Lane Wilkinson's Reviews > Desperation

Desperation by Stephen King
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Sep 10, 07

Read in January, 2004

So, I dropped the pretention and read a Stephen King novel. True, I read several of King's works...in middle school...but I thought that it was time to give him another chance. After all, King's popularity is eclipsed only by, oh, I don't know...Jesus? Well, not Jesus...but someone popular.

I'll admit, the story was engaging. King has a way with propelling his story-lines over hundreds of pages without taking a breath. Or so it would seem. Unfortunately, the mediocrity of his prose is, at best, distracting and at worst infuriating. How many internal monologues can one author insert haphazardly into a single paragraph? I don't know, but King sure does: twenty-seven. Seriously though, King's writing suffers from a lack of ingenuity. Metaphors are ham-fisted and cliched, character development is superficial at best, and the dialogue is trite and unconvincing. The upshot to King's fast-paced, yet uninspired, novel? It only took a few hours to finish.
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Comments (showing 1-29 of 29) (29 new)

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Sophia Hi Lane! I'm sorry you didn't like it; I am a huge King fan myself (Jesus? Who is that?;-) but I agree, Desperation isn't a finite example of his literary skill. Have you tried reading The Stand?


Malbon Lane, you've picked the very worst place to start if this really is your first King book. Desperation is so far out of line with the rest of his books, you might as well judge Micheal Caine's career by his role in Goldmember. Try again, with something like The Shining or It. Both are masterpieces of horror and both contain exceptional writing.


Raul M. I loved the book (though I felt the climax spun a bit out of control). I'm surprised the first Stephen King book you picked up was Desperation rather than one many consider a masterpiece, such as The Stand. Anyway, sorry you didn't like the book (but 1 star, really?).


Tanya Twombly Actually, I don't think you dropped the pretension at all. I have an MFA in creative writing and am working on a PhD in Lit, and I can tell you that King is one of the best and most literate (and literary) "popular" writers out there.


message 5: by Lane (new) - rated it 1 star

Lane Wilkinson Tanya wrote: "Actually, I don't think you dropped the pretension at all. I have an MFA in creative writing and am working on a PhD in Lit, and I can tell you that King is one of the best and most literate (and l..."

Tanya, I'm having trouble figuring out how your academic credentials have anything to do with the shoddy writing in Desperation. Is King "one of the best" popular writers because you have some letters after your name? Or, is it the other way around, and you got those fancy letters because King is one of the best writers.

Could you elaborate, please?


Malbon I think she means that because she has some schoolin' that her opinions on books matter more, and you oughter just accept what she says. Either way, and minus the condescension, she's half right in that most of Stephen King's books are better than Desperation, and some of them are genuine triumphs of writing. And yes, as a popular writer he is a lot better most of the time than dumb-it-down hacks like Patterson (my apologies if you like Patterson).


message 7: by Lane (new) - rated it 1 star

Lane Wilkinson Malbon wrote: "I think she means that because she has some schoolin' that her opinions on books matter more, and you oughter just accept what she says. Either way, and minus the condescension, she's half right in..."

Malbon, you're right that King is better than most popular writers. Desperation may be a particularly weak book in his oeuvre and I'll admit he has some compelling stories in him (especially his short stories; The Jaunt is one of my favorites). I think that's why my review was directed at Desperation, not King in general. Still, for as great as some of his books might be, Desperation is simply an awful book and I'm genuinely surprised that "one of the best and most literate" popular writers can get away with something so bad.


Malbon On the one hand I agree with you. On the other hand, when you've written sixty-plus novels in a forty year span, I think you kind of get a pass on one or two stinkers. Desperation, Dreamcatcher and From a Buick 8 are three to stay away from.


message 9: by Rosi (new)

Rosi I love your review! :-) I like your style. I do agree with others that suggest a different King book. One of his new ones, 11/22/63, is pretty good.


message 10: by Djpars (new)

Djpars It's been I-dunno-how-long since I read this particular beast, but what I remember about it is this: it's got a companion piece, published under SK's alter-ego Richard Bachman (Bachmann?) called The Regulators. The stories shared certain narrative points, characters had the same or similar names, even the hardcover jackets were complimentary. I read these when I was too young to have any sort if nature interest in style and whatnot, so I have nothing to say there, but I have to respect an author with so much pressure to just entertain us, dammit, who still takes the leap into the conceptual like that.


message 11: by bryan (new) - added it

bryan So he's able to sustain a compelling narrative over 100s of pages and that only warrants 1 star? To hold a reader's attention for that long and keep him/her turning the pages is quite an accomplishment, no?


