Creative Control

Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist

Masters of horror.

Yesterday was the first time I’ve read anything by Stephen King in years, and I’d forgotten how much I genuinely enjoyed the experience that is reading his work. I had entered a discussion with my friend Tara about King at dinner last night, as she was currently re-reading It, and I have fairly strong opinions about King in general and that book in particular. Later, I needed something to read for the train ride home, and Tara lent me her copy of It to be returned today. Last night, I read the book until I literally shut down, hovering under the surface of my own consciousness, aware that I had just fallen most of the way to sleep with the book in my hand and having to force myself back awake just to put the book down and turn off the light. This morning, I borrowed my friend Rick’s copy, which means I now have twice as many obscenely thick paperback novels about satanic carnivorous clowns in my backpack.

My feelings on King, in a nutshell. A haunted, demonic nutshell. I generally like his writing, although at times he can’t stop describing details, and I generally like his plotting, although with some of his books, It especially, he scuttles his own tight plotting in favor of something so out-of-this-world that it becomes a head-scratching affair. I have yet to re-attempt The Dark Tower series, since somewhere in the middle of The Drawing of the Three I became confused as to what King was trying to do. I hear it’s a good series. Maybe I wasn’t ready for it when I attempted it.

The Stand and The Shining are probably my favorites of King’s works, both because they never betray their own reality the way I feel It does. Then again, since I’m rereading it, I might appreciate better why King strays off into a world of alien turtles at the center of the universe. If you haven’t read the book, you might suspect I’m joking about that. Believe what you will.

I think King is a better storyteller than he is a writer, and I do think he’s a good writer. There is, however, a profound difference between storytelling, based on an ancient oral tradition, and writing. The former has a specific rhythm that comes from the straightforward expression of events, even when those events are expressed poetically. The story is its own rhythm. Writers who are not storytellers need writing to infuse their story with rhythm. Storytellers know that the story itself is rhythm, and have an innate ability to unlock this rhythm on its own.

George Lucas is a storyteller. He’s a terrible scriptwriter, or at least he is in terms of his Star Wars films, but despite how much it makes you cringe to hear Anakin Skywalker’s dialogue–“I don’t like sand. It’s hard and coarse and it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here everything’s soft. Like you.”–you can’t deny the epic scope of what Lucas has been trying to do with his films. While not as intricately detailed as Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, Lucas’ Galaxy Far Far Away is a living world with a very specific history and an environment teeming with life. Homer was never known as a playwright, but The Iliad and The Odyssey are well-told stories.

Is it better to be written, or to be told? Good question, Bilal. Thank you, Bilal.

Current music: MP3 list, Ani DiFranco, “32 Flavors”

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This entry was posted on April 29, 2003 by in Books, Writing.
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