Oct 31 2011 11:00am

A Read of the Dark Tower: Constant Reader Tackles The Drawing of the Three, Reshuffle: Sections 1-9

The Dark Tower read on Tor.comThree. This is the number of your fate.

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.

When we last saw Roland in the last half of chapter four of The Drawing of the Three, the section called “Detta on the Other Side,” his fever had gotten the best of him and he “swooned some thirty miles south of the place where the Western Sea’s beach came to an end.” And, finally, Odetta reappeared.

This week, we’ll look at the first half of the next division, entitled “Reshuffle.”


The Drawing of the Three — Reshuffle, Section 1

Now that Odetta’s back, she realizes what bad shape Roland’s in and, unlike Detta, is willing to help Eddie out. He pushes her ahead as fast as he can, looking for the next door, with the plan of having her wait while he returns with the wheelchair for Roland. Eddie has one of Ro’s guns stuck in the waistband of his pants, and Roland has told him to “brain her” if Detta shows up again — he knows (and on some level Eddie knows) that if Detta shows up, she’ll try to kill him.

What Constant Reader Learns: Eddie realizes that he’s the only one in this game who isn’t crippled right now, and he thinks their whole fate hinges on the wheelchair. “The chair was the hope, the whole hope, and nothing but the hope. So help them God,” he thinks. Which brings up a swearing-in at a trial — and they’re all facing trials. But are they also being judged? Hm.


The Drawing of the Three — Reshuffle, Section 2

Flashing back a little, we learn that when Roland passed out, Eddie dragged him into the shade of a rock outcropping. When he comes to, he tells Eddie not to worry about him — he needs to make sure Odetta eats, because Detta sure hasn’t been eating. And that whatever Odetta says, Eddie should go along with it.

When Eddie offers her some chunks of lobstrosity, Odetta says she can’t because “he knows what happens.” Eddie does as he’s told and pretends he has a clue what she’s talking about. She thinks she’s been trying to eat and it’s made her sick, like when she ate scallops one time. Finally, he coaxes her into taking a bite, after which she decides lobstrosity is pretty good stuff and begins wolfing it down.

What Constant Reader Learns: Interesting that Roland tells Eddie to go along with whatever Odetta says about the time while Detta was in charge — not to contradict her. I think this is probably because Roland fears upsetting Odetta will bring Detta back that much faster. When Eddie asks why he shouldn’t contradict her, Ro says he doesn’t know, only that he shouldn’t.

Somehow, the lobstrosity being in chunks just makes it gross, doesn’t it?

Well, since Eddie and Odetta have this instantaneous love, it’s only fitting that they feel an electrical charge jump between them when he touches her hand to give her a chunk of lobstrosity. *eye-rolling ensues on my part*


The Drawing of the Three — Reshuffle, Section 3

Eddie finds his job as “pusher” easier now that Odetta’s helping and they’re not in such deep sand, and they make good time. Finally, they stop, and Odetta tells Eddie to sleep for an hour and she’ll wake him. He’s torn because he’s afraid Detta will come back and either kill him or roll off on her merry way, or both, but exhaustion overtakes him — plus, as Stephen King tells us, Eddie’s “too much in love to do other than trust her.” (cough cough) She does wake him after an hour, and they continue racing down the beach. 

What Constant Reader Learns: You really, really don’t want to hear my comments about this, although I must trust Stephen King that there is a reason for this improbable romance and that, at some point, I’ll say “doh,” and be ashamed that I was such a killjoy. I have decided, however, that what annoys me is not so much Eddie’s instantaneous love of Odetta, but phrases like “he was too much in love to do other than trust her.” 


The Drawing of the Three — Reshuffle, Section 4

Another flashback while Eddie’s pushing Odetta down the beach. When he left Roland, Ro kept a little water and told Eddie to look for the door, then shelter Odetta as well as he could and come back with the chair. Roland has loaded Eddie’s gun with the shells he think are most likely to work. Eddie needs to “wing” Detta if she shows up again, and use the gun on the big cat they’ve heard yowling in the hills ahead of them, if needed.

What Constant Reader Learns: Roland assures Eddie there’s no “bugger-man” in the hills ahead that he knows about, which is not a fear Eddie expressed but Roland saw in his eyes. This is a good reminder of how out of his element Eddie still is — he’s adapted so well that it’s easy to forget he’s really young and in ridiculously odd surroundings.

Roland and Eddie argue about leaving the gun with Odetta when Eddie comes back with the chair. Roland orders him not to do it, which makes me pretty sure he will do it. So theoretically, we could have Detta near the next door with a gun. NOT a happy scenario. Yikes. Hope I’m wrong about that but bet I’m not.


