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God is cruel
October 24, 2008 3:40 AM   Subscribe

'Around my house we kinda laugh when Sarah Palin comes on TV, and we say, "That's Greg Stillson as a woman."' Interview with Stephen King on the thirtieth anniversary of The Stand.
posted by fearfulsymmetry (121 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Loved The Stand when I first read it, love it now.

If I could make a new miniseries of it, I'd do it, and do it right.
posted by bwg at 4:02 AM on October 24, 2008 [4 favorites]


What a great piece. Some of the bits of the book that haunt me most are those like the Kid and Trashcan Man, and they're not usually the bit I've seen discussed.

I started figuring out I was an atheist about the same time I read (and reread and reread) The Stand, and the same point strikes me now - there's the dark Christianity of people making a choice, and going with good or going with personal gain, and then there's also the small community that rebuilds itself and works for the communal good, and in there there's a value on love and thy neighbour and a low emphasis on material goods, which also fits aspects of the Bible. (And then the rifts and jealousy start.)

I might be a big commie heathen, but I would be very happy to live in a world where that was the interpretation of Christianity. Those parts of The Stand about community building are like the perfect salve for panic about hellinahandbasketness, and yet maybe they're utopian fantasies doomed by human nature to turn out as they do in the book.

I like, too, what King says in the interview about Christianity and economics. Has that come up much elsewhere? (Non-USian, so my reading about your bailout is scattershot, albeit interested.)
posted by carbide at 4:27 AM on October 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I thought Greg Stillson, too. But mostly, I think she's Bob Roberts.
posted by psmealey at 4:35 AM on October 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


Wouldn't Greg Stillson at least be able to bluff his way through an interview? (And this pull quote confused the hell out of me, because Stillson is in Dead Zone, not The Stand.)
posted by DU at 4:49 AM on October 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


Well, she does believe that God wants her to win the election, and will intervene on her behalf on Nov. 4th.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:05 AM on October 24, 2008


Somehow I think that if her prayers are answered it would not be that hand of God at work, but ... what's the name I'm looking for here...
posted by louche mustachio at 5:15 AM on October 24, 2008


What will we do a month from now, without daily Sarah Palin posts for breakfast?

Heck of an article, though. King seems to be getting sharper and more thoughtful as he ages, or maybe I'm just catching up to his frame of reference.
posted by rokusan at 5:17 AM on October 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Jeb.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:17 AM on October 24, 2008


If her prayers are answered it would not be that hand of God at work, but ... what's the name I'm looking for here...

Oh, I don't know... could it be.... DIEBOLD?
posted by rokusan at 5:18 AM on October 24, 2008 [6 favorites]


"Jeb" was in reference to louche mustachio. Damn you rokusan!
posted by cjorgensen at 5:19 AM on October 24, 2008


Even if you don't enjoy her work, there's no denying her contribution to popular culture. Truly an American icon.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 5:27 AM on October 24, 2008 [9 favorites]


I have to have faith that our message will get out to the American people minus the filter of the mainstream media...

If the media were half as effective as you seem to think, you'd never even have gotten this far.

I just had a scary thought: If this were 4 years ago, or if Obama (or possibly Clinton) weren't the candidate, there'd be a good chance of this person being the Chief Executive. ....I think I better turn my mind to less apocalyptic matters, such as work.
posted by DU at 5:29 AM on October 24, 2008


Damn you rokusan!

Indeed, I have a penthouse booked in the special section of Hell reserved for troublemakers and ne'er-do-wells. The view is to die for.
posted by rokusan at 5:35 AM on October 24, 2008


Sarah Palin is not only a proof of the existence of God, but also of his sense of humour.
posted by nicolin at 5:36 AM on October 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


Sarah Palin is not only a proof of the existence of God, but also of his sense of humour furious desire to destroy his creation as he did in the time of Noah.

ftfy
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 5:42 AM on October 24, 2008 [4 favorites]


I have been a staunch Stephen King apologist since I read It about 20 years ago. People seem to be coming around to the realization that he is an amazing storyteller, and that there are (usually) some meaningful and true ideas behind the stories, if you spend some time thinking about them. They are not necessarily the deepest or most nuanced ideas, but they are powerful. I'm a little troubled by the way he lately seems to want to wrap everything into his One True Mythology, but frankly, I'll read anything he cares to publish.

Can we please stop talking about Sarah Palin for one fricking minute?
posted by Rock Steady at 5:43 AM on October 24, 2008 [9 favorites]


There's a joke where a guy is trapped by rising flood waters and is counting on God to save him. And a police car comes to take him to safety, but no, he's counting on God. And a boat comes to take him to safety, but, again, he's counting on God. Finally a helicopter comes, but still, he's counting on God.

I expect the punchline to Sara Palin's expectation of divine intervention will sound something like "and in heaven she met God and asked him why he didn't do anything to help her win the election, and God said, "What do you want? I sent a debate and five interview opportunities!"
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:51 AM on October 24, 2008 [7 favorites]


People seem to be coming around to the realization that he is an amazing storyteller...

For me, it's the opposite. I was aware from the beginning that he's an amazing storyteller. But gradually I became aware that he was telling the same story over and over (at least since around the time of It). That's why I liked the Dark Tower series--because it wasn't like the other books. Then he tied it all up together and I lost interest.

This wouldn't be so bad if his One Story made any sense. But he never explains anything even in his own terms. Like, he doesn't need a scientific reason for, say, the alien ship in Tommyknockers turning that chick into an alien. But I think he does need some at least mystic reason. Some narrative reason other than "because where else is the conflict going to come from?"
posted by DU at 5:53 AM on October 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


If I could make a new miniseries of it, I'd do it, and do it right.
Ditto. Matter of fact, it shouldn't be a mini-series, exactly - it should be a full season of television. On cable.

Also, I maintain that if someone with a brain and a bankroll made a faithful version of "The Running Man" it would/could be insanely good.
posted by dirtdirt at 6:04 AM on October 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


People seem to be coming around to the realization that he is an amazing storyteller.

I have always liked his short stories. His novels... well he's a decent writer, sure. The problem for me was always his editor, or lack thereof. I remember thinking that his 920 page books could have been done in about 180.
posted by rokusan at 6:18 AM on October 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


I suspect a faithful version of The Running Man would never get the green light, given that the climax of the story involves the hero crashing a big plane into a skyscraper, as King mentions in the article.
posted by Ritchie at 6:27 AM on October 24, 2008


I remember reading The Stand way back and being really annoyed about the ending.

