) Personally I think that if we pick apart any work from any writer, eventually we'll come up with a reference or two to suit pretty much anything we're looking for in a piece of writing.
    My best guess is that in this case it would have been largely unconscious--Stephen is prolific in his reading material and must have picked up all sorts of things. Considering the amount of words he's laid down over the years, it's got to be no surprise that some of what he's read might slip into what he's written.
  3. skimom2
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    skimom2 Just moseyin' through...

    Interesting! I've not noticed any of that, but I seriously doubt Mr. King meant any disrespect to Jewish people. In well over 30 years of reading his books, I've never even suspected that he has prejudices against any particular church; in contrast, it seems like he has respect for those that truly believe, and a serious dislike of those who manipulate faith for personal gain. I did catch the references that seem to point to Romany people, but my take was that the True Knot is the real root: Romany, Travelers, etc. are poor, weak imitations.

    It would be interesting to know what @MsMod thinks, as she's closest to Mr. King.

    Welcome to the board!
  4. Spideyman
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    Spideyman Uber Member

    I tend to read SK's book for the story and the journey rather than picking them apart. Had too much of "picking apart/ what did the author mean" in English Lit. classes.
  5. Walter Oobleck
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    Walter Oobleck keeps coming back...or going, and going, and going

    The True Knot Characters
    “Andi” Andrea Steiner, Snakebite Andi
    Apron Annie, rube name Anne Lamont
    Baba the Red/Baba the Russian
    Barry the Chink, rube name Barry Smith
    Bent Dick
    Big Mo, rube name Maureen Higgins
    Black-eyed Sue/Susie
    Diesel Doug
    Dirty Phil, rube name Phil Caputo
    Fat Fannie
    Grampa Flick
    Greedy G, rube name Greta Moore
    Hands-Off Hans, big dumb Dutchman, electrocuted in Arkansas windstorm
    Harpman Sam
    Heavy Mary
    Henry Rothman, “Crow Daddy” “Crow” & the True’s advance man
    Jimmy Numbers
    Katie Patches, drowned
    Long Paul
    Little Twins, Pea & Pod
    Petty the Chink
    Rose O’Hara “Rose the Hat”, leader of the True Knot
    Short Eddie, rube name Ed Higgins
    Silent Sarey, rube name Sarah Carter
    Steamhead Steve
    Sweet Terri Pickford
    Toady Slim
    Tommy the Truck
    Token Charlie
    Walnut, or “Nut”…the True’s jackleg doctor, rube name Peter Wallis of Little Rock

    I dunno...maybe si maybe no. One thing I've noticed in the names of the characters in Doctor Sleep is that they run the gamut from A through Z. King must have some sort of something...heh! Some sort of index that he uses...otherwise, what are the possibilitiies that one discovers 10 Alberts, 13 Suzies, so on so forth. Maybe not that extreme but I think you know what I mean. I saw something like this...had to do with numbers...say if someone was...cooking the books...there's some sort of formula that one could plug into the equation, the numbers...and 'guess' that books are being cooked. Which all goes to say the characters run the gamut from A through Z. Those are the names up above there...True? Or knot?
  6. FlakeNoir
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    FlakeNoir Beta/Moderator Moderator

    I remember reading somewhere (from Marsha, I think..?) that he had at one time a big book of names that he kept sitting on his writing desk.
  7. Hamilcar Barca
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    Hamilcar Barca New Member

    Oh, I enjoyed the story too. It was a good read. But I have read 'The Fixer' and I have read the 'Merchant of Venice' & so couldn't help but think: Why is he referencing those particular works? What's the common theme there?
  8. king family fan
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    king family fan Prolific member

  9. Sundrop
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    Sundrop the Great and Wonderful

    I generally just read for the joyride....I don't look for connections of any sort, I simply enjoy the ride
  10. danie
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    danie AKA danie

    Ummm....I love Cold Sassy Tree.
  11. Neesy
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    Neesy #1 fan (Annie Wilkes cousin) 1st cousin Mom's side

    He puts a lot of quotes in his books. I recently read that one by Oscar Wilde "Either that wallpaper goes or I do!" purported to be said as Oscar was on his deathbed - hey - it's good to have a sense of humour. King had used that quote in either Joyland or Doctor Sleep - darn it - not sure which one now!

    Welcome to the SKMB Hamilcar Barca! (Oy vey iz mir) as my friend Larry Cohen taught me to say :adoration:

    wolf and raven.jpg
  12. Hamilcar Barca
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    Hamilcar Barca New Member

    Yeah, I love it too. It would've made more sense, given her age, for that to have been Abra's assigned reading. Btw, they tried making an opera of 'Cold Sassy Tree' about 10 years ago. A good try, but it went nowhere; not tuneful enough.
  13. Walter Oobleck
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    Walter Oobleck keeps coming back...or going, and going, and going

    Interesting theory, interesting question, Hamilcar Barca. I'll hazard that King's use of The Fixer and Shylock's words are intentional. But when we look at the make-up of the True Knot, sure, several of the names one could argue that they have Jewish connections/connotations, and yet Rose, the leader of the True Knot, has an...Irish? last name. Or one could look at their practice of renaming...Andrea Steiner becomes Snakebite Andi...many have "rube names". Just as Saul of Tarsus became Paul...or is that more evidence of a Jewish connection? Christians have been given a name at the time of baptism, a name different than their given name. Would that suggest the group is meant to be...what? A perversion of the Christian faith? Consider "Token Charlie". One could argue that this name is evidence that yes, Charlie is the odd man out in the group...but what is he? Too, they have "rube names"...that I took to mean...false...an identity used because that is how the world works.

