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Why do people hate King? (1 Viewer)

blademasterzzz

Senior Member
Granted, Stephen King may not be the most prolific and lyrical writer who ever walked across the face of the earth, but many people hold his writing for nothing more than utter and complete pop-trash, and even put Dan Brown over him.

I think he is a great storyteller and a very good writer, and his stories are certainly more imaginative than most of the sorry fiction nowadays. His horror stories are some of the best I've read.

So why do people hate him so much?
 

VinrAlfakyn

Senior Member
I haven't read much of King, but I've liked what I have read. He's a very good writer. Can't imagine why people would hate him.
 

Hodge

pliable
Senior Member
He is a formula writer. Most of his books follow a very similar formula that makes them a tad predictable. But then, Shakespeare was a formula writer, too. King's good, although I hate how there's unexplained psychic shit in all of his books.
 

BookLover

Senior Member
I have read only one King's book so far and that is 'bag of bones.'

I really crawled through the book. The novel was stretched too far like a rubber band and for me, the rubber band broke. I enjoyed neither the story, nor the book, so decided not to read any of King's book again.
 

Hodge

pliable
Senior Member
Bag of Bones was very sad...


Try his Bachman books. The Running Man is excellent—and his Bachman stuff isn't horror.
 

Talia_Brie

Senior Member
Hodge said:
He is a formula writer.

Could you explain how you come by that opinion? (Not trying to get up your nose, genuinely curious) I personally don't think of him as a formula writer, but rather a genre writer.

And I think if you look at the reasonably broad range of stuff he writes, is quite impressive (The Talisman/Black House - mod fantasy, The Shining - pure horror, the Dark Tower - Pure American Fantasy).

I also think he's an excvellent craftsman who consistantly creates likeable and engaging characters. His dialogue is brilliant, and he writes childredn better than anyone I know (IMHO)
 

lisajane

Senior Member
I've only read Carrie, which I did like and found entertaining, but aren't very interested in reading anything else by him.
 

Stewart

Senior Member
blademasterzzz said:
Stephen King may not be the most prolific
He's too prolific.

many people hold his writing for nothing more than utter and complete pop-trash, and even put Dan Brown over him.
I would concur with the "pop-trash" assessment although I would never put Dan Brown over anyone. Dan Brown is trash, plain and simple.

I think he is a great storyteller and a very good writer,
He may be a storyteller, with his conversational tone, but he's certainly not a good writer. A good writer knows how to use words and picks the appropriate ones for the page; King, in his prolificity, has no time to select the best words.

his stories are certainly more imaginative than most of the sorry fiction nowadays.
I have to disagree vehemently here. 2005 has been one of the best years for fiction. Robert McCrum, in The Observer discusses how good a year it has been.

His horror stories are some of the best I've read.

I'm unsure what you mean here. Do you mean his horror stories are the best horror stories you have read; or that his horror stories are the best stories that you've read?

If it's the former, then there's a glut of horror out there much better. Of course, there's the classics from Poe and Lovecraft. Up to date, there's tales from Christopher Fowler, Poppy Z. Brite, Caitlin R. Kiernan, which piss on King.

So why do people hate him so much?

Probably because they get bored of the way the horror market has saturated due to his, and a few others', output. That, and he's a jerk: his comments two years ago at the US National Book Awards, where he said that more attention should be payed to popular writers. They need the attention, of course. :roll: If they put out worthy literature then they may be deemed worthy. (Source[/url)


King writes too much; in his forewords and afterwords, he typically talks about all the greats he reads. He may get a bit more credit if he takes some time off to attempt the Great American Literary Novel; but he won't.

I read King when I was about 12 to 17. But, like all crap, I grew out of him and moved on to better books.

The following is a post, from [url=http://palimpsest.org.uk/index.php?]Palimpsest
, whereby one of the members, under the recommendation of others, read some Stephen King.

