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Carrie, Stephen King

Doubleday, April 5, 1974

From Ogilvie’s Dictionary of Psychic Phenomena:

Telekinesis is the ability to move objects or to cause changes in objects by force of the mind. The phenomenon has most reliably been reported in times of crisis or in stress situations, when automobiles have been levitated from pinned bodies or debris from collapsed buildings, etc.

The phenomenon is often confused with the work of poltergeists, which are playful spirits. It should be noted that poltergeists are astral beings of questionable reality, while telekinesis is thought to be an empiric function of the mind, possibly electrochemical in nature.

Maybe she read too many Stephen King novels. I mean …

From the Woodhurst Gazette, dated September 29, 1981:

Student Describes Chaos

Sixteen-year-old sophomore Mary McGowen stood before a room full of stunned reporters as she revealed details of the bizarre events that took place Monday afternoon at Woodhurst High School. “It was as if they were possessed. Books began randomly flying off the library shelves, hitting the floor, and then bursting into flames. Everyone was screaming and running to the exits.”

Sprinkler systems kicked in immediately and the fires were put out before the library or school was in any real danger, but students were understandably shaken.

McGowen would go on to make an alarming allegation, claiming school librarian, Miss Eileen Crow, had something to do with the disturbance. According to McGowen, Crow was “staring wide-eyed in intense concentration, hands pressed to her temples, as if somehow willing it all to happen.”

A police investigation is ongoing.

There is a sign posted at the beginning of the queue. It is typically some goofy cartoon character pointing to a requisite height: 32 inches, 40, 57, whatever. You need to be taller than this height in order to ride the ride. Dejected stubbers walk away with their heads tilted down as older brothers, sisters, or friends continued on in line. Wow, did it suck being you. Restrictions, restrictions, how torturous the impositions!

This one thing is the most fundamental fact: We were kids.

Youth may indeed be wasted on the young, but is it any wonder why kids are so desperate to grow up? As a kid, you are bound by a litany of seemingly arbitrary rules. Being forced into submission is a daily ritual. There is that annoying thing called school that you had to attend everyday, and even before heading off to the bus stop, you were already at war: Eat your Malt-O-Meal and just what do you think you’re wearing? No kid of mine is going to school looking like that! In some districts, students had to don matching uniforms making them look like inmates (which, let’s face it, we all were). And it wasn’t just weekdays either. There you were again, arguing with the parents about wearing jeans to church, which was a place you didn’t even want to go to in the first place (not that you had any say in the matter). Likewise, it wasn’t exactly your choice to attend CCD, which was a school-outside-of-school requirement for many of the lucky Catholic kids in the neighborhood. Lord, help us!

Continued from the Woodhurst Gazette, dated September 29, 1981:

In all, twenty-six books were destroyed and many others, having collected water, may also need to be replaced.

The Gazette has learned that many of the damaged books were coincidentally on a shortlist to determine whether they would be added to a growling list of books banned from all Woodhurst school libraries. The Gazette has also confirmed that Miss Crow was to take part in the vote.

It seemed like there was no escape. Remember, this was before you could drive a car. You could only manage to get as far as your feet or trusty Scwhinn would take you, and even then, you had to be back home by dinner or curfew, or else.

You couldn’t go to the Rated R movies, couldn’t even get to a theater without a ride from a parent or disgruntled older sibling. You were too young to buy “dirty” magazines that boys your age were all too interested in, too young to buy (or drink) the liquor that so many adults were downing all around you like water, and they were even starting to tell you that music you listened to wasn’t appropriate and that the video games you played were too violent. And wasn’t it high time you got a haircut?

All exaggeration aside, it couldn’t have been all bad or else you wouldn’t look back now so longingly for a return to the responsibility-free simpler days of old. Truth be told, there were plenty of places you could go as a kid, although not all were as obviously as cool as the public pool, bowling alley, fishing hole, or backyard fort. One refuge in particular was a secret place you didn’t dare admit to frequenting for fear of being branded; Geek! Loser! Four Eyes! Once such a label found its mark, it had a way of sticking. Kids are nothing if not cruel.

She could still remember that day, the stares, and the sudden, awful silence when she had gotten down on her knees before lunch in the school cafeteria—the laughter had begun on that day and had echoed up through the years.

But there it was all the same, your secret place. The excitement hit every time you stepped through its heavy wooden front doors when in a rush the smell of all those old books enveloped you. The library opened windows to the world. Card catalogs contained boarding passes. You would grab a pencil, jot down a gate number, and away you’d go! You couldn’t wait to find out if the book was there waiting for you, your co-pilot, waiting to take you away. And what’s more, they were free which is no minor point. Beyond allowances that you converted into the occasional pack of baseball cards, Slurpee, or chocolate milk, cash wasn’t exactly readily available to you as a kid.

From the Woodhurst Gazette, dated October 30, 1981.

Book Ban Upheld by 13-0 Vote

The Woodhurst School Board voted on Thursday to uphold its previous decision to ban a list of books from all Woodhurst Public School district libraries. Six additional titles have been added this year.

I get it now, looking back from the perspective of something resembling an adult, I get that not all material is age-appropriate, but surely banning books cannot be the answer. I believe that nothing should ever undermine cultivating a passion for reading. After all, half the fun of reading is in the freedom. You can pick a book—any book—and discover worlds otherwise unavailable, all the while, fantasizing about the next selection, and the one after that. Without being able to freely pick and choose, reading takes on the flavor of homework, void of the mystery and adventure that is essential not only to the experience but that is also so obviously inherent to the enterprise of youth itself.

Besides, if books or even film or music are pegged the enemy, then what about the real dangers like drugs, drinking, promiscuity, teenage pregnancy, STDs, or mindless TV? What could be wrong with a young boy or girl falling in love with the art of reading even if the material of choice is not, God forbid, The Bible or even Judy Blume? Hell, even Judy Blume appears on banned book lists!

So this is how I came across a creepy little novel and consequently became hooked at young age to the deliciously demented mind of Stephen King. With Carrie, apparently, the prospect of a character in the novel being an overbearing religious zealot who abuses her daughter with acts of torture was not something kids should be exposed to and so the novel (like so many King novels) began popping up on banned book lists. I am not sure when it happened exactly but at some point, these crazy lists began to serve an important role for me by elevating all such titles to the status of required reading in my own personal syllabus.

Fuck ’em. I close my eyes and fantasize that anyone who has ever voted in favor of censorship or book banning be joined together at the foot of a stage where I stand proudly at a podium reading specially selected excerpts from books like Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Grapes of Wrath, The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, In Cold Blood, Carrie, The Shining, and all the other offenders. And as the venomous hecklers shout at me …

It was becoming a chant, an incantation. Someone in the background (perhaps Hargensen again, Sue couldn’t tell in the jungle of echoes) was yelling, “Plug it up!” with hoarse, uninhibited abandon.

… I envision buckets upon buckets of pig’s blood reigning down from the rafters, saturating each and every last one of the whorehole protesters in shitty, grimy, stinky red filth. You see, in my fantasy, Carrie and I survive unscathed, free.