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Stephen King Biography Essays

On Writing: A Memoir

Stephen King

256pp, Hodder

£16.99
Buy it at BOL

'I like to get 10 pages a day, which amounts to 2,000 words," says Stephen King in his new memoir, On Writing. "That's 180,000 words over a three-month span, a goodish length for a book." When he's working on a book, which is most of the time, he writes every day of the year, and that "includes Christmas, the Fourth, and my birthday".

King is a not a writer, in the usual sense; he's an industry. According to Forbes, he makes in excess of $50,000,000 a year (and I didn't accidentally add a few zeros). It all began in 1974 with his first novel Carrie, about a teenage girl with supernatural powers. Some 30 novels and half a dozen story collections later, the man has never looked back, pounding out blockbusters in a way that redefines the word. Not since Dickens has a writer had so many readers - I confess to being one of them - by the throat. Much of his fiction has, of course, been turned into films. As if this weren't enough, King has also written five novels under the name of Richard Bachman and spun out nearly a dozen screenplays or teleplays. On top of which, he's a nice guy.

The niceness comes through in his books, encoded in the voice itself: a loud but down-to-earth, friendly and innocent voice that might be America (or America's vision of itself) talking. The fact is, King has got more of postwar America into his fiction than almost any other writer now at work. That he has chosen to write in a particular genre - horror - has, unquestionably, worked against his critical reputation. Perhaps rightly, critics have wondered about his seriousness. The novels are terribly uneven, and even the best of them - The Shining, Pet Sematary, Dolores Claiborne, The Green Mile, Bag of Bones - tend to puff and wheeze after a while like an overweight man on a treadmill. Only his most recent novel, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, is tautly written. Nevertheless, King's imagination is vast. He knows how to engage the deepest sympathies of his readers, and they have rewarded him handsomely.

Lately, King has been on the literary equivalent of a rampage. Bag of Bones was a big, distorted yet wonderfully entertaining novel that rode high on the bestseller lists in 1998. Hard on the heels of that success came a fine collection of stories, Hearts in Atlantis (1999). That same year, he also published The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon - a chilling, often beautiful novel about a young girl lost in the woods. For almost the first time, reviewers sat up respectfully, noting the depth and shapeliness of this work. One could no longer dismiss King as just another bad writer proffering cheap thrills to the multitudes.

That same year, he brought out his first electronic book, Riding the Bullet. This novella was the world's first mass-market e-book, released through his conventional publisher, Scribner. Half a million downloads later, the publishing industry had to face up to something new under the sun. Soon the idea occurred to King that he might try e-publishing without a conventional publisher in the background. He would simply post a book on his website and request a dollar from anybody who downloaded it. Instead of writing something fresh, however, he rooted through his bottom drawer and found a long-abandoned piece of fiction called The Plant. It's a revenge fantasy about a frustrated author who sends a man-eating vine to devour his publishers. "My friends," King wrote on his website (www.stephenking.com), "we have the chance to become Big Publishing's worst nightmare." Although not as successful as Riding the Bullet, the new work did well enough to please King. (For the record, I sent him a dollar.)

Now comes On Writing: A Memoir. It is part biography, part collection of tips for the aspiring writer. In the final chapters, King tells, in graphic detail, the story of his recent accident. In June 1999 he was near his home in Maine, taking his usual four-mile stroll along a rural route. Unexpectedly, a blue Dodge minivan lurched over the hilltop, totally out of control. It was driven by a local man called Bryan Smith. King notes, casually: "Smith wasn't looking at the road on the afternoon our lives came together because his rottweiler had jumped from the very rear of his van into the backseat area, where there was an Igloo cooler with some meat stored inside." Smith thought at first that he had hit "a small deer".

It was King he hit. After bouncing off the windscreen, the author found himself at the side of the road with his lap turned the wrong way. One of his legs was broken in nine places, "like so many marbles in a sock", as his surgeon later explained. He had a collapsed lung and lacerations on his scalp.

His devoted wife Tabitha (herself a novelist) stayed by him through several agonising weeks during which it was not clear whether King would ever walk again. His three grown children - Joe, Naomi and Owen - were by his side as well. King's gratitude shines through this memoir. One comes away from it liking King a great deal and admiring his family.

Understanding her husband's compulsion to write, Tabitha established the wheelchaired King at a makeshift desk in a hallway of their rambling Victorian house only five weeks after the accident. That King could possibly summon the will to work in this situation is nothing less than astounding. He wrote a little at first, then a lot. Soon, it was business as usual: the author as locomotive, charging down the tracks of narrative, rock music blaring in the background. The pages gathered on his desk. In the 15 or so months since his accident, he has poured out the e-novella, Riding the Bullet, most of a teleplay in six hour-long parts for American television, and a 900-page novel, Dreamcatcher. Oh, yes, and he added the memoir of his accident to a book about the craft of writing that he'd already finished.

King has nothing much to say about writing that isn't obvious. "In my view, stories and novels consist of three parts," he explains with professorial solemnity: "narration, description, and dialogue." He warns us: "The adverb is not your friend." He advises writing behind a closed door: "It is your way of telling the world and yourself that you mean business; you have made a serious commitment to write and intend to walk the walk as well as talk the talk." Oh dear. King is infinitely better at writing than talking about writing, though fans will doubtless find moments of interest here, especially when he talks about his own extraordinary writing habits.

The best part of the book remains his account of how writing - and the primitive urge to write - saved his life after the accident. It's a bizarre and absorbing story, told brilliantly by one of the great storytellers of our time. One only hopes he lives to write many more books, however uneven. I would not begrudge him a single item on his bibliography. He is, after all, the King.

• Jay Parini's novels include The Last Station and Benjamin's Crossing.

Biography and Work of Stephen King Essays

1337 Words6 Pages

Killer clown, pig’s blood, children killing adults, an adventurous cat and “here’s Johnny!” can all be connected to the KING of terror and horror, Stephen King. King is one of today's most popular and best selling writers. King combines thrillers, science fiction, the paranormal and detective themes into his stories. He is mainly known for his novels, which has allowed him to do different types of writings such as movie scripts, nonfiction, autobiographies, children's books, and short stories. King's works are so powerful because he uses his experience and observations from his life and (finish)
Stephen Edwin King was born in Portland, Maine on September 21, 1947. His parents Donald King a Merchant Marine captain and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury…show more content…

In 1966, Stephen King graduated from high school and took a scholarship to attend the University of Maine. From his sophomore year at the University of Maine, he wrote a weekly column for the school newspaper, The Maine Campus. He was also active in student politics, serving as a member of the Student Senate. He came to support the anti-war movement on the Orono campus, where he decided his stand of the war in Vietnam was unconstitutional. He graduated from the University of Maine at Orono in 1970, with a B.A. in English and qualified to teach on the high school level. He began his work at an industrial Laundromat, then became a janitor, then finally became an English teacher at Hamden Public School in Maine in the Fall of 1971. He used the experience to write the short story "The Mangler" and the novelette "Roadwork"(as Richard Bachman).During this time, he and his family lived in a trailer. He wrote whenever he wasn't working. King also developed a drinking problem during this time which stayed with him for over a decade.
King began writing numerous novels during this time. One of his first ideas was of a young girl with psychic powers. However, after beginning to write about it he disliked it and threw it into the trash. Tabitha later rescued it from the trash and encouraged him to finish it.After completing the novel, he titled it Carrie. The one thing that really helped the

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