    On page 462, in a scene that includes Abra reading The Fixer, she considers Dan, knows he is worried about something, knows she could look at his mental lockboxes, thought she knows she will not, she then considers a line from Shakespeare, True hope is swift, and flies on swallow's wings. From Richard III, the line that follows, Kings it makes gods, and meaner creatures kings. I'm not sure where I'm going with this...thinking w/words on the page I guess...taking other things from the story and presenting them here to make a point, the other things "stuff" that King probably inserted later though they certainly could have occurred to him as he completed the first draft.

    Crow uses this interesting expression, I don't chew my cabbage twice. What? He simply will not repeat himself? Or that use of "Pink Flamingos"...Divine, the drag queen...John Waters film director. There is an Ezra Pound mention, from Dan, Raineth drop and staineth slop... I've no clue as to what Ezra Pound is other than a poet...nationality? religion? Perhaps there is evidence enough with the use of Pound for one to argue a point though I don't know what that could be. Abra taunts Rose with that phrase she picked up from Ms. Franklin, hoisted on your own petard. From Shakespeare, again, Hamlet. And a military connection...and the business of the world over is war...so could one argue a point based on that?

    I think the True Knot is that, a knot, a knot of many strands, Ecclesiastes. There certainly could be strands among that knot that have Jewish roots.
  14. GNTLGNT
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    GNTLGNT Idiot in Situ and Unholy Devourer of Cookies

    ...Anti-Semitic...no....
  15. blunthead
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    blunthead Well-Known Member

    I wish I could read the original post but since I haven't read Doctor Sleep yet can't. But I am reading the resulting responses and get that there's a question about the possibility that sK might have expressed some racial bias in the book. Not having read it, I still dare say there's no chance of actual racial bias on his part. some readers have objected to statements or sentiments made by fictional characters - whom of course a good author tends to write with realism. I have no idea if my response covers any of the complaint or question voiced in the original post.
  16. Hamilcar Barca
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    Hamilcar Barca New Member

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    Mr Oobleck (Seuss?) - Thanks for your interesting speculations. Yes, there are two Irish names: O'Hara and Higgins, which suggests that King may be throwing Irish Travellers into his nomadic bouillabaisse. We already know that Romany Gypsies make him uneasy ('Thinner' and a few other tales--maybe the 'low men' from a recent novel, I forget which?). And--as you point out--these surnames are rube names; some of these people are thousands of years old - no way to know what their original names were. Also--if they're that old-- how did they never evolve an immunity to measles? But I digress. As to Ezra Pound, he was from Idaho & was a vicious anti-semite who was tried for treason after WWII for the broadcasts he made from Italy. But (overlooking that, as one sort of has to do with artists) the quote that King gives us from Pound is harmless enough. Btw, have you read 'The Fixer'? If not, go to Wiki and search 'Mendel Beilis' and you'll see what I mean.
  17. Hamilcar Barca
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    Hamilcar Barca New Member

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    I think the consensus (my own view too) is that any racial bias was unconscious. But the concern definitely did not arise from anything the fictional characters said, but rather from situations King presented. None of that diminishes the fact that Dr Sleep is a heckofa good read.
  18. not_nadine
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    not_nadine Comfortably Roont

    The Man just Writes.
  19. Walter Oobleck
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    Walter Oobleck keeps coming back...or going, and going, and going

    I don't know that the original poster is suggesting any sort of anti-Semitism on the part of King...if so...it is not expresses as some have expressed it: Is Stephen King a racist? Doctor Sleep is a great story! blunthead! I liked it more than Joyland...but I think I'm in the minority on that one, based on another thread. I'd say the original poster is pointing toward various articles in the story and wondering what' what. I'm convinced that King's intent is true...that he truly intended to put each and every word in that story...and that is it possible, as I believe he says in On Writing...that once reading the first draft, there are themes and symbols that become apparent...so some things could be the subconscious. Wasn't there a question raised about that...and the answer wasn't the no flppng idea one...it was...not by intent, but maybe subconsciously. Don't recall the question. Jeopardy? Clemens? Or was that....oh never mind.
  20. Walter Oobleck
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    Walter Oobleck keeps coming back...or going, and going, and going

    I have not read The Fixer although I am aware of Malamud...read his The Assistant and I did take a Jewish-American Lit course way back when...the instructor was a guy who may or may not have smoked pot w/Pynchon ...maybe his claim to fame although he did run an interesting course. Call It Sleep...Henry Roth...one read there, and a bit of a sleeper as it was published in...something like 1934 and was/is largely unread. Too...one theme in most of those reads we read...sleep...figuratively. As in not awake to events...Mailer with his Armies of the Night...or were they Dark? Henderson the Rain King, Herzog, Portnoy's Complaint...others...The Rise of David Lewinsky...I'd discovered a connection in many of them...sleep. Good as Gold. And yes...Seuss. I'm trying to be true to a theme of my own.

    I will definitely read The Fixer. So much to read...would like to give Doctor Sleep another read, too.

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