17 thoughts on “Revival by Stephen King

  1. (1) Pages 1 – 22
    “On that day in October 1962, with the fate of the world dangling by a thread over a small tropical spit of land called Cuba,…”
    In life, a human catalyst comes along, for good or ill. For this book, perhaps for its author himself, such a catalyst is a real-time reviewer, this one being called DF Lewis (now Nemonymous) who had LOTS of small horror stuff published in small places in the late 1980s and 1990s, as Charlee Jacob once did, too, and, since then, like me, she has stopped submitting for publication her excellent multifarious small stuff, judging by on-line evidence. Where is she now? And that is all quite irrelevant, probably, other than the fact that I was reminded of her by the sudden ominous arrival of one of the world’s catalysts (a young new church minister named Charles (Charlie) Jacobs) in six year old Jamie Morton’s life. Jamie is one of four brothers and one sister, and he, like me, enjoyed using his imagination in the playing of toy soldiers etc. I was 14 in 1962, at which time this chapter takes place. Is Charlie a type of grooming predator, of whom today we are made increasingly aware by the encroaching internet? Trusted as a minister, he takes Jamie to his garage to show him a partial blue-painted religio-landscape tableau called Peaceable Lake built, I infer, as Dreyfuss built more instinctively a landscape model of a mountain in CEofT3rdK…. Charlie’s model is more methodical and is lit by premature battery and electric tracking systems to allow a model Jesus to walk on water. I am already intrigued by the easy, nostalgia-fluid language, drawn, as I am, into a web, a something or other about which recent scandals in the UK make me feel wary that one day this will be another hindsight scandal, another self-igniting of genuine recrimination or false regression? I will try not to further itemise the plot of this book as I delve further into it, as that may spoil it, but I shall recount my reaction to it. And now with Cuba in the news again at the tail end of 2014…
    “And I wonder if you could manage to call me Charlie.”

  2. (2) Pages 23 – 48
    “But writing is a wonderful and terrible thing. It opens deep wells of memory that were previously capped.”
    …writing dreamcatchers as gestalt real-time reviews as well as writing the books themselves, or the diary leaseholded by the freehold author to the capped oil well of Jamie Morton. Impending over Jamie’s hindsight narration, I infer, of three years, is the outcome at the end of those three years that we are already told about, making this not quite a diary, but a novel, or someone telling us things in hindsight like a loaded diary. There is a wonderful characterisation of Jamie and his family, their trials and tribulations, the miracle performed by Charlie the Minister upon one of Jamie’s brothers, stemming from a loaded deliberate guided experiment (as noted by Jamie’s older sister) with electricity, Charlie’s obsession with electricals, with antenna, things with jump leads, and static electricity from balloons rubbed and then stuck on a boy’s jumper, or boy balloons…? And elephants in a room.

  3. (3) Pages 49 – 70
    “Any day could be the day we go down, and we never know.”
    We never know what time scheme of loaded destiny we’re working with here, retrocausal or otherwise. All I know is that this book is very powerful stuff, as we learn of gory outcomes ahead of times. Minister Charlie’s loss, then his giving of something that loses him even more: the religious respect of his parishioners amid the cross-currents of Christian sects. Jamie and his siblings growing up, a hint of their own loss by cancer, then back again, as they listen to Charlie’s fateful sermon three years after Jamie first met him. Now those may be a spoilers from me. But the art of this book is that it cannot be spoilt by any book reviewer, even by a catalytic real-time reviewer like me, having entered this book in a devilmaycare fashion. It is a bigger book than that.
    “But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.”

  4. (3) Pages 70 – 82
    “I wonder how much of my life would have been different if I’d done that. I wonder if I’d be writing this now.”
    Or whether my brother would have discovered ‘Goldilocks’ in 2011, or I’d have lost my faith along with the float-walking Jesus, or the lightning at Skytop would have been created for real from the fiction I write when role-playing as Stephen King…?
    A character-perspicacious, touching, time-transcendent, electric and haunting text. At one level something beyond even its freehold author to control.

  5. (4) Pages 83 – 118
    “But there was never a better name for a band, in my opinion, than Chrome Roses.”
    And back in the nobbut middlin’ sixties onward, that was true… This is not so much Jamie’s diary-in-hindsight with near-forgotten Charlie as its Joker card, but it is more his autobiography, with the emphasis on AUTOnomous. This chapter starting with Hector the Barber, a King-archetypal ageing character who makes us accept the death process with a gritty socialist sense of humour, we now enter Jamie’s teenage years, his getting into rock n’ stone bands, starting drugs, and a girl friend (“She was wearing frog earrings. Blue frogs that matched her blouse.”), and the chapter ends with his lightning rod at Skytop…ends, before it tails off, that is.

  6. (5) Pages 119 – 144
    “Some claim to understand it, ladies and gentlemen, but none understand the secret electricity, that power which binds the very universe into one harmonic whole.”
    Quite randomly, I am listening now to a Charles Ives symphony, and an hour or so ago, for no real reason, I posted, before I entered this chapter of ‘Revival’, a Tweet that the TV news stations are constantly warning about reported items containing flash photography (or at least they do in the UK where I live). I have gatecrashed this chapter as The Spoiler, in the guise of Charlie Jacobs, now working in a fairground with electricity tricks, photographic prestidigitation, except in 1992, it wasn’t commonly digital digitation, but a more flamboyant cameras on stands with black capes…. I meet Jamie again, battered, as he is, by life and drugs… Someone dear to me in the 1970s had electric shock treatment at that time. This book makes me feel blue. It is clever enough to make me feel such real emotions.

