Mon
Aug 8 2011 5:00pm

A Read of The Dark Tower: Constant Reader Tackles The Gunslinger, Chapter 5: “The Gunslinger and the Man in Black,” Sections 5-9

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

Welcome to A Read of the Dark Tower series. Join me each week as I, Constant Reader, tackle the magnum opus of Stephen King’s career for the first time. If you want to discuss in general terms or talk about these first sections, join me by commenting here. If you want to talk spoilers, please head over to the Tor.com forums for the spoiler discussion for the spoiler discussion so my Dark Tower-virgin ears won’t hear anything before I read it.

When we last saw Roland, he had just awoken from his mind-blowing trip into Wonderland courtesy of the Man in Black and had asked what was meant by his last vision: a purple blade of grass. In today’s entry, I’ll cover the final five sections of The Gunslinger.

The Gunslinger and the Man in Black: Section V

In which the Man in Black is going to presumably tell Roland the Meaning of the Universe, or something equally huge. He starts out by saying, “The universe is the Great All, and offers a paradox too great for the finite mind to grasp.” So, of course, we must attempt to grasp it.

There was a time, he says, “a hundred generations before the world moved on,” when human kind had gotten advanced enough to think we knew a few things by the “false light of science.” A company (“or cabal,” he says, speaking like a true hippie child of the Sixties) called North Central Positronics led the way. Didn’t we see that name on the pump at the Way Station, grasshopper? Despite having a lot more facts, humans had remarkably little insight and hadn’t realized the “truest principle of reality” — that new knowledge always leads to greater mystery.

The greatest mystery, he says as Roland’s head spins almost as fast as mine, is not life, but size. “Size encompasses life, and the Tower encompasses size.” In its infinity, size defeats us.

And suppose all the universes met in a single nexus: the Tower. And within the tower, a stairway rising to the Godhead. Yeah, what he said.

What Constant Reader Learns: I’m having horrific flashbacks to Philosophy 101, when I was still trying to wrap my mind around the complexities of philosophical thought and before I realized that all I needed was a few pages of well-worded B.S. to get an easy A on discussion questions.

So the “many-times-great grandfathers” for Roland and the Man in Black are, essentially, us a few years down the road, at which point we’ll have cured cancer, conquered aging, and can say we walked on the moon (guess no one shared the memo about manned space flight being too expensive to continue) — although, funnily enough, Roland doesn’t believe that man actually walked on the moon but doesn’t have too much trouble with the cancer and aging thing.

I’m imagining Ro sitting there in his dirty, desert-stained clothes with his mouth hanging open, catching crickets, as the Man in Black holds forth about the world in a blade of grass, that nothing “real” is solid, and that the universe is infinite. Beyond the world of the fish is our world, and beyond our worlds, as Jake noted, are other worlds. And beyond all those worlds, were we able to look there, we might discover our “infinite” universe was only a blade of grass in something even larger, and so on and so forth. Feeling insignificant enough yet?

And then we come back, as we have over and over, to religion. “Think how small such a concept of things makes us, gunslinger,” the Man in Black says. “If a God watches over it all, does He actually mete out justice for a race of gnats among an infinitude of races of gnats? Does His eye see the sparrow fall when the sparrow is less than a speck of hydrogen floating disconnected in the depth of space?” Roland doesn’t answer this, wisely. Actually, Roland’s keeping his mouth shut and his ears open.

Finally, we have the Tower — the nexus of all universes. And if time has moved on, I can only assume something is slipping or going awry within the Tower? At the end of this section the Man in Black issues a bit of a challenge to Roland. Suppose within the Tower, he says, there is a “stairway, perhaps rising to the Godhead itself. Would you dare climb to the top, gunslinger? Could it be that somewhere above all of endless reality, there exists a Room…? You dare not.”

And, I figure, Roland will, indeed, dare.

 

The Gunslinger and the Man in Black: Section VI

“Someone has dared,” Roland says. “God has dared...or the king you spoke of…or is the room empty, seer?” The Man in Black’s answer: “I don’t know,” and he looks fearful, saying it might not be wise to ask.

“Afraid of being struck dead?” Roland asks.

