Saturday, April 16, 2011

Hi, I'm Randy, and I read Stephen King

Pulp Fiction? At over 1100 pages?
It's weird, but whenever I tell somebody I'm reading a Stephen King novel, I always sort of feel like I need to apologize.  As though "Carrie" or "It" or "The Stand" were somehow beneath me as a reader, and that I should be aspiring for more.  

I think college is partially to blame, along with some kind of innate snobbishness on my own part.  I can't really remember where I got it, but somewhere along the way, I picked up the impression that King was for "them."  The unintellectual masses.  The proletariat.  And that, somehow, that was a bad thing.

But you know, there's a lot to be said for an author as prolific as King is, who delivers a new Best Seller time after time after time.  Maybe there's something to this "writing for the masses" thing, after all.

The fact is, Stephen King manages to to entice his "Constant Reader" time and time again because, frankly, he knows him so darn well.  He knows what his reader hates and fears; what turns him on and makes him mad.  He knows how to get under the reader's skin, to try on his bones and take his flesh for a ride.  I think King appeals to so many people because he not only writes situations that excite them, but fills his worlds with people they know.

I heard a critic say once that Stephen King writes like a layman -- as if that were a negative.  Actually, he doesn't.  King's work is deeply evocative and interesting.  He weaves multiple layers of realism, fantasy and menace, developing rich back stories for each of his characters.  He doesn't write like an every day guy, but he writes about them, and does it well.  King's characters aren't Shakespearesque archetypes.  They shave, scratch, fart and cuss -- and darned if they don't just make the stories that much richer and more harrowing because of it.

I know what people say I should like.  That there are award-winners and people on Oprah's list, and required reading in the Great Halls Of Learning.  But the truth is, I read Stephen King because I like his stories.  He doesn't bore me.  And more than that, because King writes his characters -- and their stories -- in a way to which many writers could only aspire.

1 comment:

  1. You are not alone :).

    I refused to read King for a long time--judging the book by the movie, I'm embarrassed to say--and I wish I hadn't been so snobbish about it. I missed out on some great fiction over the years, and now I'm playing catch-up. I started with Duma Key when my book club picked it, then read Lisey's Story (which is one of my favorite books ever now), and have since gone back and started reading his older works.

    You have it right--he doesn't write "like" a layman, he writes about laymen. He writes stories about and for real people. And he does so with depth, no matter what the snobby critics say!