The Dark Tower: THE DARK TOWER

My on-going real-time reviews of THE DARK TOWER novels by STEPHEN KING.  Continued from here:

These reviews are intended to be virgin first-reading real-time-review extrapolations without benefit of any other information about them.

[All my real-time reviews are linked from here: or just the Stephen King ones:]

There is no guarantee how quickly the review below will progress, whether it be days or years.


first published 2004 – this edition Hodder Paperback 2006

I really must obtain a Kindle as this paperback has the smallest print my (63 years old each) eyes ever attempted to read. Well, whatever – with trepidation, I approach this last of the Dark Tower series (other than the future inkwell: The Wind Through the Keyhole) knowing this has already been a major reading experience of my life. Thanks to the conflux of events that led me to this.  But above all thanks to Stephen King: ‘Stephen King’:  the spear-carrier, the walk-on, the walk-in, the do-over…someone I briefly met in 1983 in London when he signed my Futura paperback of CUJO. (Detta’s in the prompt-box).


Part One: The Little Red King:  Dan-Tete

 I. Callahan and the Vampires

“Skölpadda, it said.”

J,Oy and C approach the long-pig roast birth and the officiating creatures: and some change names as well a blood-types, vampire-types, canary or tweeting-twitter-pie: a nightmare: where am I going, to the Vacant Lot or ‘Salem’s Lot? O, Callahansalem. Salaam. And, here, there is the force called “the White”. Synchronously, on British TV last night there was the 2nd episode of an amazing drama serial – dark and insidious – entitled CRIMSON PETAL AND THE WHITE. The Rose’s Petal? The Crimson King? The White? (14 Apr 11)

II. Lifted on the Wave

“Only the kal form, instead of the more usual kas, indicated a natural force of disastrous proportions: not a wind but a hurricane; not a wave but a tsunami.”

Blown (tsunami, quake and fukushima) from the inkwell or keyhole into this virgin real-time extrapolation of my very first reading of the Dark Tower books, and, in parallel, Eddie and Roland, too, freshly winded by recent encounter with their Stephen King Creator in his home are (temporarily?) themselves blown, amid todash chimes, from Cullum’s awakened tailgate ghosting car to a real-physical vision of Susannah-Mia at the Dixie Pig, she who is monster-gridlocked, womb-squeezed, womb-tweezered of her baby (Roland’s son?): eyes wide shut, each mask as real as the monster hidden beneath it: each word or refrain just another reader-reality ghosting back via the roller, rolling coasts of the lighthouse-beam shores of Bronx / Brooklyn strobing in Time…. Time another t-word, like Terror-Has-No-Diary (Maturin) or Terrorism. (15 Apr 11)

III. Eddie Makes a Call

“They sat looking into the thickening shadows in the trees, where a million faces and a million stories lurked.”

Back in Cullum’s Galaxie, Eddie calls Cullum – while Roland does errands (What’s the difference between a bear and a pint of milk? / I don’t know, what is the difference? / I’m not going to send you on errands!) – and Cullum is primed as spear-carrier (I guess) in the Vacant Lot / Property Plot, and a grotesque ‘walk-in’ from those faces in the shadows didn’t even have a single solitary spear to carry before he was sacrificed to the lighthouse beam (as if a beam used by an old-fashioned cinema usherette, I reckon) showing a way through the “thickening shadows” or Narrative dimness for Roland and Eddie to reach  Fedic and Susannah, near the Dark Tower itself.  The readers – tourists or towerists like Roland – without humour and bearing dry twist like Roland – and one reader in particular pulls himself up by his bootstraps while still clutching at straws, and straining his eyes to read the book’s fine print… DON’T SHOOT THE READERS. [Please, Jean, don’t put my threads together as a single beam.] (15 Apr 11 – three hours later)

IV. Dan-Tete

No italic-slope or circumflex to ease the dry twist. THE THING distilled to a power-beam of text as Mia is watched by the co-Mother Suze – i.e. twin Mothers – as both give single birth (prompt-box via prompt-box) to the dan-tete – as I see it or imagine it – Penderecki boner, scuttling little-god,  in a nightmare-legged vision that few can have experienced because it’s hidden in this book away from the cameras.  Even Kings have a secret minority output during their stammers of the lonely night. Eddie and Roland are passing tutelary angels in  the ceiling-lights. I was there, too, at the birth of my own first child in 1971. Many many demon moons ago. And a baby is inhuman till you make it human.  All made sense, though, as soon as I knew about the ‘Ford’ floormat. [Like the carpet in ‘Nemonymous Night’.] (15 Apr 11 – another 3 hours later)

V. In the Jungle, the Mighty Jungle

“To his intense horror, something had crawled inside his head. Something like a mental hand. He thought it was probably the low man who had spoken to him through the door. The low man’s hand had found dials in some kind of Jake Chambers Dogam, and was fiddling with them.” [Sic: Dogam – in the edition of the book I’m reading.]

