King, Stephen (Vol. 17)
King, Stephen 1947-
(Full name Stephen Edwin King; has also written under the pseudonyms richard Bachman and John Swithen) American novelist, short story and novella writer, scriptwriter, director, critic, and nonfiction writer.
King is a prolific author of best-selling horror and suspense fiction. In his novels and stories, he blends elements of the traditional gothic tale with those of the detective story, the modern psychological thriller, and science fiction. His works feature colloquial language, clinical attention to settings, and an emphasis on contemporary problems, including marital infidelity and peer group acceptance, all of which lend credibility to the bizarre, often supernatural incidents that dominate his narratives.
King was born in Portland, Maine. His father, a merchant sailor, left the family when King was a year old, leaving King's mother to support him and his older brother. King began writing short stories as a child, and while a student at Lisbon Falls high school in Maine he won an essay contest sponsored by a scholastic magazine. King published short stories in various magazines and completed manuscripts for many of his later novels while attending the University of Maine at Orono, earning a B. A. in English in 1970. After graduating, King took a position as an English instructor at the Hampden Academy in Hampden, Maine, where he stayed for two years. From 1978 to 1979, King served as a writer-in-residence at the University of Maine, and was granted the university's Career Alumni Award in 1981.
Major Works of Short Fiction
King has published several collections of short fiction, including Night Shift and Skeleton Crew, which are comprised of detective stories, science fiction, and horror tales, and other collections, such as Different Seasons and Four Past Midnight, which focus primarily on the terrors of everyday existence. In "Gray Matter," which appeared in Night Shift, Richie Grenadine, "a big fat man with jowls like pork butts and ham-hock arms," gradually mutates into a glob of gray protoplasm after a work-related injury forces him to stay at home, where he drinks a case of beer nightly. The Body, a novella that appeared in Different Seasons, is narrated by Gordie lachance, a thirty-four-year-old writer modeled after King, and traces the narrator's coming-of-age experience when, as a ten year old, he and three friends set out to find the body of a young boy who had been hit by a train. The Body was adapted as a screenplay and was produced as the film Stand By Me in 1986. The library Policeman, which appeared in Four Past Midnight, expands on the childhood myth of policemen who are sent by the library to arrest children whose books are overdue. In "The Ten O'Clock People," collected in Nightmares and Dreamscapes, smokers who limit themselves to a few cigarettes a day are the only people who can see the hideous aliens intent upon taking over the planet because these smokers belong to a personality type that is not susceptible to the psychological disguise worn by the aliens.
Many critics fault King for unwieldy and lengthy narratives, one-dimensional characters, hackneyed subjects and use of cliches, excessively vulgar language, and frequent digressions, but credit King's ability to create scenarios in which eerie, supernatural events occur in everyday settings and involve ordinary characters, a combination that makes the situations more plausible and realistic, and consequently more frightening and compelling to the reader. Although some critics agree with Paul Gray, who referred to King as the "master of post-literate prose," many commentators have praised King's talent for writing stories that appeal to a broad audience and affect his readers on many levels. robert Cormier has commented: "King still writes like one possessed, with all the nervous energy of a young writer seeking his first big break. He never cheats the reader, always gives full measure. . . . He is often brilliant, and makes marvelous music, dark and sinister."
Night Shift 1978
Different Seasons 1982
Skeleton Crew 1985
Four Past Midnight 1990
Nightmares and Dreamscapes 1993
Other Major Works
Carrie (novel) 1974
Salem 's lot (novel) 1975
*Rage [as richard Bachman] (novel) 1977
The Shining (novel) 1977
The Stand (novel) 1978
The Dead Zone (novel) 1979
*The long Walk [as richard Bachman] (novel) 1979
Firestarter (novel) 1980
Cujo (novel) 1981
*Roadwork [as richard Bachman] (novel) 1981
Stephen King's Danse Macabre (nonfiction) 1981
The Dark Tower; The Gunslinger (novel) 1982
*The Running Man [as richard Bachman] (novel) 1982
Christine (novel) 1983
Cycle of the Werewolf (novel) 1983; also published as Silver Bullet, 1985
Pet Sematary (novel) 1983
The Talisman [with Peter Straub] (novel) 1984
*Thinner [as richard Bachman] (novel) 1984
IT (novel) 1986
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SOURCE: A review of Night Shift, in The New York Times Book review, March 26, 1978, pp. 13, 23.
