It’s been a long while since I awarded anyone the “Chickenhead of the Month” prize, but Alistair Harper comes to us from across the Atlantic with a stupidity that is simply too remarkable to let slip.
Alistair Harper knows nothing of the publishing industry. His whole thesis is wrong. How he got to be a Guardian blogger or paid to write is truly amazing. His charge — that “the chip on [Stephen] King’s shoulder as big as the vast American states that are usually his setting” — does not hold. I don’t believe that any author can truly control the nonsense that appears on book covers. Harper doesn’t seem to understand that once a manuscript is turned in, the author is often at the behest of marketing forces. Because the publishing industry is, you know, an industry. And an industry expects to sell products. Or does Harper honestly believe that the publishing industry is in this bookselling business for the philanthropy? If phrases like “words are his power” or “this book will cause you to sodomize a goat” will sell more units, then the publishers will put these words, however preposterous, on covers to sell books. And how is King being uncertain about the shelf life of his work egotistical? Newsflash to Harper: When it comes to nonfiction, King is often as subtle as a Bengal tiger running around Grand Central, and he would be the first to admit this. He is, as he mentioned in Danse Macabre, a self-described “burgers and fries of literature.” And had Harper even bothered to read the introduction to Blaze, for crying out loud a few pages he could have flipped through in a bookstore*, a book that this sad illiterate hasn’t even bothered to examine, he’d realize that King extensively rewrote the book. This hardly a case of a manuscript merely being “dusted off.” And how is it egotistical exactly to want to finish a series when a million readers — many of whom have written King letters and expressed hopes that he would finish, as indicated in the same introduction that Harper quotes from — clamor for it? Has it not occurred to Harper that King simply cannot stop writing? That isn’t egotistical. That’s the mark of a hypergraphic personality.
If Harper hates King, he should simply be honest and say so. But in hiding behind this “Stephen King has an ego” gambit, he attempts to pretend, like some bumbling teenager trying to figure out how to open up a golden Trojan package but too afraid to ask for help, that it’s about King the person and not King the writer. This is hubris of the first order. It’s the kind of thing you expect from 1600 Pennsylvania, not 119 Farringdon Road
* — The UK edition likewise possesses an introduction by King. If it is different from the US edition, please feel free to correct me.