Dogma, God Ma, Go Mad… I think I mentioned before the Joycean ‘stream of consciousness’ in Odetta’s Ulysses-Molly’s-Monologue in an earlier DT book. Here we have Jake-‘Bama and Okay-Oy – with faddah now dinnah – escaping mind traps (Cern Zoo creatures that mix with the imagination of the Zoo-like (themselves) pursuers – crossed with Lions and Tokens of Karl Denver’s wimoweh – but naturally not affecting Oy-the-reader’s imagination because Oy/I sees/see what’s real and not real more clearly than the non-Reader characters within the book – in another stream of consciousness, mixed with an exquisitely Dickensian slip-slide of the past on ice by some Mrs Gamp character – and, YOU KNOW SOMETHING, the accrual and accretion of acclimatised neologisms, chants and wordy refrains (I’ve observed before in my RTR) become just like reading FINNEGANS WAKE – and my own nightmares grow in consequence. This last part of DT is definitely the best (so far), as J’Oy approaches the door  from THE PIG towards Fedic and into the arms of Susannah – the mind-trap and Zoo pursuers seemingly escaped… “Anyone who doesn’t think the imagination can kill is a fool.” (16 Apr 11)

VI. On Turtleback Lane

“It’s not a door of the old people but of the Prim -”

Well-characterised, and by-chance-stolid, John Cullum — ordinary Caretaker (taking a lift in the backseat of his own Galaxie) from a Maine’s lakeside past, amid storm and its gorgeous ‘genius loci’ conveyed by King (or ‘King’?) — is ‘knighted’, ka-tetted in long-term mission to manipulate  the various eventually giant well-known corporations vis a vis Deepneau, Carver, the Vacant Lot and the Rose &c.. Meanwhile, Steadier Eddier and surly-grounded Roland approach the house, Cara Laughs, No. 19, and the ‘door’ to be reunited with Fiduciary, nay Fediciary, Susannah (nowly reunited with J,Oy) and,  presumably, with post-Prim Mia and to meet her freshly farrowed offspring…? (16 Apr 11 – two hours later)

VII. Reunion

“Do any of us, except in our dreams, truly expect to be reunited with our hearts’ deepest loves, even when they leave us only for minutes, and on the most mundane of errands? No, not at all. Each time they go from our sight we in our secret hearts count them as dead. Having been given so much, we reason, how could we expect not to be brought as low as Lucifer for the staggering presumption of our love?”

At heart, the Dark Tower books seem to me to be about tussles (passive and active, conscious and sub-conscious, in synergy and conflict) between Trust and Distrust of thing, place, monster and “hume” in various permutations. Eddie and Susannah. Jake and Roland. Just two examples.  Reunited beyond the NY –> Fedic door. Oy at my feet. A Hume with his Locke. Another Lock with its Lost (or unfound) Key. (16 Apr 11 – another 30 minutes later)

Part  Two: Blue Heaven: Devar-Toi

I. The Devar-Tete

“The four reunited travelers (five, counting Oy of Mid-World) stood at the foot of Mia’s bed, looking at what remained of Susannah’s twim, which was to say her twin.” (Sic)

It is incredibly sad to watch in real-time Mia cease to be Mia… Meanwhile, palaver of settling unfinished business concerning the ‘roonting’ of twins from Calla – with the background of what has been learnt about the process since that ‘adventure’.  My inclination is to tell them to forget that loop or re-loop of a roonted-ruin of a busted shuffled flush, but to forge on, instead, to the Dark Tower itself.  But what do I know? Along an unsettling backtrail, though, is Mia’s ‘chap’, a were-spider – with ouroboric patricidal yen? – to do what else? To know what? Of me and you. Moi and toi. (16 Apr 11 – another hour later)

II. The Watcher

No italic slopes. Only one of the most poignant and mind/imagination-stretching passages in literature. Roland is one of its two fathers, this Kafkaesque were-spider (Mordred Deschain) that sups and sucks on a younger bumbler-version of Oy.  Reader turned helpless Watcher, soon turned Victim.  I am agog.  Also, as helper between this book’s own various victims (including King as ‘writer-bee‘), nice comparison with a new version of privy-ploded Robot Andy – i.e.  Nigel, as an obliging version, in turn, of the viral Internet.  Some very strong viral, virile, visceral prose, then, in this chapter. We are indeed entering rarefied territory with this seventh volume, I sense, that only we rarefied readers can enter, while the prose itself can only find us to enter and be read by. (16 Apr 11 – another 90 minutes later)

III. The Shining Wire

“The man had been quasi-immortal (a phrase at least as foolish as ‘most unique’) and made a legendary meal.”

