Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Stephen King: Experimentalist?

I wonder if Stephen King will at some point get credit as an experimental novelist. In Desperation and The Regulators, King does something I've never seen before: he tells different but similar stories, in a different setting, but with the same characters (playing different roles with differing levels of significance) and a similar villain. Or perhaps he could be credited with bringing some literary innovations to popular fiction, as in the narrative form of From a Buick Eight, or the metafiction of the Dark Tower series.

King's prose has greatly improved throughout the course of his writing career, in my opinion, and more and more he's playing around with structure, narration, and style. King's writing may be more craft than art, but he is a master craftsman.


  1. Anonymous5:15 AM

    Desperation and the Regulators also have different "authors." I agree with you, all the way. I think there's something freeing about the genres he writes in. And the amount of money he makes. He can do what he likes.

    Could you give some specific examples of his development as a prose writer? Usually a literary writer writes much stronger prose from their mid-20s to their 40s. Do you think King is the reverse because he focused on story telling rather than style in his youth, whereas a literary writer (I'm generalizing, clearly) like Hemingway focuses on style and form in their youth?


  2. There are also writers like Dostoevsky and Roth who seem to be at their peak later in life. But you might be right about King--he was a storyteller for a long, long time (and an excellent one), and evolved into a writer.

    But I think this is why I consider King's writing "craft"--he's improved because he's had an incredible amount of practice writing (are there many human beings on earth who have written as many pages of fiction as King has written?).

    As for specific examples, I would say the later short story collection "Everything's Eventual" contains much better prose than some earlier short story collections (though perhaps the stories weren't as entertaining). I'm also not sure King in the '70s was capable of wrapping up the Dark Tower series the way he did--with the metafiction, the eloquent death scenes, and then the very ending.

  3. I agree. Mr. King has come a long way from his first novel, Carrie.