***SPOILERS*** (For a 30 year old book)

Was I missing something or was that final suicide mission into enemy territory pretty much a useless exercise since it had no causal relation to how the bad guys actually got blown up?
posted by cimbrog at 6:34 AM on October 24, 2008


Cimbrog, I would say: see title of this post for the answer to that question. It was a sacrifice.
posted by dirtdirt at 6:42 AM on October 24, 2008


The problem for me was always his editor, or lack thereof.

A trap many popular writers fall into. As their fame grows, apparently their standing with the publishers also grows, and editors become more and more afraid to, well, edit their work. At least it seems so to me from outside of the publishing industry.
posted by Harald74 at 6:50 AM on October 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


I haven't read the stand in years, but I used to read it maybe once a year when I was younger (pre-teens to late teens), and I remember always feeling vaguely freaked out, as I would get a runny nose, without fail, during the first hundred or so pages.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:52 AM on October 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Cimbrog, I would say: see title of this post for the answer to that question. It was a sacrifice.
posted by dirtdirt at 9:42 AM on October 24 [+] [!]


Hmmm. Maybe I need to reread it after all these years, because I have always thought that this was perhaps the case, but for whatever reason King's writing didn't convey that to me. I just may have been more caught up in surface narrative at the time and not have noticed.
posted by cimbrog at 7:00 AM on October 24, 2008


cimbrog, if I recall correctly, Flagg had been out of town and only came back to Vegas for the execution of Our Heroes.

I sure would love to see a movie of The Long Walk.
posted by infinitewindow at 7:01 AM on October 24, 2008 [5 favorites]


From the interview:

"Whatever goes around, comes around. "The Stand" even says that. Life is like a wheel. Sooner or later, it always come around to where you started again."

It must be great to be so successful that you can spout a cliche in an interview, and then cite your own work as the source, all with no shame whatsoever.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:10 AM on October 24, 2008 [4 favorites]


Can we please stop talking about Sarah Palin for one fricking minute?

Yeah. Plenty of time for that after she's president.
posted by Artw at 7:36 AM on October 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


Some of the bits of the book that haunt me most are those like the Kid and Trashcan Man, and they're not usually the bit I've seen discussed.

Shoot, the "come down and eat chicken with me, beautiful" almost NEVER gets mentioned, and that's one of the parts that creeped me out the most. It's this little throwaway, but the specificity of its particular chaos just....eeeeuuuughhh.

The fact that they included it in the miniseries is what keeps me from hating it entirely.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:39 AM on October 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you're expecting [H.P. Lovecraft's] Yogg Sothoth, there he'll be, along with the 900 blind fiddlers, or whatever it is.

Tsk. He knows it's Azathoth and pipers, he's just aying that to be annoying.
posted by Artw at 7:43 AM on October 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


As their fame grows, apparently their standing with the publishers also grows, and editors become more and more afraid to, well, edit their work.

That's my perception too. Rowling suffered from it (God, the interminable camping scene in the last book, in which not a goddamn thing happens), and probably the Platonic Ideal is Anne Rice, whose books are literally not even edited anymore, on her demand.

Also, I maintain that if someone with a brain and a bankroll made a faithful version of "The Running Man" it would/could be insanely good.

Hells yeah. I've been saying that for a very long time.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:49 AM on October 24, 2008


I have always thought King was one of those writers who desperately needed a collaborator/editor who understood him and could refine his ideas (and maybe push him a little, he just gets so dang lazy sometimes), because his ideas (or Idea) are compelling and wonderfully creepy. And then he does something to annoy the reader (me, at least) and it breaks the spell.

Pity that never happened, not that it's stopped him from making a squintillion dollars. He's seldom been as good as he could be, though.
posted by emjaybee at 7:54 AM on October 24, 2008


I sure would love to see a movie of The Long Walk.

Ohmygod yes. Actually, any of the four in Bachman Books would translate well to film. The Schwarzenegger-tastic Running Man was horrific, but they weren't even trying to follow the general story-arc, so I don't know how much fault I can find there. Remade properly, with a darker Ben Richards and an emphasis on environment rather than goofy guys singing opera in their electric armor, it would be badass.
posted by Mayor West at 7:54 AM on October 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


[More King, less Palin, please. With sugar on top.]
posted by cortex at 8:05 AM on October 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


ArtW: Yog-Sothoth, though, with OVER 9000 blind fiddlers, gives it a sort of down-home, country, tentacle-stompin' feel that snooty, distant Azazoth and his pipers never could. I'm envisioning Charlie Daniels doing this right now:

Yog-Sothoth opened up the gates
To bring this world down low
And light glowed from his pseudopods
As he summoned critters from below

Then he gathered to him walking things
That better ought to crawl
And a bunch of folks from Innsmouth joined in
And they made this awful squall:

*INSTRUMENTAL BIT THAT SOUNDS LIKE RASPUTINA MEETS SKINNY PUPPY*

posted by adipocere at 8:09 AM on October 24, 2008 [18 favorites]


I'm gonna be the lone (otherwise positive) voice of dissent here and say I was a little disappointed in the interview. "More King, less Palin" would have been a nice guideline for the article itself. With reference to The Stand alone, there was a lot that could have been addressed that wasn't -- why he thinks this book is probably the most popular amongst his actual readers (as opposed to people who know his work primarily through the movies, many of whom I suspect aren't even aware of the book's existence), why he decided to revise it a decade later, his thoughts on the comic, etc. And the thirtieth anniversary of The Stand also occasions discussion of his early career, how he went from obscurity to brand name, which was also not really touched upon. It's a weird thing to say about an article that goes on for a few thousand words, but I thought it was kinda...superficial.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:13 AM on October 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


Oh my God, that's exactly what I thought the first time I saw Sarah Palin (to whom I now refer, affectionately, as Pailah Sarin).

The Dead Zone was really brilliant, and was made into an excellent movie, too.
posted by jamjam at 8:18 AM on October 24, 2008


Theres always been those that prefer The Shining (and, crazily, hate the movie or even more crazily like the crappy miniseries) and I'm hearing Pet Semetary mentioned as a high-point of shit-you-up scariness lately, but yeah, you're probably right.

...I guess it's the centerpeice of his wrongheaded sounding attempts to tie everything together as well...

Me, I'm more of a fan of the short stories, so another collection on it's way is good news.

Of course with short stories the ability to edit down and trim fat is all important, so we'll see how his ability to self-edit is standing up.

(and god, spare me any rambling vignettes and other crap without proper stories)
posted by Artw at 8:22 AM on October 24, 2008


I enjoy the way King ties so many of his stories together. For me, it's like a friendly wink saying "Remember that time...?" I can't really fault those who feel it's flimsy, cumbersome, or annoying, but in my opinion it's fun and rewarding.
posted by owtytrof at 8:26 AM on October 24, 2008


kittens for breakfast, I expected some branching out too. The Stand is good, but not as good as some of his other works that it links to. [See The Dark Tower and all of his other works that tie into it, which personally I like. The man has created a huge catalogue of works, and it feels like an inside joke to me.]

