"That's it. I'm done. Done writing books."
January 30, 2002 10:04 PM   Subscribe

"That's it. I'm done. Done writing books." After Stephen King publishes his next five new books, he's ending his career in publishing. Viewing his latest work as mere recycles of older novels that he has written, he's choosing to stop while he's at the top of his game rather than meet a grim end to his career. Are any fans of his work disappointed or do you feel satisfied with the body of work that he has created over his career?
posted by crog (68 comments total)
As long as he finishes the Dark Tower series, I'll be satisfied.
posted by jbelshaw at 10:08 PM on January 30, 2002

I don't cry over spilled hacks.

Wait, wait, no, I have a better one: When a hack stops hackin'... nah, nevermind.
posted by tweebiscuit at 10:11 PM on January 30, 2002

(Rereading my comment, I just want to apologize -- I suddenly realized the focus of the question that was being asked -- specifically, that it was for his fans -- and though I do think he's a hack, I'm sure the original poster doesn't want this thread hijacked by jerks like me. Sorry!)
posted by tweebiscuit at 10:13 PM on January 30, 2002

I was thinking the same thing, jbelshaw. I've always liked the Dark Tower series, even though I think many of his recent books have, well, not been my cup of tea. But I grew up on King...my Mom was a big fan, and his were some of the first "grown-up" books I read. He may not be the greatest writer, but he can tell the good story, on occasion.
posted by kittyloop at 10:24 PM on January 30, 2002

For the last, what, 30 years all he's done is write. Nearly every day. I don't believe he'll ever stop. I doubt he can.

ps-he's a hack :-)
posted by jpoulos at 10:25 PM on January 30, 2002

quit writing? riiiiight. heard that before.

now a TRUE king fan would be excited if the headline said, 'king vows to go back to heavy drinking and drug use'.

god. it would be wonderful. just like the old days.
posted by jcterminal at 10:28 PM on January 30, 2002

I heard his eyesight was fading fast. Perhaps that has something to do with it.

kittyloop, I have a soft spot for him for the same reason. My parents had all the books when I was a wee bairn, and I woudl sneak them to read.
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:28 PM on January 30, 2002

next five new books ... latest work ... mere recycles ... stop while he's at the top of his game rather than meet a grim end to his career.

posted by mlinksva at 10:37 PM on January 30, 2002

Mmmmmm, the Dark Tower series. As far as I'm concerned, he has no choice but to finish it. He has said in one of the Dark Tower intros that it's come to be the only thing he's ever written that is truly important to him; everything else is filler (he's a hack, but not the DT stuff).

Anybody want to read the
Dark Tower V
by Stephen King
Prologue: Calla Bryn Sturgis

posted by ashbury at 10:50 PM on January 30, 2002

I thought he should have quit after "The Stand". IMHO, he never came close to that again. I wish him well.
posted by scottymac at 10:51 PM on January 30, 2002

King isn't highbrow by any stretch of the imagination, and I'm not really excited by much of his work (excepting The Stand and The Dark Tower), but the man has a true gift. To create such a vast body of work is a feat unto itself, even if it does get a bit formulaic. My guess? This won't be retirement, rather it will be the birth of another psuedonym.
posted by hipstertrash at 11:08 PM on January 30, 2002

Once, in a creative writing class I was taking, somebody mentioned Stephen King's name and the teacher and most of the students rolled their eyes and made groaning and gagging sounds. I've often wondered how many of them hated his writing and how many hated his popularity.

I don't really know which it was, but if you can get an entire class of creative writing students to hate you, you must be doing something good.
posted by Bixby23 at 11:23 PM on January 30, 2002

"Stahl: Since 1974, people have paid good money for 32 novels, five collections of short stories, nine screenplays, and one non-fiction study of horror. Except for his birthday, the fourth of July, and Christmas, King writes for at least four hours every day." — from a 1997 King appearance on 60 Minutes.

