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Stephen King's National Book Award acceptance speech
November 20, 2003 4:47 AM   Subscribe

Stephen King's National Book Award acceptance speech "took the award to task." In his National Book Award acceptance speech, King criticizes and condemns the divisive clash between highbrow and lowbrow literary cultures. NPR audio highlights and post-award interview. To a degree, he blames the National Book Foundation itself for the divisiveness. His acceptance speech revisits many of the points in the previous archived discussion when the award was announced. Stephen King, Mefi snooper?
posted by basilwhite (16 comments total)

 
I don't get no respect.
posted by troutfishing at 6:09 AM on November 20, 2003


King raised some excellent points on NPR the other day, almost teasers for his acceptance shtick, and I'd love to read what he actually said. But Dammit! --I can't find a transcript of his speech. Anyone?
posted by Shane at 6:56 AM on November 20, 2003


I was just thinking the same thing. I'd love to read it.
posted by keef at 7:20 AM on November 20, 2003


Stephen King is the Aerosmith of literary world.
posted by the fire you left me at 8:33 AM on November 20, 2003


Does that make Peter Straub the Run-DMC of the literary world?

[/obscure analogy]
posted by Prospero at 8:36 AM on November 20, 2003


The National Book Awards ceremony is going to be on C-SPAN 2 this Sunday, Nov 23, at 9pm.
posted by sassone at 8:59 AM on November 20, 2003


Prospero: heh.
posted by Yossarian at 9:29 AM on November 20, 2003


It's not just a battle between highbrow and lowbrow, but a melee over whether the elite should acknowledge writers who, while slacking a bit on the prose front, still know know how to spin a story and keep the reader glued. Unquestionably, King has this skill, as do the many other "lesser" writers King named (Elmore Leonard comes immediately to mind). (As an aside, I'd venture to say that Donald Westlake/Richard Stark is one of the few writers who might be the bridge between the two cliffs.)

The question is whether the National Book Awards will ever be the kind of arena that places emphasis on storytelling. As long as hoary heads are playing $1,000 a piece, the upper-crust answer is decidedly zip.

And I can't find a transcript of his speech either, Shane (and I'm equally curious). But I'm sure it will be at the National Book Foundation site eventually.
posted by ed at 9:38 AM on November 20, 2003


Good for Stephen King. I see the award he's receiving is for his collected output, which makes sense, as the sum effect of the King phenomenon is formidable. This is sort of the equivalent of the Academy Awards granting the Thalberg Award to Dino De Laurentiis, isn't it? And while he's produced a great deal of movies (Barbarella, Flash Gordon, and several Stephen King adaptations) that don't strike me Oscar-worthy in their own right, he's amassed a body of work that ought to be noticed. What's interesting to me is that, following this, nobody seemed particularly upset about the state of cinema.

I bring this up because these sorts of debates that are endemic to literary circles -- whether it's framed as "highbrow" vs. "lowbrow" literature, "genre" vs. "literary fiction," postmodern lit. vs. the Great English Novel, Franzen vs. Oprah, BR Meyers vs. the world -- always just make me sad. For another maddening iteration, see this article in this Sunday's Guardian by Gordon Burn. I get no particular joy from Stephen King's books, but to those of you who'd quibble, remember, it's a literary award, not white paper by a regulatory committee. So don't fret too much about the appropriateness, the significance, or the consequences; If ever there's an area where you can let 1000 flowers bloom, it's fiction, no? Which is a way of saying that I quickly get tired these divisive arguments, whenever they're made. They're a needless diversion to the actual pleasures of fiction, wherever you may find them. Instead of participating in these battles, let's turn to finding the stuff we love, relishing it, and getting the word out.
posted by .kobayashi. at 9:44 AM on November 20, 2003


Rashomon
posted by ed at 11:09 AM on November 20, 2003


I don't find much utility in the highbrow/lowbrow labels. There's so little definition in them.

A classic definition of fine literature is: "that which delights and instructs."

I love Stephen King's stories, but I'd have to say they're longer on the delight of a well-spun tale than any kind of instruction about life, humanity, even innovations in ways to tell a story.

This doesn't mean we need to over-emphasize instruction in giving out the awards. But Mr. King shouldn't get all too high and mighty. What's he complaining about, anyway? He *got* the award!
posted by scarabic at 12:52 PM on November 20, 2003


Lowbrow almost always wins. King's skill as a storyteller is formidable. I think it's quite legitimate to compare Stephen King in some way to Charles Dickens - both writers who focused almost entirely on lowest-common-denominator popular fiction - Dickens published his stories as progressive chapters in magazines! Dickens works continue to endure long after his death, and I have no doubt Kings will also.
posted by Jimbob at 1:11 PM on November 20, 2003


Dickens published his stories as progressive chapters in magazines!

The first book of "The Dark Tower" series, arguably Steven King's greatest work, also started out in installments, in Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine.
posted by vorfeed at 1:36 PM on November 20, 2003


scarabic said:
but I'd have to say they're longer on the delight of a well-spun tale than any kind of instruction about life, humanity.

What's wrong with something that's just fun to read and not profound? Is pleasure sinful?
posted by gregb1007 at 8:19 PM on November 20, 2003


For anyone who still cares, the speech is on his website...

http://www.stephenking.com (Flash required)
posted by ajpresto at 4:16 AM on December 3, 2003


For anyone who still cares, the speech is on his website...

http://www.stephenking.com (Flash required)
posted by ajpresto at 4:22 AM on December 3, 2003


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