“Perhaps afraid of... an accounting.”

What Constant Reader Learns: It’s really interesting that after villifying and chasing and dreading and shooting at the Man in Black, Ro now addresses him as “seer.” Roland seems clearly in awe of all he has seen, and like the purple blade of grass (is the color purple significant? Is Whoopi Goldberg involved?), his past tales and his sacrifices seem miniscule compared to the Room at the top of infinity.

The Man in Black’s fear at the idea of an “accounting” is interesting — apparently being accountable is much worse than being struck dead. Which makes sense, given that Judgment Day in biblical terms is not going to be a barn dance. An accounting can be painful, can last forever. It’s classic reality TV gamesmanship — the best way to get along is to lay low and not draw attention to yourself. If you go off climbing up Towers in search of God and king, you might find Him. Be careful what you ask for, Roland, old boy.

The end of this section is classic King. After all the pontificating and grandiose pronouncements, Roland points out that the fire has gone out and he’s cold. “Build it up yourself,” the Man in Black says. “It’s the butler’s night off.”

 

The Gunslinger and the Man in Black: Section VII

Roland sleeps awhile, then wakes to find the Man in Black watching him “avidly, unhealthily.” They bicker a few moments like an old married couple, then the man decides he’s ready to talk some more. “For so has it been told to me by my king and master.”

So we get some more of what I assume is foreshadowing of events to come. Roland must meet — and slay — the Ageless Stranger before he can meet the king, who comes to the Man in Black in dreams. The Man in Black has served the king for a “sheaf of centuries” until he could reach his apotheosis or climax: Roland. The Ageless Stranger, Roland surmises, is a minion of the Tower, much like the Man in Black. “He darkles,” the Man concurs. “He tincts. Yet there is one greater than he.”

At which point, the Man in Black gets agitated and doesn’t want to talk more: “To speak of the things in End-World is to speak of the ruination of one’s own soul.” Which points again to an “accounting,” or a “Day of Reckoning,” in biblical-speak — and an accounting during which one will be found wanting.

Finally, Roland asks the question he really wants the answer to: “Will I succeed?” To which the Man in Black replies, “If I answered that, you’d kill me.” No, really, I’m thinking he probably wouldn’t.

The Man in Black turns an eye toward the past, telling Roland that Cort’s advice to wait was bad because “even then my plans against your father had proceeded.” Roland doesn’t want to talk about his past and what happened after he tried the line — we haven’t heard that story yet, but apparently Steven sends his son away for a while. When he returned home, Marten had joined the rebels, and Marten and a “certain witch” had left a trap into which Roland fell. Even though Marten had gone, there was another man, a monk, who reminded Roland of Marten. Finally, Roland knows for certain what he has suspected. Marten, and Walter O’Dim, and the Man in Black are all of one cloth.

The Man/Marten/Walter says it’s the time of histories and he has many stories to tell Roland — after he shakes out some fine tobacco, the likes of which Ro hasn’t seen in a decade. He begins to talk of the Tower, which has always been, and the boys who’ve lusted for it, and the boys who look for doors that lead to it. They smoke and talk.

What Constant Reader Learns: So why is the MiB looking at Roland “avidly” and “unhealthily”? I can’t come up with an explanation for that, unless he wants Ro to wake up so he can continue pontificating.

I have nothing to say about “darkling” and “tincking” except they sound somewhat like bodily functions.

Interesting that Roland is looking for sunrise in this endless night of talk — but clearly the Man in Black can make the night of palaver last as long as he has something to say. And the first question asked by Roland, who has remained quiet throughout most of this big chapter, is “Start by telling me what exactly you mean by glammer.” Meaning, of course, “glamour” or enchantment. But Roland’s spelling ain’t so good because he’s a man of action with his plodding, methodical mind.

The Man in Black tells Roland he deserves some answers since he caught him, and the Man didn’t expect that to happen. I’m having a hard time buying that one, even though Roland said in an earlier chapter that the Man in Black does not lie. I mean, he practically waited on Roland to catch him. Or had he expected Roland to cave in and turn back when it came time to sacrifice Jake?

