The review is here, and generally positive--although the reviewer does point out a couple of King's sentence-level clunkers, and makes a reasonable argument: considering the sheer mass of the guy's output, you'd think he'd be a better stylist. Here's the quote:

As for the prose, it’s not all smooth sailing. Given King’s extraordinary career-long dominance, we might expect him at this point to be stylistically complete, turning perfect sentences, as breezily at home in his idiom as P. G. Wodehouse. But he isn’t, quite. “Then it came down on her again, like unpleasant presents raining from a poison piñata: the realization that Howie was dead.” (It’s the accidental rhyme of “unpleasant” and “presents” that makes that one such a stinker.) I felt the clutch of sorrow, too, when I read this: “What you’re planning is terribly dangerous — I doubt if you need me to tell you that — but there may be no other way to save an innocent man’s life.”

The reviewer is forgiving, though--pointing out that "King has always produced at pulp speed," and that "writing flat-out keeps him close to his story, close to his source. It seems to magnetize his imagination..." Still, you'd think that a guy who has publicly expressed his frustration with the "snobbery" of the literary world would take the time to prove them wrong: it's not that hard to clean up the prose before going to press.

On edit: it's worth noting that Wodehouse published 72 novels (three posthumously), 19 short story collections, three autobiographical books, and several plays and libretti. So, no slouch himself on the output front.

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One of the wonderful things about this world is that we all have different tastes. I like King's broccoli and the way he cooks it. You don't.

How terribly boring life would be if we always agreed.
+1, Robert. To be clear, I think King is wonderfully good at what he does, which is scare the bejesus out of people. You'd have to be living on another planet not to be in awe of his career--the body of work (heh), the sales, the success. I'm just not ready to rank him up there with the literary greats--he's doing something fundamentally different from what they do, and he goes about it in a different way, IMO. And that's my last word, ever, about Stephen King.


I mean it.
It strikes me that many of us who believe that we write well take great pleasure in attacking the style of those who tell great stories and don't write perfectly. I am not quite a Stephen King fan. I dislike the horror aspects of most of his work, but I sometimes like what he does in the realm of fantasy and characters with a psychological disorientation. He has produced some gems with "The Shining," "The Green Mile," "Misery," and many, many of his short stories.

His novel novel "Rose Madder" was headed toward being a classic of spousal abuse until he introduced the supernatural element. I fault him there for not making it the book it could have been.

Despite that I strive to avoid cliches, read my work aloud to make it doesn't clunk and that the style is the best I can make it, I don't mind occasional clunky wording from a writer who can tell a story. I think that story and a sense of being there is far more important than style. I think King has that even when I quit of the premise.

For a positive review of "Under the Dome" in the same publication, read Janet Maslin's review of this week at:

For ideas on how to write, see his "On Writing." A great piece of work on the subject. He knows what to do and how to do it, even though he slips up now and then.

When Phillip Roth, P.G. Wodehouse, and other so-called literary writers are forgotten, King will be remembered along with Dickens and Poe. Even in King's horror works, he has a way of portraying how society existed at the time he wrote each of his books. Janet Maslin's comment's about "The Dome" seem to say that this is just one of those works.

I sense that many of us whine about successful writers because we're jealous. Hell, I don't think Dan Brown writes well at all, but he usually tells a story with a interesting premise that reads fast, and that many others like. I admit to being a bit jealous of Dan Brown. Of Stephen King? Not a chance. He's telling stories that many people want to hear and is an infinitely better writer.

This is all opinion of course. It is possible, even probable, that I don't have the fine sensibility of many others and probably not in the opinion of many others either. But I am a hack of sorts. King isn't.

It is perfectly natural to read books that are bestsellers in order to find out why the book is a bestseller. It is also natural to read the books of award winners. There, too, one may learn something. I doubt that jealousy enters into this for most authors. It's curiosity and the hope of learning something. The problem with most bestsellers is that we end up realizing that not even a million dollars will make us write that way. At that point I for one become resentful that someone is exploiting what I consider the baser instincts of the reading public and taking away my potential readers (not to mention corrupting their taste by giving them easy-reading pap). When an award winner makes the bestseller list and the book impresses me: more power to the author!
I think Stephen King is far better than *most* "literary" writers. I don't see him corrupting taste any more than I see J.K. Rowling corrupting taste. And literary writers who produce books that many buy but few read does not do much for taste either, except to perpetuate the myth that there are writers who are "too good" for the general public.

In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with "easy reading." Also, in my opinion, "hard reading" is not an attempt to communicate but an attempt to impress.

