A full list of Stephen King works is located at the bottom of the blog.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Gunslinger--Week One Discussion

Finally, I'm here with the first discussion! What a day...not a spare moment to post until now.  Anyhoo, on with the talk.  What did you think of the first chapter?  This one is actually a re-read for me, but it's funny, I only vaguely remember it.  I must have been half there when I read it last time.  I think it was over ten years ago when I read it (or around that) and what a difference time makes.  I think my mind is more tuned to dystopian fantasy now than it was before.  I relate familiarity with the genre as the reason.  I found a reading guide and I've included some questions below to contribute to our discussion.  Share your thoughts in the comments and/or leave the link to your blog post.

1.  As we come to know him in the opening pages, what initial impressions do we get of the gunslinger? What is the nature of Roland's quest?

2.  Discuss Stephen King's writing style in The Gunslinger. To what degree is it a departure from the rest of his work? What are some of the stylistic patterns and thematic concerns that The Gunslinger shares with other Stephen King works? 

My responses:
1.  It's hard to get a really good impression of Roland in the beginning.  We know he's tough (killed all those townspeople).  He's also weary.  He strikes me as a lost soul.  As far as the nature of his quest, we know that he is after the man in black, but we don't really know the reason yet.  Is it revenge or the need to eradicate evil?  I'm thinking perhaps it's both.

2.  King's writing style in The Gunslinger is different from the rest of his work, but in certain instances we get some of the old King style.  Like the section on page 13, "Perhaps the campfires are a message, spelled out letter by letter.  Take a powder.  Or, the end draweth nigh.  Or maybe even, Eat at Joe's."  Snicker.  "Eat at Joe's."  Something King would totally say in his other works.  Also, I love Sheb at the saloon playing "Hey Jude" on the piano.  I like how this seemingly old west style ghost town on this world that is not our own is playing that song, not some old time saloon tunes.  Classic!

I have one final question for you relating to the entire series.  There have been rumors for years that there will be a film (or films) based on the books, and more recently I've heard that they're in talks again to actually go ahead with it.  I've heard mention of Russell Crowe as Roland.  I do like him, but I'm picturing someone more like Christian Bale (channeling a bit of his role in "3:10 to Yuma" with a little bit of batman toughness mixed in).  What do you think?  Who do you think would be perfect to portray Roland?

I hope you're enjoying the book so far.  I'll see you next week for Chapter 2!


  1. Just dropping a quick note--I think I will actually re-read the first chapter so I can follow along, I'm due for a re-read :D

    I would love to see Daniel Craig play Roland if I have to see someone in the role. I think he'd be amazing.

    1. Yes, please join us! We are reading the entire series from now through July of next year. Line up is listed in the sidebar.

      I didn't think of Daniel Craig. Yes, I agree. He would be amazing. I love him in everything and he was terrific as a cowboy in Cowboys vs. Aliens.

    2. Yay for IBS potentially joining us! We would love to have you in on the conversation!

  2. I have returned!

    To answer your questions (although I've read this book many times, so, I might not be the most um.. uninfluenced):

    1) Things that we learn about Roland in The Gunslinger's first section (I am reading the original version, not the 2003 re-released/edited version): He's suspicious of everything, quick to notice when something's off (he caught the man with the hunting knife coming up behind him at Sheb's); he's cold, but he has morals: he didn't want to kill everyone in Tull, but he did so without hesitation when his hand was forced and then slept through the night like a stone. We find out that he is a romantic but also a pragmatist.

    On the nature of his quest--we know that he and the man in black are at odds with one another, since the man in black flees and sets a trap for Roland in Tull. Although Roland doesn't come off as being particularly noble, the man in black is clearly the Bad Guy. What exactly Roland wants from him, we don't yet know, but we know he's willing to go to extremes to get it.

    2) The Gunslinger was one of the first "serious" works that King wrote--by "serious" I mean, it was the first time he tried to write a long work. I can see a LOT of science fiction influence in the writing, now that I'm going through it again. I feel like he's trying to strike a serious/humorous balance like Asimov. And he meshes sci-fi and western in a hint of what is to come in the series; in the beginning, he called it a study in style, but I really think the beginning chapter sets the tone for the rest of the books in a lot of ways.

    1. I'm really looking forward to reading the entire series. It will be interesting to read a long work by King rather than just his stand alone books. Like I was telling Heather below, I'm a huge fan so I'd probably read the phone book if he wrote it. ;O)

  3. It is going to be really hard for me to answer these questions innocently, because I've already read the whole series. Let me see if I can do this while pretending that I don't know what's going on...

    Roland is meticulous. He likes everything in its rightful place and he doesn't like messes. If a situation gets messy, he is going to clean it up. I'm reading this on my Kindle right now, so I don't feel like going back and finding the direct quote, but King describes him as the kind of man who would straighten pictures on the walls of hotel rooms.

    Roland is also very observant--this probably has something to do with being a gunslinger. He's constantly aware of his surroundings, and if he lets his guard down even for a minute, he gets irritated with himself.

    Roland is a romantic, which is interesting since he...well, I can't say why right now. He has already mentioned that all of his friends are dead. I wonder what happened to all of them...?

    Roland is a lot of things that I can't describe right now for fear of spoilers. He is a very complicated man in some ways, and very one-track in others.

    As for your comment about "Hey Jude" playing in the saloon, there is an interesting reason for that. Heh. You'll see. :)

    As far as King's writing style, horror aside, this is typical King (and his best, as far as I'm concerned). Dark humor...attention to detail...great descriptions.

    1. HaHa...good job "pretending" you haven't read it before! Like I said in the post, I have read this first book before, but I'll be damned if I can remember anything about it. And I agree that it is typical King. Hey, I would read the entire phone book if he wrote it. ;O)

  4. I read this book over 15 years ago & remember nothing about it so it is like brand new. I feel Roland is very determined. Based on how he reloaded quickly and almost always hit his target, I felt he had a lot of training and practice. It also seemed like he was one of the last of his kind, being a gunslinger.

    I haven't read Stephen King in years but pieces others have already mentioned reminded me of him, especially the music reference. I also loved the description when Allie sighed, "It was an old yellow sound, like turning pages."

    I was also thinking Daniel Craig as Roland when I was reading this. Was he considered for the part at one point?

    1. Yes, that was a very descriptive line. King is so good with those.

      The only name I've heard associated so far with the films is Russell Crowe. I really hope they go ahead with the movies and pick someone good to play him.

      Thanks for joining us!

    2. I think we need a petition--cast Daniel Craig as Roland! (chants)

  5. Sorry that I am so late jumping into this discussion but I have had a million things on my plate.

    Here are my responses:

    1. My first impression of Roland is that he is a bit of a loner. He is on a mission to find "The Man in Black," and the two characters have a "good versus evil" type of feel to me.

    2. This book was very different from the other King books that I have read. It is a different type of book, more fantasy than horror. I miss the chills that I usually get when reading King :(

    As for an actor to portray Roland, the first actor who actually popped into my head was Clint Eastwood...but he is now much too old for the part! My next choice would be Viggo Mortensen.

    Thanks again, Michelle, for hosting this read-a-long and the discussion!

    1. No worries, Darlene. I'm behind on everything of late! This is my second reading of this book and I have to say I'm enjoying it more the second time around. And I didn't even think about Viggo! He would be a good choice too. =O)

      Weeks two and three were combined. Link in sidebar. Week four will be up Friday and the reading schedule for book two is going up this weekend as well.

    2. Oops, I meant week four will be up Sunday! doh!