Rita Hayworth And Shawshank Redemption, the first story in Different Seasons, is the story of one Andy Dufresne, shrewd banker and totally nice everyman, who lands in jail for the murder of his wife and her lover, even though is so definitely innocent. In jail, he befriends a dude named Red, who is oh for fuck sake you’ve all seen the fucking movie. It’s basically that, except Red isn’t black and Dufresne gets his post-prison money elsewise. Let’s check in with the live press conference, where Pat and Andrea are both incapable of talking at length about a book as good as Shawshank.
Pat: Let’s get the most important issue out of the way first: is it even possible to say anything bad about this story?MOTHERFUCKING ALL OF IT. IT’S SHAWSHANK, BITCH.
Andrea: Not really.
One thing bothered me–at the beginning, Red mentions that he married his wife because she was pregnant. That child is never mentioned again. He didn’t die in the car because they said he was serving time for three lives. Did he live?
Pat: I don’t know, why don’t you bring it up with your Mothers Who Read And Can’t Overlook A Child That Was Mentioned ONE FUCKING TIME support group?
Or you could write to the ladies of The View.
Andrea: All my book group ladies quit the book group. Because they are swinging single bar workers who don’t have time to read.
Pat: They probably wanted to get away from discussing whatever child was mentioned in any book.
“I loved Cloud Atlas, but what about the kid that was described passing the main character on the street on page 256? Did he ever grow up? Get married?”
Pat: You’re going to end up writing fan fic about the children obliquely mentioned in popular books. That will be your niche.
Andrea: I hate you so much.
I just wanted to know! Did he have any family left? Siiiihghhghghghghhghghgh
Pat: He’s an Irish dude in New England. I imagine he had tons of family.
Andrea: They just wrote him off, what with the murderin’.
Pat: Pretty likely. Or because he was in jail for life.
Andrea: The characterization is really sharp in this book. Partly what makes it such a level above The Running Man.
Pat: See Dick Run is a level above Running Man.
Pat: I scribbled in my paperback, “Opening: super-awesome? or super, awesome?”
Andrea: Pretty awesome.
Pat: I also noted that Red is strangely well-spoken for a man who’s been in jail since he was very young. It’s on the page where he uses “militated.” I’ve spent twelve years trying to get a bachelor’s degree, and I still had to look that motherfucker up.
Andrea: Yes. And it didn’t really discuss him studying or being in the library, did it?
Pat: The library was shite before Andy got there, remember?
Although at the time of writing, he’d have had plenty of opportunity to read and read. But probably not to get so good at writing.
Within a paragraph, Kools cigarettes are mentioned along with Naragansett beer, making this book a prophecy about hipsters.
Just kidding, hipsters smoke American Spirits.
Andrea: I’m pretty sure I don’t know any hipsters.
Pat: You must. You’ve been to Fishtown.
Andrea: I mean personally. Did you really take notes?
Pat: I wrote thoughts in the margins and dog-earred the pages.
Pat: Here I noted the use of “jimmies,” which I learned recently is racist.
Andrea: Oh really? What’s origin?
Pat: Because sprinkles used to only be brown. I’m going to go ahead and assume it comes from Jim Crow.
Andrea: I always say “sprinkles” because “jimmies” sounds redneck
Pat: Apparently Snopes rates this as “PROBABLY FALSE.” So carry on.
Andrea: OH SNAP
Pat: The Golden Era of Stephen King books might be our nadir because it’s hard to discuss a book that’s good. Who wants to pick apart something that works?
Andrea: Well, yeah.
Andrea: So when they first introduced Andy, I was totally not picturing Tim Robbins at all. Conversely, I could not stop picturing Morgan Freeman as Red.
Pat: I kept picturing scenes from the movie, but not the actors, at least outside of those scenes.
Andrea: So the crime that Red committed to get in jail is never mentioned in the movie right? Presumably because it would make him less sympathetic.
