This, perhaps the most quintessential “Stephen King story” ever written, walks that delicate, liminal space between childhood and adolescence. Here lies the age when perfection exists unrecognized. When you have the friends you’ll always carry with you, regardless of later circumstance. This is the age when childhood has reached its apogee: immediately before the confusion of puberty and the discovery of girls. It is a time for unchecked vulgarity, false bravado and posturing, and the constant interplay and co-mingling of imagination and experience, where the dog down the street is a red-eyed guardian of the underworld, the abandoned house is the haunted stomping ground of a killer, and every day ends with you racing home ahead of the setting sun. Here is where you can indolently waste a summer afternoon playing card games, or baseball, or war. This is the age that Stephen King has built a career on, and this is the story that he uses to show off his well-used muscles.
When I think of Stephen King, I don’t think of apocalyptic wastelands, or evil clowns, or obsessed and homicidal fans. I think of being 12 years old. More accurately, I think of being 34 and remembering being 12 years old. Because those are two very different things, and the remembering is always a lot more fun.
Stephen King is like those memories: warm, and comfortable, and familiar. Full of life and friendship; masculine, but with the recognition that “male” doesn’t equate to better. He writes what he knows, and nothing feels more authentic than when he’s writing about this.
I’m always curious how women perceive him. To me, this story is universal. But it’s not. Not really. This is very specific to a time and place, and the characters are almost entirely male, and white. The women, here, are the only kind of women a 12 year old can conceive of: mothers and the loose women of an imagination unlayered by experience.
I absolutely loved this novella, but it’s not for everyone. The boys are obscene, their language unchecked by social norms or existential diversity. They are offensive in the way that only a 12 year old can be. They’ve developed the language of adults, but wholly lack the understanding and responsibility to give their cavalier disregard for the feelings of others the malice that otherwise should exist.
My experiences at this age were different in almost every way, but I can’t help feeling that the underlying truth to this story is mine. That the experiences of growing up, of confronting mortality and the foundational efficacy of friendships, and of coming to terms with my place within the world are all represented here in the guise of someone else’s life.
I havw never read this before, but I have seen the movie Stand By Me, which was an adaptation of the story. Though the two are almost exactly the same, the power of The Body wasn’t remotely lessened by knowing what happens.
King is at his best, here.
Reviewed in 2013 for CBR5 by fancypants42.