While the ka-tet are off Wolfside with the Breakers (presumably), our mind/imagination is stretched insanely even further with the shining wire of narration. Mordred, as demonic spider-infant, that comes to rest like a babe in its cradle-web, this nurturing nursery of viral information, when Walter (of so many names he’s almost pure Nemonymity) comes to gloat or float vengeance towards Roland via this unpredictable bundle of baby-bunting that has Roland and the Crimson King as the Single Father in some sort of old-religion of natal-strands-as horoscopic-epoch way.  Not the modern Single Father. As Mia/Susannah was never the modern dependant Single Mother. Walter, Walter, poor old Walter, strung into dead pearls along the shining wire. And I once thought he was the indestructible Man in Black! How wrong could I have been. King never follows the obvious Path or Beam. I don’t know how he can live with so many names buzzing from his inkwell to the paper and from the wildly-wilful Fiction ka only he knows how to master, even though (it has to be admitted) he lets contrivances and riddles through to us perhaps collusively to prove he is not in control at all, but we are. Again, the Synchronised Shards of Random Truth and Fiction threaded now along the shining wire-garotte like living pearls, pearls of ‘autonymity’ (my word, not King’s, nor even Random Flagg’s). (16 Apr 11 – another 90 minutes later)

IV. The Door into Thunderclap

“We’ll cast about a little, the way hounds do when they’ve lost the scent, and see what we find.”

Not only looking for ‘doors’ but the constructive autonymity of creating great fiction works.  Eddie and Susannah in fond but onerous redistribution of a legless resource. Oy, through intuitive intentional-fallacy by backtrail, of course, scents the correct door for the ka-tet, leading via a Lewisian way-station wardrobe of wolves-hung-as-wolves’-clothing – and not todash chimes nor even thunderclap as such but thunderguts ensue. [Cf: Nausea in Sartre’s existentialism). (17 Apr 11)

V. Steek-Tete

“One was pushing  a flatcar filled with rusty I-beams.”

I’ve a rusty I-beam.  Anyway, this chapter comes clean about the previous chapter’s Narnianisms – also sneetches, Bosch paintings, and a world – out of nausea by fromdash – into a Clapham Junction of railtracks and sidings and warehouses where pre- and post-roonts are  processed, and where three of the workers – who teeter on name- or self-recognition from  erstwhile Tower-Darkbeams, including Roland’s own massive backstory from ‘Wizard & Glass’ – help our ka-tet, amid civilised, false-idyllic,  frontage townships (like film scenery?) amid a discornucopia of names and alter-genii-loci that I cannot possibly riddle out here. (17 Apr 11 – two hours later)

VI. The Master of Blue Heaven

“Time was goofy on this side,  just like direction, and you were apt to lose both quickly. Some folken lost their minds, as well.”

Many would say that quote’s where we are or were or will be – with these books. This chapter is a scatological caricature – a la Flann O’Brien? – where the can-toi, humes and taheen are beneath a pimply, shit-embracing, if mock-paternal, control in a Dickensian industrial-like community, or Thomas Love Peacock or Laurence Sterne or Mervyn Peake combined (and there are many direct literary references (not the ones I’ve just given) from our real world within this chapter), or … It is as if the equally paternal control of these books by whomseover (Stephen King or ‘Stephen King’) is being dished with sharp dishes of sacrilege, dishing the Beams of his carefully nurtured gestalt of a ‘Fantasy’ by this chapter, a chapter that in itself parallels the Breakers in this community (being spied on, too, by Mordred the Spider-Babe in a hammock above the place somewhere) breaking the Beams of the Plot and the Beams that do ley-line the imagination given to us readers by this quasi-Finnegans Wake of a book. It’s as if King (and this is an appropriate place to repeat this quotation by Fowles for obvious reasons) is facing up satirically to his own Terror at the Book he has created, his Terror at its ultimate patchwork Truth of Nightmare: “The nemo is an evolutionary force, as necessary as the ego. The ego is certainty, what I am; the nemo is potentiality, what I am not. But instead of utilizing the nemo as we would utilize any other force, we allow ourselves to be terrified by it, as primitive man was terrified by lightning. We run screaming from this mysterious shape in the middle of our town, even though the real terror is not in itself, but in our terror at it.” — John Fowles 1964 (from ‘The Necessity of Nemo’ in ‘The Aristos’). And there is also The Balcony… “…the Our Father running through his mostly unconscious mind like a circle of spinning red ribbon.” (17 Apr 11 – another 2 hours later)

VII. Ka-Shume

“‘Oy, I love you,’ Roland said,”

In redolent contrast with the previous chapter, here we have the ka-tet’s ka-shume, foreboding, weltschmerz … as they bond lovingly, ‘manfully-in-kiss-and-be-told’, before their campaign of breaking the Beam-Breakers, at what cost to the ka-tet? Serendipitously or as if they were intended to fulfil something long-planned, they have reached a cave-storehouse … of sneetches (see, I knew they’d crop up again after their brief mention in the previous chapter), other supplies, weapons, and above all an invalid, yet invaluable, trike for Susannah’s use. Meanwhile, in mis-synergy, we hear news, nearby, of spidrous Mordred bonding, too, but with  once living mutancies. A bonding form of eating. A wonderful chapter. A dark, forbidding chapter (and a ‘chapter’ as a coven or group can also mean the same as ka-tet.) (18 Apr 11)

VIII. Notes from the Gingerbread House

“It’s a place outside of time, outside of reality. I know you understand a little bit about the function of the Dark Tower; you understand its unifying purpose. Well, think of Gingerbread House as a balcony on the Tower: when we come here, we’re outside the Tower but still attached to the Tower.”

