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Dark things in the closet, literal and figurative
April 24, 2012 2:24 PM   Subscribe


 
Warning: slideshow.
posted by Ardiril at 2:31 PM on April 24, 2012 [12 favorites]


Is "The Stand" number one? It is? Very well, carry on.
posted by ColdChef at 2:31 PM on April 24, 2012 [14 favorites]


61. The Tommyknockers: This tale of a Maine writer (you'll be seeing a lot of these) who accidentally comes across a piece of alien metal in her backyard and finds herself compelled to dig up the flying saucer that it's attached to was written at the height of King's addiction troubles. Writing with "his heart running at a hundred and thirty beats a minute and cotton swabs stuck up my nose to stem the coke-induced bleeding" (as he would later describe it)...

1) How is this the first I've ever heard of King and drugs?

2) I don't know if "liked" is the right word, but Tommyknockers has definitely stayed with me. The woman who powers the ship using her dog. The little boy who accidentally magics his brother to Neptune. I know I'd never be able to read that part again.
posted by DU at 2:32 PM on April 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


Salem's Lot should be number one.
posted by timsneezed at 2:32 PM on April 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


Carrie should be number one.

I'd vote for Under the Dome except that King apparently ate all his editors and the writing is CRAPTASTIC
posted by angrycat at 2:33 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


How is this the first I've ever heard of King and drugs?

Dunno, but On Writing - which I would have put #1 simply because it really is that good - discusses his addiction history at length, and reveals that King has no shortage of disgust for himself.
posted by mightygodking at 2:33 PM on April 24, 2012 [19 favorites]



1) How is this the first I've ever heard of King and drugs?

I have no idea.
Check out his book On Writing sometime, it's useful, entertaining and interesting. It's about half about writing, and half about the guy himself. I'm not a fan of his fiction, but that one was well worth the read.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:34 PM on April 24, 2012




This is pretty close to the list I would make.
posted by Kwine at 2:35 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


On Writing - which I would have put #1 simply because it really is that good

2nding.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:36 PM on April 24, 2012


It doesn't surprise me that Insomnia is at #59.

When I was in high school I decided to try out Stephen King's work and Insomnia was the first I'd found. Big mistake - I got three quarters of the way through the book and felt like nothing was happening so I quit in disgust. It was the first time that this had happened to me reading a book and has so far scared me off reading more of his books.

Maybe I could try again - perhaps using this list to pick off highly-ranked stand-alones or just start on the Dark Tower series.
posted by Start with Dessert at 2:36 PM on April 24, 2012


I lways wondered why so many King fans hated on The Tommyknockers. I loved it when I read it.

Then I re-read it as an adult and remembered that I originally read it when I was 8, pretty much because my mom forbade it. When I was 8, it was the awesomest thing I'd ever read (until I read IT the next week). When I was 30 and had read most of King's work to that date, I suddenly could see its weaknesses.

Salem's Lot was the first King book that I had to set aside halfway through and wait to grow up a bit before I could get through it without being afraid of the dark for days after. I was 12.

Bag of Bones was the book of his that impressed me for being a good Stephen King book, yet not written in the 70s or 80s. The "whoa, he's still got it" book.

I have re-read On Writing every year for the past seven years. I don't know why. I just now tallied it up. It's that good, I guess.
posted by annathea at 2:37 PM on April 24, 2012


The whole list, for those not patient enough to click through in groups of four:

62. Rose Madder
61. The Tommyknockers
60. Dreamcatcher
59. Insomnia
58. The Regulators
57. Rage
56. The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah
55. Blaze
54. Gerald's Game
53. Cell
52. Blockade Billy
51. Cycle of the Werewolf
50. The Colorado Kid
49. Black House
48. Needful Things
47. The Long Walk
46. Christine
45. Duma Key
44. Four Past Midnight
43. Firestarter
42. Nightmares & Dreamscapes
41. The Running Man
40. Bag of Bones
39. Just After Sunset
38. The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla
37. Faithful
36. Everything's Eventual
35. The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole
34. Cujo
33. Thinner
32. Full Dark, No Stars
31. The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands
30. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
29. Desperation
28. The Dark Half
27. The Eyes of the Dragon
26. The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower
25. Carrie
24. 11/22/63
23. The Green Mile
22. Hearts in Atlantis
21. Night Shift
20. Roadwork
19. The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three
18. Pet Sematary
17. Dolores Claiborne
16: From a Buick 8
15. The Talisman
14. The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger
13. Skeleton Crew
12. Under the Dome
11. Danse Macabre
10. Lisey's Story
9. The Dead Zone
8. 'Salem's Lot
7. The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass
6. Misery
5. Different Seasons
4. The Shining
3. IT
2. On Writing
1. The Stand
posted by bonehead at 2:38 PM on April 24, 2012 [66 favorites]


I saw the other day he was working on his 50th novel... made me feel a bit of a slacker
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:38 PM on April 24, 2012


I just started reading his newest one (11/22/63) last night, and I'm enjoying it quite a bit. I'm surprised to see it only ranks in the 30's.
posted by crunchland at 2:38 PM on April 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


er, 20's.
posted by crunchland at 2:39 PM on April 24, 2012


Also while I haven't read all of King's books, I've read quite a few, and I would immediately put Needful Things at the bottom. The whole climax is the most embarrassing thing I've ever read.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:39 PM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I remember a college English professor who loudly sniffed on the first day of class and said, "In a hundred years, no one will ever read Stephen King...it's not made to last." I promptly dropped the class and have always felt that I chose wisely.
posted by ColdChef at 2:40 PM on April 24, 2012 [40 favorites]


I just started reading his newest one (11/22/63) last night, and I'm enjoying it quite a bit. I'm surprised to see it only ranks in the 30's.

My underrateds are The Long Walk (deserved to be much higher - an absolutely brutal and uncompromising read) and The Eyes of the Dragon (should have been top ten). My over-rateds are IT (some stunning scenes surrounded by far, far too much dross) and Hearts in Atlantis (mopey and schlubby writing).
posted by mightygodking at 2:41 PM on April 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


The Eyes of the Dragon only makes #27? There's a book that should really be much higher on the list.
posted by zarq at 2:41 PM on April 24, 2012 [12 favorites]


Huh. I've only read 12 of these. Time to fire up the old Kindle.
posted by ColdChef at 2:42 PM on April 24, 2012


I have a hard time imagining Dreamcatcher to be better than anything. But only one below The Tommyknockers? You're hiiiiiiiigh.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:42 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Full Dark, No Stars deserves better than that, shit is hardcore. In fact all the collections get a raw deal there - he's a master of the short form, and that deserves acknowledging, probably more so than some of the novels which, truth be told, can allow him to wander a bit to much.
posted by Artw at 2:43 PM on April 24, 2012 [11 favorites]




I've read only a fraction of these, but I would have ranked The Colorado Kid higher. Short, slightly baffling, and totally awesome.
posted by feckless at 2:43 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Artw: "In fact all the collections get a raw deal there"

Except for Different Seasons, which is #5.
posted by zarq at 2:43 PM on April 24, 2012




I'm not entirely sure he's read all of them.

Also, hi, I'm the lone voice who really liked Desperation.

posted by psoas at 2:44 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hearts In Atlantis at 22? Jesus, were you smoking crank WITH Stephen King or just reading the books?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:44 PM on April 24, 2012


Under the Dome at 12.

OK, I'm outta this thread. I have to go shoot something with a giant revolver with sandalwood grips.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:45 PM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


I have surprisingly few quibbles with the ordering. I'm nearing the end of 11/23/63 at the moment and I agree it's about where it belongs in the list.
posted by tommasz at 2:45 PM on April 24, 2012


Ha, it's interesting just how subjective these lists are, because I think Gerald's Game is one of King's best and I really didn't like Under The Dome.

In fact all the collections get a raw deal there - he's a master of the short form, and that deserves acknowledging, probably more so than some of the novels which, truth be told, can allow him to wander a bit to much.

Agreed. I'd put Night Shift or Skeleton Crew at #1. "Survivor Type" is one of the finest things written by anyone ever.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 2:45 PM on April 24, 2012 [9 favorites]


lady fingers they taste just like lady fingers
posted by shakespeherian at 2:47 PM on April 24, 2012 [26 favorites]


"The Talisman" was the first Stephen King book I read. It was twice as long as any book I'd ever read at the time (I think I was nine.) I remember literally quaking with fear in my bed, but not being able to stop reading.
posted by ColdChef at 2:47 PM on April 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


The Regulators was vastly superior to Desperation in my opinion. I'd have switched their positions on this list.
posted by hermitosis at 2:47 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Eyes of the Dragon only makes #27? There's a book that should really be much higher on the list.

No kidding. The short-story collections and all of his early works should also be much closer to the top... and there is no fucking way that Wizard and Glass is better than the previous Dark Tower books, either. Maybe I'm just old, but I feel like this list must've come from other worlds than these...
posted by vorfeed at 2:47 PM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh, come on, Rose Madder in last place?! It's not his best by far, but far better than Thinner which lands in the middle of the pack and the dreadful From a Buick 8 in 16th(!)!
posted by yellowbinder at 2:49 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Insomnia that low doesn't mesh with my take. It's dense but better than The Girl who Loved Tom Gordon. And the Dark Tower IV that low too???!!! What! I'd move up Cell and Black House too.

Otherwise, not too awful, for someone's take on things, not that I care...

*goes off to write an angry email to the author*
posted by RolandOfEld at 2:49 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Shit-weasels" alone lifts Dreamcatcher into the fields of immortality.
posted by Trurl at 2:49 PM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


The Stand is a truly exceptional novel - I've read it 3 or 4 times and I'll probably read it again. It really stays with you and casts a shadow over all other dystopian epics. But I'm not sure it's better than the three novellas they mention from Different Seasons, which are all haunting in their own way (I could never get through the fourth).

And the eponymous short story/novella from Hearts in Atlantis is amazing, but the rest of the book is fairly weak.
posted by lunasol at 2:50 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Regulators is terrible (imho of course), I did a Desperation/Regulators re-read a year or so ago and it just doesn't work at all.
posted by yellowbinder at 2:50 PM on April 24, 2012


Hearts in Atlantis was NOT good. Insomnia, also not good. Tommyknockers..ok. Passable. The Stand was really two books in one.

The Long Walk was awesome, as was "Thinner" ironically. Also his short stories. Different Seasons was amazing.

On Writing is for anyone who respects Stephen King as a writer and wants to know more about him, his life, his accident and his writing style and history.

Under the Dome was good but I heard he revised the ending on his son's advice..um, Steve, I think you got this already.

(I have seriously read at least 40 of these. Kind of sobering. Since the guy behind me in grade 5 started loaning them to me off his mother's book shelf).
posted by bquarters at 2:51 PM on April 24, 2012


The Long Walk deserves much, much higher ranking. I haven't re-read it or Eyes of the Dragon in many years, which I need to take care of soon.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:51 PM on April 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


vorfeed: "Maybe I'm just old, but I feel like this list must've come from other worlds than these..."

*checks to make sure the author's name isn't Flagg....*
posted by zarq at 2:51 PM on April 24, 2012


Yeah King is a far better short story writer than a novelist in my opinion... many of the books of his I've read start well but have terrible endings (I think this comes from him being a make it up as he goes along type of writer)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:51 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Except for Different Seasons, which is #5.

Fine. Be a collection Bradbury-ish novellas that have been made into fancy movies and MAYBE then The Vulture will acknowledge you, otherwise you're down with the lesser Dark Towers...

And yes, Skeleton Crew for #1, no question.
posted by Artw at 2:51 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


In fact all the collections get a raw deal there - he's a master of the short form, and that deserves acknowledging, probably more so than some of the novels which, truth be told, can allow him to wander a bit to much.

My thoughts exactly.
posted by entropicamericana at 2:51 PM on April 24, 2012


The man has OUTPUT, like or not. I actually think that he is EXACTLY the type of writer that will be read in 100 years.

What I've read:

THE BAD
24. Needful Things
23. The Regulators
22. Desperation

THE OK
21. The Dark Half
20. Christine
19. Insomnia
18. The Tommyknockers
17. Gerald's Game
16. Firestarter
15. Thinner
14. Misery
13. Pet Sematary
12. The Dead Zone
11. The Shining
10. Carrie

The GOOD
9. The Running Man
8. Rage
7. Danse Macabre
6. Roadwork
5. The Eyes of the Dragon
4. IT
3. The Long Walk
2. The Talisman
1. The Stand
posted by Cosine at 2:53 PM on April 24, 2012


How is IT in the top ten? Better than Christine? Better than Cujo? Better than Night Shift? Gazillion paged scary-clown-teen-gangbang pile o' crap. No, not IT.
posted by chavenet at 2:53 PM on April 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


I take issue with ranking The Gunslinger second among Dark Tower books, myself.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:54 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Seconding or thirding also the Eyes of the Dragon. His not-horror writing abilities I think are really under-rated. Which he is aware of...doesn't he have a quote something like 'the greatest acclaim is given to the writers with the fewest readers' or something like that? Or more like 'just because your book is obscure and no one reads it doesn't mean that the people with huge sales are worse writers?' I can't remember.
posted by bquarters at 2:55 PM on April 24, 2012


The arrow keys work to move between list sections if you want to read it on-site.
posted by codacorolla at 2:56 PM on April 24, 2012


Ok, another comment. I think IT is so high on the list because for many of us it actually came out when we WERE kids. Therefore you would get access to a paperback copy and have the shit scared out of you. That's my interpretation, anyway.
posted by bquarters at 2:57 PM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've read only a fraction of these, but I would have ranked The Colorado Kid higher. Short, slightly baffling, and totally awesome.

I was going to say the opposite. That’s on the short list of books I actually hated. It seemed completely like a half assed attempt to fill some obligation. Maybe I wasn’t in the mood.

They (sort of) made it into the TV series Haven, which I didn’t really understand. The book has no plot, and the series is something completely different, why did they have to credit King?
posted by bongo_x at 2:58 PM on April 24, 2012


Eyes of the Dragon is definitely top shelf King for me too, as well as all the short story collections. SyFy just announced they're doing something with Eyes, which has me all excited. I must temper my excitement though with the knowledge that the only King movie better than the book was Misery, so I'd best not get hopes up.
posted by yellowbinder at 2:58 PM on April 24, 2012


I take issue with ranking The Gunslinger second among Dark Tower books, myself.

Depends on if he read the revised (read:adulterated) version or not.
posted by RolandOfEld at 2:58 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know, if someone did a chronological King short story readthrough blog or podcast in the manner of the HPPodcraft one I would read or listen the hell out of it. Maybe even one of the novels too.
posted by Artw at 2:59 PM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm not a snob, I swear -- I love some kinds of genre fiction, and I'll put the likes of George V. Higgins, Elmore Leonard, and even Joseph Wambaugh ("the world's only right-wing surrealist", I've heard him described) up against anyone. But I've never been able to stand Stephen King.

I got about 75 pages into "The Shining" before I threw it aside. I couldn't finish "Pet Sematary" either, or "The Stand". And I can read ANYTHING; I read two dozen Harlequin Romances on the trot once because someone dumped a box of them in our driveway. They were better-written, more carefully crafted, with more believable characters and more true dialog than anything I've ever seen by King. He just seems extraordinarily sloppy, like they were written without editing in a speed haze or something.