One of his books that I loved the most was Eyes of the Dragon, and I don't think that gets nearly enough notice. It's a good option for those critics of the length of his novels, too; it can't be more than 200 pages, but it still tells a great story. Insomnia and Black House were two of his best for me.

When you get down to it, he's a good writer, not great, but good. His works are gripping, intense, entertaining and accessible to the masses. But there's not one thing in It or Duma Key that truly affected my life. The only one of his works that made a dent in my daily life was The Dark Tower, and that was only because I could not wait for the next book to come out. Even though I love his books, I never relate to his characters. I don't equate his characters with actual, everyday people. I just think they're good characters.

**SPOILER**


Also, I thought a little less of him after he introduced himself as a character in The Dark Tower. That, coupled with almost every male lead breaking a hip/experiencing hip pain after King broke his hip, shows an enormous amount of hubris and lack of creativity.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 8:32 AM on October 24, 2008


You know, I thought exactly the same thing. I've been waiting for the McCain campaign to shout out "Free Hot Dogs!" and "Look how many push-ups I can do!!!"

scary.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 8:39 AM on October 24, 2008


It's a good option for those critics of the length of his novels, too; it can't be more than 200 pages, but it still tells a great story.

It was intended as a kids book, wasn't it?
posted by Artw at 8:39 AM on October 24, 2008


I sure would love to see a movie of The Long Walk.

And Dolan's Cadillac.
posted by bwg at 8:41 AM on October 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yes, but so was Harry Potter, and the number of adults that I saw reading that tripe was overwhelming. Also, Eyes of the Dragon had a few adult themes in my opinion, something that I wouldn't typically associate with a kids' book.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 8:42 AM on October 24, 2008


I absolutely love Stephen King. Yes, he's got his flaws; his plots ramble, his endings often show up from out of nowhere, etc., but his stuff his so completely engrossing, I'm willing to overlook it. Even the endless digressions are fun. His books are like comfort food, even at their darkest.

Incidentally, anyone else think The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon deserves more credit than it gets?
posted by infinitywaltz at 8:47 AM on October 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Eyes of the Dragon is my favourite as well. I dug it out a few months ago, and it's a very cozy thrill ride. One day I'm going to put up the cash for one of those sweet scaly first editions.

The short story collections are usually pretty solid. There's some chaff in there, but for the most part they're scarier than anything in his novels. The ending of "The Jaunt" still gives me chills whenever I think about it.
posted by yellowbinder at 8:49 AM on October 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow, I don't remember the bit about The Kid and poor ol' Trashcan; I have the unabridged copy, but now I'm thinking maybe I bought it after reading the original.
Time for a reread!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:57 AM on October 24, 2008


Incidentally, anyone else think The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon deserves more credit than it gets?
posted by infinitywaltz


Yes, also Dolores Claiborne.
posted by marxchivist at 9:01 AM on October 24, 2008


[More King, less Palin, please. With sugar on top.]

He writes horror, she's a horror, what do you expect?
posted by me & my monkey at 9:02 AM on October 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


The problem with The Eye of the Dragon (which I believe King 'wrote for his daughter') is that it ends with the bad guy creeping up the stairs of a tower with an axe. When I read that, and flashed on Jack Torrence, I did a facepalm for the ages.

Another vote for more editing, and a preference for the short stories. I returned to King recently after about 20 years and enjoyed Cell, up until the third act where it basically turned into The Stand again.

Also: Whatever happened to Livre Noir? I always thought that sounded hilarious.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:06 AM on October 24, 2008


One day I'm going to put up the cash for one of those sweet scaly first editions.

Yellowbinder, what you really want is this edition. Um, and by "you" I mean "me".
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 9:13 AM on October 24, 2008


Heh that is indeed very classy. I prefer the 80s populist cheese of the actual first edition. Plus, the price difference of around $1250.

Allright, let's turn it around. King fans, worst novel? I'd have to go with the recent From a Buick 8. That was just dreadful. I know he can't remember writing Cujo, but he really should have completely forgotten this one.

Also, Thinner. (Spoilers on next line)

Magic gypsy cursed pie? Really?
posted by yellowbinder at 9:18 AM on October 24, 2008


bwg, I dunno how good it's going to be, but I'm looking forward to it. One of my favorite King stories, and the Ron Livingston version of The End of the Whole Mess ain't bad either.

/King apologist since seventh grade
posted by timetoevolve at 9:19 AM on October 24, 2008


(This comment, rather.)
posted by timetoevolve at 9:21 AM on October 24, 2008


Wow, lots of SK discussion lately.:)

I love the guy. Probably my favorite author ever, really. Some works I liked more than others, but I can't remember a King book that I ever put away before it was finished.

Sure, he has his flaws. So did Lovecraft. So did Tolkien, for that matter(seriously, I think Prof. Tolkien could have spent an entire chapter describing a tree).

But what I really like about Stephen King is that despite being one of the best-selling authors in history, he has not let it go to his head in the slightest. He doesn't see himself as some sort of literary god, or even as someone terribly important. It seems that in his mind, he's just a guy who does what he loves to do...and incidentally, a whole lot of people love what he does.
posted by spirit72 at 9:24 AM on October 24, 2008


Allright, let's turn it around. King fans, worst novel?

The Colorado Kid is pretty damned painful.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:27 AM on October 24, 2008


I dunno. The Stand was great, yes. But I don't know if it's appropriate to judge an author by his best couple of books when the man's done, what... dozens? His average stuff is only remarkable because it's King. Telegraphed plot, two dimensional characters, and usually one interesting idea per book.

I'm a bit out of date on both of them, but I found Koontz simultaneously more repetitive and more original. I don't think you can read a dozen Koontz books and not feel like you're hitting the same plot over and over again, but when it comes to detail, I would find something interesting, surprising, or original on every other page.

That being said, ok, there is something of the great storyteller about King in terms of conception, while someone like Koontz I find to be the far better technical artist.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:28 AM on October 24, 2008


I have always thought King was one of those writers who desperately needed a collaborator/editor who understood him and could refine his ideas...