What jpoulos said. What else could he possibly do? Although certainly he has nothing left to prove, that never stopped similar top-of-the-heap performers like Frank Sinatra and Michael Jordan from failing to quit while they were ahead. As for the eye trouble, he could be like Erle Stanley Gardner — in his own day, like King, both enormously popular and attacked as a hack — and have a trio of sisters take dictation and type and do his scretarial work.

[from the ESG link: "At the time of his death on March 11, 1970, Gardner was 'the most widely read of all American writers' and 'the most widely translated author in the world,' according to social historian Russell Nye."]
posted by LeLiLo at 11:32 PM on January 30, 2002

Assuming that those five books will include finishing out the Dark Tower series, it'll be interesting to see if his perspective holds when all of them are completed and published. I've only been a King fan for a few years, but the constant bleeding of the Dark Tower series into his other novels has simultaneously fascinated and annoyed me (see: Black House). I wonder if finally finishing the series will have a purging effect on his writing.

If he doesn't have a change of heart, though, I hope hipstertrash's guess is correct and he's just sneaking away from the brand name and all the baggage it carries.
posted by brookedel at 12:10 AM on January 31, 2002

Fine with me, as long as he doesn't go into screenwriting full time. His films - or at least the ones I've seen - have been real dogs. ;-P

Have to agree with hipstertrash; it may not be art, but King's work is compulsively readable. BTW, love the quote from the article: "I've seen it in my own work. People when they read 'Buick Eight' are going to think 'Christine.' It's about a car that's not normal, OK?" Ha!
posted by topolino at 12:14 AM on January 31, 2002

>His films - or at least the ones I've seen - have been real dogs. ;-P

But... but... I liked the "Langoliers" TV movie! (Bronson Pinchot as the psycho villain, yeah!)
posted by brownpau at 12:34 AM on January 31, 2002

brownpau, yer not right in the head.

Okay, I mean, Balkie, sure, that was a good thing. But not good enough.

(I'm still impressed that the short story managed to be as god-awful as the miniseries, though.)

Amen to Dark Tower, as well. And there have been a few really good books besides that. Just re-read Misery this week, on a whim, and it's still a good yarn. Maybe it's not art, but it's tasty.
posted by cortex at 12:55 AM on January 31, 2002

But if he stops writing, then the terrorists will have won!

*ahem*...sorry, couldn't resist...

As a teenager I loved reading Stephen King. The Shining and Salems Lot were the scariest books I had ever read. After a while I realised just how formulaic most of his books are, and I think the last one I read was The Tommyknockers, years ago. In many ways, his short stories were more interesting. Has there been a decent film adaptation of one of his novels that can stand up to Stand By Me or The Shawshank Redemption?
posted by salmacis at 1:02 AM on January 31, 2002

But who will defend us against the evils of Dean Koontz?

For that matter, are there any real good modern horror writers?
posted by fujikosmurf at 1:27 AM on January 31, 2002

salmacis, me too.

The Shawshank Redemption remains my favorite movie of all time, and not too many years ago I read the short story Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption (in Different Seasons I believe) and was surprised to find that it was, quite literally, a word-for-word version of the movie. Granted, Frank Darabont did a bang-up job directing the movie, but it was all King... all the scenes ...all the dialogue. Stand By Me, was also extremely close to it's text counterpart.

Really, you could have read the stories, or seen the movies and you would have gotten nearly as much out of both. The same cannot be said for many of Kings other novel/movie relationships.

I've always got the feeling that King's novels went a bit too deep... too descriptive. The only time I could get into most of them, was when I had hours upon hours per day to devote.

His short stories, IMHO, preserve the detail and quality of writing just as well, in about 500 less pages, and you usually get at least 4 good stories for the price of one novel.
posted by canoeguide at 1:43 AM on January 31, 2002

Yes, fujikosmurf! This might just be my irrational hatred of Dean Koontz talking, but if Stephen King's considered a hack, what on earth do you call Koontz?

