After I'd both read the entire series+ and had also gone back and re-read the original and revised texts literally side-by-side, I could tell Robyn the differences in detail. So I did:
April 2nd, 2005
Finally today I finished an obsessive reading project, reaching Page Last of both the original and revised texts of The Gunslinger. The revised version is certainly a smoother read than what King originally wrote, though I was pleased that one of my favorite passages -- Roland being shown the universe -- was unchanged from the original.
Some revisions, without getting too spoilerific: the oracle obliquely mentions roses as something for Roland to watch out for. One of the creatures from the later books, a taheen, is sighted in the desert early on. The first man to attack Roland in Tull (while he's with Alice) turns out to be someone from Mejis who remembers Roland. Walter/Marten tricks a woman in Tull into using the word "nineteen" in a certain context, disasterously for her. (In the original version, this is the woman who begs Roland not to shoot her. In the revised one, because of what happened to her thanks to "19," she begs for him to shoot her.) References to paper are mostly gone, as King later realized how rare paper would be in Roland's world. The hand cart in the railroad is now higher-tech, and broadcasts recordings (including ads). Since a character from Roland's past named Aileen became less significant to the overall story, she's now only mentioned once instead of three times. And some of King's more obscure metaphors are made clearer: "There was a shadow across Jake's face, but shadows were across many faces these days" becomes instead "There was a shadow across Jake's face, but Roland would have been worried had Jake not been scared."
It was illuminating, certainly an interesting exercise to compare and contrast the two...though he didn't get rid of as many adverbs as you'd think, based on his rants in On Writing. (I'm not complaining about the rants. Rants done right are beautiful things.)
+ Before doing the side-by-side read, I gave Robyn a shorter answer: "King figured only two or three scenes in the revised Gunslinger were totally new. And some things were shortened. (happyspector noticed some of the more juvenile humor was gone.)
"In an essay, the only example King gave of the changes he made was getting rid of the first book's references to Farson as a city instead of a man.
"Is any of this helping? If not, no worries, it's still nice shooting off."