Well, Peter Straub tried. I always imagined their Black House meetings being something like:

Straub: Ok, we've got the plot going nicely, and logically what needs to happen next is-
King: There's this bird, right, from this other book I wrote. Let's talk about him for the next fifty pages.
Straub: Ok but that doesn't really go here and-
King: The bird talks. It's awesome. Put the bird in here.
Straub: Ok, Steve, but that was a different book, see, and I'm not sure it has anything to do with this plot and
King: No no, it all fits together, all you have to do is take everything in the Talisman and sort of forget about it.
Straub: So why are we writing a sequel then?
King: Oh see, the book people think they're buying isn't the book they're buying, it's just sort of an aside to these other books I'm writing.
Straub: Doesn't that kind of....but....we just wrote like 400 pages about this Jack guy and I sort of thought he was the hero, and-
King: Hah! Nope, red herring.
Straub: The whole book is a red herring?
King: Obviously you have not read Insomnia.



Sigh.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 9:38 AM on October 24, 2008 [8 favorites]


In high school I read The Gunslinger, and it blew my mind. It was like nothing I'd ever read before. I found the trade paperbacks with the awesome illustrations and had my mind further blown.

In college, I amassed a collection of Dark Tower Grant editions. 3rd edition of Gunslinger, 1st ed. of Drawing, 1st ed. of Waste Lands, 1st ed. of Wizard, even the 1st ed. of Legends with the Roland novella. Then I waited and waited, getting on the list for signed artist editions of the last three books.

Yeesh.

Anyone know of someone with a 1st or 2nd ed. of The Gunslinger for sale? I'd rather have that than the upcoming edited Gunslinger paired with "The Little Sisters of Eluria."
posted by infinitewindow at 9:41 AM on October 24, 2008


Worst IMO: Dreamcatcher - it was interminable. Maybe it was the worst (for me) because it was directly following his accident and he was on too many painkillers. Maybe that was the year his editor decided that kissing ass is the way to succeed. Either way, it sucked.

*SPOILERS of my own*

Aliens that crawl out of your ass? WTF? so much worse than magic gypsy pie.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 9:41 AM on October 24, 2008


The Dark Tower and all of his other works that tie into it, which personally I like. The man has created a huge catalogue of works, and it feels like an inside joke to me.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVED the way he would make subtle allusions to his other works, and returning to Derry in Insomnia felt so good, but it seems like since

{the accident}

he has been just desperate to get low men, the Crimson King and Richard Brautigan into every. Single. Story.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:45 AM on October 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


One of his books that I loved the most was Eyes of the Dragon, and I don't think that gets nearly enough notice.

Oh hell yes. That was the first King novel I read; I then spent the summer of '87 reading the rest of the King oeuvre.

And Flagg's in that one too.
posted by padraigin at 9:49 AM on October 24, 2008


I never liked The Stand all that much. It seems to me that King is never at his best when he's doing the Epic Good vs. Evil thing, partially because his best works have always struck me as deeply (and satisfyingly) amoral.

The travel scenes in The Talisman and The Dark Tower work, and so do the personal, small-scale stories of good/evil conflict from It and Eyes of the Dragon, but I just can't buy (spoilers!) "a matricide, a murderous schizophrenic, a junkie, and their talking dog go on a 4000-page trip AND THEN IT TURNS OUT THEY ARE AGENTS OF GOD LOL". The Christian-discount-bookstore stuff near the end of The Dark Tower was a painfully bad fit for the complex and hostile world he'd built in the rest of the series, especially the first three books (though the part after "you might want to stop reading here" redeems it more than a bit, almost as if Amoral King couldn't quite stand not to sabotage Moral King's dumbass parable).

Then again, maybe the real parable is this: only pre-accident Stephen King could have finished the Dark Tower books properly, yet pre-accident Stephen King would never have finished them! Whooo... I dunno, Stephen, what is the sound of 864 pages clapping?
posted by vorfeed at 9:51 AM on October 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


A trap many popular writers fall into. As their fame grows, apparently their standing with the publishers also grows, and editors become more and more afraid to, well, edit their work. At least it seems so to me from outside of the publishing industry.

Actually, I believe that for most of his career -- and perhaps this is still the case -- King's editor was his agent. Make of that what you will.

Also, about that The Stand miniseries. Molly Ringwald? Corky Nemec? Rob Lowe? Egads. That's an episode of the Love Boat, not a miniseries.

Oh, how I wish that David Simon would remake the thing. Can you imagine Bubbles as Trashcan Man? And McNulty as Randall Flagg? That's good viewing.
posted by william_boot at 10:04 AM on October 24, 2008 [4 favorites]


I just wish he'd decide what he was writing. I love the DT allusions too, and I love running across a subtle reference where it seems to make sense, but they don't need to be grafted onto every damn thing. The DT bits in Insomnia were great but they should have been a novella all their own. If you want to write a thousand pages about two old people going on a kind of nifty adventure, then do that. If you want to write a Tower story, then do that.

I always wondered about the majority of his fanbase, too, because I think the audience for the potboilery novels does not exactly overlap with the DT fans. So most people would have picked up Insomnia in the supermarket or wherever and they're reading along and all of a sudden, what the fuck? I imagine a lot of copies of that book got thrown across the room, which is dangerous given that it weighed roughly ninety pounds.


But mostly I will just ****SPOILER***






never ever forgive him for the way he killed Flagg off. That guy should have at the very least taken out half the planet with him when he went. Flagg was epic and he deserved better. I am bitter.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 10:06 AM on October 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


I thought that Flagg played a larger role as well, and that he deserved something more befitting of his rank. That seemed like an afterthought, not a plot point.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 10:11 AM on October 24, 2008


I always thought that Tim Curry would have made an excellent Randall Flagg.
posted by concrete at 10:21 AM on October 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


When I read The Stand, it immediately put me in mind of The Day of the Triffids: bio-weapons, apocalypse, crazed villains building a new world order, etc. Since Triffids was a landmark book, I always assumed King was riffing on it.

Then I read Dolan's Cadillac, which is pretty much The Cask of Amontillado modernized. King: "For the love of God, Robinson!" Poe: "For the love of God, Montresor!" I've looked around for King's acknowledgments that he lifted his ideas for these two works from Wyndham and Poe, but I've not been able to find anything. Maybe it's just so obvious that he doesn't think there's a need for it, but my respect for his writing would grow a little if he did say something.

(And if you haven't read Triffids, you're missing a great book. There are images from it (mobile carnivorous plants herding blind humans!?!) that have stuck with me long past anything I've read from King.)
posted by joaquim at 10:29 AM on October 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


The worst example of King's writing is definitely his generally execrable columns for Entertainment Weekly. He's a very good novelist and can tell one hell of a story, but those self-indulgent single-pagers make me crazy. Every time he busts out with the faux-folksy "Your Uncle Stevie says..." crap I just want to hop in the car, drive the eight hours up to Bangor just so I can punch him in the face. Hard.
posted by shiu mai baby at 10:50 AM on October 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


And McNulty as Randall Flagg?

