Truth can be a sneaky
son of a bitch. It likes to get you when you're not looking.
The truth is, I owe a lot to Stephen King. I'm a huge fan, and more
than that, King was one of the writers who made me want to write
myself when I grew up. A friend gave me a copy of 'Salem's Lot' in
1976. As soon as I finished, I picked up 'Carrie' in a used book
store, the only thing he'd written earlier. Since then I've read
just about everything he's written as soon as it came out in paper.
I mean, I like the guy, but I'm not a hardback fan. I think a
bookcase full of King in hardback looks just a little bit dorky,
like leaving your Advanced D&D monster manual out on the coffee
table. I know a lot of people who do both, and nothing against them,
or you for that matter. Different strokes for different folks. It's
just some people's strokes are really dorky, that's all.
There are one or two things of his I haven't read. 'Cycle of the
Werewolf' pissed me off enough to skip it by only coming out in
expensive trade paper. I passed on some of the Richard Bachman stuff
because having read absolutely everything written by Stephen King is
kind of like having watched absolutely every episode of 'Star Trek:
Voyager'. There's being a fan and then there's Obsessive Compulsive
King feels to me like an old friend I've known my whole life. I bet
he feels that way to a lot of his readers, and I bet that causes him
a lot of problems security-wise. If you're reading this Steve-o, you
don't need to worry about me. The folks who show up on your lawn own
all your stuff in hardback and have read all the Richard Bachman
books. I know we're not friends, you just write like we are. I think
that's what makes you so popular, and if anything, you're critically
underrated because the New York Review of Book et al does not care
for the great unwashed.
But here's the thing about your old friends. You get to know what
sucks about them real well. All the ticks and smells that, in small
doses are charming, can become downright irritating when you've been
friends for a very long time. That's what this article is about.
Some of the things that piss me off about Stephen King.
There are lots of ways
to measure a book's worth, but how good they'd be as a tool with
which to stun beef prior to slaughter isn't one of them. I know, I
know, when you really like a book you just wish it could go on
forever, but that doesn't mean the author should oblige you.
Honestly, It's not so much the word count I'm criticizing here as
the often lengthy inclusion of events that maybe, just maybe, might
have stayed in the first draft.
Here's an example from 'It', one of my favorite King novels. Near
the end of the book, in what appears to be an attempt to create a
sort of mystical solidarity, four pre-teen boys have sex with a
pre-teen girl. In a sewer. And it's... spiritual.
Multiple pre-teen boys. One pre-teen girl. Sexual intercourse. In a
In one way, this scene is a real testament to King's artistic
integrity, because surely SOMEBODY in the world of publishing
have said "STEVE, spiritual or not, even a huge best-selling author
can NOT include a PRE-PUBESCENT SEWER ORGY IN HIS BOOK!" and yet
there it is, in all it's sewagey glory. He could have cut a page or
two off the heft of an already very long book and left me feeling a
lot less icky. Several people I know who've read the book don't
remember this scene at all, which I think shows just how just how
wrong it is. It seems to create suppressed memory syndrome. I mean
just how do you forget a scene where a little girl has sex with four
little boys IN A SEWER?!
Another example of King's tendency to go on longer than absolutely
necessary is the novel "Cujo".
Not, you know, any particular part of it, so much as its existence
novella can be found in King's anthology "Four Past Midnight". I
liked it a lot. ABC made a TV movie of it in 1995 that was so bad,
several people watching actually tore their own heads off, which
turns out to be physically impossible. Adding insult to injury, a 'Langolier'
turns out to be a big, black Pac-man with lots of teeth. Sort of
like if the alien Venom symbiote from Spider-man said "Why attach
myself to a cool superhero when if I slime my way into that Pac-man
console over there I'll come out as a wicked bad... black... dot...
with teeth... and shit."
You know how still photos of special effects often look way
than the actual effects? In this case they look considerably
Here's a cool game you
can play with any Stephen King book. See if you can spot the phrase
he's going to repeat over and over and over and over and over the
very first time he uses it. WARNING: While tempting, DO NOT make
this into any kind of drinking game. There's a thing called alcohol
poisoning and the word on the street is it's a very unpleasant way
to die. Take my word for it. Because the truth can be a sneaky son
of a bitch. It likes to get you when you're not looking.
There is no getting
around the fact that somebody will make a movie out of one of
Stephen King's grocery lists if he can figure out a legal way to do
it. When they finally do, chances are it will be better than 'The Langoliers'.
To say 'The Langoliers' is a bad movie is an understatement
on the level of saying "Remember that time a yellow-jacket flew up the leg of my shorts and stung me repeatedly in
the sack? That was certainly unpleasant."
