Friday, April 24, 2009

35 Years Ago Today: Stephen King releases 'Carrie'

Carrie is American author Stephen King's first published novel, released in 1974. It revolves around the titular character Carrie, a shy high-school girl, who uses her newly discovered telekinetic powers to exact revenge on those who tease her. King has commented that he finds the work to be "raw" and "with a surprising power to hurt and horrify". It is one of the most frequently banned books in United States schools and the film version was banned in Finland. Much of the book is written in an epistolary structure, through newspaper clippings, magazine articles, letters, and excerpts from books.

Several adaptations of Carrie have been released, including a 1976 feature film, a 1988 Broadway musical, a 1999 feature film sequel, and a 2002 television movie.

Publication history:

was actually King's fourth novel but the first to be published. It was written while he was living in a trailer in Hermon, Maine, on a portable typewriter (on which he also wrote Misery) that belonged to his wife Tabitha. It began as a short story intended for Cavalier magazine, but King tossed the first three pages of his work in the garbage. Of King's published short stories at the time, he recalled,
"Some woman said, 'You write all those macho things, but you can't write about women.' I said, 'I'm not scared of women. I could write about them if I wanted to.' So I got an idea for a story about this incident in a girls' shower room, and the girl would be telekinetic. The other girls would pelt her with sanitary napkins when she got her period. The period would release the right hormones and she would rain down destruction on them... I did the shower scene, but I hated it and threw it away."
His wife fished the pages out of the garbage and encouraged him to finish the story; he followed her advice and expanded it into a novel. King said, "I persisted because I was dry and had no better ideas... my considered opinion was that I had written the world's all-time loser." The book was dedicated to his wife, Tabitha: "This is for Tabby, who got me into it – and then bailed me out of it."
According to the audio commentary for the film version of Carrie, Carrie is based on a composite of two girls who were bullied and abused at school; one who went to school with him, and one who was his student. The young girl King went to school with lived down the street from him in Durham, Maine. In an interview with Charles L. Grant for Twilight Zone Magazine in April 1981, King recalled that,
"She was a very peculiar girl who came from a very peculiar family. Her mother wasn't a religious nut like the mother in Carrie; she was a game nut, a sweepstakes nut who subscribed to magazines for people who entered contests ... the girl had one change of clothes for the entire school year, and all the other kids made fun of her. I have a very clear memory of the day she came to school with a new outfit she'd bought herself. She was a plain-looking country girl, but she'd changed the black skirt and white blouse – which was all anybody had every seen her in – for a bright-colored checkered blouse with puffed sleeves and a skirt that was fashionable at the time. And everybody made worse fun of her because nobody wanted to see her change the mold."
King says he wondered what it would have been like to have been reared by such a mother, and based the story itself on a reversal of the Cinderella fairy tale. He also told biographer George Beahm that the girl later "married a man who was as odd as her, had kids, and eventually killed herself."
Carrie’s telekinesis resulted from King’s earlier reading about this topic. King also did a short stint as a high school English teacher at Hampden Academy, a job he eventually quit after receiving the payment for the paperback publishing sale of Carrie.
At the time of publication, King was working as a teacher at Hampden Academy and barely making ends meet. To cut down on expenses, King had the phone company remove the telephone from his house. As a result, when King received word that the book was chosen for publication, his phone was out of service. Doubleday editor, William Thompson (who would eventually become King's close friend), sent a telegram to King's house which read: "CARRIE OFFICIALLY A DOUBLEDAY BOOK. $2,500 ADVANCE AGAINST ROYALTIES. CONGRATS, KID - THE FUTURE LIES AHEAD, BILL."
It has been presumed that King drew inspiration from his time as a teacher. New American Library bought the paperback rights for $400,000, which, according to King's contract with Doubleday, was split between them. King eventually quit the teaching job after receiving the publishing payment. The hardback sold a mere 13,000 copies, the paperback, released a year later, sold over 1 million copies in its first year.
King recalls, "Carrie was written after Rosemary's Baby, but before The Exorcist, which really opened up the field. I didn't expect much of Carrie. I thought who'd want to read a book about a poor little girl with menstrual problems? I couldn't believe I was writing it." In a talk at the University of Maine at Orono, King said of Carrie, "I'm not saying that Carrie is shit and I'm not repudiating it. She made me a star, but it was a young book by a young writer. In retrospect it reminds me of a cookie baked by a first grader—tasty enough, but kind of lumpy and burned on the bottom."

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