Thursday, 27 March 2014

Different Seasons by Stephen King

Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption

There's a guy like me in every state and federal prison in America, I guess - I'm the guy who can get it for you.

Thus begins the first novella from Stephen King's Different Seasons, a collection of four novellas first published in 1982. The first story represents spring and is given the subtitle: Hope Springs Eternal.

After this line, the narrator goes on to explain that he can get prisoners everything from brandy to cigarettes. before falling into back story about how he landed in prison. Why this is vital on the first page is unknown. Fortunately, it is an entertaining tale.

First thing said:

"Do you mean to tell this court that you followed your wife in your brand-new Plymouth sedan?" 

This first direct contact with another human being in the story who actually says something comes on page 20. If you've made it that far, it means you endured some very thick narrative, mostly back story buried in long paragraphs as King's storytelling mind unravels and collapses like an avalanche of prose onto the page. In other words, what one would expect from King - long winded and wordy.

However, many people will like how this story is told - by the average mediocre uneducated American from Armpit, America; really, the archetypal King character. I suppose it makes sense to return to this character type, and use especially as a narrator, as after all they really are creepy and scary people who, even if they are good, are still unsettling.

Verdict: Fail

Summer of Corruption
Apt Pupil

He looked like the total all-American kid as he pedaled his twenty-six-inch Schwinn with the apehanger handlebars up the residential suburban street, and that's just what he was: Todd Bowden, thirteen years old, five-feet-eight and a healthy one hundred and forty pounds, hair the color of ripe corn, blue eyes, white even teeth, lightly tanned skin marred by not even the first shadow of adolescent acne.

Pure exposition. No conflict or inciting incident, just the official literary introduction of a character. This first sentence is long enough to be a paragraph, and it is, serving as not only the first sentence but first paragraph. Ominous to say the least. Are all sentences going to be as long winded? As it's King, you bet! The next paragraph is the size of a modern micro-fiction short story and is bursting with back story.

First thing said:

"All right!"

Next thing said by the same person:

"All right!"

According to Elmore Leonard, King has only one more exclamation mark left for the whole story. But the character continues thus:

"I'm coming! Let it go! I'm coming!"

Honestly, this is how my grade five students write a story. Are these sentences truly exclamatory?

Verdict: Fail

Fall from Innocence
The Body

The most important things are the hardest things to say.

Uh-oh - this smells preachy. This short chapter 1 is in italics for some reason, which is annoying and hard on the eye and is the beginning of some preamble disguised as deep mind musings on life. The first paragraph is coma inducing. The second and final paragraph of this short first chapter begins with the hook:

I was twelve going on thirteen when I first saw a dead human being.

Why start with didactic musings or reminiscing on the lessons learned about the philosophy of life instead of with this line that introduces a story worthy problem?

First thing said:


As the hook comes early this will manage to hook most people/

Verdict: Pass (barely)

A Winter's Tale
The Breathing Method

The Club
I dressed a bit more speedily than normal on that snowy, windy, bitter night - I admit.

The weather cliche begins the final installment in the Different Seasons' collection. The only thing positive in this line, oddly enough - as King has made his position on adverbs clear, is the use of the adverb speedily, which is most likely foreshadowing something.

First thing said:

"Bad night."

This is a cabbie talking about the weather.

Verdict: Fail

Overall, these four stories don't have any memorable lines that immediately pull the reader in.

Theodore Moracht

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