I Keep It In A Jar On My Desk

The Ottawa Citizen was sillier than usual yesterday. This from an item that ran under the byline of one “Misty Harris.” (And what self-respecting reporter would go around calling herself “Misty”? That’s not very nice of me. I can live with it.)

A new national poll has found more Canadians would like to host Stephen King for Thanksgiving dinner than any other author -- although that might mean keeping a closer watch on the old carving knife.

Here’s the silly part (or one of them): I’ve never understood why -- for as long as I’ve been following his career -- some reporters insist on carrying on as though Stephen King is scary. Sure: some of what he writes is scary. But most of what he writes is beautiful. The structure of his prose, the elegance of his words. I’ve always said that if King chose to write about lightbulbs, I’d read him. He just writes that well. The fact is, he doesn’t choose to write about lightbulbs. And though much of his subject matter tends to be dark and even frightening, that’s not why he’s been so popular for so long.

Stephen King is a wonderful writer. There. I’ve said it in public. His books do so well because he understands humans. He knows what frightens us, sure. But he also knows what makes us tick and click. And he knows how to build sympathy for one character and how to make another loathsome and frightening. But, at the heart and core of his books, King writes about people and the human condition.

Other than that, Misty’s piece is not a bad one. The hook is silly -- what authors would you most want to share your Thanksgiving dinner with -- but it does serve to draw attention to books and reading. Heck: even a few Canadian authors make the cut.

Literary darling Margaret Atwood followed closely behind, with John Grisham, Bill Bryson and Alice Munro rounding out the top five.

The balance of the story deals with the fall literary season and the premise that this autumn of 2006 “will see the largest release of titles by blockbuster authors in years.”

From where I’m sitting, whatever gets people talking about books is a good thing. Even if, as I said before, the premise is a bit silly. (Thanks Misty.)

And, for American readers, the whole Thanksgiving thing is salient right now because Canadian Thanksgiving falls on October 9th, this coming Monday. In honor of the holiday, my review of Cooking with Booze ran yesterday on January Magazine. (It seemed appropriately celebratory for the holiday.)

Happy Thanksgiving.

Comments

Peter said…
"From where I’m sitting, whatever gets people talking about books is a good thing. Even if, as I said before, the premise is a bit silly. (Thanks Misty.)"

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You might find a debate at
http://www.bryanappleyard.com/blog/2006/09/
people-read-too-much.php
of interest. By coincidence, a snotty remark about Harold Bloom precipitated my jumping into that discussion, and Misty Harris' remarks about Stephen King attracted your attention and set off this one.

The connection is that Harold Bloom has been guilty of some snotty remarks about Stephen King. But Nick Hornby, in the piece that set Bryan Appleyard off, goes too far, moving beyond a dig at Harold Bloom to an egregious bit of disingenuous reverse snobbery.
===================
Detectives Without Borders
"Because Murder is More Fun Away from Home"
http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/
Peter said…
Make that:

http://www.bryanappleyard.com/
blog/2006/09/
people-read-too-much.php

It appears that the URL was inadvertently abbreviated.

===================
Detectives Without Borders
"Because Murder is More Fun Away from Home"
http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com
Thanks for sending me to Appleyard's blog, Peter. I'd have chimed into the conversation as well, but it's been a couple of weeks now. That's a debate the will always rage... perhaps just not right there. And I really do think he's wrong: "People should not read more, they should read better. Or, failing that, they should sit quietly in a darkened room thinking." What rot! Because it's all so subjective, isn't it? My "better" may well be your "absolute crap" and neither of us are right. Or maybe both of us are. That's the beauty of the whole conversation.

Case in point: I'm currently reading a crime fiction classic, DuMaurier's Rebecca. I last read it when I was 12 or thereabouts and thought it was just wonderful. Now that I'm (ahem) somewhat older than that and I've heard so many people rave about the book, I thought it was time for another read. And while there are beautiful and (for an author or suspense novel) instructive moments I'm mostly underwhelmed. I can see what the fuss might have been when the book was fresh some 60 years ago but, for me, it just hasn't held up.

So are all those who love that book wrong? Am I right? In both cases, no. And as for sitting in a darkened room being better than reading something "unworthy" ... I sputter through a retort. It's just too silly to think about.
Peter said…
Bryan is a fire starter and a **** disturber, as many good bloggers will be. But go ahead and jump in. If he's worth his salt as a blogger, he'll check his archives from time to time. It's a shame when good discussions die out after a couple of days. Let's show the world our attention spans are greater than that.

Bryan is severe, but at least he's straightforward, even if he exaggerates for effect. Nick Hornby, on the other hand, is smarmy and disingenuous. He pretends to be open-minded, but he's anything but. He's ... well, you can read my comment there.

If Hornby had confined himself to a shot at Harold Bloom, he'd have been aiming at an easy target. But at least Bloom occasionally deserves a slapping down. But Hornby veers off to into snotty generalizations of the most cliched kind. Hey, I sometimes "choose to concentrate on a novel's literary merits," and I suspect you do, too. Hornby doesn't like that.

Oh, I forgot. He's written for McSweeney's. That means he was being ironic.
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Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder is More Fun Away From Home"
Myspace Layouts said…
I no longer keep the jars on my desk. The candy seemed to just disappear when I had them there. I was responsible for a large part of the consumption, but I wasn't alone, and that was part of the reason I had the jars in the open.

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