When Roland asks the name of the Ageless Stranger, the Man in Black answers, “Legion.” Cue a rockslide and a screaming puma call at the mere word. The biblical reference here is from Luke 8:30. Cue Sunday School lesson music. Jesus and the disciples have sailed across the lake to an area called Gerasenes, where he’s met by a demon-possessed man who’s been living naked in the tombs. The possessed dude keeps escaping even though the townspeople have tried chaining him up. He falls at Jesus’ feet screaming, not to be tortured. When Jesus asks his name, the man says, “Legion,” because many demons had gone into him. The demons begged Jesus not to order them into the Abyss. Instead, they said, send us into the herd of pigs. Nasty things, pigs. Be careful what you wish for. As soon as the demons enter the pigs, the pigs go nuts and run off a cliff, and the man is cured and demon-free.

(Of course do the townspeople thank Jesus for healing their possessed crazy man? Of course not. They’re pissed because their pigs are floating like so many lost pork chops in the water below. Money talks, man.)

So we have the Ageless Stranger as the Big Nasty, the demon of all demons, the Legion of evil, and he is one who Roland, eventually, must face. That should be some fun.

When Roland asks the MiB if he’ll succeed in his quest, the man says he won’t answer lest Roland kill him. CAN Roland kill him? One would assume so, but he has been reluctant to really give it more than a half-baked effort. His hands go to his guns, but the Man in Black points out that “those do not open doors, gunslinger; those only close them forever.”

Roland seems stunned to learn that Marten never left Gilead as he thought, but simply changed to Walter and now to the Man in Black. Yet we’ve been given hints at that all along, and Roland had suspected as much. Makes me wonder if those hints were part of the revised version?

So there are doors through which Roland must go to reach the Tower. I’d like to say I’m just that perceptive, but I have looked at the cover of The Drawing of the Three, which features three doors on a beach. That’s not technically a cheat. Really.

 

The Gunslinger and the Man in Black: Section VIII

Roland and the man in black talk through the night. We’re spared the gory details because there are six other books in this series through which to reveal the stories they shared, and, oddly, Roland remembers little of it afterward anyway. Only that the Man in Black told him he must go to the sea, which is only twenty miles west, where he will be invested with the power of drawing. Roland will draw three, which even Roland and I perk up at, because Three was the number of power the Oracle She-Demon nattered on about. “And then the fun begins!” the Man in Black says, adding that he’ll be long gone by then.

Finally, the Man in Black has one more Godlike thing to say: “Let there be light.”

“And there was light, and this time the light was good.”

What Constant Reader Learns: Roland has his marching orders, and he’ll draw three. I assume that’s a drawing as in poker. He will draw three cards, or it will be the first three cards that were drawn by the Man in Black when he pulled out his customized tarot deck? I’ll know soon enough.

Interesting that the Man in Black ends his massive opus with the words of creation: Let there be light. Because I have a feeling Roland’s about to enter a whole new world he didn’t know existed.

 

The Gunslinger and the Man in Black: Section IX

Roland awakens by the ruins of the campfire to find he’s ten years older. His hair has thinned and grayed. The lines in his face are deeper, his skin rougher. The remains of the wood he’d carried has petrified, and the Man in Black is a “laughing skeleton in a rotting black robe.” He breaks off the skeleton’s jawbone and sets out, heading west.

Roland comes to the ocean and sits on the deserted beach, watching the sunset and waiting.

What Constant Reader Learns: Constant Reader finds omniscient narration extremely annoying. How did Roland know he was ten years older since to him it had been a single night? He doesn’t have a compact with a mirror in his pocket — how does he know he has deeper lines in his face? Okay, I just had to get that out of my system.

Is the skeleton really the Man in Black? Or will we see him again in another time and place? I suspect the latter, and so does Roland, who thinks, “Is it really you? I have my doubts, Walter o’Dim..I have my doubts, Marten-that-was.” I have my doubts, too, Roland-that-will-be.

Like he did with the skeleton/demon at the Way Station, Roland breaks off the Man in Black’s jawbone and jams it into his pocket. He also wonders how many lies the man told him. (Although earlier in the book he said he couldn’t lie, didn’t he? Am I mis-remembering that?)

