When I was in high school, my mom and I were in a mother-daughter book club. One of the books we read was about a young girl who joined the wrestling team. It was written by a man and the absolute worst book I’ve ever read. He had no clue what it was like to be a teenager and had the audacity to write about her period. After reading such an atrocity of a book, I vowed never to read a book with a female protagonist written by a man. And I did pretty well up until now.
The book opens with Carrie experiencing her first period at the age of 15. At first, my eyes rolled to the back of my head. Young women don’t start periods that late! But I wanted to read a Stephen King book, so I kept going. King opens the books with a too familiar setting, the girl’s locker room showers (shivers). Being in high school sucked, but being in the girl’s locker room sucked more, so much exposure and nowhere to hide.
How could a man write about an experience like that? With the help of a woman, of course! Like a good researcher, I googled “How Stephen King wrote Carrie” and found my answers. His wife read the drafts and encouraged him to keep writing it. One article from Mental Floss mentions King pulling inspiration from two real people he knew in high school (two weird and lonely girls with tragic endings) and a past job of his cleaning the girl’s locker room after hours.
The article also mentions King’s criticism of not being able to write in a woman’s perspective. I think in Carrie, he proved them wrong. He focuses on two main character’s perspectives, Carrie White and Sue Snell, who are complete opposites; Carrie the outsider and loner and Sue the popular good girl. King does an incredible work creating relatable personalities and scenarios of both women.
Other critics praised King’s format and storytelling style. Not only is the story being told by two women (Carrie and Sue), the reader gains more pieces of information from newspaper clippings, commission reports, and interviews (all created by King, of course). It’s as if he is writing the story as a reporter himself by including outside resources. The writing style is reminiscent of Michael Crichton. Both authors create such a realistic environment, not only because it closely resembles our own, but they also include supporting evidence or other background information that later connects with the story.
It’s only fair to watch the movie after reading the book. Unfortunately, I had family and friends visits this week so I didn’t get a chance to watch the 1976 movie. However, I did catch at least 30 minutes of the 2013 movie starring Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore. While it mostly followed the book (the book was written so well, how could it not?!), the actors playing Carrie and Margaret White were too …beautiful. There was little effort in making Moretz and Moore look like outcasts. Instead, they looked like famous actors acting sad (not very convincingly).
I didn’t finish the movie because it was too hard to take either actor seriously and it all felt very forced. Someone recommended that I watch the 1976 movie and I plan to do so. A couple of years ago, I was really into horror movies from the 1970s and 1980s. One of my favorites was Poltergeist. Movies from these eras were incredibly creative in editing and camera techniques. One of my favorite scenes is the mother being chased up the stairs by the poltergeist.
For this scene, the camera is chasing the mother up the stairs changing the perspective of the audience to that of the poltergeist. The many remakes of Poltergeist usually have a shitty CGI and the same camera angles. My hope for the 1976 Carrie is creative camera angles and editing techniques.
If you are new to Stephen King, like I was, I highly recommend starting with Carrie. It is a great introduction to his writing style, creative format, and a light introduction to his twists and turns. It also helps not watching the movies before so you have the freedom to imagine Carrie and other characters as King wrote them.