5 REASONS TO READ & LOVE STEPHEN KING
I wanted to share with you an article I wrote for a ‘newspaper’. I recently commented on an article about Stephen King, on the website of a major French newspaper. They contacted me to ask if I would be interested in writing an article about the author, something like “5 reasons to love Stephen King”.
I decided to do so, and therefore, here are : 5 REASONS TO READ & LOVE STEPHEN KING*.
Stephen King : a name, a brand that became a literary & a marketing phenomenon within a few years . The first novel of the author, Carrie, was released in 1974, a time when the development of travel and growing globalization allowed him to become a real success in only 3 books : Carrie, Salem’s Lot, Shining. These 3 books were quickly turned into movies/ mini-series, by popular directors (Brian de Palma, Tobe Hooper, Stanley Kubrick) and went global.
After selling over 350 million books worldwide (these days, the first print of an American edition Stephen King novel, is 1 million copies… usually selling out within 2 to 3 weeks) in about 40 years, Stephen King has created a reputation for himself as a horror writer: a reputation that will stick , especially since the early 90’s, when he claimed to be the literary equivalent of a Big Mac with fries.
How many of you have a negative opinion of Stephen King ?
Here are 5 reasons why you shouldn’t pay attention to this reputation, and therefore why you should read Stephen King :
1) THE RICHNESS OF HIS WORK :
Stephen King is a popular writer. Writing from a young age, he wrote his first short story, Happy Stamps, at the age of 6, and was sharing his work in the schoolyard. His first publication, I was a teenage grave robber, was released at 18, and the American author never stopped writing since then.
He wrote short story after short story, and several novels before the release of Carrie in 1974, a novel that was saved from the bin by Tabitha King, his wife. In 1986 he even had as many as 6 books simultaneously on the top10 of the best-sellers list.
In 2011, Stephen King’s bibliography includes more than 50 novels, over 160 short stories, and more than 400 non-fiction essays.
He is known for his horror, but actually mostly writes fantastic stories, and quite diversified :
- Fantastic (let’s take Shining, Rose Madder, Lisey’s Story),
- Horror (Pet Sematary, Black House),
- Fantasy (The Talisman, the eyes of the dragon : a tale for kids),
- Science fiction (Sandworld, The jaunt : short stories),
- Crime (the fifth quarter : a short story, Dolores Claiborne),
- Thriller (Misery),
- Roman noir (under the penname of Richard Bachman),
- a fantastic-feminist novel (Rose Madder),
- And a fantastic-western saga (The Dark Tower)…
The author wrote about numerous themes through-out his career. However, his masterpiece is The Dark Tower, which he describes as being his « Jupiter, a planet that dwarfs all my other works « . This saga corresponds to 7 books (an 8th volume, is due in 2012) published over 22 years, but those 4,000 pages were actually written over 40 years. This is actually a real « tour de force », as this saga is also represented in numerous of his short stories or novels (eg: Insomnia, Black House).
In the same way, most of Stephen King’s work is connected to each-other : characters, towns & places are reccurent (Derry, Castle Rock…), the fate of the characters are crossing each others’ paths etc. Finally, among the fans favorite novels are the classics like; IT, The Stand & The Dome (even though those books are over 1,000 pages long).
The American author excels with long novels as well as short stories.
2) YOU APPRECIATE HIS WORK WITHOUT KNOWING HIM :
You probably have already seen one of the following movies : Stand by me, Misery, Apt Pupil or The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile...
Did you know that, originally, it was a story written by Stephen King? Although Stephen King’s universe is mostly known as horror and fantastic, he wrote numerous stories that are more intimate than scary.
Also, did you know that The Shawshank Redemption is considered as the best movie ever by the users of IMDB?
Beyond the movies mentionned above, Stephen King’s mark is all around in cinema & TV, thanks to the numerous adaptations of his work. Among those adaptations are the following elements :
– an enraged dog will commonly be called Cujo
– Carrie’ s bloodbath scene is often spoofed
– Same thing with Jack Nicholson’s scene from Shining : “Here’ssss Johnny!”
– Are you now scared of clowns? (because of IT)
Those are exemples of scenes that marked people and american culture.
