Sunday, July 27, 2014
Keys to the Kingdom
Like Lisey's Story, Duma Key is a tale of losing something precious and finding something horrible. It's also an excursion into stunning visions of beauty.
People like to talk about the way King builds characters and settings an awful lot, and it's true - most of King's characters, even his most minor characters, are typically round and dynamic; the towns that King builds are eerily present as you read his novels. But none of that really stands up to the way he gives you his eyes.
Duma Key has a great story and lots of interesting people and takes place on a spooky Key off the coast of Florida, but most of all the novel paints pictures for you. There's very little in it that you'd be fuzzy on if you were pressed to draw it - everything from the Bride of the Godfather's shoes to a chain of rainbow-colored frogs to anger-management dolls is described in vivid and disturbing detail, raising the highlights and shadows to the brilliant contrast of a sunset over the water.
The novel as a whole is pretty damned solid - not as firm and frightening as The Stand or The Shining, perhaps - but the real triumph of the story is in the seeing. Duma Key makes its gifts and its nightmares clear to the reader and you're trapped within its feral beauty for better or for worse.
Largely it's for better. I don't think Duma Key is anyone's favorite King work, but it's well worth reading if only because it will drive you to create. Art is a gift, and the gift is hungry - this is what King passes on, more than anything else, with Duma Key.
King, Stephen. Duma Key. Scribner. New York: New York. 2008.