Tuesday, February 03, 2009

STEPHEN KING VS. STEPHENIE MEYER: CELEBRITY SMACKDOWN?

I read a blog entry today that's gotten a lot of fur flying. Seems that Stephen King, a bestselling horror writer since the 1970s, doesn't think too highly of Stephenie Meyer, author of the TWILIGHT series.

Let the fur-flying begin.

To take the remark within its context, you can check out The Who's News Blog by Lorrie Lynch. But basically, the interviewer asked if King thought his success had paved the way for writers like Meyer and HARRY POTTER author J.K. Rowling. In his answer, King managed to volunteer his opinion of the two authors: "The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can't write worth a darn. She's not very good."

The blog entry is drawing hundreds of posts taking sides, pro-King vs. pro-Meyer. (Please, let's don't start that here!) King goes on to assess the talents of such writers as Erle Stanley Gardner and James Patterson ("terrible"), Jodi Picoult ("terrific") and fellow horror writer Dean Koontz -- "who can write like hell. And then sometimes he's just awful. It varies."

My point here isn't to take sides in the battle, though I will agree that J.K. Rowling is excellent. I also believe King is a fine writer himself. (I haven't read Stephenie Meyer yet, so I'm safely in the neutral camp there.) I do find it ironic for King to evaluate other writers in such black-and-white terms, when he's so often been dismissed by critics himself over the years.

But what I think King may have meant to say, and didn't quite get around to saying, is that there's a difference between good writing and good storytelling. To quote him in Lorrie Lynch's blog once more: "People are attracted by the stories, by the pace."

Bingo.

If a book tells a story that speaks to the readers, it's doing its job. The subtleties of language and style can add a lot of richness – but without a story, all those efforts would be hollow. King knows this. It's what's kept him on the bestseller lists for over thirty years.

Could he have been less blunt in his opinions on other authors? Well, I say yes. But fortunately, there's a world full of books out there, for all of us to read and enjoy and make up our own minds about. More power to Stephenie Meyer for getting more teens to pick up some of those books … and I think King would agree with that, too.

2 comments:

CurtissAnn said...

I'm so sorry you hurt your knee! Get better fast!

As for Stephen King-- I doubt he worries one bit being blunt with his opinions. And more power to him. One time I made a remark about not liking an august writer, and to a reporter, so it showed up in print. I was mortified. :)

CurtissAnn

Stephanie Newton said...

Hmm. Interesting post, Sierra. I think you're right that sometimes good storytellers aren't necessarily good writers. I think readers are willing to a writer a lot of leeway for a good story.