But I think in the book he was pretty sympathetic regardless, largely due to his total admission of the facts
Pat: No, I think he does mention it in the movie, but the crime isn’t trying to kill his wife. It was that he just ended up killing a guy when he was 16 or 17.
Andrea: Right—which is a little more palatable than wife, neighbor, neighbor’s tiny baby.
Andrea: One thing that for me made the book so enjoyable and masterful was the meticulous detail to the ins and outs of prison life.
Pat: Without making it feel ARDUOUS or tedious.
Andrea: No, totally not arduous! In fact, I didn’t want it to end.
Pat: And it’s very weird because it’s almost entirely exposition. You get some dialogue, sure, but mostly it’s like a story someone’s telling you at a bar.
Andrea: Even the things that would have been clichés in another book didn’t seem clichéd here.
Pat: I’m just glad that “Get busy living or get busy dying” didn’t end up being another great Stephen King quote that was completely fabricated by the screenwriter. Shades of The Shining.
Andrea: Did this book have too much prison rape? Circle yes or no
Pat: I don’t feel like there was an amount of prison rape that was unbelievable.
Andrea: More like the detail—like Red having to put toilet paper down the back of his shorts.
I’m not saying I think it was too much, just fostering discussion.
Pat: It was important to be really clear that this was a shitty, shitty place to be in even if you were guilty.
Pat: “…but rape is rape, and eventually you have to look at your face in the mirror and decide what to make of yourself.”
Andrea: I didn’t really get that line. Was Red trying to say that getting raped was better than giving it up?
Pat: I think he was saying that you have to make peace with what happened without consigning yourself to letting it happen again. Or that you have to decide if you’re going to let what happened eat you up inside. Pretty male take.
Andrea: Got it.
Pat: “I don’t think solitary was the hardship for Andy that it was for some men. He got along with himself.”
Andrea: I liked that part too.
Pat: I LIKED EVERYTHING.
Andrea: He did manage to make Red sympathetic even though he killed his wife and two other innocents including a baby, which is pretty monumental task for a writer if you think about it. It really drove home for me when he said that they take the part of your life that matters. And how broken Red was when he got out.
Pat: True. You said that yesterday, so you must really believe it.
Andrea: I hate you so much sometimes.
Pat: Because I have a memory?
Andrea: And you use it to persecute me.
Pat: YOU TOO WOULD USE SUCH A POWER FOR EVIL
Andrea: Do you think the plot relied too much on happenstance? In some ways, I think it was established that Andy was just a really lucky guy—except when he wasn’t.
Pat: There is no way in which Andy was lucky. Zero ways. Like when the prosecutor responds to some explanation of Andy’s with, “Isn’t that convenient?” And Andy says, essentially, no, from where I’m sitting, it’s not convenient at all.
Andrea: He was lucky in that his plan worked despite all the ways it could have gone off the rails.
Pat: Well, that’s never a good way to look at a story. Why would Stephen King bother writing about a guy who doesn’t ever get out?
Andrea: Well. Yeah.
Pat: It’d be like watching an apocalyptic movie and saying, “OH SURE THE MAIN CHARACTERS JUST HAPPEN TO BE SURVIVORS.” Of course they are, what kind of short-ass movie would it be if it followed people that died during minute one of the apocalypse?
Pat: I finished the book on the train. It was like A Tale Of Two Cities all over again with the tearing up in public.
Andrea: We should rename this blog “Awesome Chick And Constant Crybaby.”
Pat: More like “Concerned Mother And Sensitive Man Who Is In Touch With His Feelings, So Hey Ladies What Are You Up To Tonight?”
Andrea: Too bad no ladies read this.
Pat: Derek’s pretty close
Andrea: Are you kidding? He’s as butch as they come.
And he’s engaged.
Pat: I know, I literally could not think of anyone else that reads this blog.
Pat: Do you think he wrote this, finished it, and was like, “Whew!” and then spent the rest of the 80s thinking, “My god, I forgot to put a Magical Negro in that book!” and then wrote Green Mile?
Andrea: Ha! Yes.