And I enjoyed the movie adaptation of The Green Mile, although I liked the book better. The ending was a lot more bittersweet in print.
posted by brookedel at 1:58 AM on January 31, 2002

> if you can get an entire class of creative writing students
> to hate you, you must be doing something good.

Unless you're the professor.

> what on earth do you call Koontz?

More than one Koont.
posted by pracowity at 2:15 AM on January 31, 2002

According to the original LA Times story, King's last three novels will all be Dark Tower books.
posted by jjg at 2:36 AM on January 31, 2002

I'm not sure what percentage of his work this represents, but King has penned a few decent tales that I recall enjoying...

The Long Walk, Shawshank Redemption, The Body (Stand By Me), and The Talisman come immediately to mind. What were your favs?
posted by johnnyace at 2:45 AM on January 31, 2002

I consider myself a King fan, but one who hasn't read any of his standard "horror" fare. I agree with just about all the ones you mentioned, johnnyace. I'd add "The Eyes of the Dragon" as well. It feels like a children's book, but the story is actually pretty sophisticated. The first time I read it I couldn't put it down. (Incidentally, has anyone else who's read it thought that Peter and Thomas seem a lot like England's William and Harry?) That said, as long as he finishes The Dark Tower series, I'll be happy.
posted by web-goddess at 3:00 AM on January 31, 2002

it's funny that the majority of us all want the same thing.. we want him to finish dark tower. and if the last three novels really are dark tower books, then i'll be very much filled with joy.

i've always had a fondness for his short stories (they're what i read during my sophomore and junior years, during lunch and my free periods.). rage (though it's gotten him into some trouble.), apt pupil (though twisted), and the one about the people in the grocery store when the mutants took over... craziness.
posted by lotsofno at 4:04 AM on January 31, 2002

What were your favs?

I was going to say (sincerely), that I recently liked the one about the guy in a small New England town that discovers some kind of evil presence in this vacation house. Then I realized how snarky that would sound. But I did grow up with the Stand, etc. and I do have a soft spot. Excellent airport-bookstore fare.
posted by luser at 4:55 AM on January 31, 2002

funny how a man who is unarguably one of the best-selling authors in the world is called a hack.

there is a certain genius to his writing that i think is often missed, particularly by those who don't enjoy his earlier works in horror fiction.
posted by bwg at 6:03 AM on January 31, 2002

funny how a man who is unarguably one of the best-selling authors in the world is called a hack.

This is nothing new, really. Charles Dickens and Jane Austen were hacks themselves, but that doesn't mean that they weren't two of the most influential writers of their time.

King himself is no grand innovator with words, he's not the best writer of all time, and his plots are nothing short of being trite and unsophisticated. BUT due to his wide appeal and readership, I think you'll find his work to be remembered for generations. He may not have been the best writer of our generation, but surely he was the greatest.
posted by dogmatic at 6:31 AM on January 31, 2002

"funny how a man who is unarguably one of the best-selling authors in the world is called a hack."

yeah christ! that's like saying N'Sync has no musical talent.

posted by jcterminal at 6:33 AM on January 31, 2002

I must be the only person posting to this thread (maybe the only one period) who has read pretty much ALL of King's novels with the EXCEPTION of the Dark Tower books. Not sure why. Guess I'll hafta rectify that. Hope they publish an omnibus edition.

And if you look up "hack", you will find a picture of Dean Koontz. Or is it John Saul? Same diff.

Horror writers I recommend: Ramsey Campbell, Richard Laymon, Dan Simmons (also writes really good science fiction).

And I really do think King is more than a hack. He'll be one of those novelists like John O'Hara or Trollope -- you won't be reading him in a hundred years because of his deathless prose but because he paints vivid pcitures of his time and culture. (note to snobs: no, I'm not elevating King to the level of O'Hara & Trollope, I'm just saying no one goes rushing to these novelists for prosody tips)

But Dreamcatcher sucked.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 6:40 AM on January 31, 2002

by the time i was in the 8th grade, i'd read everything steven king had written up until that point. it was only when i brought The Exorcist home from the library that my folks put their collective foot down.

my readership dropped considerably in my later years, after i realized that his books always focused on a haunted [noun]: house, dog, car, etc. that being said, i loved It and The Stand, although on the first go through i would invariably read only the dialogue for the last 100 or so pages so i could speed to the end.

has anyone caught Rose Red on ABC? there was some buzz around the miniseries, but i just can't commit to three nights of regular TV viewing.
posted by brigita at 6:41 AM on January 31, 2002

> What were your favs?