"The Shining" and "Carrie" were both really good movies. I haven't seen any of the others.
posted by Fnarf at 2:59 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Roadwork is as bad as Rage, in my opinion. And his short story collections are better than The Stand (especially if we're talking about the bloated, uncut Stand. Damn, it is too long.)

I often say, when talking about writing, that King may be the last major writer who got his start writing short fiction for the money. It must have been incredible training, and really helps explain his output pace.
posted by Bookhouse at 3:00 PM on April 24, 2012


I was actually afraid that The Stand would be voted his best book and here's the reason why: I like Stephen King. As a person. I've heard him in countless interviews, gone to hear him speak in person, and read about him in general. Unless I'm missing something about his personality, I like him. By virtue of liking him, I want to like his writing. In fact, I have forgiven the multitude of bad movies made from his works thinking maybe the issue was with the screenplay, the director, the actors, etc. I felt vindicated when I saw The Shawshank Redemption precisely because I thought that, for once, someone must have managed to translate his writing into a proper movie.

However, then I read The Stand. At the time, I read as much science fiction and apocalyptic work as I could lay my hands on. It was my thing. I was reading things like The Coming Plague and later The Hot Zone, and somewhere in there I read The Stand. I don't know what to tell you. I don't want to come out and just say it sucked, because I know so many love it, but let's just say that it failed to live up to the hype. More precisely, the story meandered too much, the characters floated all over the place, the moral/ethical/scientific/creepy foundation and payoff fizzled...oh, I could go on, but again, I don't want to just rant about The Stand and how there are tons of better books. It just didn't work for me, and let's leave it at that.

I do want to say that I still like Stephen King as a person, just not as a writer. There, I said it. I don't know that I feel better for having said it, but there it is. I will say this, he still gives me hope that I too could make a gazillion dollars as an author. That, his personality, and The Shawshank Redemption, make him someone I'd love to have drinks with. If someone could make that happen, I won't mention my opinion on his writing.
posted by Muddler at 3:00 PM on April 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


The man has OUTPUT, like or not. I actually think that he is EXACTLY the type of writer that will be read in 100 years.

I agree. I’m not even a big fan, but my wife is. She thinks he is the great writer for the common man of our time.
posted by bongo_x at 3:00 PM on April 24, 2012


I thought Under the Dome was the most irritating Stephen King book I'd ever read. All his weird little tics and habits were out in full force and it all felt so predictable. And I like Stephen King, mostly.

I just heard over the weekend about the new Dark Tower book, and I have to say, my reaction was not a happy one. I have a serious love/hate relationship to that series. The good parts were really good, and the bad parts were really exasperating, and dammit I thought I was done.
posted by Mavri at 3:01 PM on April 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


Oddly I may actually be up for Dr. Sleep.
posted by Artw at 3:05 PM on April 24, 2012


Regulators is terrible (imho of course), I did a Desperation/Regulators re-read a year or so ago and it just doesn't work at all.

For me the main problem was using the desert town as the backdrop in Desperation. It felt totally inauthentic and exoticized, which is basically how most Northeasterners view the Southwest. Being from Arizona, it all seemed kind of corny to me.

With The Regulators, you got that whole setting as seen through the eyes of a child, so suddenly the cliches made more sense. Also there was the strangeness of having "real" characters in the "real" world interacting with "imaginary" ones in a sort of nightmare/fantasy world, where none of the rules of reality are firmly established -- it was surreal and creepy, whereas I found Desperation to be just unconvincing (though still creepy).
posted by hermitosis at 3:06 PM on April 24, 2012


I'm kind of surprised Danse Macabre isn't right up there with On Writing (it's close, but still...), since I feel like they're peas in a pod. The first part of On Writing is almost like a Danse Macabre sequel 10 years on. And I totally agree that The Long Walk got shafted. That one still gives me chills, and I read it about once a year.

And apropos of nothing, this gives me an opportunity to link to one of my favorite MeFi comments of all time.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:06 PM on April 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


3. IT - you had me at "underage gangbang"

2. On Writing - "just cram in as many dream sequences and song quotes as you can and the next thing you know War and Peace looks like a fuckin Chick tract and you can charge thirty bucks for the hardcover"

1. The Stand - lol as if mankind will ever be wiped out by its own hubris
posted by a_girl_irl at 3:06 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


There was a story in Different Seasons about (I think) a Nazi with bodies in his basement. I felt that King, whom until then I had adored, was no longer trying to scare me, but to nauseate me. Something broke during that story, and I stopped adoring King. I still read the odd one, and I really liked Misery, but then there'd be Tommyknockers and I'd think he was trying to make me puke again.

King is really at ease with words though. Got that knack for clear prose.

My number one would probably be either Shining or Misery, I think.
posted by Trochanter at 3:06 PM on April 24, 2012


You know, if someone did a chronological King short story readthrough blog or podcast in the manner of the HPPodcraft one I would read or listen the hell out of it. Maybe even one of the novels too.

Artw, no fooling that's been in my hmmm pile for ages, mayhaps your comment will spur me to actually do it.
posted by yellowbinder at 3:07 PM on April 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


I loved Rage when I read it in high school; I'd be curious to see what I think of it now. At the time, it made me feel so much better about my young anger, to see that someone else knew so thoroughly what I felt like.
posted by Greg Nog at 3:07 PM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Gotta say though, the fact that From a Buick 8 was written before his accident is freaking spooky. Spookily prescient.
posted by Trochanter at 3:08 PM on April 24, 2012



2. On Writing - "just cram in as many dream sequences and song quotes as you can and the next thing you know War and Peace looks like a fuckin Chick tract and you can charge thirty bucks for the hardcover"


This may sound like heresy here on the internet, but it's probably worth actually reading the book before sharing opinions on it.
posted by Stagger Lee at 3:09 PM on April 24, 2012 [13 favorites]


Muddler, he's written 62 books apparently. Just because you don't like one (I didn't particularly like the Stand either, too long, too seemingly split into two books for me) doesn't mean you didn't/don't/wouldn't like him as a writer. Many people here have said he is better at writing novellas...and I agree his short story collections are amazing. Try some books other than the Stand. Read 'On Writing'. Or what the hell, continue to respect him as a person and dislike his work based on the movies (many of which HE doesn't like either) and the one overly long novel (well, he has many overly long novels but the one you mentioned), either way is fine. I just don't think that it's a fair judgement call. He is really talented, and it is very unlikely that 'anyone could make a gazillion dollars' just by throwing some words on a page. (Although Celestine Prophecies and Teen Vampire-based books make me wonder sometimes).
posted by bquarters at 3:09 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I remember a college English professor who loudly sniffed on the first day of class and said, "In a hundred years, no one will ever read Stephen King...it's not made to last." I promptly dropped the class and have always felt that I chose wisely.

This English professor thinks that King will very likely be read in one hundred years, in much the same way that we still read the famous Victorian horror/sensation authors. Whether or not many of the longer novels/series will get read is a different issue. But I wouldn't be surprised to see the short fiction & novellas (esp. Different Seasons), Carrie, and quite possibly Misery, The Shining (hey, haunted house!) and 'Salem's Lot (hey, vampires!) still hanging about.
posted by thomas j wise at 3:10 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Gazillion paged scary-clown-teen-gangbang pile o' crap.

Hey, now. That's unfair. PREteen gangbang.
posted by Greg Nog at 3:10 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Prediction: The Eyes of the Dragon will rank among the best of King's cinematic adaptations, some day.
posted by roger ackroyd at 3:11 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


PREteen gangbang.

Here we go again!!!

posted by yellowbinder at 3:11 PM on April 24, 2012


Gotta say though, the fact that From a Buick 8 was written before his accident is freaking spooky.

Isn't it even more spooky that the guy who hit him is now dead? And died in his house 'of natural causes' at 43 or some equivalently young age? That's what I found very freaky.
posted by bquarters at 3:11 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Huh. People actually like The Eyes of the Dragon. I read a handful of his books in high school and college and the only thing that stuck with me was the feeling that it was one of the worst books ever.
posted by bluesapphires at 3:11 PM on April 24, 2012


Prediction: The Eyes of the Dragon will rank among the best of King's cinematic adaptations, some day.

Game of Thrones... FOR KIDS!
posted by Artw at 3:12 PM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I know some folks dislike It, but I'll never know why. Definitely my number one pick. One of the rare instances where a horror novel was able to get under my skin. I don't think any other King book has had so much impact on me. The Stand was a fine work, but a bit bloated, in my opinion.
posted by Edgewise at 3:12 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


bquarters: "On Writing is for anyone who respects Stephen King as a writer and wants to know more about him, his life, his accident and his writing style and history."

Actually, anything he's ever done after his accident is for anyone who wants to know about his accident. And nothing else. Ever.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 3:14 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Actually, listen to "On Writing". He reads the book well.
posted by dave78981 at 3:14 PM on April 24, 2012


My main complaint is that "The Long Walk" is way too low, and "Under the Dome" is way too high.

Glad to see the terrifying awesomeness of "From a Buick 8" recognized somewhere, though.
posted by eugenen at 3:15 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


#10 (Lisey's Story) really is a great novel - not just a great genre novel (although it is that). But then again I really dig magic realism.
posted by muddgirl at 3:15 PM on April 24, 2012


I know some folks dislike It, but I'll never know why.

The fucking spider, basically. All that was and it's a fucking spider. I guess it's a tibetan tongue biting soul spider from space or something, but it's still a spider.

Worse in the movie. It's just a crap spider there without the cosmic tongue stuff.
posted by Artw at 3:15 PM on April 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm a huge Gerald's Game defender. It's a really weird book for him to have written, and I feel he really stretched himself in order to accomplish it, even if it's not perfect.
posted by hermitosis at 3:17 PM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Isn't it even more spooky that the guy who hit him is now dead? And died in his house 'of natural causes' at 43 or some equivalently young age? That's what I found very freaky.

Oh it's far spookier than that... he died on King's birthday..
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:17 PM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


The driver's untimely death.
posted by bquarters at 3:17 PM on April 24, 2012


Man, I wildly do not agree with this list. The Stand's a respectable pick for number one (it's not what I would have picked, of course; my top five are probably 'Salem's Lot, Danse Macabre, The Stand [original version], Skeleton Crew and The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger), but the second-guessing starts immediately after and never stops. I kind of don't get the universal admiration for On Writing, which I liked but wasn't wowed by, but I'm horrified to see Wizard and Glass, the beginning of the end quality-wise for The Dark Tower, at number seven (!), outranking not only every other volume in the series but almost all of King's novels, period. Just, you know, there's a lot to quibble with. The low ranking of Cell bothers me a lot, too.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:17 PM on April 24, 2012


I haven't read Gerald's Game since I was 11 or 12... that book is one of the few that makes me question my parents' "Open Bookshelves" policy.
posted by muddgirl at 3:18 PM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


So, I read Tommyknockers when I was maybe 12, and thought it was the awesomes thing ever. For a long, long time, #00FF00 on black was my favorite color because that's how the Tommyknockers green looked in my head. My recollections of it were that it was just about the perfect book. I haven't read it since, but I'm really curious to hear or read literary criticisms of it. I was floored when it showed up at the very bottom.

Also, slideshow? Fuck that.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 3:19 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've read pretty much of everything Kings has put out over the years, and this list was interesting. Disagreed with the placement of much of it, but that's always going to be the case...but what was interesting is to see King's development as a writer laid out to some extent. He's gone from the interesting mix of hardcore horror with unusual situations (The Shining being an upgrade of a haunted house story to a haunted hotel containing a family haunted by different ghosts) to more psychological horror to more character driven work (Lisey's Story, which I think of as perhaps his best long form work in a very long time), and then back and forth again a few times.

I have to give the man credit for trying different ideas, methods, and material - it would've been easy for him to stay in a pigeon hole along the way and just grind it out. I may not like much of his recent output (I thought Under the Dome was terrible, but many others I know just love it), but I have to give him his due - he's still out there screwing around with his ideas and the big machine in his mind and seeing what works.

I still have hope (after Full Dark, No Stars - some of his best work ever) - that he will return to the short form for the last years of his career and show a new generation of writers how to work in that form. Because, man, his shit is right when he keeps it tight.
posted by never used baby shoes at 3:20 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think Under the Dome is probably the worst book I've ever read by a major author. It was unbelievably bad - I just couldn't believe I was listening to a Stephen King novel (audible unabridged version). It made me want to go back and read one of my favorites from my teenage Stephen King period and see if they were all so craptastic and juvenile.
posted by Auden at 3:20 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Speaking of Eyes of the Dragon, The Talisman also deserves a lot more credit than it gets -- it's an obvious influence on the mood of the latter Dark Tower books (4-7), but was tighter and more interesting, and not nearly as self-indulgent.
posted by vorfeed at 3:24 PM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Skeleton Crew is definitely the best of the short story collections, but Night Shift should be higher on the list. Strawberry Spring? Quitters Inc? Last Rung on the Ladder? So much great stuff there.

I also feel Firestarter does not get enough love. The story is internally consistent, the relationships are drawn well, and it was written before editors-begone-bloat set in, so it moves at a good pace and ends where it should. It's always been one of my favorites.
posted by Flannery Culp at 3:25 PM on April 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


Adding the publication dates validates my theory that he's mostly sucked since I stopped reading him after Tommyknockers:


62. Rose Madder (1995)
61. The Tommyknockers (1987)
60. Dreamcatcher (2001)
59. Insomnia (1994)
58. The Regulators (1996)
57. Rage (1977)
56. The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah (2004)
55. Blaze (2007)
54. Gerald's Game (1992)
53. Cell (2006)
52. Blockade Billy (2010)
51. Cycle of the Werewolf (1983)
50. The Colorado Kid (2005)
49. Black House (2001)
48. Needful Things (1991)
47. The Long Walk (1979)
46. Christine (1983)
45. Duma Key (2008)
44. Four Past Midnight (1990)
43. Firestarter (1980)
42. Nightmares & Dreamscapes (1993)
41. The Running Man (1982)
40. Bag of Bones (1998)
39. Just After Sunset (2008)
38. The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla (2003)
37. Faithful (2004)
36. Everything's Eventual (2002)
35. The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole (2012)
34. Cujo (1981)
33. Thinner (1984)
32. Full Dark, No Stars (2010)
31. The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands (1991)
30. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (1999)
29. Desperation (1996)
28. The Dark Half (1989)
27. The Eyes of the Dragon (1987)
26. The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower (2004)
25. Carrie (1974)
24. 11/22/63 (2011)
23. The Green Mile (1996)
22. Hearts in Atlantis (1999)
21. Night Shift (1978)
20. Roadwork (1981)
19. The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three (1987)
18. Pet Sematary (1983)
17. Dolores Claiborne (1992)
16: From a Buick 8 (2002)
15. The Talisman (1984)
14. The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger (1982)
13. Skeleton Crew (1985)
12. Under the Dome (2009)
11. Danse Macabre (1981)
10. Lisey's Story (2006)
9. The Dead Zone (1979)
8. 'Salem's Lot (1975)
7. The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass (1997)
6. Misery (1987)
5. Different Seasons (1982)
4. The Shining (1977)
3. IT (1986)
2. On Writing (2000)
1. The Stand (1978)
posted by kirkaracha at 3:25 PM on April 24, 2012


Huh, I read a lot of King when I was around 15 or 16, and I'm slightly miffed to see a good chunk of those books that I really liked at the time all clustered at the bottom of the list.
posted by anazgnos at 3:28 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thirding the idea that Full Dark, No Stars is some of his best work ever. I picked it up for $5 in a bargain bin last month. I read everything the man wrote up to Tommyknockers, which turned me off of his stuff for a while. Anything I picked up after the golden age 70s and 80s was hit and miss.