Leonid Pretentious, nonsense review. If your aim was to draw attention with deliberately unsupported negativism then you succeeded. Conversely, if your aim was to convey what the average reader may expect from the book, as that is what a review is… then you failed completely. But maybe you are confused, thus I will explain... When you give this book just the single star you do not only label it as the worst S. King book, which it is not, but that it is on par with all the other single star rubbish out there. To state so Desperation would have to be the very first popular fiction book you have ever picked up and if so, why are you writing a review on the subject?
P.S.
Was it the whole book you read in a few hours? Hmm, 560 pages… I wonder…


message 13: by Lane (new) - rated it 1 star

Lane Wilkinson Leonid wrote: "Pretentious, nonsense review. If your aim was to draw attention with deliberately unsupported negativism then you succeeded. Conversely, if your aim was to convey what the average reader may expect..."

Deliberately unsupported? Did you read the same book!? To quote the Goodreads star system: "1 out of 5 stars, didn't like it." Perhaps you'd be interested in this brief article.


Froylan Ramirez You are all snobs. I don't particularly read many of his books but they do sell for a reason. I enjoyed this book.


Marvin Lane, I may be late to the party but I think all Tanya means by stating her credentials is that she's read and analyzed enough literature to be able to make a credible distinction between good ones and bad ones. People always seem to take offense at the slightest suggestion that someone may be more knowledgeable/successful than they are. No, they're not just fancy letters; there's a world of effort that goes into acquiring them. And your sneering, puerile tone deserves condescending to.

Stephen King would readily admit that he doesn't write "serious" fiction so to compare Desperation with what you might get in an English lit. class is ridiculous. It's a step down for King but a pretty high one still. If you'd read a few more of his books within a recallable time period, you'd know he writes primarily for entertainment. Engaging, no? Please revise the one star based on that. And as for his literacy, I learnt at least 3 words and phrases from Desperation which sets the bar high for highly entertaining novels.


message 16: by Lane (new) - rated it 1 star

Lane Wilkinson Marvin wrote: "Lane, I may be late to the party but I think all Tanya means by stating her credentials is that she's read and analyzed enough literature to be able to make a credible distinction between good ones..."

I'm offended by someone's expertise? Oh, dear, Marvin, you seem to have confused me with someone else. I love knowledgeable people. I really do. Shit, man, I love experts so much that I racked up a few graduate degrees myself. And you know what, I don't doubt that Tanya knows a whole heck of a lot more about writing than I ever will. The thing is, even though she may have substantive reasons for ascribing literary merit to Desperation, she's not sharing them. I'm sorry, but I'm not one to accept the validity of an argument whose sole premise is "I have an MFA". Informal fallacies just ain't my thing, dude.

And I hate to repeat myself but, as I previously commented, one star means that I didn't like it; it's not a criticism of people who like the book. I'm glad that you learned some new words! I like that you like Steven King! Yay, literacy! Perhaps if I spent my time condescending to people for their five-star reviews of Desperation, you'd be correct in calling me childish, but that's not how I roll.


message 17: by Joe (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joe Jenkins I'm on board with Marvin. Lane's a pedantic jerkoff that devotes every fiber of his being into asserting the legitimacy of his membership in the global intelligentsia. his review was written more as a display of vapid mental plumage than a desire to offer any social awareness to choosing this book.

prose is a form of writing style which applies to ordinary grammar structure and natural rhythm of speech (yes, i quoted this, before you use it as a method of attack). given that its a style all stephen king, or most any other author at the the moment writes in, its unnecessary to use. you might as well just use the word 'writing.' but you dont. because youre a mentally masturbating douche.


message 18: by Joe (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joe Jenkins i hope that was prosaic enough.


message 19: by Lane (new) - rated it 1 star

Lane Wilkinson Joe wrote: "I'm on board with Marvin. Lane's a pedantic jerkoff that devotes every fiber of his being into asserting the legitimacy of his membership in the global intelligentsia."

This is my favorite comment so far.


Lindsey I am a huge King fan, but agree with u that this book was by far one of the worst. Give him another chance and try one that has good reviews. Try the shirt stories. Full stars no dark.


message 21: by Michael (last edited Feb 17, 2013 07:11AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Michael Das Beste an dieser Review sind - wie so oft - die Kommentare. Wie auch bei Amazon zu sehen scheint King mehr als die meisten anderen Autoren eine Glaubensfrage zu sein. Unsachlichkeit ist vorprogrammiert und manchmal auch recht erheiternd. Dem Phänomen King nährt man sich damit allerdings nicht an. King ist in seinen guten Büchern ein wirklich guter Unterhaltungsautor, seine schwachen Bücher sind --- Überraschung: schwach. Mit Kafka oder Nabokov muss man ihn wohl nicht vergleichen, aber es gibt Menschen, die ab und zu auch im Fast-Food-Restaurant essen.


message 22: by Lane (new) - rated it 1 star

Lane Wilkinson Michael wrote: "Mit Kafka oder Nabokov muss man ihn wohl nicht vergleichen, aber es gibt Menschen, die ab und zu auch im Fast-Food-Restaurant essen."

