1. Sissy Spacek played Carrie in the movie from the 1970s.
2. There was a scene in a shower with Carrie’s period and tampon throwing.
3. She is a loser who gets invited to the prom by the most popular boy in her class as a cruel joke instigated by her classmates.
4. At the prom, they elect her prom queen and then dump a bucket of pig’s blood on her. She snaps and her telekinetic powers kill a bunch of people.
5. There’s some weird religious stuff with her mom.
6. It’s scary.
Here are my impressions after reading it, a large portion of which contradict the popular conception of this story:
1. This is the same. Also, the audiobook is narrated by Sissy Spacek, so I feel like I got a truly authentic book-reading experience here.
2. This is also the same, although it was much more graphic and heartbreaking than I was expecting.
3. She is not so much a loser as she is a complete outcast. She has no friends. Her mother’s fundamentalist influence has shaped her into something the other kids do not recognize. The biggest misconception here is that Carrie is invited to the prom as a joke. She isn’t. After the infamous tampon scene, one of the girls involved decides to alleviate her guilt and tells her boyfriend to invite Carrie to the prom in her stead, in order to make up for years of neglect and abuse she knows Carrie has suffered. Her boyfriend agrees because he loves her. He holds no ill will towards Carrie. In fact, upon asking her out, he finds himself looking forward to the date, and during the prom we actually see him sort of falling for her. It’s very, very sweet, and very, very sad, given what ends up happening.
4. They do elect Carrie and Tommy prom king and queen, but mostly out of surprise, not ill-will. Because Tommy is popular and they see him having such a good time with her, they accept her as one of their own. The pig’s blood thing is actually the work of one girl, who is a bit of a psychopath and has a psychopath boyfriend. Even though it was her actions in instigating the tampon throwing earlier that got her suspended from school and unable to attend the dance, she blames Carrie and vows to ruin her experience at the prom. Carrie does snap, and it’s all related to her first period acting as a catalyst for her powers, and those newfound powers combined with her fear and humiliation at being laughed at causes her to lost control and make everyone else hurt as much as she does.
5. The weird religious stuff is definitely there. It was my least favorite part of the book. It worked well for Carrie’s arc, but her mother was so over the top stupidly zealous I hated reading her scenes. I always feel this way about really fundamentalist people, how stupid they seem to me in fiction when you can’t see the motive for why they behave the way they do. I wish Uncle Stevie had bothered to give her a backstory to explain her damage. As it was, she just made me really angry, at her worldviews and how it affected her daughter (and how her daughter remained in her grip even until the very end).
6. It’s not, not really. I’m not even sure I would call it horror. For me, it reads like a tragedy. Popular imagination would have this story be about watching out for the loners, else they explode on you. But really, it’s more about empathy. The two characters who don’t have it in this story, Carrie’s mother and Chris Harginson (she of the pig’s blood initiative), are the ones that bring the tragedy about. Just as Carrie is feeling empowered (literally and figuratively, of course) and has a boy who genuinely seems to like her, and a night that seems to indicate she might finally have what she’s always wanted from her peers, to be treated like a human being–BOOM. One act of cruelty after a lifetime of it, mixed with Carrie’s inability to control herself, and you’ve got hundreds dead.
This is the most wobbly Stephen King book I’ve read in terms of craft, but that makes sense. With the exception of Eyes of the Dragon, I’ve only read his later stuff when he’s got that shit tied up in a bag. Some of the stuff in this, like the epistolary passages that break up the chapters and give us glimpses into the larger implications of Carrie’s story, really work. And some of it, like the decision to only give us so much of Carrie’s final moments by proxy, or the way you know exactly what’s going to happen by the end. That second one is a mixed bag. I liked that it prepared me emotionally to be sad, and also heightened my anticipation, but at the same time, there wasn’t enough emotionally weighty moments in the back half to justify that decision. I wish he would have kept it a little closer to Carrie.
All in all, I really enjoyed reading this, and I can totally see why it’s my girl Juliet’s favorite book.