Carrie White is the social misfit, outcast and all-round bully-bait of her local school. She also has the power of telekinesis. After a terrible ordeal at the hands of her tormentors, one of her class mates takes pity and offers to take her to the senior prom. However, one bully isn’t so keen to make peace and has one last trick in store for Carrie White.
To look at the book, Carrie would seem somewhat unremarkable upon its initial release. It was the debut novel of a young up and coming writer that barely scraped the 250 page mark (there has seldom been a novel this brief in the whole of Stephen King’s repertoire). King himself has since admitted that he has problems with the book, that it has a raw edge that he has since fine tuned through his career.
Yet there is no denying that Carrie carries with it an unescapable pedigree. What King fails to see is that the novel’s rawness is what elevates it above the standard the genre has to offer, even by today’s standards some forty years since its initial release.
Despite King’s relative youth at the time of publication, the text reads of a writer who is well educated in how to manipulate his audience. Told in retrospect, the narrative details the well documented destruction of the town Chamberlain, Maine at the hands of Carrie White and the investigation of and background leading up to the disaster.
Balancing elements of true fiction, mock documents and a book-within-a-book, we are aware from the beginning of the Chamberlain tragedy, yet it is the journey there that immediately captivates the reader. Unlike much of King’s later work, where the man has a tendency to overwrite, Carrie is an exercise of extreme economy, doing away with needless back story or events detailed within an inch of their life in favour of getting from A – B without straying to far from its core. It is a testament to just how good a writer King is that he portrays his characters as fully rounded individuals in such a brief time. Carrie, her demented mother, Sue Snell, Chris Hargensen, etc, are all people we come to love and loathe passionately and when the third act tragedy comes into play, the reader is left shocked, angry, upset and, most crucially, horrified. It is little wonder the MGM pounced on the movie rights so quickly.
King has delved into darker and more ferocious territory since (Pet Semetary still remains his bleakest novel) but as an initiation into his warped psyche, Carrie is a swift but excellent place to start.
The book is set to be adapted to screen once again – watch the trailer here!
King has famously gone on the record to say he gave up on Carrie having only written the infamous shower room opening. It was his wife, Tabitha, who convinced him to continue.