I hadn't read or seen Cujo before this past week. (I think after the Firestarter fiasco, my parents shut the door on my checking out anything King-related on VHS.)
|"What do you mean, Bryan? Sure, this is Cujo..."|
I started reading Harlan Ellison in 1986 or so, and I knew at the time that he thought the book was "just okay." I'm very impressionable, so that meant for study halls at the time, it was pushed down the list and I never got to it. King himself regrets not remembering having written it, as he likes it. Me...
...this is probably my least favorite of the books I've read so far for this project. Not to say it's not enjoyable, but some of the writing seems kind of gimmicky. Not Tom Robbins-gimmicky, but you get a lot of backstory for things that don't necessarily advance the plot or pad it out significantly, and then some capitalization-stuff like "Cujo saw THE MAN and THE BOY" Okay, I get it... that's how Cujo sees the world (more on that below) but come on. And then there's a lot of
(the man... the dream)
stuff between the paragraphs, sometimes
breaking up the sentences themselves. King's left a lot of this stuff behind over the years, which I like. He stills breaks into italics to approximate inner monologue. But he's hardly alone in that, and that isn't as intrusive. Maybe gimmicky's not the word, and maybe I'm unfairly projecting King's admission he wrote it in more or less of a blackout onto it. It feels like kind of a drunk rambling story, with a lot of stuff to pad it out, but not much there. But I think he's left
(the man... the dream)
behind in his later work.
Not that there isn't symbolism that comes through. Is marriage the rabid dog? Or is it the broken-down pinto? (Or is it the lies in a marriage that create the monster/ the broken-down pinto?) Or the Red Raspberry Zingers? (I don't want to get into it) None of the above? Whatever your poison, there's a case to be made of artful construction The book is basically three different threads:
1) Vic and Donna's disintegrating marriage. She's had an affair, and the lover returns to the narrative much as Cujo himself does. Their son, Tad, projects or sublimates his awareness of this the way little boys sometimes can do - the monster in the closet.
2) Brett and Charity Camber's abusive marriage and their son. They're the ones who have Cujo, the St. Bernard who chases a rabbit down a hall, wakes some rabid bats, and gets a bite on the nose.
Quick side-note: I'm not a particular fan of a narrative switching to the p.o.v. of an animal. For me, it's a slippery slope. Once you switch over and have Cujo start describing things, what's to stop you from switching to a squirrel or any animal in the story? Logically, at that point - you've already shown us the mind of a non-human, what's the author's justification for not including the squirrel's narrative, and so on? I don't know, not my thing.
3) Vic's advertising account. I won't get into it. But, sure, preserving the image of something/ giving a failed account an honorable burial - these things definitely reflect on the above.
But I don't think points 2 and 3 tie in to the main point of 1 as successfully as they could. Donna and Tad have their rendezvous with Cujo pretty early on, and it's apparent that struggle is the climax. It seems to go on too long. The end is grim.
Which brings us to the movie, which may be a better take on the same material. Cuckoo for cocoa puffs? Crazy in the coconut? Maybe. It's not a masterpiece but certainly successful enough for what it is. Considering the subsequent work of director Lewis Teague, it's a high water mark for him, anyway.
|Yeah, rough day. Dee Wallace is Danny "Who's the Boss" Pintauro's mom, here, and played Henry Thomas's Mom in E.T., and Andy Bernard's mom in The Office. Whole lotta' moms!|
I've always enjoyed the animal vs. man sub-genre of films where the attacks bear some Freudian or other-ian deconstruction of human relations.
|The Birds is perhaps the best example. Tho...|
|isn't bad either.|
I don't know if Cujo belongs in the same category of films, but a case can be made for it. At any rate, it conveys some horrible things quite effectively - particularly everything that happens to Dee Wallace in the car. I don't recommend this for prospective moms or children under 10.
|Cujo in happier times.|
|Cujo after the rabies.|
Tad's Dad by the way is played by Daniel Hugh Kelly, who may not sound familiar but is instantly recognizable to men of a certain age as Skid McCormack from McCormack and Hardcastle, and, for me personally, as what's-his-toes from Star Trek: Insurrection.
|That guy, with Donna Murphy and Patrick Stewart,|
The biggest differences:
1) The film eliminates most of the cruder or more violent elements of the novel. The character of Gary Pervier, who gets such lines as "I don't give a shit if he was hitting line drives into her catcher's mitt" in the novel, doesn't do too much here except get to be the first victim. And there's no battering the rabid St. Bernard's head into near-unconsciousness with the car door, for example. But the terror of the child screaming/ claustrophobic space comes across even more immediately than in the reading.
2) Both the fate of Tad and the manner in which Cujo is disposed - which, depending on your opinions of the subtext here, mean everything or nothing, take your pick. That's not me equivocating, just saying, there's a big difference, if you're looking for one - are very different.
3) The whole Brett/ Charity plot, which see above and didn't-miss-it-if-you-ask-me.
Terrible, terrible way to end the movie, though, with the frozen image and then the Muzack. All that was missing was Joe Cocker's "You Are So Beautiful." What the what?
|This would have been better. Albeit creepier.|
A final note: in an intentional perversion of the point of King's confession of not remembering writing this, I thought it would be fun to get blackout drunk for the blogging of this. I failed spectacularly - just remembered to pour a second glass of the bottle of wine I bought. (10:36 pm) Sigh. I feel I've let down my 18-year-old self, who was looking forward to putting the headphones on and listening to the Doors or something.