Jul 15 2013 11:00am

A Read of the Dark Tower: Constant Reader Tackles Song of Susannah, 5th Stanza, “The Turtle”

Song of Susannah

“Go, then. There are other worlds than these.”

—Jake Chambers

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.

Last week, in 1999 NYC, Susannah and Mia visited the Manhattan Dogan of the Mind, trying to use visualization to stave off labor pains. So far, so good. Now, it’s time for a palaver.

Song of Susannah, 5th Stanza, “The Turtle,” Section 1

Mia suggests that it will be easier, quicker and clearer if they talked face to face, and suggests they have their palaver at the Castle on the Abyss—in the banquet room there.

Susannah’s memories of the banquet room are only recently recovered and still vague, but she does remember Mia’s voracious appetite for grossness. Mia tells Susannah that she had seen Roland there and Jake as well—but that they need to go somewhere more private before they visit the castle and talk. Of course, mostly, Mia needs to get to a telephone.

Susannah realizes they do need to get out of the park since she has blood on her shirt.

Suddenly, New York recedes and Susannah finds herself back in the Doorway Cave. She sees Callahan there with Eddie—with Henry Dean’s voice bellowing that he was in hell and it was all Eddie’s fault. Susannah wonders if she’s gone todash from New York, but knows she didn’t hear the chimes.

Then she hears Eddie’s voice in her mind, telling her to watch. She asks Mia if she can hear Eddie too, and she can. Eddie drags the pink bag out from underneath the bookcase of Tower’s first editions and discovers something hidden in the lining, but he doesn’t have time to check it out.

Then it was as if Eddie is looking directly at Susannah, and she’s aware of being back on the bench in the park. But she hears Eddie’s last words: “Maybe there’s a secret pocket.”

What Constant Reader Learns: So…we have Susannah maybe mentally recreating a scene from the cave that Eddie told her about, conveniently remembering Eddie’s observation about the bag just at the right time. Or remembering by ka, because I don’t recall Eddie ever telling her about it. Or even maybe she is getting a bit of the Touch herself. Or a message from Eddie, although they’ve never communicated telepathically before. Oh well…one will know when one knows. Or not.


Song of Susannah, 5th Stanza, “The Turtle,” Section 2

Susannah realizes she didn’t go todash, but that her visit to the cave had been a vision. What she doesn’t know is if Eddie sent it to her, or if he’d received the message she left in the mental Dogan.

Mia picks up the red bag and runs her hands over it, finding the secret compartment. She pries open the Velcro seal (not knowing what it is) and finds a small scrimshaw turtle, carved of ivory. Each detail of the turtle is precise, though the shell is marred by a tiny scratch that resembles a question mark. The turtle’s head is poked halfway out of its shell and its eyes are a black, tarry looking substance that makes them look alive. There is one other imperfection: a crack in the beak of the turtle.

Susannah’s thoughts are interrupted by someone almost sighing “wow” at the sight of the turtle as she’s examining it—a well-to-do businessman, it appears. He had been cutting through the park when his eyes fell upon the turtle and now seems transfixed by it. Mia urges Susannah to put the turtle away lest this stranger steal it. (“Like to see him try!” Detta Walker replies.)

Susannah realizes the turtle is a changeable totem, somewhat like Charlie the Choo-Choo, whose story or author changed as they needed the information. So she tells Mia this is her show and she moves forward.

The businessman, who says he’s an assistant to the Swedish ambassador, is mesmerized by the turtle as he talks to Susannah-Mio. He also goes into TMI territory with his philandering wife and his recalcitrant bowels, and adds that the “skolpadda” makes him happy.

The Swedish guy, whose nickname is Mats, won’t shut up—until Susannah instructs him to. With the turtle in his line of vision, she can control him. After ensuring that he has a credit card, she instructs him to go to the Park Plaza Hotel and rent a room for a week in his name, but to be used by his friend Susannah Mia Dean. She also cleans out the guy’s wallet and sends him on his way, weeping because he has to leave the turtle behind.

Mia’s kept her mouth shut through this exchange until Mats finally leaves. Then she only wants to know if the hotel room will have a phone.

What Constant Reader Learns: So, this turtle is scuffed up a bit and obviously has been through some prior use. Is that significant? Does ka (or the real Turtle) send it to whoever needs it? Susannah remarks that it’s very old, and somehow makes her feel safe. And of course they were following the path of the Beam leading from Shardik at one end to Maturin, the Turtle, on the other. Also interesting: the large turtle in the park, next to the bench, has identical scratches on its shell and the wedge-shaped break in its beak.

It’s sort of bizarre to have either Mia or Susannah or Detta Walker (but rarely Odetta Holmes) making mental asides as the scenes progress. Sai King manages to pull it off without it getting confusing. Annoying, maybe, but not confusing.

Skolpadda is Swedish for turtle. Pretty funny touch at the end of this scene when Susannah tells Mats that he’ll not remember the encounter once the hotel room is paid for, but that he’ll feel good and have excellent bowel control for the rest of his life.

