Mon
Jul 16 2012 12:00pm
A Read of the Dark Tower: Constant Reader Tackles Wizard and Glass, “Interlude” and “Come Reap”: Chapter 1, Beneath the Huntress Moon

The Dark Tower Read on Tor.com

“Cast your nets, wanderers! Try me with your questions, and let the contest begin.”

—Blaine the Mono, to Roland and the Ka-Tet, at the end of The Waste Lands

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 left our young ka-tet, Roland and Susan had given in to their attraction, Cuthbert and Alain were worried about Roland’s ability to tend to business, the Big Coffin Hunters were reunited, and Aunt Cord had grown suspicious of Susan’s sudden good humor.

Wizard and Glass, “Interlude: Kansas, Somewhere, Somewhen

We’re jerked back to the present—well, to some version of Kansas—where our other ka-tet is still gathered around the fire in a night that must have lasted forever. The thinny is still whining nearby. “Roland,” Eddie asks, “How can you know every corner of this story?”

“I don’t think that’s what you really want to know, Eddie,” Roland answers—which annoys Eddie, because, as usual, Roland is right. What he really wants to know is how long Roland has been talking. He isn’t tired, nor are the others, but his impression is that Ro has been talking “for days.”

“Time is different here,” Roland says. “Not all nights are the same length just recently.”

But he can’t expand on this subject because Susannah and Jake want Roland to continue with his story. Yet Eddie looks around and realizes time is also thin here: “He felt that Mejis and those people he had never seen—Cordelia and Jonas and Brian Hookey and Sheemie and Pettie the Trotter and  Cuthbert Allgood—were very close now. That Roland’s lost Susan was very close now.”

Eddie realizes that “the dark would hold for as long as Roland needed it to hold…Eddie thought it had been night inside of Roland’s mind for a long, long time and dawn was still nowhere near.” He reaches out and touches Roland’s hand, and urges him to continue.

“True love is boring,” Roland finally says. “As boring as any other strong and addicting drug.”

What Constant Reader Learns: Ha. I find myself annoyed that we’ve broken up our flashback by this little bit of the present, although the notion that the night would last as long as Roland needs it to in order to tell his story is interesting.  

Eddie’s unanswered question is a good one…how DOES Roland know every corner of this story? The conversations of the Big Coffin Hunters to which he was not privy, for example.

 

Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 1, Beneath the Huntress Moon, Section 1

“True love is boring,” the thought continues into a return to the flashback. “Once the tale of encounter and discovery is told, kisses quickly grow stale and caresses tiresome…except, of course, to those who share the kisses… As with any other strong drug, true first love is really only interesting to those who have become its prisoners. And, as is true of any other strong and addicting drug, true first love is dangerous.”

What Constant Reader Learns: In other words, Stephen King is not going to subject us to every sexual encounter between Roland and Susan. Thank God for small favors.

 

Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 1, Beneath the Huntress Moon, Section 2

Fall has arrived in the Barony. The weather’s turning cooler, the orchards are ready for harvesting, and the cider-houses are back in business.

What Constant Reader Learns: Love the details of fall in Mejis, with the pastoral view of harvesting and cider-making and farming and dead rattlers hanging from the hitching posts. Sort of a combination of the Shire and the Old West. Except, of course, we know there’s this ugliness bubbling underneath, plus the whole world-moving-on problems.

 

Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 1, Beneath the Huntress Moon, Section 3

“Those in the grip of a strong drug—heroin, devil grass, true love—often find themselves trying to maintain a precarious balance between secrecy and ecstasy as they walk the tightrope of their lives. Keeping one’s balance on a tightrope is difficult under the soberest of circumstances; doing so while in a state of delirium is all but impossible. Completely impossible, in the long run.”

Roland and Susan’s secret will only have to be kept until Reaping Day, Roland thinks—unless the Big Coffin Hunters “broke cover.” Although Roland thinks one of the other players might make the first move.

