King's Highway pt. 44: The Wind Through the Keyhole pt. 2 of 2

WE-THE-PEOPLE: I made an attempt to wrest satisfaction from the official Stephen King Forum about the shifting point-of-view in the central story, as discussed in pt. one. And I was wholly unsuccessful. ("TL;DR" was the general response.) If this changes, I'll update it here. Now... please prepare yourselves once again for the startling conclusion to...

As before, all art unless otherwise-indicated by Jae Lee, with copies of the limited edition at https://secure.grantbooks.com/z-sk-dt-twttk.html
DSO: So Marvel is adding their own original stories to the Dark Tower mythos?
Bryant: They are indeed.  Or at least, were.  The past few arcs have been more or less straightforward adaptations of The Gunslinger.  And the first was a more or less straightforward adaptation of the young-Roland chunk of Wizard and Glass.  But between those, there were something like five arcs that were almost wholly new.  The first couple were good -- close to great, even -- but they went quickly downhill, and ended up feeling like overblown fanfic.

I really need to get to work on a big old "episode" guide sort of post.  I think a lot of people might be interested in reading that. 

DSO: I almost hope you don't, as then they would call to me like Dark Tower glass at the comic shop. There's even a conveniently collected grab-bag of at least one of the story arcs at the counter of my local, and I've resisted temptation so far. But damn it, when you do, I may have to give in.
Bryant: How do you take the novel's dedication ("This is for Robin Furth, and the gang at Marvel Comics.")?  I would love to know exactly how aware King is of those comics.  I get the sense that he was involved with them during the pre-production phase leading up to the first few issues, but that he soon thereafter stopped having much involvement with them at all.  The timeline of this novel directly contradicts the comics; we see here that Cort is still in bed, direly ill, months after his defeat by David the hawk, whereas the Fall of Gilead arc in the comics (I think it was that one) shows Cort more or less back to being his old boisterous self, albeit with one less eye.  I am fine with the novel contradicting the comics, because after the first three arcs or so, I think the comics lost their way quite badly; it pleases me for King to contradict them.
DSO: Interesting. Reminds me of their old Star Wars comic.
Art and script by Walt Simonson immediately prior to his run on Thor. I was all about these from 1980 through the release of Jedi, then the series/ concepts seemed to drift.
Bryant: I used to have a few of those comics, but I never got to read as many of them as I wanted.  I seem to recall that Han had a smuggler friend that was a giant green man-rabbit, or something like that.  I remember something to do with landing on a water planet.  I remember a cyborg assassin.  We're talking dim, dim memories here ... but vibrantly dim, if that makes any sense.  I wonder, are there collections of that run of Marvel comics?  If so, I'm adding them to my vast, ever-expanding wish list.

