Reading Stephen King


As a rule, I don’t read Stephen King fiction. Nor watch any movie based on any of his books. Nothing personal. It’s just that I don’t like horror stories. The truth is, I am too much of a coward to be able to survive a full-length Stephen King rendering, either in book or movie form. The one time I relented and went with my younger brother to watch “The Shining”, both of us fled the movie theatre before the screening was even halfway over. To this day, we both don’t know what ultimately happened to that Jack Nicholson character, nor the hotel or resort, the setting of the story. See, it runs in the family, this phobia of the horror-genre. We are made of the same stuff – what Stephen King might call… chicken shit !

I mean no offense to Mr King nor his legion of fans. In fact, I like him tremendously as a person, based on what I know of him, through his non-fictional writing, and his many personal interviews which he has generously given over the years. His book, “On Writing, A Memoir Of The Craft” (Scribner, USA, 2000) is, in my opinion, one of the best on the craft of writing. I had bought a copy in 2003, devoured it in one huge gobbling. Over the years, I had come back to it, again and again, for little nibbles.

Even though I had never read him as a fiction writer, I figured that as a best-selling author of some 35 (then) books, he must know a thing or two about the craft. To me, he did, and still does. What has also come across is a stand-up guy, no airs, straight shooter, no bull shit. He is no bad writer too, in his own breezy, folksy and very readable style. Non-fictionally speaking.

Which was clearly evident in “The Neighborhood of the Beast”, his account of the time in 1993, when he, together with a bunch of fellow famous writers, toured the East Coast United States as the amateur rock band named “The Rock Bottom Remainders” (Mid-Life Confidential, The Rock Bottom Remainders Tour America with Three Chords and an Attitude. (Viking Penguin, USA, 1994.)) His recounting of his role as a rhythm guitarist and vocalist was vivid, hilarious and painfully honest.

Which were the reasons I paid another visit to both books a few days ago. I was feeling a bit down in the dumps and was encountering some difficulty with the writing of my next blog post. Having just spent weeks on a new short story, I couldn’t seem to be able to get going on the task at hand. None of the tentative posts I had lined up in advance seem to suit the prevailing mood. Any idea for a new post topic was either a non-starter or a DOA. I feared that I might have run into that proverbial writer’s block. I badly needed a pick-me-up, and a get-out-of-jail card.

As Stephen King said, at the end of the day, (which he actually didn’t, since one of the few writing rules he did issue was “never write stuff like ‘at the end of the day’”), reading is essentially a process of transference between the writer and the reader, with the reader getting out of it what he thinks the writer is saying (which he did say – kinda). Somewhere in my re-reading of Stephen King, I heard him cheering me on, and yelling at me to “get off your butt” and “get going on your f***ing blog”.

As you can see, I did. Both.