The lovers are careful, never meeting in the same place or at the same time. Susan didn’t try to hide her afternoon or evening rides—and while Aunt Cord is “increasingly uneasy,” she doesn’t question it, not yet anyway. Roland and Susan left notes in the pavilion a couple of times, but Roland’s inner voice told him that was too dangerous—both the hiding place and the writing down of notes. Sheemie seemed safer. But eventually, though Ro’s inner voice didn’t warn him about Sheemie, he began feeling guilty about putting Sheemie in the middle of their “coming trouble.” So he and Susan develop a system whereby  Susan would hang a red shirt over the sill of her window if she couldn’t meet, and he’d leave a white stone in the yard by the town pump.

Cuthbert and Alain are agog at Roland’s behavior, watching his “descent into addiction first with disbelief, envy, and uneasy amusement, then with a species of silent horror.” They feel equal to the task of their suddenly dangerous mission as long as Roland, who’s reached “near mythic status” in their minds, is on-task. But now “he’s like a revolver cast into water,” Cuthbert says.

Of course, Bert’s also in a temper because he’s lost the Rook’s skull. Alain tries to assure Bert that Roland will be all right, but Bert says, “I don’t feel I know him now….I hate her a little for what she’s done. Perhaps more than a little….She must know she’s become part of the problem herself. She must know that.” Alain realizes it’s not fear driving Bert’s temper; it’s jealousy—both because Susan has stolen his best friend and because Roland got the pretty girl.

It’s ka, Alain tells him, but Cuthbert isn’t buying it. Finally, Alain has to make his point: “Blame is what we two can’t afford—don’t you see that? And if it’s ka that’s swept them away, we needn’t blame. We can’t blame. We must rise above it. We need him. And we may need her, too.” Cuthbert finally gives in—for now, but he is bitter.

They relax on the porch, and Alain reflects that “these days he smelled blood on the wind. Possibly some of it would be their own. He wasn’t exactly frightened—not yet, at least—but he was very, very worried.”

What Constant Reader Learns: The juxtaposition of the dangers of heroin (Eddie and Henry), devil grass (Nort, the guy in Tull), and true love (Roland) is interesting. Just in case we don’t know something awful is going to happen soon.

At this point, everyone seems to be poised on the edge of some great canyon, waiting to see who jumps first.

Love Bert’s comparison of Roland to a revolver cast into water. We know exactly how unreliable at least bullets cast into water are, from Roland’s experiences in The Drawing of the Three.

This is the second time Bert has said he hates Susan, a feeling that seems to be growing. Where will that lead? Nowhere good, I reckon.

At the end of this scene, Alain rolls himself a smoke, and we’re told, “By the time the following year’s Huntress came around, all three of them would be confirmed smokers, tanned young men with most of the boyhood slapped out of their eyes.” I had assumed—wrongly, apparently—that either Cuthbert or Alain, or both of them, would die in this book, as a result of this Reaping Fair/Coffin Hunter business. Guess not.

 

Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 1, Beneath the Huntress Moon, Section 4

We’re told that even though our baby gunslingers and almost-gunslingers had been trained toward guns at an early age, Cuthbert and Alain still believe their elders are their betters and that grownups know what they’re doing. So they would have been surprised to learn that Reynolds and Depape had “grown extremely nervous about the three young men from In-World, and extremely tired of the waiting game both sides had been playing.”

Reynolds and Depape come downstairs to the bar of the Travelers’ Rest, where Jonas is playing “Chancellors’ Patience,” a poker-like card game, with Kimba Rimer. It’s clear Rimer doesn’t care for Reynolds and Depape—or anyone else. “To find such low culls as these two in positions of importance proved (that the world had moved on). Jonas himself was only a little better.”

But Reynolds and Depape have something on their little minds and Jonas tells them they can speak in front of Rimer since he’s their chief employer—a fact that surprises the two coffin hunters. They thought they worked for the Mayor. “Hart Thorin wants to know none of the details of our arrangement with the Good Man,” Rimer says.

