Stephen King

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Stephen King

Post  Ishway Ingarstay on Sun May 23, 2010 2:56 pm

...is maddening.

I picked up The Gunslinger at a library sale a few years ago because I needed one more book to get the 3-for-$1 discount. Last night I decided that a 22-year-old speculative fiction fan who had never read anything by Stephen King was really a travesty, so I pulled The Gunslinger off the shelf and read it. Finished just a few minutes ago. Hey, it wasn't exactly a hard read. Or it didn't seem to be. I knew the vocab, the sentences were simple, and it flowed and kept me turning pages. But that book made no friggin' sense. I must have missed implications and subtext left, right, and center, because I don't know why else anyone would like it. Except for the fact that it was short enough that you might as well keep reading to find out what the heck "the world has moved on" means. Which isn't explained, at least not until later in the series. And the fact that it basically melts in your mouth like cotton candy, if cotton candy had some kind of deeper meaning buried in it like a Tootsie Roll pop and you had to keep eating to get to the gooey center.

I don't know if I've ever used the adjective "dreamlike" to describe a book or movie before. Maybe "The Fountain." Anyway, that's what reading this book feels like--like I just woke up with these incredibly vivid images in my head, and I'm trying to piece them together because I know they belonged to an incredible story, but I can't get them to fit quite right and the tantalizing hints at great and profound truths are just that--hints. Like I said, maddening.

And the style. Let's talk about the style. Slipshod POV, first of all, in Roland's head for most of it but with brief and random glimpses into Jake's. Zero emotion on the page, unless you count lines like "It occurred to him later that this was when he began to love the boy." Some showing, telling out the wazoo. Much of the action either takes place in the distant past, as flashback, or is heavily telegraphed (as opposed to mysteriously foreshadowed). And get this. On the first two pages of my copy, I count 23 sentences. And 14 passive/copular constructions. That's not even counting the sentence fragments that grammatically should have had dummy subjects, i.e. "Summer, and hot" as opposed to "It was summer, and it was hot." In other words, Stephen King uses the passive voice more often than not. If he had turned in The Gunslinger as a homework assignment to my creative writing instructor last year, he wouldn't merely have failed; he'd've been ushered out into the hallway for a private chat about willfully wasting the class's time.

And yes, I know the line about how a sufficiently talented writer can break any rule. I'm not denying or begrudging Stephen King's ability to hold readers enthralled with linking verbs and flashbacks. I'm just wondering, how in Hades does he do it?

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Re: Stephen King

Post  CindySue on Sun May 23, 2010 11:35 pm

I have never read anything from Stephen King, its not really my cup of tea. And now that you've mentioned it, I'm more inclined not to read anything from him.
I get enough confusing reads from Robin Mckinley and Piers Anthony, I'm not going to add another maddening author to the mix.

Thanks for the heads up!
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Re: Stephen King

Post  Silvanus on Fri May 28, 2010 4:45 pm

Haven't read him myself, but since everyone talks about him all the time I think I might just go pick up The Gunslinger myself. I have a feeling this is going to lead to a situation in which I come back and post about how much I hate him.
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Re: Stephen King

Post  Ishway Ingarstay on Fri May 28, 2010 6:57 pm

Okay, to clarify, I wasn't actually complaining about the book. I was pointing out the irony of the various institutional conventions that insist I shouldn't have liked the book. The book was great. It's inspiring me to write more descriptive prose, actually, and I normally shirk my descriptions. I never realized before that they could be done in an engaging manner.

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Re: Stephen King

Post  Silvanus on Sat May 29, 2010 10:12 pm

I say that I will dislike him because deep down I know that he is my mortal enemy. I have no doubt that you probably enjoyed the book.
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Re: Stephen King

Post  Stone on Fri Jun 04, 2010 12:07 pm

I really have nothing to say, but I wanted to comment on your post anyway. Very Happy I want to say I think I have read him once, but the memory is foggy at best, and honestly I'm a little frightened to know I did read it.
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Re: Stephen King

Post  Silvanus on Fri Jan 14, 2011 3:24 pm

I wanted to bring this back to the surface and point out that I have in the meantime read this book twice. I secretly love it, but don't tell anyone. I also hate Stephen King more than ever, except now it's a strange jealous hate like I just caught the wife I don't have in bed with him and found out that all my kids are actually his, oh and he's been nailing Jessica Alba and Mila Kunis on the side too because not only can he do that, but my wife just wasn't good enough for him. And despite this knowledge she still would rather be with him.

It's a really awkward feeling.
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Re: Stephen King

Post  Ishway Ingarstay on Sat Jan 15, 2011 6:04 pm

I think I know what you mean, Silvanus. (Maybe.) It's like you can't decide if you love or hate the book because your mundane little concepts like "love" and "hate" don't even apply.

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Re: Stephen King

Post  Silvanus on Sun Jan 16, 2011 10:23 am

Exactly, especially since it doesn't matter anyway since he's secretly God.
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