Full Dark, however, is a punch in the face. I'm actually taking a break to read other things between stories just because I simultaneously don't want to finish it too quickly and just can't take anymore.
posted by eyeballkid at 3:28 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Cycle of the Werewolf was made into the movie Silver Bullet, which was mediocre but did feature the excellent Gary Busey line, [SPOILER] "I'm a litte too old to be playing Hardy Boys meet Reverend Werewolf!"
posted by kirkaracha at 3:29 PM on April 24, 2012


I disagree with the opinions held by this product and/or service!
posted by elizardbits at 3:31 PM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I am outraged with your opinion on the above-referenced product and/or service!
posted by Panjandrum at 3:32 PM on April 24, 2012


The Regulators should be taken out back and shot, tbh. Everything else I suppose I more or less agree with, although Salem's Lot still terrifies me and should thus be slightly higher on the list.
posted by elizardbits at 3:33 PM on April 24, 2012


I liked Tommyknockers, myself. It was whichever Dark Tower book that had the train and all the Wizard of Oz references that got me to walk away from King.
posted by Bookhouse at 3:33 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


IT was the first King book I ever read and at the time I was the same age as the kids in the book. At the time I loved it, rereading IT for the first time last year I thought it really could have been trimmed down a bit. Hey it's been 27 years, maybe Pennywise is on his way back.
posted by the_artificer at 3:36 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hahaha

62. Rose Madder

59. Insomnia


First King book I ever read was Rose Madder because my middle school library had it. "Well that sucked," I thought, "but I'll try again." In that spirit, I then checked out Insomnia. And then I never read another Steven King book, and always wondered why on earth anyone liked him.

(I know, I know...)
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:37 PM on April 24, 2012


The thing about Stephen King, and I am pretty sure I have rambled on a bit about this here before, is that he's really really good at writing in a visceral way, no pun intended. There are single-line almost throw-away descriptions of things that have quite literally stayed with me for decades, such was their shudderingly visceral impact on me. Whatever you think of his overall writing, that is still a pretty respectable skill, all things considered.

Wholly unnecessary and horrible example: when Stu falls down the sinkhole and breaks his legs, King says "two of his fingernails peeled off like wet decals," and oh god just typing that is making me whimper with horror inside. HORROR. It is so perfectly yet horribly descriptive and so unbearably vivid and oh god where is the tequila halp.
posted by elizardbits at 3:38 PM on April 24, 2012 [15 favorites]


I read most of what he'd written up to about 93, through junior high and high school. To me, his short fiction is always the best of his work. Even when his novels work (and some of them are amazing) they can't hold a candle to how perfectly crafted his short stories are. Graveyard Shift and Skeleton Crew are the two books of his I wish I had a copy of. I recall reading somewhere that after finishing Mrs. Todd's Shortcut, he thought it would go down as the best thing he would ever write, and still had that opinion years later. I wonder if he still feels that way. It's still my favorite, and up there with some of the best short fiction I've read.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:39 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I really liked Tommyknockers back when I read it, along with The Dark Half and IT. TBH I'd probably put the three of them on the same throwaway level, with maybe The Dark Half in the lead.

Then I read Pet Cemetary, which scared the shit out of me.
posted by Artw at 3:40 PM on April 24, 2012


Clearly I am not going to like much of King's work because I absolutely hated The Stand.

HATED.
posted by Sandor Clegane at 3:41 PM on April 24, 2012


Ha, it's interesting just how subjective these lists are, because I think Gerald's Game is one of King's best and I really didn't like Under The Dome.

Agreed. I love Gerald's Game. The list writer seems to have a puzzling problem with King's "feminist" works, but in truth, they're fantastic. He writes women surprisingly empathetically. Gerald's Game was particularly terrifying.

Also, there are supernatural elements to Gerald's Game. So.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:41 PM on April 24, 2012


The scalpel scene in Pet Sematary ruined couches for me forever, basically.
posted by elizardbits at 3:42 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cell was really, really bad. Actually it starts rather promising, then it just slowly sputters down to nothing. Under the Dome was really terrible, too.
posted by zardoz at 3:42 PM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


I loved him up until IT, then I liked him barely.

it was written before editors-begone-bloat set in

Exactly. I think he was somewhat a victim of his own success as a writer. He can turn a phrase with perfect craftsmanship, but anything longer than a novella and he can't figure out how to pace the whole thing, generally.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:43 PM on April 24, 2012


Sandor, I'm not a fan of the Stand, but King has had varied enough output that there's kind of at least one good book for everybody's tastes.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:44 PM on April 24, 2012


Thanks for the list bonehead. Slideshows like that can go piss up a rope.

I've been seriously reconsidering my relationship with King's books in the wake of reading Full Dark, No Stars. I first found him, like annathea and so many others, at an age when I didn't understand much of anything, much less teenagers and drugs and death. Christine was my first, picked up from the library's free box. Promptly devoured everything I could lay my hands on - I can still vividly remember those heavy Viking hardcovers, especially The Stand - and I loved Tommyknockers, hard.

Then, when I was a teenager, it didn't seem cool to like him. I made exceptions for the first two Gunslinger books (in Plume rereleases) because they felt... different and had amazing illustrations, but resolutely turned my back on him after Needful Things. And except for a few quick rereads, especially of the fantastic short stories, I didn't touch another King book until I saw Full Dark, No Stars at a bookstore last year. Thumbed through it, then sat down with it, then didn't leave the bookstore until I had finished all of 1922.

Hot damn!

King was the first writer to tell me about the world I lived in: he mentioned brands I knew, put everything in a familiar suburban context of station wagons and shitty jobs, and featured a lot of kids. Danny Torrance, Jack Sawyer, the gang from It - I felt a part of those books, even if I didn't know anything about acne or high school or blow jobs. I thought that I could read Full Dark as a one-off for old time's sake, but it stuck with me, and when 11/22/63 came out I decided I needed to finally get over my snobby teenage bullshit. I'm hooked again, and I have twenty years of backlist to go through... now that I can get out of my own butt and accept him as the fantastic writer he is, I can't wait to dig in.

I'll be writing the mods toot sweet to see if they will keep this thread open longer than usual so I can come back and regale y'all with my fully informed list, which is sure to differ greatly from this one. I mean, how can it be possible for him to have written ten books worse than Cycle of the Werewolf?
posted by Chichibio at 3:47 PM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, I'm glad that Lisey's Story is so high on here, because it was my first Stephen King (other than reading my mom's copy of Tommyknockers when I was ten--bad idea),and I'm fond of its use of language (the moment when Lisey truly learns the meaning of a "bool" *shudder). But it was sorely in need of an editor and even I wouldn't rank it above Gerald's Game.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:47 PM on April 24, 2012


Ha, it's funny how you can tell the personality of the listmakers by the books they chose. Ranking The Long Walk walk so low, eh? Mentioning how "The Running Man" is hard to read because it reminds you of 9/11 despite being written over a decade before? Oh I SEE.

But hey, dude's written a lot and his work speaks to different people in different ways. I was happy to see On Writing, maybe the best book on the creative process I've ever read (...out of a lot), so high.

And I wanted to chime in that 11/22/63 reaffirmed my faith that King can spin a good yarn, as I've been disappointed with a lot of his output in the past decade. The audiobook, incidentally, is maybe one of the best audiobooks I've ever heard. The guy who reads it is spectacular. I went on a road 40 hour road trip recently, and we found we were sitting in the car for who knows how long after each time we'd stop just so we could finish out a chapter. And sometimes start the next one.

Also, The Shining ftw!
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 3:48 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I liked Christine more than this guy did. The movie was not good, though.
posted by jscalzi at 3:49 PM on April 24, 2012


Huh. I've only read 12 of these.

I've read five, all of which make the Top 15, and I was pretty much reading them as they came out (The Stand, Dead Zone, Shining, Different Seasons, The Talisman though not in that order). From which I can draw a few conclusions:

- Mr. King was a far more consistent writer in the early part of his career
- I was lucky enough to stumble into his stuff when it was pretty much at its best
- even so, I did find it pretty easy to give up on him pretty quickly.

Why did I give up? I think it was because my personal favorite Different Seasons (a break from all the overt supernatural stuff), was just so good. And then he went back to mostly horror stuff. Downhill from there for the most part.
posted by philip-random at 3:50 PM on April 24, 2012


I guess I'm alone here in being a fan of Insomnia. Granted, I read it during that long gap between Dark Tower IV and V, when we Tower Junkies eagerly devoured anything with DT connections, but I thought it was a poignant tale of mortality and aging.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 3:51 PM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't think I've read any King in 20 years. Maybe longer. Amazing output. But I always remember him as someone who just went over the creative line; no lily ever went ungilded (with blood).

Like the Shining. Spooky kid! Haunted hotel! Great. Ends with, what, giant topiary going all over the fucking place.

Or, take It. Super scary! Maybe some sort of devil killing kids for hundreds of years! Hiding in the drain! Oh, it's a giant space spider!

Always seems to take the macabre one step too far into the ridiculous.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:55 PM on April 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm on the liking end of indifference towards Insomnia, I think. My main interest in it was the connections between it and the Dark Tower series, and also the little old man (who I immediately cast as Burgess Meredith) saying "done bun can't be undone," another one of his phrases that have inexplicably stuck with me for years.
posted by elizardbits at 3:56 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I remember reading The Green Mile and thinking to myself that King is probably the closest thing we have to a modern version of Victor Hugo. So yeah, I also think his works will stand the test of time.

I read the first Dark Tower book in a single day, it was that good to me at the time. I decided to not read any of the others yet since he wasn't finished with the series. That was like nine years ago so maybe I could pick it up again while I wait for the next ASoIaF book to come out, dammit.

[mini-rant]
I always find it a little funny and sad when anyone proclaims that a writer, especially a genre writer, is simply incapable of writing something worth reading or debating over. As if you have to subscribe to a very specific set of literary rules in order to even be permitted to discuss the universal human condition. As if only "Literary Fiction" is allowed to distill these notions for us. Pshaw!

It's not like Shakespeare was sitting around in his office, pen in hand, pondering the mysteries of life and muttering things like "how can I project the futility of living in this society with its modern trappings and foo-fah, et cetera". Nah, he didn't have time for that, he was busy writing gripping drama and lewd comedy. King is just like that. He's trying to wrote ripping good yarns and if he happens to capture some poignant truth in all that (almost unavoidable, really) than all the better.
[/mini-rant]

posted by Doleful Creature at 3:57 PM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I am generally not a fan of his writing (On Writing is the only book of his I have been able to finish). But I thought I would give The Gunslinger a go. But man, the books in that series span the list from some of his best to some of the worst and pretty evenly in between. They described the series as his "magnum opus" but, should they if the constituent parts are so wildly uneven?
posted by munchingzombie at 3:58 PM on April 24, 2012


They described the series as his "magnum opus" but, should they if the constituent parts are so wildly uneven?

Even fans of King agree that he is wildly uneven, so certainly his magnum opus should not differ.
posted by mightygodking at 4:00 PM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


(the moment when Lisey truly learns the meaning of a "bool" *shudder)

Just wait until she learns the meaning of a "char"! Oooh, scary!
posted by Crabby Appleton at 4:03 PM on April 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


I've never been as scared by anything in Stephen King's books as I am by the notion that he wrote a book worse than The Tommyknockers.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:04 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I remember a college English professor who loudly sniffed on the first day of class and said, "In a hundred years, no one will ever read Stephen King...it's not made to last."

This is actually a pretty safe bet. Extremely popular writers tend to reflect the hopes and anxieties of their time, so they age poorly. This is not universally true, but I would bet cash that King will not much outlast his death (although I won't be around in 100 years to pay up or cash in, so it's easy to say...).
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:04 PM on April 24, 2012


I have a deep fondness for The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. I want Trisha and Coraline to hang out and vanquish evil.

The King books I reread every year are On Writing and Everything's Eventual, the first because it's just that good*, the second because I keep hoping if I read "Lunch at the Gotham Cafe" and "1408" enough times they will lose their power to terrify me and I will be able to read them after dark. No luck yet.

I know "1408" was originally published in audio; I would no more choose to listen to it than choose to set my hands on fire. Ditto ever seeing the movie adaptation; either it won't be as scary as the story and something perfect will be broken, or it WILL be as scary and I will lose the desire to live.


*good except for the part where he's talking about editing your work and says all casual-like "now you/I should have the first draft of the novel finished in about three months," because FUCK YOU, STEPHEN OVERACHIEVER KING, FUCK YOOOOOOUUUU
posted by nicebookrack at 4:05 PM on April 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


1408 easily makes any list of bad King films. Liked the story though, particularly the nasty phone messages.
posted by Artw at 4:06 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Even fans of King agree that he is wildly uneven, so certainly his magnum opus should not differ.

Part of what's wonderful about him is that his writing sometimes feels a little far beyond his control, as if he wrenched them out of his subconscious or the subconsciouses of his characters. It's not surprising that his books are sometimes bad. What's amazing is how often they're very, very good.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:07 PM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't get it. Stephen King couldn't write his way out of a wet paper bag.
posted by ZipRibbons at 4:09 PM on April 24, 2012


Did Stephen King ever write a story about a troll?
posted by Crabby Appleton at 4:11 PM on April 24, 2012 [10 favorites]


Also I haven't read it yet, but the recent film adaptation of The Mist was on TV the other night, so I watched it.

What an utterly depressing tale. It's like a perfect cocktail of horrible, soul-tearing anguish.
posted by Doleful Creature at 4:11 PM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


He can and has written his way out of a wet paper bag; This is recounted vividly in chapter five of On Writing.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 4:11 PM on April 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


how many books have you written that i remembered 22 years later? oh that's right none.

this message was brought to you by the ministry of immature opinions
posted by elizardbits at 4:12 PM on April 24, 2012 [12 favorites]


I just finished 11/23/63, and am ready to jump back into more King after giving his stuff a miss over the past decade or so. I was thinking of rereading Danse Macabre yet again, because it's really satisfying to read something from someone who knows his stuff so well, and writes so the affection just shines clearly though.

But now I think I'm going to go get On Writing. Yay! More to read.
posted by rewil at 4:13 PM on April 24, 2012


1408 is the scariest thing I've ever read, straight-up. It's cosmic horror -- the horror of the complete unknown, beyond human comprehension -- disguised as a ghost story. I get chills just thinking about it.