I know he's getting to be a bit overdone, but I would put Hugh Jackman in that role.

The original miniseries had some nice touches to it, though. Yeah, the casting sounds terrible on paper, but didn't actually end up that way.

Seen the British production of Triffids, joaquim? It's been quite awhile, but at the time I really liked it.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:51 AM on October 24, 2008


I've looked around for King's acknowledgments that he lifted his ideas for these two works from Wyndham and Poe

I'm pretty sure he did acknowledge the debt to Poe in the story notes to "Dolan's Cadillac" (as it appeared in whichever of his collections that was), but I don't have the book handy and can't confirm. As for The Stand, I don't know about Day of the Triffids, but King has repeatedly said he took much of his inspiration from this novel.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:59 AM on October 24, 2008


When I reread The Stand, I often peter out before it gets to the very end, because the slow-decay-of-society stuff in the beginning just seems so much better. The story always kind of loses me after Mother Abigail comes back, because the supernatural stuff becomes too big a part of the story.

But those chapters that are nothing but vignettes of "stuff that's happening elsewhere around the country to characters we meet just this once and never again" -- from the junkie who's immune to Captain Trips, but ends up O.D.-ing in a bathroom and dying that way, to the weird paramilitary group that dresses in pink loincloths and takes over a public-access station and broadcasts its executions -- that's the part that creeps the hell out of me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:03 AM on October 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


Looking back at the final few Dark Tower books, I don't feel they were anything near bad, but definitely uneven and inadequate I guess. They didn't seem to be in the spirit of the first few books, though I don't know if I'd chalk it up to morality. I just think the series had always been more about building a world (or multiverse in this case) and a mythology than some kind of discreet plot arc. You expect them to be forever searching for the Tower, exploring different set pieces and character histories, book after book after book. While that makes the ultimate ending fitting in a way, I think the last few books were much too "planned." I remember reading at some point that he usually doesn't make outlines and just writes what comes to him without knowing where everything will end up. And I think in that respect the end of the story was a much more deliberate and contrived series of events. Some of it was compelling of course, but trying to tie up so many loose ends while introducing even more plot points made a lot of stuff somewhat forced and anticlimactic. I guess he lost it when he decided he would take it to some kind of next level META EPIC territory in order to give his all-encompassing universe an appropriate conclusion.

I don't want to give him too much shit for not hitting it out of the park though, because I always saw the series as something that you couldn't really end (especially with an author with a reputation for endings out of nowhere, which might have been preferable, actually). I think his brush with death made him realize that a rushed, possibly inadequate conclusion is better than no conclusion at all. And it was enjoyable, anyway!
posted by palidor at 11:08 AM on October 24, 2008


Re Triffids, it was a nice shout out (or steal?) when 28 Days' first scene was basically the same as...

(spoiler)


...when the hero in Triffids wakes up in the hospital bed having missed the apocalypse, too. And both of them wander around an eerily quiet London trying to figure out what was happening.
posted by emjaybee at 11:08 AM on October 24, 2008


Oh, and: SARAH PALIN MOOSE HUNT BILL AYERS MUSLIM MAVERICK JOE THE PLUMBER ELITIST SOCIALIST TERRORIST HOCKEY MOM REAL AMERICA ACORN POPCORN HOPSCOTCH BLITKRIEG
posted by palidor at 11:09 AM on October 24, 2008


The ending of "The Jaunt" still gives me chills whenever I think about it.

Q: How long is the average Stephen King novel?

A: LONGER THAN YOU THINK, DAD, LONGER THAN YOU THINK
posted by shakespeherian at 11:09 AM on October 24, 2008 [9 favorites]


I was really surprised by the lack of media connection of Blindness to Triffids, particularly given criticism of the depiction of the blind toward each other and the few who can see.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:12 AM on October 24, 2008


Every time he busts out with the faux-folksy "Your Uncle Stevie says..." crap I just want to hop in the car, drive the eight hours up to Bangor just so I can punch him in the face. Hard.

Exactly. His recent ridiculous article about "manfiction", in which I learned that men like books about actiony men, while us girls like books about sexy hunks on tropical islands, made me insane. Ummmm, Uncle Steve? Hate Nora Roberts, thank you very much, and please quit perpetuating the idea that all women like that kind of crap.

I've been trying to get a friend of mine to read "The Stand" and "The Talisman" for YEARS. That column made her tell me that she will never, ever, ever read a Stephen King book. Well, that column and the nineteen million columns where he tries to pretend that his musical choices are somehow cutting edge. If I never hear about the Drive-By Truckers again, it will be too soon.

Let me end with a vote for "The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon", which I thought was wicked scary, and an admission to my soft spot for "Salem's Lot." Another rotten TV adaptation, but a good scary book.
posted by OolooKitty at 11:23 AM on October 24, 2008


Did anyone read Duma Key? Should I pick it up now that it's out in paperback?

I have historically been a "buy anything he writes" kind of King fan, but I'm not sure about this one.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:26 AM on October 24, 2008


Lotsa spoilers below for multiple books.

I've been rereading The Dark Tower over the past six months, and I've gotta say it was way, way better the first time. I'm almost done with Song of Sussanah, but I'm already remembering details of the last book, and, shit man. It's just so anti-climactic. Every one of the major villains turns out to be a major pushover. It's really just not a worthy conclusion to the series. The battle to save the breakers in the first quarter of the book was good, but everything after was bleh.

The final, ultimate ending after the "don't read any further" bit was good, though. Not enough to redeem it, but it would have been the perfect ending to a better final book.

On the other hand, I've really enjoyed the Dark Tower references spread through the rest of his work. I really like the "individual battles in a far greater conflict" theme.

My favorites of his books (and this probably seems crazy) are It and Needful Thing. The protagonists actually fight the villains at the end, rather than doing some sort of weird hand wave that gets the villain out of the way almost by accident. Also, the town blows up for no apparent reason at the end of Needful Things, which was pretty sweet at the time I read it. I don't know if that book would hold up to a reread.

My least favorite book is a Bachman book, The Regulators. I did not understand that one. It's an alternate version of Desperation with all the same characters and the same bad guy, but it's way, way shittier. I did not understand why he wrote that one.

But what I really like about Stephen King is that despite being one of the best-selling authors in history, he has not let it go to his head in the slightest. He doesn't see himself as some sort of literary god, or even as someone terribly important. It seems that in his mind, he's just a guy who does what he loves to do...and incidentally, a whole lot of people love what he does.

