When finding something to read next, I wouldn't normally gravitate towards rare books. But reading that one book in my last post by Allison Bartlett really got me interested in them. It is true that every book tells a story. Just looking at some of the books on my wall I can associate them with a memory. Catcher in the Rye? Found in the attic of my parents house. My wife suggested I read it. Catch-22? Bought it after I read the first five chapters for my intro to fiction class. Magic Man? It was in the bargain bin right before I was going to walk out of a Borders without buying anything. The list goes on.
But when I found out that Stephen King purposely pulled one of his books out of print, I have to admit, my interest was piqued.
I wasn't outwardly looking for it, but, one day in Woodridge, I stumbled upon a collection in a Goodwill store. The collection was called The Bachman Books. Of course, everyone knows by now that King was writing under another pen name and called himself: Richard Bachman. Inside was the full novels of Roadwork, The Running Man, The Long Walk and...right at the beginning of the book: Rage. The out of print book.
It only cost me 75 cents.
Rage is a slim book, about 169 pages. But packed into those pages is a very disturbing story. Now, look, I know that this is a controversial book and that's why I'm going to warn some people about this book. This book is not for disturbed minds. A smart person can read this book and not be affected. However, if a disturbed individual read this...well...it's more likely to grease his crazy wheel.
The book starts with Charlie Decker, a troubled teen already facing hard times when he brought a pipe wrench to school and decked a teacher with it. Now, at the start of the book, he's recalling flashbacks of his troubled family life. Later he sets fire to his locker then walks into his homeroom in high school and shoots his algebra teacher. What follows next is a series of surreal discussions, confessions, proclamations, sex education, procrastinations and a fair-fight slap match between two girls who hate each other. Charlie is obsessed with the concept of getting it on. It's very hard to determine what he's talking about but, then again, the book is through Charlie's point of view and in the story he's a very dangerous sociopath who now has a the control of a classroom under his thumb. The group of twenty five students band together to discuss their life, their flaws and their somewhat broken future. Eventually, they all gang up on this one bully named Ted Jones and it is unclear exactly what they did to him but, by the end of it, he's nothing but a drooling, whimpering mess. The book is intense, dangerous, but chocked full of suspense. I'm not saying that it's good but I am saying that my curiosity of it was satisfied and, happily, that book is now closed. It still sits on my shelf. I might read it again someday. But by then it will be with a wistful eye and a shake of the head.
One of the major reasons why Stephen King pulled the book was because one such troubled teen shot a teacher...and they found Rage in his locker.
So now comes the opinion you've probably been wondering about: Was he right in making the book out of print? I would say yes. Knowing a person has imitated a work of fiction to such a degree must weigh pretty heavy. But I believe that he did what he felt he had to do. I mean, how much can you ask of the guy?
My wife has always told me something that has stuck with me. She's said, "Never apologize for your work." And I stand by that. Books will offend, books will pry, books will certainly provoke thought. But the writer's work is to simply write. Separate indivdiuals who cannot give this material the fear and respect it deserves, to just read it and walk away from it, were more disturbed from the get-go.