Maybe the one about the big, scary doggie? Or maybe the one about the big, scary clowns? Though the one about the big, scary car was kinda scary. And then there was that big, scary hotel...

> funny how a man who is unarguably one of the best-
> selling authors in the world is called a hack.

Ask Barbara Cartland, "Author of over 700 books - 1 billion sold worldwide". Hell, ask Ronald McDonald.
posted by pracowity at 6:43 AM on January 31, 2002


Has there been a decent film adaptation of one of his
novels that can stand up to Stand By Me or The Shawshank Redemption?

I think the Shining definitely did. You mentioned the book in your post, but seemed to ignore it as a film.
posted by Sinner at 6:46 AM on January 31, 2002

Yeah, OK, point proven, not all best-selling, mass marketed things are great. But if I want to forget my troubles and enjoy what I'm reading? If I want to be compelled to stay up 'til the wee hours? Give me some King. Preferably the old stuff.
And the Rose Red miniseries, brigita? You're not missing much.
posted by allpaws at 6:50 AM on January 31, 2002

I loved his short story "The Mist," about a dense fog that overtakes a town and brings with it weird, pre-historic creatures. I think people get trapped inside a grocery store too. Everytime it gets really foggy out, I ALWAYS think of it. I also liked "The Jaunt," and the short story about the monkey with the cimbals...
posted by mariko at 6:56 AM on January 31, 2002

Do any colleges teach courses with King reading lists? If not, it can't be far off. I imagine his work will be canonized in the next 25 years. "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."
posted by uftheory at 7:10 AM on January 31, 2002

favorites...eye of the dragon, darktower series, insomnia, misery, skeleton crew, the stand, the shining.

as for king being a hack. maybe he isn't an outstanding wordsmith, maybe his mastery of the written word is not top echelon, but he can tell a damn good story (and if you've got a damn good story, why not tell it three or four times?). and that's a trade-off that has to be made a lot of the time. take infinite jest, for instance. dfw is a superb wordsmith, a master of the english language, which makes his writing interesting to read. but a storyline?
posted by carsonb at 7:13 AM on January 31, 2002

Any working writer is often, by necessity, a hack. It's an extremely tough, hardly lucrative business that requires an exceptional turnaround time and sometimes a tremendous speed. If you're getting paid a few pennies per word, then your options are to either find an editor who will pay a better word rate or to step up the output for economic survival. In the case of the latter, just look at the prolific work of Phillip K. Dick, who spent substantial portions of his life writing on speed to turn out sixty pages aday. Michael Moorcock claims that he has written entire book trilogies within the course of a week.

It is often the real hacks, the so-called writers, who couldn't write a piece to save their lives (let alone sell one), who attack hard-working guys like King because they clock in, turn out solid work and yet happen to make a mint from their diligence.

Incidentally, I'll be sorry to see King stop writing. But I don't think it will stick. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon showed a move towards the literary, The Green Mile and The Plant demonstrated an intriguing foci towards serial-oriented experiments.

Say what you want about King, but if you're down on him because he's a best-selling author, there's a numerous bunch of best-selling authors that you could suffer through. Clive Cussler, Danielle Steele and John Grisham come immediately to mind.

