Book Talk with Kealan Patrick Burke discussion

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message 351: by Benjamin (new)

Benjamin Uminsky (BenjaminU) | 40 comments Charlene wrote: "Well, not having read Joshi yet, I can't comment, but I'm going to anyway. King himself calls his writing the Big Mac of literature. It's fast food. I won't argue that.
But, I will argue about his..."


Hehe... its funny that you paraphrased that quote from King, Charlene. Joshi also makes a passing reference to that same quote... I think King actually says "My prose is the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and fries".

Joshi piggy backs on King's own quote to point out that the combination of poor prose style and bloated plot lines make for literary disaster. Having read some of King's fiction, I think I entirely agree with this analysis.

As to what gets relegated to the literary dustbin of history and why... its hard to say ( I certainly don't have the literary wisdom to prognosticate on this issue). I agree with you Charlene that King is in no danger of being relegated to literary oblivion any time soon... he is far too popular for that.

However, Joshi does point out a number of writers that had similar commercial success as King only 40-50 years ago, but are no longer remembered because their literary contributions were so limited. I don't really know what the shelf life is for popular fiction like King... it would be interesting to find a study on this.


message 352: by Char (new)

Char | 1103 comments I think it would be interesting too. In one of the horror groups to which I belong, a poster was opining that he thought King would be the next Dickens.
I don't know about that, LOL!
I also agree with the bloated plot lines, etc.
However, whenever I see a poll regarding favorite books or 'go to' books that people like to reread, King is almost always near the top.


message 353: by Marc (last edited Mar 27, 2012 11:35AM) (new)

Marc Iverson (Marc_Iverson) | 243 comments Joshi's book "Junk Fiction" is worth it for the intro and first chapter alone. He goes into great detail about the phenomena of bestseller-dom and how it evolved. It's a wonderful read. He also points out how few of the bestsellers had literary merit or are widely read or even remembered today -- either the books or their authors. He suggests that those two things are not unrelated. I think it's a strong point.

In the rest of the book, he tears up some key bestsellers to see what makes them tick, or not. Some of it is tedious, as finding fault with silly books is like shooting apples in a barrel. At times Joshi appears to be taking the easy way out and on autopilot with tepid and glancing observations. Some of it, though, does spur reflection. The extent to which a book's failings actually help sell it is a curious subject, and one especially difficult for a literary-minded reader or writer to broach in a manner more practical than curling one's lip into a dismissive sneer. Even literary writers would prefer, after all, to sell.

I think King will be remembered at least as much as a phenomena as a writer. Because he's a bigger phenomena. And the writing ... often not so good.


message 354: by Tony (new)

Tony Rabig | 12 comments I've just skimmed the Joshi book so can't really speak to his arguments, but I doubt that King's going to be forgotten any time soon. If he is forgotten, his stint in literary oblivion won't last too long. Poke around the library shelves. Look at H. G. Wells' books -- you may not find Kipps or The History of Mr. Polly, but you can count on finding The Time Machine, The First Men in the Moon, The War of the Worlds, and The Island of Dr. Moreau. Check out Robert Louis Stevenson. Probably no copies of The Black Arrow, but Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde will be there. Dickens' Christmas Carol isn't a bad ghost story at all. Browse through the Henry James titles; maybe no Spoils of Poynton but The Turn of the Screw is almost certain to be there. The tale of dread has plenty of staying power, and when King's cooking...

If I had to bet on which contemporary writers would still be read in a hundred years or longer, King would be on my short list.

And bests to all.


message 355: by Marc (new)

Marc Iverson (Marc_Iverson) | 243 comments I dunno how much he'll be remembered for his writing. I think Shirley Jackson's reputation will probably skyrocket, though. And HP Lovecraft's will improve.


message 356: by Jon Recluse (new)

Jon Recluse | 2066 comments I'm sure KIng's work will linger on, but I doubt it will be held in such high esteem as it is now.

Someone will come along to knock him off his throne.

My money is on Robert McCammon as the next King of the Hill.


message 357: by Marc (new)

Marc Iverson (Marc_Iverson) | 243 comments I thought Straub was going to be, after Ghost Story. But his career never achieved the velocity of King's.


message 358: by Jon Recluse (last edited Mar 29, 2012 09:31PM) (new)

Jon Recluse | 2066 comments But he's writing on an entirely different level in comparison with King.