John Self said:
...or, Palimpsest Gets Popular. And writers don't come much more popular than Stephen King. Why, he's had more books adapted for the stage and screen than William Shakespeare. I've never been tempted to try him before, mainly because of his reputation as a horror hack, but also from his occasional snippy public proclamations, like when he argued that more critical attention should be paid to popular writers ... just because they're popular. Go tell it to your accountant, Stephen. And he's oddly defensive in the midst of self-satisfaction when he writes about being warned by his agent early in his career that he would get 'typed' as a horror writer:

Stephen King said:
And I decided ... that I could be in worse company. I could, for example, be an 'important' writer like Joseph Heller and publish a novel every seven years or so, or a 'brilliant' writer like John Gardner and write obscure books for bright academics who eat macrobiotic foods and drive old Saabs with faded but still legible GENE McCARTHY FOR PRESIDENT stickers on the rear bumpers.

Chill, Stevie! So Heller is 'worse company' because he takes so long to write his books? Or bright academics aren't supposed to be catered for? These comments by him, it's worth noting, aren't in response to criticism from these writers, or others, but unsolicited salvos from King that show more how he feels about his own writing than how others feel about it.

Anyway. At the same time one shouldn't ignore a writer just because they're popular, of course, so I asked about and was told that a good place to start with King was his collection of stories (novellas, really, ranging from 70 to 200 pages) Different Seasons (1982). It's mostly non-horror, none of the stories is as long as one of his usual behemoth novels, and there is a high adaptation rate, with three of the stories becoming films, the first the frequently poll-top-tenning The Shawshank Redemption.

And I have just finished reading the story it's based on, entitled Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. This is a good time to swipe at King's cloth ear for a title. You what? His book titles aren't much better, ranging from the merely pedestrian (Misery, The Shining, or the hilarious names-beginning-with-C series of Christine, Carrie and Cujo) to the downright abominable (Gerald's Game, The Tommyknockers, Everything's Eventual, From a Buick 8). This does not bode well for a reader who thinks a good title is not necessarily essential, but certainly heavily important to the overall satisfaction of a good book. And it reflects on the author's ear for words generally.

I suspect King's greatest fans would not claim he has a good way with prose. Indeed, King himself in more conciliatory mode accepts it:

Stephen King said:
[M]y stuff ... is fairly plain, not very literary, and sometimes (though it hurts like hell to admit it) downright clumsy. To some degree or other, I would guess that those very qualities - unadmirable though they may be - have been responsible for the success of my novels. Most of them have been plain fiction for plain folks, the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and large fries from McDonald's. I am able to recognise elegant prose and to respond to it, but have found it difficult or impossible to write it myself.

This quote, and that above, by the way, are both from the Afterword to Different Seasons, which may well be the most interesting thing in the book. Certainly Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption is not very interesting. I haven't seen the film, which I know a lot of people rate highly, so don't be offended: it's probably entirely different. The best I can say about the story though (and the publishers can have this for the back of the next edition if they like, crediting it to A Literary Fusspot), is that it wasn't painful, and I can think of worse ways to spend your time (like watching Big Brother).

Needless to say, the prose never rises above pedestrian. Although it's written in a first person narrative, there's little character to it, and no style at all. Occasionally King strains for effect - "time drew out like a blade" (no it didn't) - but mainly the problem with 'bad prose' like this isn't a lack of clever metaphors or poetic words, but just too much slush. King can't shut up. "Let me tell you a little about solitary confinement" he says - OK then, a little, not two solid pages. The story itself should be half the length it is, if you get rid of all the extraneous detail and water-treading blah. Under the prose, then, is there a good story trying to get out? Well, not really: the main spring of the story was completely obvious to me as soon as Red mentioned the large Rita Hayworth poster than Andy Dufresne wanted him to get for his cell wall. And sure enough, it happens, presented baldly in a separated-out paragraph as if we're meant to be surprised. But King, or Red, doesn't end there, and drags the thing beyond all consciousness, to a couple further ending-ettes, which clear away any possible ambiguity - I was willing him, when he went to look for the black stone, to find it undisturbed, to give us a little bleakness - and leave the story festering in sickly sentimental Hollywood optimism (no wonder it was optioned for the screen).

This doesn't take account of the other problems with the story: Red tries to persuade us on page 2 that he killed his wife because of all the hatred that had built up from his being under the thumb of her bullying father - but on page 1 he has already told us that he did it for the insurance policy he took out in her name. If a more careful writer did this, I would presume it was an indicator that our narrator was not to be trusted: but I don't think King meant it that way, so it's just carelessness, in which case we're meant to believe everything Red tells us, with nothing to put in for ourselves.

