// The good kind of entertainment
Stephen King is a bit of a dirty pleasure of mine.
I started reading his books as a way to decompress between more demanding reads and, at this point, I’ve read over 10 novels of his.1
Every time I finish one of his books I say to my self: “Yeah, it was good but I’ve read much better stuff”. Yet, it’s never a let down: it’s entertainment but it’s not Bland Entertainment.2
Especially after reading On Writing, some years ago, I appreciate him even more.
His belief that stories are found things, like fossils in the ground and that the writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one [of these fossils] out of the ground intact as possible has since then fascinated me.
It’s a humble and romantic way of seeing the writer/narrator job: they act as a medium to bring “forgotten” stories to us.
Also, I appreciate, the way King approaches the plot: without setting a goal, but instead starting from a situation and exploring the characters and how they behave. He thinks like them (all of them, the good ones and the bad ones) and follows his characters all the way until the end, to discover himself what that fossil turns out to be.
This is one of the reasons why his characters are always able to resonate with you: they act in realistic ways, they make sound choices, and, overall, they’re crafted with care in many details.
At the same time, it’s probably also the reason why some of his books don’t have a satisfying finale. King himself said that sometimes he thought a book he was working on would end up in a certain way, only to discover that his characters decided to behave in a different way. Still, this is something I can accept and even respect, if you can say that.
All of these, an much more, combined with the clear love for telling stories that transpires from his pages is what separates him from the Bland Entertainment that’s everywhere around us and doesn’t let us time to think. Because if we would, we’d realise how shitty it is.
King’s favourite books of mine are:
I know, it’s a peculiar top 3, but these are the ones the resonated with me the most, for the following reasons.
The first part of On Writing is an honest and compelling autobiography, while the second part, the one that made me really love this book, guides you through King’s writing process, his thoughts on what makes a good writer, and what it takes to get there.
In the Dead Zone, one of his classics, you follow the main character thinking he’s the hero, one of the good guys. It’s only at the end that you realise the similitudes between him and a religious fanatic. It’s brilliant and I still think about it from time to time, even if I read it almost ten years ago.
Lastly, 11/22/63 is just a really good science fiction novel. It focuses on an interesting moment of human history (Kennedy’s assassination) and it’s able to explore all the theories around it without taking sides or sounding crazy while, at the same time, featuring a really interesting time-travel concept.
By the way, yesterday I finished Holly, his latest book, and once again I said to myself: “It was good but I’ve read much better stuff, even from him”.
Yet, once again, I’m excited for the next Stephen King’s book I’m going to read.
Also, he seems like a cool dude.
I know, it’s not a big number considering who we’re talking about but I like to mix genres and authors up when reading.↩︎
This I say without much certainty since I try to stay away from easy reads most of the time. And it has nothing to do with being pretentious; it’s just that, being mindful of the time I have to actually read, I prefer to experience something really worth the time. It may require a bit of effort but, most of the time, what you get out of it is worth it.↩︎