[Mewshaw is an American novelist, short story writer, nonfiction writer, and critic. In the following review, he provides a negative assessment of Night Shift.]
Still in his early 30's, Stephen King has already produced three novels—Carrie, Salem's lot and The Shining—which, by a process as eerie and unfathomable as their spooky plots, mutated into "packages." (A "package," for anyone not familiar with lit-biz argot, is a thin envelope of words, flexible enough to contain huge volumes of money and hot air. Once floated in book form, it is likely to become a best seller, then a "major motion picture" or a short television series.) Having signed a multibook contract for more than $1 million, Mr. King has now published a collection of his short stories, most of which first appeared in Cavalier magazine, and there seems little likelihood that Night Shift won't be commercially successful.
Yet for all this, Mr. King remains disarmingly modest. In a foreword he concedes that much horror fiction is formulaic and that he is "not a great artist." He is simply obsessed by the subject of fear, wants to convey this obsession as palpably as possible, and believes he can best do so by emphasizing "story value." "Characterization, theme, mood, none of these things is...
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SOURCE: A review of Night Shift, in Best Sellers, Vol. 38, No. 1, April, 1978, pp. 6-7.
[Crider is an American novelist, educator, and critic. In the following review, he praises the realism of King's stories in Night Shift.]
[The stories in Stephen King's Night Shift] all begin in our normal world, where everything is safe and warm. But in almost every instance, something slips, and we find ourselves in the nightmare world of the not-quite real, where vampires walk, where there are demons to be summoned or exorcised, where innocent people suffer and die for reasons neither they nor we can quite understand, where there are (just as we had always feared) things in the cellar.
Such stories require a willing suspension of disbelief, of course, but they also require an author who is an expert manipulator, one who can make horror seem not only plausible but almost logical. King is an expert, and many of these stories will not be easily forgotten. Every smoker who has ever wanted to stop should read "Quitters, Inc." School teachers will get a chill from "Sometimes They Come Back." Afraid of rats? read "Graveyard Shift." Hate machinery? Try "Trucks" or "The Mangier." Perhaps the latter is the best example of King's skill at what he does. The idea of a steam ironer possessed by a demon seems laughable, but no one who reads "The Mangier" is going to laugh for very...
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SOURCE: "Stephen's Quartet," in Book World—The Washington Post, August 22, 1982, pp. 1-2.
[Gifford is an American novelist and critic. In the following review, he lauds King's conversational writing style in Different Seasons.]
It's not often that a single individual puts you in mind of both J. B. Priestley and Yogi Berra, but when someone does you might as well pay attention. An extraordinary occurrence. But then Stephen King, who managed this paradoxical feat, is not an ordinary writer. Though, to further confuse the issue, it is precisely King's remarkable ordinariness that makes him what he is, one of the world's best-selling authors—and one who pretty well dwarfs the meager talents with whom he customarily shares the tops of the lists. Before I further complicate my observations on King and his new collection of novellas, Different Seasons, let me get back to Priestley for a moment.
Priestley, in his working prime, which spanned 40-odd years, seemed all but unable to stop the flow of words from his pen. Most of the words were particularly well chosen, and as the cataract poured forth he built remarkably detailed, realistic worlds, novel after novel, play after play, however fanciful the themes. We were chatting about this enormous output one snowy spring day in his comfortable study and he fixed me with what must always have been intended by the expression "a gimlet eye"...
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SOURCE: "Stephen King: Making Burgers with the Best," in los Angeles Times Book review, August 29, 1982, p. 7.
[Atchity is an American poet, editor, educator, and critic. In the following review, he offers a positive assessment of Different Seasons.]
In the afterword to [Different Seasons], Stephen King calls his "stuff " "fairly plain, not very literary, and sometimes (although it hurts like hell to admit it) downright clumsy." He summarizes a career of horror novels as "plain fiction for plain folks, the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and a large fries from McDonald's."
To find the secret of his success, you have to compare King to Twain, Poe—with a generous dash of Philip roth and Will Rogers thrown in for added popular measure. King's stories tap the roots of myth buried in all our minds. No wonder he's popular: He understands people.