[I have, for me, some very important information to impart on a personal level and I trust you agree. This chapter ends with the significance of the Writer – of Stephen King or ‘Stephen King’ – and of saving him from his becoming roadkill  before the Beams are Broken, i.e. to cut a long story short into words that probably don’t convey the true sense of what you would gain by reading the long story itself. In any event, tied up with that (as it has been throughout all these books) is the no. 19.  And I’ve just realised that my real full name DESMOND FRANCIS LEWIS on my birth certificate (18 Jan 48) is made up of 19 letters!  I can’t explain what a striking revelation it has been in realising this today. Also, incidentally, my definitive collection of stories is THE LAST BALCONY, perhaps replete with relevant synchronicities and still semi-aborted fruition. And, so, I must don my ‘thinking cap’……] Meanwhile, this chapter concerns the trouble-shooter and trouble-absorber Ted Brautigan (Dharmically) reel-to-reel-taping (from the Gingerbread House)  a long narrative message to the ka-tet, regarding his life, his job here and the synchronicities connnected with his telepathy, also regarding Sheemie (from Roland’s backstory, a semi-roontish character whom I recall being connected with ‘camel piss’) and their colleague Dinky and of the ka-tet’s goals and pitfalls – and Ted Brautigan’s doorstepping the Ribbons of Reality implicit with the sub-plots of the Plot.  “…going along to get along.” (18 Apr 11 – another 5 hours later)

IX. Tracks on the Path

“‘You’re angry at him because he’s afraid? But…’ Jake frowned. ‘But wouldn’t he be afraid? He’s only a writer. A tale-spinner, not a gunslinger.’ […] ‘They tell tales because they’re afraid of life.'”

A short ‘Henry V’ type calm before harder action? Quiet palaver and the arrival of Ted, Dinky and a sick Sheemie… and the realisation that a 7-legged spider shape of a human-babe is surveilling… but does it know that they know?  (A chap in a thinking cap?) Are all readers animals of half human persuasion like Mordred or Oy? Meanwhile, are all writers quietly ambivalent in the fiction-reality risk they take but, once taken, needful of things from within that risk itself to come out from fiction into reality to save those who wrote them?  Rhetorical questions at this evening of today’s remarkable reading and dawning upon oneself. (18 Apr 11 – another 90 minutes later)

X. The Last Palaver (Sheemie’s Dream) 

“‘Do you think he can keep a secret?’ / ‘If no one asks him, he can,’ Ted said.”

A rumpus, a fit, an obsessive worship of Roland aka Will Dearborn, then considerations of Sheemie’s ‘illicit’, nigh self-destructive, whites-blood-spotted transportation ability, his dream of the Beam Boy (my expression, not the book’s), a dream sparking memories of similar forgotten dreams by others – a healthy form of my own ‘dream sickness’? – and how it answers which mission of the two should come first: (i) going back to the Keystone Earth to save the Writer who Writes their story or (ii) attacking Devar-Toi (Algul Siento) and its abominations and to free or divert its Breakers as part of attaining Dark Tower status or state beyond any dream state. If there is no other way, that way is right, I say. And the next chapter’s title answers the (i) and (ii) quandary. “I wonder if Stephen King ever uses dreams in his writing.” (19 Apr 11)

XI. The Attack on Algul Siento

“Any battle-seasoned general will tell you that, even in a small-scale engagement (as this one was), there always comes a point where coherence breaks down, and narrative flow, and any real sense of how things are going. These matters are re-created by historians later on. The need to re-create the myth of coherence may be one of the reasons why history exists in the first place.”

Toynbee, Popper … or the Gaddafery facing the world today? Friendly fire when coherence vanishes, and who’s fighting for or against whom. Indeed, the Colonel I can imagine calling his makeshift executioners “Piss-stinking yellow dogs…” as his death finishes the war?  Also, it is easy to forget that the aforementioned ‘coherence’ is akin to the Beams and their Paths and their Breakers mercenaries.  From the scatological, pus and snot of Pimpli Pimli et al (taheen, hume and other cern zoos of mayhem) to the wild gorinesses of this amazingly disseminated prose of battle, this is a Fighting Fable that grows chaotic and we are in doubt as to why Roland is Roland, even why I am I.  War-gaming which takes over the gamers.  And, heartbreakingly, too, there is deep ka-shume at the end of a chapter / ka-tet, an incredible literature’s ka-shume that is utterly justified as the next chapter’s title confirms. (19 Apr 11 – three hours later)