  7. (6) Pages 145 – 164
    “Electricity breeds electricity…”
    …like literature breeds literature, Against the Day when it doesn’t any more. I feel that, by this ‘review’, I am placing Charlie’s electric treatment ‘headphones’ either side of this book, morphing it, dislodging bits I already remember from earlier in the book, bigging it up, even reducing it by necessary distillation. Something happened. Then it didn’t happen. As Jamie proceeds through life, filling in his fluid backstory as he goes. Tesla rocks, OK.

  8. (7) Pages 165 – 200
    “‘…you know how epileptics can tell a seizure is coming by a tingling in their wrists, or some phantom smell?’ / ‘Precursors.'”
    This book is full of ‘precursors’, like the jagged shape of the lightning on the front cover being exactly the same as the precursor in my eyesight before a migraine. I also prefigured Jamie’s dream of the dead ones from his past life, as, with this chapter, the pivotal year is now 2008, the very year I started gestalt real-time reviewing of books, leading, in this review, to a catalytic symbiosis between reviewer and reviewed. Also, I discover (or am reminded) that one of Jamie’s brothers died of prostate trouble, trouble that is potentially relevant to me in recent weeks. And Charlie’s internecine or internetine healing gigs … His revivalist meetings, all prefigured, and now I wonder whether there are forcefields to this book that even its freehold author or leasehold AUTObiographist would disown or refuse the opportunity to control, for fear of something or other. I note Charlie is called ‘Rev’ by one of his past healees, someone who becomes significant to Jamie’s recording music ‘career’. REV the first three letters of the book’s title. LA (joie de) VIVRE, any irony notwithstanding.

  9. (8) Pages 201 – 217
    “Here they were, falling for a story that made Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy look like gritty realism. […] There were those who twitched and rocked helplessly as their CP-impaired brains did pissed-off jigs inside their skulls.”
    Charlie performs his big Tent Show of healing – reminding me synchronously of the gestalt dream sickness (as I called it in my 2011 novel) that was depicted, with Santa Claus, in the strikingly good Christmas ‘Doctor Who’ a few days ago, with its ‘ice-cream pain’ in the head waiting to be healed like the lady here with migraine, and we have here Ants instead of the Dream Crabs or Face-Huggers. But that’s just me. You will probably compare this scene to something else, so what I say above is not me taking on the role of The Spoiler. Whatever your dream, this is amazing stuff.

  10. (9) Pages 219 – 252
    “His lips were drawn back in a smile that looked (to my eye, at least) rather predatory.”
    Precursors and predations are connected, I feel. This is now fast becoming a run-of-the-mill ‘mad scientist’ yarn, as the financially successful healer is tracked down by Jamie to his secluded redoubt. Or is the author himself the predator predicating the mad science of fiction-making, Ludwig Prinn notwithstanding? We are each someone who has suffered healing at this writer’s hands? His redoubt never in any doubt. At least he did not forget that he left a pumpkin on the backseat of his character’s car.

  11. (10) Pages 253 – 277
    “I was just another frog in a pot.”
    …which reminds me of Jamie’s first loved girl friend earlier quoted by me in connection with ‘blue frogs’…and this chapter, like its demonstrated ‘wheel of life’, brings us at its end to news of that girl again, now a sick woman. I probably could do with one of Charlie’s miracle cures myself!
    Notwithstanding all that, this chapter also includes a poignant reunion with Jamie’s brothers at a family celebration, where all have changed but all with that gritty sense of humour about ageing I mentioned earlier. In other hands, this would have been over-sentimental. Here it is spot on. Especially when Jamie’s one year old Gand niece takes to him, seemingly looking at him with his mother’s eyes.

  12. (11) (12) Pages 279 – 314
    “Up a couple of times every night to squirt half a teacup of pee, but I guess that’s par for the course at my age. Although…you want to hear a funny thing? Only to me it’s more of a spooky thing.”
    I’m now at the stage of this book where if I tell you anything, I will be the Catalyst Fifth Business itself, the Spoiler who haunts books he reviews. Rest assured I shall hold your hand throughout with my handshake version of the ‘limp-fish musician’s howdy’, while the upslope of Revival’s climax and, later, soon, with probably each miracle cure having its inverse, its downslope, too. Strong stuff ensues, I guess. Or is this book itself the miracle cure, not any of the ‘miracle cures’ it describes?

  13. (12) (13) (14) Pages 314 – 372
    “…as if in death, she dreamed.”
    One can forgive the pulp, one can forgive the contrivances, but one cannot forgive the inability to spoil this ending, as I yearn to do. I do not wish to protect it from you because I have a cruel catalyst in my heart; you will be grateful that I did protect you, however. Jung is mentioned toward the end, and I am now gratified at my mentioning ‘dream sickness’ earlier in this review. In all seriousness, however, the Lightning and the visionary Bosch of this book’s ending is stunning. At the start of this book, I did not tell you, but there is a quote from HPL and a list of dead writers (plus one living one) who may themselves have glimpsed this book’s ending for themselves even before its freehold author suffered that his leasehold autobiographist named Jamie write it at all. To that list I would add Thomas Ligotti (who is not yet dead but says in public he wishes that he was never born) and Charlee Jacob (my own pumpkin that I nearly forgot was left on the backseat of this review). C. Danny Jacob (as Charlie called himself) and a disease, among many others, called CJD…
    “Man is born to illness and sorrow, as you know.”

    The Workshop of Filthy Creations – Mary Shelley


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