When King's working in this mode, he might be the best the genre's ever had. This is why I love From a Buick 8, too.
posted by eugenen at 4:15 PM on April 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Thank you for reminding me that The Wind Through the Keyhole is waiting for me at home on my Kindle. I'm going to tell my husband to go ahead and order a pizza.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:18 PM on April 24, 2012


I stopped reading after the Tommyknockers, but Pet Semetary, Salem's Lot and the Stand are the books I've reread, as well as Danse Macabre. Skeleton Crew is also entertaining.

I could never figure out why the Dark Tower series was so popular.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:22 PM on April 24, 2012


I feel bad saying it, but looking over a chronological list of King books, I'm reminded that almost all of my favorites were during his drug/alcohol period. Up to that point I was a rabid fan, but after 1987 or so, there are only a handful of books I really like, and a whole bunch of them that I absolutely hated (Needful Things, The Dark Half). It's probably just a coincidence, but I wonder if something about his state of mind during that time was conducive to some quality in his writing that appealed to me. He apparently wasn't the type of writer who separated his work from his intoxication (I dimly recall reading somewhere that he barely remembered writing The Tommyknockers).

Or maybe it's that a lot of his writing during his recovery has been intensely concerned with guilt and self-loathing, which makes for some seriously feel-bad reading.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 4:22 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


1408 easily makes any list of bad King films. Liked the story though, particularly the nasty phone messages.

As a general note to the world, if you have a friend who tells you how utterly terrifying she finds those messages and your immediate impulse is to answer her next phone call with, "THIS IS TEN! TEN! WE HAVE KILLED YOUR FRIENDS! EVERY FRIEND IS NOW DEAD!", that is a dick move.

Just FYI.
posted by nicebookrack at 4:22 PM on April 24, 2012 [17 favorites]


I gotta say that I love King... In my opinion "On Writing" is possibly the best book ever written on making popular art. It's like "The Manual" for grown ups.... Hugely recommended.
posted by Mr Ed at 4:25 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Part of what's wonderful about him is that his writing sometimes feels a little far beyond his control, as if he wrenched them out of his subconscious or the subconsciouses of his characters.

Yeah, I think the appeal of King to me is his looseness and tendency to let his stories go off in all directions (I also see why so many people can't stand him for those same qualities). I kind of dig it when he'll have the protagonist glimpse someone walking down the street, then launch into the whole life story of that character, who never shows up again in the novel.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 4:31 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


The thing about King being remembered/read in the far future is that most of those Victorians whom are still r/r'd managed, by intent or by luck to create characters that remain intriguing. Holmes, Scrooge, Dracula.

I'm not saying King hasn't done that, but.... has he?
posted by Trochanter at 4:32 PM on April 24, 2012


Can we make a list of King's scariest moments instead? Both his good and bad books can be made readable because each has this particular awesome moment that just sticks with you.

IT - A clown lives in a sewer, a single reptilian claw, a gaping maw with sharpened teeth, "We all float down here."

Salem's Lot - Father Callahan faces off against the vampire king with only his faith to support him. Oops.

Dreamcatcher - Beaver is sitting on the toilet seat with an evil alien shit weasel trying to escape and kill him.

Gerald's Game - Jessie is handcuffed to the bed, naked. She sees a dark figure holding a bag of jewelry and bones. Night after night. He's just a hallucination, right?

The Dark Half - The tumor Thad had removed from his brain as a child? Not a tumor.

Thinner - The pie. Who ate the pie?

As a general note to the world, if you have a friend who tells you how utterly terrifying she finds those messages and your immediate impulse is to answer her next phone call with, "THIS IS TEN! TEN! WE HAVE KILLED YOUR FRIENDS! EVERY FRIEND IS NOW DEAD!", that is a dick move.

This reminds me of the time I watched The Ring on DVD and right when the movie ended, my phone rang. I did not answer it.

But I encouraged my roommate that he should watch it, because it was a good movie and all.

posted by jabberjaw at 4:34 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Christ, I am apparently the only person here who loved "Under The Dome". I love the premise of the book, the cartoonishly evil bad guys, and I loved that it was a looooooong book that I never wanted to end. Loved it!
However, I would have to put "The Eyes of the Dragon" near the top of my list of King's best. And "Misery", being the first King book that I read in a single day, holds a soft spot as well.

The dude deserves respect for what he's done...he'll be remembered in 100 years, no doubt.
posted by newfers at 4:35 PM on April 24, 2012


1408 is the scariest thing I've ever read, straight-up. It's cosmic horror -- the horror of the complete unknown, beyond human comprehension -- disguised as a ghost story. I get chills just thinking about it.

Gaaaaah yes. It's with House of Leaves and The Haunting of Hill House in my favorite/scariest horror mini-genre, the domestic cosmic horror of a sociopath house. It's not haunted, it's not cursed, it's not understandable, there's no ghost you can exorcise or demon you can banish; it's just a house born evil and utterly alien and entertained by your suffering. Like "1408" says, "It was never human. At least ghosts used to be human."
posted by nicebookrack at 4:36 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I confess to being a complete Stephen King junkie: I've read, my God, at least fifty of these. His early work has moments of incredible power; his middle work is consistently good; much of his later work is highly undisciplined. It's my completely unsubstantiated opinion that the quality of his novels has declined as he acquired the reputational clout to say no to editors. Every writer needs an editor who will say 'no', and it is my guess that King doesn't have one.

But he keeps his bad tendencies in check when he's writing short stories. They're so strong. And such incredible moments, one after another, effortlessly: the phone calls in 1408 ("All your friends are now dead!"), the white-haired boy in The Jaunt ("Longer than you think, Dad!"), the moment in the very first story in Skeleton Crew when the antagonist almost instantly identifies the hero -- I read these and wonder: how does he do that? The way he captures the subjective impression of there simply being No Way Out in the Bachman books (unsolicited advice: do not read "Road Work" or "The Long Walk" when employed by a losing political campaign): it's like magic.

And of course, that great third entry in Full Dark, No Stars, which I think is (because of its insight into something we'd prefer not to think much about) one of the few genuinely great, pitch-perfect horror stories of all time. I won't spoil it for you if you haven't read it. I'm jealous of anyone who can write like that. I feel lucky I got to read it.
posted by Mr. Justice at 4:36 PM on April 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


Also I haven't read it yet, but the recent film adaptation of The Mist was on TV the other night, so I watched it.

Apparently it's one of King's favorite adaptations, especially the black & white version that's on the home video versions.

What an utterly depressing tale. It's like a perfect cocktail of horrible, soul-tearing anguish.
posted by Doleful Creature at 7:11 PM on April 24 [+] [!]


Not sure if intentionally eponysterical.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:37 PM on April 24, 2012


It's my completely unsubstantiated opinion that the quality of his novels has declined as he acquired the reputational clout to say no to editors. Every writer needs an editor who will say 'no', and it is my guess that King doesn't have one.

I don't think he had one for much of the '90s, a decade that was hardly his best, but his more recent work seems much more focused. Even a behemoth like Under the Dome soars along.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:48 PM on April 24, 2012


I may give The Mist a watch, but I am supremely suspicious of the changes to the ending.
posted by Artw at 4:51 PM on April 24, 2012


Two of my favorite novels in the bottom five, so feh.
posted by Aversion Therapy at 4:51 PM on April 24, 2012


I couldn't get through Duma Key at all. And I was living in Florida at the time! Should have been perfect. I gave up past the 300 page point, and I never do that. That one didn't soar, for me.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:51 PM on April 24, 2012


The scalpel scene in Pet Sematary ruined couches for me forever, basically.

I don't remember that scene, but I do remember the scene with the busy road and the truck and the trail it left and -- well, I finished the book, because I was a dutiful reader in those days, but I never re-read it. Only read Cujo once, too, for similar reasons.

On Writing is very good and I join the chorus of people recommending it.
posted by maudlin at 4:55 PM on April 24, 2012


I read Bag of Bones more years ago then I remember. I don't remember much of the plot, but the mood of the novel remains with me all these years later.

Can we make a list of King's scariest moments instead? Both his good and bad books can be made readable because each has this particular awesome moment that just sticks with you.

Firestarter - Human destruction via garbage disposal.
Firestarter was my first Stephen King experience. I read that book in middle school and have eschewed garbage disposals in my own home ever since.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 4:56 PM on April 24, 2012


My top five would look pretty similar to this one, I guess, but I would have had The Long Walk a heck of a lot higher (at the very least above Christine, which sucked). I loved that one. It kept me up all night as a kid.
posted by Lina Lamont at 4:56 PM on April 24, 2012


I'm glad Salem's Lot cracked the top ten. It has moments as scary as the ones in The Shining and much more evocative language. Some of the "prose poem" bits could have been disastrous but they work.

The Tobe Hooper TV movie adaptation is fantastic too and captures or perhaps exceeds the scary bits in the book. There's parts to this day I hesitate to watch in broad daylight.... everyone talks about Kubrick's Shining and as brilliant as it was it wasn't nearly as scary as the book.
posted by fleetmouse at 4:58 PM on April 24, 2012


I don't remember that scene

Actually, I am now questioning if it was in the book AND the movie or just in the movie. Hm.



oh god the highway smear dnw
posted by elizardbits at 4:58 PM on April 24, 2012


I couldn't get through Duma Key at all. And I was living in Florida at the time! Should have been perfect. I gave up past the 300 page point, and I never do that. That one didn't soar, for me.

Yeah, I almost mentioned that Duma Key really does seem to have lacked an editor -- in a way that's not true of Under the Dome or Cell. (I think some editorial assistance might have been a good thing for 11/22/63, which doesn't have pacing problems so much as...well, without getting spoiler-y, I kinda felt like there was something pretty important missing from the last section of the book, is all I'll say there, and it's something an editor might have pointed out.) I liked Duma Key better than you did, without a doubt, but some of those long walks on the beach are pretty damn long.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:59 PM on April 24, 2012


I've just counted. I've read 46 of his books. I can't stand the Dark Tower series and only (attempted) to read the first but aside from a few I missed in the late 90's I've read everything else.

He is like an old high school boyfriend-- we were passionately joined at the hip all the way through high school, college, and young adulthood but then something happened and we drifted apart. A couple of years ago we hooked up again and I enjoy his company-- but not with the same white hot flame of desire.

The first book I read was Salem's Lot in 1975. After that prior to each new release I would reread all the previous books. I owned them all-- even the stupid Eyes of the Dragon (which I never reread.) I have such a fondness for his early books that I cannot even say if they are good or not-- I just love them with the uncritical love of teenage bookworm. It, The Stand, Christine, Pet Sematary, Cujo, Shining, and Salem's Lot are as dear to me as Winnie the Pooh and Henry & Ribsy. The characters, the places, the plot twists are as familiar as David Copperfield and Bleak House.

I did read 11/22/63 (one of the first things I read on my Nook) and I was thrilled that I enjoyed it so much. I'm always rooting for him and I hope he continues to write for many more years to come.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:00 PM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Favorite scary moment? That's easy. Jack Torrance getting up off the floor after Wendy offed him and he says, "You killed me YOU BITCH!" Fuck you Kubrick, you took out the best part because you had a hard time believing in the supernatural.
posted by Ber at 5:01 PM on April 24, 2012


Gah. "Begin Slideshow" has gotta be one of my least favorite phrases to see on a link.
posted by EatTheWeak at 5:02 PM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I couldn't get through Under the Dome, but damn if I don't reread The Stand every time I get the flu.
posted by Lemmy Caution at 5:08 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wish Harold Bloom had read all of these and written up a ranked list like this.
posted by wobh at 5:11 PM on April 24, 2012


The scariest moment for me, easily, was what Patrick Hockstetter did to his little brother.
posted by Bookhouse at 5:12 PM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


He writes women surprisingly empathetically.

posted by PhoBWanKenobi


Oh, hell yes. Rose Madder should be much higher up the list for my own selfish reasons. When I first read it, I was regularly having the shit beaten out of me by a man who professed to love me. I was astounded that a happily-married male author could so perfectly nail what was going on in my head at the time. "If I stay, he'll end up killing me. If I leave and he finds me, he'll end up killing me and anyone else who helped me. I need to leave, I can't leave, I HAVE to leave, how can I leave, oh fuck, I'll leave because I have no other choice and no options but I must go. Now. Today.".

The funny part is that my boyfriend had bought me the book.

Other than that I mostly agree, although I still re-read Tommyknockers and enjoy the hell outta it, mainly because I just love the idea of stumbling over THAT in your backyard.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 5:13 PM on April 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


Wow....I've read 57 of these. (Duma Key, Lisey's Story, Wind Through the Keyhole*, Faithful and Dreamcatcher are the ones I've missed.)

From a Buick 8 is way too high, Colorado Kid should be #62, Wizard & Glass should switch places with The Waste Lands, The Regulators and Desperation should switch places.

____
*getting it from the library tomorrow
posted by Lucinda at 5:13 PM on April 24, 2012


Everything up until Gerald's Game was great. Gerald's Game was horrible, and pretty much all his horrible books came after Gerald's Game. There've been a few good ones since then : some great short story collections, the 3rd and 4th Dark Tower books, recent JFK alternate history one. But I'd say that Misery was the last of what was probably the longest winning streak in popular fiction.

And don't get me started on the 6th and 7th Gunslinger books.... ugh... such wasted potential.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:15 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


psoas: "

I'm not entirely sure he's read all of them.

Also, hi, I'm the lone voice who really liked Desperation.
"

Nope. Me too.
posted by Splunge at 5:16 PM on April 24, 2012


"On Writing is for anyone who respects Stephen King as a writer and wants to know more about him, his life, his accident and his writing style and history."

I am actually NOT a fan of Stephen King -- I don't really like horror or thrillers, certainly not at 900 pages -- and the only thing I've really read of his is a short story collection (whichever one has "The Langoliers," which scared the shit out of me), which I did really enjoy, but I've never really liked any of his novel-length books that I tried to read.

However. "On Writing" is fucking fantastic, even if you are not a Stephen King fan.

(I am about to attempt 11/22/63 for my book club, so we'll see how that goes. Based on this list, which I saw earlier to day on Vulture, I picked out a couple more I might try that looked light on horror and like they might have themes that interest me more.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:19 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, hi, I'm the lone voice who really liked Desperation."

Nope. Me too.


Me three. It was my first King book, actually.
posted by EatTheWeak at 5:21 PM on April 24, 2012


The Shining:...It may be a while since you've read it, and the name may conjure up only the images from Stanley Kubrick's film, so iconic are they. But drip into it again and you'll see why the book holds up.

Yeah, that's about right.
posted by googly at 5:22 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, one thing I noticed : Gerald's Game was the first of many King books with poorly-written female protagonists; a pattern that continues into the present with Big Driver, one of the short stories in his most recent collection. Nearly all of these books are filled with a mind-numbing level of inner dialogue, and very very little action. Why does King want to write female characters in this way? Does he think women are boring? Furthermore, I don't remember any of his earlier works having this problem. For example, Carrie and the girl from Firestarter were never boring.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:22 PM on April 24, 2012


I read Under the Dome compulsively and when I got to the finish, I was and still am pretty sure it's the biggest pile of crap I've read.

