Sunday, August 5, 2007

Dissecting Stephen King by Heidi Strengell

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Popular Press 3; New Ed edition (March 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0299209741
  • ISBN-13: 978-0299209742
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • List Price: $26.95
  • I finished this book on August 5
The subtitle to this book is From the Gothic to Literary Naturalism, but I swear that it's much more interesting than it would lead you to believe. Let take the cover, for example. I don't know if you can see from this image but in the picture instead of rib bones what you see inside this dissected chest are typebars from a typewriter. Cool.
Anwho, as you know I am a "constant reader" of (and often claim to be dating) Stephen King. And, because I am a turbo-nerd I am often compelled to read non-fiction books about things in which I am interested. Hence, the SK non-fiction book. I actually took out several from the library to peruse, but this one caught my attention the most.
Inside, author Heidi Strengell dissects the works of SK (did I basically just tell you what you already know from the title? You bet!). She talks about how his work is related to the Gothic tradition, including a drawn out comparison of King's Salem's Lot to popular gothic masterpiece, Dracula (for more info on Gothic books, click here). Then she talks about the myth/fairy tale tradition in King, discussing his "multiverse" and a cool part about how The Dark Tower series, is, among other things, a western, a gothic and an apocalyptic fable. Finally she ends up talking about King using literary naturalism, discussing things like: his use of free will, genetic determinism and the idea of fate.
Strengell herself is mysterious, not having published anything not about SK (more obsessed than me, perhaps?) but if you're interested in reading an essay of hers, then check it out here. So, because she clearly spends too much time thinking about SK she does point out some really interesting stuff and uses tons of examples from a variety of his books. After this I feel I need to go immediately and read Dracula and compare it with Salem's Lot. And eat Count Chocula. (mmm, marshmallow bats) so look forward to that in the near future.
When I was in undergrad I took a course called Philosophy in Literature for which we read several books I hated (who shall remain nameless). And my professor for that class (who shall also remain nameless, but I will note that he habitually wore Chuck Taylors) once went on a tirade about how Stephen King was awful and ruining literature etc. and that he had a magic computer that spit out his books at random according to a formula. Actually, that sounds more like a Stephen King novel premise than reality, doesn't it? Anyway, I remember at the time being very heated by these comments and wanting to make a rebuttal that King's work was popular for a reason. Perhaps I could give Mr. ChuckTaylors a copy of this book. Okay, maybe not. Really, I would only recommend this book to someone who was a big fan and has read a lot of King's work since it relies so heavily on examples. If you are interested, check out King's website.
Happily, even though I have read lots of King, there are still many more of his books out there waiting for me.


Carl V. said...

I used to be a big fan of Stephen King and the only reason I wouldn't classify myself that way now is that it has just been so long since he has been on my personal radar. I love his book On Writing and I generally like books like this about authors so it sounds very interesting to me.

bee said...

Carl, I loved On Writing too. Actually, I'm thinking of re-reading it soon.
I really liked King's (newer) book Cell, definitely creepy. I seriously think about it just about every time I use my cell phone.