Except, you know, that he makes himself a character in The Dark Tower series where he's literally a god figure--admittedly, a retarded god figure, but still a god figure.

Also, I thought a little less of him after he introduced himself as a character in The Dark Tower. That, coupled with almost every male lead breaking a hip/experiencing hip pain after King broke his hip, shows an enormous amount of hubris and lack of creativity.

He's always been like that. Reread his books and count just how many of his protagonists are writers (or sometimes artists, and there's not a huge difference when you come down to it) from Maine.

It's a lot.
posted by Caduceus at 11:27 AM on October 24, 2008


Allright, let's turn it around. King fans, worst novel?

Dreamcatcher. Followed closely by Cujo.

In the latter, one of the main character's big personal moments of growth is dreaming up a new advertising campaign. "Hey guys, I got it!" Even King admits in On Writing that he doesn't even remember the thing, he was so frickin' high at the time.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:30 AM on October 24, 2008


Oh, and I thought Bag of Bones was vastly underrated.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:31 AM on October 24, 2008


Needful Things might actually be my favourite (suck it, previous favourite Eyes of the Dragon! Not really, we can still hang out). It was the first one I read, and I consider it a near masterpiece. It's just so nasty, the town hot wired to explode. And not really because of the evildoer, but because of the natural desires, jealousies and grudges that he just holds a match to. Powerful stuff. That said, the ending is kind of lame, one of his typical deus ex machina godly endings that come out of nowhere.

The Regulators is pretty shit. I reread that and Desperation this summer, and the Bachman half is just horrible shit happening with no reason.

Q: How long is the average Stephen King novel?

A: LONGER THAN YOU THINK, DAD, LONGER THAN YOU THINK


I will not favourite for making fun of my fears.
posted by yellowbinder at 11:34 AM on October 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Did anyone read Duma Key? Should I pick it up now that it's out in paperback?

I have historically been a "buy anything he writes" kind of King fan, but I'm not sure about this one.


No, it's good. I'm not sure about some of the choices King made toward the end, but it's a good novel.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:41 AM on October 24, 2008


I thought Duma Key was surprisingly good. Much better than Lisey's Story, which was yet another story about a successful writer (well, his wife, anyway) dealing with hardships. Duma Key for me was a departure to fifteen years ago or so, when his stories had more oomph. The older stuff was always amateur-ish, but it really hit you. After his accident, he seemed to be tame and a little more mature. I'd like to see his new works with more maturity and that same wild streak he used to have.

On preview: Caduceus, I know there were more than a few over the years. I really tried to give him the benefit of the doubt with that. You're right, though. If I start to count them, I'll be here all day.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 11:45 AM on October 24, 2008


Except, you know, that he makes himself a character in The Dark Tower series where he's literally a god figure--admittedly, a retarded god figure, but still a god figure.

I really don't see this as the horrible self-aggrandizing thing a lot of people seem to read it as. Get on King's case for being not as well equipped to tackle metafiction as well as some authors, sure, but this wasn't some intrusive OMG TEVE TORBES IS REALLY AN AWESOME GUY DON'T YOU THINK thing. The caricature injected into the story was far from complimentary, and was in that sense I think a hell of a lot humbler than a lot of the semiautobiographical autohagiographic protagonists that show up in some authors' work.

As much as the last three books are certainly different from what a counterfactual King-never-had-his-accident-but-still-finished-the-fucking-series would have been, I can understand that King-writes-himself-in is a weird and sub-optimal (for execution, in my opinion—nothing wrong with the concept per se) centerpiece for the tail end of the saga, but I don't think it's all that ill-fitting. The man's life became in part about fan's expectations about his execution of this thing that he almost never finished thanks to a freak accident.
posted by cortex at 11:46 AM on October 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


The character he played in the Dark Tower was essential to the story. It wasn't a cameo, or an inside joke. Roland would not have reached the point he did in the story without King's help. He took it too far. It just shows a lack of creativity. If the man can write this epic series, weaving different characters in in so many ways and encompassing so many different story arcs, while still making it seem that it's not forced, then he should be able to create one additional character. Why did he place himself there, with much of his own personal history detailed in the book, as opposed to the cookie-cutter writer he always uses? It's either laziness or conceit, and neither trait is particularly inspiring.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 11:57 AM on October 24, 2008


Best King:
1. The short stories (virtually all of them -- I haven't read the new one yet, so I don't know whether it counts, but probably).
2. Then the novellas -- the Bachman stuff, mainly.
3. Then Pet Sematary, IT (hruuuuuh that clown.), and The Stand.

After that it's "everything else" territory as far as I'm concerned. The Shining is not bad, but is much more memorable for being such a good movie. The rest have their ups and downs, but frankly he hasn't written anything truly great in decades.

Worst King:
1. The Dark Tower. Blasphemy! I'm serious though. It's bad, unoriginal, derivative fantasy. If you like it, try to get your hands on some good fantasy writing. King's version is just a weak imitation thereof, made all the worse because he clearly thinks it's Teh Greatest Thing EVAR. It gives me epic embarrasitis on his behalf.
2. Cell. Did anyone even read this? Dear God it's laughably awful.
3. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. OMG you forgot to put any actual events in the story! Oh well, ship it anyway.
4. Too many others to list. His catalog really is much more misses than hits, but the hits are so great I will forgive him nearly any amount of shit.
posted by rusty at 12:08 PM on October 24, 2008


Well, I think it's absolutely a conceit, yes, but I don't believe it's all that conceited in the sense of uncreative vanity or ego-stroking.

He has been there, the series has trickled out through the long history of his actual life. We're talking about the culminating magnum opus of arguably the most popular American pop writer of the last several decades, who has been keenly aware (when lucid and when not, I'd bet) of the attention his fans have been paying to his every move re: Roland and the Tower.

So it's a gimmicky move, sure, but there's nothing wrong with that given the context. The difference between King and, say, Mark Danielewski is I think again one of style and execution here as much as anything—King isn't that much of a stylist, and self-admittedly doesn't work well under rigid plotting and structure. It was a gamble to do something as meta as write himself in, and I don't disagree with the idea that it could have been done better (or not done at all).

But I don't think it was laziness, or vanity, or anything as easily dismissible as that. To think that he would have written the last half of this epic, every-eye-is-on-him piece of work by pulling a lark out of his hat and shrugging and running with it is silly.
posted by cortex at 12:10 PM on October 24, 2008


I wasn't bugged by meta-King's presence in the end of the series. What did bug me was the Crimson King. Here you have an epic Big Bad whose presence is felt not only throughout the entire Dark Tower series, but also throughout the other novels that are tangentially connected to Rowland's world -- like The Stand, for example.

