Monday, February 9, 2009

A discussion - King vs. Meyer


The writer/blogosphere is all a buzz about a recent USA Weekend interview with the very opinionated Stephen King. In the article he discusses his thoughts on popular authors vs. the academic elite, and if he believes his success paved the way for what constitutes a successful career.

"The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good."

After some further thoughts on Erle Stanley Gardner (King: "terrible"), Jodi Picoult (good), Dean Koontz (good and bad) and James Patterson (bad), King said further:

"People are attracted by the stories, by the pace and in 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."

Nathan Bransford, a popular literary agent, asks some interesting questions about King's response.

Who decides what's good anyway?

Is it the readers? After all, if Meyer is so successful she has to be doing something right. And in this world of American Idol, everyone fancies themselves an expert. But surely there is some difference between commercial success and artistic merit, right? Are we ready to crown the most successful books the "best" books?

Is it the critics? Should we leave "good" to the people who devote themselves to sifting through the books and movies and decide what's good and bad? Surely there's something to be said for expertise, right?

Is it the writers? Who knows better than the people who are actually writing the books, right? Or do they?

Is it the scholars? Yesterday's potboilers are today's classics. Yesterday's drivel is today's unappreciated genius.

Has the world of blogging made everyone a critic? Has well-informed criticism been replaced by popular opinion? Is Stephen King just jealous of Meyer and her overnight success?

14 comments:

Amie said...

When did the world become so uncivil! I wonder sometimes if these people that write the stories understand that they have had the freedom to write their stories and they should let others do the same. What good comes from telling an author that what she writes is not good? If only Stephenie had added a rabid dog to the story.

What great social harm has her book caused? Did we buy her book instead of a Stephen King novel? Maybe he's worried that his books will be left behind in the made for TV genre. If Stephenie Meyer's books create a "thirst" for young girls to read, what is the harm? Right now I have a Pete's Dragon song going through my head! Remember the song, "There's room for everyone in this world".

Thanks for getting my blood pressure up this morning!

Amanda said...

Stephen King has a history of making blanket judgements on authors despite the fact that he is an author himself (rather than a critic). In his writing memoir, On Writing, he makes a lot of stupid comments about authors, and compares his books to classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird. I think King's okay as a writer - he certainly doesn't fit into the box of his genre - but he's no classic. I think that he's a little sensitive and is trying to portray himself as something he's not. Generally this is what i feel when I read anything he writes in criticism of other writers.

Frankly, I love Harry Potter - you KNOW how much I love it - but I can't say Rowling is a great writer. She's a great storyteller, but I'll be the first to admit her writing sucks in places. She gets better as she goes along in the series, but sometimes she's so scattered and repetitive it's not funny. As for Meyers, I haven't read enough to know if she's good or not, but her mechanics seem fine based solely on Twilight (though her characterization leaves much to be desired).

I don't believe "good" can be defined by readers in general. People can like some real crap, be it in books or movies or whatever else. People read mindless drivel just for fun, and books that sell a bazillion copies are often just not that good. They won't be remembered in 50 years time. That's not to say only literary fiction is good - frankly, a lot of today's literary fiction is total crap, too, devoid of plot or anything interesting in order to hold the title of "literary."

It would be hard to say what is good, but i suppose for myself I define it as something that touches someone's life, changes them, more than just amuses them for a couple hours. Something they'll always remember, something that addresses the human condition, something that MEANS something. Even when I don't like a book, if it has all those elements, I can recognize it as good, just not my taste or to my liking. That's how I define "good."

Tanja said...

Anytime we allow others to tell us what we think we have lost as humans and individuals. There have been differing opinions about The Bood Thief, but one of the main points of the book is the power of words. Hitler did not come to reign with guns and violence to begin with, he came with words. We elect people based on words, we learn about the world through words. The key is to decide how much of others words are going to dictate mine. I happen to be stubborn and bratty so I listen very little to the world's words. I like to talk and discuss and persuade others. So do I believe that the critics should decide if a book was good, no. It is for me to decide. They can guide and warn about content, but shut up with telling me what I should read. I have Amie to do that for me (ha ha).
Speaking of Stephen king. He writes horror books people. Not exactle the best judge of what girls are or wants, this based on limited amount of reading I have done of his

Carrie said...

