NABOKV-L post 0006877, Sun, 6 Oct 2002 08:59:28 -0700

Nabokoviana: Stephen King-- up there with Nabokov or Thomas

----- Original Message -----
From: Sandy P. Klein
Sent: Saturday, October 05, 2002 9:11 PM
Subject: America's greatest literary authors, up there with Nabokov or Thomas Pynchon

From a Buick 6
October 5 2002

Illustration: Harry Afentoglou

A car that gives birth to gross creatures - Stephen King is not running on empty yet.

By Stephen King
Hodder & Stoughton, 404pp, $49.95

There have been rumours circulating about Stephen King's retirement. His Web site lays these rumours to rest, although readers of King's fiction will know that nothing is allowed to lie quiet for long. Nevertheless, the Web site gives him another two years' grace.

He is likely to be more productive than ever in the near future: promising two more volumes in the Dark Tower series, collaborating with the United States' ABC on a television program based on Denmark's The Kingdom, adapting Patrick McGrath's novel, Asylum, as a screenplay for a major motion picture and doing something musical with the old country rocker, John Mellencamp. King himself is an old rocker: I imagine someone on stage (King is a big man) who works the guitar a bit like Neil Young. His group, the Rock Bottom Remainders - other members include the rock journalist Greil Marcus and the novelist Amy Tan - have recently been on tour.

All this energy has been burning away since his slow recovery from an accident that almost killed him a few years ago, when a man driving a small truck slammed into King as he was taking a walk along a country lane. Since then, King has written a book about the craft of writing and published three novels and a collection of short stories.

He continues to develop his e-book projects and has put an acclaimed television miniseries together, Rose Red, the story of a haunted house. In the meantime, film, audio and television adaptations of his work just keep on coming: the second version of The Shining aired in the US not long ago.

High and middlebrow literary folk may scoff at this level of production, of course, even as they secretly envy it. Literature is much less forthcoming than genre fiction: a career like King's, with around 45 novels over 30 years, can seem like an impossible dream even to the most prolific of literary authors.

But there is no need to think that such a level of output must mean low-quality work. King is now generally taken as one of America's greatest literary authors, up there with Nabokov or Thomas Pynchon. He writes beautifully, each paragraph lovingly crafted and every sentence finely tuned. His horror fiction is also contemplative, leaving plenty of room for philosophical meditation. Literature now inhabits his world as a matter of routine: his previous novel, Black House, emulated Dylan Thomas, referenced Mark Twain and Charles Dickens and even found itself wondering about Jacques Derrida.

In a recent article for The New York Review of Books titled "King of High and Low", John Leonard praises King for yoking together the top and the bottom ends of literary culture. The novels saturate their horror stories with a cornucopia of detail from across the cultural spectrum, from rock music trivia to T.S. Eliot. King's characters are always curious, with open minds: generous of spirit, they are able to offer intellectual speculation even in the midst of the tightest plot line.