King's visionary flights in these four novellas show us the natural shape of the human soul—a shape even more horrifying, for its protean masks, than the ghouls he has conjured up in the novels. His productivity is based on his awareness that audience psychology responds to the simple elements of fiction, presented directly: "The tale, not the teller."
In Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, he hooks us blatantly with the narrator's predicted triumph. Within a page or so, he can admit the...
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SOURCE: "Horror Writer's Holiday," in The New York Times Book review, August 29, 1982, pp. 10, 17.
[Cheuse is an American novelist, short story writer, autobiographer, and critic. In the following review of Different Seasons, he articulates King's strong points and shortcomings as a fiction writer.]
"The most important things lie close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you've said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That's the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear."
Thus speaks Gordie lachance, millionaire horror-writer and narrator of The Body, one of four short novels bound together within the covers of Different Seasons, horrorwriter Stephen King's ninth work of fiction. Over the last decade Mr. King has certainly not wanted for ears; he is one of the most popular writers of our era. But unlike other vulgar—in the root sense of speaking in the voice of and to the average person—best-selling authors, Mr. King seems to have remained unsatisfied by mere popularity. As the speech of his fictional counterpart seems to suggest, the author...
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SOURCE: "Different Writers on Different Seasons," in Shadowings: The reader's Guide to Horror Fiction: 1981-1982, edited by Douglas E. Winter, Starmont House, 1983, pp. 38-43.
[Morrell, Ryan, and Grant are all noted authors of horror and suspense fiction. In the following forum, which originally appeared in the journal Fantasy Newsletter in 1982, they each provide an analysis of one of the four novellas in the collection Different Seasons.]
[David Morrell on Rita Hayworth and Shawshank redemption:]
Writers can be loosely separated into two groups—those who put in and those who take out. So F. Scott Fitzgerald believed. By this standard, anyone familiar with the work of Stephen King knows which category he belongs in. He's a putter-inner. He develops, amplifies, elaborates. His prose is packed with evocative descriptive details; his plots are crammed with twists and turns. We find exceptions, of course: his first novel, Carrie, is fairly short and lean, as is The Mist. A few of his short stories ("Strawberry Spring," for example) move along briefly and simply. For the most part, though, he tends toward bigness and fullness. A recently completed novel, IT, runs to almost 1300 manuscript pages. The Gunslinger, one of his many publications this year, is a part of an epic, The Dark Tower, that he estimates will eventually reach 3000...
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SOURCE: A review of Different Seasons, in Fantasy & Science Fiction, Vol. 64, No. 2, February, 1983, pp. 61-9.
[Budrys is a russian-born novelist, short story writer, editor, and critic. In the following review, he lauds King's storytelling method in Different Seasons, comparing King's style to that of Roald Dahl and John Steinbeck]
Different Seasons, a collection of four novellas by Stephen King, is an excellent piece of reading. Although one of the stories is little more than a set-piece in imitation of Roald Dahl, and another is most interesting as a gritty documentary on life in a state penitentiary, garnished by a slight and anti-climactic tale of romanticized escape, the other two stories are towering achievements.
One of these is in many ways conventional King horror-fantasy; that is, it gains its effects by concretizing a fantasy so horrible none of us will openly admit we all have it. But Todd Bowen—one of King's patented big-eyed All-American teenagers—does not shrink from the possibilities. When he uncovers the hidden Nazi concentration camp commander and makes him his prisoner, his object is to hear, to his heart's salivating content, what it felt like to have that species of absolute power.
But there are traces in that story of something even deeper, and certainly less cheap. The growing contention between the psychotic golden...
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SOURCE: "The Mist" and "Different Seasons," in Stephen King: The Art of Darkness, New American library, 1984, pp. 86-94, 104-11.
[Winter is an American fiction writer and critic. In the following essays, he examines The Mist and Different Seasons.]