More literary, less blue collar.


message 359: by Marc (new)

Marc Iverson (Marc_Iverson) | 243 comments He was huge with Ghost Story, though. That was a heck of a break-out novel.

I think after a while, King's being so prolific created a market of its own. Anyone who was the least bit interested in him, or in horror, had 10, 20, 30, 40 things to choose from. If he lost you, he had seemingly endless chances to win you back with the next one. That backlist became a potent force to keep him selling. Straub never had that.

And he didn't have the constant movie interest that kept King in front of the public, either.

I think Straub could have been a lot bigger, I guess I'm trying to say here.


message 360: by Jon Recluse (new)

Jon Recluse | 2066 comments I agree with you there.
I've always said that a lot of great authors got plowed under by the Stephen King Publicity Steamroller.
If the publishers backed Straub like that, we might not be talking about King now, except as a contender.


message 361: by Marc (last edited Mar 29, 2012 10:55PM) (new)

Marc Iverson (Marc_Iverson) | 243 comments King hardly needs the publicity, but he certainly gets it. I can sympathize with some authors saying they get little or no marketing push from their publishers while those who don't need it get the whole year's marketing budget dumped on them.


message 362: by Jon Recluse (new)

Jon Recluse | 2066 comments Jack Ketchum once said that he was in a bookstore and didn't even realize his new book was available until he spoke to his agent. The publishers didn't do anything to promote the book and altered the cover so much, Ketchum realized he must have walked right by it.


message 363: by Benjamin (new)

Benjamin Uminsky (BenjaminU) | 40 comments Having read a number of King's novels and short stories, I can say that much of it is forgettable, at least compared to some highly dynamic and literary contemporary horror authors that (as pointed out by Recluse) have been regrettably overshadowed and overlooked by King's current popularity.

One thing noted about King's writing is the verbosity of his tales... the man seems to be enamored by his own voice... at least I am a bit at a loss how else to explain the painfully bloated novels that he has churned out.

But... popularity can be a fleeting thing and as other writers take their places, it is truly hard to imagine any remarkable contributions made to the field by King. Most of King's tales, that I have read, are fairly conventional with banal characters and cliched genre tropes sprinkled throughout.

I don't pose this as a petty challenge to any King fan out there (and I'm certainly not trying to stir the pot), but frankly, can anyone really think of a remarkable tale written by King that perhaps 50 or 60 years from now will merit literary consideration? Does King have a Blackwood-like "The Willows" or a Machenesque "The Great God Pan" or perhaps a Lovecraftian jaunt in his body of work?

I'm really not so sure...


message 364: by Marc (new)

Marc Iverson (Marc_Iverson) | 243 comments Only some of his short stories, like Quitters, Inc.

He will probably be remembered best for Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, because it was turned into a movie that eventually became a huge DVD hit. But it will be the movie that is remembered more than the story, I'd guess.


message 365: by Jon Recluse (new)

Jon Recluse | 2066 comments Benjamin wrote: "Having read a number of King's novels and short stories, I can say that much of it is forgettable, at least compared to some highly dynamic and literary contemporary horror authors that (as pointed..."

He wrote a Lovecraftian story called "Crouch End", which is set, for some bizarre reason, in England rather than his beloved Maine. It's kinda like King trying to do Ramsey Campbell writing Lovecraft. Not good.


message 366: by Marc (new)

Marc Iverson (Marc_Iverson) | 243 comments I (somewhat) recently read "The Rats in the Walls" and found it disappointing. It really blew me away the first time.


message 367: by Jon Recluse (new)

Jon Recluse | 2066 comments I have moments when Lovecraft really freaks me out. Other times, not so much. It happens.


message 368: by Char (last edited Mar 30, 2012 05:43AM) (new)

Char | 1103 comments That's weird, Marc. I just read The Rats in the Walls a few months back and thought it was pretty good!
BTW, I agree re: Quitters, Inc. Great short.

Benjamin, respectfully, I posit that Misery, The Green Mile, The Stand and IT will still be around and popular 50-60 years from now. Meriting literary consideration? Probably not.

But sometimes I feel that people get too excited over the term 'literary'. What makes something literary? Does something need to be literary to stand the test of time? I'm a Wilkie Collins fan and he didn't seem to be too literary to me, but his books are still around and accessible. Not to mention fun. Arthur Machen on the other hand, I find to be a bit overrated and outdated. But that's just me.