So that's the first hundred-pager. Crimecat said this book was reputed to contain two of the finest American short stories of the 20th century - though I don't know if that was cc's own view or just passing on that of others. Was Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption one of the two, crimecat? And - everyone now - should I bother reading on, to Apt Pupil, The Body (filmed as Stand By Me) and The Breathing Method? Do we have any King fans in the house?
 

Lobe

Member
I don't have a problem with King as a writer, but he is certainly vastly overrated. He's just one of those saps that managed to get a big hit with the lucky stick. He's pretty readable though, and sometimes that's more admirable than having a technically brilliant, yet boring and pretentious piece of writing.
 

BookLover

Senior Member
Hodge said:
Try his Bachman books. The Running Man is excellent—and his Bachman stuff isn't horror.
Ok, I might give it a try. It's just that I didn't enjoy his writing either. The book I read could have been easily 100+ pages lesser! It was far too stretched. And moreover, there are so many other authors and books I want to read... :D

Thanks for the suggestion, Hodge.
 

Ralizah

Senior Member
He's an immensely popular and best-selling author. I wouldn't say people hate him.

Anyhow, King's problem is that most of what he turns out is crap. He does know how to write good, and when he's good he's good, but really just churns out too much garbage on a regular basis (like the Dark Tower series).
 

Hodge

pliable
Senior Member
Connor: can you find any author who actually says, "yes, I'm an incredible writer"? It's called humility. If King had stated otherwise, you'd instead be calling him an arrogant ass.


Yes, quite a few of his books are far too long. The Stand could have been much shorter. Insomnia, Bag of Bones, and a few others as well. I haven't read them all. But he's created so many modern classics as well, and his prose does appeal to the common man because it's very realistic.

Sanyuja: give his Bachman books a try. They're much different (except The Regulators, which is only a Bachman book in name).
 

Hodge

pliable
Senior Member
Bachman's his real name? That's weird, because according to the "about the author" parts of his books, Bachman died in 1985...
 

Talia_Brie

Senior Member
In fact, isn't there an article, or a dedication in one of his books where he said "thanks for everything Bachman?" or something to that affect? I can't remember.

That was probably The Dark Half. Are Richard Bachman and George Stark the same person? One can only wonder.
 

Kane

Senior Member
King doesn't claim to be a great writer, so I don't know why anybody would feel the need to point that out as if they are cut from a superior literary cloth. Most of the "literature" I have read has put me to sleep, or put me off within the first few paragraphs. I've enjoyed King for years; regardless of his rank on the scale of literary genius, I have found his stories to be entertaining and engaging. It all comes down to preference; if you don't like him, don't read his work, but don't think for an instant that it's due to any superiority you may posess.
 

BookLover

Senior Member
Hodge said:
Sanyuja: give his Bachman books a try. They're much different (except The Regulators, which is only a Bachman book in name).
Two recommendations? I can't ignore that. Sure, Hodge, I will pick it up next time I go to the library!

I read on some other forum that Bachman is King's pen name! Weird!
 

Stewart

Senior Member
Hodge said:
Connor: can you find any author who actually says, "yes, I'm an incredible writer"? It's called humility. If King had stated otherwise, you'd instead be calling him an arrogant ass.

If you can't gather what King's implying by the bit quoted by a friend above, then you'll see it's not called humility.

Stephen King said:
And I decided ... that I could be in worse company. I could, for example, be an 'important' writer like Joseph Heller and publish a novel every seven years or so, or a 'brilliant' writer like John Gardner and write obscure books for bright academics who eat macrobiotic foods and drive old Saabs with faded but still legible GENE McCARTHY FOR PRESIDENT stickers on the rear bumpers.

He sees "important" writers as bad because they are not prolific (like him) and "brilliant" writers as bad because they include references he doesn't understand. His note about others' diets and politics is an insult on people who don't appreciate his pedestrian writing. He may not be saying "i'm a great writer" but he certainly believes that his prolificity and cheap prose makes him great; confusing popularity with ability.



he's created so many modern classics as well

We'll reconvene in fifty years and decide if that is truly so.
 
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