And I'll second web-goddess's recommendation of The Eyes of the Dragon, an interesting turn by King to fantasy. The reason it may seem like a children's book is because King wrote it for his daughter.
posted by ed at 7:15 AM on January 31, 2002

I want to buy John Ashcroft a copy of Cat's Eye.
posted by hotdoughnutsnow at 7:19 AM on January 31, 2002

Ah, Cat's Eye. Someone should tell Ashcroft that black cats aren't servants of the devil. Drew Barrymore is. How else can you explain Charlie's Angels?
posted by UnReality at 7:34 AM on January 31, 2002

I feel compelled (as a former king fan) to mention something that comes up invariably in every discussion regarding his work:

"The gunslinger "(1st part of the dark tower) was in my opinion a fantastic piece of fiction. By king's own account , it took upwards of 10 years to write (if I rememeber correctly). My parents bought me the hardback for my 15hth birthday (they had to go to a rare book store, I am sure a once in a lifetime experience for my parents : ). I loved it. I loved the post-holocost/thin overlapping worlds/old west feel. I loved the clever use of falconry. Damnit i loved this book. When King later states that the talisman was a prolouge of sorts to the dark tower series, i say to other fans " Who didn't know this?" I mean I really liked this book, okay?

The book goes paperback (by large demand), and sells like hotcakes.

"the drawing of the three" comes out. Interesting direction and premise. Roland loses some fingers (bad news for a gunslinger), takes on some new apprentices, and generally says "up your's" to the time travel paradox a la alternate timeline/ unicverse device. I didn't love it, but I liked it enough to read it a few more times later in life.

"the wastelands"....uh oh. Stephen took a little less time hacking this one out....and it shows. THis is starting to read a little too much like...well...everything else he is writing at the time. I won't go into the issues with this one, just believe me, the dialog has degenerated greatly, and he has adopted teh "little kid and pet (dog?)" device for bouancy in a ship that is going down.

"Wizard and glass".....
Please god make it stop. this came out , what ...13 months after the last one? Oh lord please, enough of everyone being Flagg. Enough of it all. please make it stop.

My point is this (i think , anyway):
If you look at the timeline of release for this series...and you look at actual quality of character development, dialog and entertainment...the creation time drops shaprly, and is followed closely by quality.

Soo whether he dies or stops writing or finishes the series, it is already dead. A once magic, living thing exists now only as a pale, desperate shadow of what it was before. For one reason or another, King has forgotten the face of his father , and now the story has died. Someone needs to turn of the respirator. King himself obviously lacks the power to save it, and the conviction to let it die.

Sorry about the long , rambling message, but damn it, he pissed me off. : )
posted by das_2099 at 8:05 AM on January 31, 2002

whoops, let's here it for spell-checking there son...
sorry about that.
posted by das_2099 at 8:07 AM on January 31, 2002

haha..."hear" i mean...sigh...ok, so I have invalidated anything I could have said by posting mistakes over and over.. I can live with that ... : )
posted by das_2099 at 8:08 AM on January 31, 2002

The Stand is still one of my favorite books, and I was immensely grateful that the movie (TV miniseries) version was good (not great, but good), and lacked the Boundless Suckage found in so many other movies from his work (see: Maximum Overdrive).

Dark Tower is another favorite, although I have been away from it for a while.

And I really liked The Plant, and would like to see him finish it.
posted by ebarker at 8:08 AM on January 31, 2002

jpoulos was right--the man was a writin' machine. I suspect, fiction or not, we'll be hearing from him for the rest of his life. You could call him a hack but one reason he was so popular is his gift for depicting contemporary Americana. I always liked his story of how, when he got the advance for Carrie after a stint of grinding poverty, he went right out and bought his wife...a hair dryer.
Kafkaesque, I realize now I'm old enough to be your father:

Go put the tools away.
posted by y2karl at 8:58 AM on January 31, 2002

BitterOldPunk: I must be the only person posting to this thread (maybe the only one period) who has read pretty much ALL of King's novels with the EXCEPTION of the Dark Tower books. Not sure why. Guess I'll hafta rectify that. Hope they publish an omnibus edition.

