His stories are good, but is he really a good writer like Shakespeare or are only his ideas good like J.K. Rowling.
He doesn't write great literature. But, at his best, he wrote suspenseful tales of horror and mystery. Like Rowling or Ruth Rendell or any genre writer, it's about how enjoyable the read is, not necessarily how great the writer is.
Yes he is. He is good at character development and is excellent at writing for the underdogs and geeky kids like Arnie in "Christine" and all the kids in "It". He was excellent in "Cujo" writing from Cujo's perspective and all the other characters down to Tad. His books seem formulaic lately but I still love his characters.
No, Stephen King is not a good writer. I don't even think he's that creative (neither is Rowling), but your mileage may vary.
Yes. And no.
He is good at what he does.
I think like any writers he's had his hits and misses, I think for the most part he's good although his novels always seem to drag in places and be a bit to long.
r8 I agree with you about the endings, they are always bad and I only read them to finish the book even though I know I will require much suspension of disbelief. He does get good ideas and tends to get derailed. I remember when I was reading "Desperation" I thought it was great and that if he would have just gone with the idea of a huge, crazy cop randomly killing people it would have been scary as hell and a good novella.
Some of his stuff is just plain terrible (maximum overdrive anyone?) his dark tower series is pretty creative.
King is one of the best at replicating a person's inner monologue--not just with the words he uses, but with the typography as well. That makes him a vert accessible writer, if not necessarily a great one.
Doh. A "very" accessible writer, not vert.
Although he could be green. And French. I don't judge.
King will be forgotten in a couple of generations. He is an adequate writer. He is not a great writer.
No. Not at all.
But he plays into people's fears and prejudices quite well. A lot of his books have underpinnings of homophobia, for example. He's also good at exploiting childhood fears that played into "magical thinking'. His stuff can be entertaining, but he's actually a terrible writer in some respects.
Here's the opening passage of "The Gunslinger"; judge for yourself.
[quote]The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.
[quote]The desert was the apotheosis of all deserts, huge, standing to the sky for what might have been parsecs in all directions. White; blinding; waterless; without feature save for the faint, cloudy haze of the mountains which sketched themselves on the horizon and the devil-grass which brought sweet dreams, nightmares, death. An occasional tombstone sign pointed the way, for once the drifted track that cut its way through the thick crust of alkali had been a highway and coaches had followed it. The world had moved on since then. The world had emptied.
I think of King, Norman Rockwell and Steven Spielberg as being 3 of the most important figures in shaping post war middle class Americas image of itself. Each offered a highly stylized/idealized portrayal of American life that, despite being often totally sentmental & unrealistic, still resonated powerfully with audiences as "real".
popular doesn't mean good, no not a great writer. A writer for the masses, not really literature.
Once in a while he will write something that's really inspired, but most of the time, his characters are one dimensional and generally you can feel the heavy hand of the author manipulating them just to get to the ending.
When he does let go of the cliches, the work is really good, The Stand, a few of his short stories and I thought 11/22/63 was really an example of him reaching for the stars.
Heath was much better.
He has a great imagination. His writing, though, is intrusive. He tends to remind you that you are reading a Stephen King novel.
I agree R8, he cannot end a story well. He builds suspense well and creates an intense atmosphere but the payoff is often corny. He also develops characters well in that what they think and say is believable even when what they do is insane. But while the personalities are sometimes outrageous, they're not... "strong". I don't know how to put it. You know how in fan fiction someone can take a popular character and imagine a further storyline for them or create a new one? How would you do that with one of King's characters? They are there to further the plot and not much else.
His wife...do they live together? She's scary looking.
I loved his books as a teen, particularly his earlier novels and short stories, but I drifted away after Dolores. More recently, I tried to pick up a King book my father recommended and couldn't get through fifty pages. He's a homophobe and a hack.
r37 AFAIK they live together. He also tries to pimp out Tabby's books all the time like Jonathan Kellerman does with his wife.
I think he's better than he thinks he is, he called himself the Big Mac of literature.
He has a good ear for dialogue, particularly with his young characters. Some of his work has been pretty good, the rest not so much.
He's not Danielle Steele awful.
R20 should give back his Masters.
Used to be.
R40...you've VERY wrong. Homophobia is present in many of his books. This only changed after Naomi came out. She's extremely political, and it changed things considerably. I KNOW her, so please don't bother. Even the book "It", which included aspects of the Charlie Howard murder, used homophobia to titillate the readers.