For every 'Carrie'
there are fourteen or fifteen made for TV 'Salem's Lot' mini series,
an effort so bad David Soul is in it.
Nothing good ever started with this sentence.
Now there was time
early in his career when Stephen King was neither fantastically
wealthy nor incredibly powerful. If someone came to me and said
"We'd like to make a movie of one of your crappy little comedy
articles and we'll write you a big check, but after that we can do
whatever we want with it" I'd say, "How quickly can you write that
check?" But if people kept making movies of my crappy little comedy
articles, one after another, several per year, and I started getting
paid in the millions of dollars not only for each movie deal, but
FOR THE ARTICLES THEMSELVES, at some point, I might say, "You know
what, though? Is this movie you're making guaranteed to suck with
the kind of force usually associated with a collapsed star? Because
I'd sort of rather it didn't and at this point I can't even tell
when I get richer, and also, the world doesn't need another screechingly bad movie, especially one that might feature over an
hour of footage of Dee Wallace Stone trapped in a car by a big,
drooly, possessed saint bernard, or worse yet, David Soul!"
I bet that whole last
paragraph you were saying to yourself, "Hell, I hate David Soul
as much as the next guy, but what about 'The Shining'? THAT movie
Indeed it did. For my money, Stanley Kubrik's 'The Shining' is one
of the best horror movies ever made. The "Heeeere's Johnny!"
sequence has become a culturally iconic moment, for god's sake!
But Stephen King, without whom there would be no "All work and no
play", doesn't care for Kubrik's version. In fact, he disliked it so
much, 17 years later he authorized a made-for-TV version made years
later over which he exercised considerable creative control. It's
not a bad movie. It doesn't have David Soul in at all and it's more
true to the novel than the Kubrik version, but that's partly the
problem. The aspect of the novel that it's very, very faithful to is the
subtext. The dad's a good guy, but he's an alcoholic, and the evil
the booze brings out in him is stronger than his heart. Now that's
fine as a subtext on which to hang an extremely cool haunted hotel.
But, you shouldn't forget that 'The Shinning' is about AN EXTREMELY
COOL HAUNTED HOTEL!
I think King's TV
version is proof that being 'In Recovery' is almost as bad for
artists work as being a massive drug addled drunk.
Step 1: Admit you have a problem.
On the other hand, six
hundred some odd pages of 'Cujo' make a powerful counter argument.
Truth can be a sneaky son of a bitch. It likes to get you when
you're not looking.
Any given character
created by Stephen king passes more gas than the combined efforts of
all the fictional characters created any other author over the
course of their entire career. They also vomit, belch and pee
themselves a little when laughing WAY more often than characters
written by anybody else, but it's nothing compared to the constant
flatulence. If King's character's actually existed, they'd be
responsible for a measurable portion of green house gas emissions on
And while it's true that all real people fart, it's just as true
that in fiction you don't need to write it down every single time it
would happen if the people were real. Truth can be a sneaky son of a
bitch. It likes to get you when you're not looking. And we all have
to stop looking sometime, don't we? We do. Oh how we do.
It's a bit of a
stretch, especially since technically Koontz started publishing
earlier than King, but I have this theory that if Stephen King fans
didn't need something to read in the handful of minutes between
finishing King's latest novel and the next one being published,
Koontz would still be relatively unknown.
I forgot to tell you
that it has Balki from 'Perfect Strangers' and that's the best thing
about it. The great Dean Stockwell is in it, which means he either
lost some sort of bar bet or has a drug habit the size of a bull
moose. Kate Mayberly, a child actress who was amazing in the 1993
version of 'The Secret Garden', plays a blind child so woodenly one
can only assume the director told her that blind people are made out
of wood. It's the truth! And I think we ALL know what they say about
the truth being on the sneaky side and getting you when you're not
looking, right? And BLIND people NEVER look!
"Do these glasses make me look blind?"
Okay, on a scale of
one to ten, this movie is worse than getting hit in the nuts with an
alligator that's eaten nothing but crack for a month. And that, my
friend, is the god's own truth.
SCARY-ASS TRADING CARD #14!
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"They don't even know
if it is a baby yet!" screams the distraught mother, Mary X, in
what may possibly be the best movie ever made, David Lynch's 'Eraserhead'.
It's often rumored Lynch made the hideous puppet from a cow or horse
fetus, but to this day he won't tell. Forced to care for his offspring
alone, the 'baby' is a visceral, fleshy embodiment of the subterranean
and unspoken terrors of parenthood. Complete responsibility for a life
form you in no way comprehend.
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