Wednesday, April 02, 2008

On Reading the King

I've read my share of Stephen King books in my time (who hasn't) and seen my fill of movies based on his books and short stories. Everything from Carrie to The Mist which is sitting in my bag recently rented from the local Blockbuster, have passed these eyes, and I count reading It, Cycle of the Werewolf (which was beautifully, and I mean, beautifully illustrated by Berni Wrightson) and Pet Sematary as landmarks in my youthful experiences with horror fiction.

Still, I would never go so far as to call myself a fan. I didn't seek out the man's work, nor did I look forwrd to the next Stephen King 'joint', as it were. I never questioned the quality of his writing as I was sure that he remained a proficient author who likely had only improved in the many years since I stopped paying his books any mind. It was simply a matter of my interests waning, and possibly a smattering of literary snobbery as I may have convinced myself that popular thriller/horror novels couldn't possibly have anything to offer.

I should also qualify that my position on King hasn't changed insofar as I'm going to seek out everything of his that I haven't read and gobble it up until I can't stand it anymore. I'm still not compelled to read From a Buick 8 or Hearts in Atlantis or Dreamcatcher or The Long Mile or Rose Madder and countless others.

So, why the heck am I writing this post, you may be asking yourself?

Well, I stumbled across the first two issues of Marvel Comics' Dark Tower books and figured for a buck a piece I should see if it lives up to the impossible hype it has been receiving. I think I was a half-a-dozen pages into the first issue when I realised that this stuff was dynamite. Not only had I never seen more superb Jae Lee artwork in my life, but Peter David has never read so perfectly, either. It reminded me of when I was initially given the first volume in The Dark Tower series, The Gunslinger by my long-time chum, Brad. He was a big King fan at the time and, along with Eyes of the Dragon (which I've yet to read), told me that I would be remiss if I didn't check this book out.

It seemed interesting. I mean, King doing a western was certainly a change of pace, and a fantasy western at that. Plus, the book was really short and, as anyone who knows me will attest, getting me to read anything that I'm unfamiliar with is always easier if the book is a short one. And, in all fairness, it was interesting but it came at a point when I was moving on to other stuff and I was finding King's work to be a little long-winded and over-descriptive to continue on with it.

It's kind of funny, then, how the comics rekindled my interest in The Dark Tower, which led me to get a copy of The Gunslinger, which had two interesting and well-written forewords to the text in it, which is where I first heard of King's memoir, On Writing, which I then went out and found and read in a couple of sittings.

It was pretty decent timing, too, because I had recently finished reading Nick Hornby's Songbook and I was still in the mood for something non-fiction that was written in the author's voice. I'm trying to get myself back into the habit of writing regularly again (and not just the interviews and articles but proper fiction and screenplays) and I found Hornby's essays to be somewhat motivational. Granted, I was pretty tired of his particular voice after a day or two of Songbook but I still needed something that was a conversational piece.

Enter Stephen King's On Writing.

I won't go into details or review the book or anything like that, but I will say that even though I may not have a desire to go out and read every piece of the man's fiction, this piece of non-fiction memoir/seminar/affirmation has done wonders for getting my juices flowing (not to mention being a brisk and entertaining read, to boot). Strangely enough, having someone telling you not to be a fool and just write ended up being some of the most helpful advice I've been given, of late. It sounds retarded, I know, and there were some writing techniques of his that he shared in the book that were also of great value to me, but writing is such a lonely endeavour that you just have to be reminded from time to time that it isn't all a collossal waste.

The bad side of this is that I'm now feeling like every minute I spend at work is time I could be writing something, but maybe having that obstacle also helps fuel the desire to be doing the work. Absence making the heart grow fonder and all that jazz.

Well, I'm off to go and put something down on the ol' pages.



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