The most important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things you get ashamed of because words diminish them – words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they are brought out…That’s the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear.
I was thirteen years old when I discovered this novella and I thought the quote above was the most profound thing ever written. I cringe reading it now to be honest. I remember all the times I copied it out on floral writing paper proudly distributing to all and sundry like the revelation of the Rosetta Stone. I have since discovered a litany of other passages to take its place but I don’t think the impact on me of this novella could be understated. My moody and sometimes maudlin teenage self was drawn to anything shrouded in overt moroseness. I blame Kurt Cobain. And Eddie Vedder. And the dude from Soul Asylum who dated Winona Ryder.
As part of a collection of four stories, I purchased this paperback at a now extinct local second-hand book store for $4. My copy of this text is worn to the brink of near-oblivion not unlike those second-hand book shops in this age of the Kindle (don’t get me wrong, I am whole-heartedly all aboard the e-Train!). I’m not sure what drew me to this lived-in text it in the first place. I remember going through a Stephen King phase and so perhaps, pre Internet, I found the first available King that I had not yet read on an excursion of bookish discovery one afternoon. A far cry from Needful Things, Carrie and It (the latter of which is responsible for every generation south of the Baby Boomers’ irrational fear of clowns), The Body is an eerie coming of age novella set in the 1960s.
The Body was made into the film Stand By Me so if you are familiar with the film, you will know this tale. But the pleasure of reading it in its novella form is the discovery of the breadth of King’s writing. He really is a master story teller with a scope of skill that goes far beyond his horror reputation. This novella is creepy. After all, it is a story of young boys searching for a dead body. But it is beguiling in an unusual way that makes it mesmeric and compelling.