Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Rapture of Mystery: Stephen King's The Colorado Kid

Photo: Paperback cover from the book's Wikipedia page.

I read this one in a couple of hours, just after finishing Stephen King's Joyland.  They're both published by Hard Case Crime, and they both have covers of big-breasted, younger dames--covers of a scene you won't find in the story itself.  I don't know why I'm okay with that, and yet why I'm not, at the same time.

This mystery is sort of the idea of this book itself.  An actual mystery that, like most of life, you can't explain.  This is not a Sherlock Holmes locked-room mystery, nor is it an Agatha Christie trapped-on-an-island mystery.  It isn't either of those because this one is unsolvable, and purposely so.  The story isn't the case, or the mystery, but the three characters telling the story.

The story is, in fact, the story itself.  It's about being curious, about always questioning, always asking "Why?"  At my job, my little cohorts are always asking me why I ask "Why?" so much.  And I'm always asking them why they don't ask "Why?" enough.  (I suspect it has something to do with television, gaming and computers, as these things make us do, and watch, but not really think for ourselves.  Or am I getting old?)

But you sort of die when you stop asking "Why?"  And when you stop caring.  The thing is that you can't allow yourself to be put off by the inevitable "I don't know."  Where did we come from before this realm?  "I don't know."  Where are we going?  "I don't know."  You may have a religion that teaches you what to believe, but that's why it's called "belief."  Believing is not knowing.

And so this is the root of this short (especially for King) book.  The story isn't the mystery, per se, but is instead the wonder of "mystery" itself.  It's what keeps life interesting, right?  And a lot of things in life really don't have a clear-cut beginning, middle and end.  Where did we go wrong?  "I don't know."  Why did she change so much?  Maybe she was always like that and I didn't realize it?  "I don't know."  Some mysteries don't have answers, such as why an advertisement artist from Colorado suddenly had to feverishly catch a jet to Bangor, Maine, and drive hell-mell to middle-of-nowhere Maine and to die suddenly and inexplicably on a small beach.  Who knows?  It's cases like this that haunt real-life police detectives, I'm sure.  Drives them crazy.  But that's what life is--a series of inexplicable mysteries that you're wise to consider, but unwise to expect an easy answer--or an answer at all.

Sometimes there just isn't one.  And, if there is, it's often above our comprehension.  (That's what religion's for, I suppose.)  But this short book ends with the essence of all that: a ballfield full of players and umpires, looking up in a fixed rapture of confused wonder.

That's what this life is.  Rapturously confused wonder.

You'll appreciate The Colorado Kid if you get that.  You won't if you don't.

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