I love that you have this blog post on here. (btw...Lula's cousin here...oh and Mandy too! LOL) I didn't particularly enjoy the Twilight series...didn't hate it...didn't love it but I can see where Stephanie Meyer has brought so many more people into the world of books and reading. Isn't that success in and of itself? Whether she is a good writer or not she's introduced books to so many who otherwise would not have read much. Who's to determine what good writing is? Well, definitely NOT Stephen King for me.

You guys on here all sound so smart and book-ish (in a good way). I don't know that I can share your level of intellect but I enjoy reading it! :)

The Bradfords said...

Oh Lula, you kill me babe. What the heck is this ruckus you're raising? Here's my take on your post: I've never read anything by Stephen King and I likely never will because I don't like the horror genre. To be fair I should maybe read something of his that isn't in the horror genre, but I probably won't. He creeps me out. When I was young I saw the movie "The Shining" and that was a scary story. But I also saw "Cujo" and that was idiotic. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that he was the creator of "The Shawshank Redemption", and I think there are some other little gems out there by him that I can't recall right now. But at any rate what he says about Stephenie Meyer or any other author/artist really doesn't matter to me.

What determines if someone is a good artist? And by artist I mean painter, sculptor, author, moviemaker, musician and so on. I just don't think there is a way to determine that. Since we are all different, we will all view things diferently. You may get one thing out of a book because of the life experiences you bring to your reading of the book, and I may get something totally different. And that's a great thing! You may see something completely different than I do if we both look at a Jackson Pollock painting and there's nothing wrong with that. I'm so glad that there are different people doing different things out there so we can have choices of what to read/watch/view/listen to. I don't like to read stories about Nazi Germany so I don't have to! I can go read different stories that invoke the feelings I want to feel. Hallelujah for that!

Bottom line I agree with Amie. Why do we have to be uncivil? Why can't we just be different? We are all critics of what we like and don't like--some get paid, some don't. It's okay to say "I just didn't really like that one", even if everyone else seems to be gaga for it. The consumers are the best judges of what is good and what isn't.

My opinion is that the author has done a "good job" if he/she has caused us to have an emotional experience as we've read the story. Happiness, excitement, grief, sadness, depression, anger, surprise, thrill, peace, or just a pure sense of delight and wonder. For me that's what makes it "good", whether I like the story or not.

Oh and that's why I like Stephenie Meyer's books and think she is a good author.

Lula O said...

Great comments and I'm happy that I am not the only one who suffers from high bp! Welcome Amie and Carrie! Sorry to cause a ruckus Suzette.

About King, I agree, he is being a jerk about it, and like N. Bransford said, how ironic it is since he too has received many a scathing review regarding his writing. They are hardly classics!

I'm not a particular fan of Meyer's series either, but like has been said, more people are reading because of it, so who cares? What people like and don't like is completely relative. Critics opinions rarely matter in the end. She and Rowling are single-handedly saving the publishing industry from this awful economic climate. He should be thanking them instead of making snotty comments. Or better yet, he should be writing a teen romance about a witch that plays flying soccer and a hot pale creature from the undead. Maybe he'd sell a book or two...

The Bradfords said...

Why let him write it? You should do it and make the money. I'll buy a copy! Thanks for making me think, form opinions and smile. You're a crack-up, Leather.

Stephanieeeeeee said...

I think I agree with every comment here, so I’ll simply add this: I don’t let critics dictate my preferences, but I admit, I am more inclined to read a book if it has good reviews. The critics aren’t always right, but it gives a busy gal a place to start!

Lula O said...

I'm more apt to look at one as well, if I've heard about it. Except in Oprah's case, not any more. Remember how she raved about Edgar Sawtelle? Called it just as good as To Kill a Mockingbird? Christina's review here said it was the most boring book. She didn't like it at all. I've heard several people say that.
It really is all relative, what we like and don't like.

Tanja said...

I agree with Lula. I am more likely to read a book recommended by a friend than Oprah or some critic. So I suppose we are critics in our own way.

Stephanieeeeeee said...

Well, Lula and Tanja, now that I think about it, I agree with you about friends being the best critics...I just added Katherine to my reading list! :)

Lula O said...

I have it if you want to borrow it. It is a great historical romance, and most of it's true!

Heidi said...

Hey friends... I've been keeping up with this blog since Suzette told me about it.
Based on what Lula just said, I wonder if you guys would like to start some kind of "library-coop" of sorts to check each others books out or borrow them?
I would love to borrow Katherine and Rebecca if you have that one, too.
Just a thought. :)

Lula O said...

Sounds good to me!