I'm reading . . . uh . . . *cough* . . . [mumble]Stephen King[/mumble].

I am not the sort of person who reads Stephen King. I am, in fact, the sort of person who, observing another person reading Stephen King, lifts my eyebrows, sniffs, and says, “Oh, yes, I hear that he’s a very popular writer.”

But when I was cat-sitting, there was a copy of It laying around, and I picked it up and started reading a few pages a day while waiting for Chrissy to make up her damn mind and eat, and once I’ve gotten into a novel, I have this awful inability to put it down, no matter how apallingly bad it is. (Not that It is apallingly bad. Stephen King is a really great storyteller, although I don’t think he’s a very good writer.)

The hubby had a copy of in paperback, so I fetched it down and have been reading it. I’m a bit embarassed to be seen with it in public. I decided to leaf through an old copy of The New Yorker at the coffee shop rather than be seen reading It.

I don’t mean to imply that everything else I read is great literature. Mostly I read lowbrow
scifi crap–but it’s obscure crap and therefore not immediately recognizable as crap to most people.

Now that I’ve offended all the Stephen King fans . . . :slight_smile: Are you ever embarassed by your own reading material?

I hate myself every time I pick up my copy of Harry Potter.

Oh, sure…right now I’m reading an old pulp novel from 1930 I first read when I was about eleven, and enjoying it all over again. Edward Ellsberg’s Thirty Fathoms Deep. Stuff they wrote for kids back then is often better-written than current adult fiction. More entertaining, certainly.

Don’t worry about being embarrassed by your books; the fact that you’re reading at all gives you an intellectual leg up on most of contemporary society, I figure.

King can be fun, too…I liked several of his short stories, and The Shining. Unfortunately, I followed it with the not-very-good Cujo, Christine, and Pet Sematery, so now I’ve given up on the guy.

I never judge people’s reading material, I’m happy any time I see people reading anything. I am terribly ashamed of reading my mother’s “The Cat Who…” books, however. They are truly horrible, but I read them anyway.
I’ve never understood all the Steven King bashing. What exactly makes him a bad writer, if he’s such a good storyteller?

Usually I read mysteries “The pursuit of a noble mind at rest” Sleuth but I too am a closet SK reader.

I think he turns a fine phrase. I don’t see him being a bad writer at all.

A week or so ago, I caught myself about ten minutes into a detailed explication of why the book I was reading was not, in fact, a “romance novel” as Mr. Amanita had stated.

I don’t know who I was kidding. It’s a big cheesy historical romance that I like because it’s set in my home town and loosely based on actual people.

But I don’t read romance novels!

Amanita sounds like “Cleopatra isn’t the only queen of D Nile” (credit SNL). If I didn’t truly hate smilies (and emoticons in general) with every fiber of my being, I would insert one here

I don’t think one should ever be ashamed of reading anything. You like what you like, and other people can get over their own prefab attitudes about what you enjoy. The only time I’ve ever been close to being ashamed of what I was reading was when I read Randall Kennedy’s Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word, just because the title is so obvious on the cover. It wasn’t shame, exactly, but more concern that people would be offended by the “troublesome” word on display like that. But as far as the content of the book goes, I was very happy, even proud, to have read it.

As for Stephen King, he has his good books and his bad ones. He’s popular, sure, but that doesn’t automatically make him a bad writer. Carrie, is first published book, is actually quite good, while Cujo reads like he was high most of the time he was writing it (and according to him, he was). The Dark Tower series should be read by any serious fan of speculative fiction; it’s almost assuredly King’s finest work.

The only reason I can see to look down on King’s work as a whole is to accept the currently-fashionable trend of considering King a hack, just because he’s prolific and successful. Not all of King’s work is literature, but at the very least he’s a very influential and skilled writer. I doubt one will be able to look back at the late 20th Century fiction without some consideration of the effect that King had on it. Can one say the same for Danielle Steel?

Not that I look down on Ms. Steel, either… I don’t personally like her, but I don’t consider people who read her stupid. I just can’t see any substantive effect she’s had on modern fiction, despite her frequent publsihings. If anyone sees it, please point it out.

I never tell anyone that I’m reading the tripe on these message boards…did I just say that? D’oh!

Steven King is at his best when writing about children and how they think. Try “The Body”, a novella he wrote years ago. Took me right back to my childhood summer days. Also, “Misery” was one of his better efforts.

Jah knows I’m one of the biggest arts snobs on the board, but what’s the deal with dumping on Stephen King? He tells interesting stories in clear prose. I’d much rather read one of his horror novels than some interminably dull “literary” novel, like the oeuvre of John Updike or Norman Mailer. While I think his editors need to be a bit more ruthless with him, King’s books reward rereading, a claim that cannot be made of the works of many pop novelists.

Is his stuff, y’know, art? <shrugs> iQuien sabe?* Look at Anthony Trollope–his literary star faded into obscurity after his death and a half centruy ago he was regarded as a failed Victorian junk novelist. Now he is regarded as one of the master stylists of English literature. It’s possible that in 2103 your great-great-grandkids may be studying Carrie and Bag of Bones in their American lit class.

I fully admit to reading the occasional romance novel.

