People are Only Rational on the Surface

(Christine)

So, I think Christine might be the most horror-novel-type horror novel I’ve read of King’s so far this re-read. Even the main human monster in this book died early on and became a dead human monster, which grounded us firmly in the realm of the supernatural. I mean, a book about a killer car can’t be much else, I suppose.

And I feel like Christine really is a book about a killer car. I know we haven’t gotten there yet, but you know how It really isn’t a book about a killer clown? How it’s really so much about abuse, and neglect, and hate, and about how adults so often fail to protect children from these things — or maybe perpetrate these things themselves? How it’s about small town secrets? How it’s about growing up and figuring out if you’re really even still the same person you were as a kid? How even the killer clown isn’t even actually a clown?

Yeah, Christine is not like that. There’s definitely a killer car. And it’s definitely a car. It’s not as if Christine is devoid of metaphor and deeper meaning, but it also is very intentionally a book about a haunted car that kills a lot of people, and the brave teenage heroes who stopped it… or did they?

There is some plot weirdness in this book. The narrator sort of implies that Roland LeBay died because the thug that was picking on Arnie at the garage broke the car’s headlight. It was just an image he had… but are we supposed to think that’s what happened? Because that doesn’t make a ton of sense if so… the car gets banged up far worse than that in future chapters, and Arnie is all right. Physically, anyway.

And what exactly is possessed here? Arnie? The car? Both? By the same entity or different ones? It’s murky. At some points it reads as if the spirit of Roland LeBay is possessing both Arnie and the car. Double possession of both a person and an inanimate object seems unusual in possession fiction, but I’ll take it. But in other passages, it seems clear that the car has its own — demon? Monster? Possessing spirit? Something that infected first LeBay and then Arnie, but came with the car. And the car’s spirit or energy or vibe is consistently referred to as female, but of course LeBay was not just male, but textbook toxic male — unlikely that toxic female energy came from him. And on top of all that, everyone who is killed by the car may be a ghost who’s now connected to the car. Or maybe they’re just projections? It’s unclear.

So it’s all a little muddled. To the point that I sort of wonder whether I’m crazy and missing a throughline or if it was supposed to be that way or if these points were some kind of weird oversight. I don’t mind that it’s like that — it’s a killer car. How that happened can be muddled, as far as I’m concerned. And it’s told from the perspective of a narrator who can’t possibly explain how this happened, so maybe that was the point. He may have been trying to say “here’s what happened, you try to make it make sense if you want.”

I don’t really want, although I’d take an explanation if offered. But I also like the killer car book as it is. I found myself thinking a lot about this from Leigh’s perspective this time. If you’ve been a teenage girl, maybe you’ve experienced having a boyfriend who suddenly seemed to switch personalities, or goals, or who got angry a lot for no obvious reason and never really explained why, or who seemed to become a whole different person than when you were first dating. I know that I’ve experienced that. You don’t even need a killer car for this to quickly become a story of having a terrifying boyfriend, if viewed from Leigh’s point of view. That could have been an interesting book, too, but it wouldn’t have been supernatural — that happens all the time.

There’s an ‘83 movie of Christine that I don’t actually think I’ve ever seen. I know it’s something of a cult classic. I don’t know if it’s any good. I have trouble imagining that some things that car did in the book will ever actually look good on screen, in ‘83 or now for that matter. This book might be one that’s better off visualized inside the imagination.

Christine is seen again in other books, I’m pretty sure. Just in passing. Or evidence of her, at least. Christine seems to mainly be attached to the same level of the tower that The Stand happened on, but I think she could conceivably pop up elsewhere. This tracks with her probable comeback in the end of the book. I kind of like that instead of writing an actual sequel, King just brought her up again to show that she’s still around doing her thing, despite having been crushed up. She’s part of the multiverse. She shows up in backgrounds or credits of other King-related adaptations for large or small screen, too. I don’t think this means anything — I think it’s just a fun Easter egg for fans — but I feel like this adds to the feeling that she’s just looming out there in the multiverse. Did she get Leigh, and the narrator of Christine? Does she have a new kill list? Who knows, but she’s out there, and so is blood and death.

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