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Stephen King's BEST
on April 11, 2002
I just love Stephen King's books, okay? I've read them all, except RIDING THE BULLET, because I'm on the computer enough already, and I personally like to have a book with paper pages to pour over while I'm on a plane or a couch or a beach.
So I have read King--in hardback--for years. I always buy his books as soon as they are published. Then I buy them in paperback for tote-ability. They don't weigh as much, and therefore don't load me down when I'm walking mile-long concourses, nor hurt my stomach when I am (re)-reading them on the beach.
To me, all of his books are marvelous. But SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION is his best story EVER.
This story is actually one of four in King's book, DIFFERENT SEASONS. And it is actually entitled "HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL RITA HAYWORTH AND THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION." Preceding the story, there is a single page with a single sentence which says, "It is in the tale, not he who tells it." Oh, and this tale does tell itself, but if King had not put it down for us, (pen to paper, so to speak) we would never have had the gift of this masterpiece to even consider.
When you realize the King of Horror has written a work that would catapult most authors into the galaxy of writers' stardom, and that it is just one of his many, many works, you just have to appreciate what a great WRITER King is. Sound silly? Well, as we all know, there are best-selling authors out there who are not particularly good writers. King sets this story down with a writing skill so superior that it is difficult to imagine something more perfectly written.
Of course I saw the movie, and it was fairly true to the book. But not until you let the actual words of this story envelope you and enthrall you do you get the full-tilt emotional fulfillment of reading a thoroughly engrossing story.
King does a beautiful job of giving us the substance of the characters, both in the realm of the facade a prisoner must maintain to survive, and of the inner anguish a prisoner struggles against to stay whole. We get to know the two main characters -- Andy and Red -- inside and out, and this is what makes the book so very compelling.
And I have never, ever, read a story in which the last sentence takes my breath away, causes my heart to beat faster, and makes my eyes tear, as this story does.
Some of the scenes are hard to take--particularly the prison rape scenes--but they are necessary for us to understand just what makes the wrongly-incarcerated Andy Dufresne so unique. And if he were not so unique, if his character were not so brilliantly disected in King's writing, there would be no story at all. Events happen around Andy, but what happens inside Andy is what gives this story wings.
A masterpiece, plain and simple.