Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Stephen King on Twilight

Stephen King raised a few eyebrows recently by claiming that Stephanie Meyer, author of the popular 'Twilight' series of books, doesn't deserve to inherit J.K. Rowling's 'teen queen' crown.
"Both Rowling and Meyer, they're speaking directly to young people... The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can't write worth a darn. She's not very good."
Having just read Stephen King's memoir, On Writing, I am no stranger to the caustic remarks he reserves for some overrated authors (along with praise for his favorites.)

However this assassination is particularly interesting, since Stephanie Meyer's 'Twilight' series of books take more than a few pointers from King himself - He's not credited nearly often enough with reinventing the vampire genre in his 1975 novel 'Salem's Lot.

That being said, his attack on Meyer wasn't as brutal as it could have been - he gives her kudos for (bad?) writing that still proves incredibly compelling for its intended audience:

"She's writing to a whole generation of girls and opening up a kind of 'safe' joining of love and sex. It's exciting and it's thrilling, but it's not particularly threatening because it's not overtly sexual."

"A lot of the physicality is conveyed in ways, for example, like how the vampire will touch [Bella's] forearm or run a hand over her skin, and she just flushes all hot and cold. And for girls, that's a shorthand for all the feelings that they're not ready to deal with yet."

I find the whole spat rather fascinating, since King's attack on Meyer mirrors many criticisms made about his own writing over the years. Stephen King is a simply brilliant author, but for decades, his writing was dismissed as populist 'schlock' because it had the audacity to sell well.

It seems there's still a certain snobbery in the publishing industry - books that appeal to a wide audience and sell well are never taken seriously by the literati. There's 'literary' fiction (the stuff that wins Booker prizes) and 'popular' fiction (the stuff that sells millions of copies.) A powerful lobby within the publishing industry makes sure that 'never the twain shall meet.'

Stephen King represents just one of the authors who bridges the divide between literary and populist fiction. Books like The Dark Tower and The Stand are astonishingly complex masterpieces that just happen to appeal to a huge audience.

Seeing how King has been dismissed so often for his popularity, it seems somewhat unsportsmanlike to lay into Stephanie Meyer for exactly the same reason!

But then again, even by the most generous standards, Stephanie Meyer is no Stephen King.


Brit' Gal Sarah said...

I totally agree with him and stopped after the first book, especially after I read the worsening reviews of books 3&4 on Amazon! JK is another far superior league.

paisley penguin said...

I just finished Twilight last night. I have a couple of friends who were raving about the books. Since I am on a book buying hiatus and rarely buy a book I would not enjoy re reading (yes I really do that) I wanted to borrow it. My friend lent me her copy.

I live in Washington state so there is a little bit of a draw there although I am pretty far from Forks. The closest I have been is Port Angeles.

It took a while for me to get in the the book. I really thought Stephanie's idea of this "clan" of Vampires was pretty interesting.

I am not over the moon about this book but I am curious to enough to read the rest of them. I have also read all of the Harry Potter books and I really think they are not that similar to each other and can't really be compared.

Amalthea said...

I've read her entire series and I completely agreed with King by midway through Book 2. I wanted to stop reading them... but I just can't when they're free to read and I already started.

However, if I had gotten my mits on her books at 12? Heaven on earth, I just know it. I was reading King by 10, Anne Rice by 14. Meyer would have been the perfect tweener author for me, though I like to think even my 12-year-old self would have wanted to slap Bella all the way through Book 2.

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