Stephen King is an American Treasure
Stephen King, like Charles Dickens and Edgar Allan Poe, began his career with the reputation of a factory writer: churn 'wm in, get 'em out. His sales went through the roof and despite the fact that most of his characters' conflict was internal, many of his books and short stories were turned into highly acclaimed films (The Body, Rita Haworth and The Shawshank Redemption, The Shining, Misery). In 2003, the National Book Foundation awarded King the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.
This did it. And so, despite his humility, his book "On Writing: A Memoir of The Craft" became well justified. This book has a natural appeal to two types of readers: those who are fascinated with Stephen King and his mind and those who are writers and are interested in how a man can be as prolific as he. King says the only book necessary is William Strunk and E.B. White's "Elements Of Style" (of which I own seven copies-I distribute it like tissues) but I believe that reading Kings memoir-and it IS a memoir of craft, barely an autobiography- is another helpful and critical book for those who wish to "become writers."
(Both King and I would point out that by reviewing his book on eBay this morning I have become a writer.)
The reason is simple: in his short book, published in 2000, King grants us the permission to write.
"On Writing" has done far more than Strunk and White did; their book simply gives us the very basics of grammar, sentence construction and brevity. But how can one read and essay or book by E.B. White and think, "I can do that?" And as far as what we're thinking as we read Stephen King, it's really nothing more than a total immersion into character, plot and relevance. That's how well Stephen King writes. It's like watching Meryl Streep in "Sophie's Choice" and analyzing her acting choices.
"On Writing" gets into his personal life in so far as how it affects his writing. The book was constructed in two parts though not officially. This is because halway through the creation of his manuscript he was struck by a drunk driver and nearly killed. His return to his modest writing desk was labored, painful and a frightening thing for him. As a result, "On Writing" is more than a how to book, it's far more than a "This is my story" book and it's far more beefy, for the lack of a better word, than any book he's written, before or since (and I include his finest book to Date: "Under The Dome"). "On Writing" is a small book that inspires us to become what we dream; it needn't be a writer, it could be a musician, actor, film maker, anything at all. Not only does this book grant us the permission, but it justifys the permission. And all the time he stresses the importance of what life is really about: our family or friends and our self respect.
I own four copies of this book, simply because one is signed by King, one needs to be at hand and I got it here on eBay for a few dollars and because the other two are crated away in a house that held more than five thousand books when I moved in last fall.
Even if you don't wish to be a writer or if you're not a fan of Stephen King-and it's a rare person who wasn't moved by SOMETHING he wrote- this book is worth owning, teaching and lending. And it takes a LOT for me to lend a book.
Thanks, Steve.Read full review