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.