A Reflection on a Master of Horror
by Kate West (Writer)
I've been reading Stephen King since high school. Confession: I spent most summers feverishly reading all the assigned homework (as a bookworm, I was one of the few girls who looked forward to that assignment - who didn't love Mr. Darcy and Mr. Rochester?), but what really kept me up all night reading was, and still is, the sci-fi/fantasy genre. I read The Hunger Games trilogy in three nights (well OK that one was yesterday), The Lord of the Rings series probably in a week and the latest enormous Stephen King in just a few days. Back then I was riveted by the plot, simply anxious to find out what happened next and NOW. But recently, I've gone back and read some of my favorites again and realized that "classic" Stephen King at heart, was, and is, about snapshots of characters.
(Here are some of King's detractors, responding to his tax rant)
A few people tell me they think of King as a "hack", but I think he knows how to sum up a character awfully well. And that’s not a small thing. By that I mean, you have the full picture of someone in a remarkably short time. He even personifies dogs pretty well (dog lovers, check out the dog scenes in Under the Dome, and of course Cujo, and tell me I'm wrong). The way an average Joe thinks is so clearly spelled out in the writing that you care about the character in spite of yourself and might even recognize yourself from time to time.
Then there’s his sheer imagination. From a Buick 8 describes the point of view of an extraterrestrial in such a way that makes you think of course this is the way they would see us. And what is more compelling is the way the protagonists see it, and it is not so very flattering for either side. I'm not saying Stephen King can paint a bleaker picture of humanity than Dostoevsky or even Edgar Allen Poe, but sometimes his stories offer a stark reflection of ourselves, as well as what's inside that dark scary closet. It's just a different voice. A good friend of mine pictures dust bunnies as these charmingly harmless little rascals, while King gives them sharp nasty teeth. A different perspective all right. (There are redemptions too, don't worry.)
I just like what I like. And plan to keep reading new works by the Horror Master. Hey, anyone that big of a baseball fan (Boston Red Sox) has to have a heart. So I try not to be too quick to judge a book by its….never mind. And he does have some dimension outside the horror genre too. Neil Gaiman interviews him about that very thing here. The moral of the story? If you liked the movies The Shawshank Redemption or The Green Mile, you like Stephen King. He’s entered our pop culture consciousness for sure (ever refer to someone as a Carrie and not meant Sex and the City?) Like, I said, more than meets the eye.
“I’d say that what I do is like a crack in the mirror. If you go back over the books from Carrie on up, what you see is an observation of ordinary middle-class American life as it’s lived at the time that particular book was written. In every life you get to a point where you have to deal with something that’s inexplicable to you, whether it’s the doctor saying you have cancer or a prank phone call. So whether you talk about ghosts or vampires or Nazi war criminals living down the block, we’re still talking about the same thing, which is an intrusion of the extraordinary into ordinary life and how we deal with it. What that shows about our character and our interactions with others and the society we live in interests me a lot more than monsters and vampires and ghouls and ghosts.”
—Stephen King, The Art of Fiction No. 189, The Paris Review
What's that? You're bringing us a sequel next year? To one of your most famous novels? Sign me up!
SK website: here
Kate West Kate West has an extensive theatrical background and has been reviewing plays, musicals, one-acts, improv, comedy sketch and much more since 2003. www.katewestreviews.com
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