"Different Seasons" by Stephen King

Very unusual, step-out-of-the-box for Stephen King who got tired from expectations - from 1974 onwards he had great success on the market as a writer in a horror genre and it can safely be said that he simultaneously reinvigorated the genre and established himself as the most talented new voice around. Of course I can't possibly guess what was going on in his mind but it seems that after a long list of horror novels, he might wanted to try his luck in a completely different genre and so we have 1982. collection of four stories - not long enough to be novels but this is something they call novellas - under the title "Different Seasons". For the most part, the stories are completely outside of horror genre, except that the style is very recognisable Stephen King, which means excellent understanding of human mind and fears. He was so invincible at the time that even when he was not writing horror, three out of these four stories were later turned into movies. 

"Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" is set in a Shawshank prison where main protagonist befriends quiet fellow and tells his story about gaining power in the prison and making himself indispensable, all the while planning escape. There is nothing really scary here and it wasn't King's intention anyway - this is a fascinating story about human perseverance and hope that somehow lives in the worst conditions.

"Apt pupil" is unforgettable and creepy in a completely different way - here we have all-American boy, outwardly polite and well-behaved but inside corrupted and evil, who discovers that retired old man from the neighbourhood is actually Nazi criminal and he blackmails him into making him his own Scheherazade. The old man have to tell him stories about all his past in concentration camps and slowly they both achieve something like evil symbiosis, where they feed each other off with evil energy. Not only that the story is fascinating but perhaps the most interesting is King's understanding that such evil can exist amongst completely clueless people, nobody around them is aware what darkness lives in this quiet neighbourhood. 

"The Body" might be the most unusual and unforgettable of them all - here is where King completely sheds his horror skin and actually very lovingly and affectionately writes about group of little friends who set together on a summer adventure. The reason for this adventure is gruesome, naturally, since this is Stephen King after all - they are curious to see the certain dead body that police has not discovered yet - but they are kids and this fascination is just natural, what is more important is how they bond together while roaming the Forrest and going so far away from home. Kids are bragging, swearing, teasing each other and helping one another all the way trough this experience and they are absolutely adorable, I am actually surprised how well King understands children's psychology - most of us grow up and kind of forever leave this behind but King really re-creates again the feeling of being so close to your buddies that laughter and tears just brings you closer.

"The Breathing Method" is perhaps the weakest here, it feels like exercise in a genre of ghost stories and it makes me wonder was it written after famous 1979 novel by Peter Straub who also used the similar setting of gentlemen's club where people entertain each other with stories. It is a very old idea - it goes way back to some of classics of literature - but King has fun with it, its just that after everything that came before it feels not so fresh. The beginning and description of mysterious gentlemen's club is actually more interesting than the story that follows. Its also the only story that has not been turned into movie so far, although I can imagine some gifted director eventually taking a chance with it eventually.

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