As Roland heads west, he says, “I loved you, Jake,” a final bit of homage to his sacrifice and to the kid. And ahead of him lies the Tower — “the nexus of Time, the nexus of Size.” He ends this part of his journey watching the sunset, the dark coming down, and the world moving on. And he dreams of the Dark Tower, “to which he would someday come at dusk and approach, winding his horn, to do some unimaginable final battle.”

I feel as if I should make some grand, final pronouncements upon the finish of The Gunslinger, but I find myself exhausted, as if in some sense I’ve completed the world’s longest prologue.

Some final impressions:

  • Roland is a fascinating anti-hero/ hero. His “plodding, methodical” mind, as we’re so often reminded about, makes him an odd duck to be the one headed into some final, epic battle to determine the fate of, well, everything. Yet if he thought more deeply, or loved harder, or understood more of the complex implications of what he was doing, maybe he couldn’t put one foot in front of the other and continue on in what even he realizes is going to be a huge journey. In some ways, he’s Frodo with a holster.
  • I’m still not sure why Roland is the one to go on this journey. He’s the last of his kind — the last Knight, if you will, going on the last Crusade. Maybe because he’s the last one, there simply is no one else to do what must be done. I’m hoping the “why” of Roland will become clearer as we progress.
  • As I read the final sections, with the view of the infinite universe, I had to do a bow-down to Stephen King. To imagine devising such a worldview at the age he first wrote this thing, and to build a prolific writing career while remaining within this infinite world... well, it’s mind-boggling and makes me want to stop writing and take up quilting or baking or mowing lawns or something. But I still don’t know why the blade of grass was purple.
  • I’m kind of glad I didn’t read this back in the day. I can pick up The Drawing of the Three right now and continue with the story. To have read The Gunslinger, and then waited five freakin’ years to continue it? Yikes.

That’s it for this week! Next week — same time (-ish), same place — we’ll start The Drawing of the Three with “Prologue: The Sailor” and “The Door,” the first section of the chapter entitled “The Prisoner.”

35 comments
trench
1. trench
Whew I thought my reefresh button might break.

This is definetly a prolouge book to the whole series. Most of the principal characters have yet to arrive. IMO King was smart to hold off the next book until he dveloped more as a writter. The concepts he is working on in these books are pretty mind bending and far reaching.

I love the image of a cowboy sitting at a fire being told about, physics, meta-phyics, quantum physics, alternate demensions, and pardaoxical towers that defy size. Although, if you think its weird now just wait.

The next book is my personal favorite. It contains one of my favorite characters ever, in any media.



Did-a-chick? Dum-a-chum?
trench
2. benjicat
The next book is my favorite as well. I agree that the first book is more of a prologue than an actual story and I found it to be more metaphysical than the rest of the books. For me, The Gunslinger was a tortuous book to read through. I often find it difficult to recommend The Dark Tower series to others to read knowing that they will have to plow through The Gunslinger before they get to the better stuff.
trench
3. Strong Dreams
five freakin’ years

Seven years for me. I first entered Roland's world in 1980, when the chapters were serialized in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and fell in love, others' difficulty in appreciating it notwithstanding.

In the introduction, King talks about a rewrite being necessary because the tone of the first book is so different than the subsequent books. Oddly, I find the original more interesting, it has a beauty of language and imagery that King himself, 30 years later, somewhat disdains in the revised intro. It's not a bad read if you want to compare.

Your re-read reminded me of one thing; at the end he talks about approaching the Tower and winding his horn, but in the original version he never had a horn and in the revised version it is made clear that he once had one but lost it. King eventually comes back to that...it's not a major plot point but there is definitely a shout-out to the lost horn.
Katie McNeal
4. Katiya
I also very much love Drawing and the characters (one in particular) to come, and echo the sentiment that it was a smart choice to wait. Young King seems to have been fascinated by very heavy metaphysical BS, and it doesn't always make for very enjoyable reading. But excellent comments, I'm very much looking forward to next week!
Suzanne Johnson
5. SuzanneJohnson
Thanks for the comments!

