Penguin Readers 6: Misery Pack

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9781405876650: Penguin Readers 6: Misery Pack

Thrown from the wreckage of his '74 Camaro, Paul Sheldon, author of a bestselling series of historical romances, wakes up one day in a secluded Colorado farmhouse owned by Annie Wilkes, a psychotic ex-nurse who claims she is his number one fan. Immobilized from the pain of two shattered legs and a crushed knee, Sheldon is at Annie's mercy. Unfortunately for Sheldon, Annie is mad; mad that he killed off her favorite character, Misery Chastain, in his latest book; mad that he wants to escape; and of course, mad in the most extreme clinical sense of the word. To set the world straight, Annie buys Sheldon a typewriter and some paper, drugs him, locks him in a room, and forces him to bring Misery back to life in a novel dedicated to her. Fear of physical torture is Sheldon's greatest motivation. One wrong sentence and she is likely to smash his legs with a sledgehammer, cut his thumbs off with a hacksaw, or much, much worse. But writers have weapons too. . . .

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Review:

In Misery (1987), as in The Shining (1977), a writer is trapped in an evil house during a Colorado winter. Each novel bristles with claustrophobia, stinging insects, and the threat of a lethal explosion. Each is about a writer faced with the dominating monster of his unpredictable muse.

Paul Sheldon, the hero of Misery, sees himself as a caged parrot who must return to Africa in order to be free. Thus, in the novel within a novel, the romance novel that his mad captor-nurse, Annie Wilkes, forces him to write, he goes to Africa--a mysterious continent that evokes for him the frightening, implacable solidity of a woman's (Annie's) body. The manuscript fragments he produces tell of a great Bee Goddess, an African queen reminiscent of H. Rider Haggard's She.

He hates her, he fears her, he wants to kill her; but all the same he needs her power. Annie Wilkes literally breathes life into him.

Misery touches on several large themes: the state of possession by an evil being, the idea that art is an act in which the artist willingly becomes captive, the tortured condition of being a writer, and the fears attendant to becoming a "brand-name" bestselling author with legions of zealous fans. And yet it's a tight, highly resonant echo chamber of a book--one of King's shortest, and best novels ever. --Fiona Webster

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