“It would perhaps not be amiss to point out that he had always tried to be a good dog. He had tried to do all the things his MAN and his WOMAN, and most of all his BOY, had asked or expected of him. He would have died for them, if that had been required. He had never wanted to kill anybody. He had been struck by something, possibly destiny, or fate, or only a degenerative nerve disease called rabies. Free will was not a factor.”
― Stephen King, Cujo
I am torn on my opinion about Cujo. On the one hand, it is a hugely successful novel and the visuals and concepts behind it stay with you after you read it. I will never go through another blisteringly hot day without thinking of Donna and Tad trapped in that car.
On the other hand, there were parts that had me yawning and damn near ready to put the book down. To clarify, the parts with Donna were wonderful. The character development and motivation was fully believable and wholly complex. However, the other characters and their story arcs felt a bit unnecessary to me. Like he tried fluffing up a short story about a woman trapped inside a hot car with her son into a full length novel when it didn’t need to be a fully length novel.
Vic and Roger’s story ark in particular held my interest 0%. I didn’t care about the Sharp account or whether they would get their cereal professor to save the whole account and their jobs. In fact, I skipped several of their appearances without missing anything about the main plotline of the book. I understand why it needed to be there, but at the same time, I didn’t understand why it needed to be there. Feel me?
There was so much detail poured into the tertiary characters that was completely irrelevant to Donna and Cujo and Tad. He had names for characters that were only mentioned briefly in a flashback, and there were many flashbacks. Each character in the story had a backstory. And as a writer, it was very transparent what he was doing. Cujo was one of the first books he ever wrote. He was playing by the rulebook, trying for the wordcount, adding depth and perfection to his story in just the way author’s that he read did in their stories. But one must ask, is that always necessary? He was playing with the development of characters, trying out how things felt and flowed and followed the plot. I don’t criticize him for that. I just wish his peripheral characters had been a bit more…interesting?
But that’s the thing about Stephen King, isn’t it? He has a way of creating real life characters, and yes, sometimes those characters are dull as bricks…or mailmen. In what he was aiming to craft, he was hugely successful. I just don’t know if what he crafted was my cup of tea. It’s always about small towns with average Joe characters, sometimes literally named Joe. They are the stereotypical, all American country bumpkins. And he writes that genre well. I guess I’m just not a fan of reading about what I see around me every day. I don’t like reading about the hicks and abusive husbands and misogynistic assholes that populate the very state in which I live.
The female characters in Cujo also struck me in a nasty way. Charity, for example, is a woman who lives in fear of her husband. She never knows whether she’ll get loved or smacked, and it’s that tension that King portrays so well in his writing. The scene where Charity bargains for a trip to see her sister had me squirming in my seat much more than Cujo ramming the car door did. Charity watching her son and thinking he’s going to grow up to be the same sort of monster her husband is was so difficult for me to stomach. Because that’s real life. That’s what so many women suffer with every day of their lives.
So yes, Stephen King paints an incredibly realistic story of relations and traumas. You just have to make sure you have the stomach not only for the gore and monsters, but also for the blatant misogyny he illustrates so well.
Have you read Cujo? What were your thoughts? Did you like it? Hate it?
Talk to you later,