@trench...Did-a-chick? Dum-a-chum? I'm laughing because I just started The Drawing of the Three and have been walking around the house saying that to my dogs tonight. Probably sounds like my usual babble to them.

Holy cow, has King's writing style matured between The Gunslinger and Drawing...and I've only just begun. The difference is marked, though.

About the existential bent of The Gunslinger...in some ways, I think that's a reflection of the age King was when he wrote it. I remember being a lot younger and thinking those great metaphysical thoughts and imaginings, whereas now I'm more like, "Tell me a good story and don't try to blow my mind too badly."

Glad I wasn't totally off-base in feeling that I'd just read a 300-page prologue. But it was a great buildup :-)
trench
6. Kadere
King wrote The Talisman, It, and The Eyes of the Dragon between publishing The Gunslinger and Drawing of the Three, and I think that all of them, The Talisman certainly, had a huge effect on Drawing. Both of them are very other world books.

Drawing is not my favorite of the series, not even close, but I do enjoy it. To me it felt like it just extended the prologue that was The Gunslinger. Drawing just introduces the rest of the major players and gets things set, but the quest hasn't begun. To me the real story doesn't start until The Wastelands. But I greatly enjoy the rest of the ka-tet introduced in Drawing, both of them are awesome.
Michael Maxwell
7. pike747
Nice to meet you, Constant. I've been reading of you in forewards and afterwards for twenty years now.

The worlds longest prologue really does define The Gunslinger for me as well. I didn't care for it at first, then I listened to the audio book with King narrating and my whole life took a new path. At least Wastelands was published by then and I didn't have to wait.

didachee, I do love the voice of the
trench
8. joyceman
Any comments on the artwork?

I have the original oversized paperback for the I-IV which feature maybe 10-15 illustrations each. The Gunslinger has some of my favorite illustrations in the series. Hax being hung, the trail of dead in Tull and the images of the tower itself are outstanding. The slow mutants illustration is nothing like my internal images and always trips me up. The scene of Roland at the pond tripping on mesc and staring at his reflection is laughable.

I wont comment on the rest of the series for now, but I think the illustrations in II are much poorer and in IV far to abstract.
trench
9. Aaron Foushee
Not waiting for books is usually awesome, but I feel a bit of regret for some people who won't experience the wait for this series. The suspence of whether King would actually finish.

I think back at reading the Gunslinger when I was around 16 in '98 and then churning through to Wizard and Glass within a year or two and realizing it had taken other readers more than 20 years to get the amount of story I had thus far... and I felt like I had been let in on the "waiting club" of people waiting to see the end of this journey. Thinking about that I would be an adult with a wife and kids probably by the time this story finished completely freaked me out. I had never waited for anything for that long.

Then Stephen King almost died in after being hit by a Van and, being a selfish teen, I was most distraught at the thought that the story wouldn't be finished. And maybe some WoT fans felt even worse when Jordan died (but for me I quit WoT after book 4). Maybe it was just being a kid (19) that made King's story mean more than just an epic fantasy. I really needed to know if the Tower was going to fall or not. The story (Tower) felt extremely precarious, and the possibility of it not being finished almost made me want to cry.

But the series did wrap up, to a lot of negative criticism, but the journey of the entire series and my personal experience with it excempts me from my normal cynical and critical nature.

Great read through on the first book, brought me back to Being Nineteen. Thankee sai.
Suzanne Johnson
10. SuzanneJohnson
@joyceman....I should have mentioned the artwork in TG--it was wonderful. Haven't gotten to any in Three yet...too early. But the Hax illustration stuck with me especially.