I agree with the third commenter about Tommyknockers is underrated. It's a pretty imaginative book.

Pet Semetary is the one that's resonated with me the most.
posted by Fister Roboto at 5:27 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would have put The Shining higher. However, The Stand at #1? Oh, yeah.

I'm also surprised to realize how many of his books I've read.
posted by fuse theorem at 5:34 PM on April 24, 2012


Kinda bummed at how far down the list Christine is. That and It are probably the Stephen King books I read the most times when I was young.
posted by triggerfinger at 5:44 PM on April 24, 2012


I don't understand why people dislike The Tommyknockers. It's basically a crazy 1950s sci-fi B-movie expanded into a mosaic novel depicting an entire small town. It's long without being bloated; it builds pretty continuously towards a big, satisfying climax; there are lots of sharply-drawn characters (especially Gard, the alcoholic writer) and clever twists and vignettes (like the kid who transports his brother to Altair-9 or wherever). What's not to like? Is it just that it's not creepy in the way you'd expect from his earlier books?
posted by twirlip at 5:44 PM on April 24, 2012


Yeah, I think that there are only about five or so books of his that I haven't read. And I don't mind saying that I love his work.
posted by Splunge at 5:46 PM on April 24, 2012


I really makes me happy that you guys like King as much as you do (and as much as I do, too).
posted by item at 5:48 PM on April 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


I've read almost everything he's written, with the exception of the Gunslinger series and Full Dark, No Stars. Out of all his books, short stories, novellas, and poems, I have to give highest marks to "All That You Love Will Be Carried Away" from Everything's Eventual. It's haunting and beautiful and sad and inspiring. It's one of the finest short stories I've ever read, by any author. I'd put it up against the best of Carver, Hemingway, Monroe, or (if I'm feeling frisky and combative) Malamud or O'Connor. It might not outshine them, but it'd hold its own.

I'd love to put together a "Best of" collection of King's short fiction. Twelve stories, no particular order. Hrm. That'd be a helluva thing.
posted by malthusan at 5:50 PM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Mrs. Todd's Shortcut had best be in that collection or we shall have to engage in fisticuffs.
posted by elizardbits at 5:57 PM on April 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


"The Talisman" was the first Stephen King book I read. It was twice as long as any book I'd ever read at the time (I think I was nine.) I remember literally quaking with fear in my bed, but not being able to stop reading.

I was thirteen. I'd brought it to summer camp with me, and was reading it when I should have been keeping a bit of a closer eye on the kids in my cabin (uh, I was a junior counselor, did I mention that part?). When there was that scene towards the end when Jack runs into one of Wolf's friends, but thinks at first it was Wolf, I actually got choked up from joy.

Those of you who weren't all that thrilled by The Stand, I have a question: did you read the abridged or the un-abridged version? The abridged has less of the rambling, yeah, but I think they went TOO far with the cutting, and you need some of that richness back in. I admit that I tend to peter out on it once everyone's in Boulder and the main four characters have begun their trek west for the final showdown, but up until then it's gripping. (And one of the scariest bits for me, to this day, was a throwaway line someone had - a delerious someone grabbing Stu in the CDC and simply saying, "Come down here and eat chicken with me beautiful, it's so dark....." Freaked me RIGHT. the FUCK. OUT.)

I actually preferred the film 1408 to the story; it felt like the story was too short, in a way, that Mike was only in the room about five minutes, and I was just starting to get sucked in when he was hauling ass out of there. Stretching it out to an hour felt better. (Plus I got to look at John Cusack a solid 60 minutes.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:59 PM on April 24, 2012


I may give The Mist a watch, but I am supremely suspicious of the changes to the ending.

The movie is depressing rather than horrifying, and the ending is just insultingly meaningless and stupid.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:00 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Blergh. I wish I'd seen this:

SyFy just announced they're doing something with Eyes,
posted by yellowbinder at 2:58 PM


before I posted this

Prediction: The Eyes of the Dragon will rank among the best of King's cinematic adaptations, some day.
posted by roger ackroyd at 3:11 PM

posted by roger ackroyd at 6:01 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have read everything on that list except for The Dark Tower series (which I am saving for when he actually, finally retires). To misquote the man himself, I would probably read his laundry list if he published it. I might not like it, or ever read it again, but I would read it. I am unashamed of loving King (and for the record, I read highbrow too!). He has written some crap, for sure, but even most of the crap is at least reliably entertaining. Gerald's Game is still the only book that has ever made me jump (the level of creepy in some scenes in that book...). The scene in Pet Sematary when what happens to Gage...happens contains some of the most thoughtfully descriptive writing I had ever encountered when I first read it. I generally find that people who say they hate his writing simply haven't found something of his that they like yet, and gave up before they gave him a chance. There is such a wide range to his writing, I really do think that there is something for everyone. And yes, Mrs. Todd's Shortcut...it's Lovecraftian, so bone-deep creepy and mind-bendingly incomprehensible, but with less rugosity and gibbering.

But I would not have put The Stand first, I can see what people like so much about it, but it's so bloated. I love the short stories and novellas most.
posted by biscotti at 6:02 PM on April 24, 2012


Of course, SyFy is SyFy, so don't hold out hopes.
posted by Artw at 6:10 PM on April 24, 2012


Read all of these save the two latest. I would rank them differently, too, with the top five being The Shining, Cujo, Pet Semetary, On Writing and Carrie. To me, the first three really convey the fears that parents have about something terrible happening to their children (the empty running shoe in the road, watching your only child dying from dehydration, hurting your own children out of frustration and anger) . Carrie also really reflected King's disillusionment with his high school teaching experiences and the vicious nature of teens in that environment. Jack Torrence in The Shining is King himself, to the point where I really wondered if Steve had ever hurt his own child in a fit of anger. His short story collections are uneven, but each has at least one gem, with Last Rung Under the Dome was, for me, one of his worst. I knew what was going to happen in the climax from almost the beginning, and rushed through it hoping to be proven wrong. Gerald's Game deserves a higher ranking, and The Dark Tower series are hard to rate independently of one another.

I also agree that King will be read in a hundred years from now. When he lets his characters drive the story, rather than vice-versa, he is a great writer. The list did remind me how much crap he has written, too but even a crap King book has a moment or two where you are just plain awed at his ability to sketch out a character, to place a setting, or describe an emotional state. On writing had great advice for aspiring writers.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 6:11 PM on April 24, 2012


I was an English major. Got the degree and all. I've read a lot of books, but I will always think the first sentence of The Gunslinger is one of the great sentences written in English.
The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.
Perfect. No word could be omitted. No word needs to be changed. Dismissing a writer capable of this is impossible or ignorant.

Not that King is perfect. He's never been among my favorite author because he seems to lack self control. He writes too much, and never trims. That first volume's brilliance was its starkness, and so I prefer his short stories to his novels.

Full disclosure: I edited this comment obsessively before posting because Stephen King inspires me to edit myself. Thanks, Steve.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:12 PM on April 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


I may give The Mist a watch, but I am supremely suspicious of the changes to the ending.

I liked the movie right up to the ending. Darabont takes an exquisite ending that is simultaneously uncertain, hopeful, despairing, and humane, and turns it into an "ooh, the IRONY" shock ending that Rod Serling would have rejected.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 6:14 PM on April 24, 2012


Damn, post preview. Last Rung on the Ladder and My Pretty Pony, as two examples of great short stories that don't depend at all on the supernatural. I should remove my bracelets before posting.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 6:16 PM on April 24, 2012


Also, hi, I'm the lone voice who really liked Desperation."

Nope. Me too.


I loved Desperation and The Regulators when they came out but I've tried to reread them and could not get into them at all. Who knows? They are both still sitting on my shelf, waiting for me.

Danse Macabre was one of my textbooks for a Science Fiction/Horror novel class. I still have my copy all marked up with my futile attempts to track down some of his recommendations in the pre-internet days.

As to my scariest book/moment-- by far the scariest thing I have ever read (including all the Not-Stephen King) is Pet Semetary. The ending when the father is compelled to repeat his acts even though he knows that the outcome is damned really horrified my soul. It remains to this day the only book that made me cry out and fling the book across the room.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:17 PM on April 24, 2012


Scariest Stephen King moment : 1408 all the fucking way. Wow. Yeah, I can't explain it, but something about this scared me to my core. It reminded me of my worst experiences on DMT and Dramamine. He really tapped into something there.

The movie on the other hand ... unwatchable. Why do people think everything great should be made into a movie? Some things are just untranslatable.
posted by Afroblanco at 6:21 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


This list is useless without The Plant.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:24 PM on April 24, 2012


Edited obsessively—and still made a typo.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:27 PM on April 24, 2012


Out of all of Stephen King's books, Eyes of the Dragon has the very best font.
posted by darksasami at 6:37 PM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


I agree completely that King's short fiction is really, really good, and that he lacks discipline in his longer works. But it has a way of sticking with you. As I write this I can actually smell the copy of Christine that I read about a dozen times in high school.

The thing that makes me the most frustrated with his work is when he starts with a great idea and takes it to a terrible ending, as in Cell (loved the idea, couldn't finish the book) or Under the Dome (the dumbest ending of any King book I've read). Perhaps the greatest thing about him as a writer is, as lots of people already have noted, is the breadth of topics he's explored.

I wonder when my currently eight-year-old is going to find "Night Shift" on the shelf and stay up too late reading it...
posted by wintermind at 6:38 PM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is awesome, thank you! My dad had most of his novels when I was growing up and they were fantastic for sneaking reads of the dirty parts. Oh, the teenagers in the cave in Tommyknockers, the hoods in IT fooling around with each other. I tried to read IT legitimately all the way through as a preteen after growing up watching the miniseries, but I couldn't make it though. I think it's time for a rematch. Though I'll never forget the tap-tap-tapping finger in Nightmares and Dreamscapes.

Favorite scary moment? That's easy. Jack Torrance getting up off the floor after Wendy offed him and he says, "You killed me YOU BITCH!" Fuck you Kubrick, you took out the best part because you had a hard time believing in the supernatural.

JESUS maybe I'll start here.
posted by Sayuri. at 6:39 PM on April 24, 2012


During an unfortunate (or one might say, fortunate) stay in the drug rehab area of a hospital that I will not name I asked for a couple of really long books to read. I was brought Red Storm Rising and The Tommyknockers.

Between horrid meals, regular AA/NA meetings and being awakened from a sound sleep to be given sleeping pills, I read both. I finished them both in what I think is record time. I liked both of them. And the dreams that my recovering brain made up, combining them, would make a novel itself.

Let's just say, giant air-cooled wasps. Invented by an alien invader. Striped yellow and black. They would infect people by stabbing them in the neck. They were the good guys. The bad guys wanted to destroy the forests. And they were aliens too. But we thought the wasp things were the bad guys. Until I got stabbed and made to understand that the bad aliens had already taken most people over. So I made up a virus that would make all the trees on Earth use alcohol for their blood. If the bad aliens tried to shoot the good guys in the forest the world would explode.

And I was a savior. Until the next time they woke me up at 3AM for a sleeping pill.
posted by Splunge at 6:39 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


A quickly thrown together list of "Top Twelve Stephen King Stories," pulled from his first two collections. I didn't consider his novellas in the running. In no order.

The Jaunt
Nona
The Raft
Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut
The Mangler
Strawberry Spring
The Boogeyman
The Ledge
Sometimes They Come Back
Trucks
Children of the Corn
Survivor Type
posted by Bookhouse at 6:52 PM on April 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


I wish he would try his hand at comedy.
posted by Renoroc at 7:05 PM on April 24, 2012


I've only read one of King's books and that was The Stand. Guess I lucked out. I have long wanted to read On Writing just because I'm much more of a non-fiction fan. I'll head on over to the library this week.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:18 PM on April 24, 2012


muddgirl: "I haven't read Gerald's Game since I was 11 or 12... that book is one of the few that makes me question my parents' "Open Bookshelves" policy."
I had the exact same experience, muddgirl, except that I was a young 14 when I read it.

My top 3 are the same, though I would switch IT and The Stand.

One of the reasons I love IT so much is the skillful way he blends the two timelines, cutting them together and finishing a statement started in one time in the other. The terrifying way he brought to life how adults just don't SEE kids sometimes. So many of the things he wrote in the book were so true to life for me that I almost forget that there's a big space spider at the end, because that's not the point to me.

I never could get past the first chapter or so of The Shining. I don't really know why.

The first three Dark Tower books were great. The next two went downhill. At the point when HOVER FOR SPOILER they became completely not worth reading.

I liked The Talisman and Black House much more than they were ranked here. I never got why Carrie was considered so great.

And I know I've read most of these (devoured them over the course of at most a year while in high school) but have forgotten what many of them are about. Massive reread ahead, I guess. Right after I take a look at this new one.
posted by Night_owl at 7:31 PM on April 24, 2012


OK, I'll admit it, Wizard and Glass is my favorite Dark Tower book too, and therefore this list is awesome, so there. I realize this is not a super popular opinion.

I would have bumped Hearts in Atlantis up a bit, though. Also, screw you to everyone even typing stuff from "1408" - so much for getting to sleep, ever.
posted by naoko at 7:33 PM on April 24, 2012


I started reading Stephen King at 13, with Pet Sematary, because I was expressly forbidden to read that book. Also I wondered how he could get away with spelling Sematary wrong. That book kept me up all night, terrified, unable to stop reading, and after that I was hooked. I've read everything he's written (except for Blockade Billy and this new one), including My Pretty Pony, which I purchased off of ebay some years back.

That said, he has written some total crap. But even in his crap books (Tommyknockers, Dreamcatcher, Cell) there are gems. Totally perfect lines, dialog that sounds almost too natural, references to things that make me grin, little horrifying glimpses into things that I sometimes wish I hadn't. So I adore his books. They're like visits with that one family member - you know the one, the one who laughs so well and so loudly you can't help but laugh with him. The one who tells the best ghost stories and always remembers your favorite band. The one who is sometimes totally full of shit, but you love him anyway, so you just hang tight until he's telling the good tales again. The ones that make you shiver, or laugh, or just feel like you're on the porch with your pops hearing about the good old days. When things were interesting, you know.

The Talisman is my Stephen King favorite. My all time favorite, of all authors, to be honest. I read my first copy (I think I was maybe 13?) until it fell apart, and then raced out to buy another copy. Which I then read over and over until it fell to pieces. Then I bought another so I could give it to a friend. And another to have at home. Now I have it on audio book and ebook and I swear, I could read it another dozen times and never tire of it. Back in my "read any and all horror crap" days I tried Peter Straub. I found him dull and lifeless. But somehow Peter Straub and Stephen King got together and made Jack Sawyer, Speedy Parker, and Wolf (WOLF!) and I fell in love. It's not perfect, no, but I love it.

The Stand, on the other hand - well, I thought it was good. Solid. But not as AMAZING OMG as everyone thought. I did like the Gunslinger series, and his latest JFK one I enjoyed. Carrie, Cujo, Salem's Lot, Christine and Pet Sematary were all great fun. I thought IT was silly. I loved Eyes of the Dragon, but it was very un-King like I thought. The short stories definitely should have a place - I mean, Survivor Type - GAH.