Finally, Depape tells what they want: to go out to the Bar K ranch and look around to see what the boys have out there. Jonas says he’ll think about it and dismisses them. On his way out, Reynolds reminds Jonas: “We underestimated ’em once and they made us look like monkeys.”

Jonas assures him he hasn’t forgotten. “They’ll pay for what they did. I have the bill ready, and when the time comes, I’ll present it to them, with all interest duly noted. In the meantime, they aren’t going to spook me into making the first move.”

Once they’re gone, Jones has a palaver with Rimer. And what Rimer wants to discuss is the same thing—taking a look at the Bar K. “What’s there to find?” Jonas asks. Rimer answers: “They’re from Gilead, they’re likely from the line of Eld or from folk who like to think they’re from it, and they’re likely ‘prentices to the trade who’ve been sent on with guns they haven’t earned yet. I wonder a bit about the tall one with the I-don’t-give-a-shit look in his eyes—he might already be a gunslinger, I suppose—but is it likely? I don’t think so.”

Jonas isn’t buying Rimer’s professed allegiance to the Good Man, and calls him a traitor. Rimer’s in it for what he can get.

Jonas says the people in Gilead know their world is falling apart and still think of Mejis as a place far-removed from the dangers. “They didn’t send these brats here to discover your secrets, Rimer…They sent em here to get ’em out of the way, that’s all. That doesn’t make em blind or stupid, but for the sake of the gods, let’s be sane. They’re kiddies.”

Rimer points out, however, that the boys should be on the cowboy side of town by now—they’ve spent too long counting nets and fish. “They should have been there two weeks ago…unless they already know what they’d find.”

Jones has had that thought himself, but he can’t believe it—“not such a depth of slyness from boys who only had to shave once a week.”

Finally, though, there’s enough doubt that Jonas says he’ll have a look around at the ranch—but by himself, without Reynolds and Depape.

What Constant Reader Learns: Roland, who has achieved gunslinger status, is not included among his friends who still believe their elders are their betters. Not surprising. Roland’s seen a lot more adult duplicity than the other boys, I suspect.

So, the Chancellor’s card game. The chancellor cards are named Paul, Luke, Peter, Matthew. Disciples of “Man Jesus” all, if one counts Saul/Paul’s Road-to-Damascus conversion. Haven’t had any biblical references in a while. But I guess in a sense, Rimer and the others are “disciples” of the Good Man Farson, although they’re apparently more the Judas brand of disciple.

Rimer has figured things out pretty well, except, perhaps, for underestimating Roland. As has Jonas…maybe. He’s pretending, at least, to think of the boys as “kiddies.” It surprises me that he doesn’t take them more seriously after the earlier showdown.

 

Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 1, Beneath the Huntress Moon, Section 5

Rhea’s in a temper. She is still ticked at Musty the Mutant Cat for interrupting her watching of how Roland got Susan to stop cutting her hair. “Who was he really?” she wonders.

But the glass continues to only swirl with pink light and show her nothing. She’s determined to make Susan suffer before she dies, even as she realizes her own anger is what’s keeping her from having the proper focus and will to make the glass work again.

What Constant Reader Learns: I’m not liking Rhea at all. Just sayin’. Maybe she’s the one who makes the first move.


That’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll continue with the next chapters of Wizard and Glass.

14 comments
Lsana
1. Lsana
It was interesting to see King acknowledge that Roland shouldn't know about most of the things he's narrating, but I remember being somewhat annoyed by how quickly the question was brushed off. I think if I were Eddie, I would have said, "No, actually I really do want to know how you know all these random details. Oh, and I'm somewhat curious about how long you've been talking, but first let's answer the question about how you know exactly what Roy Depape did on his ride."
Lsana
2. StrongDreams
How Roland knows these things will eventually be answered, but it's not important now, and it would also be a spoiler for Roland to tell the others at this point anyway.