@Aaron...Yes, I can see that sense of anticipation building over time with this series. I feel it even with authors when I only have to wait a year for a new series book. I've read interviews with Stephen King in a couple of places (and in the foreword to the revised Gunslinger) where he talks about the letters he got after his accident--people were most upset that he might die and not finish The Dark Tower (which really puts your life in perspective--lol). And the story about the guy on death row who wanted to know how it ended before he did the long walk, and the woman with cancer who was afraid she'd die before he finished the story and begged for the ending--which, at the time, he didn't yet know.
trench
11. warduke72
I used to be a HUGE King fan but that kind of wore out around Geralds GAme/Dolores Claiborne era...and the only Tower book I read was the first one (pre-revised) and it really didnt do anything for me. As the series went on they always sold it as a mash-up of OZ, LOTR, John Ford, etc....but from what I did gleam from reviews or just bored at the book store and skimming through, was that it sounded an awful lot like Moorcocks Elric/Multiverse...From the roads(moombeams) to the Tower(Tanelorn), to the Rose imagey, and to the autor even being a character in the stories. Im sure theres more and Im not accusing King of thievery or anything, but has King ever acknowledged a debt to Moorcock? Just curious and curious if there's even more? Any people with knowledge of both series out there?
Suzanne Johnson
12. SuzanneJohnson
@warduke72...I haven't read Moorcock, but I'm sure someone here has...Anyone want to compare the two series?
Ben Friesen
13. BustedAce
Totally agree with Gunslinger being a prologue to the rest of the series, but it's still damn good! I think The Waste Lands is my favorite of the seven, but Drawing is right up there.

I think my favorite thing about King as a writer is how interwoven (almost) all of his stories are, whether they have a direct connection to TDT or something subtle. Kadere mentioned The Talisman, It and The Eyes of the Dragon, which even at that early stage (between books one and two) have connections to TDT saga that don't become clear until Drawing, The Waste Lands and beyond. I love reading a King book and realizing "Holy crap, this is tied to the Dark Tower!"

Hope you keep up the columns for the other books!
Suzanne Johnson
14. SuzanneJohnson
@BustedAce...I know. Once I finish DT, I'm going to want to re-read all the others to look for those connections. It's pretty amazing. We start Drawing here next Monday!
trench
15. AlliKat
Hey just wanted to say great job on the read! I haven't read these books in a couple of years, but they are one of my all time favorite book series. In fact after finishing DT I had a hard time picking up any other book, because I was afraid it just couldn't compare. I'ts nice to be revisiting the series again.

I was very impressed with all of your perceptions through The Gunslinger. The first time I read it I don't think I picked up on all the parallels to the Bible and things of that nature, I just enjoyed the story for itself. The Gunslinger is my favorite book besides WIzard and Glass, probably because I LOVE Westerns and books 1 and 4 are the most Western-like to me.

Anyway, can't wait till the next post! Great job! :-)
Suzanne Johnson
16. SuzanneJohnson
@AlliKat...Thanks! I'm having so much fun with this. I can't believe I never read it until now, but it's great to be sharing the experience :-)
Risha Jorgensen
17. RishaBree
The Waste Lands, Book One, Section II is my personal pinnacle of the series, so I would count The Waste Lands as my favorite of the books. Drawing of the Three is my number 2, though, so I'm on tenterhooks for the next few months.

Re: "glammer" -Roland actually speaks High Speech, not English. The languages are similar enough that you're not going to notice a lot of the time, but every once in a while a cousin word will pop up to add some additional flavor (as contrasted to the completely alien words that you can't miss and will have to decipher or have him translate). There will be the occasional genuinely garbled or misspelled word when Roland is trying to understand actual English speakers.

LOL. You seem very attached to the idea that this takes place in the future in some way. North Central Positronics, Ltd. is many things, but it's definitely not anything you'd recognize as us!
Suzanne Johnson
18. SuzanneJohnson
@RishaBree...Yes, sadly. I finally realized I needed to stop trying to make a logical timeline out of it (realized it at the very end). I'm kind of OCD like that, so I probably won't be able to help myself :-)
trench
19. joyceman
Along those lines, dont be tempted to try to make make a mental map of Roland's world.
trench
20. atlantisflygirl
I have to kind of disagree with @Strong Dreams about the horn not being a major plot point. In some ways it, or rather, what it represents, is the crux of Roland's story.

Having just reread the original, it's really interesting to see some of the things King changed. In Tull, there was no "nineteen" business and Alice begged Roland not to kill her, Marten was his own guy and Walter says, "I never could have sent that vision to Marten," rather than to Roland's father, as in the revised version.

