How Did I Miss This?

Premiering this week at the San Francisco Opera.

As anyone who glances at my bookshelf knows, I love Stephen King (even though I hate him for writing the book I wished I’d written, more or less, when he produced Carrie, but there it is, he did it, though even he admits his wife helped with the girl parts). The manic energy of his drunk and coked-up years is gone, and I don’t snatch up a new title the way I used to, but no one has his natural ear for dialogue or his brutal talent for showing that the real horrors of life are not about various monsters or plagues but about what people do to each other. It used to be fashionable to deprecate him, if you wanted to be thought sophisticated, but I think all but the most pretentious academics have figured out the man knows his craft.

Dolores Claiborne straddles the gap between the word-processor-on-crack (perhaps literally) of his late boozy period, when he did tend to get a little prolix and maudlin, and his afterlife when human drama took the foreground over crap-your-pants terror.  The rough trilogy of those years — Gerald’s Game, Dolores Claiborne and Rose Madder — partook at times a little too much of abused-woman scripts lifted from support group meetings, but he made them work, and Claiborne was the most successful by me.

It never occurred to me someone might turn it into an opera.

I know the composer’s work only from a programmatic piece called Old and Lost Rivers:

I’ll take him.

Here is a bit of the librettist’s work.

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10 thoughts on “How Did I Miss This?

  1. Oh, oh, oh, oooooooohhhhh!!!! (Imagine that in a nice alto).

    I’m in love! I didn’t expect Vera to be so virile, and Selena should have my nice alto instead of that rather high soprano – but I suppose not too many women with voices powerful enough for opera look young enough for that role, and also can sing in a lower register… Still, this is the first and only time I’ve ever wanted to go to California.

    Is it okay to like King as a “real writer” now? He’s my lifetime writing hero, but whenever I talk about books I still hear, or imagine that I hear, a derisive sniff when I say he is my favourite author. It seems lessened here; King was never a writer you bought because it was new, but only when it got well-known.

    I really like Rose Madder and Gerald’s Game! Especially the ‘degloving’ in Gerald’s Game. Owwwww… To me, it didn’t make a difference what gender the protagonist was in that book as they did all the right things, mostly.

    I consider Tommyknockers his height of substance-abuse writing – that book is just messed UP. Then again, so is Dreamcatchers (one of the few I think he should have left in the fling cabinet). Shit-weasels, really? And a MOVIE? For fuck’s sake, why?!?

  2. Sorry I dropped the ball. All the construction fracas Chez Sled has consumed my entire brain if not exactly every minute of my time.

    I gotta agree with you about Dreamcatcher — I never figured out what the point of the book was at all. I can’t even imagine how they made a movie of it. But I’d give blood to produce as much good stuff as he has, even if it meant writing something as completely fucked as that once in a while. I actually liked Tommyknockers — it’s turgid and clearly an ode to his blacked-out period, but there are some little jewels in it. “Sir, I have just drawn my weapon and shot a Coke machine.”

    King causes me the frustration I only feel when in the presence of someone who is brilliant and talented but holds sentimental beliefs that make me want to spit — I just have to roll past them and enjoy the writing. If someone without his talent tried to defend to me the maudlin attitudes that creep into his work about children, retardation (like Dostoevsky, he seems to regard it as a mark of holiness more or less), or abortion I do think I might pitch a kettlebell through a window. But as Auden phrased it, you just have to “pardon him for writing well.”

    Altos just get discouraged from training their voices hard enough to be up to opera, because no one writes parts for us.

    • Bah, humbug on the training. I doubt I could do it properly, but I do love belting out the male parts of showtunes (okay, I just do the Hair soundtrack). I’ve tried Phantom, of course, but owww, I think even I’d have to be neutered to hit some of those notes.

      I rather like Tommyknockers, too – pretty sure I quote from it but as I don’t know anyone who has read it as often, I doubt anyone ‘gets it’ so it is all for my own nerdiness. Oh yes, I think when I screw up and talk to myself I sometimes say Gard ol’ Gard. And what was it he called the Nuke Baron at the after-party? Oh, dammit… I love that name…

      I totally understand what you mean about his soppy side. Do NOT watch the movie version of Desperation. You’ll just sigh in disappointment the whole time. I think my favourite short stories are The Mist (great movie version, too) and Survivor Type. The Stand reigns as king of King’s novels for me, despite the religious theme. I love a good post-apocalyptic book, and I think it was the first one I’d ever read. Hooked for life on “everybody dies!!!”

      • Ah, but then there’s the Ninth Doctor saying “Just once, Rose… Everybody lives!” I got hooked on Dr. Who by that scene, I think.

        I’m actually quite fond of “Insomnia” — even if it’s the one where King is as snotty about feminism as a person could get without my trying to break his jaw, if he were in the same room.

        I do Scarpia on pitch. Not ready for prime time, but I get all the notes. (Here’s the scene I like best sung by the best:)

        (As you can probably gather, he’s explaining to Tosca that she can bribe him to free her lover, but not with money.)

        • Oooo, I’d really have to know what they are saying to even attempt that! But I did have to break out my Hair CD in the car today 🙂

          I’ve been a Whovian since I was 9 – 1980 or so – and I’m pretty cranky about the ‘New Who’ especially the last two seasons. Romantic rubbish, and wrecking the whole 30+ year storyline. Sigh.

          • I liked the ninth Doctor season best of the new lot, in which he was kind of Scouse (rather than hot looking) and the romance was all unspoken tension and “nah, I just imagined the scriptwriter intended that.” We’re powering through all the classic Who we can find on the Web now. Love Jon Pertwee. I’m a sucker for a dandy.

            We’ll see if this new iteration, minus all the damn Amy and Rory stuff (there were cute bits but I was starting to yawn), gets back on track.

  3. I’ve hopes for the latest new guy (another irritation, how many damn docs have we gone thru since the show came back on the air?!?). He’s not a pretty boy, at least. I still think the Scot should have been allowed to have his real accent, McCoy did! I like Tom Baker best of course, and of his partners Leela was awesome despite the short dress (such a badass).

    Hubby got me Doctor Sleep, so I’m all giddy about NEW KING! I’ll be devastated if I outlive him.

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