Thing is, given that dedication, I have to wonder what his stance is.  My guess is that he views them the same way he views movie adaptations: i.e., he sees them as having essentially nothing to do with his own work.  I'm tempted to speculate that they have, at the very least, kept him thinking about Mid-World, though; and if that's the case, then I'm all for it.
DSO: I haven't looked at any of those, so I can only comment from "afar," but I imagine King sees that stuff as wholly separate from his stuff. Maybe, tho, as you say, it'll help keep his mind in Mid-World! I know when Marvel got around to Wolverine: Origin (the first mini-series; I never read anything but that, tho I know it became an ongoing thing) it was because they didn't want Hollywood to provide their own version. Maybe King will have something similar happen when it comes to any or all of the above.
Bryant: Yeah, that makes sense.  I get the feeling that the relationship with Marvel is both more and less complicated than it would seem, and it probably all boils down to King saying, "Yeah, sure, do what you want, I don't care."  I suspect he long ago decided to just trust Robin Furth implicitly, so that he doesn't have to worry about it in any active sense.  His involvement -- and this is a pure guess on my part -- is probably limited to fielding the occasional email question from Furth.  Who, it should be pointed out, is on the record as saying that for her, the comics represent a sort of alternate-universe version of the story.  It's all happening on another level of the Tower, in other words. Fair enough.
DSO: Different levels of the Tower is the gift that keeps on giving. Theme-wise, another home run for SK with the absent-father/ avenge-the-mother/ childhood's-end stuff. Many moving passages. I was very satisfied to see Big Ross's ax settle into Kells' neck.
Bryant: Indeed.  I've heard the book described as unimportant or irrelevant as regards its place with the Tower series, but the more I think about it, the less inclined I am to agree.  Roland's matricide at the end of Book IV was a major event, and the series never really dealt with it again in any way.  As such, the emphasis it receives here -- even if it is the emphasis of showing that Roland was able to make peace with his mother's memory -- does seem a bit essential to me. 
DSO: Absolutely essential. When I read Wizard and Glass I thought ok, if this flashback has no real bearing on why Roland wants to get to the Dark Tower (besides the whole saving-the-omniverse reason) I'll cry foul. But holy crap, did it ever. I think the same thing here and for this very reason you describe. That bit about his Mom living again through him (i.e. "I could see him falling into the tale, and that please me - it was like hypnotizing him again, but in a better way. A more honest way. The best part, though, was hearing my mother's voice. It was like having her again, coming out from far inside me. It hurt, of course, but more than not the best things do, I've found. You wouldn't think it could be so, but - as the old-timers used to say - the world's tilted, and there's an end to it." (pg. 106)) as he told the story really got me. King get justified credit for many things, but I think his ability to bring tears to one's eyes in never-expected ways is perhaps underrated.
Bryant: Agreed on all points.  He's best-known as a scare-meister, and for good reason, but the fact is that fear can't exist without love: sometimes that's love merely for oneself (i.e., I love myself and really don't want to get torn to pieces by this werewolf), but oftentimes, it's love for someone else.  I can't help but think of the death of Edgar's beloved daughter in Duma Key, which I found to be just utterly horrifying.

I'd say the vast majority of his fiction -- and all of his successful fiction -- is deeply rooted in concerns like that.
And I think that makes its placement between Books IV and V interesting.  A hell of a lot of stories get told in that middle section of the eight-book structure, but it seems appropriate; it's almost as if Roland is being forced to come to terms with his past before he can proceed onward toward the Tower.

And I'm with you; I think there is WAY more of that past that needs to be told.  Where it could/would fit in, though, I do not know.  Let's hope we get to find out someday!
DSO: Let’s discuss the language and some specific quotes. I made note of a few as I went through the novel. Let’s start with "Time was a face on the water, and like the great river before them, did nothing but flow." (pg. 8) This made me very nostalgic and damn, I can only imagine how often one's heart aches as an old man. Hell, it aches enough now, on the tail-end-of-my-thirties. One more: "It was not fair, it was not fair, it was not fair. So cried his child's heart, and then his child's heart died a little. For that is also the way of the world." (pg. 256)
Bryant: As you will see the further you progress into the series, the overriding emotion of The Dark Tower seems to be melancholy for a bygone world.  Which, really, is probably the emotion that lurks behind most art; it's probably what motivates most art.  A sense of "this thing is gone, forever, but if I write about it then maybe it can sorta still be here."  This is a big topic, and probably not tackle-able here, but I definitely think that the way the Tower series takes past, present, and future and then makes a smoothie out of them is a compelling facet of those works.
By the way, how tempting is it to never say the word "telephone" again, when such a marvelous synonym as "jing-jang" has been brought into the world?
DSO: It really is, you're right. I like Thankee big-big, too. Almost all the swap-words Roland uses (castles for chess, etc.) are fun. Though it's funny which terms get their Mid-World equivalent and which ones don't. Roland refers to a "lunatic asylum" in Calla and I thought, 'Now you'd figure that'd be a term they'd have their own word for.'
Bryant: Made-up languages and words can be a real annoyance if they're done poorly, but I think King did pretty well.  He didn't go too overblown with it, which leads to why-not-here questions like the one you pose. But I can live with that.  That sort of thing is like cologne; a little dab is really all you need.