I'm excited to hear what you have to say about Drawing. I agree with someone else who said it's kind of a continuation of the prologue. I feel like the story really gets on its feet about halfway through Waste Lands, which is my favorite book of the series. But Drawing is excellent, if a little embarrassing in one really embarrassing way!
Suzanne Johnson
21. SuzanneJohnson
@atlantisflygirl...Uh-oh. Embarrassing is scary (embarrassing to whom?), but should be entertaining.
Tricia Irish
22. Tektonica
Thanks Suzanne...I'm really enjoying your reread. It's been quite a few years since I read these, and I loved them so much, I went out and bought them all in hardback. When I'm finished with Malazan (one more book) I'm going to join you in a reread. Thanks for getting me back to them.

I'm really enjoying all your parsing of the Biblical references too. Your Sunday school seems to have been much more in depth than mine.


The Dark Tower was my first King. After these, (and while waiting for Book Seven), I read The Talisman and Black House, which I loved. The Stand scared me so much, I couldn't complete it, and I haven't read any other King. So, knowing my preferences, anyone care to point me toward some new King I might like? I'd appreciate it!
Risha Jorgensen
23. RishaBree
@Techtonica - I would start with It, I think. It is pretty scary, but I don't think it's that much worse than The Talisman, and it ties extremely tightly into the Dark Tower.
Suzanne Johnson
24. SuzanneJohnson
@Techtonica...Gotta agree with RishaBree. It is one of my favorite Stephen King books. It's only as scary as you allow it to be (how's that for cryptic?).
trench
25. atlantisflygirl
@Suzanne - I personally feel embarrassed and embarrassed for King when reading parts of what's coming up. I can't really say without being spoilery, but I think once you come across it you'll know what I'm talking about! He tries to explain why it is the way it is, but I still always feel a little *facepalm* about it!
Suzanne Johnson
26. SuzanneJohnson
@atlantisflygirl...Oh, now I really can't wait!
trench
27. btsierra
Reading through this, I can't help but notice that in Ro's conversation with Walter, Suze missed what is possibly (at least in my mind) the most important line in the entire series -- something Walter says to Ro. Any other Constant Readers notice the omission? I hesitate to just come out and say it, as it doesn't have the same power now as it will in a later re-read, having read the rest of the series.
Suzanne Johnson
28. SuzanneJohnson
@btsierra...Ack! You can't do that to me :-)...Tell me what it was, just so I can beat myself over the head about it later on!
trench
29. hohmeisw
@SuzanneJohnson: I have two questions, now that you've finished the book. Do you buy Roland sacrificing Jake? Or did it seem as pointless to you as it did to me?
The other is about preference. In the original Gunslinger, Roland never asks if he'll win through. He asks if he knew Walter some other time. Walter reveals that they knew one another in Gilead, as it fell; he dressed as a monk, and reminded Roland of Marten. Roland is surprised that this isn't Marten he's been chasing (under a glamour). This said a lot to me about his character. Roland is a man who doesn't concern himself much with high destiny or the great workings of the universe (though he listens patiently as MiB goes on); he wants answers to the riddle his own life has become. Not sure if I've explained well enough, but what does Roland asking "Will I win through?" mean to you?
Suzanne Johnson
30. SuzanneJohnson
@hohmeisw...A test, gunslinger!
Well, re: Jake. I saw it as a test by the puppetmaster pulling the Man in Black's strings, to see how badly Roland wanted to get the information he needed to continue his quest. I haven't seen any practical purpose for it in the story itself. Jake's sacrifice didn't DO anything for Roland--didn't help him through the mountains, didn't help him find the man in black. But, to Roland at least, Jake's death seemed to be the price of catching up with Walter to have his palaver and get the answers he needed. What it did seem to do was reinforce in Roland's mind the idea that there were larger forces at work, and that he was just a player on a a very big stage--letting Jake die was part of the "role" into which he had been cast. Of course I could also be reading it all assbackward. :-)

