A collection of four short early King novels: Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, Apt Pupil, The Body, and The Breathing Method.
It's ridiculous - and almost frightening! - how many anthologies I have to read on my bookshelves that I never get around to. In different genres, a lot of them horror, a lot of them paranormal romance, they keep growing with no end in sight. This year I've collected a few from King, and wanted to knock them down. It was easy to pick this as one of the first anthologies to dig into when I saw the infamous stories it contained.
I'm not a fan of prison movies or stories. Rarely do I read a book about anyone set in prison, and if I see a movie as this theme, it's just...meh. Still, The Shawshank Redemption was a popular movie for good reason, so I was curious to see how well the story which inspired it held up. First, the title is Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, which was obviously shortened for the movie. It's a character study piece, slowly paced, with a solid ending, albeit predictable.
My distaste for prison stories may have dampened my enthusiasm for this a little. We all do bring our own prejudices in when reading, even if we try not to. It left me with good writing style, clever characterization, but I do believe it could have been better is condensed and shortened. The pacing is snail speed and I dug Kings almost slangish dialogue exchanges, leaving this one with a 3/5 rating.
Apt Pupil is the second, bizarre story. Rich with psychological twists, it again delves more into characterization than Kings typical plot-driven machines. Pacing is slow as well but this doesn't deter from the enjoyment - it makes sense. The characters in this one are NOT likeable, but you can't help wanting to keep reading about them. It's not one of those situations where a person is "bad" but likeable with good traits and sides either, they're just unlikable with some truly awful traits, while still holding your fascinated gaze. This is ironic since the main characters fascination with violence is what spurs the story.
Disturbing and unique, it was set at a good pace to fit, the perfect length to say what it needed to say, taking time to reveal the characters well. The cat scene was extreme though, yech. 4/5 stars.
The Body was a personal favorite. We all know the bulk of Kings work makes its way to the big screen, but I can see why that'd be harder with the Body. There would be little to show for a feature length. When reading it though, the characters of the kids are fascinating and there are plenty of little moral lessons buried here. Recaptures thoughts of youth and summer nights spend with friends, adventure, bullying, struggles, and hope. The journey wasn't important in terms of what they found, it was the time they spent together which made the tale so intriguing.
I do think King went overboard at the end for shock value sake with Chris and the others, to where it was a little too unrealistic, but still a story worth reading. 4/5 stars
The Breathing Method as the last story? Well, frankly it was terrible. Easily the weakest and little point to it. The overriding mystery of its main story dulled me and made little sense with small resolution at the end. It was anticlimactic in its revelation. Woven throughout were smaller stories told from other, and nothing special about those either to me. I get where the name comes from finally, but meh. Feels like I must have missed the point of the whole thing. Thankfully this one was short.
In summary these are novellas, not short stories, and will take time to get through. I always think of King as a heavy plot-based writer; here he changes the pace to focus more on characterization than anything else. Another difference is that these aren't really horror stories, save for the last one. They're dramas, serious, and while all have disturbing horrorish elements, they're not his usual fare.
“Get busy living or get busy dying.”- The Shawshank Redemption
“Some birds are not meant to be caged, that's all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. So you let them go, or when you open the cage to feed them they somehow fly out past you. And the part of you that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their departure.”
Other King Reviews: