For those of you only getting your internet news from the Book Catapult:
I know that I have promised to never write about Stephen King again, but c’mon, you knew that was never going to be the case. Sometimes he says things that are just…”so choice“. In an interview with Brian Truitt from USA Today – posted on “journalist” Lorrie Lynch’s blog this week (don’t ask me how I first came across this one) the King bashes fellow authors Stephenie Meyer, Dean Koontz, and James Patterson. Hard.
“You’ve got Dean Koontz, who can write like hell. And then sometimes he’s just awful. It varies. James Patterson is a terrible writer but he’s very very successful.”
Oh, snap! Well, I can’t say I disagree with that assessment of Patterson. (See my old, ranting, crazyman post on King and Patterson.) And although I don’t know Dean Koontz from Sue Monk Kidd, what established writer – especially in the genre we’re talking about here – doesn’t hit and miss from book to book? I’ve never said that King is a terrible writer – he certainly has found that niche and I’d be a fool to say otherwise, but even within the confines of that niche he has turned out some stinky dead fishes from time to time. (Exhibit A: Cell published in 2006 – people turned into zombies by their cellphones. Not that I read more than the jacket copy.) Even the more literary authors that actually can “write like hell” can’t get it right all the time – Jose Saramago, Philip Roth, Garcia-Marquez – all have bombed in recent years. Hell, even the late John Updike had some relative duds, although it’s sacrilege to say so these days. (James Patterson, on the other hand, has clearly signed an agreement with Lucifer.) Here’s the really juicy part of King’s interview though:
“Both Rowling and Meyer, they’re speaking directly to young people. 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.”
Oh dear. First off, doesn’t King know better than to bash Stephenie Meyer on the internet? Her people are everywhere – they’re even reading this post right now! Furthermore, where does someone who writes pop-lit tripe like King get off criticizing another pop author’s skills? Since when is any of this about writing talent? King found his groove, made a boatload of cash, got comfortable, and has been churning out the chum for 30 years – once you sacrifice writing literature for something like horror, you forgo the luxury of literary criticism. Does Paris Hilton criticize Lindsey Lohan’s acting talent? Even his book reviews for Entertainment Weekly…wait, need I say more? He gives an “exclusive” interview with USA Today, writes a column for Entertainment Weekly, and still has the balls left over to criticize other popular authors? Case dismissed on the grounds of the plaintiff being a white trash author. Even his bashing of James Patterson needs some perspective in light of his own resume – where does he get off qualifying Patterson as one thing, while considering his own work as something else? Where’s that Pulitzer, King? Or the National Book Award? Or the Quill, even? While I don’t know if Stephenie Meyer is a good writer or not, I just think that King’s comments come off a bit bitter or hard-hearted, considering that she’s the hot author where he once was himself. Kettle, Pot. Get over yourself.
In all fairness, King is Pulitzer-worthy compared to Patterson. I couldn’t resist adding these opening lines from J.P.’s 1st to Die, just for fun:
It is an unusually warm night in July, but I’m shivering badly as I stand on the substantial gray stone terrace outside my apartment. I’m looking out over glorious San Francisco and I have my service revolver pressed against the side of my temple.
“Goddamn you, God!” I whisper. Quite a sentiment, but appropriate and just, I think.