Different Seasons, the first novella collection by Stephen King features four novellas – Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, Apt Pupil, The Body, and The Breathing Method. The first three were adapted into films; the last has not been to date.
– Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption focuses on a man (Andy) who goes to jail for murdering his wife and her lover. He insists he is innocent (like many prisoners do), and we soon learn that Andy is telling the truth, but there is nothing to be done about it. Nevertheless, the story will eventually live up to its title in quite an interesting way. The novella was adapted into the 1994 film The Shawshank Redemption, starring Tim Robbins as Andy and Morgan Freeman as Red, the narrator of the novel who provides the cellmates with various items. The film was well-received and is known as one of the best film adaptations of a Stephen King story.
– Apt Pupil is about a teenage boy who has a morbid interest in World War II – one day he recognizes an ex-Nazi in his town and, more than just a little curious, he blackmails the elderly man into telling him various stories about the war. He soon is spending nearly all his time with the old man, and making up lies to tell his family so they don’t suspect anything. But things spin too far out of control, as they often do when blackmail and lies are involved. The Apt Pupil film starred Ian McKellan as the ex-Nazi and Brad Renfro as the high schooler.
– The Body is a retrospective story told from the point of view of a thirty year old man who is telling a story about something that happened when he was eleven. The story he tells revolves around his eleven year old self and two friends going to search for the body of a friend who had gone missing while picking berries. The story has more of a growing-up theme than a morbid one, despite its macabre premise regarding the missing boy. It was adapted into the oft-praised 1986 film Stand By Me starring River Phoenix, Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell.
– The Breathing Method is a strange sort of story in which a man in a club tells a story about a pregnant woman who learns a certain breathing method for giving birth. When she is in an accident, said breathing method proves to work very well for her even under the strangest circumstances.
My personal favorite in this collection is Apt Pupil, for its interesting (and extreme) take on the macabre curiosity many children take in such things as World War II. Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption was also quite memorable and quite a page-turner, despite its initial seemingly plotless prose (the story of a wrongly convicted man may soon seem old, but it quickly becomes captivating). The last two stories rank in the order in which they come in the book, but all four of them are well worth reading. King’s foray into the land of non-horrific tales was a successful one for this reader. These stories reminded me why I so enjoy Stephen King’s writing – it is not so much his ability to terrify as his ability to interest a reader in stories of nearly any variety.
Overall, Different Seasons is an interesting collection of fairly brief stories that are slightly different from what Stephen King was known for writing at its publication date. Rather than giving his readers straight out horror tales, King delivered poignancy, quirkiness, and psychologically compelling stories. He gave stories that we remember now – perhaps they are not classics, but they have the potential to eventually be considered such.