I think the majority of people just enjoy a good, strong character driven story and that is where King's strength lies. He creates characters that are human, flawed and seemingly real. Those characters are so good that readers are happy to forgive some verbosity in exhange for these characters that will live in their minds forever.
Just my thoughts. : )


message 369: by Benjamin (new)

Benjamin Uminsky (BenjaminU) | 40 comments Charlene wrote: "That's weird, Marc. I just read The Rats in the Walls a few months back and thought it was pretty good!
BTW, I agree re: Quitters, Inc. Great short.

Benjamin, respectfully, I posit that Misery..."


Actually... I do think a story has to have some literary merit to stand the passage of time (not as a matter of some kind of magical rule though, simply by observation). I'm not suggesting that a book should have won an award, but if a novel or story is nothing more than pop fiction, I think it remains popular for the audience of that time. Once the fad or trend changes, I don't think pop fiction has much more to offer to future generation of readers.

As to what defines something as literary...*shrugs*... I don't really know... I'm not a scholar in English Lit... but that kind of evaluation begins to approach the "you know it when you see it" test (kind of like pornography). I'm sure there is a much more "scientific" approach out there... I simply don't practice it... =)

As to King's writing, I think I have to respectfully disagree about King's "strengths" for writing good characters. I just don't see it... it seems to me that King specializes in focusing on the mundane and banal minutiae of highly conventional middle class characters. I think a story that is driven by character minutiae can of course work and be highly compelling... just not when the focus is on incredibly conventional cookie cutter characters. That fact that many of King's characters seem "real" doesn't make them actually interesting, at least for me... but Charlene, at this point, we are only talking about tastes and my taste in "interesting" is probably different from yours and others on this board... no better or worse.

And on another note... I actually did like Misery... Joshi's take on it was hilarious though. Anyone think that Misery took on an air of autobiography for King? Not literally of course... the man still has both of his feet, but in a more symbolic sense.


message 370: by Benjamin (new)

Benjamin Uminsky (BenjaminU) | 40 comments Recluse wrote: "Benjamin wrote: "Having read a number of King's novels and short stories, I can say that much of it is forgettable, at least compared to some highly dynamic and literary contemporary horror authors..."


Yikes... I have not read that one... I think I may simply take a pass on that one, Recluse.


message 371: by Char (new)

Char | 1103 comments Benjamin, it's cool to disagree. Things sure would be boring if everyone agreed on everything.

Regarding Misery, it did turn out to be almost autobiographical didn't it?
Annie Wilkes is another memorable character for me. You cock-a-doodie dirty bird! LOL : )


message 372: by Jon Recluse (new)

Jon Recluse | 2066 comments King's shorter novels tend to work better. He still hasn't learned to contain himself.
Other authors weave multiple plotlines into their novels. King adds another 100 pages.

In the words of Ambrose Bierce "a short story padded"


message 373: by Benjamin (new)

Benjamin Uminsky (BenjaminU) | 40 comments Charlene wrote: "Benjamin, it's cool to disagree. Things sure would be boring if everyone agreed on everything.

Regarding Misery, it did turn out to be almost autobiographical didn't it?
Annie Wilkes is anoth..."


Yeah... Annie certainly did take on that air of the every man/woman (although in a very deranged fashion) who pined for the the latest and greatest Misery Chastain novel. And Paul Sheldon being the tormented writer who wanted to write something real, not just the pop fic stuff... I felt that King used some very powerful scenes, particularly when he had Paul burn the final Misery manuscript right in front of Annie.

Viscerally horrific scene when he loses the foot...


message 374: by Benjamin (new)

Benjamin Uminsky (BenjaminU) | 40 comments Recluse wrote: "King's shorter novels tend to work better. He still hasn't learned to contain himself.
Other authors weave multiple plotlines into their novels. King adds another 100 pages.

In the words of Ambros..."


Yeah... some of King's plot lines seem to meander off into no-wheresville and often go unresolved. I wonder... does King get paid by the page? I just don't get it. You can kill someone by dropping The Stand on someone's head... its like a brick.


message 375: by Jon Recluse (new)

Jon Recluse | 2066 comments Autobiographical, but in the words of my mother, "He's the horror guy, right?"


message 376: by Jon Recluse (new)

Jon Recluse | 2066 comments Benjamin wrote: "Recluse wrote: "King's shorter novels tend to work better. He still hasn't learned to contain himself.
Other authors weave multiple plotlines into their novels. King adds another 100 pages.