Was there anyone black in this book even?
Pat: I’m sure. Even Maine isn’t so white that their prisons don’t have any black people.
Andrea: Yeah but, really, do you recall any black characters? I guess we are to just assume that some of the random background guys are black.
Pat: Not really. But he may just not have mentioned they were black, and so they all defaulted to white in my head.
Andrea: YOU ARE SO RACISTS.
Pat: I don’t think picturing every inmate in a prison as white is racist. I also didn’t picture any Indians, Asians, or Native Americans in the prison.
Andrea: I was joking. Since we haven’t really said anything funny about this book yet.
Pat: I know, I saw the extra S in “racists.”
Andrea: No, that was a typo.
Pat: I will pretend it wasn’t.
Andrea: Is this your fave so far? I mean, obviously, it is.
Pat: Another thing the movie does better: Brooks. The Brooks story in the book is just illustrative, but it gets tied through Red’s in the movie, and Brooks is around the entire time, you get to know him and love him.
Andrea: Yes. They gave Brooks the pigeon in the movie, right? Whereas it was kind of just a footnote in the book?
Pat: Jake was a crow, I believe. at least in the movie.
In the book, Brooks is paroled, he sets Jake free, and then Jake shows up in the yard, malnourished and dead.
“They give you life, and that’s just what they take.”
Andrea: Saddest part: Red being totally defeated when he gets out of prison and has to keep asking his teenage boss for bathroom breaks.
Pat: “I hope to see my friend. I hope to see the Pacific.”
Way to give us half of the ending of The Mist, Stevie.
Andrea: I was so anxious during the part where he was describing all the things that could have gone wrong to ruin it for Andy. Way to spike my blood pressure, Stevie!
Pat: I have to say, the way Andy gets the money in the movie is far superior. And the warden kills himself.
Andrea: How does he? I forget.
Pat: He steals the bank books for the illegal business the prison is running. And leaves, in their place, his copy of the Bible with the pages cut out to hide the rock hammer he used to escape.
Andrea: Oh right! I haven’t seen it in quite a while.
Pat: I watch it every 150 minutes.
Andrea: I also liked the idea—not sure if this is in the movie or not—that he never intends to tunnel through, he’s just fooling around until one day a giant chunk of the wall comes out.
Pat: That’s the movie as well. It’s raining one day, and he notices the wall is swelling or something, and he scrapes at it a bit, and bits of the wall just start crumbling off.
Andrea: And I liked in the book that the poster changed over time.
Pat: Also in the movie.
Andrea: What was your favorite part?
Pat: MOTHERFUCKING ALL OF IT. IT’S SHAWSHANK, BITCH.
Andrea: Any parts that seemed off? I didn’t think the beers on the roof after Andy offers to help guard with his tax problem really rang true.
Andrea: What would prevent him from just making Andy do his taxes and then not getting them any beer?
Pat: Because he’d need all the forms and wouldn’t be able to do it that day, so motherfucker would have to bring them things first. The beer, that is.
Andrea: But couldn’t he just make him do it because he was in charge and had a billy club?
Pat: Let me just paraphrase you here: “I am absolutely fine with Andy running an illegal industry within the prison for two separate wardens, getting books and all sorts of favors for the library, but I find it extraordinarily hard to believe he’d ever be given beer.”
Andrea: Sigh. I guess.
Pat: Possibly the fact that Andy clearly just does not give the first fuck influenced the guard. I mean, he walks up and says, “Do you trust your wife?”
Andrea: That’s true. OH MAN even though I knew what happened it gave me so much anxiety.
Pat: When he talks to the warden about taking his case back to court to get a new trial, and the warden just says, “Nah, dude,” and then Andy yells, “It’s my life! It’s my life, don’t you understand it’s my life!”
And then the warden has dude transferred to a minimum security prison that gives inmates furloughs to go home.
Andrea: That was maddening.
Pat: Which is essentially what happens in The Green Mile, too, except they shoot the guy.
Andrea: I can’t remember Green Mile that well.