In The Mist, Stephen King conjures the quintessential faceless horror: a white opaque mist that enshrouds the northeastern United States (if not the world) as the apparent result of an accident at a secret government facility. This short novel is a paradigm of the complicated metaphors of Faustian experimentation and technological horror consistently woven into the fiction of Stephen King. Those who read The Mist will not likely forget the haunting inability of its characters to comprehend, let alone explain, what is happening to them. It has been claimed that the central fantasy of horror fiction is "that the unknowable can be known and related to in some meaningful fashion" [John Cawelti, Adventure, Mystery and romance, 1976]. The Mist completely belies that view, presenting a chilling dislocation in which horror and mystery are no less adequate than science, religion, or materialism to explain the human condition. As in Kafka's The Metamorphosis (1937), the whys and wherefores are secondary, even tertiary, as King unveils a reality that cannot be solved and, indeed, that cannot even be understood. In so doing, he...
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SOURCE: "Don't Turn Your Back on This Book," in The New York Times Book review, June 9, 1985, p. 11.
[In the following review, Bolotin provides a mixed assessment of Skeleton Crew.]
Stephen King's fiction, at its best, is equivalent to the post-Expressionist art found in the tiny galleries of Manhattan's East Village, where painters, sculptors and collagists often turn to the aggressive headlines of tabloid newspapers for inspiration. What erupts in their work is an apocalyptic world, at once magnetic and repulsive, in which good howls at evil, nature runs headlong into technology, humor provides life's one grand escape and "control" is a word with little meaning.
At its worst, Mr. King's writing resembles generic campfire stories.
Skeleton Crew, a fat collection of short fiction and two forgettable poems, as indiscriminate in its assemblage as its author can be with words, shows off Mr. King's virtues and failings. He makes mistakes, sentences such as this one: "There was a bit of pain, but not much; losing her maidenhead had been worse." He pokes fun at himself, by confessing to "literary elephantiasis" and saying, in his introduction, that he writes "like fat ladies diet." But unfortunate images and bloat aside, Mr. King is a real talent: his scary tales are fun to read and, I would argue, accurate gauges of our deepest nightmares.
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SOURCE: A review of Skeleton Crew, in Book World—The Washington Post, June 16, 1985, pp. 1, 13.
[Nicholls is an Australian critic. In the following review of Skeleton Crew, he lauds King's use of colloquial images and dialect, while asserting that occasionally King's use of vulgar language or imagery is detrimental to his narratives' effectiveness as well as his characters' appeal.]
Stephen King could no doubt make a megabuck deal for a paraphrase of the telephone directory, so a simple short-story collection (his third) may seem unsurprising. When you think about it though, it reveals a commendable absence of greed. Even for Stephen King (and especially for anybody else) short stories are not great money spinners. If he writes them, it must be because he enjoys writing them.
Skeleton Crew makes it obvious that King is not worried now, if he ever was, about his pulp-magazine past. There are stories here from 1968 onwards. As his first collection, Night Shift, did not appear until 1978, there seems no reason why some of these stories should not have been published then rather than now; presumably he was more self-conscious then. These days he can afford to be amused by his own juvenilia (some from the University of Maine magazine Ubris) and rightly so. The early stories are pretty good, but the real winners are recent.
There are two...
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SOURCE: A review of Skeleton Crew, in Best Sellers, Vol. 45, No. 5, August, 1985, p. 168.
[Dolan is an American educator and critic. In the following review of Skeleton Crew, he suggests that King's stories are powerful because of the "realization by the reader that the line between his own life and that of the horror tale is very fine."]
You need only cable TV to know how much this country during the last few years has been in the throes of a horror film epidemic, the "Halloween Syndrome." If you have the stomach for it, you may have been able to see enough to sort the artistic from the trash. I suspect that Night of the living Dead would be near the top of your horror hierarchy, and Stephen King on your elite list of chiller creators. remember Carrie, Cujo, and The Shining? King wrote them all.
What is it that makes a story "horrible"? reading Skeleton Crew might help us to decide. Most of the twenty stories and two poems really make your flesh crawl. This is not a book to read in huge gobbets, but a collection to savor one at a time. The selections that make up the "crew" of "skeletons" are of several different types of the story horrible: the lost in space fantasy, the gory exploits of the psychopathic killer, a twist on the cannibalism motif, the classic mirror story—to name a few. But it's not gory details alone that create horror though...
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SOURCE: "Viewing The Body': King's Portrait of the Artist as Survivor," in The Gothic World of Stephen King: landscape of Nightmares, edited by Gary Hoppenstand and ray B. Browne, Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1987, pp. 64-74.