But by the time we get to the Crimson King, the one whose machinations have literally ripped apart worlds, we find out he's some raving red-eyed grandpa on a balcony of the tower. Oh yeah, and he can be dealt with, from afar, using a Magic Eraser wielded by one of King's favorite character archetypes, the Magical Retard*. Hooray!

Seriously, though. That more so than just about anything else was the biggest "what." I have ever uttered about a book.

* cf Sheemie, Tom Cullen, John Coffey, to name a few. Also, apologies for the crude terminology.
posted by shiu mai baby at 12:12 PM on October 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


King's best is Night Shift, imho. He wrote the stories when he was poor and desperate, and his own fear is woven throughout, it's very visceral. He doesn't just scare you, he himself is frightened, and it's more believable for it. So many great tales. The Boogeyman, The Mangler, Quitters, Inc., Sometimes They Come Back....


But all that said, The Last Rung on the Ladder has a poignancy that brings tears to my eyes to this day; He managed to make the despair of a promising life ruined draw breath with the subtlest strokes. It kept me from committing suicide as a teenager, and I'm forever thankful for the art and for the message.
posted by SaintCynr at 12:28 PM on October 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think that it's entirely possible that he wrote parts of it without thinking about how it might come across. If he did consider how it would be received, I'd bet his response would be, "Meh." He's got enough die-hard fans (myself included) to be able to write what he wants to write, without worrying about what anyone thinks. It seems like his strongest motivation to finish the series was his fear of dying and becoming another Chaucer, not creating something that will be remembered for its innovation instead of its weight.

Even though he's been there for years, he has been there as the creator, not a character. It's not an autobiography. It's supposed to be a work of fiction. For those of us who were disappointed in this move, there's not much we can do. I don't know about anyone else, but I hated that part of the Dark Tower. And I still read it - twice. Because I am one of those fans that has been completely addicted to Roland's story.

IMO, he gambled and lost. But what I think doesn't matter. Because, ultimately, you're right, cortex. He used a gimmick and it worked. He finished the series, and there are a lot of people that raved about it. When you look at the series as a whole, it's an amazing accomplishment. It's not perfect, but then, nothing is.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 12:37 PM on October 24, 2008


Amen. (Though Misery was pretty close.)
posted by cortex at 12:39 PM on October 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Daniel Craig would be a good Randall Flagg.
posted by FelliniBlank at 12:54 PM on October 24, 2008


Seconding the vote for Night Shift.
posted by maxwelton at 1:04 PM on October 24, 2008


The Dark Tower. Blasphemy! I'm serious though. It's bad, unoriginal, derivative fantasy. If you like it, try to get your hands on some good fantasy writing. King's version is just a weak imitation thereof, made all the worse because he clearly thinks it's Teh Greatest Thing EVAR. It gives me epic embarrasitis on his behalf.

Wow. Your comment (which simultaneously assumes your opinion is golden, and that everyone else's opinions just mean that they mustn't have read any "good fantasy") gives me epic embarrasitis on your behalf.

I've read a ton of fantasy, both good and bad, and I've seen very little which exceeds The Dark Tower in terms of worldbuilding, while still maintaining a visceral connection to our own world. The sense of displacement and growth in the first three books is remarkable, as is the fusion of a million disparate and blatantly modern influences into a coherent and meaningful world, one which is not just derivative of any particular one of those influences. I'll be the first to admit that King threw much of what he'd built away in favor of easier and more derivative choices during the later books, but even they had their moments, and the first three books are quite original.

At the very least, hardly anyone else has written fantasy which resonates so well with our modern myths as well as our ancient ones. King's comment about this ("There was review after review that said this can't be up to anything serious because it's so ephemeral, because he's talking about Excedrin") in the linked interview is very astute. In the early books of The Dark Tower, King takes ephemera from three different time periods in the same real-world city, compares and contrasts them with ephemera from two different time periods in an invented world, and uses them all to build something entirely different, over the course of a journey in which every one of those rules are broken down and must be collectively re-written by characters who share very little common ground.

The story which results is indeed derivative -- of Roland Deschain, Eddie Dean, Susannah Dean, Jake Chambers, and Oy of Mid-World -- but it's a lot more than a "weak imitation". For once, King really let the characters run the story, and as long as they were in charge, it was one hell of a tale.
posted by vorfeed at 1:21 PM on October 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


timetoevolve, see they botched it already. Slater as Dolan?? Bentley as Robinson??

I read the synopsis, and as usual, Hollywood has overthought it.

They did the same thing with The Mist and ruined it.
posted by bwg at 1:31 PM on October 24, 2008


I’m glad someone spoilered that for me before I dragged the wife to see it, as she’d have hated it. I wanted to see The Mist for the death of the entire world, not a cruel “doh!” moment for three people and then everythings all right.

Previosuly I've been all for unconventional endings and unusual story structures – it seems like Hollywood really went for them this year and fucked it up to the point where I'm thinking it was actually a bad idea.
posted by Artw at 1:39 PM on October 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, man, worst King? My vote goes to Gerald's Game, which is just horrifying in all the wrong ways.
posted by Skot at 1:58 PM on October 24, 2008


According to wikipedia Dreamcatcher has IT references, for those who like that kind of thing.
posted by Artw at 2:08 PM on October 24, 2008


Meta-King in the Dark Tower: I gave him points for his uncomplimentary, unlikable take on himself.

*** SPOILER ***

Also, for killing himself & writing the obituary.
posted by Pronoiac at 2:13 PM on October 24, 2008


“People seem to be coming around to the realization that he is an amazing storyteller,”

He is. But what’s irritating is he touches on some depth, but doesn’t sound it.
To wit:

“Some of the bits of the book that haunt me most are those like the Kid and Trashcan Man, and they're not usually the bit I've seen discussed.”

I agree. That’s what stood out for me in the Stand. It’s when he breaks from the sameness (ever notice he uses “proctor-silex” quite a bit? And other such things) that he gets interesting. I suppose he’s sort of world building. He’s so prolific that I suspect he has to use those touchstones as tools. ‘Write what you know’ I guess.