XII. The Tet Breaks

Publicly reviewing piecemeal in real-time one’s first reading of a fiction book is a special experience, making the reading even more significant.  I have never read The Dark Tower books before (although I have read most of its Writer’s other fiction as it came out from ‘Carrie‘ onwards). I somehow never fancied reading DT, until realising I hadn’t done so and wondering why, having just admitted this fact on the official Stephen King internet forum a few months ago, after real-time reviewing ‘Full Dark, No Stars’. The act of having now created a duty to report back here upon each of my readings (usually of whole chapters) accentuates a certain soul in these books that pre-existed (Jungianly? By todash?) a consequently discovered ‘coincidental-kindred’ soul in myself.  Indeed, the sadness of this particular chapter is enhanced (made even sadder) by this actively public real-time approach.  And I can empathise with the book’s next journey to find its Writer – and to preserve the Beam that brought me to this chapter today for the first time.  And I can also empathise with those who have been stopped in their tracks from sending out Wolves (quite innocently?) to bring back Calla children for sucking out their brains as part of a different process to stop that very process of bringing me each day (almost religiously) to these books.  I can’t explain it. Whatever the case, I shall follow the Path that Sheemie’s brave, almost kamikaze, efforts created for transporting me (in more senses of that word than one) back to the Keystone World of Writing.  Leaving any residual, selfishly-unpenitent Thunderclappers on their Tea Breaks. And, meantime, from that riddling-ridiculous to a sobbing-sublime, I can now ponder upon Susannah and her own terribly mournful mission.  And, so, here I am telling you about it having just pondered it for the first time in the last hour or two when absorbing the words I’d never read before today.  Makes it somehow an actual experience of life shared as well as lived, rather than a lonely experience of merely reading a book or kindle quietly in my study. (19 Apr 11 – another 2 hours later)

Part Three: In This Haze of Green and Gold: Ves’-Ka Gan

I. Mrs Tassenbaum Drives South

“No, Mrs Tassenbaum and her rich-as-Croesus dot-com husband would be gone back to Jew York as soon as they saw the first colored leaf fall.”

Roland, Jake and Oy – in media res – are stage centre in StephenKingLand even before the safety-curtain lifts. They press-gang Mrs T from her shopping – a still-waters-run-deep feisty lady now abandoning her Primness – to drive them in a truck to the Writer’s known constitutional-site – while, elsewhere, another driver (looks like Sheemie?), with rotties in the back, is hell-bent, fate-bent, ka-bent, heading towards his appointment with World  News: encroaching on the hard-shoulder of the world’s biggest, dry-twisted Author. A paradox of a conundrum, inasmuch as the Author wrote of those saving him as well as him killing him, so who’s the biggest joke, him or them? Well, the whole chapter is a delightful joke, in any event. And did Oy say the F word at Mrs T’s driving? And did I say it also when someone claimed today that this book was a limp anticlimax to the whole DT series? (19 Apr 11 – another 3 hours later)

II. Ves’-Ka Gan

“…; his [King’s] eyes were shocked zeroes.”  [Cf: Mike O’Driscoll’s story – in Nemonymous One (2001) – entitled DOUBLE ZERO FOR EMPTINESS which was a fictional treatment of King’s real-life incident of being knocked down by a vehicle while walking along the road in 1999.]  (19 Apr 11 – another hour later)

[BTW, I was born on 18th January. Other birthdates that should figure more predominantly among DT readers: 17 Feb, 16 Mar, 15 Apr, 14 May, 13 Jun, 12 Jul, 11 Aug, 10 Sep, 9 Oct, 8 Nov, 7 Dec.]  [I note someone said elsewhere than SK’s books often need editing, especially the end of DT. I think DT is what it is and, if it had been more heavily edited, it wouldn’t be the same book at all. If it is perceived as a ‘mess’ here at the end, it is a constructive one because, I feel, the Writer (Stephen King or ‘Stephen King’) became scared at the Beams and Paths he had created centring on himself and he did his best to mess them up (or got others of the  ‘incoherent history’ friendly-fire brigade to do it) so he could remain safe. Us, too.] (20 Apr 11)

“‘Is it a dog? It isn’t, exactly, is it?’ / ‘He, not it. And no, he’s not a dog.”

Or dogpoet? In fact Oy is central to this astonishing chapter in the annals of literary fantasy or literature itself conjoined with the souls of various genres – an incredibly touching threnody as a hybrid of the real attributable, news-reported life of King (his accident) and the Synchronised Shards of Random Truth and Fiction – with this Writer’s well-known accident being grafted upon the death or ache or ‘Ake’ of his own youthful self (here in metaphor provided by one of the book’s well-worn, deep-ka-teted fiction characters) in conjunction with the Writer’s own even more well-worn astrological ‘dignity’ or his alter ego or (the best word of all perhaps) his Nemo , i.e. represented by Roland … not only watched or read about by the reader (Oy) but also actually subsumed or suffused with and through the reader-we/us (Oy and Yo) as part of the spirituality of events: Oy’s and Roland’s further ceremony of bereavement, Mrs T’s female suffering, female yearning for fruition, and then a sort of fruition alone at night with Roland – and later, in great wisdom, primeness as well as primness, she drives R,Oy (‘Roy’ being another word for King!) to New York…  It’s almost as if I’ve now become part of the book’s ka myself and was always destined to do so, here in my own maturity and, of course, always having been roughly the same age as King.  “If this is what comes when I close my eyes, he thought, what will my dreams be like?” (20 Apr 11 – another two hours later)

III. New York Again  (Roland Shows Id)

“On the street, people had been hurrying with their heads down and looks of distracted concentration on their faces, as if they were deliberately not seeing the delicate and perishable beauty of the day which had been given them;”

