Stephen King - Rage
Stephen King – Rage

Did you ever feel like you just wanted to KILL someone because you could not bear it anymore?

“Craziness is only a matter of degree, and there are lots of people besides me who have the urge to roll heads. They go to stock-car races and the horror movies and the wrestling matches they have in Portland Expo. Maybe what she said smacked of all those things, but I admired her for saying out loud, all the same–the price of honesty is always high. She had an admirable grasp of the fundamentals. Besides, she was tiny and pretty.”
― Richard Bachman, Rage

I absolutely loved this book. The average King fan may not be familiar with the 1977 book “Rage.” Originally published under his pen name, Richard Bachman, King wrote the novel in 1966 while he was still in high school.

Yes, it was published a long time ago, yes, it was under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman and yes, this book should be a required read for teens (troubled ones especially).

A teen with a lot of anger issues, pulls out his gun and shoots his maths teacher and another child who was trying to stop him. Is Charlie insane? Does it run in the family? Is he a product of his upbringing?

You’ve already set yourself up as Judge of What’s Right for Me. Devils. Demon possession. Why did I hit dat l’il girl wit dat ball bat, Lawd, Lawd? De debbil made me do it, and I’m so saw-ry. Why don’t you admit it? You get a kick out of peddling my flesh. I’m the best thing that’s happened to you since 1959.

I suppose it’s the story of a school shooter, the type that America has seen almost on a monthly basis since the turn of the century.

“Do you have an office pass, Mr. Decker?”

“Yes,” I said, and took the pistol out of my belt. I wasn’t even sure it was loaded until it went off. I shot her in the head. Mrs. Underwood never knew what hit her, I’m sure. She fell sideways onto her desk and then rolled onto the floor, and that expectant expression never left her face.

rage-full-cover.jpg

What ensues is a standoff in which the students who had begun as hostages become unwitting accomplices as a sort of Stockholm Syndrome sets in and they begin to identify more with their captor than wuth those trying to end the conflict. They tell him stories too, hidden stories, dirty stories, rage-filled stories.

Teacher, teacher, ring the bell,

My lessons all to you I’ll tell,

And when my day at school is through,

I’ll know more than aught I knew.

I loved the book because it uncovered a part of a human’s soul which is usually kept carefully hidden under a well-crafted mask. Because it showed deep insecurities and desires and forced the participants to face them, to go through a soul-cleaning-session, a catharsis of sorts.

This is probably one of the finest evocations of what’s it’s like to be a teenager.

After reading it last night, I mainly was in awe of how fully developed the character of Charlie was, and that despite his actions, there was still a moral compass beneath the violence. That’s the crucial difference though between a story like this and the Shooting at Columbine tragedy.

The character of Charlie, though flawed, possesses a soul and some sense of right and wrong. The demented wackjob that decides to aim an automatic weapon at defenseless children clearly does not.

This book is also a great period piece from the 70s, that accurately captured the mood of the times. Also there’s an element of Nietzche-style philosophical panic, when a person of certain level of intelligence begins to question (or rather see right through) the pointless exercise of power when it’s in service of nothing, and when the people charged with administering this power (the adults) are shown to be just as deeply flawed as characters as the teenagers.

I think; therefore I am. There are hairs on my face; therefore I shave. My wife and child have been critically injured in a car crash; therefore I pray. It’s all logical, it’s all sane.

Only more so, as they’ve cynically abandoned the idealism of youth, and just clock in for another day of walking it to the kids, cause that’s their outlet. The thing that makes this book great is the way Stephen King subtly adds elements of levity throughout Charlie’s narrative, and reminds us that life does indeed have a moral purpose, even though it sometimes seems absent from the roll call sheet.

There isn’t any division of time to express the marrow of our lives, the time between the explosion of lead from the muzzle and the meat impact, between the impact and the darkness. There’s only barren instant replay that shows nothing new.

I shot her; she fell; and there was an indescribable moment of silence, an infinite duration of time, and we all stepped back, watching the ball go around and around, ticking, bouncing, lighting for an instant, going on, heads and tails, red and black, odd and even.

I think that moment ended. I really do. But sometimes, in the dark, I think that hideous random moment is still going on, that the wheel is even yet in spin, and I dreamed all the rest.

What must it be like for a suicide coming down from a high ledge? I’m sure it must be a very sane feeling. That’s probably why they scream all the way down.

Score: 10/10

King let the book fall out of publication in 1998 after real-life tragedies allegedly inspired by “Rage” and made him feel morally obligated to write it. The book existed for a time in a 1985 collection of novels called “The Bachman Books,” which also included “The Long Walk,” “Roadwork” and “The Running Man.” Eventually, prints of “The Bachman Books” dwindled from four stories to three as the author allowed “Rage” to die a quiet death in the publishing world.

In 1987, Jeffrey Lyne Cox held 60 classmates at gunpoint at San Gabriel High School in California before being disarmed by some of the students. He was known to have read “Rage” multiple times The Los Angeles Times reported.

Advertisements