Embroidery no. 4! We’re really hopping now. This one is also from the Dark Tower series, and from one of my favorite love stories. It’s from the book Wizard and Glass (Kindle version here) and you can see more of my thoughts on it in the posts on youth and echoes.
“Go then. There are other worlds than these.” These words echo over and over throughout the Dark Tower series, and first appear in the first book The Gunslinger (Kindle version here). I read Stephen King’s series for the first time last year and fell in love. I love the characters, I love the crazy plot twists, and I love how much fun these books are to read. I’ve written a lot about them and have enjoyed all seven books up through the surprise ending.
Just like a good horror movie blends a terrifying ghost with the every day creaks and groans of an old house, the Dark Tower series blends fiction and reality. Ka is a wheel and it echoes, and when I read The Dark Tower I saw those echoes everywhere. And when I was reading late at night I could just see the real-life King waking up in the middle of the night with a strange nursery rhyme in his and head and wonder where it came from. (And for the record, I liked that King put himself in the book, and this is one reason why.)
And I loved that this series was completely ludicrous. Have you ever tried to tell someone the plot? You sound insane.
“Well there’s this talking dog thing that really love this kid, and this kid died before but then came back and went into a new world through an old demon house in Brooklyn. At one point, they ride a suicidal train that likes to tell jokes. And another time these characters actually meet the author that wrote them. Also doors open from nothing into alternate universes and they swing by the Emerald City on their way across Kansas. And there’s a pretty important weapon named after the snitch in Harry Potter.”
And that’s, like, minor plot points.
But I had so much fun when I read it. And I think King had fun with it, too. And I love Oy, Jake, Eddie, Susannah, and, yes, even Roland. Although it took me a while to love Roland. He is cold and unforgiving and focused and heartless. Or is he? He grows to love, and he begins to realize that some people and some loves are worth his life. He even tries to sacrifice himself for Jake. But ultimately, he chooses the Tower. He always chooses the Tower.
Books 1 through 4 are the best, and if you are one of those people on comment threads I have been reading who say they don’t get book 4 and it’s a waste of time and a weird flashback, I do not and probably will never understand you as a person. Wizard and Glass is a beautiful story and is beautifully written and gives life and love to Roland. And even if you never read another book in the series, Wizard and Glass could stand on its own and break my heart every time (in a good way). I loved the first three books as well. They are so fun and each is so different from the other and they were exciting to read. Lobstrocities! Billybumblers! Doors that went from a beach to the inside of a drug addict’s head on an airplane ride to drug deal in Miami! Each new book was like a whole new story, a new style, and an entire new experience. And that was wonderfully exciting to read.
[SPOILERS BEGIN HERE]
I think Roland’s downfall is that he chooses the Tower over everything. How many loved ones and strangers has he killed or let die to get closer to it? He knows their names, he knows his price, but he never stopped. Even when he and Jake both knew that one of them would die as they continued on their quest, they both continued. But Roland did it for the Tower, and Jake kept going because of his love for Roland. It’s this difference that Roland doesn’t learn until it is too late.
Roland saves not just one world but all of the worlds, and even that is just a byproduct of getting him closer to the Tower. Just like leaving the horn on Jericho Hill. Because at that moment, after Cuthbert died, Roland couldn’t even take 15 seconds to stop and pick up the item that came from his ancestors and meant something to him, and to his now dead friend. Because it would have taken too long, and he had to get on his way.
[EVEN MORE SERIOUS SPOILERS. IF YOU READ AHEAD, HERE IS ANOTHER CHANCE TO STOP.]
And on his way to what? In this book, death. We lost Eddie first. I cried, obviously. The love and respect between the ka-tet was uplifting to be a part of. And when it broke, it was devastating. But we saw it coming, didn’t we? Ka is a wheel, and Eddie was so like Cuthbert. At the battle where we lost Eddie, we gained the beams, and theoretically the well-being of the universe. As Roland’s ka mates freed the Breakers from their work of destroying the beams that hold the universe together, we met a few more characters from King’s other books. I love these details, it makes me feel like King and his books are operating in a different place altogether (and all together). Like it’s their world and we’re just living in it.
And to see Sheemie again. His devotion to Roland was so sweet, and I’m so glad he got to find some peace after their previous meeting in Mejis, where so much went wrong. From the prison where Eddie (and Sheemie) died, we went with the ka-tet back to Americaside to save the selfish, lazy Stephen King.
Again, I liked that Stephen King was in these books. It’s fun you guys! Don’t you know fun? Not everything has so be so serious traditional literature, and I think once we passed a robot bear semi god, a woman who has split personalities but was only pregnant in one of them, and a demon spider baby, we have gone way past reality and way past the traditional rules.
Also, I like Stephen King. He seems like a fun guy and he has some crazy things in his head. I’d like to grab dinner with him, maybe sit and chat over a strong tea.