You appreciated adaptations of his work…
3) … AND YOU WILL APPRECIATE FUTURE ADAPTATIONS :
One of the fans’ favorite novels, is The Stand, which has already been adapted, as a mini-series of 6 hours. Another project is on, and The Stand could become a trilogy of movies, possibly shot by Ben Affleck.
Among the other projects (and they are numerous… including a lot of remakes) : Pet Sematary, as well as an adaptation of Bag of Bones which will be broadcasted on A&E the 11th & 12th of December.
Last but not least, an ambitious project for The Dark Tower (by Ron Howard & Brian Grazer) : the studios are a bit shy in front of such an ambitious project (and the required budget) : a trilogy of films, as well as 2 seasons of TV-series, in the aim of adapting the 7 novels.
I would recommend you to start reading the 4,000 pages before the adaptation comes out : it sure won’t be available in theaters tomorrow (and it’s better this way, because i want them to take their time and do a good job), but it would be a shame to miss such a reading.
The Dark Tower is often compared to The Lord of the Rings. Although the fan-base of Stephen King’s saga is by far smaller than Tolkien’s, if an adaptation comes out, who knows if it couldn’t become such a similar success?
4) A WRITER THAT DOES NOT HESITATE TO INNOVATE
Stephen King is, without any contestation, a successful writer, and he keeps innovating : in his stories, or in the means of releasing them.
This is proven between his experience as a movie director (the forgettable Maximum Overdrive) and the following project list:
- The Green Mile, a novel divided in 6 installments, written & released over the same 6 months,
- Riding the bullet, a short story originally published online…
- …same for The Plant (the author was trusting his readers to send him a check for the story… he stopped it as people didn’t do their part of the job),
- UR : A short story written exclusively for the Kindle (and about Amazon’s Kindle ),
- The use of networking-sites to promote Under the Dome,
- The animated mini-series N. (by Marvel),
- A new ebook (Mile 81) promoted partially on Klout…
11/22/63 is Stephen King’s latest novel, released in the USA on the 8th of November. This one was also an innovation : taking the moto from Dead Zone (if you could go back in time, knowing what you know, and that you could stop Hitler, would you?), the writer presents a time-travel story, in the aim of saving J.F.K.
Stephen King does not hesitate to come out of his comfort zone, and had to research his history to recreate Oswald’s life before his shooting, as well as American life between 1958-1963. Therefore, it is a fiction story based on real events. Stephen King did a real « tour de force » in this fiction from another time.
Despite his “negative” reputation, Stephen King is recognized by his literary peers.
5) A LITTERARY RECOGNITION
With over 60 books and more than 160 short stories published, Stephen King managed to leave a mark in the fantastic litterary world. He received numerous literary awards, mostly genre awards for his fiction : Bram Stoker awards, Locus awards, British Fantasy awards, Shirly Jackson awards…to quote only a few. [Complete list available at : http://clubstephenkinglille.forumactif.com/stephen-king-son-oeuvre-sa-vie-f1/recompenses-litteraires-de-king-t1133.htm ]
However, things changed about ten years ago. Stephen King started to receive awards, not for a single work, but for his whole career, and his contribution to literature.
Therefore, Stephen King bypassed his « negative » status and became a « complete » writer, whose work is now recognised by other writers and the literacy world. One must admit that this last decade, even after a serious car accident in 1999 which he barely recovered from, he continued to write fantastic stories, but those also became more intimate : Bag of Bones, Lisey’s story, Blaze, 11/22/63 are good exemples of this.
Dont stop yourself to the prejudges that some people can have towards Stephen King, the 3rd highest earning author of 2010, behind James Patterson & Danielle Steel.
Beyond the horror aspect of his stories, Stephen King wrote numerous stories in several themes. Moreoever, you probably already appreciated or have been touched by an adaptation of his work, and it is unquestionable that movies have contributed to his popularity.
Discover by yourself his world, there are enough stories & themes to suite everybody’s taste, and the richness of his work will allow you to spend a nice few hours, reading.
[*My original article was edited, and retitled : « 5 reasons to give allegiance to Stephen King » & published by L’express, on their website. Homepage of the newspaper, and « Culture » homepage.
Link : http://www.lexpress.fr/culture/livre/cinq-raisons-de-faire-allegeance-a-stephen-king_1053996.html ]