DATE: 9/20/2003 09:52:00 AM
Ewww. Who Let HIM In? - Some literary critics are not so pleased with the decision by the National Book Foundation to award Stephen King a National Book Award for lifetime achievement. Critic Harold Bloom says "He [King] writes what used to be called 'penny dreadfuls...That they [the book foundation's directors] could believe that there is any literary value there or any aesthetic accomplishment is simply a testament to their own idiocy."
Stephen King's books may not be palatable to those with "literary" tastes, but most of them are good reads. I suppose Mr. Bloom thinks the term 'literature' should be restricted to those books written by the literary in crowd, those that aren't tainted by the approval of the masses. Most readers like a book they can sit down and lose themselves with for a few hours. The type of book with a cover tattered from re-reading, and whose characters seem like old friends. There are many such books on my shelf and they are written by authors like Stephen King, Ridley Pearson, Carl Hiaasen and Michael Connelly. These aren't authors who will win awards favored by the literary crowd, but they are authors whose books are enjoyed by their readers.
When I visited Russia this summer and mentioned where I'm from (Bangor, Maine) at least two people I talked to knew exactly where I was talking about. Their eyes would light in recognition and they would say "Oh...Stephen King."
Stephen King uses a term in his books I enjoy - Constant Reader. He knows his legion of fans and seems to enjoy pleasing them with his books. Incidentally, he also gives money to open learning and reading opportunities for everyone. The profits from his "penny dreadfuls" have been used to fund scholarships and expand libraries. Perhaps it's just hometown pride speaking, but I think Stephen King's books will be read for years after books valued by the literary elite are thrown into the bargain bin.