THAT WAS THEN…
It was Christmas 1982. I had just turned seventeen four days earlier and was looking forward to my final semester of high school…and then college. But, first, I had two weeks off and couldn’t wait to do absolutely nothing.
I can’t remember what Santa left under the tree for me that Christmas, but I do remember what my sister Mary surprised me with: an inscribed (by her; not King) hardcover copy of Different Seasons.
Of course, I was thrilled and grateful and dove right in.
“Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption”
I remember opening Different Seasons and scanning the promo copy for “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” on the inside dust jacket flap—the most satisfying tale of unjust imprisonment and offbeat escape since The Count of Monte Cristo—and feeling just a bit underwhelmed. A prison story by Stephen King? Hmmm. Well, maybe the prison will be haunted, I thought.
It was haunted, all right—and so was I by the time I finished reading “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.” » Read more
Different Seasons is a collection that contains only four tales and, with the exception of “The Breathing Method,” there is nothing remotely supernatural in them. None of the stories had been previously published. That may not seem unusual now, but at the time it was something of a departure for King.
The publishing landscape was different in 1982. In his lengthy afterword to Different Seasons, King bemoans the sad state of the novella, that peculiar form of fiction that falls between longer short stories and shorter novels, tales in the 25-30,000 word range. This is a territory King called “an anarchy-ridden literary banana republic.” Nowadays, there are more opportunities to publish novellas, especially in the small press. Even “The Mist,” a later novella, was published as a standalone book from one of the big houses as a movie tie-in.
He calls the stories in this collection his bedtime stories. The ideas came to him while he writing other novels. He couldn’t stop those books to tackle these ideas, so he got into the habit of telling the stories to himself while he was going to sleep at night instead of counting sheep. He says that he often has six or seven of these ideas going on at the same time and many of them never pan out. Either that or he ended up telling the entire story to himself, so there was no point in writing it down. In a later interview, King says he originally submitted only three novellas to his then-editor John Williams but, since he called them “seasons,” Williams felt there should be a fourth, so he wrote “The Breathing Method.” » Read more