25 September 2003

As for the whole Stephen King controversy, this is just another reason that I've grown increasingly disillusioned with Harold Bloom. Yes, he's an invaluable guide to Shakespeare, but his recent literary criticism has consisted mostly of sweeping praise or condemnation (usually praise) without particular insight. Note that he doesn't mention the title of a single book by King in that article, or even quote a line that might illustrate King's inadequacy on a "sentence-by-sentence, paragraph-by-paragraph, book-by-book basis." That's quite a ringing dismissal, but it isn't criticism if you don't bother to back it up. And assuming that you can make a point about Stephen King by criticizing J.K. Rowling reveals a rather uncomfortable indifference towards distinctions in pop culture. That's like me saying that Steven Spielberg can't be a good director because Attack of the Clones was a lousy movie.

I read most of King's books when I was twelve or thirteen years old, and haven't picked one up in a while. But he's a real writer who tells good stories without cynicism and cares deeply about craft and character. Lumping him together with Danielle Steele is a cheap shot. (Of course, I haven't read any Danielle Steele either, so maybe saying this is also a cheap shot.) True, King has written some bad books, but he's also written a handful of big, ambitious novels (The Stand, The Talisman, Pet Sematary, and especially It) that are considerable imaginative achievements. It especially stands out in my mind as one of the most richly characterized and imagined novels I've read in any genre, and I'd probably take The Talisman over Tolkien.

That said, I don't really know whether King deserves to win that award or not. These days, I only read books about money.

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