Wolves Of The Calla:
Part One, 1.i-4.vii
In case you haven’t been following this blog from the beginning, we started rereading the series on 9/19/2020, and the plan is to finish the books exactly one year later, on 9/19/2021. In order to hit that mark, the average weekly reading is roughly 85 pages. The adult side of me, who has to do dishes and change diapers and pay taxes, is grateful that the readings are divided into such manageable chunks, but the Tower Junkie hates that I won’t let him read ahead. Rationing out a meager 85 pages a week for myself has been a test of discipline and patience. Some of the most page-turning sequences I’ve ever read, like the climax of The Drawing of the Three and the crossing of the River Send, seemed to play out at a snail’s pace.
But reading this week’s chapters, I was reminded how incredibly privileged I am to be able to consume this story as quickly as I have been. I imagine any of those veteran Constant Readers, who had to wait for Stephen King to write each book before the story continued, would probably have sold their souls for 85 pages a week. Forget about them—what about Sai King himself, who had to conceive of and type up these stories word by word over the course of decades? What would he say if he heard me complaining that reading all eight novels in a single year was too slow for my liking?
Maybe that’s what is meant—at least partially—by that oft-repeated and somewhat ambiguous idiom: “Time is a face on the water” (p. 37). Some currents flow faster than others. In the past, you had to wait years and years for the entire tale to be told, but now Audible can read you the whole thing in 145 hours and forty minutes.
Either way, it’s of no matter to the characters or the story. Time loses meaning for the ka-tet in between books and in between readings, and whether they are waiting for years for King to write their next story, or whether they are waiting a week for me to read it, it makes no difference to them.
Time had likewise begun to soften. There were days Eddie could have sworn were forty hours long, some of them followed by nights…that seemed even longer. Then there would come an afternoon when it seemed you could almost see darkness bloom as night rushed over the horizon to meet you. Eddie wondered if time had gotten lost.– Wolves of the Calla, p. 37
But for those of us stuck on Keystone Earth, the water that the face of time floats on is a river, and it only flows in one direction. We are all constantly moving forward. The last time I read this book was before I became a father, bought and sold a house, and moved to another country; I’m a completely different person now. Just as the Stephen King who wrote Wolves of the Calla was a completely different person than the King who wrote Wizard & Glass. This idea must have been rattling around in King’s head as he wrote this week’s chapters, allowing his characters to reflect on who they used to be and reconcile it with who they have become.
When Jake goes todash to 1977, he sees his old self and is struck by how different that boy is from himself. “This version looked soft and innocent and painfully young” (p. 53) compared to the deerskin-clad gunslinger he is now. Jake has changed so much that he doesn’t even think of his past self as Jake, instead labeling him as “Kid Seventy-seven.”
Eddie doesn’t see any past versions of himself in 1977, but simply by being back in New York City he is confronted by his former identity. He might be a New Yorker, but Mid-World is his home now. When Jake spots him “looking dazed and more than a little out of place in old jeans, a deerskin shirt, and deerskin moccasins,” he’s almost as much of a fish-out-of-water as Roland (p. 52).
Eddie Dean had become a part of Mid-World in many ways, some so subtle he wasn’t consciously aware of them…– Wolves of the Calla, p. 47
Meanwhile, Susannah doesn’t go todash at all, but she too is reckoning—as she always is—with the issue of her identity: who she used to be, who she is and who pregnancy is turning her into. “Now there was a fourth woman,” King writes of Mia. “She had been born out of the third in yet another time of stress and change” (p. 76).
King went through his own time of stress and change before writing this book, barely surviving being hit by a van and traveling the long road to recovery after. Just as Susannah is no longer the same woman, he is not the same man, nor the same writer. When he reread the previous books to prepare for writing this one, I imagine it was like going todash and seeing an unrecognizable version of himself. When Jake wonders how his past self survived everything, you can see that King was asking himself the same question.
How did you survive? he asked his own retreating back. How did you survive the mental stress of losing your mind, and running away from home, and that horrible house in Brooklyn? Most of all, how did you survive the doorkeeper? You must be tougher than you look.– Wolves of the Calla, p. 53
When Jake gets his “instant replay” of the day he took French leave (p. 53), his new perspective allows him and Eddie to discover what happened at the bookstore after he left, which helps them save the rose and subsequently the Tower. So maybe it doesn’t matter how fast or slow we read the story; maybe it matters who we are when we read it.