Thursday, July 14, 2011

Stephen King, and why I love him

I really like this quote from Stephen King, because it sums up pretty nicely how I feel about the dreaded "doorstop thriller":

"So many of the 400-pagers are disposable... When I see books by some of the suspense writers that are popular now, I think: "These are basically books for people who don't want to read at all." It just kind of passes through the system. It's like some kind of fast-food treat that takes the express right from your mouth to your bowels, without ever stopping to nourish any part of you."

There are exceptions, of course, but I think for the most part that's spot on.

But King himself writes monstrously long books, doesn't he? Ah, a quandary.

The things I DON'T like about Stephen King: His books are, indeed, waaaay too long, usually. And he writes too goddamn many of them. I can't keep up. In fact, I'm a good DECADE behind.

The things I LOVE about Stephen King: nobody, and I mean NOBODY, writes better or more believable characters. That's King's gift to the world, and that's why he'll be remembered 100, 200 years from now.

Also, the man is a brilliant short story writer. As behind as I am on his novels, I never miss a short story collection from him. If you don't believe me, read Everything's Eventual and see for yourself. It's a collection by a man at the top of his form.

Stephen King's enthusiasm for writing and for reading (he's still a big ole' fanboy himself) are infectious. Long live the King.


  1. I'm in the same boat as you. I read one of his latest stories and was a tad unimpressed, but he usually smacks you right upside the head. I'm way behind on his novels. I think the Dark Tower series broke him a bit. But his writing voice is like a siren, subtle and gripping.

  2. He's overproducing, but nobody dares to tell him because he's such a milking cow. But I think you're right. Guys like Harold Bloom are talking shit about him, but he's going to be remembered loooooong after his death.

  3. I hadn't read any King, but then I got On Writing - very insightful book. Now I keep meaning to read Carrie - maybe I should just go an order it.

  4. His sweet spot for me is his novellas. I gave up on the novels a long time ago.

  5. I am a big, big fan of King but agree he could use an editor. (INSOMNIA, seriously? I read it in galleys when it was 1000 pages long.) Liked UNDER THE DOME, though, even if the ending was weak because it had fantastic characters.

  6. Seth, if you haven't read King's fiction, might I recommend a short story collection first, like Everything's Eventual? I think you'd dig it.
    Thomas, "subtle and gripping", well-said. As he gets older, he gets smoother.
    Ben, yeah, Harold Bloom is a jack-ass. I think Neil Gaiman recently ripped him a new one very efficiently.
    Brian, I agree, his novellas are outstanding, but they're long enough to be considered novels by anyone but him...
    Katherine, I haven't read Under the Dome, since I'm a good ten years behind on his novels, but I think you're right about his characters. That's his real strength.

  7. This is the second time I've read that "disposable" quote from King, and I must be dense, because I'm still not sure I understand what he's talking about. Is he referring to the length (400 pages) or the content?

    I seem to recall reading a statement in his outstanding book, "On Writing," where he says a "goodish" length for a novel is 1000 pages. I must have read that twenty times, certain he must have meant something else. Good luck approaching any agent or publisher with a 1000 page novel unless your name is King or Tolkein...

  8. Love his short stories too but he needs a better editor for his novels. ON WRITING is masterful though. Learned so much from that one.

  9. I'm with you on the characters, I struggle to find someone better at creating multiple believable people in one story.

    But, unlike everyone else, I love the longer novels. Give me 1000 pages any day.

    Except for Insomnia...that could of lost a few hundred pages for sure!

  10. ... and this is probably one of the reasons I'll never be at the top of the best-seller lists... I like 'em short and mean. In fact, one of my goals as a writer is to get the story told effectively in as few words as possible. But I can understand the appeal of longer stuff.