Nope, I tried reading one of the DT's and just couldn't bear it (but then I didn't like The Stand either, it just took too long to get where it was going, and the payoff wasn't nearly enough). I think it's sad that King is so blithely judged a "hack", when his good works are right up there with some of the best fiction around. His mundane works are at least reliably entertaining, and his better work (I tend to like his novellas and short stories in general) is thought-provoking, well-written and clever (Pet Sematary is a truly brilliant work, IMHO, the character studies are first-rate, and his talent for placing the reader in a character's mind and situation is displayed at its best). I suspect that people who call him a hack have either only read the lower-quality stuff, or are responding to his popularity rather than his work.

However, I'm not particularly sad he's stopping, I saw an interview recently where he talked about his fading eyesight, Dreamcatcher was written in longhand (which I suspect may be eyesight-related), and the last bunch of books, while entertaining as always (aside from the truly awful Insomnia and the painfully predictable Green Mile), don't have anything new to say. For the last little while it seems to me that he's been telling the same story over and over again, and it's starting to become too obvious for it to keep working. It is a shame though, it's the end of an era.
posted by biscotti at 9:01 AM on January 31, 2002

Well, as authors go, he is pretty much a rock star. It sounds to me like the next five books are the "farewell tour." And of course the next step after a brief hiatus is always the reunion tour.
posted by spilon at 9:02 AM on January 31, 2002

"The Mist" has haunted me for years. It ends with a father and son and some others escaping the grocery store to find a truck and venture into the mist, to see if the rest of the world is still there. To hell with the Dark Tower, I wish he'd finish that. Word on "The Jaunt" too. Also: the end of Insomnia makes me cry like a little girl with a skinned knee, every single time.

Another favorite is a short story called "Dolan's Cadillac", from Nightmares and Dreamscapes where a mild-mannered schoolteacher comes up with the Best. Revenge. Ever. after a mob hoodlum kills his wife. Not a horror story, but chilling in its way. The bad news: they're gonna make it a movie. The worse news: Stallone is supposed to play Dolan. *gack*

I too have read nearly everything SK's ever written, and remain firmly convinced that many of the people who don't like him feel that way because it's not cool to be a King fan---the same way it's not cool to be caught reading a book with the Oprah seal of approval on the cover. But to hell with that, too; SK paints people like no one else. Always slyly satiric... you can read King and feel superior to his characters sort of the same way you can stand in the middle of Target and feel superior to the people over at Wal-Mart: they're exactly like you, only a little less smart and a lot less savory.

Which may not be your thing, but it doesn't make the man talentless---it only makes him not your thing.
posted by Sapphireblue at 9:20 AM on January 31, 2002

Like kittyloop and a few others in this thread, Stephen King was my introduction to grown-up books as well which usehered in a lifetime love of books, for which I am eternally grateful. His later stuff is not as good as his early stuff, but who's is? King always had a knack for non-condescending portrayals of prosaic Americans(sorry Sapphireblue, You've got it wrong.)So, thanks Mr. King and enjoy your retirement.

Also, someone mentioned David Foster Wallace earlier. For the record DFW considers King "underrated" and that there's "a lot going on there" in his work.
posted by jonmc at 9:49 AM on January 31, 2002

I have to agree about The Mist, that story scared the hell out of me.

Maybe King will revive Richard Bachman again, although the last Bachman book was supposedly "discovered" in an attic after Bachman's death, whose to say that King won't invent another pen name.

My particular favorites were The Stand, It, Skeleton Crew, Different Seaons, The Tommyknockers, Pet Sematary, Misery, Rose Madder, but I have to agree with most: I read Dreamcatcher this summer, and there are no words to describe the level of supreme suckage. I felt like I wasted a week of my life.
posted by Benway at 9:51 AM on January 31, 2002

I've never cared much for King's writing, probably because I've never cared for horror writing. I did enjoy his "On Writing" however. King says,"You get to a point where you get to the edges of a room, and you can go back and go where you've been and basically recycle stuff." Now if he would only tell Sue Grafton, "Q is for Quit" would be a great title.
posted by onegoodmove at 9:51 AM on January 31, 2002

I started reading Stephen King novels when I was seven. They were a forbidden treat. By the time I was ten, I had read everything he'd written up to that point, until Salem's Lot freaked me out so much that I couldn't finish it (I finished it a few years later, when I was a little older. I've basically kept up with him, except I've never read any of the Dark Tower series (though I've read Eyes of the Dragon and loved it - does that count?). The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon should have been a short story. Bag of Bones was excellent.