The Drawing of the Three — Reshuffle, Section 5

Eddie and Odetta make good time, but by sundown they still haven’t seen the door. Eddie gets Odetta out of the chair and settles her on the beach. Odetta, who has admitted she’s afraid of Roland (but doesn’t want Eddie to tell him so), asks who Ro is. What he is. And why he shouts so much. Of course, Roland doesn’t shout much, so Eddie realizes it’s more of Odetta’s false memories.

Eddie catches some lobstrosity and cooks it, and Eddie and Odetta have a tearful moment looking at the stars. Eddie has a real moment of clarity as he looks at the purity of the night sky and Odetta’s face. “Just where had been been all of his goddamned life? Where had he been, what had he been doing, who had been with him while he did it, and why did he suddenly feel so grimy and abysmally beshitted?”

They both make a wish. Eddie wishes “Always you.” Odetta wishes: “If I must die in this odd place, please let it not be too hard and let this good young man be with me.”

What Constant Reader Learns: It really was a sweet scene watching the stars, if a little melodramatic, but I can’t help but fear that this is going to end badly for them. Perhaps I’m wrong, however, and Detta won’t show up and bludgeon Eddie with a lobstrosity claw.


The Drawing of the Three — Reshuffle, Section 6

I’ll just quote the entire section: “Later, with strange galaxies turning in slow gavotte overhead, neither thought the act of love had ever been so sweet, so full.”

What Constant Reader Learns: Dear god of strange galaxies, thank you for sparing us a long, painful love scene written in overwrought language. Amen.


The Drawing of the Three — Reshuffle, Section 7

At dawn, Eddie and Odetta take off again, and Eddie fears they aren’t going to find another door. But about nine-thirty, Odetta thinks she sees something. So he begins pushing again, despite his aching lower back.

What Constant Reader Learns: How long is Eddie going to hold out with all the pushing he’s having to do? This scene is very reminiscent of the one with Roland and Eddie earlier on the beach, when Ro spotted The Lady of Shadows door a long time before Eddie did. I guess if I wanted to get all English teacher-ish, I could read into that that Eddie is not a visionary but a yeoman. But I won’t.


The Drawing of the Three — Reshuffle, Section 8

Half an hour later, Eddie sees the door, too, and he thinks in amazement that Odetta’s eyes are as good as Roland’s, maybe better. He’s concerned that by the time they reach the door, they’re going to be off the beach and into the hills — hills that are too steep for a wheelchair.

What Constant Reader Learns: I wonder if Odetta’s superior vision is going to play into the story to come, and if it will be in a way that’s advantageous to Eddie or Roland?

So, how are they going to manage going into the hills with Roland incapacitated, Odetta legless, Eddie exhausted, and one wheelchair between them? Maybe they don’t go into the hills, although Roland’s been pushing them in this direction all along.

When they reach the door, Odetta says it’s about four o’clock, which Eddie believes “because she was his beloved.” *Sigh.*


The Drawing of the Three — Reshuffle, Section 9

There’s an echo of the scene where Eddie and Odetta are staring at the stars, only this time they’re staring at the door on the beach, and the two words written on the door.

“What does it mean?” Odetta asks.

“I don’t know," Eddie says, but those words had brought a hopeless chill; he felt an eclipse stealing across his heart.

They explore the area around the door, and Odetta urges Eddie to go back for Roland. He doesn’t want to leave her, especially after they hear the big cat growling in the hills above them again. Eddie offers her the gun. Odetta realizes Roland told him not to leave her armed, and refuses to take it. She tells him just to take her up the slope a ways and give her some lobstrosity and some rocks.

What Constant Reader Learns: Eddie is horrified to see the words. We aren’t told what they are, but I assume they are “The Pusher.” Which, considering Eddie’s past and the fact that Roland’s in dire need of medicine, brings up all kinds of horrific scenarios.

The door will not open for Eddie, so apparently unless Roland is doing the door-opening, they’re stuck. Which is good; it takes away the option of Eddie and/or Odetta running off into what could be another version of NYC and leaving Roland to rot on the beach.

That’s it for this week! Next week — same time, same place — we’ll complete the section of The Drawing of the Three titled “Reshuffle.”

1. Lsana
I loved your comments on Section 6 would like to add my own "Amen" to that ferverent prayer. There are some things that Stephen King does wonderfully. Sex scenes are not on that list.

Looking up at the "strange galaxies" is a wonderful way to do the "ceiling fan shot" out of this scene. Though I do wonder a bit about the "gavotte" part. According to wikipedia, it's a dance that was popular in the 18th century French court. It doesn't seem like a word either Eddie or Odetta would be likely to use.
2. Improbable Joe
Oh... gosh. Maybe we should talk doors here for a minute.

