September 14, 2009

Different Seasons

Title : Different Seasons
Author : Stephen King
Reading Dates : 13 Sep - 30 Sep 2009

Book Summary of Different Seasons.
Different Seasons is a collection of 4 short stories by the king of horror, Stephen King. The movies The Shawshank Redemption and Apt Pupil were each based on a short story from the book.

Hope Springs Eternal : Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption
The first tale, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption is a tale of hope. A man who is wrongfully convicted for a murder he didn't commit is determined to regain his freedom whatever the risk. Shawshank Redemption is Andrew Dufresne's tale, told from the point of view of Andy's fellow inmate in Shawshank State Prison. In 1948, Andy is sentenced to lifetime imprisonment for the murder of his wife, Linda and her golf pro lover Glenn Quentin. The narrator, himself a lifer and already in Shawshank for 10 years, first meets Andy when Andy comes to him for help in purchasing and smuggling in a rock hammer. Their friendship grows as they continue to do business together.
Andy's first few years in Shawshank is difficult as he is continually harassed by a group of other prisoners. It only stops in 1950 when Andy proofs his value to his prison guards as a financial adviser. Andy's only hope of proving his innocence comes unexpectedly in early 1963. A new prisoner, Thomas Williams who has grown to like and respect Andy hears of Andy's tale and reveals information his former cellmate in Rhode Island State Penitentiary told him. Tommy's former cellmate, Elwood Blatch had been arrested and convicted of burglary. During his time on Rhode Island he had bragged of having murdered Glenn Quentin during a robbery attempt, and having another man blamed for the crime. Andy passes on this information to the warden, Samuel Norton with the request that he help him but Norton denies all possibility of help to Andy. Andy has proven to be indispensable in helping Norton launder illegal money, and he is loathe to let Andy go.
It is only in 1967, that Andy resurfaces from his despair and unexpectedly reveals to the narrator how he created a false identity, Peter Stevens and saved some of his funds with the help of a close friend. Had his friend not died 6 years ago, he would have been able to hire lawyers to reopen his case. Andy further reveals that should he ever leave Shawshank, he intends to setup a hotel and live out the rest of his days in Zihuatenejo in Mexico. Andy finally escapes Shawshank in 1975. Thinking over the past, the narrator comes to believe that Andy's started to dig his route to escape around the same time he bought a poster of Rita Hayworth from the narrator. Inspired by words Andy leaves him, the narrator who is finally freed in 1977, violates his parole and goes in search of Andy.

Summer of Corruption : Apt Pupil
The second story is of Todd Bowden, whom his mother frequently proudly refers to as an apt pupil quoting from a remark written by one of his teachers on his school report card. Todd who has been fascinated by the Nazis since accidentally stumbling across old war magazines in a friend's home, chances upon an escaped war criminal, Kurt Dussander living under the alias of Arthur Denker. The 13-year old Todd blackmails Dussander in 1974 into telling him details of the atrocities he has carried out in exchange for Todd's silence. Todd's grades soon start to drop drastically due to his unhealthy fascination. In order to protect himself, Dussander offers to masquerade as Todd's grandfather and attend the meeting arranged by the guidance counselor, Edward French, with Todd's parents. It is this bit of subterfuge as well as Todd's months of silence which bounds Todd into a trap of his making. Neither would be able to escape punishment should the truth of Dussander's identity ever came out.
Justice when it comes is swift and unexpected. Dussander has a heart attack while trying to bury his latest murder victim in his cellar. He calls Todd, who covers up for him before calling in an ambulance. In a series of coincidences, a former victim of Dussander's, Morris Heisel winds up in the Santa Donato General in the bed next to him. When Dussander realizes his identity and location has been discovered, he kills himself. The police grows suspicious of Todd over the course of their investigations and suspects not only his complicity in keeping Dussander's identity secret but suspect him of being the perpetrator of a series of brutal murders. When Edward French recognizes Dussander's photo from the newspapers he confronts Todd. Todd who has been gradually coming to the realization that the police already suspects him, snaps and goes on a rampage ending with his own death.
The author links Apt Pupil to Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by having Andy Dufresne having advised Dussander on the purchase of some stocks 1 year prior to his being charged for murder.