[Heldreth is an American educator and critic. In the following essay, he provides a thematic analysis of The Body, discussing King's treatment of maturation and use of narrative writing to "[shape] important experiences into a form to be communicated."]
Steven King begins The Body with "The most important things are the hardest things to say. . . . Words shrink things that seem limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they're brought out. . . ." Shaping important experiences into a form to be communicated is one of the major themes of the novella, and into it King incorporates several levels of archetypal experience. He cites the "high ritual to all fundamental events, the rites of passage, the magic corridor where the change happens"; and even at the beginning of the walk down the railroad tracks, "bright and heliographing in the sun," Gordon lachance knows he will never "forget that moment, no matter how old I get"; as the adventure progresses, the hike turns "into what we had suspected it was all along: serious business." The journey the four boys take to find ray Brower's body is more than just a walk along...
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SOURCE: "Stephen King: Time Out of Joint," in Book World—The Washington Post, August 26, 1990, p. 9.
[In the following review, Morrison offers praise for Four Past Midnight.]
Regular visitors to the world of Stephen King know that its horrors burst forth from the least likely places—the four novellas in [Four Past Midnight] find horror in a transcontinental night flight, a camera, a small-town library, and a quiet Maine summer town during the off-season. Some of the environs and themes in these stories are familiar; others are not. One is the penultimate Castle rock story, a prequel to the forthcoming Needful Things. Another, King tells us, is the last of his tales "about writers and writing and the strange no man's land which exists between what's real and what's make-believe." Still another takes us to the midwestern American town of Junction City, Iowa, where King proves that his talents as a regionalist extend beyond Maine into Sherwood Anderson country.
King is above all a master storyteller, and these stories grab hold and will not let go. And, being tales of horror, they have their share of suspense, violence, monsters and eye-popping special effects. But what makes them special—in the way the best of King's work and so little of the rest of modern horror fiction is special—is the believable, often moving ways his characters react when confronted with the...
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SOURCE: "Scared but Safe," in The New York Times Book review, September 2, 1990, p. 21.
[In the following review, Solomon asserts that while Four Past Midnight contains many of King's weaknesses as a fiction writer—including awkward prose—the collection is successful in providing readers with a way to escape the frightening aspects of modern life.]
A decade ago, in Danse Macabre, Stephen King made his literary esthetic clear: "I try to terrorize the reader. But if. . . I cannot terrify . . . I will try to horrify; and if I find I cannot horrify, I'll go for the gross-out. I'm not proud." The figures on his royalty checks suggest this strategy works, and he sticks to it closely in Four Past Midnight. Unlike Mr. King's adventurous novel The Eyes of the Dragon, this quartet of short novels risks few departures from earlier form.
By now, everyone knows Stephen King's flaws: tone-deaf narration, papier-mâché characters, clichés, gratuitous vulgarity, self-indulgent digressions. Each is amply present in these pages ringing with echoes of earlier King. Most tales revisit the old Maine setting. The characters are types rather than individuals. Even the taste for the crude looks familiar—five pages rendered with more detail than we care for to describe a man's getting interrupted in the bathroom by a phone call.
Not proud at all, Mr. King...
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SOURCE: A review of Four Past Midnight, in locus, Vol. 25, No. 4, October, 1990, pp. 23-4.
[Bryant is an American science fiction novelist, short story writer, playwright, and critic. In the following review, he finds the novellas in Four Past Midnight highly entertaining.]
At least for us outsiders, there seems to be a lesson in Stephen King's new collection, Four Past Midnight. Just as happened in the similarly structured four-novella set, Different Seasons, the master story-spinner of the American century demonstrates what he can do when he writes comparatively short and direct, punching right to the heart and brain, cutting to the bone, tapping tear ducts and adrenal glands as though they were sugar maples. I say "comparatively" because King's novellas in this book are about as long as other people's entire paperback originals back in the dear, dead days before literary gigantism became both a menace to North American forests and an inflated, greedy-guts pass to popular marketability.
In baseball terms, Four Past Midnight bats about .850, not too shabby in any league. The four novellas each have distinctly individual personalities. They each provide entertainment commensurate with the reader's investment of time in reading them, and all have something legitimate to say about the author-as-craftsman. A lot of the charm of the book is in what it says...
