I will admit to being completely confused for approximately the first twenty pages. Who is Fred, Who is George and who is Barton Dawes. And why, I ask, does Harry Potter really have to crop up everywhere (Fred and George Weasley)? To the latter point, I am obsessed. Enough said.
While Roadwork, like other of King’s early writings, feels dated, the general principle of the story still stands. In fact, I think that it is a story more applicable today than it was at the time it was written. Dawes lost his son to cancer, and after that, he goes mad with the news that both his neighbourhood and the laundry where he worked are going to be demolished to make way for a new interstate highway.
One of the most dated parts of Roadwork is the idea that everything is fixed, and largely unchanging People of my generation and younger no longer live in a society where things are stable as they once were. We do not often hear of people my age buying a house and living there until retirement. We talk of ‘starter houses’ with the expectation we will sell and move somewhere bigger when we can afford it. We are in hock past our heads because we fall victim to car dealers and their pitch that we always need the latest and greatest of everything. We just bought a vehicle two years ago. Bought, not leased. Our car dealer is barging us with literature, saying we need to upgrade our vehicle. And speaking of vehicles, cars from the 1930’s through 1960’s are rare but not novel occurrences on the road. Will our 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan still be running in 2093? Doubtful. Television repair places – repair places of pretty much any sort – are not at all common, not only because of the big box stores, but because it has become cheaper to replace electronics than repair them. Bearing all of this in mind, I think it less likely that a Barton Dawes could occur. Crazies who are prepared to blow up their houses can and will still happen, but we are a culture of change now.
Important political issues aside, my absolute favourite part of this story was when Bart took mescaline. Here’s why:
‘HIs words and come out in a vestal series of musical notes . . . The words came out in notes again, and this time some of them had flags . . . He giggled again, and the giggles streamed musically out of his mouth and in front of his eyes, crystal notes on liens and spaces, broken by bars and rests . . . This time the notes came out in a straight line, all of them herring notes with flags . . . ”Drop?’ The word dropped out of his mouth in letters, fell to the carpet, and dissolved there.’ (The Bachman Books, p 635, 636, 638).
Reading this, I wanted to partake of masculine myself. Except for the possible bad trip, potential arrest, and possible death, I think it would be a worthwhile experience.
I wasn’t at all sure what to expect with Roadwork, but am happy to say that I was not disappointed. King, unlike so many other authors, rarely writes a story with a disappointing ending. He’s not afraid to blow up a man, that’s for damn sure.