My favourite thing about King is not his plots, it's his characters. Nothing is creepier than reading about a guy talking to his neighbor while they clean up their yards after a storm (something I was just doing an hour ago), and feeling the chill creep up your spine as they watch the mist creep across the lake. They're guys you know. In a town that looks like the one you live in right now. It's like hearing scary music when you're watching a movie - nothing happening at the moment, but the music tells you it's coming.

So I unabashedly love Stephen King, and feel he's written enough that if he stops now, there's still probably fifteen books of his I haven't read yet, and unaccountable short stories.
posted by annathea at 10:11 AM on January 31, 2002

"Well, as authors go, he is pretty much a rock star."

spilon: He is a rock star.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:30 AM on January 31, 2002

all-time favorite King creep-out: his short story The Boogeyman.

gah—the short recaps of the favorites on this thread is making me want to go back and reread at least a dozen books! so much for getting caught up on my 10-year-old English Lit 101 reading list...
posted by brigita at 10:33 AM on January 31, 2002

I haven't read Stephen King in a long time, but my favorites were The Dead Zone, The Shining, and It. His short stories are usually good. I gave up on him with Tommyknockers; more of the same, and too many exploding heads.

He seems to be modest; I saw a quote where he descibed himself as "the Big Mac and fries of American literature."

I love the movie The Shawshank Redemption, but I haven't read the original story.

And I think he's likely to change his mind about retiring between now and the time he finishes writing five books. Either that, or he'll retire sooner. It's kind of a silly self-imposed deadline.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:34 AM on January 31, 2002

I saw an interview recently where he talked about his fading eyesight, Dreamcatcher was written in longhand (which I suspect may be eyesight-related)

He wrote Dreamcatcher in longhand because he was flat on his back with a broken pelvis (among other injuries) after being nearly killed by driver who hit him while he (King) was walking along a country road near his camp.  (Camp = Maine word for summer or vacation home, usually on a lake).

He simply couldn't sit up for long periods to type.

I'll be very surprised indeed if this turns out to be true - after all, as the man himself says "I'm always saying I'm going to stop, and then I don't". On the other hand, its clear that his outlook on life has changed very dramatically since the accident - as I'm sure yours or mine would as well.

I'm really surprised to read so many here calling him a "hack". Yes, his quality is uneven. Yes, his output is huge. But his best works - in particular many of the short stories - all share that rarest of qualities - he writes in a definite, clear, identifiable voice, and he writes people who talk like people I know and who act like people I know.

Plus, when I was thirteen, a friend gave me a little book called The Stand to read when I was recovering from pneumonia ....
posted by anastasiav at 10:48 AM on January 31, 2002

Count me in with those who have read everything by Stephen King except his Dark Tower series. I plan on doing so, however, especially after reading Black House and finding Dark Tower connections in that.

As SapphireBlue said, he may just not be your thing. I, personally, love him. I think he's a fabulous writer with interesting, complicated and complete stories. The only exception to this for me was Dreamcatcher which I thought was boring and didn't really go anywhere.

I loved It, Bag of Bones, Dead Zone (which he refers to as one of his favorites in On Writing), Hearts in Atlantis and on and on.

