Gilbert Cruz of vulture.com reports for NY1 on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in "The Book Reader."
An awkward teenage girl experiences her first period while showering in her high school locker room. Raised by a viciously religious mother, this young woman has no idea what's happening to her. When she begins to freak out, classmates pelt her with tampons and chant, "plug it up" over and over again.
This is the primal scene that opens "Carrie," the first novel by Stephen King, one of the world's most famous writers, which was first published 40 years ago this month. It's a primal scene because of what's on the surface — blood, nudity, tribal-like chanting — but also because of the message that runs underneath: high school is a sometimes savage place, something that we all inherently know.
A modest seller upon its release in spring 1974 — this was, after all, the debut of a man who had only published short stories in men's magazines up to this point — Carrie became a smash hit following the success of Brian De Palma's film version, which starred Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie, both of whom were nominated for Academy Awards.
Stephen King has since become known for his hefty novels, but "Carrie" is one of his slimmest. Not that the story, about an outcast who just happens to have some telekinetic powers, feels slight, however. Mocked at school and put upon at home, she is invited to her senior prom where - spoiler - after being the victim of a prank, she unleashes her fury upon her classmates.
"Carrie" is a herky jerky novel, shifting perspectives every several dozen pages through the use of letters, newspaper articles and courtroom testimony, but its power remains pure. It's the opening volley by a young author raring to let loose on the world.
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