My favorite books of his are "Misery" and "Dolores Claiborne," both very well-written.
I think he's great. Not always excellent (he has this way of trying to introducenew slang that never works) but he is good at what he does. Yes, IT was very homophobic (the gays were victims but as Time magazine stated, it made homosexuality look worse than torturing kittens) but thatw as 27 years ago. A person's attitudes can change.
Any examples besides IT?
Maybe IT was a misfire, otherwise, why make homosexuals sympathetic, i.e., "victims"?
The lesbian in "The Stand" was pretty cool, sacrficing herself so that she wouldn't be tortured for info.
He sure ain't no Paul Sheldon.
I liked Cell to a degree. But King has a hard time writing compelling ending to his novels.
I'm surprised Under the Dome is getting the miniseries treatment before Cell (better as a feature) which has been stuck in preproduction for ages.
Desperation etc. were awful.
While he's nowhere near the best writer in America, he's still my favorite by far. When he's at his best, he has the innate ability to completely immerse the reader into the story elements. When he's at his worst (rambling), he makes the reader want to skip entire chapters. The dark humor that tinges all of his writing is my absolute favorite thing about him, and he writes amusing dialogue.
I've read almost everything that he's published sans a few random novels that I could never get into, but his best writing is in his short stories. The Night Shift collection is superb, particularly Strawberry Spring, I Know What You Need, and Children of the Corn (MUCH better and darker than the corny movie and its worse remakes).
As for homophobia in his writing, I've never seen it personally, although I do think he's religiousphobic... Or at least Fundiephobic.
I think his prolificacy has impacted whether or not he's a "good" writer. He's had a lot of really outstanding work, but for every The Shining, Pet Semetary, or Misery; there's always a Tommyknockers, Insomnia, or Dreamcatcher.
I think I am the only person who liked Tommyknockers.
Some people who work under his name are good writers; some are not. Stephen King is likely a brand, not an author.
The Talisman starts off very good...
who the hell mentioned that Steven Spielberg shaped post war america? Spielberg is the most over rated egomaniac in Hollywood. He takes credit for other's talent which he uses and lays blame on them when things fail.
r57 = the screenwriter of "Always".
R57, if you would have actually read that post, you would have seen that it wasn't really complimenting him.
He has his flaws (can't end stories), but King is a good writer. He can tell a good story.
It depends..I do wish he would write more non-fiction, though, I love Danse Macabre.
FEAR is in most Stephen King books. Given what the word "homophobia means in a etymological sense, why WOULDN'T it be there (esp. since he's an American writer)?
By the way, you find a lot of homophobia in those Friday the 13th movies too.
"Big Driver" was a novella in the very recent "Full Dark, No Stars" and had a HORRIBLE stereotype of a lesbian being this evil shrew who loved to set up straight women to get raped by her nutzo son. The 3rd-person protagonist/narrator of the story seemed to agree that lesbians were "the type" to take joy in watching straight women get brutally attacked.
Fuck him. So what if he has liberal bona fides with his radio station and his out daughter. From an objective standpoint, his writing is decent, but his characters are flat and his protagonists are Gary Stu-ish, and he's a bit of a sexist who assumes women are always stay-at-home moms unless they're single childless losers. Pass.
His book "On Writing" is fantastic, which makes me wish he would write more non-fiction.
"Needful Things" is hatefully homophobic. "It" is hardly better. But those were written a long time ago. I don't hold it against him.
He is a masterful storyteller. His major weakness: the endings of far too many of his novels, many of which are dreadful letdowns after amazing set-ups.
I haven't read "11/22/63", but it got superb reviews and made several top-ten lists of 2011, including The New York Times Book Review. I've been told King didn't fuck up that ending. And I liked what he did with "Under the Dome", which felt like a return to solid form after some misfires.
So, to answer the question: Yes.
R64 gets it... He's an excellent writer with some lapses. And "On Writing" is really outstanding.
By the way, R64, I've read 11/22/63 and it's great... except for the ending.
His wife worked at Dunkin' Donuts before he made it big.
R63--I agree with you about "Big Driver." When I read that, I remember how he described the character of Ramona as (to paraphrase) "not just a lesbian, but a DYKE lesbian." Sensible shoes, mannish haircut and all. I'm not disagreeing that masculine lesbians exist, but I have to wonder about his daughter's reaction to reading that characterization. It implied that Ramona lesbianism was a symptom of her extreme abnormality.
