On Writing – 3/5 Stars
I am late to the game on this one. I picked it up looking for some potential sections to share with my Dual Enrollment English 12 classes this fall and we begin the school year, and while I think there’s plenty of good material in here for that, the language alone (the casual sexism to boot) makes it tough. But for me the biggest issue with sharing this book with my students is that I just don’t think it would be particularly useful. Stephen King is clearly a singular talent in writing. Some of his books are great, most are good, and only a few are bad. But that doesn’t translate super well into concrete advice that would help others learn. I think that what this is more than anything is a writing memoir. So the ideas he has about writing probably work, and probably work well, and could be useful, but they’re 100% focused on taking someone who wants to write and maybe disabusing them about the process a little. For students who maybe don’t actually want to write that much, he’s not going to get the pen moving. I also think that his hokey prose is about at its worst here, especially in the straight out memoir sections, which I didn’t like nearly as much as the guides. I think the issue here is that he probably hasn’t lived that extraordinary of a life, and enough creeps into his fiction, that a memoir of life doesn’t work. He’s not Nabokov, who lived a crazy youth and is re-writing the biography field as he goes, and he’s not Mary Karr, who got into writing mostly because of her lived experiences. And so I think the result is that this is a fine book, but not a great book, and maybe not a good book when it comes down to it.
The Dark Half – 2/5 Stars
This, however, is a real dud.
From the very beginning of the whole thing I was reeling from how truly cheesy and cringey this book was. It starts with a weird doctor’s visit in which a cartoonishly bad dad is complaining about the costs of a surgery, to be performed by a sexist Randian doctor, who finds an absorbed twin in the brain of a young boy who’s just won a writing contest. He excises the extra tissue and doesn’t tell the family. Surely this won’t come back.
From there, the novel jumps to the present where the protagonist–Thad Beaumont–is coming out to People magazine as the man behind the wildly successful writer George Stark…a kind of Malcolm Braly, Harry Crews, and grizzly bear combination of a nom de plume writ real by the creative imagination of Beaumont, an otherwise middling literary writer.
They “kill off” Stark and what happens next is that everyone involved in the death starts dying in brutal ways. And it goes on and on.
I thought every bit of this novel was off. Stark is weirdly offensively goofy as a concept and he’s completely false and charmless. Beaumont has no presence on the novel really. The sheriff character never has any real reason to believe the situation.
But the absolute worst part is the birds, the psychological connection point between Stark and Beaumont. This whole aspect of the novel fails so spectacularly that every time there’s more birds, I was annoyed and frustrated because it fundamentally did not work and he kept going back to it.
I think either this is one of the ones he wrote on drugs, or should have.