November's SK Flavor of the Month - Pet Sematary

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November's SK Flavor of the Month - Pet Sematary

nov 2, 2009, 8:36 am

Hey all,

I posted this once and it never showed. If it now shows up twice, I'll try and delete the other thread.

November's book will be Pet Sematary. This one is often listed as a favorite among his fans. I'm looking forward to the re-read.

Redigeret: nov 2, 2009, 9:24 am

Crap, I posted to the other one. Bah.

Here's the post, you can kill the other thread if you like.

I'm 2/3 of the way through and Lou is snooping around his son's grave, drawing spirals in the dirt. A bad, bad time.

I don't know how to feel about Rachel. She's sympathetic up to a point, but mostly annoying, selfish, irrational and bitchy. I understand Lou's fuckitall moments. Norma's death was worse than Gage's somehow; I think it's because Jud knew her for so much longer than anyone knew Gage. The death of a child is sad because of the what might have been, the death of an elderly person is because of the what was and will no longer be.

Anyway...I'll probably finish it in the next couple of days.

nov 5, 2009, 8:28 pm

I have the book, so I shouldn't be late for this one (I'll be finished Christine soon).

nov 9, 2009, 11:10 pm

Started the book this weekend. Jud is just walking the Creeds to the Pet Sematary.

There was a thread on here once: Which King character did you love. I never responded, because I don't really have a favorite, but Jud is awful close.

nov 10, 2009, 1:06 am

Will be starting tomorrow. I liked the little pre-introduction page that was saying who has written books and who hasn't. I am excited to dive into this one.

nov 10, 2009, 1:25 pm

My copy of the book is the old Signet paperback with the oil painting of Church and the graveyard (we'll have to start a November covers thread, that was a neat idea).

Anyway, the back of the book is black with the quote "The most frightening book Stephen King has ever written" - Publisher's Weekly.

This was well before the movie (or the internet for that matter) so when I first read it, I had no clue where it was going to go.

nov 11, 2009, 9:08 am

I won't put all of my thoughts here, but this is the first paragraph of my review -

Reading this on the heels of Christine showed up the sloppy inconsistencies in this book. Where Christine is sharp and laser focused, Pet Sematary is wobbly and weaves around like a drunk. Problems with tone and show versus tell are the biggest ones, but there are character annoyances, too. Maybe those aren't flaws, but they detracted from my enjoyment of this book.

Rest of it here...

I didn't hate it, but reading so close to a much better book was its undoing.

nov 11, 2009, 11:25 pm

Bookmarque, I haven't read your review yet because i don't want to influence my reading and/or review, but from the first paragraph you posted I am looking forward to reading the rest.

So far, Lou was just visited by Pascow and has thrown the sheets in the laundry hamper.

I like the tone and pace of the book myself. It is different than Christine. The story is simple enough that it could have been a novella. But the added length doesn't feel like padding, at least to me.

The slower approach is allowing him to add depth. Having already read the book once before and having seen the movie, I can see how he is building up Rachel's... issues... with death. To me it is handled subtly enough so that what Louis winds up doing later with Church makes sense and is a believeable thing for that character to do.

Does that make sense, or am I rambling?

nov 12, 2009, 1:25 pm

Church just got back from the vet.

You know, any time Louis would agonize about having Church neutered, I felt like he was being such a putz.

I guess it’s just a personal thing. At one point my wife was a volunteer at the Humane Society and before you knew it we had 12(!) cats. I guess I’m just bitter about guys who were so fragile about their masculinity that they wouldn’t have their pet spayed or neutered.

Sorry to have turned this into a PSA.

Pet Sematary… what a spooky book, huh?

nov 12, 2009, 1:47 pm

Yeah, I kind of felt the same way, like get OVER IT Lou.

nov 13, 2009, 1:42 pm

Okay, it's Thanksgiving.

Louis, Jud and Church are on their way to the Pet Sematary...

nov 14, 2009, 4:54 am

Just wanted to say, I loved Louis and Jud's trip to the Micmac burial ground. The walk there felt so Lovecraft-ian and menacing.