One thing I never really understood is how no matter how good the story, his movies are generally pretty horrid. The Shining - he's said in interviews he didn't like Jack Nicholson in that role, and I did like the Shining, but saw it as kind of a different take on the King book. Shawshank Redemption I enjoyed, as well as Stand By Me, but those were short stories spun into full on movie length tales. Did anyone watch all of Bag of Bones? I tried! I really did. Put me to sleep every time I turned it on. And the Stand - blah. BLAH. Pet Sematary was silly, and Cujo was...ok, so that one wasn't all bad.

Overall good list, though. He is definitely very uneven. But I'm loyal, and he won me over in those early days. I imagine it might be different if I'd started out with Under the Dome.

Oh, and I loved Gerald's Game actually, so it surprised me to see it so low. The scene where she starts really trying to get out of the cuff had me crawling up my bed while reading. Literally moaning from the horror of it all - "Gahhhhhhhhh.....Ohhh GOD, oh my god!"

Now that I think of it, it's been a long time since I read a book that made me cry out from the horror of it. Maybe I'm getting old.
posted by routergirl at 7:36 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh LORD!! The Jaunt and the Raft TERRIFIED me as a tween. My gosh, I had forgotten about those two....

"It's eternity in there!" (shudder!)
posted by pearlybob at 7:42 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've read all but about ten of these, and I agree the short story collections could almost just fill the top spots.

As far as movie adaptations, I think the "The Shawshank Redemption" was about as perfect an adaptation as you could want, the only thing really wrong with it was the tacked on bit under the final credits, insisted upon by the studio and not even all that awful.
posted by maxwelton at 7:47 PM on April 24, 2012


I remember the Jaunt totally freaking me out. The Raft, too! He really does do well with short stories, doesn't he?
posted by routergirl at 7:54 PM on April 24, 2012


As a kid, I picked Talisman as one of my first "grown up" books. I love that book so much to this day - definitely in my Top 5. I was less thrilled with Black House, it seemed forced.

The Tower series, while a read I definitely recommend for King fans, I would probably all group together mid-range in the list.

As for short stories, The Jaunt was a great little SF horror gem from King, but the one that still gives me goosebumps whenever I think about it is The Moving Finger. Tap tap tap..
posted by SilverTail at 7:54 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh! And Word Processor of the Gods. Loved that one, but I'm sappy.
posted by SilverTail at 7:57 PM on April 24, 2012


I'm a little surprised how many of these I've read. On Writing might be my personal fave, but I love writers-on-writing. Now I want someone to rank the movies.
posted by box at 8:09 PM on April 24, 2012


Randall Flagged.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:09 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd have to reread the collections to get all twelve, but these are the ones I remember best:

The Last Rung on the Ladder
The Mist
Mrs. Todd's Shortcut
One for the Road
Sneakers
My Pretty Pony
All That You Love Will Be Carried Away
posted by malthusan at 8:16 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Listen, now I have to go to bed having rehashed many Stephen King plots/stories/scenes in my mind and trying to remember which ones were scariest and why. Thank you. Thanks a lot.
posted by bquarters at 8:17 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, just ordered "Dark Star" from Amazon. Am cringing knowing underpaid workers are going to be running around stuffing it into a box but I just couldn't wait after this thread.
posted by bquarters at 8:20 PM on April 24, 2012


As far as movie adaptations, I think the "The Shawshank Redemption" was about as perfect an adaptation as you could want, the only thing really wrong with it was the tacked on bit under the final credits, insisted upon by the studio and not even all that awful.

FWIW, next time you watch the film, pay attention to the voice over. Darabont hated that the studio demanded the happy ending, so he didn't really give it to them: Tim Robbins's character is sitting on the bus, narrating, saying (I'm paraphrasing) 'I hope I can find Red. I hope the beach is as beautiful as I picture it. I hope' or something to that effect: The images we see of him walking down the pristine shore and finding Morgan Freeman right there are an illustration of his hope, not a depiction of actual events within the world of the film. The whole story is, of course, summed up in the line 'Get busy living, or get busy dying,' and the notion of looking forward, of hoping, is what's conveyed with that bit, not a saccharine pat ending, although it's dressed up to look like one for the people who required it.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:21 PM on April 24, 2012


Title is not dark star but has those two words in it, and have to take sleeping pill because otherwise will be relentlessly checking closet and listening for little scratching type noises....
posted by bquarters at 8:34 PM on April 24, 2012


The Langoliers is my favorite thing King has written.

And 1408 is one of the scariest stories I've ever read.
posted by Windigo at 8:36 PM on April 24, 2012


Even in his worst books, King captures American language like no one else. A guy like Jonathan Franzen can only wish he had King's seemingly effortless knack for nailing the way Americans talk, and think; the casual approach to brand names, social signifiers, repetition, he's honest to god like a late 20th century American Virginia Woolf. Part of why King can do it so precisely is because he seems to have so little ambition for how the words go together. He seems to regard prose as secondary to plot, but as any fan of Zen and the Art of Archery knows, it's when you don't think about something that you can do it masterfully. That indifference to poetry is what drives someone like Harold Bloom nuts, but it's key to King's absolutely killer writing, and I think when he does reach for poetry, he trips over his own feet.

As for the best books, I'll take The Shining and Pet Semetary, largely because they're the two that are the most thematically whole. Pet Semetary is about what all horror novels are about: inevitable death, and the foolish humans who think they can control it. The Shining is even more personal: it's about the deep fear that you're going to turn into your parents. Everyone remembers Jack's horror at what he's becoming, but it's worth recalling that Wendy is going through the same thing, terrified that she's making all the same mistakes as her mother and her kid will pay the price. Yes, the topiary is silly, but when a book touches deep buttons like that, a little silly plotting is well worth it.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:25 PM on April 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


Out of all his books, short stories, novellas, and poems, I have to give highest marks to "All That You Love Will Be Carried Away" from Everything's Eventual.

Cannot agree more. King is uneven as fuck but when he's good, he's good, and when he's writing short fiction, he's about as good as anyone alive. "All That You Love Will Be Carried Away" is the best thing I've read from him, though. He's so entrenched as a horror writer, so synonymous with the genre, in fact, that people forget that his true strength (aside from insane profligacy) is his deep understanding of and love for his characters. This short story is about a traveling food salesman holed up in a nondescript motel in Kansas on a snowy night, battling between killing himself or trying to get a book of rest-stop graffiti published. And it is beautiful, and human, and somehow not at all condescending to it's subject.

SPOILERS: It ends with the narrator stepping out into the snowdrifts next to the interstate, making his decision by counting down. If he sees headlights over the horizon before he's done, he'll stay alive and try to publish his little book. It ends with him counting, open-ended. But King gives an author's note stating that he remains hopeful that the narrator saw the headlights. And that to me is the key to King's writing. It truly does mostly just come out of him. He doesn't know where it's going. But he loves these creations, and wants the best for them. But he just doesn't know, sometimes.

I'll be the one person here to admit a soft-spot for Needful Things. It was the first of his that I read, at 12 or 13, and the first "grown-up" book I ever read. It's far from perfect, and the ending is a terrible mess, but for the first two thirds it hits the greatest strengths of his short fiction, over and over. It's like a collection of miniature stories about good and likable people in Castle Rock, and why they want the things they want most in the world, and as they start to do Gaunt's favors, we get their corruptions, and their shock at their neighbors, and their guilt, and it all just felt very tense and real and sad to me.

Everything's Eventual is pretty damned good in it's entirety, and Different Seasons is one I can picture not just being read in 100 years, but assigned in high school lit classes along with Ray Bradbury.

But for my money, On Writing is his greatest, most essential work. Read it before you dare say otherwise.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:25 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


For whatever reason, when I was a child, I must have misheard boogeyman. My internal image was the boogerman, a man (most likely in some sort of rain gear because, well, obviously) covered in mucus. Head to toe.

Then I found my mother's copies of King's books. And I read The Boogeyman. Two things. One, the description of the claws (long, needle sharp claws, clacking up the bannister as it came up the stairs), and two, the closet door, and how it was always open, just a crack.

See, my closet door, in my room, was poorly made. The top didn't fit the door frame. It was too big, so I could never close the door. It was always, permanently, open, just a crack. I finished reading the story at about 11pm, and looked over at the closet, open, mocking me. I got up, went down into the basement (because really, I couldn't have been dumber. "I'll solve this horror thing with my closet by going into the basement") to get a plane. Back in my room, I pulled my desk chair over to the closet door, and shaved the top of the door down until it fit. My mother came in, asking just what I was doing that late on a school night, and I told her I'd just finished the story, and she understood completely. I slept soundly that night.

The other profoundly image-changing event? Seeing the episode of The Real Ghostbusters where they confront the boogeyman, who knows Egon from years ago. The voice of that boogeyman immediate became the voice of my boogeyman.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:26 PM on April 24, 2012


The Jaunt sits right up there, for me, with its spiritual sibling, "The Stars My Destination." I know it's serious business to invoke Bester, but the two of those fit palm in glove for me. I read Stars many many years after I first read The Jaunt, but I immediately knew its influence.

(I am 12% into Keyhole now, but have fallen down the rabbit hole of My Kingian Life and am planning the suggested read-and-tell podcast, starting with the earliest short story compilations, with several Very Special Episodes involving a lot of alcohol and various film adaptations. Maybe we'll start with Stand By Me and work our way down.)
posted by Lyn Never at 9:27 PM on April 24, 2012


They ranked Rose Madder last? Well, that didn't take long to click away from.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:04 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


since i haven't made any major ego-image purchases, i won't need to fill up on anti-nerd cred(it) by bashing this guy

sorry for extending the recession
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:08 PM on April 24, 2012


Also, I'll link to my earlier comment about King's different writing periods, rather than reordering the list to purely suit myself. I will say, briefly, that IT is very overrated, although not surprisingly so; that The Tommyknockers deserves its second-to-last spot (although both it and IT have some interesting ideas in them, they both suffer from the wild unevenness of his Later Drugs period), and that Roadwork is the least of the Bachman books to deserve a spot in the top 20.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:15 PM on April 24, 2012


Had an interesting experience last year. I loved King's writing as a teen, but pretty much gave up reading his stuff after Gerald's Game. I'd pick up a short story collection whenever he'd publish it -- and of course I stayed current with the Dark Tower series -- but for the most part I moved on to other things.

Finally last year I decided I'd finish off the Dark Tower series, even though I knew how it ended and knew that most people hated it. Also, for good measure, I read Full Dark, No Stars, as well as 11-22-63. The end verdict : Dark Tower V was okay, VI was abysmal, VII was wildly uneven (I loved the Blue Heaven parts, hated the tremendously anticlimactic parts), Full Dark was excellent for the most part, and 11-22-63 was absolutely superb.

So it's clear that King still has it in him. But I had a curious reaction to diving back into King after all these years. First things first, at his best, he is an excellent writer. When I read his best stuff, I don't even notice that I'm reading. That's one of the best compliments I can give to a writer. However, I do have one major complaint about his writing : he never leaves ANYTHING up to the reader to figure things out.

This manifests in two ways. One is an over-reliance on inner dialogue. That's something that really annoys me. It's lazy. It's as bad as the sort of naked exposition typically reserved for Sci Fi. In fact, not only does he delve into a character's inner dialogue, he even inserts the subtext of the character's thoughts in parenthesis, like : "Joe Protagonist didn't like beans. It reminded him of (scary ghosts) something that he couldn't quite place." It's one of his tics that's been with him since the beginning, and I think I even liked it when I was younger. However, having read some of the literary heavyweights, I really kinda resent having things spelled out for me in that way.

Another tic is how any time there's some sort of synchronicity in the plot, or some symbol that matches up with something earlier in the story, he goes out of his way to draw a circle it. "And then Jake realized that was exactly like what happened yesterday". Once again, totally unnecessary. I'm an astute reader, I can figure these things out for myself. Drawing attention to plot points like that makes me feel like he's writing his books for children, or people who don't have the attention span to understand a whole novel.

I attribute these tics to his chosen profession, i.e. a mass-market writer. But it bothers me because I KNOW he can write, I KNOW he's capable of writing at the top of his intelligence. And I mean, by this point in his life, he's reached such a level of success, couldn't he afford to go off the reservation a bit and write something a little more challenging?

Anyway, I look forward to the new Dark Tower book. I'm hoping he gave it the attention and love it deserved, and didn't just dash off something half-finished like the last Dark Tower book. I'll probably continue to re-visit King every now and again, and I hope he continues to write, because, by the law of averages, he's bound to make some more spectacular work if given enough time.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:28 PM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Longer than you think, Dad! Longer than you think!"

"Ladyfingers they taste just like ladyfingers"

That guy getting pulled through the crack in The Raft foot-first, and the girl getting caught by the hair.

The tunnel full of bloated corpses in The Stand.

How she escaped the handcuffs is Gerald's Game.

Jesus. Phrases and images that stick with you for decades.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:33 PM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


It makes me kind of sad that as the parent of a small child now I won't be able to re-read and enjoy Cujo or Pet Sematary for, maybe, ever.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:36 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Stand was like a juggling act where the guy gets two dozen chainsaws in the air and then fumbles every single one on their way down. There weren't plot arcs, just plot amputations, hasty hack jobs tied off with two page long tourniquets. Even a bloated multilimbed monstrosity of a book eventually succumbs.
posted by Ictus at 10:40 PM on April 24, 2012


Man, that's fascinating. I'd order the list completely differently (except maybe for The Stand.) I've read all but a handful of his books, and liked most of them, more or less (more: Insomnia, it's adorable, and cross-book references are nerd-nip for me, Needful Things, it's definitely a collection of fascinating character studies. Less: Under the Dome was the first book I'd actually physically gotten rid of in the better part of a decade, because it was so immensely terrible that I couldn't imagine myself either rereading it or inflicting it on a friend, Desperation, which I loathed instantly and now can't really remember except for the one sort of appalling hate-sex scene.)

What I'd really like to see, though, is a set of lists with the different lengths broken up. I don't think it makes a ton of sense to compare a collection of shorts with a doorstopper novel with a collection of novellas - criticizing a collection for its unevenness seems to me to be more a problem of editing than writing. And I would love to debate the rank of various of his short stories, which are I think more consistently fantastic than his novels. (Quitters, Inc, oh my god yes.)
posted by restless_nomad at 11:46 PM on April 24, 2012


Oh, man, The Colorado Kid pissed me off so much - it was one of the first books written for the amazing, impossible-but-there-it-is Hard Case Crime imprint, where an Internet millionaire says "Hmm, let's do something with all this money... I know, let's make a noir novel series combining old and new novels, some having never been printed before and some long forgotten."

Now, if you go in and start reading them, they're either awesome or they're pretty good - obviously noir has its thing and if you don't want your protagonist dying in a ditch face down in the rain, it might not be for you.... but then there's The Colorado Kid, which, I'm sorry, is basically King showing, up, going "I think I'll be mister clever subvert the genre guy" and he shits out this little experiment in the power of storytelling over, say, a plot.