All of the above in my previous comment being said, I picked up Philp Roth's "The Humbling" at the library today. Roth, to me, is one of the finest stylists writing today. Unfortunately, he usually takes far too many words to tell as story that can be told much more succinctly--style or no style. "The Humbling" is little more than a novella, so I'll see how he handles it.

Resentful? Hell no. A little jealous that I'm not as good as those I've mentioned, and disappointed that I'm not making their money.

What many good writers and most poor writers fail to recognize is that there is an extreme element of luck with an author's first best seller. After the first, it is just a matter of keep on keeping on.

Are there better writers than King? Hell, yes. The greatest potential writer who ever lived may have never published a book or story because they did not have what it takes to stay with it. I suspect that most in this discussion are still plugging away every day and probably, as I think I may be doing, using sites like Crimespace.ning to procrastinate.

Many good writers fail to get recognized even when they are published. It's a numbers game. Do the very good book, get the very good reviews and the very good word of mouth, and the writer is pointed in the right direction, although not always to that million-dollar, multi-book contract. Many many readers reach the publish a good book phase, but the rest doesn't follow because not enough readers see his or her work. Sometimes it is just the wrong time for such a book or there are too few people who like "that kind of book."

Someone on one of my lists--I forget the name of the list and I am not sure of the poster--made a suggestion that there were probably playwrights in Elizabethan England complaining that the theaters were constantly doing plays by this fellow Shakespeare when there were so many who considered themselves far better than Shakespeare
A lot of this comes down to a matter of taste. One person's treasure is another person's garbage.

But the moment you get into the whole literary vs. popular writing thing, you're going down a very rocky road. There is nothing about literary writing that makes it any better or loftier or somehow more important than popular writing. There are great writers in both areas and there are truly bad writers as well. The only real difference is subject matter -- and sometimes even that's blurred.

But again, what constitutes a bad writer? Some people hate Dan Brown's writing, while others love it. Some hate James Patterson's stuff and others can't wait to read his next book. So who is right? You? Me? Joe Blow who can't wait for the next Alex Cross novel?

The answer is we're all right. And nobody should ever have to apologize for what they enjoy reading.

I grew up reading the popular fiction of John MacDonald and Ross MacDonald and William Goldman and Donald Westlake and Edward S. Aarons and M.E. Chaber and Raymond Chandler and Ira Levin and, yes, Stephen King. To my mind, these are some of the greatest writers who ever put words to a page.

But that's just me. You may not agree.
I agree with Robert Gregory Brown. It's like a political or religious discussion: no one ever changes another persons mind, no matter how thought out our argument. The thing that often comes of such a discussion is anger and frustration.

As one sage said, let us all agree to disagree (in varying degrees.)

But as far as King, his sentences, his sensibilities, his training and all of the rest, I agree with Robert. As to Robert's early reading? I'm in a minority among mystery readers. I think Ross MacDonald ... Well, I don't like his work. William Goldman is rarely mentioned as a novelist because he made his bones screenwriting but I loved his first novels.
With Ross MacDonald you have to look at his earlier work. His lean and mean early thrillers are, to my mind, his best. Same also for John MacDonald, I think.

Goldman's early novels are great, but I think Marathon Man is probably one of the greatest thrillers ever written, and Princess Bride is a classic.

Goldman and Westlake are the reason I'm writing novels today.
I wouldn't be writing mysteries if I didn't enjoy reading them. And I enjoyed Rowling also. Her first one was great, a superb effort of imaginative writing, and she deserved her fame. I did not enjoy Brown and considered DVC a piece pf objectionable crap. This argument isn't about literary vs. genre novels: it is about good vs. bad novels. And by far the largest number of best-selling novels are bad.
(And that doesn't say anything about King because I don't read King).
Even if it's simply good vs. bad, who defines what's good and what's bad?

We do. BUT for ourselves, only. I can tell you what I think is bad, but you may not agree. That's the point.

I think the blanket statement, "by far the largest number of best-selling novels are bad" is nothing more than opinion, and not one that is necessarily shared by most people.
I.J. says: "This argument isn't about literary vs. genre novels: it is about good vs. bad novels. And by far the largest number of best-selling novels are bad."

I agree with Robert that is an opinion, but one that I disagree with. Although I do believe that a few best selling novels are bought and not read ... that is an opinion, and I did say "many" and not "most" or "many." Whenever I express this opinion, and I have in the past, I think of John Barth and Salman Rushdie.
Oh, you're so right that my opinion isn't shared by most pople. The sales figures prove it.


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