Redigeret: nov 14, 2009, 7:18 am

I know what you's the deadfall that does it at first and then the something in the woods. Just enough detail so you can make out its shape, but not enough to really see what it is. Very Lovecratian.

Redigeret: nov 17, 2009, 6:07 pm

I'm about halfway through - Norma has been buried. I read the book when I was 13 or 14 and found it very scary so maybe I was expecting too much but so far I'm finding it too slow and a bit meandering. Feels like the book is only just about to start, if that makes sense.

Worst of all, I was reading all about Church's death and resurrection while travelling back and forth between home and my family. When I got home at the weekend my teenage son told me he was worried about our old tabby, who was off his food and had slept all day. He thought the cat was depressed because his head was down, or maybe missing me (he is a bit of a mummy's boy - the cat, not my son). Well I had a look at the cat and he needed immediate treatment and I thought I was going to be putting him to sleep. He's just home after staying over for tests, and a very sudden, severe rise in blood pressure has detached his retinas and he is now blind, but getting used to feeling his way round with his whiskers.

I'm not sure I could have carried on reading the book if he'd died. As it was I only picked it back up again once I knew he was okay.

Redigeret: nov 20, 2009, 7:46 am

Sorry - tried to edit but posted twice.

nov 20, 2009, 7:38 am

Too much information about my sick cat seems to have stalled the discussion! I'm pleased to say that Dennis is adapting very quickly to not being able to see and seems a lot happier (although he needed a lot of reassurance at first, and still prefers to have someone around).

The book is dragging on, I'm sorry to say. I agree very much with Bookmarque, it's very sloppy compared to Christine. Cujo and Pet Sematary book-end Christine quite nicely in terms of how to layer on the horror in a book - in Cujo there was barely any relationship between the failing marriage and the St.Bernard; in Pet Sematary EVERY SINGLE LAYER of the horror is going to be about death and how we deal with it. Compare and contrast the death of an elderly neighbour and the death of a toddler, include lots of references to how we treat the dead body via the pet cemetery, the MicMac ground and the handy plot device of the stories of an undertaker uncle, and add the gory death of a teen on the doctor's first day of work and the neurosis of his wife (neurosis about death, I might add in case you missed it). Don't forget that by throwing in Zelda you have the fear and effects of slow, drawn-out death.

Also like Bookmarque, I'm not overly keen on the characters. I found the marriage of Louis and Rachel about as interesting as the marriage in Cujo. I think King's ordinary middle class, middle aged marrieds are his most boring and least sympathetic characters.

I might change my mind - I can't wait for Gage to come back to life and liven up the story, and I'm feeling a bit mean for it because the scene with Gage, Louis and the kite has been the best thing in the book so far. Absolutely lovely.

>5 SirStuckey::
The introduction was good.

nov 20, 2009, 2:03 pm

I'm finding myself moved by the exact things that others seem to find offputting; namely, King's extended, multi-layered meditation on mortality. The word "sematary" is, after all, in the title. He does such a marvelous job with the little/big things--the dying of a season, of times gone by, the abject terror that can be experienced in the darkness of one's own garage...

I do, however, agree completely with Jseger9000's characterization of Lou as a putz for agonizing over the neutering of Church.

nov 20, 2009, 11:11 pm

#16 - Too much information about my sick cat seems to have stalled the discussion!

No! Not at all. I didn't mention it at the time, (wasn't sure if it was appropriate) but I had a similar issue reading Apt Pupil.

Remember the scene with Denker and the cat? I wound up reading it in the waiting room at the vet. We took in one of our cats who was sick and he wound up having to be put to sleep (he had feline leukemia).

I didn't touch the book for a few days after that.

nov 20, 2009, 11:21 pm

#17 - I'm finding myself moved by the exact things that others seem to find offputting; namely, King's extended, multi-layered meditation on mortality. The word "sematary" is, after all, in the title. He does such a marvelous job with the little/big things--the dying of a season, of times gone by, the abject terror that can be experienced in the darkness of one's own garage...

