Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Reviving Recourse of King's Revival (Lots of R's There)

"A dark and electrifying novel about addiction, fanaticism, and what might exist on the other side of life.
In a small New England town, over half a century ago, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister. Charles Jacobs, along with his beautiful wife, will transform the local church. The men and boys are all a bit in love with Mrs. Jacobs; the women and girls feel the same about Reverend Jacobs -- including Jamie's mother and beloved sister, Claire. With Jamie, the Reverend shares a deeper bond based on a secret obsession. When tragedy strikes the Jacobs family, this charismatic preacher curses God, mocks all religious belief, and is banished from the shocked town. 
Jamie has demons of his own. Wed to his guitar from the age of thirteen, he plays in bands across the country, living the nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll while fleeing from his family's horrific loss. In his mid-thirties -- addicted to heroin, stranded, desperate -- Jamie meets Charles Jacobs again, with profound consequences for both men. Their bond becomes a pact beyond even the Devil's devising, and Jamie discovers that revival has many meanings. 
This rich and disturbing novel spans five decades on its way to the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written. It's a masterpiece from King, in the great American tradition of Frank Norris, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Edgar Allan Poe."
~ Revival via Goodreads 
It’s been a long, long time, Mr. King.  A long, long time since I’ve picked up a book of yours and read it.
Okay, okay.  With all the singing and lyricism out of the way, today I want to bring up Stephen King’s Revival.  It's a book I finally got to after taking a year-long break from King.  If you’re wondering why I took a break, it had a lot to do with the funky taste I swallowed after reading 2014’s Mr. Mercedes.  A funky taste further inflamed after reading his Richard Bachman book, The Running Man.  There’s a clear and recurring reason why I took the King break.  And it had a lot to do with King going into race and over-emphasizing the black anti-stereotype.  I won’t get into it, though.  Just know two back-to-back commentaries on each halted me for a year.  When I get to the point where I feel as if an author is exploiting the use of racial and homophobic slurs a little too unnecessarily often, I get in my feelings.  Done through character or not, it sends my alarm bells ringing.  
Yet, between Mr. Mercedes and Running, I enjoyed Mr. Mercedes' crime-fiction thriller-esque storytelling.  Even as far-fetched and elementary as its (optionally racist-ass) villain was.  So issues and all, it was a decent read that had the misfortune of The Running Man following close behind it.  (The Running Man did far worse on slur-control.)  However, considering Mr. Mercedes is the first in a trilogy, I finally believe I'm ready to make my way through the proceeding entries.  Thanks to my stepping out on faith with Revival.
Revival did its job.  I walked into it with apprehensions, and came out transfixed by its story.  Resoundingly, I’m happy to report King applied the “n” word (yes, I don’t care to use it) once and in a plausible context. 
Nevertheless, what stood out most was King's commentaries and themes.  (Also what I believe was a semi-discreet nod to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.)  Either way there’s much more commentary on religious dedication and the belief in God soaked into Revival.  Some of which I found myself actually agreeing with, and some more debatable.  There's also the commentary on placing value on thriving to live, while accepting our eventual death.  And it's the search for Death that really drives the book.  When the questions of what happens when we die hasn’t produced a concrete answer for the protagonists, King takes them (reader included) straight to its twisted source.  And if the panicked psychology and neurotic longings of his characters don’t shake you up, the end will.  Well, marginally.  I found it a little questionable and dubious (creatively speaking), but an interesting approach to the afterlife.
For me the best part of Revival were the chapters centering Jamie Morton’s childhood and family.  While boring to some, it’s here where I attached myself to the story and reacquainted my love of King’s writing.  Well, in honest retrospection, I almost felt like someone else wrote those chapters.  Whereas King handled the last chapters of the book.
Anyway.  Enough of my vagueness.  Revival revived my taste for more King.  That I can say.

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