A fascinating collection of studies on Stephen King, though, by now a little old. The first intention is perfect : to take Stephen King seriously and to study him as a social, cultural and literary phenomenon, particularly in his multimedia dimension.
The first idea is essential : Stephen King is the son of a tradition that goes far back in US history. He is in no way a new phenomenon. He has to be studied as the heir of this tradition. But he melts two approaches together : the horror tradition and the melodramatic (I would prefer social or sociological or even psycho-sociological) treatment of his characters and themes. That's absolutely true of all his novels. We are in the real world, even when it is a fantasy like in the Dark Tower series.
The second idea is just as important : the impact of Stephen King on the modern world is enormous. He sells millions, tens of millions of volumes. His films are blockbuster successes. He touches an enormous proportion of the public. I disagree though with the fact that his main audience would be, on one side, middle class women looking for romance, with a touch of horror, and, on the other hand, teenagers looking for strong emotions. As for teenagers it is a lot more complex. They are looking for direct commerce with death and suffering in a world where such things seem so remote from our everyday life. As for middleclass women, it is totally wrong. Stephen King has capitalized over the decades on his younger public to touch now practically all segments of adult society.
The third idea is that there is a parallel between Stephen King's approach of the cinema, his critical reading of films (Danse Macabre) and Freud's approach of dreams, his reading of drams. This is absolutely dangerous. No we cannot and must not psychoanalyze Stephen King from his books. This is childish. And no, the parallel does not exist : it is intellectual tinkering. We cannot deal with a book or a work of art the way Freud dealt with a dream. The writing of a book is at least subconscious and most of it is conscious. A dream is necessarily unconscious. A dream has a purely pictorial, situational and impulse-driven syntax, whereas a book or a film is a lot more than that : it is language and as such has one syntax. It is situations and images (projected and recreated at times in the imagination of the reader), and these have a twofold syntax : that of the author and that of the reader or viewer. A book can be read against the conscious intention of the author. Finally a book does not reflect the unconscisous impulses of the author, but the subconscious, conscious, and at times but rarely unconscious personal positioning of the author within the contradictions of himself, society and his relations with society.
Finally, the fourth idea is that Stephen King has a fully developed style and this is absolutely right, and that is why his books are selling so much.
Just as Shakespeare was not THE Shalespeare of his times, Dickens THE Dickens of his times, Stephen King is not THE Stephen King of his times. But just as Shakespeare is a universal genius, Dickens another and Whitman (who was nearly nothing in his days) a third TODAY, Stephen King will be such a universal genius in maybe less than fifty years, because he gives us a full picture of America, of its nightmares and its dreams, but also a universal picture of bad and evil at work in both society and man (or woman or children). And this is my conclusion. Stephen King can be disliked by some and loved by others, just like any author was in their days, and he will still be disliked by some and loved by others fifty years after his death, but he will then be an unavoidable author both about today's America and about the universal divided nature of man (woman or children).
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU