Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Is Stephen King A Bad Writer?

There has been a tendency in the past decade, mostly by younger readers and writers, to over-analyze and criticize King's writing and argue that he's undeserving of his mega success. As a huge fan of King myself, and as someone who has read the majority of his works, I have a few things to say about this. First, King, mainly due to his strong sales, has, almost single-handedly, elevated the status of the horror genre in the past four decades from something akin to porn, to a genre that's on bestseller lists almost all the time alongside "literary fiction". That is an unquestionable fact. Second, King's massive and thriving popularity hangs mostly on his many popular, successful, and occasionally critically-acclaimed film adaptations. Who doesn't have fond memories of watching Salem's Lot (1979), The Shining (1980), or Silver Bullet (1985) on TV as a youngster, and getting the crap scared out of them? Third, King's literary output has been of uneven quality in the past two decades, with novels like some of the Dark Tower books and the terrible Doctor Sleep valid proof of that. And, finally and most importantly, I think King is a brilliant writer when he wants to be. Books like Salem's Lot  (1975), The Shining (1977), Skeleton Crew (1985), Pet Semetary (1983), The Dark Tower VII (2004), and Duma Key (2008) are suspense/horror writing at its most stylish, flavorful, and compelling. Yes, King has a tendency to overwrite and overcook, but his voice and mastery of characterization are awe-inspiring. I have to admit that some of his recent work has been underwhelming. But I still keep up with every new release of his, and, every once in a while, I pick up one of his books and dive in, expecting magic. And, sometimes, I still find it, in spades. 

Text © Ahmed Khalifa. 2015

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