Top o’ the mornin’ to ya!
Or, it could be the afternoon or the evening, wherever you are on this planet. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas/Hanukkah/whatever you do during the festive season. Even though I said in the last post that I was going to abandon this blog for a while, I now have some downtime.
Anyway, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to you, but…this particular review is way overdue! In fact, there hasn’t been a book review on here for ages! Well, I’ve been working on this review for quite a while now, but life gets in the way (I was really preoccupied with assignments and Christmas). Sometimes there are times that I don’t have the motivation or the time to write, and frankly, I value quality over quantity. I’d rather a decent post once in a while than shitty posts almost every day for the sake of posting. Anyway, that’s just me. I’ll stop rambling now.
So, let’s get right to the review, shall we?
The Body is the third novella in Stephen King’s quartet Different Seasons. As the majority of us know, it spawned the movie Stand By Me (if you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favour). Personally, out of all the novellas in this collection, The Body would have to be my favourite. Out of the four, this one was the least dark, albeit death being a major theme. The Body takes us back to the summer of 1960 and is narrated by Gordon Lachance, a writer who fondly remembers that summer.
(incoming spoilers under the cut)
Gordon and his band of friends were twelve going on thirteen, and the summer of 1960 was a pivotal time for all of them. They had this break to enjoy their freedom, before choosing subjects that will determine their futures. At this time, Gordon Lachance aspires to be a writer but is spending the summer with his rag-tag band of friends. When they hear that Ray Brower– a boy from the neighbouring town of Chamberlain–is still missing, the boys presume that he’s already dead and decide to find his body instead, with hopes of a reward. Along with Gordon, the group consists of Vern Tessio, an absent-minded boy who also means well. There is also Ted Duchamp, an eccentric, bespectacled boy who had his ears burned off by his mentally unstable, veteran father. Lastly, there is Chris Chambers, a social pariah and supposedly a future criminal. There were two other boys that belong to the group (but I’ve long forgotten their names, since they’ve only ever been mentioned once in the novella and do not make an appearance in the story, so I’m not even going to bother).
Vern mentions that he overheard his older brother talk to his friend about finding Ray’s dead body near the train tracks, and the gang decide to claim fame by going on a search for it. Aside from the dead body, what else will they discover on this journey?
Okay, so if you’ve read my previous posts on Stephen King works (the first two DS novellas in the collection), you’d know that I’m very, very fond of his writing. I like the simple language he uses when he writes his stories–not all great stories require you to have a thesaurus at your desk. The four main characters have been written well; because they all have their own quirks, personalities, and aspirations. Anyway, I personally find Gordon to be relatable in the sense that he was an aspiring writer ever since he was young. In the novella, King adds excerpts of Gordon’s works that show how he improves as a writer with age. An amusing story is the one of “Lardass” Hogan, who decides to commit a rather gross act out of vengeance for being bullied about his weight. The writing’s a bit awkward at this point, but King definitely does a good job capturing the imagination and skill of a preteen wannabe writer. Teddy’s backstory is also one that intrigued me; I actually found it sad. His father was a war veteran that went bonkers, abused his son (hence why Teddy has hearing aids), and ended up in Togus, a veteran’s hospital in Maine (and likely in the mental ward). What makes it quite gut-wrenching for me is that despite all that he’d been through, Teddy still loves and idolises his father, and even emotionally defended his honour when tormented by Milo Pressman, the garbageman.
However, I’d say the contrary the gang of greasers that terrorize and bully the boys. They’re merely just cardboard cut-outs of delinquent tropes (with the exception of Ace Merrill, who is basically evil as shown in other works). However, the reason may be because they’re not the main characters or whatnot; but say for instance, if Eyeball or Billy (Chris’ and Vern’s older brothers) had a redeeming factor such as brotherly protection/love i.e. if they tried to defend their brothers from Ace out of the blue. They don’t do that, and therefore it seems they bully their own little brothers. As for Chris, I found his story/tropes a little cliched. He’s the misunderstood kid; everyone (aside from his good friends) thinks he’s a good-for-nothing punk from a poor family (full of delinquents). Vern? Well, there’s not really much I can say about him since I thought that King didn’t really go into much detail about his life and he only seems to be the mood lightener.
My interpretation of this story is that this story is all about one thing: Death. The most obvious pointers to this conclusion are the dead kid, the death of Gordon’s older brother prior to the story, as well as the deaths in the future. Additionally, there is also the death of innocence. From a Romantic point of view, innocence was valued, hence why many Romantic artists and writers have praised the notion of childhood and nature. To go even more whacko (because I can), the Death card in tarot card divination usually signals change; the death of one aspect in your life means that something entirely new will begin (if you believe in that sort of thing).
Another major theme present in the novella, and is directly related to the theme of death is metamorphosis. Let’s have a think about this one. We’ll go beyond the novella and notice that the quartet is aptly called Different Seasons. Each story featured in this collection has something to do with change; be it escape, a change in personality, or death and life. In The Body, we observe a metamorphosis from childhood innocence to the uncomfortable limbo of growing up and growing pains. Towards the end, Gordon tells us that their little group began to fall apart when school started again; he and Chris began to hang out with Teddy and Vern less and less until they no longer remained friends anymore. This particular bit of the story would be relatable to a lot of readers. Personally, this sort of thing is the main reason I lose friends over time; there’s that good old poem that dealt with ‘friends for a reason, friends for a season, and friends for a lifetime’, and I liked how King wrote about that.
To wrap up, I really enjoyed this story, and I can easily say that this is my favourite story out of all four novellas. The story kept me gripped, and it was (in a way) relatable to me. The movie adaption is also pretty awesome, so watch if you haven’t yet–and if you have, watch it again.
There are a couple of things I want to write about so, keep your eyes peeled for those future blog posts. So for now, ciao! I’ll see you in the next post!