|Purchase: Amazon | Chapters|
Length: 508 pages (with Afterword)
Genre: Short Stories/Novellas
Start Date: Sometime in 2005-6
Finished Date: Sometime in 2005-6
Where Found: Chapters-Indigo
Why Read: Why not? I'm a huge Stephen King reader.
Summary: A collection of 4 novellas (no more than 200 pages each), offering the macabre in four acts: a Count of Monte Cristo-esque prison tale; a cold, murderousm, scheming plot; a coming of age and death lesson; and a mysteriously horrifying tall tale.
This is the only book of short stories or novellas that I’ve read by King. Other similar collections of his are Night Shift, Skeleton Crew, Four Past Midnight, Nightmares & Dreamscapes, Six Stories, Everything’s Eventual, and Just After Sunset. The spooky 2001: A Space Odyssey star baby knockoff on the cover is an odd choice, somewhat relevant to the last of four stories in the collection but nonetheless strange. The newest edition shows the railroad tracks of the 2nd story, which is a much more poignant choice of cover.
Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption should sound familiar as it was adapted into an amazing movie that remains my all-time favourite and can rarely be competed against any other I’ve seen. The story is about an innocent man's treacherous, yet oddly life-affirming, time at a scandal-ridden, maximum security prison where he redeems himself as the prison librarian, go-to accountant, and GED tutor before making his incredible escape (that's not a spoiler by the way--if I told you how, that would be a devastating spoiler!) The movie, as King admits, expands and improves on the less than hundred page short story, yet retains much of its narration by veteran inmate Red, played by the velvety voiced Morgan Freeman and much of the plot, eliminating some forgettable side bits that were left on the movie’s cutting room floor. I also have the privilege of owning an autographed copy of screenwriter/director Frank Darabont’s adapted final draft script of The Shawshank Redemption that is incredibly close to the final cut of the movie.
Apt Pupil is the longest story of the collection but also the weakest. A teenage boy blackmails his elderly German neighbour, whom he suspects is a notorious Nazi soldier who ran a death camp during WWII and is a war crimes fugitive. He soon uses the old man to garner information about his past, becoming addicted to the stories, and even having him pose as a relative to get out of trouble at school with a skeptical guidance counselor who soon catches on to the real story. The main characters are cold-blooded, kill-to-thrill types who make the novel very difficult to swallow, especially with the absence of a “good guy.” It wasn’t a bad story, per se, but it was one of King’s most disturbing, and the plot was stuck in a dull trance of scheme, blackmail, murder, rinse & repeat. The story was adapted into a movie that didn't come off much better.
The Body, which was adapted into the coming-of-age flick (with a better title) Stand By Me, about a group of four young friends, one of whom destined to be a great writer, the others a tragic mess, who trek through the railway & backwoods of their hometown to find truth in the rumor of a dead body, discovering their own demons along the way. The movie is much lighter on character development than the novella makes them out to be, but other than that, they are very true to each other. King makes an autobiographical sketch out of Gordie, the budding writer, whose parents continue to ignore him after the untimely death of his favoured older brother. The ensemble of friends (gullible, innocent Vern; hard-nosed, loyal Chris; and crazed, tragic Teddy) make the story character-rich, full of fun, often hilarious, insights, and, in one day, begins a sunset on their childhood.
The Breathing Method has never become a movie, which is far from likely and nearly impossible without tacking on additional subplots that will probably render the original moot. It simply works best on paper. It begins with a man entering a mysterious secret society with access to otherwise unseen, unheard things, where a doctor tells the tale of treating and possibly falling in love with a young, widowed pregnant woman. His treatments and methods are modern today but were unconventional then, as is her being pregnant and unmarried. However, it is the delivery of her baby and their separate destinies that is sure to blow you away. This is (in my opinion) the most warped tale of the book, and a memorable story that could very well have been expanded into a novel.
Overall, Different Seasons is, as promised by the title, varied in scope and subject matter. It would be King’s masterpiece novel, even though it’s a collection of 4 separate stories with no discernible connection to each other. But what the heck—it still is a masterpiece.
Rank: (A+)- A must-read (even if you're typically averse to King)