In the..."


Have you seen the special unedited version of The Stand? A family of four could live in it.


message 377: by Chris (new)

Chris (ChrisMcCaffrey) | 302 comments I agree with Charlene and Jon (no surprise there). King's best medium is the novella--enough room for him to develop the story but not so much freedom that he starts adding hundreds of extra pages--or when he keeps the novel short for whatever reason. The Stand and The Green Mile are exceptions of course.

I think that Shawshank, Apt Pupil, and The Body (perhaps as a companion piece to Sherwood Anderson's Death in the Woods) will last. As will Misery, The Shining, Pet Sematary, and Salem's Lot--which are novels without all that extra padding. Maybe Cujo too---which is really quite good.

His treatise "On Writing" is fantastic also. I think it is interesting that most of his best novels involve children as protagonists or major characters.


message 378: by Char (new)

Char | 1103 comments I think that's interesting too, Chris. In fact, I might go so far to say that King and McCammon have written some of the best child characters out there.
(BTW, I think James Everington can too, The Shelter, though he only has one so far.)


Recluse, I do have both versions of The Stand in hardcover and any one of them would do as a murder weapon. : )


message 379: by Marc (new)

Marc Iverson (Marc_Iverson) | 243 comments Benjamin wrote: "Recluse wrote: "King's shorter novels tend to work better. He still hasn't learned to contain himself.
Other authors weave multiple plotlines into their novels. King adds another 100 pages.

In the..."


I thought The Stand was terrible. King makes Michener look like he writes epigrams. Unconscionable bloat, IMO. It even works its way into his short stories these days.

Sure he creates characters, but then he can give them nothing to do, sometimes for hundreds of pages. You could cut a thousand pages from The Stand and the book would be vastly the better for it.


message 380: by Char (new)

Char | 1103 comments Is there no love out there for The Stand at all?

No love for Larry (Baby, can you dig your man?) or pimply, greasy Harold or for poor, neglected, out of his mind Trash Can man?

You all are bumming me out. : (


message 381: by Marc (new)

Marc Iverson (Marc_Iverson) | 243 comments Charlene wrote: "Is there no love out there for The Stand at all?

No love for Larry (Baby, can you dig your man?) or pimply, greasy Harold or for poor, neglected, out of his mind Trash Can man?

You all are b..."


Well, at least we're not taking 1400 pages to do it. :D


message 382: by Benjamin (new)

Benjamin Uminsky (BenjaminU) | 40 comments Marc wrote: "Benjamin wrote: "Recluse wrote: "King's shorter novels tend to work better. He still hasn't learned to contain himself.
Other authors weave multiple plotlines into their novels. King adds another 1..."


Sorry Charlene... no love from me on The Stand... I got a few hundred in and was ready to chuck it across the room... but then realize that a pet or small child might lose their life by accidental braining.

I think the Stand will mercifully fade into the abyss as time takes its toll. There are precious few redeeming literary merits (if any) to this marathon like story. If the Stand is to be remembered... it will be for its notoriety as a hefty murder implement... at least IMO.

All kidding aside... I'm not of the "King is Crap" school of thought... but I think there are very few gems in King's prolific output... and if you take out some of the Bachman stories... even fewer. King will be more remembered for the movies that he inspired than his actual written works.


message 383: by Chris (new)

Chris (ChrisMcCaffrey) | 302 comments Quite a few people really like The Stand, so I won't say anything bad about it. It was way too long for me too, but I think that the best of his stories/novellas/novels have that magic in them that sets great works apart from the rest. He will continue to be read, I am sure of it.