DSO: "Once I asked my Da what civilized meant. 'Taxes,' Big Ross said, and laughed - but not in a funny way." (pg. 111)
Bryant: You've got to love big-time liberal Stephen King taking a swipe at the taxman.  Even HE hates the taxman.  That said, I think it's interesting that he made the Covenant Man a somewhat ambiguous figure.  Evil, but also kinda helpful; what you need, mayhap, if not exactly what you want.  Someday, somebody will write a highly interesting book analyzing King's work from a political standpoint.  That person will not be me.

DSO: Oh, I so hope that never happens... It's probably inevitable.

As for this part, Man-Jesus… ""Before he could continue his dumbshow, however, the sore above his nipple burst open in a spray of pus and blood. From it crawled a spider the size of a robin's egg. Helmsman grabbed it, crushed it, and tossed it aside. Then, as Tim watched in horrified fascination, he used one hand to push the wound wide. When the sides gaped like lips, he used his other hand to reach in and scooped out a slick mass of faintly throbbing eggs. He slatted these casually aside, ridding himself of them as a man might rid himself of a palmful of snot he has blown out his nose on a cold morning." Now that's how you do that. I'm always impressed with a) his willingness to "go there," and b) how well he can wax-lyrical about such things. Whether it's describing the mutie horrors of Mid-World or Trooper Wilcox's demise or Rogette's face-splitting death in Bag of Bones, there's a beauty to the prose that can't be denied.
Bryant: The stuff with the spider coming out of Helmsman is just pure nightmare material.  God, I hope I die before I ever have to suffer through seeing that in a movie.  That said, that particular stretch of the novel was one of my favorites; I loved those repugnant fellows.
DSO: I agree on the mud-men. Not only did I enjoy the setting/ events of that part of Tim's journey, it was great to "meet" them. And it tied in nicely (if sadly) with the whole theme of wistful memory/ sad sacrifice. Poor bastards.
"Time is a keyhole, he thought as he looked up at the stars... We sometimes bend and peer through it. And the wind we feel on our cheeks when we do - the wind that blows through the keyhole - is the breath of all the living universe." (pg. 245) I was wondering when the title would make sense/ when these themes of starkblasts would coalesce. Good stuff.
Bryant: The quotation about how time is a keyhole, and the wind that blows through it is the living universe ... man, that's probably one of the better bits King has ever written.  He's continually charged with having passed his prime eons ago, and I'm continually skeptical; and if he HAS passed his prime, I think he passed it very slowly, so that he is still able to turn around and shake its hand once in a while.

DSO: That charge holds little sway with me. I like that handshake-description, though.
Bryant: Speaking of starkblasts, a question pops to mind: what do you make of it?  Do you think that's some sort of sci-fi type of storm that's purely indigenous to Mid-World?  Do you think it's a result of the (probably) nuclear cataclysm that brought the Old world to its end?  Do you think it's a result of what the Crimson King is doing, and a byproduct of the world Moving On?  Or none of the above?
DSO: I hadn’t considered any of those, to be honest, but I can’t answer ‘none of the above,’ either. I assumed it was just some strange weather phenomenon unique to Roland’s world but not necessarily as a result of the Old Ones. That’s a cool idea, though, and certainly more than plausible. Perhaps it’s even alluded to in the text. I didn’t get a sense that it was related to the CK, though, but perhaps these things gather strength or are even triggered by his breaking down the Beams. Not like the beam-quakes that come later (sorry, editing this a few weeks after this conversation occured, so I'm as confused-about-sequence-of-events-and-time as Ted Brautigan) but maybe some temporal-tear-in-everything caused simply by the CK doing his business.
Bryant: You're on the record as to wanting to read a series of spin-off Tim Stoutheart adventures.  Could much the same be said of Sister Everlynne, the badass mountainous nun?  Man, I definitely want more of her; I can only hope that if King ever gets around to writing the tale of how Gilead fell to John Farson, and the tale of how Roland finally got even with Rhea, he will find a way to incorporate Everlynne into those tales.  She's just too good a character to exist only on a few pages here.
DSO: Agreed 100%. I hope the name of said novel is Bad-Ass Mountainous Nun.

