This is my favorite older SK book. I've always loved the descriptions of the people, their fantasies, the place... it's a long one but every word builds a world where you care about the people. I've read it 4 times and love it every time. Leland Gaunt is a brilliant baddie. I'd love to see he and Flagg hook up for some mayhem.
i haven't actually re-read this book recently but i remember it well enough to contribute some thoughts i think. being set in castle rock, it was nice to see a shout out to pretty much every other castle rock story that came before. dead zone, cujo, the body, shawshank redemption, dark half, even the sun dog gets some love. also a nice shout out at the end of the book to another four past midnight novella, the library policeman.
sympathy for ace? not so much. he was unapologetically bad. came out of shawshank, gets deep in the drug trade. does he realize his mistakes and own them? no, it's all alan pangborns fault for having the nerve to bust him committing a robbery. then he hooks up with a demon (or whatever leland gaunt is, it's not exactly defined) and shoots some folks and helps blow a whole town off the map. granted the good citizens of castle rock willingly jumped into gaunts craziness as well, but if ace had lived long enough for everyone to come out of it, i doubt he would have felt very chagrined about his role.
polly i don't think was super complicated. desperation at a prospect of a life of terrible pain made the magic trinket fairly appealing, many people would fall into that trap. she was intelligent enough to cast it off in the end at least. she was one of the few residents who willingly cast off gaunts tricks before his defeat rather than after. pride was another downfall for her, caring more about what the town might think of her than about telling her boyfriend the truth about her past, which contributed to the final chaos in some ways.
in many ways needful things seems even more relevant today. people seeing what they want to see. desperate to believe despite all signs to the contrary. sounds familiar huh? all of gaunts tricks had flaws that were easy to see through if you really wanted to. it remains an interesting look at human nature, how easy it really is to set people off, and just how willingly some people will cast themselves off the deep end over petty differences.
plus i'm a sucker for stories where everything goes full chaos at the end and whole towns/worlds fall apart. needful things, tommyknockers, phantoms (koontz i know but relevant), the stand even. as gaunt says, flip all the switches at once, sit back and watch the chaos.
.....sorry Doc, couldn't make it into the comment circle last week....I will simply say that this novel reveals the scummy underbelly of humanity and how at our core, we haven't advanced much beyond the cave people stage....it's handled with dark humor and even some pathos-but it is a condemnation of the consumeristic avarice that abounded/abounds in our culture.....and the minimal goodness and sweetness stands in stark contrast to a line-up of unsavory sorts when the mask of manners slips to the ground....an incredible story, but one that can be disheartening as well....
Sorry Doc that I couldn't be here the other night! I enjoyed the reread. Daughter decided she had too much on her plate to join in this time.
I was fresh out of high school the first time I read this book. I remember feeling a little guilty at being so gleeful about the pranks. But once Nettie and Wilma go at each other, I quit feeling gleeful. While reading this time, I never felt gleeful but sad at the lengths people go to for something they "want."
Also, I was a brand new, very young single mother the first time with this book, so I identified with Polly, probably more than most. I never questioned her desire to keep some things close to the breast. The judgments and flat out meanness of people when you are a young, single mother from a small town, well...Let me tell you, those kinds of people and Leland Gaunt are pretty darn similar. Anyway, I understood her motives completely.
The shout outs to other Castle Rock stories were natural, these things shaped the history of the Rock and the people.
Have to run out to run a quick errand but I will post more later!