I’ve decided to do a two-part post today as I’m away for the week and will be unable to blog. Part 1 of this post is an early Teaser Tuesday and the second part of the post is a book review. Both are on Stephen King’s wonderful novella The Body!
A weekly meme hosted by Should Be Reading. If you know the drill, cool. If you don’t, look it up :).
The Body by Stephen King
In 1960s America, four young boys go on a journey to search for the body of a boy killed by a train. As they travel, they discover how cruel the world can be, but also how wondrous.
I became acutely aware of all the noises inside me and outside me, like some crazy orchestra tuning up to play. The steady thrum of my heart, the bloodbeat in my ears like a drum played with brushes, the creak of sinews like strings of a violin that had been tuned radically upward, the steady hiss of the river, the hot hum of a locust digging into tight bark, the monotonous cry of a chickadee, and somewhere, far away, a barking dog. Chopper, maybe.
2) And now for my review…
Stand By Me (1986) is one of my all-time most beloved films. I’ve watched it quite a few times, and each time it is every bit as good as the last. When I first watched Stand By Me way back in the early 2000s, I didn’t know much about Stephen King, except that he’d also written the book the 1990 mini series IT was based on – a film (or whatever) that, at the time, made me laugh lots (a mixture of mirth and terror, I think). Anyway, back then I didn’t actually know that Stand By Me was based on King’s thrilling novella The Body (part of compilation Different Seasons published 1982) until probably the second time around watching the film a year or so later. For a long time now I have been meaning to read The Body and get another King story under my belt (so far I have only managed to read Carrie). I’m so very, very glad that I finally have read this because it was every bit as good (and perhaps even better) than the film version. I would usually always say that books are always better than adaptations, but the film has been in my heart for a long time and well…whatever. The book and the film are on par with each other, really, even if they are obviously not completely identical. But, this isn’t a comparative review.
I’ll move on now from the brilliance of Stand By Me and into the super-brilliance of King and his wonderful storytelling. The Body was a thrill to read. I would have loved it if I didn’t already know the story, but reading iconic scenes such as Gordie running from the train, The Revenge of Lard Ass Hogan, the leech scene, the discovery of the body itself (and much more, I could go on) was awesome. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. The way King sets up his characters and story and setting and everything else is truly remarkable. I really don’t know how he does it. The Body is a journey (yeah, okay, bad metaphor) in the literal sense for four boys, but also in the sense that it takes you into different time frames and explores very different emotions of growing. Essentially it is a coming-of-age story, even if it only covers (not including the interludes into past and future) two days of Gordie and his friends’ lives, from the day they decide to go and see the dead body of Ray Brower and to the day they return home after seeing it, their first dead body. It’s fascinating, really. Why a group of young boys decide to go off to look the inevitable mortality in the face. I think all of us probably have a similar sense of morbid curiosity. But I think if I were ever faced with seeing a dead body, particularly a child’s, it would really screw me up. No wonder adult Gordie keeps going back to this time in his pre-adolescence and writes the story.
While I love the story for its nerve and while I really admire King’s beautiful writing, my favourite thing about The Body (and this seems to be a common thread for me with books) is, of course, the characters. In the case of Stand By Me I’ve always found it hard to pick which of the four boys (Teddy, Vern, Chris, Gordie) is my favourite (mainly because of RIVER PHOENIX) but it didn’t take me long to decide while reading The Body that Gordie is definitely my favourite (though it was a tight race between him and Chris). I don’t know if it’s just because Gordie is the narrator and we get to see into his head a lot more than the other characters, or because Gordie’s a writer (my favourite kind of people, even if I can hardly call myself a writer yet), but there is something about Gordie that I really like. King’s use of Gordie as the voice of the story is done brilliantly and it’s just… Man, I’m a bit too overwhelmed by the story and by exhaustion to properly explain why I like Gordie so much. He’s just so damn likeable, I suppose. The other characters are wonderful too, of course, and even the big kids are great for being complete assholes.
Maybe you’ve never read a King novel/la before and if you haven’t, I reckon this one is a good start. If you have, you should damn well read it anyway. Getting to sounding a bit like how the boys speak, now. This is brilliant, brilliant novella. It made me feel a whole lot of different things. It made me happy and sad, a good balance of both, and I think that’s a vital thing about stories – after all, who wants to read a novel and be completely happy or completely sad the whole time? You learn nothing that way, and there’s definitely plenty to learn in The Body about friendship, courage, masculinity, death, love and much more. I highly recommend you read this story if you’re willing to be taken into the world of Castle Rock and these four boys’ lives – the lessons they learn and the challenges they face. I got quite teary while reading, and writing this review now I’m getting teary again. That’s the influence of this story and King’s words. Wonderful stuff. I’ll say no more. Just read it!
Well there you have it.
Have a wonderful week everyone 🙂