Let's make a list...
- Roland gets even with Rhea
- Fall of Gilead
- Thomas (from Eyes of the Dragon) meets up with Flagg
- Further Adventures of Tim Stoutheart

and it could be that this is revealed in the last two volumes, but I for one would love a novel-length story of Arthur Eld and Maerlyn and how the hell all this got started.

I'd also love a book about the Outlaw David Quick, and perhaps Andy (though I suspect his time is short... I'm about 100 pages from the end of Calla). Also: Directive Nineteen and North Central Positronics; it'd be fun if there was a fake-welcome-to-NCP sort of book published, or an Atlas of Mid-World coffee table book.
Bryant: I would add several things to that list, but seeing as how they pertain to events in the final book, I shan't mention them here.  But I agree with all of the ones you mention. 

There also needs to be a third novel in the Talisman-verse; neither of the extant ones is high on my list of favorite King books, but they still cry out for conclusion.  And presumably, that would have DT ramifications.
Can I assume you were reading the mass-market hardback?  Probably.  If so, how great is that cover art?  I loved it the second I saw it, months before the book came out, but once I'd actually read the book it made it even better.  

Here it is again.
Sadly, the mass-market edition did not contain the outstanding interior art by Jae Lee.  That's a real shame, and I'm not sure why King and his publishers decided to go that route.  I can't imagine it made Jae Lee very happy, either; this was an opportunity for a HUGE number of people to see his work who had never seen it before.  Oh, well; I sure am glad I decided to pony up for that limited edition.
DSO: Mine does not have interior art, which makes me mad to discover was an edit/omission. It’s one of my all-time favorite King covers, though, particularly once I was finished and looked it over. Rich in detail and quite a stunning illustration.
Bryant: Just a fantastic cover; the one for the paperback seems to be from the same artist, but is a different drawing (painting?).  It's quite good, too.

The decision not to put the Jae Lee art in the mass-market editions is just galling, mainly because it breaks precedent with the rest of the series.  I get making artwork like that exclusive to limited editions; I really do.  But consistency matters, and in this instance I think the wrong decision was made.
As somebody who recently read Wizard and Glass and has since moved on to Wolves of the Calla, how did The Wind Through the Keyhole strike you in terms of tone and voice?  Does it seem consistent with the rest of the series?  Or does it instead seem like what it is, an add-on written years after the fact?
DSO: I think the voice is consistent. Outside of what you mentioned in your other email about the confusion of the omniscient point of view of the story within a story. Which isn't so much a tone/voice thing, I guess, but just to mention it. 
 Thanks again to Bryant Burnette for the palaver. Check out the Double-O-Rating-System at You-Only-Blog-Twice and the general goings-on at The-Truth-Inside-the-Lie


  1. Bryant mentioned Han's rabbit-smuggler from the Marvel comics. A bit of digging came up with this:


    Enjoy, fellow travelers.

  2. I have tried so hard to read a graphic novel. I tried to read King's online graphic novel. I can't do it. I didn't like comics when I was a kid and I don't like them now. Still, I feel like I'm missing something in the Dark Tower canon.

    1. I've heard a lot of people say they can't read comics; you're definitely not alone. Comics can be challenging when somebody like Alan Moore comes up with layouts that purposefully keep the readers on their toes, but there's very almost none of that in the Dark Tower comics, or any other King comics. They're pretty straightforward stuff.

      You're not really missing anything by skipping the Dark Tower comics, though, in all honesty. They have their moments, but they also have massive problems, and King doesn't seem to have been involved with them in any meaningful way. In the end, they are just adaptations by somebody else, no more essential to King's own work than one of the movies or tv shows he didn't work on personally.

      That's my take on them, at least.

    2. Comics are a bit like Iron Maiden - tough to recommend to full-growns, but if they sneak in while the getting's good when you're of a certain age, they're a moveable feast. I'm pretty spotty on contemporary comics (Iron Maiden, too, for that matter), but the old ones stay with me.