Sometimes reading seems like looking through a door into the imagination of the writer. King I think has described his writing as him being able to look through a door in his mind and reporting what he sees. Reading some of these sections between the doors on the beach feels like King's mind-door has mostly closed, and he's just sort of flailing melodramatically in hopes that he'll make it to the next door.

The good news is that the next door is in sight, and the writing gets better shortly. The bad news is that we haven't seen the last of doors in the series, although we get a reprieve for the next couple.
Suzanne Johnson
3. SuzanneJohnson
@Lsana...I agree that "gavotte" wouldn't be a word Eddie would use, probably not Odetta either. But I've noticed throughout the book, SK slips from his character's point of view into that of an omniscient narrator, and this is probably one of those times. It's not nearly as bad as it was with The Gunslinger, which gave me whiplash the point of view changed so often, and I assume is just SK's maturation as a writer.
Suzanne Johnson
4. SuzanneJohnson
@Joe...Good point about the doors! I do feel the move between the Lady of the Shadows door and the The Pusher door has been a long haul...maybe like a long haul of pushing a wheelchair through sand :-). I find the idea of the doors between worlds fascinating, although much less so the second time when Odetta had to go round and round and round it in her wheelchair, delighting in the novelty of it. We'd already seen Roland do this (well, minus the wheelchair).
Risha Jorgensen
5. RishaBree
I'm not sure I agree that "slow gavotte" is not a phrase that Odetta would use. It's a moderately common metaphor (though I am amused how many of the top Google results are for this passage! Apparently not everyone finds it as corny as we do). I do agree that it's the omniscient narrator speaking in this case, though.

Eddie, on the other hand - definitely not.

“Bugger-man” brings an entirely different mental image than what Roland intends. It's a good thing, indeed, that there isn't a dangerous bugger-man waiting in the hills to attack.

Thank goodness this section is almost over. I find it exhausting, both to read and on Eddie's behalf. The Pusher is where it gets good again.
Suzanne Johnson
6. SuzanneJohnson
@RishaBree...Good to hear I'm not the only one who thought this section kind of dragged. Just getting ready to start reading The Pusher!
7. TankSpill
Me too - The Pusher is by far my favorite section of the book.

Thanks for this read, I've been wanting to re-read this series again for years, and never seem to find the time.
8. Improbable Joe
This section drags... like trying to push a wheelchair uphill in the sand why a crazy double amputee keeps yanking the hand brake. Ha!

I seriously think that the "between doors" sections are all a metaphor for how hard of a time King had writing this book, and by extension how hard it is for the reader to get from point to point. As a matter of fact, if my memory serves me well... OK, it is in the author's note of the next book. Close enough, considering how long it has been since I've read these. King says he has always had a hard time finding and opening the doors to this particular batch of books. When he finds them though... woo! And I seem to recall that when they open the Pusher door, King's own mind-door stays open for the rest of the book, and much of the next book feels like he's opened a big honking hanger door and the good stuff just comes pouring out.
Suzanne Johnson
9. SuzanneJohnson
@Joe...So glad to hear that! I thought the first door, when we met Eddie was just awesome, but the Lady of the Shadows door has been, as you say, "like trying to push a wheelchair uphill in the sand while a crazy double-amputee keeps yanking the handbrake." LOL. So I'm looking forward to "The Pusher."
10. Improbable Joe
Well... we didn't spend a whole lot of time on the other side of the door for The Lady, did we? That door sort of swung open and slammed shut rather quickly, and we were back on the beach.

The Pusher bit answers some questions, has a bit of action and clevericity from Roland... and we see a bit of a blast from the past and a hint of what's to come. No spoilers. :)
Sydo Zandstra
11. Fiddler
Suzanne @9:

So I'm looking forward to "The Pusher."

As a reader you may regret that remark (or not ;-) ). As a writer you may appreciate a few moments.

Anyway, I'm looking towards the next part too.
12. StrongDreams
Stylistically, the 3 door sections are very different. I think this is a good writer's choice, after all, spending 6 hours in the head of each person would get pretty old. Better to try something new.

You are, however, coming up on the second instance of convenient unconsciousness by our hero Roland--The first being his sleep on the beach, only waking after the waves had wetted his shells, which I found to be highly improbable and convenient for plot purposes. A trained gunslinger who can remain watchful enough in sleep to detect Detta's very careful movements that first night should not have fallen asleep so badly on the shores of a strange ocean. (Even given that he had never seen an ocean before and may have only understood tides from book learning, he should have woken with the first wave, long before his shells were wet.) Or that he would be so disoriented that the lobstrosities could get his fingers before he got his bearings. Very convenient, Mr. King. In The Pusher, he does it again.

