Stephen King’s “Carrie” – 50th Anniversary Celebration!

The Creation of Carrie

Stephen King is one of the most iconic writers of our time. For nearly a half-century now, he has dominated the best-seller lists with just about every single book he has published. Although his novels are primarily associated with the horror genre, this is not always the case (“the Body” and “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” from his 4-novella book, Different Seasons, are good examples). But one of the most remarkable things about this writer’s career is how consistent he has been over the decades, producing best seller after best seller for a half century. But what put him on the map initially was his first novel, Carrie.

Published on April 5, 1974, Carrie is the story of a girl who has been bullied all her life, both at school and abused at home by a hyper religious mother. But once she has grown to womanhood, she finds that she has the power of telekinesis—the ability to move objects with her mind. When an elaborate prank at the senior prom makes her the butt of jokes yet again, she turns her powers on the town that has ridiculed her for so long and she finally exacts her revenge. Carrie ruins the town, leaving complete destruction in her wake and goes home to confront her hyper religious abusive mother and to bring an end to both the tragedy and her life.

King originally wrote the first three pages and threw them in the trash, feeling that he could not complete the story. His wife, Tabitha, rescued the manuscript and encouraged him to finish it. He had written three books previously, but this was the first to actually get published. The hardback edition did not sell well, but the paperback sold over 300,000 copies.

Adapting Carrie to the Silver Screen and Beyond

The book has had several adaptations. One was a musical whose run mercifully lasted about as long as Carrie’s prom night. It’s been made into two movies, both critically acclaimed. The first was in 1976, directed by Brian DePalma with Sissy Spacek in the title role, William Katt, Amy Irving and Piper Laurie as Carrie’s mother. The film is considered a “classic” and earned two actresses an Academy Award nomination. At the time, it was unheard of to have someone nominated from what was considered a horror film.

The movie was remade in 2013. The 1976 version took liberties with the book and differed from it in several significant ways. This made many Stephen King fans unhappy (King said that he was pleased with the film). The new film promised to be more faithful to the book and seems to have succeeded in this regard. However, many critics objected saying that a remake of the book was unnecessary given how successful and popular the first movie had been.

I was personally much more disappointed in the 1976 film than with the later film. I think that the de Palma adaptation has much going for it—in particular the spectacular cast—but I was a bit disappointed in the deviations from the source material. I think that cinematically, the 1976 version was better, but the 2013 version was by far the better adaptation. The later film did pay homage to the original one at several times, however. Perhaps it’s the librarian in me insisting on being true to the original material. Stephen King books in general do not adapt very well to the silver screen and have tended to not do well at the box office (with some notable exceptions, such as The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption), so in general I tend to avoid movies based on his books.

The Timelessness of Carrie

In writing this blog to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Stephen King’s first book, I was struck by how much I remembered of the book and how timeless the story is. Carrie still holds up almost as well in 2024 as in 1974. Carrie is a classic Cinderella story, and in the end her ability to bring the town to its knees I think harbors a secret longing in just about everyone to get their revenge against the bullies in their lives. The book still resonates and speaks to people so many decades after being published. King himself does not think much of the work, and after so much success since the original publication that is perhaps to be expected.

Whatever the preference, the one thing that is in no doubt is that this book set off one of the most phenomenal writing careers of our time. Carrie made people stand up and take notice of the exceptional writing. This became a springboard to further novels and successes ever since. Maybe it isn’t Stephen King’s favorite novel, but I’m glad it’s out there, I’m glad of the success, and I’m glad that it encouraged him to keep writing. While I can’t hope for another half century of Stephen King, I do hope that there are many more novels from him to come.

For more about Stephen King in general, check out my 'Author Celebration' blog on Stephen King.

Carrie: The Book


Carrie: The Movies

1976 Movie

2013 Movie