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SOURCE: "The Mythic Journey in The Body'," in The Dark Descent: Essays Defining Stephen King's Horrorscope, edited by Tony Magistrale, Greenwood Press, 1992, pp. 83-97.
[Biddle is an American educator and critic. In the following essay, he examines The Body as a narrative that follows the traditional pattern of the "mythic journey."]
There's a high ritual to all fundamental events, the rites of passage, the magic corridor where the change happens. [King, The Body]
"The magic corridor where the change happens" is the special territory of Stephen King. This zone of extraordinary power takes many shapes. In It Ben Hanscom maintains a connection to his own adolescent past by returning again and again in memory to the glassed-in corridor that connects the children's wing to the adult section of his hometown library. Finally, at the end of the novel, this conduit is fully realized when Ben and the Losers' Club merge past and present in their return to Derry. In The Talisman the Oatley Tunnel is the symbolic passageway for Jack Sawyer from the protected world of his mother to the depraved town of Oatley. In The Body the "magic corridor" for Gordie Lachance and his friends is the railroad tracks they follow in their search for the dead Ray Brower.
The fundamental event in The Body is the coming into...
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SOURCE: "A Clockwork Evil: Guilt and Coincidence in 'The Monkey,' " in The Dark Descent: Essays Defining Stephen King's Horrorscope, edited by Tony Magistrale, Greenwood Press, 1992, pp. 129-36.
[Doty is an American educator and critic. In the following essay, he explores themes and narrative technique in "The Monkey. " ]
In "The Monkey," Stephen King has used an extremely unlikely object to arouse terror in his readers, a toy that is "nothing but cogs and clockwork" [Skeleton Crew]. This [essay] will explore the means by which King makes the monkey's association with the deaths in the story convincing and answer William F. Nolan's charge that, while powerfully written, "The Monkey" "lacks interior logic" [Kingdom of Fear; The World of Stephen King, 1987].
Douglas Winter, who calls "The Monkey" "one of King's best short stories," sees the monkey as representing a random, or fated, evil, "without apparent logic or motivation." Tony Magistrale takes an opposite view when he says that the monkey represents Hal's "dark recollections" of "childhood . . . guilt and anxiety." The tension between these two possible understandings of the monkey creates much of the effect of the story.
The question of the story's "interior logic" centers on the relationship between Hal and the monkey. There is an alternative to Winter's view that the monkey is an external,...
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SOURCE: A review of Nightmares and Dreamscapes, in Booklist, Vol. 89, No. 21, July, 1993, p. 1918.
[In the following brief review, Olson responds favorably to Nightmares and Dreamscapes, noting King's successful imitations of such writers as Conan Doyle and Raymond Chandler, as well as such television shows as "The Twilight Zone" and "Alfred Hitchcock Presents."]
When you're reading him, you can think that Stephen King is the best writer in America. [Nightmares and Dreamscapes, his] first collection of shorter stuff in eight years, includes plenty of reasons for harboring that litcritically heretical thought. Mind you, nothing in it suggests King's about to go toe to toe with Updike, Mailer, Bellow, et al. But which of them has, all at once, his color and vitality, his sheer joy in words and the power of the imagination? Okay, he's a "genre writer," but one who's brilliantly revivified the visceral poetry and allure of the fantastic, emblematic romance tradition that, traceable back to the Bible and Greek mythology, flowers in America most famously in Hawthorne. Yet it is Dickens and Kipling whom King's verve and dynamism most powerfully bring to mind, even if, when he decides to flat-out imitate an old master, he chooses—as he does here, in fact—Conan Doyle and Raymond Chandler. (For the record, the Doyle pastiche is a delightful Holmes case that Dr. Watson solves first, and the...
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SOURCE: A review of Nightmares and Dreamscapes, in Publishers Weekly, Vol. 240, No. 31, August 2, 1993, p. 62.
[The following is a laudatory review of Nightmares and Dreamscapes.]
