Friday, November 03, 2006

Lisey's Story

Stephen King's new novel, Lisey's Story, is featured in Powell's Review-A-Day today. I have to admit, I do recognize myself in Ron Charles' review, from the Washington Post Book World:
"Admit it: You've been a horrible snob about Stephen King. You've rolled your eyes at passengers on the Metro reading Pet Sematary. You've told your son to put down Salem's Lot and get a real book. When King won a lifetime achievement award from the National Book Foundation, you gleefully quoted Harold Bloom's crack about this new "low in the shocking process of dumbing down our cultural life."

Well, suck it up. Even that faint praise about how you can appreciate him for being good at "what he does" isn't going to cut it anymore. With Lisey's Story, King has crashed the exclusive party of literary fiction, and he'll be no easier to ignore than Carrie at the prom. His new novel is an audacious meditation on the creative process and a remarkable intersection of the different strains of his talent: the sensitivity of his autobiographical essays, the insight of his critical commentary, the suspense of his short stories and the psychological terror of his novels. (And yes, a few hairy monsters.) They're all evoked here in this moving story about the widow of a famous writer trying to lay her grief to rest."
I don't think I've read anything by King since thumbing through one of his short story collections in, what, elementary school? And the great films people have made from his books (The Shining, Stand By Me, The Shawshank Redemption, Misery) just confirm my opinion, as don't pulp books make the best films? The Godfather is the prime example of this: so-so source material spun into cinematic gold.

But in my defence, his books just aren't my thing. I would never diss someone for reading his books. And he is great at "what he does." Many of the pretentious literary folk I enjoy reading could learn something about crafting a strong narrative from King (or, ahem, so I'm told.)

The danger in a book like Lisey's Story of course is King getting out of what he does well. However, there are a number of very positive reviews out there already, so apparently King can do it all.


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