I’ve been shanked!

edition: 1982 Signet mass market paperback

I have this new annoying habit (yes, another one). I’ve fallen into a “reading the book AFTER seeing the movie” phase. Filmmakers are now dictating my reading list. It’s sad, I admit. But let me explain. My rationale is: IF the movie is good, surely the book is even better! If the movie sucks, well, surely the book is better and might redeem itself. Usually I chase down the books that inspired the “good” movies, however. Most recently I read No Country for Old Men (exactly like re-watching the movie). A few months ago it was Children of Men (brilliant movie and good book). Last month I rented Atonement and loved it so I had to rush out and buy the book just to see how the writer went about telling the story. It’s still on my night table to read so more on that later…

My cat, on the other hand, chose my most recent read. He knocked a green paperback onto the floor. The book belongs to my husband and he’s had it for years and it’s been sitting in the stacks untouched by me except to move it from one place to another on occasion. I never gave the book a second thought because, well –gulp, I’m afraid to say it (considering his legions of fans) but I never liked Stephen King. I’d tried some of his short stories and hated them….I’d been at the mercy of rabid fans telling me the juicy details of his books on more than one occasion and as I sat listening I was thinking, “that sounds really dumb.” I rarely had an English Comp student in my class who didn’t feel that the be all end of literature was King. So…I somewhere along the way forced myself to read Misery (after seeing the movie) and it was just OK…I then read Dolores Claiborne (before the movie I think). I really liked it and thought maybe he wasn’t so bad after all ….but his usual fans seemed to not like that book as much and said it wasn’t “like” his usual work. One guy even said he hated it and it sucked (he was a long time loyal fan). I still wanted to give him a chance, so I decided to try another book. Because I loved the movie, I tried reading The Shining. Was bored….didn’t finish it. Wasn’t nearly as great as the movie. Then I tried The Stand (since it is everyone’s favorite) but I couldn’t get into it and never saw the movie version.

Anyway….The green paperback is called Different Seasons. I didn’t recognize the title (and most King novels are so well known that even my grandma could name them). So, I flipped inside and what do you know? I see that it is a collection of novellas. The first novella is called Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. Hell….it’s well known after all. Geez….and I saw the movie years ago…and loved it. Then I flip through and see that it is only 106 pages long…wow. Wonder how it reads compared to the movie considering it is so short? And by Stephen King (which I always knew but figured they must have changed it drastically)….Well, then I start reading …and to my shock (and maybe horror) it is AMAZING. I can’t stop reading it. And it isn’t drastically changed from the Oscar winning movie! Before my very eyes I suddenly turn into one of those rabid fans who say they had to stay up all night to finish the book….only, this took an afternoon.

Usually when you read a book after seeing the movie you lose some of the “hooks” that keep you reading to find the answers to all the dramatic questions the plot creates…so with that out of the way, then the writing itself becomes the primary thing over discovering the plot. That works great for well written novels, not so great for poorly written ones revolving exclusively on plot and having two dimensional characters. I would have thought that Shawshank would fall into that category….but it didn’t (that bastard). It had me at hello. The narrator’s voice was so textured and so ALIVE that it sucked me in…it was one of those rare books that make the world completely vanish around you and you root for the characters with all your heart. Even though I KNEW the ending, it was still exciting to read. The characters were so fully developed and the writing so spot on that I was still affected by every hook and turn….Damn Stephen King. The man can write in a way that wins millions of teenagers and can also be, I’d say, literary! I’m so jealous!

So the next story in the collection is Apt Pupil (saw the movie) and then The Body (a.k.a Stand by Me…saw the movie….years ago)….Then one called The Breathing Method (thank God I’ve never heard of it but I’m sure I’ll later learn that it was made into a movie with another title or something) ….I mean, the man writes a collection of novellas and not only are three of the four made into movies (which is an amazing feat) but TWO were nominated for a bunch of Oscars! And to top it off, I read his book On Writing and he’s a pretty down to earth guy who is likable! Damn him…..damn him to hell.

Not sure which King novel I’ll try next but I need something to take me back to the days of thinking he’s just a lucky hack…..I think those days are over. At a library book sale, I recently purchased a hardback of Cujo and Lisey’s Story….so maybe I’ll try one of those….since Cujo was a movie and I did see the movie, I think I should go with that one.

PS. A side note on reading a book after the movie…..the major drawback to me is that you can’t help but hear and visualize the actors who played the characters as you read the book…I think you lose something there….it’s nice to visualize them my way or by how the writing dictates….anyway.


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