Pat: It’s another thing of, “Oh hey, I’m new here, but I used to have an inmate…”
Andrea: How about the part when Red talks about the prisoners back in the day having to dig their own graves? Shivers down my spine.
Pat: Well, yeah. It’s better now because with private companies owning and running prisons, they’ll folded the illegal industry into a legal construct, and so why would you kill your awesome workers and tenants?
Pat: Probably one of the best parts is Red mulling over how Andy had managed to escape and talking about the guard who was sent into the walls to see how he’d done it.
Andrea: YES. I loved that part.
Pat: Not that it wasn’t good in the movie, but you see that fucking sewage pipe and think: “There’s no goddamn way.”
So clearly Stevie learned to not fucking describe pipes. Finally.
Andrea: All I can really remember from the movie is that iconic shot where he comes out of the pipe into the rain. But nothing about him actually crawling through it.
Pat: You get him actually going through the pipe, with the bag tied around his leg, and he’s getting nauseous and retching. Which is very affecting. But the book doesn’t bother with it, whereas a few books ago, it was like, “Sorry, what the fuck is happening in this over-described but somehow still confusing pipe?”
Andrea: Yeah, there was nothing like that in this book. Everything was… crisply described? That sounds dumb but that’s how I am thinking of it. I didn’t spend any time musing about wtf was going on, unlike through all of the Running Man.
Pat: There’s nothing wasted at all. No fat, no gristle. It’s all perfect… meatiness.
Andrea: Yes. Do you think this is his first really great book?
Pat: I’d go that far. The Stand was good, but it wasn’t great. Ditto The Shining, ditto pretty much everything.
Andrea: SUBQUESTION: Do you think that his short stories are naturally better than his long books, and that novellas are an extension of that?
SUBSUBQUESTION: Are novellas his perfect format? Witness The Mist, for example.
Pat: You’re asking me if I think that he’s better when a shorter form is reining in his natural tendency for over-characterization and sluggish starts?
Andrea: Well, yeah. I think he is best in short spurts, and the novella gives him a chance to be truly great. Whereas in his longer books, there are bursts of greatness–like the evil town part in the Dead Zone.
Pat: I’ve thought about it, but it’s hard to say given that we don’t know if he started writing Shawshank knowing it would be a novella. It’s not a novel because he must’ve gotten to the end and went, “Oh, okay. That’s a novella.”
Andrea: But it sounds like his writing process is more iterative, like he just kicks the ideas around and sees where they land.
Pat: You’d think, but the ideas in your head (speaking for myself) all tag themselves as certain lengths. I bet Shawshank was originally going to be a long short story, and it got away from Stevie.
Andrea: You’re probably right. I mean, I doubt he ever sets out to write a 1500 page book.
Or maybe he does.
Pat: But yeah, I think the shorter forms for some reason make SK exercise some editing and pacing muscles he doesn’t bother with in novels.
Then again, remember Night Shift? Those stories were kind of laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaame.
Andrea: This story is really wonderfully paced, by the way. There was not one second in which I was bored or wondering what was going to happen next.
Pat: (That might possibly be because you’ve read it before and seen the movie more than once.)
Andrea: Well yeah, but I don’t remember all the tiny details.
Same goes for Apt Pupil, as far as reading it and seeing it the movie more than once, but there were parts of it that dragged for me. Like–OMG WHEN IS THIS OLD MAN GONNA DIE?
Pat: This book is the definition of a boner jam.
Andrea: Agreed. This would go on my boner jams list of best books.
Pat: This guy was at Freddy’s the other night, and he mentioned that there were three stories in Different Seasons. And I was like, no.
And he was like, yes.
And I was like, let me grab my bag.
Andrea: What a dumbass. There are four seasons.
Pat: Wrong night to try to tell me something about Different Seasons because it’s IN MY BAG MOTHERFUCKAAAAAAAAAAA
Andrea: Did you tell him about the website?
Pat: Are you nuts? I don’t want anyone reading this shit.