Fall From Innocence : The Body
The third story is recounted by 1 of the 4 main characters, Gordon Lachance who has achieved his ambition to be a writer. In it he tells of events which occured over 2 days, 14 years ago prior to his retelling. In 1960, a boy from Chamberlain goes missing. 3 days later, Vern Tessio overhears a conversation between his brother, Billy and Charlie Hogan. The 2 of them had stumbled over the body of the missing Ray Brower but decided not to report it in as they were driving a stolen car then. Vern then tells the narrator and 2 other friends, Chris Chambers and Teddy Duchamp. The 4 12-year olds quickly proposes to make a secret trip out to where the body was found to take a look at it, and then to claim the credit for finding the missing boy's body. Things however do not go entirely as planned. Unable to keep the discovery of the body to themselves, Billy and Charlie too have spilled the secret to their other friends. They in turn decide to make another trip out and pretend that they had only just stumbled over the body. Both parties arrive at the same time, and there is a confrontation over their 'claim'. The 4 boys manage to drive the older group off but realize in the end that they cannot speak of it, fearing the other group might falsely accuse them of wrongdoing. The older boys later get their own back at the 4 friends. Ray Brower's body is found but neither group is able to claim credit for the find. The 4 friends drift apart over the years. Vern dies of a housefire in 1966 while Teddy is killed in a car crash. Chris overcomes the Chambers family's bad reputation and is on the way to building a better life for himself when he is killed violently while trying to mediate an argument between strangers in 1968.
The author links The Body to Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by having Chris Chambers killed by a former prisoner of Shawshank.

A Winter's Tale : The Breathing Method
The final story in this collection is told by our narrator, David Adley in the 1970s. In it, he tells of how he was first invited to join a mysterious club as a guest of the head of his law firm, George Waterhouse. The many mysteries of the club includes its ageless majordomo, Stevens, its large collection of books by unheard of authors, its endless rooms and the unspoken rule which prevents its members from speaking of or asking about the club. The narrator has been a member of this club for nearly 10 years, and in this time has heard many tales told by its members. There is a long-standing tradition in the club where members tell stories every Thursdays. The most gruesome which is usually told on the Thursday before Christmas.
One particularly memorable story, The Breathing Method was told by fellow member Emlyn McCarron. The Breathing Method refers to what is now known as the Lamaze method. In it, Emelyn McCarron tells of 1 of his female patients in 1935. Sandra Stansfield, is a young unmarried pregnant woman whom McCarron grows to respect for her strength of will in the time that he attends her as her physician. On the Christmas eve when she was about to give birth, she was involved in an unfortunate car accident as the taxi she was in arrived at the Harriet White Memorial Hospital. McCarron who had arrived on foot at about the same time witnessed the accident but when he rushed to her aid he saw it was too late as her head had been decapitated. The most amazing though was that she was somehow still alive and employing The Breathing Method he had taught her to give birth. McCarron helps Sandra Stansfield to deliver her child and witnesses her death seconds after she expresses her gratitude to him.
The author links The Breathing Method to The Body by having its respective narrator of the story a member of a club.

Book Review of Different Seasons.
My favourite tale in this collection is Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. Shawshank Redemption is compelling because its principal character, Andrew Dufresne's story is compelling. Although unjustly imprisoned, Andy not only does not give up hope but lives his life on his own terms in Shawshank. Justice might have been better served if the real murderer was brought to pay for his crime, but Andy's story would not have been as unforgettable. How Andy escapes from Shawshank is a testimony to both his determination and courage.

The longest tale in this collection belongs to Apt Pupil. It is perhaps the most "thought provoking" story in the collection but the one which I liked the least. The questions which I cannot answer when reading this tale is was Todd Bowden corrupted by Dussander or was he the corruptor ? Was it not he who blackmailed Dussander in telling him all the gory details of the Nazi's sick experiments and methods of torture ? Was that fascination truly born out of innocence or was he not evil in the first place ? It is a contrast to Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption and too grim for my tastes.

I neither liked nor disliked The Body or The Breathing Method. The first a tale of growing up and the last, a traditional horror story. Neither story however provoked much reaction from me. I felt neither interest in the boys journey to find The Body or horror at the idea of a dead woman continuing to use The Breathing Method in her determination to give birth to her child.

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