Saturday, February 11, 2006

Riding with the King

I just finished reading the unabridged version of Stephen King's "The Stand", and it confirms my opinion that King is a great writer whose best works deserve to be considered literature, and not just pop fiction. Sure, King has written his share of schlock, but he also produced beautifully written and haunting stories such as "Bag of Bones", "Hearts in Atlantis", and "It". What King appreciates, and what many modern writers forget, is the power of great story telling.

In his memoir, "On Writing", King acknowledged that popular writers are consigned to a literary ghetto by critics and the literati, and it has even crept into his fiction; many of King's protaganists have been popular writers nursing a smidge of resentment against the establishment that has rejected them. King lashed out at these snobs when he received an honorary National Book Award in 2003:

King's speech was humorous, sentimental and defiant. He remembered his early years of writing, the typewriter sandwiched in the laundry room between the washer and dryer. He said he had been ready to give up on "Carrie," now a modern horror classic, only to be talked out of by his wife, Tabitha.

He also urged the book foundation not to make his award a case of "tokenism," an isolated tribute to commercially successfully writers. And he called on the industry as a whole to pay more attention, saying he had no "use for those who make a point of pride in saying they have never read anything by John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Mary Higgins Clark or any other popular writer."

"What do you think," he asked, "you get social academic brownie points for deliberately staying out of touch with your own culture?"


Indeed. The people who would dismiss out of hand popular fiction are the same people who brag about never watching television. A closed mind is a closed mind, no matter how much Proust you've read.

7 Comments:

Blogger John Patrick Henry (aka The Truth) said...

awwww...man....you missed a good pun...should have titled this one "writing with the king."

hey, i don't watch much TV...just the sopranos, curb your enthusiasm, the daily show and colbert report, MASH repeats up to henry blake's death and emeril live. i'm i out of touch?

as far as king's books...never read one. but loved the movies of carrie, misery, stand by me and dolores claiborne. good storytelling in all cases.

by the way, i caught donnie brasco again on encore. i loved that movie the first time around. but on a second viewing, it disappointed in a big way. maybe it's just me, but the flick seemed to have more depth when I saw it in a theater. or maybe it seems shallower now because of the sopranos...or analyze this. still, al pacino did a great job of playing the lowest of low lifes —especially in comparison to his roles as the boss in scarface, carlito's way and the godfather.

1:33 AM

 
Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

Johnny Depp is only so-so in that film, in my opinion. Don't get me wrong--he's certainly not terrible, but he's given better performances. What makes it worthwhile is Pacino and Michael Madsen. Compare that to "Heat" in which neither Pacino nor Robert DeNiro is at the top of their game, but great direction, storytelling and strong supporting roles make it a great film.

10:52 AM

 
Blogger Sherry P said...

i read THE STAND when it came out years ago and was just blown away. that is some damn fine writing. there are a few that i liked but they weren't outstanding, but hey, i liked them, i enjoyed my time reading them , so they did what a book should do. in the book CHRISTINE you will recognize more than a few pgh locations, 2 of them in particular merged into one. it was fun hunting them down.
people forget that opera at it's beginings and shakespeare's plays were for the people's entertainment. i think anything that one likes and enjoys as far as movies or books or tv goes, it's all great. snobs, well, they don't know what they are missing OR just maybe they are closet readers and viewers of common fare and it's their guilty little secret, like eating a whole pint of ben and jerry's at one time. ; )

2:02 PM

 
Blogger Disgruntled Clerk said...

"Christine" uses several Pittsburgh landmarks, indeed ... and I just read "From a Buick 8," which also uses Western Pennsylvania as its setting (the Greensburg/Latrobe area, in particular). As an added bonus, "Buick 8" is set in the same universe as K.C. Constantine's Rocksburg mystery novels.

I thought King got a little long-winded a few years ago ... his "Dark Tower" books left me flat ... but he seems to have hit his stride again.

1:25 PM

 
Blogger Sherry P said...

i couldn't get into his dark tower books, so i didn't bother. too many good ones to reread when the mood strikes. i loved pet cemetary. still gives me the willys and "it" was great til the ending, then i was a little disappointed.

2:04 PM

 
Blogger Sherry P said...

i just bought THE CELL, hope it was worth it. i'm waiting til i have some real time to sit back and read.

8:48 AM

 
Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

I loved the Dark Tower series, although it definitely sputtered as it neared the finish line--the first four books were superior to the final three.

7:45 PM

 

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