Stephen King: What We Can’t Say Enough

I saw an article on Facebook the other day about why some individual can’t like/respect/support Stephen King. I disagreed with it. Not that one can’t dislike King and have legitimate reasons for doing so. One of my favorite readers and horror friends actively dislikes King’s work, but he has well-articulated reasons for his stance. Granted, I totally disagree with him, but I respect his right to avoid my favorite author and acknowledge that his opinion is as valid as mine.

But I’m entitled to my opinion too.

full dark

Calling King my favorite author isn’t going far enough. He’s the person who singlehandedly made me a reader. He’s the writer who determined my career path.

He’s the man who restored my adolescent self-esteem by convincing me that I wasn’t stupid. With his words, he showed me what was inside of me. He resurrected my imagination. He reawakened the innocent magic in my heart that had been buried under a landslide of self-doubt and self-consciousness.

Stephen King taught me to dream again.

The_Stand_cover

Let me share a theory with you: There is no such thing as a non-reader. There are only people who haven’t yet found the right books.

The right books, of course, vary from person to person, but I truly believe that everyone could be a reader if only he or she could hit on that one story that speaks to them on a personal level.

King was that writer for me.

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Prior to the summer before my freshman year in high school, I was convinced I was an idiot. I had never read a book from cover to cover and considered this a symptom of an inferior intellect. What I know now is I was simply trying the wrong books.

The right book for me, it turned out, was The Tommyknockers. I’ve talked at length about this transformative experience elsewhere, but suffice to say that reading King’s weird tale transported me like no book ever had. I proceeded to read everything by King I could get my hands on, and over the next four years, he made me love reading. He also kindled in me a desire to write stories of my own, but let’s set that aside for now, as this post isn’t about my writing.

It’s about the gift of Stephen King.

It

That’s right, I called him a gift. The problem with a gift is that it’s only new for so long, and once the thrill of its newness is gone, we tend to take for granted how wonderful it is, whether it’s a year old, a decade old, or in this case, nearly forty-two years old.

Do you realize that Carrie turns forty-two this April? Do you realize that Stephen King wrote ‘Salem’s Lot, The Shining, The Dead Zone, Night Shift, and The Stand over the first five years of his career? Or that over the next ten years he wrote It, Cujo, Different Seasons, Misery, Pet Sematary, Skeleton Crew, and the first two Dark Tower novels? Or that he followed that amazing decade by producing two more Dark Tower books, The Green Mile, Desperation, Four Past Midnight, Needful Things, and the spellbinding tale I’m reading now, Bag of Bones? More on that one later…

Did I mention that King nearly died in 1999?

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Which would have meant he never would have written Black House, the next four Dark Tower books (I’m including The Wind through the Keyhole, which I absolutely loved), Under the Dome, Everything’s Eventual, 11/22/63, Full Dark, No Stars, Mr. Mercedes, Joyland, and…

…and the list of books I haven’t mentioned is longer than the list of ones I have, and you could throw a dart at that other list and hit a book that would make nearly every other author in the world seethe with jealousy. How many authors, for instance, write a story as gripping as Firestarter? As creepy as N.? As intense as Christine?

Most authors go their entire careers without sniffing a novel as engrossing as The Dark Half, yet it hardly rates a mention. How can it when it’s vying with so many freaking classics?

Carrie Stephen King

And I say all this to you, and you nod your heads and answer, “Yeah, he’s great. I mean, he’s the man, right? There’s no one like King,” and we go on with our lives and don’t really stop to appreciate the magnitude of what he has accomplished, what he’s still accomplishing, nor do we sing his praises frequently enough or take the time to marvel at his abilities.

About those abilities…

If you look hard at his early work and his current work, you’ll find something remarkable:

He’s still improving.

joyland-book-cover

Oh, that’s not to say his early work is wanting in any way–it’s not. ‘Salem’s Lot and The Stand are two of my top five horror novels of all time; I’m as devout an admirer of early King as anyone.

Yet studying his later work, reveling in Joyland and Mr. Mercedes and basking in the wonders of Under the Dome and Full Dark, No StarsI can say with no hesitation that King’s recent writing possesses a deeper emotional resonance than it ever has, that his mastery of language is stronger than it has ever been, that his unparalleled talent for inhabiting his characters on a soul-deep level has never been stronger.

There. I said it. Impossibly, King is still getting better, and he was already the best horror author of all time by a sizable margin. Hell, I consider him the best writer of all time, regardless of genre.

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We say we admire King’s work. We say he’s a great writer. We know his accomplishments are unparalleled.

But we need to say more, and we need to say it with greater frequency. Because King is with us now. He’s writing classic stories right now. And somewhere, someone is slapping away at a keyboard in an attempt to tear him down. Clickbait, hits, views, advertising, those things matter more to some people than great writing.