I just thought it was the worst thing, that this precious and awesome imprint would get a celebrity contribution, and the celebrity basically contributes the worst thing in the 100+ books they've put out.
posted by jscott at 12:22 AM on April 25, 2012


I just want you guys to know that my baby woke me up at 1am so I decided to resume reading Full Dark, No Stars.

A few minutes into it, I hear something scratching the metal of the van parked in front of our door. I'm sitting right in front of the closed window nearest the van and I freeze, hoping that I can't be seen. There's a noise like a spring squeaking, but I've almost convinced myself it's a cat messing around on the hood and a cat is too small to make the springs bounce, right?

Almost an hour later I hear the unmistakable sound of claws on glass, scratching at the sliding back door on the other side of the house (two rooms away from me, and a flight of stairs above the ground outside). This time I'm thinking it's a raccoon but I'm at the end of 1922 and trying not to imagine rats and you can bet your ass I'm going to bed without looking out of the window or behind the blinds on the door to see what's trying to get in.

Sometimes I hate living in the country.
posted by annathea at 12:42 AM on April 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


We took the kids to the local drive-in theater (I know, we STILL have a drive-in, which is amazing) to see the Hunger Games last weekend. Now, I want to suggest they read The Long Walk. Thank you for the reminder.

When I first read The Stand, I was in 6th grade and recovering from pneumonia. I had been SO bored and sick, and reading was my escape. While I was coughing out what seemed to be huge amounts of chest gunk, all I could think was "I survived Captain Tripps." The book kept me entertained while I wasn't well enough to participate in PE just yet.

I'd read Dune the summer previous, thanks to my Dad, who has always been my example for voracious reading, especially with Herbert, Ellison, and numerous other good SF and horror fiction. I read Shogun the same summer or the one after, and had to get my eyes tested. Turned out it was just strain and I didn't need glasses until I was over 40.

My Dad and I share a love for King. He bought the Green Mile in the allotted sections when they came out and tempted me with them, but I refused to read it until it was done. I raced through those little mini books he'd collected for me, and we had great phone conversations about them as I finished them.

My Dad hates talking on the phone, but sometimes I get one of those magical moments when my Mom is out in the garden or off shopping and Dad wants to talk. These are special times. Over the years, we've read the various King books separately and together and talked about the craftsmanship, the language, and the faults.

Say what you will about King, good or bad, but he writes now because of the reason he always has. He loves it. He has to. It doesn't matter at this point if he gets extra dollars. Same as any other artist really.

I'm just glad to have had the talks with my Dad about them and other books. That's the thing that's precious to me.
posted by lilywing13 at 1:10 AM on April 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


The Tommyknockers was one of my favorites, too. I need to reread it as an adult, though. There's many books I enjoyed as a kid that I really dislike as an adult.

Under the Dome was good but I heard he revised the ending on his son's advice.

I really got that impression. The way the dome started, right when the mayor's son goes nuts and kills that girl, made with the dome following the county line, made it seem like the mayor's son was causing it subconsciously.
posted by BurnChao at 1:10 AM on April 25, 2012


61. The Tommyknockers

I was a fan of King for a while as a teenager and tore through all his early stuff, but when I read The Tommyknockers I realized it was time to move on. I always knew it was pulp fiction and kind of a guilty pleasure, but after that clunker of a book it wasn't even fun anymore.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:34 AM on April 25, 2012


Oh, I do remember really enjoying his attempt at fantasy, when he had announced he was done writing horror and was trying to branch out - The Eyes of the Dragon. His fantasy storytelling was pretty good, not overly complex or arcane but like a fairy tale, very vivid with great characters, IIRC, but it was a long time ago, so not sure if I'd feel the same today. Even so, I wasn't expecting much and by the end I was hoping he'd write more like that. I don't care where it is on the list and am not going to check, because in my experience it tends to rank low among most of his fans.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:45 AM on April 25, 2012


No love for firestarter??

I mainly read King's books when I was a teenager. And I threw out some of them recently. Based on the criteria of which ones I'd most likely re-read, here's my list.

Books I would not re-read:
48. Needful Things (1991)
61. The Tommyknockers (1987)
34. Cujo (1981)
33. Thinner (1984)
54. Gerald's Game (1992)
44. Four Past Midnight (1990)
18. Pet Sematary (1983)
8. 'Salem's Lot (1975)

Books I would re-read (or have re-read):
3. IT (1986)
1. The Stand (1978)
25. Carrie (1974)
6. Misery (1987)
28. The Dark Half (1989)
21. Night Shift (1978)
5. Different Seasons (1982)
41. The Running Man (1982)
43. Firestarter (1980)
4. The Shining (1977)
9. The Dead Zone (1979)

It looks like I've read most of the best ones, so I have no desire to read any of the others, except On Writing, which sounds good. I wouldn't describe myself as a horror fan however, so ymmv.

Also seems like for me at least, there's a golden period between 1977 and 1982.
posted by leibniz at 3:05 AM on April 25, 2012


Of course the stand has to be number one, as It's the only Stephen King novel made into an Anthrax song.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:51 AM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I would have ranked these entirely differently.

And Hearts in Atlantis is one of my favourite of his novels, and if I'm the lone defender, so be it.

I would have IT at the top and The Stand further down. Still in the Top Ten, but I think it's flawed.

I've move Misery up. And Salem's Lot, too. And Dolores Claibourne would be in my Top Ten.

Gerald's Game suffers from a terrible ending, but it's really very effective until then. Its weird connection to Dolores Claibourne is weird.

I love Rage. I still love Rage. I hate that it's out-of-print.

The only novel I've read of his since the Dark Tower series finished is 11/22/63, which again suffers from King's flawed endings - but damn if I wasn't entertained.
posted by crossoverman at 4:59 AM on April 25, 2012


I went to a state-run boarding school in Louisiana that's located on the campus of a small public university for my junior and senior years of high school. The orange glow of the sodium vapor lights that lit the campus always made me think of "Strawberry Spring" if I returned from a holiday weekend after dark, particularly if it was late fall or early spring and there was a chill in the air. That's a great story, particularly as the narrator figures out what's going on, and I would go so far as to say that it's even more haunting if you read it as an angsty teenager, when you're still trying to figure out so many things about yourself and your personality and your relationships to the people around you. I don;t know if evocative is the right adjective to use, but for me many of his stories are incredibly effective at taking you back to particular times and places in my life. When King swings and misses he whiffs terribly, but when he hits the ball he knocks it out of the part.
posted by wintermind at 5:08 AM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


The thing about being a Stephen King fan (which I am, I've read nearly all of these) is that you have to accept that the ending might not be as great as the rest of the book. If a weak or weird ending can ruin the rest for you, then you are going to be disappointed a lot. But if you can think back on It without thinking of a pre-teen gang bang, or back on 11/22/63 without thinking of its weird ending, or back on The Dark Tower without thinking about wherever it started to suck for you (it never did for me) then you're set. King has said himself that he's no fan of endings.

The only piece of King's writing that has been tainted by an ending, for me, is Randall Flagg. I remember realizing while reading the Dark Tower that Walter was Randall Flagg-- I was so terrified. He was easily the most horrifying character I'd ever read... up until his ending. Now even The Stand suffers a bit when I reread it.
posted by that's how you get ants at 5:21 AM on April 25, 2012


Also, to whoever listened to Under the Dome on audio and hated it: I listen to a lot of audiobooks, and a lot of Stephen King audiobooks, and whoever narrated that was easily the worst reader I've ever heard. He butchered it, I thought. Almost everyone had a southern accent, because rural=southern to him, apparently. I've only listened to it once, but I can still hear Rusty's California surfer dude accent in my head. Try reading the book.

On the other hand, my favorite Stephen King reader was for Duma Key: John Slattery! I had no idea he did audiobooks, but he did just great.
posted by that's how you get ants at 5:27 AM on April 25, 2012


Am I the only one who has mixed up Gerald's Game with Ender's Game? Not the same, people. Not the same.
posted by emd3737 at 6:17 AM on April 25, 2012


I'm so glad to see love for The Long Walk here. That was the first King story I read, followed by Thinner, when I was a teenager. From then I was hooked and read everything up to Gerald's Game, where I lost the itch during university finals.

Thanks to some passing comment on Metafilter I read A Colder War a few years ago, and have been wading through Stross's works as a result. Something about bleak dystopian plots that just draws me in to an author's style, I guess.
posted by ceribus peribus at 6:39 AM on April 25, 2012


I've realised that my main impressions of America gained while I grew up were via King novels and old cop/crime tv shows/films... probably one of the reasons I've never got around to visiting in real life is that deep down, minutes after leaving the airport, I expect to be spirited away by some fell nasty or shot by a hitman from Detroit.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:06 AM on April 25, 2012


I haven't read a King book since I read "The Stand". I finished it and thought "you lazy fuck...I invested that much time and the dénouement amounts to 'meh...I'm tired. I'll cook up a half-assed situation and nuke the place and be done with it. Where's my check.'".
posted by kjs3 at 7:34 AM on April 25, 2012


MartinWisse, Anthrax had a song about Misery, too (Misery Loves Company)
posted by L. Ron McKenzie at 7:50 AM on April 25, 2012


I remember realizing while reading the Dark Tower that Walter was Randall Flagg

Walter (the Man in Black) wasn't Randall Flagg - he was Flagg's minion. Marten was Flagg. (Not that this really changes his ending.)
posted by restless_nomad at 8:37 AM on April 25, 2012


restless_nomad: "Walter (the Man in Black) wasn't Randall Flagg - he was Flagg's minion. Marten was Flagg. (Not that this really changes his ending.)"


According to Wikipedia, "In the original printing, Walter and Marten are separate characters, with Walter clearly dying at the end of the novel. When Stephen King published an expanded edition of the novel, Walter and Marten are portrayed as being one and the same, and Walter fakes his own death."

I think I've only ever read the new version of The Gunslinger.
posted by that's how you get ants at 8:48 AM on April 25, 2012


I saw a brief article where King discussed his addiction; On Writing is on my to-be-read list, so that should be interesting.

Reading Cujo and Pet Sematary scared me before I had a kid; after I had a kid, I had to stop reading Stephen King. As a former Maine bookseller, I've met him a couple of times, and appreciate his love for Maine, and the way he shows it by still having a home here, supporting public tv & radio, etc.

There's a much better movie or mini-series to be made of The Stand, still one of my favorite books.

King gets no respect from the Literary Establishment. But his writing captures popular culture incredibly well. He understand what scares people, what motivates them, their weakness and strength and confusion. As a bookseller, it was easy to see how much King's success pissed off the Literati, and also easy to see how much readers love him, and why. I think his work is far more likely to be read in 50 - 100 years(assuming that anybody will still be reading fiction) than most other writers today. I agree that he would benefit from better editing, esp. the legendary sort of editing of a Max Perkins. Would even Max Perkins have been able to read fast enough to keep up?

thanks for posting, mightygodking, and thanks for the text listing, bonehead.
posted by theora55 at 8:51 AM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ah fair enough, I didn't double-check. (I have both - but I consider the new version of The Gunslinger to be Book 8.)
posted by restless_nomad at 8:53 AM on April 25, 2012


(I dimly recall reading somewhere that he barely remembered writing The Tommyknockers).

The Onion: I Don't Even Remember Writing The Tommyknockers
posted by spacewaitress at 8:53 AM on April 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


What I needed so desperately as a young person, which I got from Stephen King:

He didn't lie to me about children.
He didn't lie to me about childhood.
He didn't lie to me about parents.
He didn't lie to me about parenthood.

The Boogeyman. . . I slept with my closet door wide open for years. But I kept rereading that story.
posted by endless_forms at 9:02 AM on April 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


Of course the stand has to be number one, as It's the only Stephen King novel made into an Alarm song .

Hey Trashcan where ya goin boy?
posted by eyeballkid at 9:49 AM on April 25, 2012


King gets no respect from the Literary Establishment.

Eh, I think that changed for the most part about ten years ago, at least for whatever sections of " the Literary Establishment" that were going to pay attention.

These days King mostly doesn't get any respect from pretentious people and know nothings.
posted by Artw at 9:54 AM on April 25, 2012


Ok, as mentioned waaaaaaaay above, thinking about doing a short story blog, read his first (chronologically) collected story Battleground last night. That's the one about the hitman attacked by little green army men. Poked around online a bit and turns out it was made into a Russian cartoon. Was going to save it until I had time to do a writeup of the story, but you guys deserve it. Enjoy.
posted by yellowbinder at 9:56 AM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh man, some of the stuff in "Night Shift" creeped me out so hard when I was a teenager that I literally slept with the lights on. ("The Boogeyman", I am looking at you.)
posted by rmd1023 at 10:02 AM on April 25, 2012


The low ranking of Cell bothers me a lot, too.

Yeah, I came in to say this. it wasn't *that* bad.
posted by Gelatin at 10:09 AM on April 25, 2012


In re The Gunslinger, cortex recently posted a tweet I quite liked.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:10 AM on April 25, 2012


I dimly recall reading somewhere that he barely remembered writing The Tommyknockers

I know Cujo is one he barely remembers, being boozed up at the time. I don't know if there are any others. Tommyknockers was his coke novel, written with cotton buds jammed into his nostrils to stop the nose bleeds splattering the keyboard.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:16 AM on April 25, 2012


Someone needs to do this same listing of the Worst Stephen King Movies...
posted by chitown at 11:37 AM on April 25, 2012


Whatever you do, don't watch the cheap-ass adaptation of The Raft that's in one of the anthology films (Creepshow 2, I think).

Do seek out Stephen King as a farmer finding a meteorite in his yard (Creepshow 1, I'm pretty sure).
posted by Artw at 11:44 AM on April 25, 2012


I prefer to look at this as "a list of Stephen King books, in no particular order." I've read most of them, and while some are more exciting than others, none particularly bothered me as being horrible. The shorts and novellas are definitely the gems.

What fascinates me most is the intricate web of references built amongst many of the stories, that give his body of work a seemingly larger connectedness that is sometimes hinted at and other times more explicit, but always some kind of presence.

Regulators/Desperation really interested me as kind of parallel universe takes on the same premise. I kind of liked the balls-out surreality of The Regulators to the more "straight" horror of Desperation. I think they chose the wrong one to make a poor miniseries about, personally.

Finally, your favorite Stephen King book sucks, unless you hate them all, in which case, conversely, your least favorite Stephen King book is awesome.
posted by owtytrof at 11:45 AM on April 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Syfy announces 28 projects: Stephen King, Charlaine Harris and more
Eyes Of The Dragon - Based on Stephen King's best-selling novel. A kingdom is in turmoil as the old king dies and his successor must battle for the throne. Pitted against an evil wizard and a would-be rival, Prince Peter makes a daring escape and rallies the forces of good to fight for what is rightfully his. Writers: Michael Taylor (Defiance, Battlestar Galactica) and Jeff Vintar (I, Robot). Executive producers: Michael Taylor and Bill Haber. A production of Universal Cable Productions and Ostar Productions.
posted by Artw at 11:52 AM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised at how many of these books I've read, probably at least 80%, given that I basically think King is terrible at writing novels. I mean, I personally like and respect the guy, and I think his short stories and novellas tend to be good, but I find his dialog to usually be incredibly repetitive and his characters often cliched, and I honestly don't understand how much love The Stand gets for a book that so prominently features both a magical mentally disabled person and the most magical of all possible magical negroes.

