Saturday, March 17, 2012

Constant Reading Project: It's the tale, not he who tells it

The four novellas in Different Seasons have a common theme. All four are stories about stories.

"Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption" is Red telling the story about Andy Dufrense. "Apt Pupil" gets rolling because Todd Bowden wants to hear stories about the Nazi concentration camps.
"The Body" not only has a narrator relating the main tale, but includes portions of two stories within the story. And "The Breathing Method" is a story about telling stories.

King put it right up front. "It is the tale, not he who tells it."

That sort of makes this project feel stupid. Read every book written by one man in the span of a year? Doesn't that say "It's not the tale but he who tells it"? In a way, yes. But the thing is, if the stories weren't good, there wouldn't be so many of them.

It would be very easy to write "The Body" off as autobiographical, thereby reducing its overall impact. It would be just as easy to put "The Breathing Method" on the shelf with a sub-subgenre of stories in which a man (always a man) tells other men a story is some anonymous club. The story feels like it should be from the Victorian period, as opposed to something happening in the late 1970s. This is on purpose. These two stories-- the longest and shortest in the book-- reflect each other. The unnamed club and the group of boys on their journey are the same, just age appropriate.

Does that mean "Shawshank" and "Apt Pupil" are related? Yes. They are stories about prisons, in the physical and mental sense. In one there is hope of escape; in the other, hope is crushed.

Not to simplify it too much, but "Apt Pupil" and "The Body" are equally related. The are stories of young men who want to touch death. What they all learn is that no one gets out alive.

Notes on the ebook edition: I never knew how many pages I had left. When I'd bookmark a page, I would be shown a percentage of the book read. That's cool but takes some getting used to. There were also a crap ton of typos, especially in "The Body."

Since the ebook I read was based on a paperback, I'm counting it as 512 pages. That brings us to 5,231 pages and eleven books down. Up next, Christine.

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