“Genre writer” is taken as a pejorative due to the implied slight that the author does not make you think; his work is sensory-level escapism. Still, good genre writers do their craft well and Stephen King was masterful in evoking a sense of dread. Especially the interior monologues of people who are slipping toward madness or evil. I read most of his work as a teenager so my judgment comes through a filter.
But a few weeks ago I picked up a copy of Salem’s Lot (which I read at 14) and opened to a random paragraph near the end of the book. It was a lengthy description of the jittery thoughts of a vampire-fighting priest who was turning into a vampire himself. My suspension of disbelief was smooth. In other words, well written.
His current shitlibbism, as well as its form during his mid-1970s to early-1980s creative peak, has roots in Baby Boomers’ notion that liberal is nice, conservative is mean. That notion comes from their dread of Eisenhower-era growth of unaccountable forces in society. But Boomers misdiagnosed things, deflecting the fear of power grabs from the intelligence-military complex and its private-sector partners onto the scattered voices of resistance to that cancer. Most people fell for it, with figures such as Joseph McCarthy and George Wallace being frozen and polarized into stand-ins for threats to freedom.
But perceptive observers feel the malice, even if they feed their unease into a fake ideology. Firestarter is one of his less-well-known novels but it identifies the deep state and MK Ultra-like operations.
Another fallacy of the ascendant liberalism of his generation was a failure to put the criminal class into perspective. King hated White criminals, going hard on them in The Stand. That’s another manifestation of his “liberal = nice” thinking. Don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone, and few appreciated the role of one’s own reasonably contained criminal class in securing liberty within a multicultural country.
Not completely sure what to make of his three feminist novels. Other than The Body (better known as its film interpretation Stand By Me), Dolores Claiborne may well have been the closest he’s come to literature. It was weighed down by garbage motifs of the period, including the “molester dad” meme, which was injected into popular culture in 1984 by the TV movie Something about Amelia and ran through 1994’s Forrest Gump. Gerald’s Game was similar in that respect.
His third feminist novel Rose Madder was so over-the-top in its nods to sapphic doctrine that it seemed downright lazy (it came off as affected by the Julia Roberts film Sleeping with the Enemy). Reading it was a Lilith Fair experience. Or was he was parodying that strain of political correctness?