I think Patience is a form of solataire (in one of Jonas' other games, he "cheats out" a Chancellor). I think most people in Roland's world have heard stories of the Man Jesus, although there are few believers.

I think we're getting an honest look at Jonas opinion of the boys here. And he's mostly right, they're 'prentices sent to place of safety, not expecting trouble. I think he continues to underestimate them because he is himself a failed gunslinger, so he doesn't really know what a true gunslinger is capable of.
Suzanne Johnson
3. SuzanneJohnson
I was kind of grinding my teeth over brushing off the answer to that question as well, so I'm glad to know there's a reason we aren't being told the answer yet.

I hit a patch this weekend, in reading next week's chapter, where I found it very, very hard to put the book down and not keep reading. It's like some kind of perverse literary torture :-)
Lsana
4. Lsana
@2,

I know we get an answer to the question, but none the less it annoyed me that it got brushed off. I'd have much preferred Roland to say something like, "I do know it all, I'll get to that part in a bit, but let me tell these things in order."

Interesting suggestion that the reason Jonas is underestimating the boys is because he's a failed gunslinger: you'd think that would mean that he has spent a lot of time with boys like these three (possibly even their fathers), and therefore would know exactly what they should be capable of. However, it's possible that because he would like to believe that he was a lot closer to being able to make the cut for gunsligner than he actually was, he would overestimate himself relative to them.
Lsana
5. StrongDreams
Lsana,
I agree that Roland not answering Eddie's question was not handled elegantly, but having Roland just say, "I can't tell you yet because it will spoil the ending" seems too genre-aware and meta-fictional (like River Song warning the Doctor about "spoilers, darling" which is just annoying to me). Probably best to have Eddie not bring it up at all -- if King is telling the story the right way, the readers won't care if Roland is telling things he shouldn't know about.

Regarding Jonas, I'm thinking about someone who is the star player on his high school football team, and arrives at college expecting to be the star, only to find out everyone is smarter, faster and stronger than he is, and he has to struggle just to keep up. He's seen all the games on TV, and even in person, but until he's on the field with them he doesn't really know how outclassed he is. Jonas is the fastest, meanest, craftiest gun-hand he knows of, and even though he trained with boys some of whom became gunslingers*, he was never inside the head of a gunslinger (because he never was one himself) so he doesn't really know what they are capable of, or how much out of his league he will be in a show-down.

*I'm confused on whether Jonas trained under Cort's da or grand-da, and whether Jonas might have trained with either Steven or Henry (the tall). King never explicity says.
Lsana
6. Gentleman Farmer
StrongDreams,

I agree with, and like your analysis, both of Jonas and Eddie's question.

I also agree with you that properly answering the question would have been too meta fictional, but for myself, even the asking of the question was too genre aware and meta-fictional. Maybe I just feel like that because the question (as such) didn't occur to me. It's one of those things that I would have assumed consisted of Roland's conclusions after years of thinking on these events... that is, the flashback story may or may not be completely true when it reveals characters other than Roland, but it has sufficient truth to enable Roland and the listeners to understand the events, even if every detail of every thought is not objectively accurate.

As such, the question, and even the reveal seemed to me to be more an attempt to appease readers who were not swept away by the story, and an implicit recognition that the story might not be sufficiently captivating for readers just to be swept along. The trouble (for me) with an acknowledgment like that is that it bounces a reader who is enjoying it out of their suspension of disbelief, doesn't likely resolve the concerns of people who aren't enjoying the story, and ultimately adds very little that people couldn't assume or deduct on their own.

I don't mind being taken back to our ka-tet to see what's going on as they listen (I think that can be a helpful narrative device), just the aspect where King is making the acknowledgment that Roland's ability to tell the story may not make sense. It seems to have little purpose here, and I found it jarring. I suppose arguably it shows Eddie's questioning nature, but I'd prefer to think that Eddie could work away and come up with the answer on his own if it's bothering him that much while listening to it.