Just remember this: Standing up for Stephen King is standing up for great writing.

So I’ll close by saying this: The world has never seen a writer like Stephen King. I doubt the world will ever see one like him again. On a personal level, he showed me that reading can be even more immersive than a movie can be. More importantly, he showed me that I wasn’t stupid after all–I was just picking the wrong books. King made me feel smart, and prior to that epiphany, I had been convinced of the opposite.

tommyknockers

 

So thank you, Stephen King, for helping me to like myself.

Thank you for helping me to believe in myself.

Thank you for entertaining me.

Thank you for stirring my emotions.

Thank you for making me love words. By kindling that passion, you made me love reading, which in turn made me want to become a teacher (incidentally, I currently teach English, Creative Writing, and Film Literature).

Mr. King, you’re the reason I’m a writer.

the wind through the keyhole

So thank you. Though I can never say it enough, I appreciate all you’ve done for me.

Now, if you’ll all excuse me, I have a Stephen King novel awaiting me.

As a proud Constant Reader, I’m going to keep my appointment.

Bagofbones

 

 

 

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57 thoughts on “Stephen King: What We Can’t Say Enough

      1. Stephen King started a lot of us on our reading adventures. I had always read, but when I found “Salem’s Lot” it started me in a whole new direction that I am still following. Long write The King!!!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Great post! First off…my mom is right there with you on Stephen King. He is her favorite author. No matter what she’s reading, if she gets a new King book, she drops everything and reads the King. Both of my parents were King readers so I started reading his books very early on. My parents were not overprotective…at all. King is one of my favorites as well, but (and don’t kill me), Anne Rice holds the top spot for me. On a side note: My mom recently read your Wolf Land and she loved it. She doesn’t review books, but I always give her horror books to read that I really liked. We’re both huge horror fans, in books and movies. 🙂

    I have to agree with TheOtherJamesHerbert above…I look at King as a storyteller transcending all genres. My favorite books of his are Duma Key and Bag of Bones, but I have liked all of his books that I’ve read. I still haven’t read them all. Some of them I would not reread (Pet Sematary, Cujo, Christine), but I’ve already read Bag of Bones twice and I know I would reread The Stand, Duma Key, Misery and more. I’m only on book three of Dark Tower. Hopefully, I will get through the series someday.

    Finally, thank you for this, “There is no such thing as a non-reader. There are only people who haven’t yet found the right books.” That gives me hope for my older son. My younger son likes to read and doesn’t have to be forced to do it. My older son…not so much. This does not make me happy. I am a HUGE book lover. My two book blogs (Castle Macabre and True Book Addict), my giant home library and my general attitude (lol) are testament to that. So, if there is any hope that there are books out there that will make him a reader, I can rest easy. Maybe King will be that for him too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. First of all, thank you so much for sharing these thoughts. They were eloquent and interesting. Secondly, there is DEFINITELY hope for your older son. Some folks don’t find the right book until their twenties or thirties. When they do, though, their lives change forever. I suspect that’ll happen for him. It only takes one book…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I completely agree with you. We’ve had the same emotional bond with the man. And yes, he is getting better as he gets older. Not many writers can say that. Funny that the Tommyknockers is what hooked you. Even King cringes when he thinks about that one. LOL

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  3. King is more than an author, and more than a storyteller, for so many of us; he is the gatekeeper to worlds that we have never imagined, and he welcomes us freely. But more importantly, he is always encouraging us to turn around and realize that we are ourselves gatekeepers to worlds he could never imagine and that he would be delighted to take a look at what we see. And yes, he is absolutely always getting better.

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    1. Gatekeeper,,,excellent word choice. I picture him sitting on a throne, keys dangling from a hand and a big smile saying…come in and your life will change. I love that man! His world’s are almost as real as the one we’re in, and then we finish the book. I’m always a little sad when I finish one of his books.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I saw that other article too and didn’t agree with how they went about giving their opinion. My opinion mirrors yours. He’s the reason I’ve read any horror at all, he quenched my teenage loneliness, he made me want to be a better writer and to escape my feelings through reading and writing. He also made me read fantasy and to explore all types of books. My first books read were Dead Zone, Eye of the Dragon, and The Dark Half. I was sold. His social themes are priceless to humanity. Thanks for writing this. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  5. My story is similar to yours. I wasn’t a reader until I stumbled upon Mr. King. Now I’m a full blown bibliophile.
    I try to parcel King’s books, for fear of the day that I’ve read them all.
    As far as genre goes, much like Joe R. Lansdale, I think Stephen King is his own genre.
    Thanks for writing the post. It needed to be said and you said it well.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is great. I feel the same way. Mine was ‘Salem’s Lot. I was 12 and reading the passage where Danny and Ralphie Glick walk home through the woods…it’s the first time I felt real fear while reading a book. I was a goner from then on. Stephen King is my favorite, and has been a large presence all through my life! Going to see him in person in Reno this June 🙂 Thanks for the article!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. When someone is on top, there will always be jackals taking potshots at him. I think I skimmed the article you referenced, and it was pathetic. Typical haughty smug critic crap.