I also wondered about his daughter's reaction to the scene in "It" where the simulacrum of the female character's father starts screaming at her, "I beat you because I wanted to FUCK you, yummy-yummy in my tummy, ooh" or whatever the hell he said. That was REALLY creepy. If I'd read that when I was 14 (which was his daughter's age when he wrote it) I would have started locking my bedroom door at night. Horrible.
In addition to The Shining and Salem's Lot, I also really loved The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. It's very underrated. His memoir/guide to writing (Stephen King On Writing) is also very good.
The ending to IT was cringeworthy. SPOILER************That pre-teen gangbang?****************Yuck and WTF?!
I loved Pet Sematary -- that ending was not forced and seemed like the natural conclusion of the story.
r64 I haven't read Needful Things in many years, what was homophobic about it? I don't remember anything about it except the Elvis glasses and the arthritic woman..oh and Wilma.
Well, he's no Orson Scott Card, that's for sure!
The Shining was brilliant, but Duma Key was average, with a stupid nonsense ending. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too long, as well. Which is just about all of his books, IMO. It's like the man is in love with the sound of his own inner voice.
But he is a genius at creating stories that resonate with everyday people, and coming up with scary hooks.
R70, I agree. The ending of Pet Sematary is perfect, in my opinion, and probably one of the, if not the best ending he's ever written.
It's arguably my favorite of his books.
Trashcan Man in the Stand, with the whole barrel of a gun rape thing, was another queer psycho in his work.
Carrie was brilliant, all the rest, no so much. And by "not so much," I mean, he's been riding off Carrie for the last 40 years.
Everyone should read APT PUPIL. It is unbelievably good. The film, less so.
R67...even creepier is the fact that his daughter was very open about the fact that she was molested by an 'adult relative', whom she would not name.
R62...you're kidding, right? So it's okay to perpetuate homophobia to make a buck in the horror genre? You have a serious lapse in ethics.
"So it's okay to perpetuate homophobia to make a buck off it in the horror genre"?
Good grief, Judy Butler, calm the eff down. Since King has apparently tried to cram the entire spectrum of human personality and mannerism into his work, you think angry lesbians aren't going to be in the work? You don't think sexual perverts are going to be in his catalogue?
You can't cycle through a woman's studies course and think that's set you up to be a literary critic.
Thank you [R17] for your sharing that excerpt. I have always wondered why King chose horror as his genre when he writes so well and could absolutely do more "serious literature."
If his detractors actually took the time to READ his BOOKS rather than basing their misjudgments based upon films of his works, which can never convey the way King gets inside the head of the reader and rearranges things at his will, they would realize what a treasure he is.
"used homophobia to titillate the readers."
I didn't see it that way. In IT, he compares violent homophobes to Pennywise, almost as if hatred among humans dredges up the clown.
Including homophobic characters is not homophobic.
You're hilarious, R81. That passage is middling at best. He's good exactly where he is... His writing is not of the caliber to be respected by true wordsmiths.
[R67] That's why "breeders" do something called parenting. That way 14 year old daughters don't read books intended for very adult audiences.
No, OP. He is a serviceable pot-boiler writer. His good books amount three, but even in them his tendency towards low-brow thrills, tedious description, formulaic plotting, lack of thematic development beyond the trite, and inability to manage climax and denouement work against him.
That isn't to say I haven't enjoyed several of his books. But he is a best-seller, crank-em-out, use-what-has-worked type of writer. And he's not as bright as he thinks he is.
@everyone insinuating King s a homophobe
Sexuality and majority/minority status must not be the lens through which art and literature is judged. Until we learn that as human beings, some groups will forever be examining every margin of every work of literary or fine art at 100X magnification, seeking some slight excuse to take offense, tragically and intentionally blinding themselves to the beauty that surrounds them.
Nature is not confined by anyone's delicate sensibilities. Why should art be?
I am perfectly secure in who and what I am, and I don't need to be babied by anyone lest my widdle feewings be hurt.
My BF read "1963" and said it was surprisingly good, and he agrees with me that King has turned out nothing but shit since around Misery or thereabouts.
I'm going to try it this weekend.
His earlty stuff was best.Good storyteller.
Longer stuff drags.