Amen! I've been thinking about why so many people (not just Publisher's Weekly) have said that Pet Sematary is Stephen King's scariest book. Very little happens that is outright 'scary' until the last fifty pages or so.

The reason the book has such impact is all of the layering and the depth of the characters (even if Jud is the only one I empathize with).

nov 21, 2009, 9:03 am

Jseger, I'm so sorry to hear about your cat. I do feel for you. I can understand about the book, it was a strong scene to be reading in a vet's waiting room. Very grim.

>17 BeckyJG: & 19:
I can see all of that, but I personally found it heavy-handed. It was all there but the execution was very sloppy, with King bashing you over the head with the same sentiments time and time again (how many times did he have to tell us that a man's heart is stonier, but he tends what he grows? I did get it the first time, even though I'm probably mis-quoting it now). The scene with Gage and the kite was gorgeous, and worked because it was one of the few times we were shown and not told. Didn't dislike it as much as Cujo, though.

Finished it now and part 3 is very scary in a pulpy way (that's not a bad thing), but it doesn't seem to belong to the rest of the story. I can appreciate someone's enjoyment of this as "King's extended, multi-layered meditation on mortality" even if it wasn't my cup of tea - but then it turns into a different book!

It's the first time I've had such a different opinion from my first read during this read-a-thon, so it could be as simple as my tastes changing over the years.

nov 21, 2009, 9:09 am

Exactly Mama - the tone is awkward and doesn't flow. Here's part of my review -

We proceed to the deaths; Pascow, Church, Norma and lastly Gage. Each is presented with increasing sharpness, sentiment and sadness. Gage's in particular is gut-wrenching. The family breakdown is equally emotional and tortured. Jed is unsteady, Rachel is practically catatonic, Ellie is lost and Lou is foundering. But fast-forward to the very end and we're suddenly transported to Dawn of the Dead or Evil Dead…it's camp. Camp! After all that emotional turmoil, degradation and pain we get a zombie Michael Myers, just add clown suit. Thanks, Steve.

nov 21, 2009, 11:51 am

#20 - I do have to concede all your points in paragraphs two and three. Though I'm enjoying the book (Lou just dug up Gage and Rachel is renting a car when I last left off), I think your criticism is pretty right on.

I hope if you write up a review all of that winds up in it.

#21 - …it's camp. Camp! After all that emotional turmoil, degradation and pain we get a zombie Michael Myers, just add clown suit. Thanks, Steve.

Hahahaha! Man, that was soooo funny!

nov 21, 2009, 11:55 am

BTW: I keep meaning to mention, is it just me or do you wind up feeling really sorry for Church? Through the whole story he's been treated pretty badly.

After Jud, my empathy lay with Church rather than any of the Creeds. (Not that I hate them, but c'mon Lou, give ol' Church a break whydontcha? You at least know what you put him through.)

nov 21, 2009, 1:58 pm

Yeah, I felt a lot of sorrow over Church's fate and Lou's subsequent treatment of him. I mean, the guy was warned wasn't he, that an animal might not come back to be the fluffy lap-sitter of old. But it's in character for him though; once a putz always a putz.

nov 28, 2009, 2:30 pm

I finished the book a few days ago and have been working out a review.

Bookmarque, in your review you said "In the end though, her irrational fears had pretty much no bearing on the main story which is the death of her kid. She made it to the funeral and the cemetery despite her psychological problems, so it didn't matter that she had them."

I disagree. Rachel's extreme phobia about death was what made it plausible to me that Jud would show Louis the Micmac grounds though he knew there was something wrong there.

nov 28, 2009, 3:45 pm

Nope, I don't see it that was showy hysterics and highly annoying and kind of misogynistic which is unusual for King. The burial ground made Jud lead Lou there, not Rachel's stupidity. The burial ground and whatever lives there can't be dependent on outside influences its victims 'might' use to lure new ones.

