Thursday, November 27, 2014


by Stephen King (as Richard Bachman)

Rage (originally titled Getting It On) is the first novel by Stephen King published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman in 1977. It was collected in 1985 in the hardcover omnibus The Bachman Books. The novel describes a school shooting, and has been associated with actual high school shooting incidents in the 1980s and 1990s. As a result, King has allowed the novel to fall out of print.

Charlie Decker, a Maine high school senior, is called to a meeting with his principal over a previous incident in which he struck his chemistry teacher with a pipe wrench, leading to the teacher's hospitalization and Charlie's suspension. For unknown reasons, Charlie subjects the principal to a series of insulting remarks, resulting in his expulsion. Charlie storms out of the office and retrieves a pistol from his locker, then sets the contents of his locker on fire. He then returns to his classroom and fatally shoots his algebra teacher. The fire triggers an alarm, but Charlie forces his classmates to stay in the room, killing another teacher when he enters. As the other students and teachers evacuate the school, police and media arrive at the scene.

Over the following four hours, Charlie toys with various authority figures who attempt to negotiate with him, including the principal, the school psychologist, and the local police chief. Charlie gives them certain commands, threatening to kill students if they do not comply. Charlie also admits to his hostages that he does not know what has compelled him to commit his deeds, believing he will regret them when the situation is over. As his fellow students start identifying with Charlie, he unwittingly turns his class into a sort of psychotherapy group, causing his schoolmates to semi-voluntarily tell embarrassing secrets regarding themselves and each other.

Interspersed throughout are narrative flashbacks to Charlie's troubled childhood, particularly his tumultuous relationship with his abusive father. Several notable incidents include a violent disagreement between two female students, and a police sniper's attempt to shoot Charlie through the heart. However, Charlie survives due to the bullet striking his locker's combination lock, which he had earlier placed in the breast pocket of his shirt.

Charlie finally comes to the realization that only one student is really being held against his will: a seeming "big man on campus" named Ted Jones, who is harboring his own secrets. Ted realizes this and attempts to escape the classroom, but the other students brutally assault him, driving him into a battered catatonic state. At 1:00 p.m., Charlie releases the students, but Ted is unable to move under his own power and remains. When the police chief enters the classroom, the now-unarmed Charlie moves as if to shoot him, attempting suicide by cop. The chief shoots him, but Charlie survives and is found not guilty by reason of insanity, committed to a psychiatric hospital in Augusta until he can answer for his actions.

The final chapters contain an inter-office memo concerning Ted's treatment and prognosis at the hospital where he is now a patient, and a letter from one of Charlie's friends describing assorted developments in the students' lives during the months following this incident. The story ends with Charlie addressing the reader: "That's the end. I have to turn off the light now. Good night."

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Razor's Edge

The Razor's Edge
by W. Somerset Maugham

The Razor's Edge is a book by W. Somerset Maugham published in 1944. Its epigraph reads, "The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard," taken from a verse in the Katha-Upanishad.

The Razor's Edge tells the story of Larry Darrell, an American pilot traumatised by his experiences in World War I, who sets off in search of some transcendent meaning in his life. The story begins through the eyes of Larry's friends and acquaintances as they witness his personality change after the War. His rejection of conventional life and search for meaningful experience allows him to thrive while the more materialistic characters suffer reversals of fortune.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

'Salem's Lot

'Salem's Lot
by Stephen King

'Salem's Lot is a 1975 horror fiction novel written by the American author Stephen King. It was his second published novel. The story involves a writer named Ben Mears who returns to the town where he lived as a boy between the ages of 9 through 13 (Jerusalem's Lot, or 'Salem's Lot for short) in Maine to discover that the residents are all becoming vampires. The town would be a location that would be revisited in the short stories "Jerusalem's Lot" and "One for the Road", both from King's 1978 short story collection Night Shift. The novel was nominated for the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1976. In 1987, it was nominated for the Locus Award as the All-Time Best Fantasy Novel.

The title King originally chose for his book was Second Coming, but he later decided on Jerusalem's Lot. King stated the reason being that his wife, novelist Tabitha King, thought the original title sounded too much like a "bad sex story". King's publishers then shortened it to the current title, thinking the author's choice sounded too religious. 'Salem's Lot has been adapted into a television mini-series twice, first in 1979 and then in 2004. It was also adapted by the BBC as a seven part radio play in 1995.

In two separate interviews, King said that of all his books,  '​Salem's Lot was his favorite. In his June 1983 Playboy interview, the interviewer mentioned that because it was his favorite, King was planning a sequel, but he has more recently said on his website that since The Dark Tower series already picked up the story in the novels Wolves of the Calla and Song of Susannah, he felt there was no longer a need for one. In 1987 he told Phil Konstantin in The Highway Patrolman magazine: "In a way it is my favorite story, mostly because of what it says about small towns. They are kind of a dying organism right now. The story seems sort of down home to me. I have a special cold spot in my heart for it!"

Players First

Players First: Coaching from the Inside Out
John Calipari

In Players First, John Calipari relates for the first time anywhere his experiences over his first four years coaching the Kentucky Wildcats, college basketball’s most fabled program, from the doldrums to a national championship, drawing lessons about leadership, character, and the path to personal and collective victory.