Most of his great works came when he was younger. I think that there is something about being young and hungry (or at least with still something to prove) that brings out the best in the artist and they lose that edge as they get older and more comfortable. Especially when everyone around you treats you like a genius. You start to believe your own hype.


message 384: by Marc (new)

Marc Iverson (Marc_Iverson) | 243 comments His inability to edit tends to suggest that on the level of practical craft, he started to believe his hype early on. By all accounts, he's a nice guy and earnestly devoted to being the best writer he can be. But it appears he hopes to get there via major sprawl accompanied by only very minor editing and no outlining at all. That's not a recipe for producing focused work.


message 385: by Chris (last edited Mar 30, 2012 12:19PM) (new)

Chris (ChrisMcCaffrey) | 302 comments He is clearly totally off the leash and I seriously doubt if anyone at this stage in his career as one of the best selling authors of all time will make any suggestions or criticism of his work. Why would they? Anything he writes will go straight to the top of the charts. 11/22/63 is a great example---forget about the story itself, it is obvious that he didn't have anyone from the Dallas Fort Worth area review the book even for factual accuracy.

All that being said, when the sequel to The Shining comes out I will start reading it the day it is released. He has several books on my all time favorite list, and The Shining is one of them.


message 386: by Char (new)

Char | 1103 comments I agree that his works are bloated.
And when Doctor Sleep comes out, I'll be there the first day as well. : )


message 387: by Char (new)

Char | 1103 comments I finished William Hope Hodgson's The House on the Borderland and thought it was a pretty trippy read, but all in all, ok.

I started on From Hell. It's a long one.


message 388: by Marc (new)

Marc Iverson (Marc_Iverson) | 243 comments Never heard of it. Thought at first you meant the graphic novel by Alan Moore that they turned into a Johnny Depp movie.


message 389: by Char (new)

Char | 1103 comments Never heard of it. : )

The author seems like an interesting guy. He has another book out about his time in the military in South Africa. I have it, but haven't checked it out yet.


message 390: by Marc (new)

Marc Iverson (Marc_Iverson) | 243 comments Ah. Military memoirs can be great. Amazing and moving. Sometimes!


message 391: by Char (new)

Char | 1103 comments Allright, From Hell is funny! The book description said:
"A transgender Tolkien meets Terry Pratchett on acid in this epic saga of danger, forbidden love, genocide, carnivorous fish, cunning dwarves, and one man's irrepressible hunger for pizza."

So far, the descriptor is accurate.


message 392: by Chris (new)

Chris (ChrisMcCaffrey) | 302 comments In the last few days I finished two light monster romps: "Crustaceans" (fun and entertaining) and "Thaw" (it was ok) and a very good time travel dark novel called The Memory Tree. The time travel aspect was particularly well done but the subject matter (child sexual abuse) was very rough. Honestly I probably would not have read it if I had known that going in, but I am glad that I did and I admire the author for writing it. It really took guts.

Right now I am trying to decide what to read next and am leaning toward James Herbert's "Haunted."


message 393: by Jon Recluse (new)

Jon Recluse | 2066 comments I really liked "Haunted".


message 394: by Chris (new)

Chris (ChrisMcCaffrey) | 302 comments I saw that you and Kealan both liked it so I bought it. I like a good haunted house story. The second one in the series doesn't appear to be available in e-book though.


message 395: by Jon Recluse (new)

Jon Recluse | 2066 comments "The Ghosts of Sleath"?
That's another good one.

Real interested in hearing what you think of "Haunted".


message 396: by Chris (new)

Chris (ChrisMcCaffrey) | 302 comments Yeah, "The Ghosts of Sleath." I saw you liked that one too. Can't seem to get it in e-book though. Lazy, I know.....


message 397: by Jon Recluse (new)

Jon Recluse | 2066 comments James Herbert books are hard to come by in paperback form, too.


message 398: by Chris (new)

Chris (ChrisMcCaffrey) | 302 comments There is always the library. It is amazing how lazy I have become since I have started reading e-books. You mean I have to get up from the couch in order to get this book?


message 399: by Jon Recluse (new)

Jon Recluse | 2066 comments You need to get one of those wide load electric geezer carts.


message 400: by Chris (new)

Chris (ChrisMcCaffrey) | 302 comments OUCH!

I have run 3 5K's in the last two months, so I will get off my butt for some things. However, they gave away free beer at the end of the race so I had an incentive...


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Books mentioned in this topic

A Drink Before the War (other topics)
Darkness, Take My Hand (other topics)
Gardens of Night (other topics)
The Walk (other topics)
The Shelter (other topics)
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Authors mentioned in this topic

John Ajvide Lindqvist (other topics)
Kealan Patrick Burke (other topics)
James A. Moore (other topics)
Andrew Vachss (other topics)
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