I'll miss him when he stops writing. I may have to actually return to doing real work then.
posted by Zosia Blue at 11:02 AM on January 31, 2002

i think he's written some good films ... 'stand by me' is a film i think every kid could relate to in some way. 'shawshank redemption' is another i enjoyed. true, there've been a few dogs (the green mile seemed kinda ... uh, yeah) and a few adaptations of his books/stories have been weak, (whoever made 'the mangler' needs to be beaten severely for that waste of film ... as well as 'the dark half') -- but 'children of the corn' was one of the few horror films that truly freaked me out, and i loved 'misery.' but i like james caan, so it could be attributed to that.

and, despite the fact that kubrick changed some things to make it better, he's still mostly responsible for 'the shining.'
posted by aenemated at 12:20 PM on January 31, 2002

Is this like when Johnny Carson decided to retire from the Tonight Show, and therefore left the King Of Late Night Crown up for grabs? So it's gonna be Koontz and who else vying for the mantle of Best Horror Hack Writer?

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
posted by ZachsMind at 2:10 PM on January 31, 2002

I really like Stephen King books. The ones I like best are the ones that start out basically like this: Here's two normal guys doing normal guy stuff. Here's a bit more normal stuff. Now this is a tad bit odd, isn't it?

And then he proceeds to dish out a huge steaming pile of heebie-jeebies not felt since the last time you read a King book. He has a knack for vividly illustrating real life. Not everyone can. And I feel like I've been to the east coast after reading all those books, too. (:
posted by verso at 4:05 PM on January 31, 2002

Stephen King and Clive Barker got me into horror and it'll be a true shame to see King put down his pen. Reading Salems Lot at an early age has given me a healthy respect for vampires that lasts to this day.

But my fovourite work is the Dead Zone, both the book and the film. Also happens to be one of Christopher Walken and David Cronenbergs better films.
posted by spinifex at 11:46 PM on January 31, 2002

Stephen King is one of the best writers in the English language. Very, very few writers equal his mastery of characterization. IMHO his best "character study" novel is It, which makes the character description and development in most "classics" (Dickens, Eyre, Melville, etc) read like the telephone directory in comparison.

Just because the proles like something doesn't mean it is bad (or good). Also, most books considered "classics" today were written when there weren't many other writers about. They were the best of a much, much smaller pool.

posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:10 AM on February 1, 2002

Afraid I never read much King, with the exception of the Dark Tower books, which I am immensely fond of. I certainly think that as an author he has demonstrated a peculiar genius at isolating ( sublimating even ) societal/cultural fears and obbsessions ( this observation from film adaptions of his work, I admit ). Extremely glad that he is finishing the Dark Tower series. I wonder which of his books will be read in a hundred years, if any.

Charles Dickens and Jane Austen were hacks themselves...

You are an illiterate idiot, dogmatic, IM(not so)HO.
posted by Hypnerotomachia at 6:42 AM on February 1, 2002

Sorry to chatter away, just have to query a disturbing thread in one of two comments here - have any of you actually READ Dickens' novels, or are you all just slagging him off for lack of knowledge of other prolific, well-liked historical authors? Popularity and financial success as a living author do not diminish his or her artistic and literary merits. And just for the record: any sentence which includes Melville and Dickens seperated only by a comma is a sentence of deeply suspect aesthetic credibility.

Sheesh! Kids today will compare anything. What's next - a serious examination of the Simpsons as successor to Shakespeare?
posted by Hypnerotomachia at 6:57 AM on February 1, 2002

aeschenkarnos: Have you ever considered a career in comedy? I haven't stopped laughing since your last comment.
posted by jpoulos at 10:59 AM on February 1, 2002

His style's definitely getting repetitive, but did anyone else thing Bag of Bones was AMAZING? Dreamcatcher was pretty bad, but he's always come out with mediocre stuff every once in a while, and that was written under such weird circumstances that I don't think you can really compare it with the rest of his work. I think he's right to go out on top, but I'm really gonna miss waiting for his latest books to go to paperback.
posted by captain obvious at 7:14 AM on February 4, 2002

oh - sidenote (I read the other comments later). stephen king should not be taken that seriously! he's just a great storyteller. comparing him to dickens is like comparing '80s spielberg to hitchcock.
posted by captain obvious at 10:34 AM on February 4, 2002

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