A chapter near the erstwhile Vacant Lot (with its rose protected within office spaces as the Carver, Deepneau and Cullum once vowed it would be – but there are so many interconnections here I cannot cover them all) – a nirvana laced with New York stanchions of property grown not disordered or towards sick-building syndrome but maturely with health and vision, a chapter that starts with Mrs T and R,Oy in the peaceful-thinking Turtle Garden near the good-syndrome building upon the Vacant Lot, then Roland meeting, within that building, the ‘with-the-grain’ descendants of this book’s people from different ribbons of reality, including a palaver about those Calvins who spend their lives reading all Stephen King’s books to chart references to the Dark Tower syndrome. In fact, by dint of this real-time reviewing technique of mine since 2008, I seem likely to be one of those in that sect or clan of King Exegesists …… but, on the other hand, I might be –(as I suddenly and genuinely dread to think, with R’Oy bidding touching farewell to Mrs T, and then returning via the doorful remains of the Dixie Pig to Fedic – and to Susannah, no doubt)– yes, I might be, the opposite; I might be anti-ka; anti-real-time. “Roland thought of his own belief that the Red King was locked out of the Tower, on a kind of balcony.” (20 Apr 11 – another 4 hours later)

IV. Fedic (Two Views)

“But ka is the wheel to which we all are bound and when the wheel turns we must perforce turn with it, first with our heads up to heaven and then revolving hell-ward again, when the brains inside them seem to burn.”

The Weirdmonger Wheel? Indeed this is Part Three’s post-bereavement Coda (or de-briefing) where I take stock of my own intentions, as R’Oy are reunited with Susannah and with some backtrails concerning her reDoganing excursions and the fate of earlier acquaintances like Ted Brautigan — and, elsewhere, Stephen King speculates upon any control over what he writes and that good books are like writing a sudden unexpected rodeo ride rather than a long anticipated peanut butter and jelly sandwich (my expresssion, not King’s, but some of his words if not mine). Meanwhile, a word seems nagging at all of us: characters, writers and readers collaborating alike:  and that word is Dandelo.  [Odd Lane?]  (20 Apr 11 – another 3 hours later)

Part Four: The White Lands of Empathica: Dandelo

I. The Thing Under The Castle

“Outside the barrel of the Tower, at what might have been fifty-foot intervals, were balconies encircled with waist-high wrought-iron railings. On the second of these was a blob of red and three tiny blobs of white: a face that was too small to see, and a pair of upraised hands.”

R,Oy,S are travelling under the castle beyond the residuals of Sayre towards the Dark-Towerisms of actual dénouement as harnessed within self-goals  – with the help or hindrance of spluttering lights and torches – and R,Oy,S are pursued in the skeleton-darkness – more and more overtly – by a monster worthy of comic books, of Robert E. Howard, of HPL &c., being one of the best Horror head-gaunts that I’ve ever met in and out of fiction, in and out of dream, in and out of the future, in and out of life, in and out of death, except, here, this particular monster transcends the ‘comic’ and ‘horror’ books and, for me, resides in all the in-and-out places at once …. (21 Apr 11)

II. On Badlands Avenue

“‘If the Crimson King’s gone, and if the Path of the Beam lies that way–‘ She pointed. ‘Why do we need to go to his damn old castle at all?'”

A darkly evocative rite of passage – still possibly pursued by the head-gaunt or by Mordred – as R,Oy,S cross the Badlands towards their goal, with such seeping cold, there is speculation and envy about the use of Oy’s warm hide!  [And there are convenient finds (including a motorised rickshaw for S) at the rite’s outset – coincidental / synchronous / serendipitous  or just plain narratively convenient?] (22 Apr 11)

III. The Castle of the Crimson King

“Susannah didn’t believe she had ever seen a person roll just one eye before.”

…or become trapped upon the no-man’s land of a balcony.  This chapter has shape-changelings, including Mordred  giving those he pursues a bit of slack, while he feasts on the three physically identical King-ons who had, in turn, tried to fool the residual ka-tet with a Baffley Fable of basket-contents also shape-changing from comforters of sustenance and warmth into scatological and longpig-blubbery merds, and our ka-tet gets back Beam-rightfully towards the Blakean ‘Los’ (or Crimson King) at the Dark Tower via Wagnerian mindscapes. Earlier there was defiant wood that hates us and now wood that doesn’t hate us & can be burnt for warmth. This Book, meantime, is made of its own defiant wood not for Kindling.  And S’s mouth’s pimli pimple is not for squeezing out or even keemo…. (22 Apr 11 – three hours later)

IV. Hides

“He made a little pile of kindling which Susannah shielded with her hands.”

A fascinatingly redolent portrait – Robinson-Crusoe or LOST-like – of R and S game hunting, and then de-braining – cherting the carcasses – preparing their hides for wearing.  While S thinks – almost with sorrow – of Mordred close by in the cold, still on their tail. I personally wonder if Mordred can see the faces of his father? [Meanwhile, I have an apology to make for an earlier genuinely unintended spoiler. I have just seen the title of the next chapter for the first time. When I saw ‘Dandelo’ earlier, I had a sense it was significant, possibly an anagram, and I (just for interest) thought of the most appealing anagram I could think of at that time made from its letters and I came up with ‘Odd Lane’.  I thought that was a good expression and a great name for a byway (and not, incidentally, a reference to the excellent weird fiction writer, Joel Lane, either!)] (22 Apr 11 – another 2 hours later)

V. Joe Collins of Odd’s Lane

“Sympathy was to respect the feelings of another. Empathy was to actually share those feelings. Why would folks call any land Empathica? / And why would this pleasant old man lie about it?”

