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In which I presume to tell Stephen King what to do...

King's Dear Constant Readers

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Edited: Apr 18, 2010, 10:46pm Top

A thread for sending suggestions to SK that he won't get, because this is a thread buried in the webs and not actually sent to SK.

I'm a Constant Reader, despite myself. I come back to Stephen King the same way I come back to Godzilla, Spider-Man, Ray Bradbury, and other assorted creators/creations that own real estate in my head. Always orbiting, never quite drifting - even after I read one of SK's books that I consider a stinker (which is about a third of his catalog, I'll announce while ducking behind something).

What would you have him write?

I'd have him rewrite On Writing to be longer than the unabridged The Stand. I could read King writing about King all day, for some reason. He seems so self actualized and like the consummate professional in his field. I love his story, the real ones. I'd pay good money to hear about his thoughts during PTA meetings.

I'd like to read 50 pages about his love of Matheson, especially if it included a little more fessing-up about how much he has borrowed/done-tribute-to from RM's work.

As for his fiction - his descriptions of madness are among the things he is doing better with his advancing age - 1408 is just about a picture perfect schizophrenic breakdown, as are the atmospheric effects surrounding characters like the Low Men. He also writes mature themes about divorce and spousal death extremely well.

So - I'd ask for something along the lines of Insomnia (not bloody likely, since I don't think it had half the commercial success as many of his other books), and more delving into Lovecraftian territories.

What I would not like - more ghost stories. He's rewritten The Shining a half dozen times. Duma Key was a cut and paste from 6 or 8 of his previous novels. Stories like Willa are nice, but he isn't doing anything new in the genre - his son has surpassed him in this particular subject (which probably feels both good and bad and supplies competing motivations).

So... there is my idea for a thread. I won't be at all wounded if you think this idea is a snoozefest - but I imagine it is something a lot of Constant Readers have opinions about.

I don't mean to step on toes by disliking a book you loved, either. Duma Key would have been a great read if I hadn't already read all the books it seemed taken from (just about word for word, again and again). There is a certain psychosis at work in it's writing - the similarities and overlapping is part of his methods (hence 'mirror books' and occurrences like Gingerbread Girl and Duma Key being written around the same time, with mirror characters, circumstances and settings throughout that he doesn't mention in his story notes).

I like that. But, if I've just been served chocolate chip cookies, it will affect my opinion about the chocolate chip pie that follows it - and the cookies got there first and made a certain shaped nest, and those cookies seem territorial.

Apr 18, 2010, 4:46pm Top

A great idea, Daedalus, especially for those of us doing the monthly read. Here's what I'd say:

1. Credit your readers with some intelligence and imagination. You don't have to spell everything out for us. When you rein it in just a little you are all the more effective for it, and it's a joy.

2. Like Daedalus, I think you are fantastic with non-fiction. I, personally, would love to see you do an In Cold Blood-type true crime but seeing as you like to stick to what you know and love, how about something about Maine and its history?

3. Never mind a longer version of On Writing, what many people would like to see is an updated version of Danse Macabre, or even a new book dealing with where you left off to the present day. Of course you didn't grow up during this period, but your children did, and your son is now writing in the genre.

Edited: Apr 18, 2010, 4:57pm Top

For what it's worth, I really liked Insomnia.

I just finished reading Heart-Shaped Box and lack about 30 pages finishing Horns. I was telling my husband that these were interesting little stories but not nearly as frightening as Stephen King's books then found out the same afternoon that Joe Hill is King's son. Eerie. In my opinion, "Box" could be made into a very frightening movie, but the book itself isn't gripping. The same could be said for "Horns." Neither one of them made me hate to put them down, nor did I think about them and yearn to get back to them. They didn't fill my imagination with horror, either.

I was a Constant Reader for years but got bored with King. My husband bought Dreamcatcher, so I read it, but it didn't seem up to his past standards. I finally bought a new one -- Duma Key -- and thought it was very good. Perhaps I had been away from King long enough not to realize it was so derivative.

I thought I had a few suggestions but realized that I don't. After all, one can only write The Stand, his best work in my opinion, and Pet Sematary once. (Insert maniacal laughter here.)

Apr 18, 2010, 6:15pm Top

My only suggestion to King: Keep doin' what you're doin', man.

Edited: Apr 30, 2010, 10:57pm Top

re 3:
Joe Hill v. SK. JH stories don't stick with me as much, even when certain elements strike me as more original. I'll try to rephrase it - I think JH has better ideas that are not yet as well written (but they are pretty well written).
SKs ideas haven't seemed fresh in this area for a while - but his writing is rarely off.

Apr 18, 2010, 11:23pm Top

Oh man. Insomnia is the worst King book that I finished. Then there's Rose Madder, but I never finished that so who knows, maybe it improved?

I've noticed the closer a story gets to his Dark Tower stuff, the less I will like it (except for Low Men in Yellow Coats).

Regardless, if I could make a suggestion to King it would be to write a follow-up to Danse Macabre.

Apr 20, 2010, 8:43am Top

Oooh, yes - an update or follow-on to Danse Macabre would be amazing. I'd also love to see him write a long novel that wasn't about the supernatural. IMO his non-supernatural works - The Body, The Long Walk, The Last Rung on the Ladder, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption etc - are absolute gems. I'd get very excited indeed about a full-length novel in a similar style.

Apr 20, 2010, 8:57am Top

I hated Insomnia the first time I tried to read it, loved it every time since then, it's one of my favourites now.

