Upbeat Cynicism

what do you mean i lost my mind?

Harping on King a little

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Harlan Ellison once said (or rather, wrote) of Stephen King that he was a talented writer, but that all of his novels — with the possible exception of It — would have been more effective at novella length (which is generally defined as 20,000 to 50,000 words). Ellison and King, if you don’t know, are friends, and Ellison has defended King both publicly and privately on several occasions. One of Ellison’s charms is that he refuses to pull his punches, even with dear friends.

I think that in this instance Ellison was perhaps over-harsh. King does wax prolixic more often than not, but for every book that could be shortened or sharpened, there is another that would be harmed by such cutting.


He’s got a new, fairly obnoxious book out now, Cell, in which the end of the world is brought about by mobile phones (because, you know, he hates them).

If you’ve not read it and don’t mind ruining the ending for yourself, try this: pick it up and read the beginning far enough to figure out what genre it is (hint: the dedication is an enormous clue). Once it clicks for you, and it shouldn’t take you past the end of the first chapter, read the last page or two.

And then tell me how that ending could possibly be better served by the four-hundred-plus pages that lead up to it than by the twenty or fifty or (let’s be generous) one hundred sharply-focused pages King would have been allowed were he writing in the 1930s to 1950s and publishing in Weird Tales or the like.

In this case, Ellison was dead right. I read the opening and the closing, and refuse to read the rest, since it cannot be other than surplussage.


Written by [IMH]

5 April 2006 at 7:33 am

Posted in Literature

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