With imminent homelessness looming over me, lack of career and many personal failings, now seems like a good time to vent about Stephen King. I sit here writing now being disturbed by loud neighbours and loud flatmate and her loud offspring. The child got a laugh when she sung something loud and out of key, and now won’t stop. Children are like that, they’ve yet to cotton on to the law of diminishing returns and keep repeating the same shit over and over. They’re like small Stuart Lees only without the sense of self-aware irony.
Anyway, Stephen King.
I have a love/hate relationship with Stephen King. One thing we can say for certain is he is a very prolific writer. He is one of the highest earning writers and has a huge back catalogue of releases. The Green Mile is hands down one of the best things I’ve read, let’s just get that out there.
Some of his novels are great, others are so damned awful it makes me mad. I would rage that there’s a conspiracy and he gets other people to write some, but I know that’s not true, as the bad ones stink of self-indulgence.
I have just finished reading the Bazaar of Bad Dreams, one of King’s many collections of short stories. My experience was meh. Or for a more thoughtful critique, it was ‘hmmmmm well, maybe some… meh.’
The first short story starts with a young child trying to prove himself cool by going to an old, run down and long abandoned service station where all the ‘big kids’ hang out. He finds some vodka, drinks some and falls asleep, then a man-eating car turns up, decapitates a guy, eats a woman and causes general mayhem before the aforementioned kid sets it on fire with a magnifying glass and it flies away.
If it was a piece of surrealism played for laughs, it would have been great. Unfortunately, there was a stony seriousness to it almost.
There were some nice stories among the turds. Nice being a fairly bland word. They were good ideas and read well, but the whole thing felt like it was written by a creative writing student. Creative writing students are the worst.
The law of averages dictates that with so many books to his name, some are bound to be shit. The shit ones don’t make the good ones any less good and the good ones the shit ones any less shit. The problem is, the name Stephen King sells. This means he can release any old turd he likes and get a few million for doing so.
And perhaps that’s the problem.
Or maybe he just writes what he wants and fuck the haters.
And maybe that’s the problem, because that leads to constant Dark Tower references or subplots to appear in just about anything he likes.
Hearts in Atlantis was almost a good collection of short stories, particularly the first entitled ‘Low Men in Yellow Coats’. That was almost a brilliant story. Troubled kid with a bit of a shit mother and his friend befriend a mysterious, gentle man who has low men after him. It’s never explained what he’s done in the past and there’s allusions to all sorts of potentially sinister things.
He’s a quiet lover of literature who helps out these poor kids where he can. Lots of things happen and long story short the low men in yellow coats catch up with him… in a shapeshifting car and they demand he return to the Tower to use his psychic powers to help break the beams.
For anyone who has read the Dark Tower series this would be jarring. To people like me who haven’t this is unforgiveable. Don’t get a reader passionately engaged only to fuck them over at the last minute. An underwhelming ending is fine, endings are often just that, but a bullshit ending is just silly.
It would be like if Casablanca ended with the titular character turning into a squid creature and returning to his home planet before Earth is immediately destroyed. No foreshadowing, no clues, just that.
I mean I haven’t watched Casablanca, so that may well be what happens.
It’s irksome. King is still being held up as the figurehead of all things literature. People seem to hang onto his every word as if he’s still relevant. Maybe he is. But it seems like someone needs to give him some honest feedback rather than just seeing dollar signs. There are so many of his books that would never see the light of day if he didn’t have a famous name.
But he does, so instead they get published and he laughs atop a mountain of cash.
I don’t know what I’m doing, I just read a book I don’t like and I’ve got no one to speak to and writing this has allowed me to forget I have my own problems.
Yes, I’m bitter. Please keep writing Mr. King, but keep them good.