The only things I'd like to tell Stephen King to do is to carry on writing as much as he can, send me a preview copy of everything and to stop doing terrible things to dogs in his stories. Most of Under the Dome was spent in an agonising wait for the dogs to be harmed or killed to the point that I lost all sympathy for half of the people. Little Walter also caused me a great deal of stress.

#7 - Did we once have a discussion about how we would like to see how some books could have been different if only they were written by X Author instead of Y Author? This thread is reminding me a little of that one.

With regards to JH, I loved Heart Shaped Box, liked Horns (although it was more of a Dean Koontz than a Stephen King in my eyes) and loved 20th Century Ghosts but there was one bit in Horns that really reminded me of SK and that was when Lee was saying he moved the moon and we finally found out what happened to him that night.

Apr 27, 2010, 11:16pm Top

On the Insomnia front: One of the brilliant things about that book was the very deliberate pacing that made the reader experience Ralph's insomnia.

I think, with all the dabbling in this kind of thing King seems to get better and better with (using a lot of OCD lately) if he could get the reader to experience Alzheimer's... with, you know - a great story involved (get to work on that), it could be brilliant. Lends itself to great broken narrative potential and if he can hit the mark - brings a truly frightening and unpleasant feeling to the reader that they will never forget. The fact that some Alzheimer's sufferers have violent reactions can't hurt.

Challenging - but I bet he'd be up to it. Imagine how fun it could be to actually prompt a forgetful response in a reader by manipulating their information source with confusing haphazard data. Maybe this has been done before - it sounds too good to be an idea I had before others have already played in it for a while (I'm not counting Momento, that's different).

On another note, I wanted to say that I don't mean to disrespect SK with my (higher) above comments - I like him very much. He's among my 20 favorite people I've never actually known.

Apr 28, 2010, 4:37pm Top

I'd like to add to my previous comments by saying that these books by Joe Hill would make very frightening movies, but only if the people watching the movies hadn't read the books first.

I've just reread post #2 and didn't see where the poster said what Daedalus18 stated in his post #5. Please clarify, Daedalus18. Thanks.

Apr 29, 2010, 3:15am Top

>10 Boobalack::
Yeah, I wondered about that! I think he was referring to post #3 but I'm not entirely sure.

Edited: Apr 29, 2010, 1:29pm Top

Yes - I was referring to post 3. Edited 5 to prevent confusion.

Apr 29, 2010, 2:56pm Top

You still have the posters mixed up. Wanna' try again? lol

Apr 30, 2010, 5:57pm Top

I loved "Insomnia". I have read it more than once. I agree that we pace ourselves with the character as reality slowly rearranges itself.

I would have been happy for him to have not written "Cell" at all. I thought it was beyond superficial. "Under the Dome" was a good read, but nothing particularly new.

On the other hand, I truly appreciate the direction in which he has been moving in general. I like the long, slow deconstructions such as "Lisey's Story" and "Dumas Key". He has frightened me enough over the years, I'm happy to go on long mystical trips with him.

I too would like to take a very long, slow, journey into madness with Mr. King. No supernatural element required. He would do that brilliantly.

Apr 30, 2010, 7:49pm Top

It's amazing--I'm reading Christine right now, and when I compare it with Lisey's Story, you see just how brilliant a novel the latter is. Not to say that Christine isn't fantastic, because it (or should I say 'she'?) is, but Lisey's Story is such a complex, beautiful novel unlike anything else I think King has ever done. The same goes for Duma Key--for all its horror, it was as rich a story as King has ever written.
Under the Dome? One of King's worst novels--and it was still all right.

Edited: Apr 30, 2010, 10:58pm Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Edited: May 2, 2010, 11:08pm Top

#14 - I too would like to take a very long, slow, journey into madness with Mr. King. No supernatural element required. He would do that brilliantly.

Wasn't that called Secret Window, Secret Garden?

May 3, 2010, 1:39am Top

Good story, man. Good story.

May 10, 2010, 5:43pm Top

If I recall correctly, and I may not, "Secret Window, Secret Garden" is more of a thriller with a twist at the end.

I want to be inside the mind of someone who is slowly descending into madness. For a long, long time.

"The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet" is closer, but it doesn't ultimately preclude the supernatural.

May 11, 2010, 5:18am Top

My favourite 'descent into madness' is the one in (I think) Skeleton Crew with the fornits. My son has my copy right now and I can't remember what it's called - can anyone help me out? I've got it stuck in my mind now and I can't shake it until I know.

May 11, 2010, 3:06pm Top

"The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet"

This reminds me -- I need to read that book again, along with my other old King books.

May 11, 2010, 3:32pm Top

#21 Sorry, was that a reply to mine? I do believe you're right now and I should have recognised it from the previous post but I didn't. Great story.

May 11, 2010, 5:13pm Top


That's ok. Nobody listens to me, I'm used to it :)

May 11, 2010, 5:23pm Top

#22, I thought since my post was directly after yours you'd know it was a reply to yours. Sorry.

#23 I would have listened to you, except that my brain has gone on vacation and whatever it is that is left up there didn't connect fornits with your post, nor did it remember that you had previously posted the title. It was apparently off in la-la land. Sorry.

Now, I KNOW I need to read all the short stories in The Skeleton Crew again.

May 12, 2010, 5:16am Top

#23 I was listeing too but, like Boobalack, it's a long time since I read Skeleton Crew and I didn't make the association either. It was your post that reminded me of the fornits but I didn't link it with the right story. I think I need a reread too:-)

May 21, 2010, 3:54pm Top

Difference is: I just read "Skeleton Crew". I've been reading King since High School and somehow this one went right by me.

So no memory was required on my part. That's good thing.

Group: King's Dear Constant Readers

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