For me, one of the strongest passages in Stephen King’s canon, and I don’t say that lightly. It has to be read. But suffice to say here: R,Oy,S are entertained by Joe of Odd‘s Lane – a down-to-earth but erstwhile stand-up comedian, salt of the American Earth, who has settled here, for a variety of reasons, just  a few days from the Dark Tower (he has a polaroid of it on his wall) in the White (snowy) Lands – today plying his guests with simple culinary delights and egg nogs (except that Oy has his own dinner) – plying them, too, with Jokes, to the uncharacteristic laughter of Roland. [He also mentions that, many years before, he had a serious boil on his bottom that needed lancing. I did, too, in 1992. In fact, mine needed a general anaesthetic.] During the jollity, Susannah accidentally hits her own face and, consequently, her mouth ‘boil-sore’ gushes with blood. I, too, have experience of cold sores that act similarly. And I recall vaguely a cold sore on a character’s mouth in “Wizard and Glass“. Susannah’s however is a whole new ball game of a ‘sore’ or pimple or…, as is her liaison with certain synchronicities while in the bathroom tending to her ‘wound’. (22 Apr 11 – another 3 hours later)

VI. Patrick Danville

“‘Did Stephen King put him in our way?’ / ‘I can’t say, only that he knew of him, sure.’ He paused. ‘The Tower is so close. Do you feel it?'”

If one looks at my master list of all my real-time reviews, you will see I am scrupulous about obviating spoilers.  Here, did anyone know of what was to happen?  And who Joe was and whom he kept from King-stores, someone transcending ‘Eraserhead’ to draw pencil sketches of masterly skill. Then, Bill, a stammering robot, transcending erstwhile Andy and Nigel and transcending even the King’s Speech.   Oy is sketched beautifully in pointillism, I sense. I feel the sharp lead pencil-point in every pore.  I feel hopeful, yet I may represent my own downfall, as we approach (Mordred permitting) the end-game in End-World – and as I approach  (during the sleeplessness that besets me between review sections) my own last balcony? (22 Apr 11 – another 3 hours later)

I don’t think it is a mere coincidence that – as Roland approaches the Dark Tower – it is St George’s Day today, 23 April.  The Patron Saint of England where I live and who fought his Dragon.   And I should add at this point that, perhaps, the Childe Roland Browning poem, ostensibly so important, is a cover or decoy for even more important and more dangerous subtexts.  Incoherent History at work again? (23 Apr 11)

Part Three: The Scarlet Field of Can’-Ka No Rey

I. The Sore and the Door (Goodbye, My Dear). 1 -13

“Roland smiled back. And it occurred to her again that soon she would see him no more, this man she’d believed was either a mirage or a daemon before she had come to know him both an-tet and dan-dinh.”

Susannah’s dreams – and dumb-tongued Patrick ‘drawing’ her in all senses of that word we’ve learnt gradually into gestalt from the King’s Speech, then erasing the pencil’s sore … the King’s stammering robot with a CD of ‘Hey Jude’ in his vehicle’s player – and an Unfound Door significant to the ever-towering Tower. Unfound – Lost?  We drift with our own drawing close or closer to closed or open… (23 Apr 11 – another 90 minutes later)

14 – 19

“Reality is seldom a thing of black and white, I think, of is and isn’t, be and not be.”

Commala-mala-Mahler-Das Lied Von Erde-in-todash-chimes-and-gongs – a poignant farewell by Susannah-in-and-out-with-Detta as ‘she’ takes the ‘tic-katet to ride’ through the Unfound Door picked out from Time’s Lost Lobstrosities by Patrick’s pencil’s tics and traces.  Oy can not, will not accompany her, as am in for the final joust of pen-oriza and dream-reality dragon / dogan… (23 Apr 11 – three hours later)

II. Mordred

Patrick cringed away from him with a doglike, placatory smile…”

It is almost as if Patrick becomes, by ‘drawing’, Oy myself. I cannot sob. It was simply a trope of review. I was never Oy. Oy was never me. How could we have been each other? And, as I feel Patrick drawing the rose (here close to the Dark Tower, a rose equivalent but ever ‘rosier’ than the rose in the erstwhile Vacant Lot) I am reminded again that today (April 23) is St George’s Day. Just google ‘rose’ and ‘st george’ and gasp with serendipitous revelation! And Roland ‘murdered’ someone called ‘murdered’ who first murdered moyder…  The spider who had a Joycean monologue in this chapter, a very strong chapter of scatology and eschatology.  As we listen to the Speech rhythms of “the old King’s Voice when he had promised that Roland should die of old age before he so much as touched the door in the Tower’s base.” (23 Apr 11 – another 90 minutes later)

III. The Crimson King and the Dark Tower

“Some moments are beyond imagination.”

