Thursday, February 5, 2009

cage match! cage match!

Unless you have been under a rock the last few days, or don't have an internet connection (in which case, how are you reading this?), you have likely heard the kerfuffle about Stephen "scary clown" King dissing Stephanie "sparkly vampire" Meyer in an interview. Specifically, he says: "Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good."

(In an aside, wouldn't you love to see a cage match arranged? My money's on King. Even if you gave Meyer a chainsaw and a rabid lion.)

Now, if you read the original interview, which is apparently an excerpt from a larger interview that's going to be posted at some point, you can see that King is actually making some important points about Meyer's storytelling and why her books appeal to teenaged girls. Here's the relevant paragraph, and I think King comes across as reasonable:

"...[I]n the case of Stephenie Meyer, it’s very clear that she’s writing to a whole generation of girls and opening up kind of a safe joining of love and sex in those books. It’s exciting and it’s thrilling and it's not particularly threatening because they’re not overtly sexual. A lot of the physical side of it is conveyed in things like the vampire will touch her forearm or run a hand over skin, and she just flushes all hot and cold. And for girls, that’s a shorthand for all the feelings that they’re not ready to deal with yet."

You can read some interesting comments on the topic over at Nathan Bransford's blog, everything from the (sigh) unpublished writers saying they wished Stephen King would diss them in public, to people accusing King of being jealous of Meyer's success (!), to people saying King is awesome for being so forthright or un-awesome for being so bitchy, to some well-reasoned and therefore rather boring responses.

My take? We are all readers first. We all respond as readers before we respond as writers, as critics, as scholars, as whatevers. So the opinions of everyone who's read the book are equally valid, although you get more points if you can write your opinion coherently and with proper grammar and punctuation. And if you haven't read the book*, you are not allowed to express your opinion about whether the book is any good or not.**

*which I haven't

**You can, however, diss Meyer's freaky-ass Mormon "religion" all you want. Because that shit is crazy, and colors the themes in Meyers's books in ways that have nothing to do with her writing ability.


Aaron Polson said...

I have read the book (just book one) and I'm not a fan. It was compulsively readable, but when I finished, well, it was like a bag of chips; I wasn't so happy I ate them. But I know why they are like crack cocaine for teenage girls. Boy do I.

All of my female colleagues (these are high school teachers, mind you) say it is like, and I quote, "teenage girl porn".

I think there is far too much nepotism and @$$shining in the book industry already, let King say what he believes. Better than a "best book ever" blurb anyday.

(pardon my use of an "at" symbol and dollar signs)

Jamie Eyberg said...

I guess everyone is entitled to there opinion and if someone has a bigger forum than most I guess more people will hear your opinion. I am reading King's latest book and I just read a story that, quite frankly, sucked. I don't care who would have written it. No one will care about my little opinion though.

K.C. Shaw said...

To tell you the truth, I'm afraid to pick up the first book. I know I'd probably secretly love it, which would be embarrassing.

I was really pleased to see King speak frankly about someone else's writing, too. There's a fine line between professional courtesy and just plain being a mealymouthed asskisser (or @$$kisser, hee), and too many writers these days seem to be erring on the mealymouthed side. I'd rather hear someone's blunt (but well-thought) opinion than a platitude, even if I don't necessarily agree with the opinion.

K.C. Shaw said...

Jamie--To be honest, I've never read any of Stephen King's fiction. I've read some of his nonfiction and my general impression is that he's an energetic but sloppy writer, but I don't know if that's also true of his fiction.

Jeremy D Brooks said...

King's a funny guy...if he didn't already have this epic position in the industry, it would be easy to write his comments off as trolling. But he's Stephen King, and trolling wouldn't do his career any good at this point, so it neatly drifts into the category of refreshing honesty. In On Writing, that kind of direct Professor King honesty came across pretty well, but it seems he's that way even when he's not trying to school us n00bie writers.

K.C. Shaw said...

Yeah, I get the impression that he doesn't really give a shit about what people think of him, and never has. I can't decide if that's refreshing or if he's just kind of a jerk. Maybe both.

Cate Gardner said...

I was disappointed that he said it. If I was in King's position I'd have said Meyer's books were not to my taste and left it at that. If he was a critic or a reviewer, I'd have no problem with it, but he isn't.

I've actually read the first book and (hides behind the sofa) really liked it. It definitely appealed to the teenage girl trapped inside me.

K.C. Shaw said...

Yeah, that's why I won't pick it up. I'm a real sucker (haw haw) for that kind of thing.