I agree. There is no shame in enjoying a Big Mac from time to time, but it would be silly to mistake McDonald's for gourmet dining.


Michael That´s true and Stephen King never will be french cuisine. But this is a strange phenomenon: readers on goodreads review and discuss books whith insight and often humour. But when it comes to King tension rises and otherwise pleasant people often become bossy and insulting. Ambitious readers have to wash their hands after mentioning SK while aficionados get mad on anybody suggesting there might be a tiny flaw in any novel from the Master.
In 1980 I read Nightshift which wasn´t too bad. But since I´m not into horror the next book by SK I read was in 2010, it was The Shining. This was a rather good one and so I bought some other books. Some were quite entertaining, others terrible. I asked myself wether SK is more than a skillful craftsman in this genre, which is hard to decide. He´s no Poe for sure, but on the other hand Lovecraft often is overestimated. Maybe SK is a guilty pleasure, but why not?


Malbon I was just enjoying a similar discussion on the pro-King side of the spectrum. it's interesting to see both sides, although the anti- group seems comprised of people who never read his books, our read one book but didn't get into it, or intellectuals who confuse "popular" with "stupid" and so never go Abby further than that. There isn't anything wrong with that idea per se, James Patterson sells a trillion books a week and I'm always shocked that anybody past a grade three reading level can find it exciting. But look: I tried the Hobbit in 1995 and I couldn't get into it. I washed my hands of Tolkien completely, and it wasn't till the movies came out that I discovered, to my shame, that maybe this guy was worth a second look. If I hadn't bothered, however, my opinion wouldn't have meant Tolkien want any less if a genius.
Likewise, I've never picked up a novel with an awards sticker on the cover and thought, what a work of profound genius. Award-winning literature seems to be selected by the same criteria as the Oscars - if it's long, slow and depressing, it must be High Art. Not all of them, I'm sure, but every one I've ever tried, and like Lane, I gave up and walked away. All I'm saying is whatever genre you read, you're going to find it hit or miss, and even fans of high literature are going to be disappointed sometimes. Meanwhile Stephen King's book On Writing is studied in university courses, and at least three of his novels - the Shining, It and The Stand, are worth holding up against the best of the Booker Prize winners.
"you pays your money and you takes your chance" -Aldous Huxley


message 25: by Lane (new) - rated it 1 star

Lane Wilkinson Malbon wrote: "I was just enjoying a similar discussion on the pro-King side of the spectrum. it's interesting to see both sides, although the anti- group seems comprised of people who never read his books, our r..."

Just to be clear: I'm not anti-King, I'm anti Desperation. It's a shitty book, plain and simple. But, that has nothing to do with King's merits as an author. I genuinely enjoyed The Shining, The Stand, It, the first three Dark Tower books, and Eyes of the Dragon. I genuinely hated Tommyknockers and Desperation. So, I agree with you that a genre or even an author can be hit or miss.

It's probably worth repeating (for other commenters) that one star means "I didn't like it" and not "anyone who likes Stephen King is an idiot". And since I'm not offended by what people think of books that I enjoy, and since I am not in the habit of criticizing people whose reviews I disagree with, I'm a bit perplexed by how defensive people get about Stephen King. (Likewise, I'm perplexed by the people who get so offended by him.)


Michael These comments are less about King and more about communication problems. As I said: When it comes to King humour vanishes.


gbcjr I think starting off stating that you had to drop your pretentious attitude rubbed people the wrong way from the start. At least you tried, but I still think, as I have done, you came to the book with a prejudice against it. Personally, I loved the book and, unlike most King fans, I thought the Dark Tower series was terrible. In any case, the world still turns around and diversity makes it interesting.


H.M.C. H.M.C. I liked Desperation. In fact, I loved it. Nevertheless, you're entitled to your opinion. In fact, I found your review hilarious and well-written. Gave me a good chuckle. Thanks for the honesty and don't let arguments stop you from posting in the future.


message 29: by Kameron (new)

Kameron Breckenridge Why does a review of a book, which I have not read but I have put my "King time" in, have to turn into a personal attack against each other? It all sounds ridiculous...and I'm sure now someone will turn on me. Welcome to Goodreads.


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