Interesting that in the original Roland didn't ask that question: Will I win through? Because that is the cuminating question of his palaver, the question Walter knows all along that is the one Roland wants to ask. On the surface, "Will I win through?" seems to only be Roland asking Walter if he'll succeed in his quest to the Tower. But, really, it shows Roland's singleminded focus on his own journey. To paraphrase that question, "Will I win through," what I heard Roland say was, "Yeah, yeah, that's nice about the infinite universe and all, but really, what about me? Me and my life and my quest are what I want to know about. And if I succeed, I win and if I don't I lose." It reinforces Roland's methodical, practical nature and brings the focus back to him. So in that sense, I think says a lot about Roland's character that isn't in conflict with how you read the original without that sentence.
trench
31. btsierra
Suze:

Signet MMPB edition, revised and expanded, pp 284-85:

Ro: "I don't understand."
MIB: "No. You don't. You never did. You never will. You have no imagination. You're blind that way."

Right now it's fairly insignificant, but remember that after another 2000 pages or so. Until then, long days and pleasant nights.
Suzanne Johnson
32. SuzanneJohnson
@btsierra...LOL...Remind me of this in about 2,500 pages or so :-)
trench
33. jonmwilson1979
Well, I am all caught up, Suzanne. Just in time for the new entry later today. Your comments along the way have been great, and very insightful. I have the King-narrated audio for Drawing, and I'm looking forward to hearing him read his own book. I saw King once at a Selected Shorts performance in New York City, and hearing him read was a delightful experience.

There are many amazing moments in this next volume, and I can't wait to re-experience them as you see it all for the first time.

And now that I'm not playing catch-up with you anymore, I'm off to work on my own regular content for the Internet peoples. (I do several comic book podcasts.)
trench
34. Jenny C.
My favorite drawing in the entire series is the last one here, that's been used as a cover in some editions: Where Roland sits and looks at the sunset over the sea and the silhouette of the tower looming behind the sun. While abstract, it illustrates so well the scale of the story King's attempting. And how far from the end we are here at the end of book one.
trench
35. Drake_ACA
Hey Suzanne. I just found this series of posts a couple of days ago and have been racing to catch up. I've had to stop myself from commenting until now so I could be closer to the actual current conversations going on! But I can't stop myself anymore!

Your comments and observations on The Gunslinger have been interesting and entertaining to read over the last couple of days. I first started reading The Gunslinger when I was 12 years old. My father gave it to me as a birthday gift (that and The Icewind Dale Trilogy, by R. A. Salvatore). I started reading it, and really enjoyed everything, until around The Waystation. I think I finally put it down mid-way through The Oracle and the Mountains, and it was a year or two later when I finally picked it back up again and finished it. By then the last book was out, but I read the books slowly after that, trying to savor them. I remember I read most of The Drawing of the Three and The Wastelands on sick days home from school. They were kind of my treat when I was sick. Instead of having ice cream, I'd travel to Mid-World with Roland. Then, finally in the summer of 2008 I started the fourth book, Wizard and Glass, and quickly finished the rest of them by around November or December. I'm getting ready to re-read the series myself. When I finished I decided I wouldn't go back to them until I was 19. Well, my birthday was a couple of weeks ago. I'll probably start within the month.

Whew, that was a little long-winded. I'm gonna throw another two cents in, though.

I agree with those who have said that The Gunslinger is really one long prologue for the series (which, essentially, can be looked at as one long novel, The Dark Tower). However, I think that The Drawing of the Three, and, to a lesser extent, The Wastelands (at least the first third or so) are also part of that prologue, and, if they're not, then they're at least the first chapter after the prologue. So, I guess you could say you're currently reading The Dark Tower, Chapter One: The Drawing of the Three.

Also, I laughed out loud when you wrote that "Oy!" thing back earlier in the "Read." Like the others said, file that away for later.

Last thing. You mentioned in one of the comments that you downloaded Eyes of the Dragon. Was just wondering if you had started it yet, and if so, what you think of it? It's my favorite of King's works, and along with 'Salem's Lot and Hearts in Atlantis, I look at it as part of The Dark Tower (I know a lot of people have mentioned Insomnia, but I never read it, and even King said that a lot of the Tower elements he introduced in the book became obsolete further on in the series and really weren't as important to the tale as he originally believed).

Anyway, sorry for the super long comment. I think it might be longer than a few of the chapters in the books! I look forward to your continuing posts about the series

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