For your approval: The Neo-Whig Manifesto
I don't agree with every plank on the platform, but on the strength of numbers nine and ten, I'd gladly run for Rutherford County Fifth District Assistant Property Tax Assessor under the Neo-Whig Party banner.
I will take a moment to comment on the Stephen King/Thomas Pynchon statement. I'll agree that high culture is better than popular culture, on the whole, and that in the long term of things, Pynchon will probably be read in school books a hundred years from now when Stephen King will be nothing but dust.
However, cheering for globalization (Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Barnes & Noble, etc.), while sneering at Stephen King (and I'm assuming other popular writers like John Grisham and Patricia Cornwell) is contradictory because King and the others are only doing in the literary world what Coca Cola and Starbucks have done on the retail environment. They have their names out there where they're recognizable, and therefore become more easily accessible to the general public.
What we all need to remember is this: Just because they're everywhere doesn't necessarily they're better, guys. That works for brand names and for fiction writers. Hostess Fried Pies, as an example, are good. But if you've ever partaken of a Tasty Cake/Kake brand fried pie, you know what I'm talking about here. And I agree that just because John Grisham is the pop culture representative for Southern Fiction, and as such is everywhere, that doesn't necessarily make him better than Joe Lansdale
But, let me also take a moment to take issue with is how it's become the cool thing to bash Mr. King of late.
Stephen King's name is everywhere, from the big cardboard cutout displays you find in Waldenbooks to the checkout line at your local grocery.
That ubiquity, I think, is the genesis of the anti-King sentiment.
One reason is sour grapes, I think. A lot of folks who consider themselves literary enthusiasts are elitist. And the mantra of the elitist lies somewhere along the lines of: "If a bunch of folks like it, then it's gotta be dumbed down enough for those bunch of folks to like it." It's easy to sneer at something that's sold at checkout lines, too. I saw a copy of Dreamcatcher
on the line at Food Lion the other night, right above the rack where the Weekly World News headline blared: "Saddam in Love with Osama."
I'm guessing that the same level of reader expected to buy The Star and Weekly World News is equitable, in the minds of many, to the person who buys Dreamcatcher
at the Food Lion checkout line.
I don't know what fraction of this group (I'm a perhaps unfairly calling elitist) also writes, and is a little jealous of King's exposure and monetary success. That's another factor, I'm fairly certain.
Also, there's a guy. Sometimes it's a girl. But for conversation, I'll say guy. I don't know if everybody knows the guy, but a lot of you who read a lot know this guy: He's the guy who's read King's The Stand
14 times and can count the multiples of times he's read a lot of King's books. And he has the audacity to talk about his "love affair with the written word."
I have met this guy.
Hell, I've read The Stand
3 times in 14 years. I may be
But the guy reads nothing else. A lot of writers have cult followings. Anne Rice, Brian Lumley, Anne McCaffrey, Tom Clancy, and the aforementioned Grisham and Cornwell to name a few. I knew a girl who had read everything Anne Rice had written. In addition to those books assigned in school classes, those were the only books she had ever read.
And that's sad.
She was robbing herself of so many other great things going on with the whole literature thingamajig.
This probably goes back to that whole John Stamos entry I had a few days ago. But too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, especially if you're only doing that one good thing and nothing else. I like apples. But if I ate nothing but apples, it would end up harming me in the long run.
I don't want to poop on the anti-King argument, altogether, however. I really feel like the 90's were an abyss when it came to King's work. He wrote a lot of crap
in the 90's. Among the turds: Gerald's Game
, Delores Claiborne
and the twinpack of Desperation
and The Regulators
. Sadly, I count Dreamcatcher
among the turds, as well.
But his book deals kept getting larger and larger. I'd assume because his sales were getting likewise larger and larger.
Something just hit me: I wonder how many people were (and are) buying his books and just letting them sit there. Buying them because they are
ubiquitous and they feel like they aren't part of the crowd if they don't have them.
A few, I'd say.
A last anti-King point. He rambles, sometimes. He likes to immerse himself in the sound of his own voice sometimes, meandering around a scene, never really describing it, and doing so at the expense of character and event. A lot of the time even I will find myself wishing he'd just get to the frigging point.
I like Stephen King. I'll read his stuff. Generally, I'll like his characters. I especially like the Dark Tower series, though I'm a little peeved at this six/seven year wait between books. Makes the Harry Potter wait seem a commercial break.
I think he's underrated as an oral storyteller, though. Try listening to a Stephen King book. He's got a good ear for conversation and he's developed a decent voice letting a story unfold by itself. I think his best books are his truly fantastical works like the Dark Tower books. The Shining
and The Stand
are, in my mind, two of his best.
I've taken so long to mention Pynchon in my little rambling diatribe because I've only read a couple of Pynchon's books. V
and most of Gravity's Rainbow
. The latter went missing from my locker at work one day last fall, after a sweep by the loss prevention guy. Nobody took credit for removing my book, which I assume was removed before the LP guy got there, so that it wouldn't be thought that I'd stolen it. The receipt from the book store was being used as the book mark. I'm still a little stung by that. I've never gotten back to finishing it.
I enjoy Pynchon. I think he's one of the gifted writers of our time. His imagery is what impressed me so much in V
And I get the point that some probably would call hypocritical on my part, though I don't think it is. V
is largely an argument against mediocrity. In the eyes of many, Stephen King is a mediocre writer.
Is Thomas Pynchon a better writer? Yeah. I'd say so. I don't know that he's a better storyteller, though. And I think that's the speed bump. Storytelling's a vastly underrated artform nowadays. It's too easy, I guess. Though if you've ever tried writing a lengthy story down, you can see how frustrating it can be. And if there was anything lacking in V
, it's that is seemed to lack a good flow. I'm not talking about plot. I'm talking about a reasonable progression from point A to point B, and how Pynchon's book lacked it. Kept it from being a great book, and instad just making it a good book.
Anyway. Stop crapping on Stephen. He's not hurting you any. Just ignore the person who reads only
Stephen King, and we'll be alright. That person bugs me just as much, and if I with what little patience I have can ignore him, so can you.
(Lastly, credit goes to Tainted Bill
for pointing me toward the manifesto).