[Nightmares and Dreamscapes] is a wonderful cornucopia of 23 Stephen King moments (including a teleplay featuring Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, a poem about Ebbet's Field and a brilliant New Yorker piece on Little League baseball) that even the author, in his introduction, acknowledges make up "an uneven Aladdin's cave of a book." There are no stories fans will want to skip, and some are superb, particularly "You Know They Got a Hell of a Band," in which a husband and wife drive through a town that may literally be rock-and-roll heaven; "The Ten O'Clock People," about unredeemable smokers; and "The Moving Finger," which chronicles a digit's appearance in a drain. Together with Night Shift and Skeleton Crew, this volume accounts for all the stories King has written that he wishes to preserve. The introduction and illuminating notes about the derivation of each piece are invaluable autobiographical essays on his craft and his place in the literary landscape. An illusionist extraordinaire, King peoples all his fiction, long and short, with believable characters. The power of this collection lies in the amazing richness of his fevered imagination—he just can't be stopped from coming up with...
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SOURCE: A review of Nightmares and Dreamscapes, in Locus, Vol. 31, No. 4, October, 1993, pp. 29, 31.
[In the following review, Bryant praises Nightmares and Dreamscapes for its wide range of subjects, tones, and moods, and commends King's revisions of his previously published stories.]
In the introduction to his new story collection, Nightmares and Dreamscapes, Stephen King refers to the volume as "an uneven Aladdin's cave of a book." That's a good analysis, an apt potential blurb that will never be used, and is a bit harsher on the book than it deserves. King notes that he publishes a reprint collection about once every seven years (the first two were Night Shift in 1978 and Skeleton Crew in 1985). So far as the author's concerned, all the short stuff worth reprinting is now in print, and we can maybe expect another collection in a year starting with a "2."
Nightmares and Dreamscapes is one hefty tree-mugger. At 810 pages, it's only a dozen pages shorter than the first published version of The Stand. The first printing will issue 1.5 million copies, so you needn't squirrel away first editions as though they were The Shining or Carrie. Besides King's intro and an entertaining section of story notes, the collection contains 20 pieces of fiction (some original to this volume), a teleplay, a poem, a long essay, and a fable. So...
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SOURCE: A review of Nightmares and Dreamscapes, in The New York Times Book Review, October 24, 1993, p. 22.
[In the following review of Nightmares and Dreamscapes, Nicholls declares that while critics may not be impressed by King's "baggy—if exuberant—tales, "fans will find the collection entertaining and satisfying.]
Pay no heed, Stephen King says in the introduction to Nightmares and Dreamscapes, to the critics, their voices "the ill-tempered yappings of men and women who have accepted the literary anorexia of the last 30 years with a puzzling (to me, at least) lack of discussion and dissent." There's certainly nothing skimpy about this collection of large, leisurely short stories packed with dozens of gaudy, baffled characters reluctant to believe the varied but uniformly outrageous threats that confront them, forever trying to talk or think themselves out of some unpleasant situation until, inevitably, they're trapped. Even the horrors here are oversized: a resilient vampire with a particularly gross sense of humor; an invading army of hungry, meateating toads; and, most marvelous, batlike beings who are passing quite successfully as humans and can be seen as they truly, hideously are only by smokers—and only by those smokers who ration themselves to a few cigarettes a day. Fans of Mr. King's work will find here his usual menu: wild conspiracies;...
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Collings, Michael R. The Annotated Guide to Stephen King: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography of the Works of America's Premier Horror Writer. Mercer Island, Wash.: Starmont House, 1986, 176 p.
Book-length bibliography of King's works through 1986.
Collings, Michael R., and Engebretson, David A. The Shorter Works of Stephen King. Mercer Island, Wash.: Starmont House, 1985, 202 p.
Annotated bibliography of King's short fiction through 1985.
Collings, Michael R. The Many Facets of Stephen King. Mercer Island, Wash.: Starmont House, 1985, 190 p.
Organizes and studies King's works according to common themes, subjects, and styles. Includes a primary and secondary bibliography.
——. The Stephen King Phenomenon. Mercer Island, Wash.: Starmont House, Inc., 1987, 144 p.
Examines various aspects of King and his works to identify the author's status as a figure in mass culture.
Egan, James. "Apocalypticism in the Fiction of Stephen King." Extrapolation 25, No. 3 (Fall 1984): 214-27.
Analysis of King's treatment of world destruction in his horror fiction.
——. " 'A Single Powerful Spectacle': Stephen King's Gothic Melodrama." Extrapolation 27, No. 1 (Spring 1986):...
(The entire section is 438 words.)