So, here we are at Elevation.
I was actually kind of excited to re-read this one. I didn’t really like it the first time through, but I’ve come across enough King fans who legitimately loved it to make me wonder if I just missed something the first time. So I was looking forward to it… then I put off writing the post while I thought about it, and thought about it, and thought some more. And now, when I’m finally getting to it, I’m in a weird headspace on the whole concept of losing someone because personal life things happened, and I’m feeling a connection, but I’m not actually sure what I think about it. So, I’m also not sure what, if anything, is going to come out of this post… apologies in advance if it gets weird, I guess. Also, my opinions on this one are probably subject to change in a different headspace. I mean, that’s always true, but it’s probably more true for this one than usual.
Let me get this out of the way first: I don’t really like this one. Or I didn’t when I first read it, and I didn’t when I reread it for this… though maybe that’s changed some. I’ll get to that. Anyway, I don’t think that’s the fault of the story. I thought it was just a personal taste thing. But now I think it might be a state-of-mind thing.
This isn’t King’s first story about a big man inexplicably losing weight… Thinner was the first, and that one freaked me out when I first read it (I was maybe 12), and then I read it again and again and again. You can find my post on it here — I don’t think it’s held up that well, it doesn’t scare me as much anymore, and I’m not particularly patient with the protagonist. But I probably still liked it better than I liked this when I was reading it. Although now that I say that, it sounds like pointless complaining just to complain. Scott Carey, the protagonist of Elevation, is more or less the polar opposite of Billy from Thinner. Scott has pretty much none of the qualities I dislike about Billy. I like Scott. I think it would be hard not to unless you’re one of those people who think treating people with respect is a sign of weakness or something. I’m not one, though, so I can like Scott.
I’m probably making a slightly unfair comparison here, too. In some ways, comparing Elevation and Thinner is a little like comparing Christine and From a Buick 8, where one is about a possessed car and one is not about a car at all but does have as a central plot point a thing that looks like a car, but isn’t, and that does weird shit (but not car shit, because it’s not a car. It just looks like one because it has to look like something.) These things are only the same on an extremely surface level, they have nothing at all to do with one another, and it’s silly to act like they have a lot in common. And yet, they do invite the comparison. As do Thinner and Elevation. They’re not really different versions of the same story. Scott isn’t even actually losing weight like Billy was — he’s getting lighter, which is different. It’s as if he were being filled with helium, really. So they aren’t the same… yet they do invite comparison. And between the two, I thought I’d rather have Thinner. Most of the time, I probably would. And yet…
Elevation just didn’t grab me. That’s the best reason I can come up with. It’s not because Elevation isn’t scary — it isn’t, but King’s written plenty of unscary work that I like. It isn’t even because it’s an unscary story set in Castle Rock, because that describes the Gwendy books too, mostly, and I like Gwendy fine. So what is it? It bugs me because this is probably a better-written story than Thinner, definitely has more characters I like than Thinner, and is set in a place I’m interested in — Castle Rock. I love going back there. I don’t usually mind when we don’t figure out why the weird thing happens, so the fact that it was never explained doesn’t bug me. I don’t mind exploring the concepts of loss and acceptance, which seem to be some of the main ones this book is concerned with. Why did I not like it?
Here’s the thing… I read this book weeks ago and have been ruminating about it. Then a thing happened — not to me, so I’m not going to go into any detail, but it was closely enough related to me to make me have feelings about loss. And acceptance… of loss, anyway. And when thoughts about that crossed paths with thoughts about this book, it suddenly clicked for me. Not that I really saw anything new in it, but I did see how it might seem like a great story if you’re in a certain kind of mindset and headspace. One that I wasn’t in or anywhere near during either reading of Elevation, but one that I am in now. Or at least that I’m closer to now. I kind of like thinking about the story right now. But when my emotions and mental state move back to something more routine, I’m guessing I might find it boring again. Although, now that I know, I may purposely pull this one out when I’m in one of these moods.
I guess I’ve always known that you enjoy certain things differently depending on your mood and mindset, and that’s as true for books as it is for music or food or whatever else. It’s just that as a lifelong bookworm, I so rarely run into a book that I don’t like or am bored with unless I’m feeling a certain way. Some of them I like more when I’m feeling a particular way, but I’ve never encountered being bored with a story while feeling one set of emotions, then engaging with the story under a different set of mental/emotional circumstances. It’s fascinating.
So, if you’re like me, and didn’t see what all the fuss was about, try it again when you’re feeling loss, or when you’re in a place where you know you need to accept something you don’t like. See if it hits different. (Also, I hope it sits on a shelf untouched for a good long time because I don’t wish loss on anyone. But I do know that it’s inevitable, so when it comes along eventually, do give this a try.)