Stephen King’s IT Parade, Week 6: Does This Book Have an Ending?

Stephen King’s IT Parade is author/editor Daniel Kraus’s 10-week journal of re-reading King’s classic. Join him on this long (very long) journey, if you dare.

CHAPTERS 13-16

We’re grinding down a bit here. If you’re like me, fellow readers, you’re starting to wonder how many traumatic childhood incidents our adult Losers’ Club needs to relive before the diminishing returns start making you skip ahead. This isn’t helped along by the continued creep (referenced in last week’s post) of characters mystically knowing thing. Snippets: “This was something they were supposed to do.” “Like someone wanted him to read.”

The someone in question here is not some godlike being; it’s Mr. Stephen King. He wants his characters to do these things because he wants to push the plot along without making things more complicated than they are. From a motivation perspective, it’s pretty lousy—the characters even admit to feeling like puppets, being pushed along a path. It reads like that, too.

Ultimately, it’s not as grating as it sounds. The book is rife with “Three Billy Goats Gruff” references (I’ve avoided mentioning them because they are so obvious), but when Eddie, on page 956 says, “Who’s that trip-trapping on my bridge?” it got me thinking how IT might be one the most involved fairy-tale adaptations ever, with the Losers’ Club as the goats trying to outfox the clever, shadowy shape beneath the bridge (read: all bridges). IT benefits from the pervasiveness of “Billy Goat Gruff”; if we’re following in the steps of that tale, that sort of excuses that we’re running on rails with limited character agency. Sort of.

The most notable event of this section is a confounding (purposely, I think), tempting-to-skip section that might be the most important thing we’ve read yet. In a bizarre development, the Losers’ Club recreates a Native American “Smoke-Hole Ceremony.” This is just plain weird and probably narratively ill-advised, but anyway, they do it, and Richie and Mike end up transporting to a jungly, dinosaur-era Barrens millions of years in the past (you read that right) where they witness (no shit) “the coming of It.” It is described as looking like a spaceship of flame, settling into what, eons later, will become Derry.

What in the wide world of sports are we to make of this? It feels like King’s stab at a Kubrickian 2001 moment: an abstract nod at a deeper meaning that is to be felt rather than understood; poetry, if you will, not prose. But to hell with that—I’m going to try to understand it anyway. How about this: the primeval Barrens of millions of years ago is a Garden of Eden, a place of peace and bounty, and It is the snake that’s going to offer blood-filled apples to the first creatures who develop brains powerful enough to sin. I don’t think I’m way off. Mike says, “It was like . . . the Ark of the Covenant, in the Bible, that was supposed to have the Spirit of God inside of it.”

While I love this sequence (I’m a sucker for authors who try to go big; I even love their stumbles along the way), I don’t especially like the idea that capital-E Evil comes from outside of Earth. Evil comes from humans: not only is it a fact, it’s a hell of a lot scarier, too.

The Losers Club in the Barrens. From the 1990 miniseries.

Now check this out: on page 942, King describes the Losers’ Club paging through a book of ancient Derry photographs (all of which feature an ageless Pennywise). While studying a photo that depicts a WWII Victory-in-Japan parade, Bill thinks to himself:

Nothing was over, no one had surrendered, nothing was won, nil was still the rule, zilch still the custom; seeming to suggest above all that all was still lost.

This is an incredibly dark worldview, but I give it points for squaring with The Coming of It, and calling back to the book’s very first sentence, which I discussed way back in Week 2:

The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years—if it ever did end—began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.

No matter how IT ends, these two clues, over 900 pages apart, suggest that the book will never end. The book explains how It returns every 27 years, and though no one can blame King for never, ever even considering writing a sequel to this glorious cinder block, he could have picked up the story again in 2012. And 2039. And 2066. It’s a neverending story, and that does feel biblical, and it’s a credit to King’s depth of focus in IT that such an outcome feels to us, by now, entirely natural. (Unnaturally natural.)

NEXT WEEK: CHAPTERS 17-18 & THE FOURTH INTERLUDE

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About the Author:

Dan Kraus is Booklist's Editor of Books for Youth. He is also the producer and director of numerous feature films, most notably the documentary Work Series, and the author of several YA novels, including Rotters and Scowler, both of which won the Odyssey Award. Follow him on Twitter at @DanielDKraus.

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