In keeping with my spooky Halloween week posts, let's spend a few minutes with author Stephen King. I first started reading Big Steve when I was nine or ten, and I have loved him ever since. If you stop to think about it, how many things do you still love now that you loved when you were nine or ten? Right. His first four novels are some of my favorite books of all time. In the past few weeks, I've reread those four books--Carrie, 'Salem's Lot, The Shining, and The Stand--along with his first collection of short stories, Night Shift. I'm ready to make the following declaration.
Stephen King is one of the greatest writers of our generation, just based on these four books alone.
I know, these books are in the horror genre, and intellectuals don't take them seriously. They were immensely popular. How can he be a great author? Easy. He creates believable characters that we grow to care about. He then places those beloved characters into difficult situations. Yes, these situations involve telekinesis, haunted hotels, vampires and the end of the world. But, within those larger horror situations, he creates the real world situations--a relationship failing due to an alcoholic spouse, a man trying to get over the death of his wife and exorcise childhood demons, a high school outcast trying to fit in--and those realistic smaller situations make the bigger spooky situations more real.
Stephen King is a master storyteller, meaning that he starts the ball rolling from page one, and he doesn't let up until you get to "The End." His stories move move move. I have always said that The Stand will be taught in college courses a few generations from now, just like we study Poe now. I would say now that all four of these books make for great literature, while also accurately giving snapshots of our modern culture. When I pulled out my copy of The Shining, I thought, "Wow, I've had this book since I was ten, and I still want to read it."
That's magic right there. Spooky magic.