Susannah is a bit shocked when Mats calls her “mistress-sai” in “his cute little Scandihoovian accent.” Why that should be any more shocking than hypnotizing a guy with a scrimshaw turtle, I don’t know.


Song of Susannah, 5th Stanza, “The Turtle,” Section 3

Susannah puts the turtle into the pocket of her jeans and forces herself to wait twenty minutes to give Mats time to rent the room and leave. To pass the time, she revisits her mental dogan’s control room, and is pleased to see the “Susannah-Mio” control dial is still only in the yellow zone, and the cracks in the floor didn’t seem too serious yet—although the machinery is making more noise.

Finally, when she thinks enough time has passed, she gathered her bags and heads for the Park-Plaza Hotel.

What Constant Reader Learns: Being woefully ignorant of New York, I guess the “Park Plaza Hotel” is Kingspeak for the Plaza? I can’t find where that was ever the official name of it, so I guess the name was changed to protect the innocent or it’s a fictional place altogether.

Obviously, there’s nothing much happening storywise in this section since I have time to ponder hotel names.

Although I do wonder what happens at the point when the Manhattan Dogan of the Mind goes into meltdown. Does Susannah go insane? Does another alter take over? Does the Chap take over? It will be interesting to see what happens if that meltdown occurs.


Song of Susannah, 5th Stanza, “The Turtle,” Section 4

On her way to the hotel, Susannah is able to marvel a bit at the future New York, or future for her. “The cars looked smaller, and entirely different. Many of the younger women she saw were walking around with their lower bellies exposed and their bra-straps showing.” Brazen hussies.

And everything about New York is just bigger and louder. “The world had moved on,” she thinks. “It was as if her New York, that of 1964, had been a triple-A ball-club. This was the major leagues.”

Susannah walks past a sign on a tripod and has to turn back to look at it again. It reads: “As of July 1, 1999, The New York Plaza—Park Hyatt will be come the Regal U.N. Plaza Hotel...Another Great Sombra/North Central Project!”

Susannah’s pondering the reappearance of Sombra and North Central Positronics, but Mia’s getting impatient and wants her phone and her Chap. So Susannah steps up to the reception desk and, when asked to see identification, she panics initially but then pulls out the scrimshaw turtle and one of the Oriza plates. The desk clerk is as mesmerized by the turtle as Mats and seems perfectly willing to believe the plate is Susannah’s driver’s license. When she asks to hold the turtle and is denied, the clerk begins to cry.

Susannah isn’t sure what to do with the key card she’s given, but, still influenced by the turtle, the desk clerk tells her how to use it. The room number, to no one’s surprise, is 1919.

Susannah stumbles a bit on her feet, and realizes she’s been in charge too long. Her body is reverting back to Susannah and losing its legs. When she asks Mia to take over, Mia says not until they’re alone. Susannah realizes she is shy.

She had meant to stop by the shop and purchase some new clothes, but that would have to wait. As she gets ready to leave the desk, after telling the clerk to forget she ever saw her, the clerk says, “Soon comes the King, he of the Eye.”

Susannah is shocked, but her legs are disappearing and she knows she has to get to her room. As she reaches the elevator, she hears the woman say, “When the King comes and the Tower falls, sai, all such pretty things as yours shall be broken. Then there will be darkness and nothing but the howl of Discordia and the cries of the can toi.”

She finally makes it the elevator, and finally figures out how to use the keycard—at which point the “shy” Mia shoves her out of the way and comes forward again.

What Constant Reader Learns: Susannah is also amazed to see the racial diversity of 1999 New York compared with her 1964, including the mixed-race desk clerk, and she realizes not everything in the future is bad. “The Dark Tower might be increasingly shaky, Susannah thought, and the world might be moving on, but she thought the lovely desk clerk was proof…that not everything was falling down or going in the wrong direction.”

Like this: “Never mind, it’s the future,” Susannah tells herself. “It’s science fiction, like the City of Lud. Best leave it at that.”

Um…Mia is shy? Since when? I guess Susannah should know, but still. I figure she’s letting the legs fade out so Susannah will get a move on and get her to a telephone.

Nice threatening promise of coming mayhem from the desk clerk. I made the mistake of Googling “can toi” and saw that it refers to the low men before I hastily closed the window lest I see spoilers.

There’s piano music at the bar that’s audible from the lobby. When Susannah arrives, the pianist is playing “Night and Day” and then “Stardust.” By the time she rushes to the elevator on fading legs, it’s “Stormy Weather.” I think a little “Hey Jude” would have been appropriate.


Song of Susannah, 5th Stanza, “The Turtle,” Section 5

Mia learns fast. She gets them to the room, and demands that Susannah tell her how to make the phone ring. She isn’t happy to hear that’s not how phones work.

