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Friday, October 29, 2004

I read Stephen King's 'The Gunslinger', the first of seven novels in the Dark Tower series years ago, and I started but didn't finish the second and third books ('The Drawing Of The Three', 'The Wastelands') for whatever reason. I had problems getting into the story knowing that I'd have to wait for many years to be able to read them all. Stephen King himself had doubts that he'd ever finish the series. Well he finally did, 'The Dark Tower', book seven, the last chapter is availabvle now in stores. I figured now would be a good time to go back and start over, read them all in one shot. I still had my old paperback copy of 'The Gunslinger', and I borrowed 'The Drawing Of The Three' from Andy Rock, but when it came time for 'The Wastelands', Andy's copy of that had gone awol. I remembered that I had started it, so I checked my bookcase, and though I no longer had a copy of that, I did happen upon my copy of Stanley Booth's 'Dance With The Devil' (also published as 'True Adventures Of The Rolling Stones'). I decided to read it, and then get back to the Dark Tower. What struck me was that the books had a similar tone. Mainly a sense of prevailing doom, but it seems that either writer could have written either book. I have had the Booth book for years, eighteen in fact. Damn. How did we get this old? Anyway, it bears the scars of those years, on the cover (the slip cover having been discarded immediately, which is my habit) are the initials of the author, S.B. At the time of purchase I was living with Pat 'Mr. L. Smart' Wilson, who had a curious jelousy of my relationship with books, so written (in pencil) below the initials in scrabble fashion are the words 'Stupid Book' and 'Salamander Balls', but the finishing touch, a mark of brilliance on his part, in his decoration of my prized Stones book is a rubber sticker of Jimmy 'Superfly' Snuka on the back cover. I suppose at the time I was probably a bit put out by his vandalism of my property, but now I value it all the more for them. As I read the Booth book, for which must be the fourth time, what strikes me is how the Stones' attitudes toward race were dual in nature, much like the Gunslinger in King's Dark Tower series. The Gunslinger is a good man who does bad things, a man certainly damned, who is set on saving the world from evil. The Stones did everything they could to kick start the failing careers of black artists such as Chuck Berry, Ike and Tina, Bukka White, Taj Mahal, B.B. King, Peter Tosh, the list is endless, but they are still capable of racist attitudes; "that's where the spades live" and "maybe we can get some sort of black person to play percussion" are not words of endearment to the black community, but yet the Stones were absolutely enamored of the black artists, and their culture. Things have come a long way since 1969, and we still have a ways to go, but I think, in their way, the Stones have contributed positively toward race relations in this country. As for the Gunslinger, I don't know how his story ends yet, but Eddie and Odetta are doing their thing, just like me and my Baby.

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