For me the perfect pre-Epilogue, pre-Coda ending for this book. So perfect in fact, I wonder if I shall ever forget this experience as a dark journey of self-blame or always remember it as my personal triumphant End-World, End-Life crystallisation in reading literature over 60 years? Anything else I happen to read before I die merely its coda? [It is remarkable that a book of mine that I’ve had on the stocks for nearly two years now (a second collection of my stories) and originally prepared for a certain publisher at his request: as my sort of last bow: and I then suggested to him the overall title ‘The Last Balcony’ that suddenly came to me on a discussion forum here. But I later erased that book unilaterally, a fact that is on record in several places.]  I wonder if all great books like ‘Dark Tower’ are designed to be highly personal, highly bespoke to each reader. Also like Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time‘. [Which is perhaps, now, in hindsight, resonant with my Weirdtongue Palaver blog (“EEEEEEEEEEEEEE! YOU! DON’T DARE MOCK ME! YOU DON’T DARE! EEEEEEEEEEEEE!”) posted by me this morning on another subject.] And the ‘Lost Time’ in Roland’s last watch.   And, meanwhile, Patrick’s pencil sketch being suffused now with a plucked or dry-twisted-out rose is, as an imagination-leap, almost too sublime to bear. And, meantime, again, today, on St George’s Day, I surely can’t pass over this unexpected quote in this chapter: “It’s his eyes, Roland thought. They were wide and terrible, the eyes of a dragon in human form.” (23 Apr 11 – another 90 minutes later)

Epilogue: Susannah in New York

Is this the Keystone World? Is Ronald Reagan President? Of course not!  But S,O,O is soooo pleased to see her Eddie again? It’s as if I’ve fallen in love all over again with this series of books called DARK TOWER? Re-read them all without having read them before.

I shall not be reviewing the CODA as this looks to be an Author’s Note in disguise that has no place in a pukka real-time review.  But I shall be reading it as well as other intros and author’s notes I’ve missed out so far in a striving for Ligottian Purity.  I shall now also read reviews of these books by others. So do ya? Long Nights and Pleasant Days.  Or more correct words to that effect.

END (23 Apr 11 – another 19 minutes later)

EDIT (27 Apr 12): My RTR of ‘The Wind in the Keyhole”


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10 responses to “The Dark Tower: THE DARK TOWER

  1. Pingback: My Real-time Reviews of Books by Other Writers | DF Lewis's Real-Time Reviews

  2. Pingback: My Real-Time Reviews of Stephen King (The Dark Tower etc) | My Last Balcony

  3. Pingback: Double Zero For Emptiness – by Mike O’Driscoll | My Last Balcony

  4. Further expansion on the connection above between SK’s DT books and Mike O’Driscoll’s ‘Double Zero for Emptiness’:

  5. The CK on his last redoubt balcony spinning out oriza-sneetches reminded me of Gaddafery… Syriacs … Gbagbos …. Yemmings over the cliff

  6. I have now read the CODA – and I feel justified in not including it within the overall real-time review. It is, at best, for me, an Apocrypha.

    Since starting this real-time review, I have heard that it is now proposed to create a film series of THE DARK TOWER (in the mould of the greatest ever TV series alongside ‘Twin Peaks’, i.e. LOST?) and that an ‘inkwell’ novel (‘The Wind Through the Keyhole’) is also to be published next year, a volume that should find its place between ‘Wizard and Glass’ and ‘Wolves of Calla’.

    Oy hope that you found new illuminations in my real-time review as well as as old, i.e. saying: “Gertcha!” to me as well as “Oh yes, I wonder why I hadn’t thought of that.”

  7. It just occurred to me that yesterday was not only St George’s Day but also the middle of Easter weekend according to the Paschal Cycle. That also seems significant in hindsight relating to Roland of Gilead’s final approach to his Dark Tower..

  8. “…he had wanted to kill the Crimson King, not merely send him into some null zone.”
    — The Dark Tower VII

    Null Immortalis

    Now over to others….

  9. I just watched Citizen Kane – Xanadu = The Dark Tower. But Rosebud?

    I suppose a ‘rosebud’ sled (an iconic image) on snow or ice would have been the diametrical opposite to most of the hard-pushed, friction-jolting contraptions that Susannah had to endure as transportation? (Kane’s Xanadu appears like the Dark Tower itself on the editions of the books I own.)

    [And Kane begins Ka…]

    And someone else has mentioned, after seeing my theory above, that ‘The Horn of Eld” = Rosebud ?

    PS: There seems to be a resonance between ‘roland’ and ‘rosebud’, and in fact there was a Roland Rosebud in this list of Montana Indians:

  10. Just to say, that while reviewing the whole Dark Tower series (which was a sort of bizarre random choice on my part as well as a massive task), it turned out to be incredibly serendipitous for me personally, as those reading my review will likely attest. Also, I discovered, during this reviewing period, that a film and TV series – probably akin to the LOST series that was in turn influenced *by* The Dark Tower according to much evidence I amassed – are soon to be produced. Here is the news tracker on that score:

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