Analysis

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Last Updated on November 21, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 417

In On Writing, King incorporates the quirky sense of humor that is familiar to readers of his fiction. For example, he describes his attempt to buy his wife, Tabby, a gift after selling the paperback rights to his first novel, Carrie, for almost more money than he can imagine. Comically and poignantly, he runs out for an extravagant gift—only to return with a hair dryer, the only thing he can find in their small Maine town. His humor is often blended with the macabre: he writes of his beloved mother ignoring the signs of her cancer until it is too late and describes her smoking, with the help of her sons, even on her deathbed.

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Later, as a wildly successful writer, King renounces the big desk in the middle of his study—behind which he sat during his substance abuse years—and moves to a smaller desk in a communal living suite where he can spend time with his children while he writes. King then explains why a writer’s desk shouldn’t be in the middle of the room:

It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.

In the second half of the book, amid practical writing advice, King urges writers to care about what they have to say and to write with heart—the same heart that King displays in On Writing. King models a complex narrative voice and, underneath his simple prose, never settles for a simplistic view of life.

King acknowledges Mary Karr's The Liars’ Club in the first line of On Writing. King clearly admires The Liars’ Club, yet he confesses that his retelling of his early life will not be as accurate as Karr’s; King describes his early memories and childhood stories as mostly “out of focus.” The Liars’ Club dares the reader to figure out which of the stories the narrator tells are true and which are lies, and the same could be applied to King's vignettes in On Writing. Which ones are true, and which may be fabricated or embroidered? We can verify that King became a bestseller with his first novel, Carrie, or that his mother died of cancer, but other stories may not be so factual. Yet, as King might point out, fact is different from poetic truth.

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