This month's selection was the 1989 novel The Dark Half by Stephen King.
plot: Thad Beaumont is a successful writer, only most of his fans had no idea who he was as he wrote under the name George Stark. That is until he decides to do a tell all in a national magazine. Before long, Beaumont finds himself not just the center of attention but the center of a series of brutal murders. The local police attempt to arrest him after the first death occurs, but find he was nowhere near the actual crime scene when it happened. Before long, it's revealed that someone believing themselves to be the alter ego Stark, is in fact committing the murders and framing Beaumont. While this is happening, Beaumont starts to experience headaches and black outs that he had thought were long buried in his past. As the local police begin to investigate, the sheriff uncovers more that a few linking factors to Beaumont's current situation and his past. The key elements being a strange swarm of sparrows that only seem to have appeared in Beaumont's life at the time of his brain surgery. The sheriff has to then disregard his own belief system if he's to get to the bottom of the mystery that is Stark.
I have to admit, I'm not too sure where to start with this one given there have been actual classes taught on the themes and subject matter in every inch of King's works.
The topic of twins comes up -pardon the pun- more than once. We have the characters of Beaumont and Stark having been twins who come from a long family that's had twins in multiple generations. Beaumont admits that his wife had miscarried twins at the start of their marriage before finally having a second set of twin children.
The idea of an alter ego is brought up commenting on the Jekyll and Hyde aspect nearly all writers carry in them in order to work. As well as the comparison to Frankenstein; with a mention of the fact if the Stark character can't create he will uncreate, much like the comments made in the novel Frankenstein.
The Stark character because it is a "twin", is a Doppelganger. He calls himself a vampire more than once, reveling in the idea that his capacity to take "life" in order to create it in story form makes him a psychic vampire. This lends itself to the deep rooted psychic link the two "writers" have. This also leads him to being the best version of a Tulpa you can come up with. A thoughtform believed in so strongly it manifests in the physical.
The character of Beaumont at one point calls Stark a ghost, leading to the fact he's not suppose to be a physical reality. I find it interesting that the character of Stark only manifests in the beginning as a result of grief and addiction.
And then of course we have the addiction theme running strong here. Like any vampire in mythology, Stark is addicted to his violent nature and Beaumont is addicted to the freedom Stark allows him to have. Stark is the freedom of desire that Beaumont would otherwise be denied. He's the permission slip of bad behaviour.
The addiction leads to the doubt of sanity in what clearly is a fractured reality. The imagery of windows and mirrors are used when the character of Stark's existence is threatened, like when he's examining himself while layering make-up to hide his flaws, or when the two are finally sitting side by side in the windowless room with the mirrored door.
The bulk of the story takes place in a 2 week timeframe, with flashbacks to Beaumont's childhood. I loved the weaknesses that the main character of Beaumont had with his addiction and self doubt. There is a complete scene where he's actually comparing himself to a character in a story, talking about how in a perfectly pictured novel the heroes and villains never need a bathroom break or a moment to rethink their last decision.
One of my favourite elements of this story, is the other professor. The character of Rawlie DeLesseps, who ends up being the token supernatural expert and I'm assuming based a bit on Hunter S. Thompson. It's the first time we are given an real explanation to what the sparrows might mean.
There is this nearly delicious moment of pure uncertainty near the end of the novel where you start to see the two halves blending into each other, and you're left thinking the Stark side is about to come out on top. You soon realize that as the character of Stark relaxes into his personal victory, the character of Beaumont has sacrificed his own version of reality in order to end the addiction. He gives up so much in order to just hang on to what he's currently got.
Okay, and I think I'll end it here. I will be back later in the week with the official announcement for next month's book selection.