Do you ever want a modern soundtrack to literary fiction? Yes? Me too. That’s the point of this feature. Whereas some people imagine cinematic montages in their head, I create a soundtrack.
Okay, so I actually do both, but I prefer to share my soundtrack. If you curious to see my cast list for Stephen King’s The Stand, go here.
The Stand is arguably my favorite Stephen King novel. I only say arguably because The Stand must contend with Bag of Bones and IT – not an easy task. At a remote army base, the military is experimenting with biological weapons. One day, the clock turns red. Instead of following protocol, Charles Campion escapes and changes the world. Bringing a vicious strain of superflu from California to Texas, he infects 99% of the people he comes in contact with, who in turn infect 99% of people they come in contact with. It’s the 1% that inherit the world and its greed, jealousy, love, good, evil, and indifference. Pitting good against evil, the survivors must decide the fate of humanity. It’s epic in scope and near perfect in execution. If you feel like you’ve been looking for 1,200 page book, this is the one for you.
Included solely for its prominence in the fabulously awful The Stand miniseries.
The marriage had been the best time, and it had only lasted eighteen months. The womb of his young wife had borne a single dark and malignant child. That had been four years ago. Since, he thought of leaving Arnette, searching for something better, but small-town inertia held him – the low siren song of familiar places and familiar faces. He was well-liked in Arnette, and Vic Palfrey had once paid him the ultimate compliment of calling him “Old Time Tough”. (5)
He moved on, not pausing, not slowing, but alive to the night. His eyes seemed almost frantic with the night’s possibilities. There was a Boy Scout knapsack on his back, old and battered. There was a dark hilarity in his face, and perhaps in his heart, too, you would think – and you would be right. It was a face of a hatefully happy man, a face that radiated a horribly handsome warmth, a face to make waterglasses shatter in the hands of tired truck-stop waitresses, to make small children crash their trikes into board fences and then run wailing to their mommies with stake shaped splinters sticking out of their knees. It was a face guaranteed to make barroom arguments over batting averages turn bloody. (181)
Then she slept again, this time dreamlessly, and when she woke up the next morning she didn’t remember the dream at all. But when she thought of the baby in her belly, a feeling of fierce protectiveness swept her all at once, a feeling that perplexed her and frightened her a little with its depth and strength. (256)
“Don’t think unkindly of me,” the dark man said softly, looking down at him. “It’s just that we having to hurry now. The Carnival is opening early. They’re opening all the rides, and the Pitch-til-U-Win, and the Wheel of Furtune. And it’s my lucky night. I feel that. I feel that very strongly. So we have to hurry.” (272)
For a moment he couldn’t go on; he felt impaled by hindreds of angry dead eyes, staring out at him from all these cars. A snatch of Dylan occurred to him: “I waited for you inside the frozen traffic…when you knew I had some other place to be…but where are you tonight, sweet Marie?”. (312)
He jogged at first, but it became necessary to run faster and faster to keep the thought behind him. He jogged and then trotted and then he ran and finally he sprinted… At quarter past eleven he suffered a massive coronoary thrombosis and fell down dead on the corner of Oak and Pine, near a fire plug. The expression on his face was very like gratitude. (354)
He supposed he deserved to take a fall, do a little time. It wasn’t something you volunteered for, but when they had you cold they gave you the bullet and you ate it. (361)
But he didn’t want to see. No, he most definitely didn’t want to see. Yet he sat forward, head cocked, listening to the sound of dusty bootheel clocking away from him down the sidewalk of Main Street, Brattleboro, Vermont, moving west, fading until they were lost in the open hum of things.
Larry felt a sudden mad urge to stand up, letting the sleeping bag slither down around his ankles, to shout: Come back, whoever you are! I don’t care! Come back! But did he really want to issue such a blank check to Whoever? The bandshell would amplify his shout – his plea. And what if those bootheels actually did return, growing louder in a stillness where not even the crickets sang? (385)
They ate in an abandoned lunchroom and Stu found his gaze was drawn again and again to Fran’s face – her lively eyes, the small but determined set of her chin, the way that line formed between her eyes indexing her emotions. He liked the way she looked and talked; he even liked the way her dark hair was drawn back from her temples. And that was the beginning of his knowledge that he did want her, after all. (394)
He put an arm around her. She started a little and felt her stiffen. Her hand and shoulders were warm. “I wish you wouldn’t,” she said uncomfortably.
“You don’t want me to?”
“No, I don’t.”
He drew his arm back, baffled. She did want him to, that was the thing; he could feel her wanting coming off her in mild but clearly receivable waves. (474)
She set off at eight o’clock in the morning, hoping to reach the Richardson farm by noon and sleep through the hottest part of the day… She wouldn’t arrive until after dark, and that made her think of her dream of the night before, but that man was still far away. Her company was much closer. (494)
What about you, Frannie? What do you want?
If she had to exist in a world like this, she thought, with a biological clock inside her set to go off in six months, she wanted someone like Stu Redman to be her man – no, not someone like. She wanted him. There is was, stated with complete baldness. (527)
Neither of them saw Harold, as shadowy and as silent as the dark man himself, standing in the bushes and looking at them. Neither of them knew that his eyes squinted down into small, deadly triangles… (570)
His name is Legion. He is the king of nowhere.
I thought a classic King mixtape called for classic rock – not in its entirety, of course. At any rate, you have to admit there’s something special about a playlist that flows seamlessly from A7X to Emmylou Harris to Jimi Hendrix to The Cardigan to Metallica.
(…and it is seamless, right? Right.)
Would you add any songs to The Stand? Have you seen the so bad, it’s (almost) good miniseries? If you haven’t, it has Molly Ringwald to tempt you. Naturally, I own it on DVD – I’m not even embarrassed about that.
This post was done in honor of King’s March – get amongst it.