Living inside a book and a movie
by Keith Taylor
From the August, 2016 issue
Ann Arbor fiction writer, editor, and teacher Aaron Burch has written a rare book. Neither exclusively criticism nor memoir, Stephen King's The Body recounts Burch's deeply personal, even intimate, engagement with a story.
If anyone needs reminding, The Body is one of four novellas in King's 1982 collection Different Seasons. This was the book that convinced even us famous book snobs at the original Borders that King was an important writer. Then, if anyone still needed convincing, came the exquisite movies that grew out of a couple of these novellas--Rob Reiner's Stand By Me, based very closely on The Body, and Frank Darabont's The Shawshank Redemption.
Burch's book is as much about Stand By Me as King's novella, and he draws interesting comparisons between the two. He admits that he has seen the movie more times than he can count and that he still teaches The Body whenever he can. He puts them at the center of his artistic life, as the first inklings of what became his obsessions amid all the popular culture he loved in the 1980s and '90s.
From his fascination with King's tale of friendship and growing up, Burch entered the world of books and literature. The New Yorker, he writes, "seemed like some new, great magazine that I'd discovered, like the cool indie band that still only a couple of your friends were talking about." From reading, he moved on to writing and publishing--I first knew of him as the editor of the interesting and edgy journal Hobart.
In Burch's book, his memory of and engagement with The Body and Stand By Me become touchstones for almost everything else in his life. He understands much of his education as a writer in terms of the things King accomplishes in the novella. Transitions, those moments where we change from one thing to another, and when our past struggles with our present, affecting us as readers and artists, as friends and marriage partners--all of this comes into Burch's discussion of The Body. Burch gets comfortable with his own use of nostalgia, both in his writing and in his memory of his friends--who, of course, are always like the four boys who set off to find the dead body in Stand By Me. This short little book is outside any easy category and wonderfully unlike anything else you're likely to read this year.
Aaron Burch reads from Stephen King's The Body at Arbor Brewing Company on Sunday, August 28.
[Originally published in August, 2016.]
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