Redigeret: nov 28, 2009, 5:53 pm

I can see that. Though I think that King's intention was to use her hysterics as a plausible reason for Jud to take Louis there before we find out about the burial ground's malignant influence.

I do have to agree with you though that King showed and told us about the power of the burial ground. I don't know what got into him there as there was plenty of 'show' but then he would go and slip in something like 'she felt like she was being purposely delayed.' Why? He's usually better than that.

It was almost like he really grooved on the first three quarters of the book and then thought 'Oh! I have to wrap this all up!'

nov 28, 2009, 7:44 pm

Yeah, it is like that isn't it? Like he got lost in his own maze and then suddenly realized he had to lead himself out somehow. It's a mess, really, and I almost wish I'd not read it again and retained my fonder memories.

nov 29, 2009, 12:41 am

I remember reading somewhere that he scared himself as he wrote it and had a hard time finishing it.

I know that he wrote an introduction for the book (that my copy doesn't have) where he mentions that the Creed's situation was closely related to his own when he wrote the book. They lived in a house by a road where trucks would fly by. Their cat (Smucky) was hit by a truck. Then one day his son ran towards the road as a truck was coming. He snatched him outta the way, but kept thinking about what would have happened if he'd missed.

So I sort of wonder if the whole beginning of the book attracted him and then like you said he realized he had to close the book and sort of just went on a tear.

nov 29, 2009, 6:38 pm

Finished the book a couple days ago (a reread for me). I agree with others' comments about the heavy-handedness of the death theme and I also found myself comparing it to Christine, namely that when someone like Buddy Repperton gets run over by the car it's a bad guy getting his comeuppance, but when Gage gets hit by a truck it's just sad and gruesome and senseless and gives the book a much bleaker tone.

dec 10, 2009, 4:19 pm

I haven't been participating in the King-a-thon, but I wanted to put my two pennies in regarding this book.

It is one of the few King stories that still haunts me (I have read it twice). The bleakness, the morbid layering, was like a total immersion in death. And I always thought that this was the point. To accelerate the story would have diminished that experience for me. No, it wasn't a fun experience, it wasn't a thrill. It was pure, slow, heavy, darkness.

dec 10, 2009, 7:10 pm

#31 - I do agree. I don't think the book needed acceleration. My problem is that when he did ramp up the book, it felt rushed and sloppy. Something I'm not used to from King.

I think the book would have benefitted maybe from running a little longer or beginning the stuff with Gage earlier.

dec 11, 2009, 5:27 pm

#32 - Understood. The finishing section didn't hit me that way, but I do get your point.

dec 11, 2009, 9:41 pm

Hey Nightwater, I hope you do decide to keep following the SK flavor of the month deal.

dec 14, 2009, 5:38 pm

jseger - I have been following and enjoying the discussions. But as we all know, so many books, so little time. I've read most SK books two or three times, and will read them again, I'm sure. But not quite yet. And the first set I'll read will probably be the Dark Tower series as I've only read them once. (And many here don't seem to be fans....)

mar 19, 2010, 4:16 pm

I'm a fan of the Dark Tower Series! I hope maybe we can start to mix them into these flavors on the month.

mar 20, 2010, 3:30 pm

The Dark tower books are on their way. We'll be reading the Gunslinger in... november I think.

apr 25, 2020, 1:54 pm

I read Pet Sematary last summer while I was in Maine. Reading it there made it extra creepy. I have to say that when I finished it really messed me up, like, wow, that really just happened?! I read it because I wanted to see the movie and I like to read the book first, but I still haven't seen the movie! I think I'm strong enough now, so I'll give it a shot.

apr 25, 2020, 3:11 pm

It's not one of my favorites, but it's serviceable in a campy way. I watched the movie just for Fred Gwynne. He was fab.

apr 26, 2020, 1:11 pm

>39 Bookmarque: I watched it yesterday and thought it was good, not great. I appreciate that they stayed as close to the book as they could with the time allotted, but the book is so much scarier!