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Stephen King (1947 - )

Lifespan: 1947 -

Related: American literature - nobrow - horror fiction

Non-fiction: Danse Macabre (1981) - Stephen King

Influenced by: H. P. Lovecraft

"[Stephen King] is a man who writes what used to be called penny dreadfuls. That they could believe that there is any literary value there or any aesthetic accomplishment or signs of an inventive human intelligence is simply a testimony to their own idiocy." – Harold Bloom, 1993.

Like Anthony Trollope, Charles Dickens or Balzac in his La Comédie humaine, King has expressed the fundamental concerns of his era, and used the horror genre as his own branch of artistic expression. --http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/sking.htm [Dec 2006]


Stephen Edwin King (born September 21, 1947) is a prolific American author best known for his horror novels. King's books have been extremely popular, and are among the top-selling books ever, fiction or non-fiction. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_King [Jul 2005]


American novelist and short-story writer, whose enormously popular books revived the interest in horror fiction from the 1970s. King's place in the modern horror fiction can be compared to that of J.R.R. Tolkien's who created the modern genre of fantasy. Like Anthony Trollope, Charles Dickens or Balzac in his La Comédie humaine, King has expressed the fundamental concerns of his era, and used the horror genre as his own branch of artistic expression. King has underlined, that even in the world of cynicism, despair, and cruelties, it remains possible for individuals to find love and discover unexpected resources in themselves. His characters often conquer their own problems and malevolent powers that would suppress or destroy them. --http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/sking.htm, accessed Mar 2004

Pulp or literature?

Although King is respected as a major force in popular fiction, his books blend the line between high art and pulp culture. --http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/sking.htm [Mar 2004]

Nobrow [...]

[...] the reigning master of horror is still battling the forces of snobbery. Wednesday, as he receives the National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters (2003), he's also at the center of a debate over what, exactly, is "literature."

The lifetime achievement award has gone to the likes of John Updike, Philip Roth, and Eudora Welty, and the announcement that King was next in line drew roars of protest and fears of an imploding Western canon from literary critic Harold Bloom and a host of others who deride King's work as "penny dreadfuls" - and dismiss the horror genre as pure pulp. For literary lions and fervent fans, such tirades probe the line between highbrow and lowbrow - and raise some eyebrows, too. --Christina McCarroll and Ron Charles | Staff writers of The Christian Science Monitor

Thank you very much

Thank you very much. Thank you all. Thank you for the applause and thank you for coming. I'm delighted to be here but, as I've said before in the last five years, I'm delighted to be anywhere. --National Book Awards Acceptance Speech, Stephen King, 2003

Derogatory comments by Harold Bloom

THE DECISION to give the National Book Foundation's annual award for "distinguished contribution" to Stephen King is extraordinary, another low in the shocking process of dumbing down our cultural life. I've described King in the past as a writer of penny dreadfuls, but perhaps even that is too kind. He shares nothing with Edgar Allan Poe. What he is is an immensely inadequate writer on a sentence-by-sentence, paragraph-by-paragraph, book-by-book basis. The publishing industry has stooped terribly low to bestow on King a lifetime award that has previously gone to the novelists Saul Bellow and Philip Roth and to playwright Arthur Miller. By awarding it to King they recognize nothing but the commercial value of his books, which sell in the millions but do little more for humanity than keep the publishing world afloat. If this is going to be the criterion in the future, then perhaps next year the committee should give its award for distinguished contribution to Danielle Steel, and surely the Nobel Prize for literature should go to J.K. Rowling. --Harold Bloom, Dumbing down American readers, Boston Globe, 9/24/2003

Apt Pupil : A Novella in Different Seasons - Stephen King

  • Apt Pupil : A Novella in Different Seasons - Stephen King [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK] Taken from the collection of tales, Different Seasons, Apt Pupil is a socially disturbing story that demonstrates why Stephen King's name has come to symbolise terror. Set in the safe, suburban surroundings of middle-class U.S.A., Apt Pupil centres on the intense desires of one teenager's curiosity and just how far the quest for knowledge can be taken before it becomes a danger rather than just an interest. Todd Bowden is an all-American senior school teenager excelling both academically and on the sports field, ambitious and determined he encounters a Nazi war criminal living unnoticed in his neighbourhood. Using blackmail he persuades Arthur Dussander to recount his experiences as a guard in the Concentration Camps, until Dussander evolves into something far more horrific than Todd could have possibly imagined. From being the 'apt pupil', Todd goes into freefall until he is forced to rely on Dussander for help, which is when the hunter becomes a weak and vulnerable prey.As tragic as it is horrific, Apt Pupil is an exemplary King work, incorporating the daily lives of the unassuming American public into a masterpiece of spellbinding, nerve-jangling twists and turns. When Stephen King begins to focus on the human rather than the sub-human, you know that something special is being born out of that dark void beyond his imagination. This creation is conceptually brilliant and delivered with immaculate panache, so much so that hours after the final page is turned you are still looking over your shoulder! --johnewark via amazon.com

    The Stand (1978) - Stephen King

    The Stand (1978) - Stephen King [Amazon.com]

    The Stand is an apocalyptic horror novel by Stephen King. The novel, originally published in 1978, remains a favorite of many King fans. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Stand [Jan 2006]

    Ultimately, The Stand is about Good vs Evil. [Jan 2006]

    See also: apocalypse

    Amazon review by Fiona Webster:

    In 1978, science fiction writer Spider Robinson wrote a scathing review of The Stand in which he exhorted his readers to grab strangers in bookstores and beg them not to buy it.
    The Stand is like that. You either love it or hate it, but you can't ignore it. Stephen King's most popular book, according to polls of his fans, is an end-of-the-world scenario: a rapidly mutating flu virus is accidentally released from a U.S. military facility and wipes out 99 and 44/100 percent of the world's population, thus setting the stage for an apocalyptic confrontation between Good and Evil.
    "I love to burn things up," King says. "It's the werewolf in me, I guess.... The Stand was particularly fulfilling, because there I got a chance to scrub the whole human race, and man, it was fun! ... Much of the compulsive, driven feeling I had while I worked on The Stand came from the vicarious thrill of imagining an entire entrenched social order destroyed in one stroke."
    There is much to admire in The Stand: the vivid thumbnail sketches with which King populates a whole landscape with dozens of believable characters; the deep sense of nostalgia for things left behind; the way it subverts our sense of reality by showing us a world we find familiar, then flipping it over to reveal the darkness underneath. Anyone who wants to know, or claims to know, the heart of the American experience needs to read this book. --Fiona Webster for amazon.com

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