I also liked the parts where Roland went to the Tet Corporation and met those who did so much to help his cause. Though now that I think about it now, that does seem like a side road we might not have needed to go down. (I bet Pere Callahan thought that about a few of his roads, too.) But it was a nice conclusion to the Tet Corp., and if nothing else, this was a story of conclusions.
Walter’s life concluded in a most ugly fashion. And to all you haters, I agree that it was anticlimactic. But I think that makes it perfect. For a supervilliansemiimmortal to get trapped and killed without anyone–even him at first–knowing? I don’t think Walter deserves to go out with a bang.
Oy’s life ended here, too. After Mordred finished off Walter he headed unknowingly into Oy’s path, who died to protect Roland from his werespider son. My heart hurt for Oy, who I love so much for his love of his ka mates. He and Jake were so perfect together and Oy showed his love and his courage over and over. Oy reminds me of #fatcat, which is partly why I love him so much. His chatty, loyal personality could be Cisco to a T. Cisco even battles the occasional spider he finds in my apartment.
And you know we have to talk about it. The Ending, with a capital E
[THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE. DO NOT KEEP READING UNLESS YOU HAVE READ THE ENTIRE SERIES, I BEG OF YOU]
It’s horrible. I was sick to my stomach. We just went through all of that fun, all of that pain, all of that story just to do it all over again? It’s horrifying, but it’s perfect. How many times did he tell us Ka is a wheel? How many times did he tell us it all comes back around? And until Roland learns that love and people should be his motivations and not the Tower itself, he will continue on his heartbreaking quest eternally.
Or maybe not. He learned enough this time around (the 19th time around?) to remember to stop and pick up the horn and Jericho Hill on his next journey. He learned this time to love and to be willing to sacrifice himself for this love, but I believe he learned it too late. And did he really learn? He learned to love, but when the world was saved, and the beams held up, he didn’t go with Susannah, his ka mate. He went on, alone, to the Tower.
For my other thoughts on the series, see here:
I am trying to do a lot of things for my home this weekend, since I found out my office will be closed for a while and I’ll be working from home A LOT. (Sandy flooded my office, you guys. womp womp.)
I will share more apartment pictures soon so I can show you what it looks like now and the things I’d still like to do. But I have some wall space above a bookshelf where I put my TV, and I know I’d like to fill it up with a large piece of art. And I’d like to make that art, have it printed really large somewhere, and hang it up. Easy enough, right? (In theory.)
These two are my favorite designs so far, both simple, colorful, and based on books that have taken up a lot of my love and imagination. The first is based on the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. This refrain is repeated throughout the books, and the ka-tet group of friends travel through many of the worlds. The hat on the “r” is for the Gunslinger, one of the coolest men I’ve had the pleasure of reading about.
And this guy, I think you know.
I like these designs even if I don’t end up putting them on my wall, and I think I’ll play around with some more to see what else I can do.
What do you think?
I remember my first cup of coffee, like any good addict. I was in high school and I was tired from homework and gymnastics practice and a pot was sitting on our kitchen counter, so I went for it. It was pretty good, or at least not bad enough for me to stop. I like everything about it. The smell, holding a hot liquid in your hands on a cold day, how the familiar taste of something delicious can ground you on a crazy day–it’s all good to me.
I like the sense of community that surrounds coffee. You wake up with coffee, and you share it with loved ones and with strangers who don’t stay strangers for long. You can go just about anywhere and people understand coffee. In Roland and his friends’ case, it even transcends worlds. (mild spoilers ahead)
In The Wolves of the Calla, Roland, Eddie, Jake, Susannah and Oy are trying to make their way to the dark tower. They get sidelined by a town looking for the gunslingers’ help. As gunslingers, it’s their duty to help others who can’t help themselves, so the group stays to rid Calla Bryn Sturgis of a group of wolves who come to steal the town’s children. There’s deadly throwing plates, an army dressed to look like wolves, split personalities and a possible demon pregnancy.
But amid all of this is coffee.
When Roland’s ka-tet meets a few good people from Calla Bryn Sturgis, they speak of business over coffee. “Eddie guessed that, among the four of them, they must have put away at least a gallon. Even Oy had a little. Jake put down a saucer of the dark, strong brew. Oy sniffed, said “Coff!” and then lapped it up quickly and efficiently.” Roland of Gilead, Jake of New York in 1977, Eddie of New York in 1987, Susannah of New York in 1964, Oy the Billybumbler of Mid-World, and Tian and Zalia of Calla Bryn Sturgis, in who knows when, all drink coffee.So this weekend, I took my sharpies and A Beautiful Mess’ tutorial, and made this.
Take a porcelain dish, write on it with a sharpie, and bake it in the oven at 350 for 30 minutes. I took two of my favorite quotes from this series, “If you love me, then love me,” which Susan pleads to Roland during their great love story, and “Go then, there are other worlds than these,” which Jake says to Roland as he’s falling to his death. They are beautiful and simple but convey so much meaning to me and to the characters. And now they can keep me company as I curl up with a cup of coffee and a good book.
