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. 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). I’m kidding (about the last part). A teen with a lot of anger issues, pulls out his gun and shoots his maths teacher and another one who was trying to stop him. He then takes his classmates hostages and tells them the story of how he got to be and they tell him stories too, hidden stories, dirty stories, rage-filled stories.
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. 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.