My quest to read through all of the Stephen King continues. Rage is a particularly hard to get one’s hands on because King let it go out of print in the late 1990’s. I got it in The Bachman Books, a collection of four novels published under the pseudonym, and my particular copy is withdrawn from a public library where it obviously was well circulated and most likely withdrawn for condition. The reason King allowed the book to go out of print is because it was linked to a number of school shootings. It’s you’ve read Guns, you know that King has strong feelings about gun violence and I can’t blame him one bit for no longer wanting Rage in print.
Because Rage is a different kind of school shooting book. It’s very, well, Stephen King. The main character, who I guess could be termed an anti-hero maybe, is the shooter, Charles Decker. Charles is disturbed. He knows that he’s disturbed and the school knows that he is disturbed. They’re even discussing sending him elsewhere after he hit a teacher over the head with a lead pipe. He kind of reminds me of Holden Caulfield, but instead of thinking that everyone is phony he seems to think that everyone is full of shit. When he loses it, a calm comes over him and he decides to “get it on.”
I want to argue that the Goodreads summary is incorrect. Charles isn’t making everyone “justify his or her existence.” It’s more like a sharing of secrets, a confession. Charles is holding church. Most of his classmates are in for a penny, in for a pound. They are fascinated with him and with what is happening. They have a sick need for the sex and violence of it all. And that’s really the most disturbing thing about the book, Charles is considered crazy but his classmates are still normal, even after the closing ceremonies.
It’s a sensitive subject to touch on and one that I’m not very comfortable talking about but I’ll try. Even in the current environment, it’s kind of hard not to root for Charles. You know that you shouldn’t, that he just shot two teachers and is holding his classmates hostage. It’s that the classmates are so quickly drawn into the drama of it all, so willing to share bits and pieces of themselves. One character even leaves the classroom to go to the bathroom and comes back. When they argue that Charles is alright, you start to feel that way too and it’s, well, uncomfortable. You know that it’s wrong, that Charles is managing to get away with murder.
This probably won’t make my top ten in the Stephen King realm but it did keep me on the edge of my seat and it did make me think and it did make me uncomfortable. I have to give it credit for that while also admitting that King was probably right to pull it from publication. He has his reasons and they matter to him and you have to respect an author for that.