I think this would be fun for any quote you like, from a book or otherwise. If you don’t like how it comes out, just take a damp rag, wash away the sharpie before you bake it, and start again. After you bake it, avoid the dishwasher and don’t scrub the writing. I had some smudge away as I was washing mine. But the worst that could happen is that you end up with a fresh slate. And that’s not so bad after all.
I also made this one, just for me.
Some friends and I were talking about the common belief that the newest generation is the worst. It was always better back in the day, and kids these days couldn’t work their way out of a wet paper bag.
My generation in particular has gotten a bad rap lately. We are lazy, entitled, and clueless. We live with our parents instead of trying to get a job. We tweet in, like, abbreviations and can’t string together a professional, grammatically correct sentences to save our lives.
I hate this. I feel like I have to fight that impression just about every day in my professional life. Not everyone is as lucky as me when it comes to stable employment, but the idea that my generation as a whole is incapable of hard work just really kills me.
But if I were a trained assassin, maybe it wouldn’t be a bad thing if people thought I was young and dumb.
In Wizard and Glass, Roland and his friends have a huge advantage when the town leaders underestimate them. They leave their weapons at home on purpose, so as to not raise suspicions. But even without their guns, these gunslingers have better odds on just about any fight they’d come across, especially when the enemy is unsuspecting.
One of my favorite parts of this book was how seriously Roland, Cuthbert, Alain and Susan take themselves. They are about 15 years old but each is making decisions that affect the rest of their lives. And each of them takes these responsibilities seriously. It’s everyone else, like Susan’s aunt or the leader of the Big Coffin Hunters, who write them off as foolish youth. But even that, they use to their advantage.
In one of the best scenes in the book, Roland and his friends get in an extreme bar brawl. Cuthbert is only armed with his slingshot, but he refuses to back down or lower his weapon (in fact, I think he uses his weapon and someone almost loses a finger). The men can’t believe children could best them, and eventually they realize there could be more to Roland’s gang than bumbling youth. And through a hilarious and suspenseful turn of events, the boys prove they aren’t the weak idiots they seemed.
Their story is a story of first love, but it’s also a story of adult decisions made at a very young age. And about boys who became men and go to war far too soon. These boys believe in what they are doing and force a small town to take notice. But part of being an adult is knowing that everything doesn’t always work the way you want it to. And unfortunately, they had to live with the consequences of their decisions, too.
If you want to see what else I’m reading, check me out on Goodreads. And don’t forget to browse Rae’s Days e-reader cases and book tote bags. 10% of the proceeds will go toward the International Book Project.
I have a lot of feelings about this book.
You know how people talk about seeing a movie in their head when they read books? I don’t always do this. I read the words and say them to myself and I can understand what’s happening without necessarily having to see it in my mind. I don’t think that means it’s bad writing or that I’m a bad reader, it’s just how it works best for me sometimes.
But when I read the fourth book in the Dark Tower series, a movie was playing constantly in my head. It was effortless and it was lovely and I did it without realizing I had begun. I knew exactly what Roland looked like when he gave his cold, Gunslinger stare, and I know the way Susan’s tears fell down her cheeks and the bruise Cuthbert’s punch left on his friend’s face. I can absolutely see their homes and the landscape of the town they spent a fateful summer. And once I saw them, I couldn’t get them out of my head.
I’m attributing this mainly to Stephen King’s writing. When I read Stephen King, he has this way of getting his books to spill over into real life. In Roland’s world (or worlds, I should say), time is very fluid and events have a way of echoing to other characters and times and places. Jake hears of Roland’s quest for the tower and happens to take a walk to Tower Road and meets a Mr. Tower at a bookstore. These things keep reappearing in varying forms and they take is as a sign the world is changing and has begun to move on. But this echoing happens to me, too. I read about Blaine, a monorail the group takes quite an interesting trip on in Book 3, while I was on the subway train. I listened as the airport tram said, “welcome to the plane train, we are departing.” I saw a tour book in our house with a train on the cover. And it’s not just the Dark Tower series. When I was reading Stephen King’s It, I left the subway late one night and there was a balloon tied to the railing. I didn’t run all the way home, but I wanted to.
The story he’s crafted over the three preceding books contributes to the urgency in Book 4. Before we begin this book, we already know the way Roland ends up. We know he loses his love, Susan Delgado. We know his cold empty fate and the friends that die along the way. But what grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let it go is how they got to the end. The entire book was exciting, and I couldn’t put it down until I finished it. This is a lot harder, however, when you are on page 300 than, say, 650. So give yourself some time.
This isn’t the first time someone has told the story of two teenagers falling in love with a tragic ending, and it won’t be the last. But it’s been one of my favorites. I have a lot of things to say about it, as you can probably tell, so I think it will be the subject of quite a few posts coming up.