    I too think that King’s recent books are among the best he’s ever published.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wonderfully said, Mark. I know you’re also a fan of recent King. He amazes me with his continued development and his refusal to stop growing. I’m so happy that one of my good friends and most respected fellow horror fans agrees. 🙂

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    1. I haven’t read that one yet! It’s on my list though. Thanks for the recommendation.

      By the way, I didn’t say this in my original post, but I might say it in a follow-up post. One of the reasons I’m so indebted to King is how he connected me to so many of my other favorite writers. Because of Danse Macabre, I discovered you, Peter Straub, Richard Matheson, and so many others. And though I don’t think I’ve mentioned this, I think you might have been the one to blurb Joe R. Lansdale’s The Nightrunners, which led me to another of my favorite writers. If I’m wrong about that, my apologies.

      At any rate, books like The Doll Who Ate His Mother, Demons by Daylight, The Parasite, and The Face That Must Die were and continue to be extremely influential on my own writing and reading.

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  8. Great post. And I agree with you that he’s getting better, though it’s a minority opinion. Salem’s Lot is my favourite, but I count Duma Key, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, 11/22/63, From a Buick 8 and Joyland in my 10 best of his. His writing is getting richer and even more resonant than it already was, which is saying something. Great thoughts, man. Wish the man himself could see them for whenever he feels a little wistful about all of the praise The Stand gets!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I really need to read DUMA KEY. I’ve also not checked out FROM A BUICK 8 yet, so that’ll be something I’ll need to rectify in the next couple of years. Thanks for stopping by, Greg!

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  9. I am a life-long Constant Reader. Carrie got me started. Read it three times. I LOVE the stories Mr. King writes. I’ve read about 3/4 of his books, but oddly enough, not the Dark Tower series. Tried at one time, but couldn’t finish the first book before it was due at the library. Just didn’t grab me. But I figure I’ll save them for a rainy someday 😉 Some of my favorites are the newer novels. Duma Key especially. Hell, I love them all! Thanks for the tribute, Jonathan. He IS King in my book!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I have to say that i have not been a King fan. I do recognize he has great stories, many of which end up on a screen somewhere. And I usually like the movies. I personally always found his work to be verbose. For me this always got in the way of the story, but after reading this I want to give it another shot. Maybe I was not in the right frame of mind or maybe I haven’t read the right King books! I always classified King books like i have Poe. In many ways this is not a bad thing, but with Poe I found he liked his thesaurus too much.

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    1. And CJ, that’s totally cool. Maybe some of his books would appeal to you, maybe they wouldn’t. I like that you’ve tried it and given it a fair chance. That’s all any author can ask of a reader.

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  11. Great post.

    After thinking about what you’ve written, I’ve realized that King’s been with me though the last 25+ years of my life. Now recalling each of his books takes me back to that time in my life when I was reading them…almost like a favorite song.

    It – The weekend before returning to college after Spring break of my junior year

    Tommyknockers – A week at the beach with my friends, sitting under a towel reading because I had become burnt by the sun.

    The first three Dark Tower books – Moving away from home and living in my first (very) small apartment.

    No other author that I’ve read can I remember where and what I as doing when I’ve read their stories. His seem to stay with you in that way. That’s amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It IS amazing, and I have a similar feeling about him and his work. I remember vividly reading this book or that book, and those associations are indelibly burned in my mind.

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  12. Great article and I agree with you 100%! He is by far my favorite writer and I do think he has improved over the years, particularly with books like 11-22-63 and Joyland. I have a “Stephen King” section on Flipboard and even follow him on Twitter, if only for the adorable photos of Molly, aka Thing of Evil. King has always been a brilliant writer and I got sucked into his world with The Shining right after seeing Kubrick’s movie. I loved that movie (sorry Mr. King), but I loved the book so much more, and from there have read everything he has ever written with the exception of the Dark Tower series. I had put that away for a rainy day after King announced his plans to retire following the car accident, but with the movie coming out it’s time to read that, too. I am a voracious reader and even majored in English in collage, so I have been exposed to many writers over the years. King’s works measure up against the best of them, and critics who denounce his books as not being literature truly annoy me. Thank you for putting into writing my exact feelings for King’s body of work. I would say that I am Stephen King’s “number one fan,” but 1) you would probably challenge me on that, and 2) if Mr. King should happen upon that comment that might seem a little creepy to him. But what the hell, King loves creepy! Stephen King is definitely my favorite writer of all time, too. Excellent job of expressing your thoughts in this article.

    Liked by 1 person

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