Stephen King

Recently Richard got me Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep as a present.  It’s the sequel to The Shining, which I had never read.  I’d seen the Stanley Kubrick/Jack Nicholson movie, but had heard the book is different (and it definitely is) so I decided to read the book first.

The Shining was an enjoyable, page-turning airplane read that I finished on the return leg of our recent trip to Phoenix, and I was looking forward to starting the sequel that seemingly just came out.  As we were walking through the airport on our way to our car, however, we passed the bookstore and I noticed that Stephen King had another new book out, called Revival.  My God, I thought:  how many books has Stephen King written?

The answer is . . . a lot.  According to King’s website, if you just count novels, there are more than 50.  50!  Indeed, in between Doctor Sleep and Revival there was at least one other book, Mr. Mercedes — and perhaps two, because I can’t tell whether Doctor Sleep was published before or after Joyland.  And that is just novels; there are countless essays, short stories, and other pieces in a listing of written works that seems impossibly long.

By anyone’s definition, Stephen King has been astonishingly prolific.  Those of us who aren’t creative can only marvel at where he could come up with so many ideas for books — but what really impresses me is King’s obvious dedication to his work and his craft.  You can only publish that many books, short stories, and writings if you are willing to sit down at your writing desk, day after day, and work.  And Stephen King is still doing it, at age 67.

Critics will probably never look upon Stephen King with the same affection they have for, say, Jonathan Franzen or David Foster Wallace.  I don’t pretend to know precisely what separates fiction from “fine literature,” but I do know this:  Stephen King has stayed atop the bestseller lists for decades now, producing book after book that people want to read, and he has done it by working hard, grinding away at new stories when he presumably could kick back, live off his royalties and speaking fees, and become a man of leisure.

If you want a living testament to the merits of a strong work ethic, consider Stephen King.  We should all be able to find some inspiration in his example.

Shutter Island

Kish, Russell, and I went to see Shutter Island last night.  The theater was packed, and the audience reaction was mixed.  The three of us liked it, but I overheard the teenage girl sitting next to me tell her friends:  “Well, that is the worst movie I’ve ever seen.”

Richard’s review does a good job of describing the movie’s plot and setting.  I thought the Martin Scorcese’s direction not only paid homage to Hitchcock, but also to movies like The Shining and The Sixth Sense and even The Usual Suspects.  It was much move overtly violent than typical Hitchcock fare, but it had a great sense of overall creepiness that goes well with the Hitchcock ouevre.  At the end of the movie I found myself wondering which of the scenes were real and which were not.  The reveal at the end of the movie made me want to go back and review the first part of the movie to see whether, like The Sixth Sense, the reveal was perfectly consistent with the characters’ actions and dialogue.  My suspicion is that it is. It helps to explain, for example, why the heavily armed guards greeted the characters of Leonardo diCaprio and his new partner when they arrived at the island by ferry.

After leaving the theater, Kish, Russell, and I went to Five Guys for burgers and talked a lot about the movie.  Not many modern movies can spur so much conversation.  Any movie that can do so is worth seeing.