In the privacy of my own apartment where no one can see me do it. Of course, when I choose to read one, it’s all about the totally trashy soft-core porn ones. None of this “Historical fiction I may learn something from” thing. :wink:
I also read young adult books because I like them. I check them out from the library, or buy them at barnes & noble for ME, not for some fictional niece/nephew, despite what I may tell the cutie behind the counter.

I got over book snobbery at about 15 (when I would trounce around reading french existentialists in French *dies of embarassment). I read what I like and hope others do to.

I’m not ashamed of anything on my shelves.

I will confess to burying the supernatural romance paperbacks on the bottom shelf of a bookcase in a spare bedroom, but if you looked, you’d find them.

As for King, there’s quite a thing going on in the on-line book groups and on some horror message boards. It’s sort of the opposite of a backlash (frontlash?).

A few years ago everyone who admitted liking him felt they had to apologize or qualify their statement. But lately (maybe coinciding with his stories in The New Yorker?), you’ll find people proudly admitting that he’s their favorite writer without defending him or apologizing about it.

King doesn’t hit the mark all the time but few prolific writers do.

P.S. Have you finished It yet? What did you think of the ending?

It is probably the worst book King has ever written, Podkayne. I suggest you try some early King, say, The Dead Zone or Salem’s Lot, or, for more recent stuff, The Talisman, Black House, or any of the Dark Tower series. Or any of his short-story collections, such as Night Shift or Skeleton Crew – he’s a prolix writer but very good with the short-story form. He also wrote a nonfiction book, Danse Macabre, about horror fiction in general.

I used to be more worried about what people would think when they saw me reading Stephen King or any other stereo-typed authors, for that matter. But then I realized, screw the other people. I’m reading this because I enjoy it, not because I’m trying to impress people, and I’m not about to not do something I like, or confine myself to doing it in secret with the door locked and the blinds drawn because people turn their noses up at it.

Besides, most of the time, the snubbers aren’t even familiar with the work anyway, and more importantly…they’re not people whose opinions I value anyway. So, I figured, why try and impress them, and read pretty much without shame. Not to imply that somebody saying “why do you read that shit” doesn’t get under my skin. It does, but it makes me pissed off at the person asking, it doesn’t make me feel embarrassed.
And Chefguy, I agree. A lot of SK’s best writing is when it’s on children. “The Body” is a very good suggestion, and not at all what most people would expect from him. Upon seeing the movie “Stand By Me” (which is based on “The Body”) most people are shocked to hear it was originally a Stephen King story, which the movie follows very closely. Good suggestion.

You want guilty pleasures? Try reading Elinor Glyn’s It!

Edgar Rice Burroughs. The entire series of Doc Savage novels. Robert E. Howard. And any amount of other pulpy stuff.

LOVED the stuff when I was a kid, and I can still get quite nostalgic about it now…

It is one of the few Stephen King books I haven’t read. The quality of his work varies, and as BrainGlutton says, he’s actually a very good short story writer, and covers different topics in that format than you’d normally think, as with “The Body.” (He even wrote a poem I like, it’s called “Paranoid, a Chant,” which really surprised me since it was his. I believe it’s in one of the short story collections…Skeleton Crew?)

If you want to read a really good SK book, (again, I’m not sure of how It stacks up), then I’d definitely recommend The Dark Tower Books. They might take a while to get into, but they are well worth it. Much more science-fiction than horror, and what you said about sci-fi in your OP makes me think you might like this. As far as SK’s best book that reads like the horror fiction he is best known for, I vote for “The Shining” or “Carrie,” and more recently, “Bag of Bones.” Read one of those and your opinion just might come full circle, Podkayne :).

I read Carrie in high school and wasn’t too impressed with it, either. Started Cujo at one point, and put it down (which, as I mentioned above, is saying something.) I read The Gunslinger at some point, in the course of one afternoon when I was working at the ol’ cabinet store, if I recall, and don’t remember a damn thing about it except that the main character was skinny and he, like, had a gun, I think. Might have been a good book, but it made no impression on me. Anyway, after I wade through a thousand-plus pages of It I’m sure I’ll have my fill of Stephen King for another decade.

I don’t really want to make it a pro-SK/anti-SK thread or anything (so, try a different title, Pod!) so I just deleted a very long post in favor of this: I frequently find his prose clunky and distracting (sometimes he “turns a phrase” and sometimes he turns an ankle :)), I think his characterizations are overly simplistic (everyone is the way they are for a REASON, and dammit, you ARE going to UNDERSTAND that REASON), and his moral messages have all the subtlety of a Saturday morning cartoon (though I can’t fault the guy for writing a message of tolerance). I feel as though the author doesn’t trust me to think or draw conclusions for myself, so that everything has to be SUPER OBVIOUS and I need to be told the point OVER AND OVER AGAIN.

At the same time, he paints a very vivid picture, and he knows how to invoke strong human emotions, and play on common experiences. So, I read the book.

Oh, and I thought of another embarassing book–since I’m from Iowa, I was required by law to read both Bridges of Madison County AND Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend, and I see that Robert James Waller has a new book out. sigh I’m not taking it out in public.