      Brian, If you check out the Dark Tower comics, let me know what you think. I really should, one of these days, as well.

    3. (re: full-growns, I meant as a first-timer, i.e. someone who never got into comics as a kid or adolescent, yadda yadda. Whereas, they're all too easy to recommend a comic to a full-grown who got into comics. Hell, I've stopped collecting plenty of times over the years, yet still have a pull list. When it comes to comics, I'm one of the Ten O'Clock People.)

    4. There is a persistent notion that comics are for kids, yet most of what I read makes that thought somewhat laughable.

    5. I agree. Hope I clarified that with my second comment. While it's tough to get someone into comics if they have no previous background with it, or came to the trough too late, it's certainly not the case that comics are only for kids.

  3. I'd really like to take in the Walking Dead graphic novels. But I just can't read that format. My eyes have to move too much or something as I move from text box to text box.

    1. I have to ask: how is this any different than reading prose? Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to be confrontational; I've heard many other people say a variation on the same thing, so it's obviously a real thing. I just -- literally -- don't understand it; from my point of view, all you have to do is read the words, and then look at the art. Not rocket science!

      There are time, though, when poorly-constructed comics can make it difficult to figure out what order to read the panels in. On other occasions, the writer and/or artist may make it difficult on purpose, but in a way that forces the reader to engage the material. Not dissimilar to the way a great filmmaker will employ advanced editing techniques to force the audience to have to think a bit more than is usual.

      I've read all but the most recent few issues of The Walking Dead; you'll get none of that there, it's very straightforward, plot-driven stuff. Same for The Dark Tower and The Stand and all of the other King comics.

      Do not under any circumstances attempt Alan Moore's Promethea...

    2. So many folks say 'Oh, read Watchmen' to those who express an interest but unfamiliarity with comics, or as an entry point. I agree with those who say this is a mistake of the first order. Watchmen is brilliant, of course - certainly, no one needs me to say anything so well-known and self-evident as that - but in addition to being a fun story, with compelling characters, action, and dialogue, it's a meta-commentary on not just comics-history/ comics-philosophy but as much a meta-mirror of the storytelling process unique to the panel-and-page as Scott McLeod's Understanding Comics.

      No one needs me to come along to summarize it thusly, either, but I do, say thankya.

      I only bring this up as Alan Moore, one of the greatest writers PERIOD, is unfortunately also one of the hardest to recommend to people who are not into comics or not overly familiar with the page-and-panel storytelling format. His work is so damn rewarding (and challenging) and I can point to SOME things that definitely are accessible to anyone. (Or, near-anyone; there are always going to be some who may object to the content or just don't like it, for whatever reason. Anyway.)

      All of which is to say, heed BB well: Promethea is like reading 3D without the glasses. I'm not a huge fan, but I don't say this because I dislike it, but because if one has the problem you (Brian) describe - not that it's a 'problem' but you know what I mean - I can think of few comics that would induce chronic comics dyslexia than that one!

      On the greater subject of the unique storytelling process of comics, I admit my preference for a bygone era. Former editor-in-chief of Marvel wrote a series of blogs on the "old school" of storytelling, in which he and damn-near-everyone-of-his-comics-generation (ie the Silver and Bronze ages) was reared. It's worth a look for anyone interested in this process:


      The first of many parts. (If you want to see him eviscerate - fairly or unfairly, I advocate not - the "modern, decompressed approach," check the T-of-C there for his reviews of some New 52 titles and Ultimate Spidey. Like him or hate him, agree or disagree, it's just great to hear his thoughts on the matter. Things change and move on, and comics have undergone several revolutions, and people become old fogeys/ perhaps too-attached to the World That Was. But I like old movies as well as 70s flicks as well as new ones, and ditto for comics/ music. I like seeing how things work, I guess, or hearing how old-guys-say-things-USED-to-work.

      Apologies for length/ lack of clarity, just riffing; this is a topic near and dear my heart.

    3. And to mine, as well.

      This is all making me want to pull out my New Gods trades...