When I read this for the first time, I was much more annoyed about the convenient unconsciousness than I was about the improbable love story. (But I'm a guy, if that has bearing...)
13. Improbable Joe

On first reading, yeah. Being a guy, not so much of an issue.

In the overall context, these things work on a bigger plot level than you're giving credit for. No spoilers, of course... but I'm suggesting that new readers make a tiny little mark here. I'll be sure to bring this up later, in fact.

BTW... I can't believe how many times I've read these books, come to think of it. Seriously, somewhere in the range of 20-30 times. The later ones only 5-6 times each, but the first three I've read at least two dozen times each, give or take.
14. StrongDreams
Joe, if you're suggesting that the convenient unconsciousness comes up later or has a later relation, I'm not getting it. What I see is that King wanted to give Roland a handicap, and so he put him into a deep sleep that is otherwise out of character. Likewise, there is a situation coming up where it is necessary for Roland to be incapacitated for a certain length of time, and so it just happens, even though I believe it is again out of character.

The love story, well yeah there are connections in various places and things have a way of working out. I can also see why Suzanne is bothered by it more than I am. I think it's a Mars/Venus thing.
15. StrongDreams
Joe, if you're saying that there is a later relate or callback to Ronald's out of character nap on the beach, I'm not getting it. I think King wanted to cripple him (which is a good idea for many reasons) and the easiest way to do it was to have him go totally out of character for the first couple of pages of Drawing. Roland's instincts and reflexes are almost superhuman almost everywhere (Mir's clearing, Lud, the Drop) except that beach. King just put him to sleep instead of finding an in-character way to cripple him. Likewise, there is a moment upcoming where Roland needs to be incapacitated for a while, and so he just blanks out, which I think is out of character. He's too old and tough to be that shocked but what he finds.

The love at first sight business? Certainly there are callbacks and threads later on. But I see why it bothered Suzanne, even though it never bothered me. Must be a Mars/Venus thing.
16. StrongDreams
Joe, if you mean that there is a callback or a relate to Roland's sleep on the beach, I'm not getting it. I think there are many good reasons to handicap Roland that play out going forward, but I think that having him fall so deeply asleep that the waves and the lobstrostities get him is out of character. Especially given his almost superhuman reflexes and instincts in other situations. Likewise, there is a moment coming up where it is necessary for the plot that Roland be incapacitated for a certain period of time, so it just happens that way. He's too old and seen too much to be that shocked.

For the love story, well yes there are relates and callbacks and threads, and it becomes important for many reasons. But I do see why Suzanne was annoyed, although I never was. It's a Mars/Venus thing I guess.
Suzanne Johnson
17. SuzanneJohnson
LOL. I agree the sudden lovey-dovey stuff probably is a Mars-Venus thing. You know women; we're always looking for that infuriating deeper connection and such :-). It was certainly a way for Stephen King to up the drama on Eddie's decisions re: Odetta/Detta/gun...and I'm sure there are more moral crises to come.

I honestly hadn't thought about the improbability of Roland crashing on the beach and being unaware of the tide--and how out of character that was for him. I guess, having just struggled across the desert, gone to view the cosmos with the Man in Black, and watched Jake plummet into the abyss...I had suspended practicality.

I think it's a valid point, though. I don't know...maybe it's as simple a thing as King needed Roland to need his ka-tet, so Roland had to be less self-sufficient than he was in The Gunslinger. Ruin enough of his ammo that it puts him in a Russian roulette situation or two, and lop off a couple of fingers so he can't shoot and handle his guns quite as adeptly...And, yeah, that's probably too simplistic. Is Roland also growing more emotionally crippled since Jake's sacrifice--something that weighs on him? Have to give that more thought.
18. StrongDreams
Joe, if you mean there is a later relate or callback to Roland's uncharacteristic periods of unconsciousness, I'm not remembering them. Here I think King needed to create some peril, and the easiest way to do it was to turn Roland's brain and reflexes off for a period of time.
19. TrickyFreak
Ooh, very cringe-worthy spoilerifics there.

Methinks the deep-sleep-by-the-see could be logically explained by the Ro's exhaustion after the extremely long palaver and Rip-van-Winkle-ish sleep. Maybe I'm just cutting Roland (and King) too much slack. Or putting logic in instances where probably there really isn't any (like Detta's no-food-no-sh*t bondage, for instance). Of course it is all convenient to the plot.

Nice thoughts on the doors' symbolism. Certainly does fit. I appreciate the drag of these in-between-doors sections though—call me a literary masochist.

And oh gods, the manifold implications of "Push." It's like the alethiometer in Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials—there are dizzying levels of implications and significance. Kudos, once again, to King.

And let's brace ourselves: it's all nerve-tautening action from here on.

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