My high school AP English teacher believed two things: a) that the New Yorker was God's gift to small town hicks like us and we would all do well to subscribe to it, b) that Stephen King was trash and should be read by no one. So, you can imagine our delight when a Stephen King story was published in the New Yorker that year. And since we all subscribed to it, we all brought in our copies on the same day to show him.
This just goes to show that everybody, except Mr. Warner, likes Stephen King at least a little bit.
About once a year, both Potts and I become compelled, as if by a force greater than ourselves, to re-read It, or The Stand, or The Shining. I just came off a Talisman/Different Seasons bender a few days ago.
Since reading It under the covers in the eighth grade, I daresay my tastes and critical sensibilities have become somewhat more refined. I'm well aware of King's bad habits as a writer, but still, I keep coming back, along with millions of other readers.
Obviously, King's a great storyteller -- everybody knows that. But here are a few of the other reasons why even those who "should know better" or something can't stay away.
1. Nostalgia: And I'm not just talking about the nostalgia for re-reading books you checked out from the library on the sly, though that's certainly part of it. King is very good at evoking childhood, as well as a vision of a "simpler" America in "simpler" times. Of course, this is problematic, but the here and now is sometimes a booger, and if it makes one feel better to read about little boys who collect baseball cards, and convicts who are basically good people who made one mistake, and where listening to Blue Oyster Cult on the radio is the best thing ever, I say why not?
2. Back Story: King's characters have places to go and evil to fight, and basically, a lot of stuff to accomplish in the course of a novel. But still, King takes the time to explain who they were before the action started and why they're so messed up. Sometimes, these sections are better than the action itself.
3. Mythology: Typically more popular with fans of The Dark Tower series, everything in the world of King's books is so intertwined it makes the Buffy-verse look downright simple. Even a relatively unambitious book like Hearts in Atlantis echoes back to the Dark Tower.
4. Wiseass-ery: Stephen King characters are great at put-downs, one-liners, and snappy comebacks. They somehow manage to sound cool saying things that would get your ass kicked in real life. Like "Suck my fat one, you cheap dime store hood" in Different Seasons In the book, Gordie gets his ass kicked then for this insult because it is considered insulting. In real life, he would get his ass kicked for this insult because "Suck my fat one, you cheap dime store hood" is a douchebag thing to say, as well as being a little too verbose to be a truly effective insult. Still, having read a lot of Stephen King, I like to think that if I ever stared evil in the face, I'd say some pithy, wiseacre thing to it before it ate my eyes.
So, why do you read Stephen King, and which of his books is your favorite?