I had a recent urge to revisit some of my early favorite books. When I was in Jr. High and High School, my first steps toward developing my own taste in reading was to borrow books from my dad’s bookshelf. He loved Stephen King, Ray Bradbury and all kinds of other dark stuff. When I left for college, I stole his copy of Different Seasons (sorry Dad!). I picked it up recently and read through the first novella– Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, before realizing that it actually wasn’t the collection I was wanting to read. I often mix up Different Seasons and The Bachman Books, because they are both Stephen King collections, made up of books that are scary, not in a supernatural sense, but because they explore how dark, hurtful and sinister people can really be.
Sometimes I read dark stuff, but it’s an escape for me. Not all of my choices in entertainment are so bleak. Maybe I’ll write soon about my recent binge on Fuller House.
The most memorable novella in The Bachman Books is Rage. It’s a story of a teenager that goes on a school shooting rampage, but as the event goes on, the students change sides and join up with him. It’s extremely dark, and when I first read it in 9th grade or so, it was so dark as to be beyond all bounds of of belief, and in its own way was a terrible, cathartic escape from the teenage anguish of high school.
I read the book before Columbine. Before Sandy Hook. Before school shooting after school shooting after school shooting showed that Rage was not beyond all bounds of belief.
In my most recent urge to revisit some of these old books, I tried to download Rage from my library’s e-collection. It’s not available there. After some poking around online, I learned that Stephen King had pulled Rage from all future printings. He pulled it because he learned that school shooters had drawn inspiration from it, and he felt responsible and guilty. He never intended someone to act like that, and never wanted to inspire others in the future to carry out horrible, violent acts. He explained that when he wrote the book in the 1970’s, it was a different time, and that the book served its purpose in its day, but that times had changed and it did not have a place in modern day, in the way it was intended.
In general, I oppose removing books or ideas from the marketplace, but I guess I kind of get what King did there. If I were in his shoes, I can’t say I would do anything differently. However, the book still had a place for me in my life, and I still wanted to read it. It’s easy to find a used copy of The Bachman Books online, containing Rage. My copy arrived today, and since I’ve got a pretty casual weekend ahead, I’ll probably make a good dent in its pages over the next few days.
I’m happy to have the book for myself, but am left wondering. When my kid begins to develop her own reading taste, and starts digging through my books in this new and different era, am I going to let her read it? Or, like Stephen King, will I pull it from the shelf, because it doesn’t have its place in today’s world, like the purpose it had when it was written?