At its core, Calipari’s coaching philosophy centers on keeping his focus on the players—what they need to get the best out of themselves and one another. He is beloved by his players for being utterly honest with them and making promises that he always keeps, no matter what. He knows that in this age, they come to Kentucky to prepare for the NBA; every year he gets players who in a previous era would have gone directly into the pros from high school but now have to play college basketball for one year. Calipari has fought against this system, but he has to play within it, and so he does, better than anyone.

The result is an extraordinary leadership challenge: every year Coach Cal gets a handful of eighteen-year-old kids who have been in a bubble for the previous four years at least, filled with hype about their own greatness, and they come to Kentucky feeling sure that they will play for their coach only for seven months before they go on to greater glory. Every year, he has to reinvent his team. After his 2012 NCAA championship, it was particularly dramatic; he lost his first six players in the first round, meaning that someone who couldn’t even start for Kentucky was a first-round draft pick.

The overall record at Kentucky, and for his career, puts Calipari in the pantheon of the greatest coaches in the history of the game. Bold, funny, and truthful, like Coach Calipari himself, Players First is truly the first deep reckoning with the meaning of his experiences and the gifts of insight they offer.

Masque of the Red Death

"Masque of the Red Death"
by Edgar Allen Poe

"The Masque of the Red Death", originally published as "The Mask of the Red Death: A Fantasy" (1842), is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe. The story follows Prince Prospero's attempts to avoid a dangerous plague known as the Red Death by hiding in his abbey. He, along with many other wealthy nobles, has a masquerade ball within seven rooms of his abbey, each decorated with a different color. In the midst of their revelry, a mysterious figure disguised as a Red Death victim enters and makes his way through each of the rooms. Prospero dies after confronting this stranger, whose "costume" proves to have nothing tangible inside it; the guests also die in turn.

The story follows many traditions of Gothic fiction and is often analyzed as an allegory about the inevitability of death, though some critics advise against an allegorical reading. Many different interpretations have been presented, as well as attempts to identify the true nature of the titular disease. The story was first published in May 1842 in Graham's Magazine. It has since been adapted in many different forms, including the 1964 film starring Vincent Price. It has been alluded to by other works in many types of media.

"The Beautiful Stranger"

"The Beautiful Stranger" 
by Shirley Jackson

In “The Beautiful Stranger,” Margaret, a housewife unhappy in her marriage, retrieves her husband at the train station, despising “the sight of his hands on the wheel” as they drive home. It’s never clear what’s gone wrong between them; we know only that Margaret considered his business trip “a good time to get things straight” and to “try to get a hold of myself again.” Suddenly, though, when they get home, Margaret realizes that the man she’s picked up is not the same one she dropped off. Her husband has been replaced by a double. The two of them never raise the subject, though Margaret believes they are both in collusion about the switch, and the narrative, streamed through her narrow perspective, denies us an answer about the “stranger’s” true identity. Is Margaret suffering from Capgras delusion? Or has she simply chosen, for her own happiness, to believe her husband is someone else? Is he truly another man? Are suburban husbands really that indistinguishable?

Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park
by Michael Crichton

Jurassic Park is a science fiction novel written by Michael Crichton. Often considered a cautionary tale on unconsidered biological tinkering in the same spirit as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, it uses the metaphor of the collapse of an amusement park showcasing genetically recreated dinosaurs to illustrate the mathematical concept of chaos theory and its philosophical implications. In 1993, Steven Spielberg adapted the book into the blockbuster film Jurassic Park. The book's sequel, The Lost World (1995) was also adapted by Spielberg into a film in 1997. A third film, directed by Joe Johnston and released in 2001, drew several elements, themes, and scenes from both books that were ultimately not utilized in either of the previous films, such as the aviary and boat scenes. A fourth entry directed by Colin Trevorrow, is set for theatrical release on June 12, 2015.

The novel began as Crichton conceived a screenplay about a graduate student who recreates a dinosaur in 1983. Eventually, given his reasoning that genetic research is expensive and "there is no pressing need to create a dinosaur", Crichton concluded that it would emerge from a "desire to entertain", leading to a wildlife park of extinct animals. Originally it was told from the point of view of a child, but Crichton changed it as everyone who read the draft felt it would be better if told by an adult.

The Shining

The Shining
by Stephen King

The Shining is a horror novel by American author Stephen King. Published in 1977, it is King's third published novel and first hardback bestseller, and the success of the book firmly established King as a preeminent author in the horror genre. The setting and characters are influenced by King's personal experiences, including both his visit to The Stanley Hotel in 1974 and his recovery from alcoholism. The novel was followed by a sequel, Doctor Sleep, published in 2013.

The Shining centers on the life of Jack Torrance, an aspiring writer and recovering alcoholic who accepts a position as the off-season caretaker of the historic Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies. His family accompanies him on this job, including his young son Danny, who possesses "the shining," an array of psychic abilities that allow Danny to see the horrific past of the hotel. Soon, after a winter storm leaves them snowbound, the supernatural forces inhabiting the hotel influence Jack's sanity, leaving his wife and son in incredible danger.

The Shining was adapted into a feature film in 1980 by director Stanley Kubrick, with a screenplay co-written with Diane Johnson, which is regarded by some as one of the greatest films of all time. King himself was disappointed with the film, stating it had abandoned several of his book's major themes. The Shining was later adapted into a television mini-series in 1997, closely monitored by King to ensure it followed the book. King wrote the series himself and was reportedly unable to criticize the Kubrick version due to his contract.