Monday, January 23, 2012
The Stephen King Project
I've always found Stephen King to be a strange phenomenon in my life. The first book of his I read was It. I was ten or eleven. Probably eleven, I think I was in fifth grade. It scared the fucking shit out of me and we subsequently had a brief, voracious fling. I mean, I was into it. I abandoned the baseball biographies that I was then obsessed with and took dove head first into King's back catalog. I read them all, up through Gerald's Game and then, nothing. I couldn't do it anymore. My dad had given me a copy of Queer by William S. Burroughs and I was off in another direction sloughing off King's already tenuous grasp on my reading attention. Recently I tried to reread the Shining and I realized there was probably another reason that I quite reading him in the 8th grade. He's a bad writer. I find his characters weak and without much depth or likability. I find his language and style bland and, at times, completely inane. The most insipid and maddeningly annoying characteristic is his penchant for inventing slang and vulgarity that never sounds right coming out of even his stilted character's mouths.
Where Stephen King succeeds is in situations. He can present a situation and he can scare you. Which is, essentially, what horror is, albeit a cheaper, more universal type of horror easily accessible to anyone. But I don't really want to dump on him any more than I already have. I know plenty of intelligent people who read and quite enjoy his books. They aren't for me anymore but neither are the Beats or the early American realists that I used to love so much. It's as unfair to compare Stephen King to HP Lovecraft as it is to compare James Patterson to Raymond Chandler. It's not the same. He's sold more than a quarter billion books. He's sold one book for every single American. Compare him to Dean Koontz, Danielle Steele, Arthur Hailey, or Harold Robbins. Sounds a little better I suppose. Love him or hate him, don't forget, Stephen King, writes genre fiction, not literature. His aim, at some base level, is only to scare.
None of that really explains why his movies are so often adapted to film, except maybe the sheer ubiquity of his books simply laying around. His style isn't particularly cinematic in any way. In fact, the only adaptation that would qualify as a legitimate great piece of filmmaking is The Shining and everyone knows that had little to nothing to do with Stephen King. He even reportedly hated the adaptation removing himself forever as a competent critic of culture (seriously, take a look at his ten favorite movies in any given year). The worst ones are the ones that follow so closely they echo his crumbling ear for dialogue and hammy characters.
So why undertake this project? I suppose it's a step away from simply reviewing the new movies that come out every week (though that will still happen from time to time) and dedicating ourselves to the lesser explored realms of film. In any regard, wish us luck, we're going to need it.