Stephen King’s Duma Key is a slow burn. One of the many bargain books I grabbed for when I need a relaxed read, this text took a slightly different angle than I expected. With King, you typically get a white knuckle page turner, or a psychological epic looking to mystify even if it doesn’t horrify. Going in blind, I had hopes of the former, but found the latter. Duma Key comes as a text that chronicles the recovery of Edgar Freemantle who lost his arm and part of his sanity in a freak construction site accident. Edgar becomes possessed with the supernatural, a force that he cannot control, and a force that ultimately attempts to consume him.
Written just a few years after King himself was almost killed while walking in Maine, the text echoes with King’s own battle to return to normalcy post-accident. In the case of Freemantle, Edgar leaves the frozen north and heads south, taking up residence in a mysterious pink house on Duma Key, just outside of Tampa on the Florida Gulf Coast. Here, Edgar slowly walks out his hip, here he begins to hear the shells talk, here he rediscovers a propensity for art that becomes a fascination with art and an innate talent that leads to a gallery show. Yet, as always happens with King, the art is supernatural, ghosts are afoot, and the key slowly reveals a haunted past, a strange enemy, and the far reaching fingers of said supernatural foe. If you have read King, all the familiar elements are here—not that this is a problem per se, just do not expect something new and revolutionary.
All of these facts are interesting, even compelling in the long run, but to get there you have to put in the work. While I have resolve, many will resist sitting through this text, giving up while the scene is still being set, while the aura of the key is just a picture in a real estate pamphlet. The opening pages, after a brief lesson on learning how to draw, burn about as slow as King has ever moved in my experience, but there is a payoff in the end, a thrill ride, some guess work, and a clandestine battle of good versus evil, for isn’t that reality, life in general?
If you like King, you may see a Dark Tower reference of two, but then again his entire opus seems to tie back to the epic. Yet, the Perse, the force behind it all is a unique character, and even uniquely captivating. As you read, just be careful of what you draw.
- “I feel it should be white. We call it white because we need a word, but its true name is nothing. Black is the absence of light, but white is the absence of memory, the color of can’t remember”
- “Her gift was hungry. The best gifts—and the worst—always are.”
- “Pictures are magic, as you know.”
- “Stay hungry. It worked for Michelangelo, it worked for Picasso…There is nothing as human as hunger. There’s no creation without talent, I give you that, but talent is cheap. Talent goes begging. Hunger is the piston of art.”