Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Friday, August 24, 2012

King Stephen, Part III

When I began reviewing books for the Plain Dealer in 2000, I did not review any King books for quite a while.  Not until 2009 when I wrote a very positive review of Under the Dome, his massive new novel that, I later learned, most critics all over the country liked as well as I did.  That book marked a sort of return for King, who had been off writing more "serious" (and, to me, boring) stories that had served, I felt, to drive away fans from his base.  I have no statistics to support what I just said--just a feeling.  A hunch.

Anyway, I did like Under the Dome and enjoyed reading all of its nearly 1100 pages.  Here's my final sentence in the review: Busy, ambitious, overlong but addictively munchable, "Under the Dome" is fundamentally a novel about human cruelty, animated by our desires for power, pleasure and sex. Often we are cruel to one another, King says, simply because we can be. And that seems reason enough.

A year later, I reviewed his latest collection of short fiction--Full Dark, No Stars--a book I didn't like as much.  I felt the "horror" in these tales was not up to his usual keep-the-nightlight-on level and wrote in the final sentence: Perhaps King has taken Cujo to the park to play so often that the fierce dog has mellowed -- preferring to lick the reader's proffered hand to ripping it from the wrist for a midday doggy treat.

Despite these reservations, I still have an enduring respect for his talent--and for his productivity.  Most of us can't write an interesting email very often; he writes interesting novels--some of them over 1000 pages long--every year, or even more frequently.  It's astonishing, really.

But what about his status with today's young readers?  As I wrote yesterday, "Stephen King" used to be magic words back in the 1980s and 1990s with my students.  Many of them had read some of his books--some had read all (shaming their teacher).

But in 2011 (when I retired from Western Reserve Academy), I asked my students one day how many of them had ever read a Stephen King novel.  As I remember, of my forty or so students (high school juniors) only one had read anything by him--I think it was the novel Cell.  All the others had, of course, heard of him.  But while they had been growing up, other popular writers had seized the youth readership--principally, of course, J. K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer and Suzanne Collins.

I have no idea if my small sample in a small school in a small Ohio town is indicative of anything beyond the walls of that building.  But my guess would be that it is.  I don't see people reading King in public nearly so much as I used to.  Of course, I don't see people reading in public period very often--and many of those are on Kindles or Nooks, so who knows?  Again--just a hunch.

But King continues.  I bought his massive new one from last year, an alternative historical novel about the JFK assassination.  A few of my FB friends have read it (and loved it, by the way).  It's still sitting on one the piles in my bedroom.  Waiting.  I know I'll get to it one of these days, mainly because, well, I'm still a (mostly) loyal subject of the King.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, I am Stephen King's fan from Taiwan.
    In my country, Stephen King is not a very famous writer, people may have seen movies like "The shawshahank redemption" or "The green mile" (and think these movies are really good), but mostly they don't know these movies adopted from Stephen King's fictions.
    In my high school, there were not many translated novel of Stephen King, but there were more and more translated work now. Unfortunately, publisher in Taiwan seems not has the copyright of the latest work, such as "Under the dome" or "11/22/63".

    It's a little sad for me to hear your students no longer read Stephen King's novels. I also read J. K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins' fictions and enjoy them. But in my heart, no one can compare to Stephen King. After all, he has written so many great stories, I love almost all of his work and being toughed.

    I always can find some brightness, kindness, or the strength of good in his story. In real life, sometimes we get cheated and hurt, it's really good to remember the power of kindness, and I can find these from Stephen King.

    I like "Batman and Robin have an altercation", this story remind me my father. And I am reading "11/22/63" slowly, English is not my native language so I have to pay more time to read it. Though my progress is slow but I enjoy this story and want to know dose Jack successfully stop the assassination, and what will happen if JFK didn't die.