Sunday, March 1, 2009

Stephen King - Different Seasons - The Shawshank Redemption - (1982)

It will take all of King's monumental byline-insurance to drum up an audience for this bottom-of-the-trunk collection: four overpadded novellas, in non-horror genres - without the gripping situations needed to transcend King's notoriously clumsy writing. Best of the lot is Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption - in which banker Andy Dufresne, in a Maine prison for life for murdering his wife and her lover, plans his escape over a 20-year period, working his way through four feet of concrete to get to the sewer shaft beyond. The climax is feeble (especially after such a long build-up), the redemption theme is murky - but the close observation of prison life offers some engaging details. "Apt Pupil," on the other hand, is crude and utterly unconvincing: Todd, an All-American California boy, discovers that Mr. Denker down the block is really an aged Nazi war criminal - so he extorts long confessions from the old man, relishing all the atrocity details, becoming totally corrupted by the Nazi mystique; at last, however, the old Nazi (who gets his kicks by killing winos) takes revenge on the boy - and their evil symbiosis ends in a muddle of suicide, murder, and madness. The third piece is the most conventional: "The Body," a familiar fall-from-innocence tale about four not-very-bright Maine lads (one of whom, the reminiscing narrator, will become a novelist) who go into the woods to locate the body of a boy thrown from a trestle by a train. And "The Breathing Method" - told, a la Peter Straub's Ghost Story, as a gentleman's club anecdote - is the most explicitly horrific: an unwed mother is decapitated on Christmas Eve but gives birth in falling sleet anyway. . . because of the Lamaze Method. Thin gimmicks, weighed down with King's weak characters and weaker prose (unlike his crisp short stories) - but the fans may come around yet again, despite the clear evidence that King needs the supernatural to distract from his awesome limitations as a mainstream storyteller. (Kirkus Reviews) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


The Shawshank Redemption


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