Mia prowls around the room, looking in the bathroom and then into the closet, where she finds a small safe. Susannah, realizing Mia is illiterate, comes forward to read the sign on the safe, which tells how to set a new code for it. Mia, of course, chooses 1999.

Inside the safe, Mia places the faded red Midtown Lanes bag containing the box and the bag of Oriza plates. She sticks Mats’ money in her jeans pocket along with the turtle.

Finally, Susannah tells her it’s time to have that palaver—but she doesn’t want to go to the castle. Mia sorts through some options and offers up something. Susannah warns her that she needs to give her straight answers; Mia says she will, although Susannah might not like or understand them.”

And when the phone rings, Mia adds, the palavering is done. And off they go…somewhere.

What Constant Reader Learns: And so, thousands of words later, we end up pretty much where we ended up last week…waiting to palaver.

That’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll continue with our read of Dark Tower Book Six, Song of Susannah.

Thomas Thatcher
1. StrongDreams
"And so, thousands of words later, we end up pretty much where we ended up last week…"

Well, now black 13 is in the safe, and Susannah has the skolpodda. Not insignificant developments, taking the long view anyway. But yes, this book has lots of talking and waiting to talk.
Adam S.
Yay! Maturin! I love that skolpodda. Not only does he make you happy, you can mind-control people with him. I REALLY want that little carving.
Other than that, I forgot how slow the beginning of this book is- not for TOO much longer, I think (hope). I know there's excitement coming. And shocking revelations, this being Sai King and all. And disgusting imagery. And violence and gore. Etc...
Suzanne Johnson
3. SuzanneJohnson
Oh boy, then. Disgusting imagery I'm always up for!

Yes, it has been incredibly, painfully slow so far. But I plow onward, knowing it will change! (And I want one of those magical skolpoddas myself!)
Chris Nelly
4. Aeryl
A Meltdown means her "mind over matter" control over her labor goes bye bye and the Chap be coming whether she wants him or not.
Chris Nelly
5. Aeryl
Yeah, all that happens this week is we begin to understand the extent of the powers of the skolpadda, before it turns into Georgie's boat.

Susannah gets a sense of how the world is changing(for the better).

I liked the little aside that the legs aren't Susannah's so if she stays in charge too long, they'll disappear. Creepy enough for King.

While this is starting slow, I really don't see any other way to do this, except to skip coming to 1999 at all, and there are reasons we can't do that.

If Suze had just showed up and breezed through all this so they could have their palaver, we'd have felt cheated at seeing how Suze deals with this new world.
Adam S.
One other thing to point out is Mia wanting to use the telephone. This is a CLUE, both in how she has no idea what a telephone is or how to work it (which every personality of Detta/Odetta/Susannah's does), and in that she has a phone number in America to dial- when was she told a phone number, and by whom? I wouldn't be so quick to cooperate in that phone call if I were Susannah...This is, after all, a Steven King story (though she doesn't know that yet, unlike Father Callahan...)
Dustin Freshly
7. Fresh0130
Hmm, after glancing at the book up through the opening Stanzas I'm also struck that I didn't recall this section being as slow as it turned out to be. After the Wolves of Calla's slowly meandering pace for the majority of the novel I recalled Song of Susannah being damn near a sprint from the get go . Goes to show how things kind of blur together when you make a run at a series like this in all one go.
8. BangoSkank
This is what has always made SoS my least favorite of the seven books--the pacing of the Susannah/Mia part of the story seems really slow, and takes up half the book. Once we leave the Calla, the Roland/Eddie and Jake/Oy/Callahan sections are where the action is, and it takes a long time to get to them. Every time I read SoS I feel like I'm waiting and waiting to get to Jake and Callahan, but they only get one chapter. Say God-BOMB! (BTW, this is my first time to post a comment, but I've been following along for a while. Suzanne, I have really enjoyed reading your fresh take on everything. Thank you!)
9. CallahanOTheRoads
@ Suzanne-"Susannah is a bit shocked when Mats calls her “mistress-sai” in “his cute little Scandihoovian accent.” Why that should be any more shocking than hypnotizing a guy with a scrimshaw turtle, I don’t know."
Probably because although Susannah has seen Roland do his hypnosis with a bullet, and had heard Jake's story of using the silver key from the vacant lot to fascinate the cop in Times Square, she probably was not expecting to hear "mistress-sai" from someone that was not from Mid-World.
The turtles are more twinning...And there really is a pocket park in our world's New York, with a turtle sculpture in it! You can find pictures of it online with no spoilers.
@BangoSkank- Of course the Susannah/Mia story takes up half the book- the title says it all. I agree with you about the Roland/Eddie sections and Jake/Callahan/Oy having some of the juiciest action in the book, though.
( Like your handle, too, BTW!)
10. KVS
Wasn't there these little carved magic animal things in the book Desperation as well?
Chris Nelly
12. Aeryl
And they were called can-toi while the actual guy trying to make it through was Can-Tak. I meant to bring those up, but they slipped my mind. Thanks!

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