Thursday Reviews: Last Words, Pet Sematary

Last Words

By George Carlin with Tony Hendra

I’m linking the hardcover because the full-length audio I listened to is no longer available on Amazon. Thanks, Recorded Books.

Anyway, I grew up on George Carlin. Yes, my prudish parents actively encouraged me to watch Carlin’s HBO specials. As an adult, I watched as Carlin’s material became darker and angrier. In the meantime, I learned listening to this his autobiography, co-written and completed by satirist Tony Hendra, it was this time in his life he became happier. With the exception of the death of his wife, Brenda, Carlin was more in control of his life, his art, and his philosophy. Carlin wasn’t so much attacking humanity, though he admits he’d stopped identifying with his species in his later years, as he was hooking his audience and taking them on a journey they might not normally take themselves.

In this book, Carlin traces his origins as the son of a combative Irish couple. On the downside, his father was an abusive drunk who left home when his violence grew too much. His mother was a social climber whose love of business soured Carlin on commerce and authority. On the upside, Patrick Carlin imbued his son with the inner smartass that would emerge as an adult. His mother, a bookworm and intellectual, gave Carlin his love of language. As much as he fought with his parents, he was grateful for the sensitivities and attitudes they fostered in him.

Carlin was an Irish Catholic street tough in World War II era Manhattan, very much the class clown that emerged on stage in the early seventies. However, Carlin never learned to make peace with authority, which didn’t go well for his Air Force career. The Air Force did do one thing for Carlin: A posting in Louisiana gave Carlin his first job as a radio disk jockey. As Carlin traces his career as a DJ, a regular on sixties variety shows, a counterculture icon, and HBO mainstay, he mixes in some of his classic bits and anecdotes that often funnier than many of his routines. We catch the essence of Carlin, basically a compassionate misanthrope whose humor is his defense against a world that disappoints him and a tool to teach his philosophy to others. He is greatly missed.

Pet Sematary

Stephen King

If I had to choose what Stephen King’s scariest book was, it’s this one. It comes a close second, but Pet Sematary is damned scary. It tells the story of the Creed family, who move to rural Maine on a large property bordering land disputed by Indian tribes. Their neighbor Jud shows them a feature of the property known to the whole town as the “Pet Sematary,” where many local pets went to their eternal reward. Jud also warns them the road that separates the Creeds’ home from his has killed a lot of pets. When daughter Ellie’s cat, Church (short of Winston Churchill), becomes one such casualty, the family, sans Louis, the father, is out of town. Jud then shows what lies beyond the Pet Sematary: A old Indian burial ground where “the ground has soured.” They bury Church there. He comes back the next day, good as new, except for the corpse smell, the sudden need to kill any small animal in sight, and a sudden drop in coordination. That part is not scary. What is scary is when Louis learns the burial ground has a pull on those who have buried animals there. Scarier is when Jud tells Louis what happened when someone tried burying a person there. Even scarier…  If you saw the movie, you know. If you haven’t and you never read this book, think “The Monkey’s Paw.”

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One thought on “Thursday Reviews: Last Words, Pet Sematary

  1. Carlin’s posting in Louisiana was to Barksdale Air Force Base, across the river from my hometown of Shreveport. Apparently he got lots of very funny material from his life there.

    If you’ve read ON WRITING then you’ve probably read King’s anecdote about PET SEMATERY. He and his family moved to a house like that described in the book, with a highway out front that the logging trucks ran up and down on. One day they were having a picnic in a field across the highway when one of King’s young sons started running towards the house. King leaped up and sprinted after him, but when they got about 10 yards from the highway he realized he wasn’t going to catch him.

    His son tripped and fell on the shoulder, just as a truck roared by.

    King also said that when he finished the book he chucked in into a drawer. Apparently it was too personal. Later he pulled it out when he had a dispute with a publisher and wanted out of his contract. He had one book left, so he dusted off the manuscript and said, “Here ya go.”

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