Maybe it's because I've listened to more of these in audiobook form, with narration of widely varying quality, than read them as books - I find the audiobooks to be good to have on in the background while I'm doing something mindless like being at the gym or washing dishes. I will say that I thought Full Dark, No Stars was some of his best work to date, though, and I was enjoying 11/22/63 a great deal until I got to where I currently am in the book, so at least he's not getting worse in his later years.

I did think From a Buick 8 was a little underrated though. Of the books I've read, my list would probably be all the short fiction and The Shining, then that one and maybe Salem's Lot, then everything else.
posted by whir at 11:53 AM on April 25, 2012


(There are also some other shows that are NOT reality!)
posted by Artw at 11:53 AM on April 25, 2012


Speaking of audiobooks, the audiobook of Dolores Claiborne is awesome. I faintly recall King mentioning his admiration for Frances Sternhagen, and I wonder if he deliberately wrote it to provide her with a great in-character one-woman show.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 12:13 PM on April 25, 2012


King had an awesome scene-stealing appearance in Sons Of Anarchy.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:22 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


100% serious question for anyone still reading this. Were people afraid of clowns before IT?
posted by roger ackroyd at 1:10 PM on April 25, 2012


100% serious question for anyone still reading this. Were people afraid of clowns before IT?

Yep.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:26 PM on April 25, 2012


Also, John Wayne Gacy probably didn't help their public image.
posted by rewil at 1:30 PM on April 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Count me in for From A Buick 8: it's creepy as hell plus it pulls off the trick of making its protagonists ashamed of their actions, no matter how unworldy unknowingly alien their opponents.

It struck me as blatant post-Shawshank Hollywood-bait, though; it's written in a very episodic narrated-flashback style that always makes me wonder if he was writing it as a screenplay first and a novel second.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 2:09 PM on April 25, 2012


Yeah, We had a deal, Kyle, I started to have that feeling about King later on. You started to wonder if he was writing novels or movie treatments. He was never as bad as Michael Crichton got, though.
posted by Trochanter at 2:49 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


King had an awesome scene-stealing appearance in Sons Of Anarchy.

That is great; kind of the flipside of "cleaner" scenes in movies like La Femme Nikita (and the American remake) and the scene early in the first season of Breaking Bad, and very chilling.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:50 PM on April 25, 2012


A.) Haven't been to Metafilter in about a decade.
B.) I have read every novel and novella on this list, though not every short story (most, but not all).
C.) It is ridiculously subjective to try and rank all his books. For instance, to me his ABSOLUTE WORST is The Colorado Kid; just a stinking, cash cow that marked his "return from retirement," which made its lack of quality all the more infuriating. And there is no way, to me, that Wizard & Glass is the best Dark Tower novel. Much of the top ten deserve to be there (or close), but I think his most truly frightening, and sadistic, novel is Pet Smatary, which seems to get short shrift in this thread.

In the end, he has a few stinkers (The Dark Half, Blockade Billy) and a few that will stand the test of time, but for the most part he just has a shit-ton of good stories. And I started Wind Through the Keyhole last night, btw. I am Constant Reader.
posted by Awol at 4:23 PM on April 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Haven't been to Metafilter in about a decade.

Heh. Eponysterical. Welcome back.

It is ridiculously subjective to try and rank all his books.

I get the feeling that King's writing gets such a varied response because he wrote something for everyone. There is a breadth to his writing that touches a lot of different aspects of human life.

I loved The Talisman and Cycle of the Werewolf with its young protagonists, and loved The Gunslinger and The Waste Lands in part because of Jake.

I like his running motif that evil exists corporeally, or extra-corporeally, but I really dislike his handling of the mystical aspects of it, even though I appreciate its Lovecraftian roots.

Wizard & Glass is where The Dark Tower started going off the rails for me. The resolution of the cliffhanger Blaine the Mono was not as terrifying as I had hoped, and the series seemed to shift tonally. I actually preferred Wolves of the Calla.

And ultimately, I liked but didn't love the sprawling book The Stand. I really wanted to like it, and I liked a lot about it, but it just didn't feel that satisfying. I guess I'm in the camp that prefers McCammon's Swan Song.

I think the only thing all King reader can agree on is that he could use some better editing in his more recent works.
posted by jabberjaw at 4:51 PM on April 25, 2012


Anyone else feel like we should strike all the things published in the 3 years after he got creamed in that accident from the list?

Theora55, I've met him too (photo) - though only recently, while promoting 11/22/63. Incredibly nice, well-spoken and quite humble man, and he seemed slightly freaked out by the hordes of fans pressing around him and forcing him to walk in a tight cloud formation within the hospitality area.

Have you gotten into any of his son Joe's books? I really enjoyed Heart-Shaped Box. Here's hoping he carries on his father's legacy after he passes... though I'd be happy if Mr. King lived another 30 years.

I'd also be happy if they stopped making made-for-TV miniseries out of his seminal works unless they're gonna do them on cable, where a decent budget can turn otherwise watered-down shit into something worth watching... and I would so totally watch Eyes of the Dragon on HBO, ArtW!!!

The Mist is one of the few supernatural-heavy film adaptations of King's work that manages to retain all the dread of the short story, even with a different ending, I think. Too many folks in Hollywood crowdsource input to force uniformly happy endings when they aren't warranted, and for once, I was glad to see that didn't happen - and borderline shocked by the rewrite. It's a must-see for those who love the cast of the Walking Dead, in my opinion.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 6:35 PM on April 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Anyone else feel like we should strike all the things published in the 3 years after he got creamed in that accident from the list?

NO, 'cause I think On Writing was pretty soon post-carsmash, and you can pry OW from my cold dead hands.

I was totally gaga already for Joe Hill's story collection 20th Century Ghosts long before I finally realized he's King's son--on my copy the author photo has Hill in a giant Disguise Beard, which probably should've made me suspicious. I am really pleased with Hill's chutzpah in tackling the same oeuvre as King, not to mention that he's really good at it. Horns is now my go-to book for Being Able to Read Minds Is Not Actually Fun. And in 20CG I love the story about the cinema ghost, and the Metamorphosis-as-B-movie story with the boy who turns into a giant  bug (the description of him eating OH GOD). And I LOVE the malicious of "The Cape."

King and Hill have similar styles, but to me Hill's stuff reads as more literary-polished and introspective, less SHIT JUST GOT CRAZY. If he's King's writer-clone, it's a steady clone from one of King's good periods.
posted by nicebookrack at 7:18 PM on April 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


*malicious geekiness of "The Cape"
posted by nicebookrack at 7:21 PM on April 25, 2012


Okay, I amend my comment: all FICTION.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:45 PM on April 25, 2012


Thanks to this thread I went to my local second hand store today and scooped up ever King paperback they had. And I got On Writing online.

I haven't read all 62, like many I zoned out in the mid-1990s post-Tommyknockers-ish for various reasons, but I have dipped in and out and he as never disappointed me in the 25+ years I have been reading his books.

I try to leave space between them (The last three Dark Towers were hard going but I hoovered up Hearts In Atlantis in a night), but I have never not wanted to read him. The same cannot be said of some of his contemporaries (Koontz, for example).

And Nthing what others have said: he is a master of the short story. And Danse Macabre I have read several times. It's awesome.

[This is my first ever MeFi comment. Yay. Thanks for reading.]
posted by Mezentian at 8:09 AM on April 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm torn about the ending for the film version of The Mist. On the one hand, yeah super dark, yeah, but on the other hand it transforms the world-ending Pandora's Box horror premise into just a very dark personal tragedy-- in the story, human civilization is doomed vs. in the film, Thomas Jane's life is fucked.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:14 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Indeed. I forgot to mention: I love the ending to The Mist (movie version).
I could watch the scene when the Dead Can Dance kicks in endlessly.

Of King's supernatural films only The Raft in Creepshow has shanked me in the gut with the horror of life. Mostly they're okay to rubbish. Like Cat's Eyes.
But The Mist for all its faults and tropes is up there.
posted by Mezentian at 8:19 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't tell you guys how happy I am that a new King novel was released while I am on vacation. Because that's where he seems the most perfect for me. There's family in the other room, there's dinner plans being made, and you're curled up in a chair with a Stephen King book.

I've been reading King since I was in 3rd grade, 'Salem's Lot because I was on a vampire kick. (I don't know why my parents were so laissez-faire with my reading habits) and I just never stopped. Someone upthread remarked how King books are such reflections of the times, and they really are. It really felt like there was as much "life" as "horror" in them.

I read King for two reasons. One: he tells good stories. Two: he tells them in a way that is so comfortable to me it is like eating a burger, or putting on my favorite shoes. "Oh yes," I think as I get drawn in, "this is what it's like and I've missed it."

I know he says it's supposed to be about the story, and not about the writer, but I don't think you can separate the two with him, at least not if you've been reading him as long as I have. I read Stephen King because I want Stephen King to tell me a story. And he always does, and I always enjoy it.
posted by Brainy at 9:13 AM on April 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


When I was 12 (and a very advanced reader), my mother found out I'd never read The Stand and told me only half-jokingly that I couldn't live in her house without having read it. I'd already read and loved The Talisman and the 2nd Dark Tower book, so of course I read it, and pretty much never stopped reading Stephen King after that. His work is wildly uneven and some of it is laughably bad, but his stories are inextricably woven into my life. Like endless_forms, I always appreciated that he never lied to me about childhood and parents and the big bad wild crazy fucked-up wonderful world. King is also big part of my shared history with my mom--even when we can't communicate about anything else, we can still talk in terms of the King books we've shared and understand each other and feel comforted. That sort of thing is going to endure.
posted by rhiannonstone at 12:19 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I read King for two reasons. One: he tells good stories. Two: he tells them in a way that is so comfortable to me it is like eating a burger, or putting on my favorite shoes. "Oh yes," I think as I get drawn in, "this is what it's like and I've missed it."

Yes, I very much agree with this. Although I pick them up with a pause, because I know this burger is going to give me heartburn, and it's in the form of lying in bed with eyes wide open wondering if I just heard a creaking sound...
posted by bquarters at 7:49 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I read King for two reasons. One: he tells good stories. Two: he tells them in a way that is so comfortable to me it is like eating a burger, or putting on my favorite shoes. "Oh yes," I think as I get drawn in, "this is what it's like and I've missed it."

I know he says it's supposed to be about the story, and not about the writer, but I don't think you can separate the two with him,


This is where I think King's prose gets really underrated, actually. Lots of people say his prose is so functional that it's invisible, but I don't think that's true---he's actually got a lot of easily-parodied (and therefore quite distinct) stylistic tics. It's just that if you're a North American (preferably white, working-class, born between 1945 and 1960), the voice King writes in so perfectly simulates the voice in your head that you don't notice it. Every sentence, I think "Yes, that is exactly how a large number of Americans talk."
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:45 AM on April 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Are you American?
posted by Crabby Appleton at 1:12 PM on April 27, 2012


I am, and just about every bit of dialogue rings completely true to me.
posted by Night_owl at 6:14 PM on April 27, 2012


I am, and raised amidst the Boomer working class whose habits (right down to the brand of jeans) he gets so right.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:12 PM on April 27, 2012


Dorothy Allison had a great quote a few years ago: "Stephen King is a working-class realist in a genre that doesn't get much respect." In the same interview, the interviewer asked her if any writers got paid what they deserved. She answered, without hesitation: "Stephen King." And Allison is relatively well-regarded within the literary establishment, so.
posted by pxe2000 at 2:15 PM on April 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Can we make a list of King's scariest moments instead? Both his good and bad books can be made readable because each has this particular awesome moment that just sticks with you.

The chapter in the extended version of The Stand that outlines the various accidental deaths of people who are immune to the virus. The farmer bitten by a rattlesnake. The guy that electrocutes himself setting up a generator. The child that falls into a well. No one is left alive to help them.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:59 AM on April 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


A bit late to this thread. As someone who has read all of King's work more than once, 'Salem's Lot is my favorite, The Stand is probably his best (with The Shining and Bag of Bones running close behind).

The stories within the story of It are not be missed: The Fire at the Black Spot, The Lumberjack Going Apeshit With the Axe, and one of my favorite King sequences - The Massacre of the 1930's Gangsters.

One of the things I just love about King, he can just toss off a two-sentence description about the background of a character, and I'm like "Write a story about THAT." I wish I could remember which book, he introduced about three minor characters and in the description was brief explanation of how each one eventually died. Nothing really to do with the plot, but very evocative and left me wanting more. As his best work often does.

Pet Sematary still fucks with me, especially when I'm jogging through the woods in the early morning just before it gets light.
posted by marxchivist at 2:27 PM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


What transports King's stories at their best to another level for me is that beyond just scaring the bejeezus out of you, they have a cloud hanging over them of acute depression and inevitability that can unsettle you and drain the color out of your surroundings. On a primal, emotional level they disturb you. Sometimes after I read his stuff it'll feel like I have a bad dream hangover for days or even weeks.

What's depressing is his protagonists are usually staring square in the face of some senseless horror that they know will eventually get them, a horror that usually is far worse than death. As that horror draws closer they observe what it does to those around them in vivid detail, vicariously experiencing a muted version of their own death several times before they actually die.

The creepiest part of the Boogeyman is when the main character speculates that the creature followed his family to their new house in another state, sniffing his way through sewers for a year until he eventually picked up their scent. The relentless nature of that idea -- of something horrible and tireless following you for no apparent reason -- is so disturbing to me.
posted by timsneezed at 4:53 PM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can we make a list of King's scariest moments instead? Both his good and bad books can be made readable because each has this particular awesome moment that just sticks with you.

ZELDA.
posted by timsneezed at 5:04 PM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Can we make a list of King's scariest moments instead?

The lawn jockey in Duma Key.
posted by marxchivist at 6:37 PM on April 30, 2012


Can we make a list of King's scariest moments instead?

Beverly running naked down the street being chased by her father, and not one person willing to help her. Fuck you, Derry people.
posted by cereselle at 7:15 AM on May 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Can we make a list of King's scariest moments instead?

The part in Gerald's Game where Jessie wakes up and sees...something...standing in the corner, and she tells herself it's just moonlight and shadows...and then it moves... (holy crap, I haven't read that book in years and it's sunny and warm and broad daylight and I still have the creeping terrors...).
posted by biscotti at 8:40 AM on May 3, 2012


I still can't look in the mirror when I get up to pee at night thanks to Lisey's Story.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:54 AM on May 3, 2012


I just got reading Full Dark, No Stars (in the same amount of time it took me to read two Ramsey Campbell short stories), and it was wonderful.
I had dreams both nights, fucked up dreams, because of 1922 and Big Driver.

A few days later and the functional brutality of Big Driver is still haunting me. The pivotal scene near the start is built on a cliche, but by God.... I'd pull out a quote but I don't want to spoil it.
posted by Mezentian at 12:12 AM on May 4, 2012


Was I the only one commenting in this thread with SK themed username?

megalomania routine countdown starting...
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:01 PM on May 4, 2012


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