Thursday, July 26, 2007

Different Seasons by Stephen King

Title: Different Seasons
Author: Stephen King
ISBN: 0670272663
Publishers: The Viking Press/1982
Pages: 527
Format: Hardbound

I was never a fan of Stephen King. I read two of his books (I do not remember which) long time back and did not get back to him. I picked this book from one of the roadside book sellers as it was dirt cheap and looked good. I am so very glad that I bought it.

A general view is that novelist Stephen King is a horror writer. However, with ‘Different Seasons’ he shows that he can craft stories dealing with hope, love and redemption. This compilation has four "seasons": Hope Springs Eternal, Summer of Corruption, Fall from Innocence, and A Winter's Yarn, all of which vividly portray the human spirit. Sometimes collections like this can be hard to judge as one story may appeal to one audience and other appeals to a different one. Different Seasons should appeal to just about everyone.

These four novellas leave us not only a better understanding of human nature, but also a give us a glimpse into the darkness at the heart of our being. Primarily, these stories shatter King's image as a horror writer and depict him as a great raconteur.

The stories themselves are excellent. ‘Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption’ is the first novella. The characters in the story are well written and with a positive message that one is not used to seeing in Stephen King's writing. This story is superb and uplifting, minus any obvious horror, and thus showing a seldom seen facet of King. This story is a tender tale of hope, friendship and retribution.

Second is ‘Apt Pupil’ is more evocative of King's usual subject matter and tone, but still manages to provide an engrossing and interesting view into the nature of evil and the parasitic relationship that a man can develop with it. It is by far the most disturbing of the four stories, in which King provides a look at the evil spirit inside a former Nazi, and a young kid determined to bring this out of the old man. This story shows King's ability to create horror without the aid of a creature; the darkness within our own souls is enough.

‘The Body’ is possibly the most appealing of all the stories in the book, even if it is the roughest in terms of construction. With a reflective voice, King is able to relate this tale of the loss of innocence and the passage into adulthood. It shows King's talent at writing coming of age stories, and developing the mystique and innocence of childhood adventures

‘The Breathing Method’ comes out as an entertaining story around a symbolic examination of the writing process. Here King shows that sheer force of will can overcome any obstacle, even death. A splendid example of King's lyrical abilities can be seen in the following words where he describes a wild scream heard by the boys in woods at night:

"The scream climbed with a crazy ease through octave after octave, finally reaching a glassy, freezing edge. It hung there for a moment and then whirled back down again, disappearing into an impossible bass register that buzzed like a monstrous honeybee. This was followed by a burst of what sounded like mad laughter ...and then there was silence again."

Taken as a whole, this collection is one of the excellent efforts that King has ever put forth. While he still does tend to bloat a little in the middle two stories, all of them manage to create an atmosphere wholly their own and to take the mind of a reader away to another place, which, as King says in the afterword, is his first and highest goal. His storytelling is at its height here. It may not be horror, but that cannot be said to be a blemish, as King show cases his cross-genre talent to the hilt.

Not that it is going to make me run for his novels.