Friday, January 24, 2014

You guys want to go see a dead body?

My reading slump from December is continuing into January. Well, not so much slump as slog? I'm reading, just slower than normal. No reason. I'm enjoying the books I'm reading, so it's not like I struggling through these books. I'm just easily distracted and there's a lot of Sherlock to watch (and then re-watch).

The minithon helped me a bit with the reading (and a lot with the eating-mini-things and coming-up-with-mini-justifications) and after finishing up with Bryson's In A Sunburned Country I picked up Different Seasons by Stephen King. Laura got it for me for Christmas and since it's a collection of King novellas, it counted as mini. I mean, sort of mini. By King standards. By other author standards it's a bunch of novels. Figure the book is over 600 pages and there's only 4 stories in here. Not long novels, but still, you could call them novels and people wouldn't call you a liar.

You probably already know 3 of the stories. They've been made into movies, and that's not to say you only know them cos of their movie-ness, but you know...if you know them, it's likely because MOVIES. I've seen 2 out of the 3 movies, and know of the third, so I'll just assume you're all in the same boat as me.

Right, maybe I should get to the stories. And since this is 4 short novels, I'll give you a brief review of each.

So the first one is Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, which was my favorite. The other stories are good but I almost wish this was the last story because it's hard for the other ones to compete. If you don't already know the story, how'd you manage that? Because I'm pretty sure that movie is playing on TV on some channel right now. Andy Dufresne is in Shawshank prison for the murder of his wife and her lover. Long-timer Red tells the story of Andy, who seems to confound the prisoners and guards alike. He has a confidence about him, even in these dark circumstances. There are no surprises going from the movie to the book. What you see on film is essentially what you get in the story, so good job, filmmakers. This isn't a horror story. There's nothing supernatural here, although there is some violence. I highly recommend this one. Probably one of King's bests.

I know I said that I wish this story came at the end because the other stories had a hell of an act to follow. But the other novellas did a good job. I mean, I still like Shawshank best, but the others are excellent in their own right.

The second story is Apt Pupil which is the second movie I saw and I can't even remember why I saw it. But I'm pretty sure I not only saw it but went out of my way to to rent it. Possibly on VHS. Unlike Shawshank and the other stories in this collection, this is the closest to a horror story in this collection. Again, there's nothing supernatural here but it's scary. Scary and disturbing and gave me stress headaches. Which I guess is sort of a good thing cos this is a story about Nazis so I think being deeply disturbed is the correct response. Thirteen year old Todd Bowden discovers there's a fugitive Nazi living in his neighborhood and decides to blackmail the guy into telling him everything he can about the concentration camps and the general shittery that was the Nazis. The Nazi Arthur Denker/Kurt Dussander at first doesn't want to reminisce but eventually something awakens in him. It's a messed up story that gets more and more violent and more and more hopeless. It was very well written, but not one I think I'll be re-reading anytime soon. Which is vaguely how I remember the movie so while I'm pretty sure the movie changed a lot, it did at least keep that spirit.

The third story is The Body, which was made into the film Stand By Me, which is the movie I haven't seen. Which is silly because I hear excellent things about it and I should probably fix that. ANYWAY, this is another story you probably already know the plot of, but I'll share anyway. Four twelve-year-olds find out there's a dead body and decide to go see it. OK, well that's the basic plot and what puts the story in motion. The story is a coming of age story about these four boys, Gordie (who is narrating the story as an adult), Chris, Vern, and Teddy. None of them are coming from great home lives. Gordie's parents have never really paid attention to him and the death of his older brother made things worse. Chris comes from a family of criminals and is branded a delinquent by the town. Teddy idolizes his father who has severe PTSD after coming home from Vietnam and caused permanent damage to the boy before being taken away. Everyone, including his family, picks on Vern (with possible beatings, but I kept mixing up Chris and Vern so it could be possible Vern didn't get beaten at home. Or they both did. I could try to skim through and see if I can find evidence one way or another but laaaaazy). The boys go on a journey to find this dead body, face down bullies, learn about themselves, all the things you expect from a coming of age story. Again, not a horror story but not exactly a happy story either. Very well done though.

The final story is movie-less. For now. And probably forever since I don't know if it would work on the screen. It's sort of a quiet story about a club where people tell stories. There's sort of something magical about this club, which on the surface seems like a stuffy, wood-paneled, old man's club. No one really explains what's going on, but there seem to be lots of books to read by authors that can't be found anywhere else, published by companies that don't seem to exist outside this home. And people tell stories. Sometimes they're funny, sometimes they're sad, sometimes they're scary. We hear little bits of a few of the stories but the main one we focus on is the Christmas story "The Breathing Method". Now, this isn't a story about Christmas, but the Thursday before Christmas is when people tell the tale. I won't go into it but to let you know that I really liked this story. The whole story (frame & main) have the same feeling and in the end nothing is really explained, which works for it.

Overall good times. If you want to try out King, I recommend his short works. And if you want something a bit longer than his short stories but aren't quite ready to commit to one of his full novels (which, I mean, can drag on) this is a great place to try. Really, if nothing else, try to find Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.

Title quote from page 393

King, Stephen. Different Seasons. Hoddor, 1982.