Still, where he does well is the cross between the mundane but edge psychological and the borderline supernatural - where it’s not exactly clear where one begins and the other ends.
(Like the paramilitary guys in the pink lacy stuff executing person after person like some weird game show)

But Matheson does that as well without getting maudlin (Uncle Stevie - etc. Jeezus he sounds like Stan Lee)

Is it possible to be Steven King anymore? I mean - given the state of literature. I don’t know if folks can make a living doing that anymore.
I consider King sort of the baseline of acceptable. There’s a lot of crap out there. And yet I see amazing stuff (online and elsewhere) that doesn’t look like it’s going to be published. I don’t know if anyone who’s a good storyteller can just do that without being a model or having some sort of ‘diet’ or fanatic partisan agenda or tell all scandal, etc.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:33 PM on October 24, 2008


So if Palin is Greg Stillson as a woman, who is Randall Flagg? Cheney? Rove? I wouldn't think that either of them would be worthy of the roll, but looking at the state of the country, I may have to give them more credit.

Bush is clearly Trashcan man.

I've always seen Lance Henriksen as Flagg, but I read the book 20 years ago when we were both quite a bit younger.
posted by quin at 2:37 PM on October 24, 2008


Just for the record, I still think the Dark Tower series over all is amazing. I'm mostly annoyed by how lame all the villains turn out in the end.
posted by Caduceus at 2:57 PM on October 24, 2008


"who is Randall Flagg?"

Just as it's tempting to want to personify all of the wonder of the world and the miracle that we're here, it's tempting to want to personify all that's bad and evil. Wrap it up in a convenient package, ripe for the blamin'. But the truth is that there is no explicit evil. Evil is done in small and subtle ways; it's in every corner we cut, every crippling self-doubt, every mind too afraid to pause and think before acting. We are all Randall Flagg. No one of us individually, but the whole of us and the concert of our actions.
posted by Eideteker at 3:20 PM on October 24, 2008


For a really long time, when people mentioned Ender's Game as a great novel for young adults, I thought they were talking about Gerald's Game.

Not the same.
posted by emd3737 at 3:24 PM on October 24, 2008


For a really long time, when people mentioned Ender's Game as a great novel for young adults, I thought they were talking about Gerald's Game.

Like Gerald's Game, only not spelled the same.

Not spelled the same, at all.
posted by spirit72 at 3:49 PM on October 24, 2008


I'm pretty sure he did acknowledge the debt to Poe in the story notes to "Dolan's Cadillac"
There was no acknowledgment in the edition I read. I looked hard for it because I couldn't believe he'd done such a blatant lift from Poe and I was hoping for some sort of back story.
posted by joaquim at 7:05 PM on October 24, 2008


I'm curious about the "uncle" persona. King wrote a glowing introduction to Harlan Ellison's book Stalking the Nightmare and obviously admires him. Since Ellison perpetuates the "Unca Harlan" thing on his fan site, I wonder if perhaps King isn't riffing off that somehow.

Truth be told, my father introduced me to the writing of both men and I still read everything by either of them. I generally enjoy it. The "uncle" thing, however, sets my teeth on edge.
posted by lilywing13 at 7:17 PM on October 24, 2008


"We are all Randall Flagg."

I'm going to kick my ass then. Because I've taken enough crap from me, and I'm not going to stand for it anymore.

I don't know, there was something iconic in Flagg. And in The Kid. He makes allusions to Starkweather, serial killers, all that. I think perhaps he's a tulpa or eregore in that way. Sort of how 'It' is.
But there seemed to be some allusions to Lovecraft there too.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:50 PM on October 24, 2008


I'd just like to say that the Marvel Comics version of Randall Flagg disappoints the shit out of me-- no offense intended to the artists involved. It's a fine piece of artwork, but that's not Randall Flagg.

Flagg's true menace, in my mind, was always his normalcy-- the fact that he could be any guy on the street, big smile, hail-fellow-well-met attitude. The Marvel version has too much "I'm crazy! Put me in one 'a them crazy buckets!" to be the Flagg that scared the shit out of me about ten years ago.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:15 PM on October 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Like a lot of teens, I went through a huge SK phase...started with my uncle's copy of The Shining and for a few years I read my way through every one of his books I could get my hands on. At some point, though, I realized that many of his novels (It and The Stand, especially) were far too long. When the special edition of The Stand came out, I couldn't believe they'd made it *longer*. And a lot of the supernatural shit started to seem hackneyed or just downright stupid...I came to enjoy the books/stories with few if any paranormal aspects; Cujo, The Long Walk, Shawshank. Eventually I gave up...I think the last book of his I read was Gerald's Game. I think his earlier stuff, before he got rich and famous and lazy and "above" editing, will stand up better over time.

His worst book? Of the ones I read I'd have to go with The Tommyknockers. Just pure, unadulterated shite from beginning to end. And I don't care what anyone says; It had one of the worst endings in literary history; group sex (with the group's childhood gal pal) to save the universe? Give me a break.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:45 AM on October 25, 2008


Oh, and IMHO the best part of The Stand is the first hundred-odd pages, when the virus is just spreading and spreading and spreading...
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:57 AM on October 25, 2008


My favorites of his books (and this probably seems crazy) are It and Needful Thing.

Whoa, man. Needful Things. Isn't that the one where the villain is defeated with shadow puppets?
posted by shakespeherian at 1:16 PM on October 25, 2008


Well in it the villain is defeated with tongues kissing.
posted by Artw at 3:09 PM on October 25, 2008


...in "It", that is.
posted by Artw at 3:09 PM on October 25, 2008


For the best of bestishness, I'd have to go with Mrs. Todd's Shortcut. I always thought it was the most beautiful thing he'd written, and I remember at the time I read it, I thought it was the most beautiful thing he would ever write. I'm not sure, but he might have said as much, but it was a long time ago, and I might have dreamed that part up. Stunning, short, perfect story.

I kind of liked the movie they made of The Mist. It wasn't perfect, but it was close. The ending was bleak, bleaker than King, which was pretty amazing in and of itself.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:38 PM on October 25, 2008


vorfeed: Sorry if I came across as Proclaiming From On High. That was just my opinion. It may just be that I don't like fantasy much. In which case (if you'd like to take it that way) please rewrite my comment as "The Dark Tower is a perfectly good exemplar of a basically crappy genre." And be reminded that this too is just my opinion. As far as your sacred cows are concerned, I'm a vegetarian.
posted by rusty at 1:35 PM on October 27, 2008


the best part of The Stand is the first hundred-odd pages, when the virus is just spreading and spreading and spreading...

Absolutely. You can't help but wonder what you'd do in that situation when you found out you were immune while everyone around you was dropping like flies.

And the tunnel scene? Total claustrophobic, 'fraid-of-the-dark, boogeyman freakout.
posted by bwg at 6:32 PM on October 27, 2008


the best part of The Stand is the first hundred-odd pages, when the virus is just spreading and spreading and spreading...

I'm finally reading World War Z, & the wave's encroaching. Perfect for Halloween. I'd recommend it.
posted by Pronoiac at 1:38 PM on October 31, 2008


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