Part of my difficulty is that I don't like an intrusive narrator telling us what we're supposed to be thinking and feeling for the characters any more than I like an intrusive narrator pointing out that parts of his own story don't hold together, unless it has a narrative purpose... and here I don't see a narrative purpose (I should qualify this statement, although I'm through Wizard & Glass, I haven't completed the series).
Lsana
7. StrongDreams
@6,
Things happened in Roland's life to turn him from a 14 kid who cried when he buried his hawk David, to the man who would drop Jake into the abyss just to get one step closer to the Dark Tower. One of the things that happened was how he learned about events in Hambry that he personally didn't witness. Can't say more yet, but think about it...what would Roland not know, if the only events he knew about were ones that happened to him personally.
Lsana
8. Classic Appa
@6

Dark Tower may not be for you if you don't like an intrusive narrator! Ha!
Suzanne Johnson
9. SuzanneJohnson
@Gentleman Farmer...I get what you're saying--it's exactly why that question annoyed me. Because Stephen King IS an intrusive author at times, I hadn't questioned Roland's knowledge of these things...until SK made a point of it by having Eddie ask about it. It totally jarred me out of the story for a few minutes while I thought about it. And that annoyed me. Had Eddie not asked the question, and Roland's kind of awkward non-answering of it, not drawn attention to the whole issue, not sure it would have even occurred to me. Mayhap that's a lacking on my part, however :-)
Lsana
11. Aeryl
#5

It is answered that Cort would have recognized the limp that Jonas has, because he was there the day his father gave it to Jonas. So it was Cort's father that turned Jonas west.
John Smith
12. TheHardTruth
Suzanne, as always, a terrific job! You really give us our fill and a ton to chew over.

Cort's father was named Fardo, and it was Fardo that sent Eldred West, stripped of gun.

As to the issue of it being awkwardly brought up how The Gunslinger could possibly know ''every corner'' of the story, well, this is actually Foreshadowing and I may argue that it wasn't really that oddly-handled at all. The way that The Gunslinger knew all facets is a MAJOR explanation later on and revealing Roland's omniscience would constitute HUGE spoilage.

I felt like Eldred, deep in his heart, knew he had a real problem on his hands with Roland. I think it was just galling for him to admit it. He saw himself as a true bADA$$ and even contemplating the possibility that these three ''kids'' could mess his plan up really stuck in his craw - but I think he secretly knew it. Its also very interesting to me to read the gradual lessening of confidence Eldred develops in Clay and Roy - and his growing disdain for rhe entire venture.

The middle, and second half of the novel also showcase Jonas' ''instincts'' about things in general and how sharp they are. The guy had a keen compass. Its never even hinted at that he may have had a bit of the ''Touch'', but when he started getting ''feelings'' about things its amazing how accurate Eldred's reckonings - in hindsight - turned out to be.

- Hardy
Lsana
13. :(
Argh, too short entry this week, but what can you do :) It's been while since I read the W&G, so I can't remember when some serious things starts happening, lol.
Suzanne Johnson
14. SuzanneJohnson
@TheHardTruth...Ok, I'm trusting you on this :-) I'm sure when it all gets explained there will be a palm-face moment.

@13...This chapter felt short to me as well. I think it's because we're really going to start picking up steam soon. Maybe one more buildup week and things will start to happen, or at least that's the way it's feeling to me as I read one week ahead.
craig thrift
15. gagecreedlives
Some nice distorted mirroring continuing in these chapters. I found it a little interesting that it was the bad guys subordinates that chose to confront their leader with their doubts while the good guys kept silent.

@12 I dunno if its a case of the touch or just good old fashioned experience of living a hard life. I doubt his life would of had much in the way of beer and skittles after his exile

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