Different Seasons * Stephen King

“Until we see each other again, keep your head together, read some good books, be useful, be happy.”

Different Seasons (1982) is a collection of four Stephen King novellas with a more serious dramatic bent than the horror fiction for which King is famous. The four novellas are tied together via subtitles that relate to each of the four seasons.

Novels
Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (Hope Springs Eternal)
Apt Pupil (Summer of Corruption)
The Body (Fall From Innocence)
The Breathing Method (A Winter’s Tale)

Different Seasons is a showcase for Stephen King. Four diverse novellas, only one of them the kind of horror tale he is synonymous with (and it may be the weakest of the bunch).

THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION

shawshank-redemptionRita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption is a mini-masterpiece of a tale. A tale of hope set in a prison, dealing with a man whose spirit remains free despite all obstacles. I’d originally read it years before the legendary movie, and was worried that it wouldn’t be quite the same reading it now. Luckily King’s narrative holds up. Even knowing what was coming, the story telling was as gripping as ever.

What it comes down to, Red, is some people refuse to get their hands dirty at all. That’s called sainthood, and the pigeons land on your shoulders and crap all over your shirt

APT PUPIL

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This one disturbed me the most. This is one of the few Stephen King books I have read after watching the movie and only because I watched the movie starring Ian McKellen who is absolutely amazing.

This chilling tale covers a mutually parasitic relationship between a young California golden boy and the Nazi war criminal he found and is blackmailing. It is an excellent dark thriller, but it is so powerfully written and so pitch black, you are kept in suspense while feeling the need to cleanse yourself of the story being told. Apt Pupil provokes a much stronger reaction and is a better book overall.

Things come in three major degrees in the human experience, I think. There’s good, bad, and terrible. And as you go down into progressive darkness towards terrible, it gets harder and harder to make subdivisions

THE BODY

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Third up is The Body which was famously (and very faithfully) adapted into the movie Stand By Me. This is Stephen King’s coming of age tale of four boys in 1960 who head out through the woods to find the body of a boy that was struck by a train.

Though all four of the stories are top-notch Stephen King, I believe I enjoyed The Body the most. King so expertly captures the bittersweet feeling of the boys, two of which at least understand that they are going through a life changing experience; that things will not be the same from here on.

Sounds of The Fleetwoods singing, “Come Softly to Me” and Robin Luke singing “Susie Darlin” and Little Anthony popping the vocal on “I Ran All the Way Home.” Were they all hits in that summer of 1960? Yes and no. Mostly yes. In the long purple evenings when rock and roll from WLAM blurred into night baseball from WCOU, time shifted. I think it was all 1960 and that the summer went on for a space of years, held magically intact in a web of sounds: the sweet hum of crickets, the machine-gun roar of playing-cards riffling against the spokes of some kid’s bicycle as he pedaled home for a late supper of cold cuts and iced tea, the flat Texas voice of Buddy Knox singing “Come along and be my party doll, and I’ll make love to you, to you,” and the baseball announcer’s voice mingling with the song and with the smell of freshly cut grass: “Count’s three and two now. Whitey Ford leans over … shakes off the sign … now he’s got it … Ford pauses … pitches … and there it goes! Williams got all of that one! Kiss it goodbye! RED SOX LEAD, THREE TO ONE!” Was Ted Williams still playing for the Red Sox in 1960? You bet your ass he was—.316 for my man Ted. I remember that very clearly. Baseball

THE BREATHING METHOD

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The Breathing Method is the closest to Stephen King’s ‘typical’ supernatural spook story. This one (appropriately dedicated to Peter Straub) seems to be King’s answer to Straub’s Chowder Society (see Straub’s Ghost Story), as it deals with a group of old men that belong to a mysterious ‘gentleman’s club’ where they tell each other stories.

Earlier I called The Breathing Method the weakest story here. It is, but please don’t take that to mean that the story isn’t worth reading. It is a good read that only pales because the other three stories shine so brightly.

This is the book I would loan to someone who looked down on King without reading any of his work. He shows that while he can write some very scary spook stories, that isn’t why he sells so many books. Each of the four stories is King writing at the top of the game. There’s a reason three of the four stories have been turned into movies and they are three of the best screen adaptations he’s had.

The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them — words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they’re brought out. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you’ve said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That’s the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear.” 

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