Lisey’s Story is a fascinating tapestry of dual themes. It is both a deep dive into one woman’s journey with grief and an exploration of the nature of imagination.
This reflection is less of a soap box than some past have been, and more of an analytical appreciation for just how King uses mechanical storytelling devices to interweave his two subtexts.
Be forewarned, spoilers below.
Time and Mourning
For the bereaved, the strongest memories never fade. King recreates this feeling powerfully using these subtle tools:
First, all current narrative is written in the past tense, but flashbacks are written in the present tense. This inversion of then and now reinforces that for most of the book, Lisey’s life with her late husband is just as tangible and as present as current events. Also, we often drop into these flashbacks through an unusual chapter transition – one chapter ends without a period, and the next starts with the same phrase, jumping into the backstory. The reading experience mirrors the character’s as we both slip into the past.
Last, when Scott reminisces about his traumatic childhood, his dialogue slowly lapses into a childish dialect. We get the impression that more than retelling, he’s there, reliving it all.
Inspiration and Imagination
Imagination is a wild and beautiful thing.
First, more than any novel I’ve ever read, Lisey’s Story incorporates quotes and references to songs and books. Many of these creators have passed away. That’s a very intentional choice, reminding the reader that we all stand on the shoulders of giants, drawing inspiration from the artists that have gone before us.
In Lisey’s Story, the definition of inspiring is highly subjective. Although there are some fixed features, many parts of Boo’ya Moon are malleable. We see travelers’ experiences at the pool vary depending on their personal hopes and dreams.
There is a dark side to creativity: it borders on madness. Although we can give this work of fiction a pass for over-dramatizing this problem, there is some truth to the fact that the difference between a fiction writer and a schizophrenic is the ability to discern imagination from reality.
The character Scott describes inspiration as a pool from which all creatives draw. We learn that this pool is very literal when Lisey visits the picturesque land in an alternate dimension “just a side-step away,” which Scott called “Boo’ya Moon.” It’s accessibility is remarkably like visiting never-land or coming home from Oz – just close your eyes, believe, and imagine. In theory, anybody could travel to Boo’ya Moon. The reader feels like he or she could almost visit it themselves.
The implication is clear: anybody can be a storyteller.
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