Friday, February 6, 2009

Meyer v. King

Well, since everyone else is weighing in on Stephen King’s attack on Stephenie Meyer, I thought I’d throw in my two cents worth. Alas though, while I can testify to King’s genius (notwithstanding the tasty tidbit of previous criticism pointed out against King by agent Nathan Bradsford in his blog), I have not read any of the Twilight books. At LW’s encouragement (nigh, urging), I began last night.

The first book reads well enough to me. It isn’t as big a deal with today’s gaming systems, but does anyone recall how when the second wave of video games (Nintendo/Sega) came out that they really fell into two categories? The games either excelled in playability (Nintendo) or design (Sega). By design, I mean that the game came loaded with pretty pictures, and while often not as fun to play, looking at all the pretty graphics offset the otherwise lackluster experience.

Gamers either gravitated toward one type or the other. Most people preferred games with high playability. Ah, personal preference – each type had its shortcomings. Looking back at it, however, what gets all the nostalgic praise? It’s not the games with the pretty pictures. The games with high playability rule the day.

See where I’m going with this? Literary critics may detest both Meyer and King, but the numbers don’t lie (excepting, Mr. Madoff’s firm). People like Twilight because it’s readable. If it were a video game, it’d have high playability. Literary works are like those old games that overloaded their playing system with too much graphics. Both make for something pretty to admire. Playing or reading, though? Forget it.

Sorry, Mr. King, but I think you’re fighting a losing battle on this one. Most people don’t buy a book to stare at the flowery prose and pretty words. They buy books they’ll enjoy, and it appears Ms. Meyer can weave quite an entertaining tale. Granted, I’m only at the beginning. More in the days to come …


  1. Stuff sells for such a variety of different reasons. No prose is perfect (nor should it be). No author cannot improve (like that double negative).
    I just find the whole thing very interesting to say the least!

  2. I read a lot of King back in uni and gave up because besides outgrowing his literary outpouring I saw no point in following work that I started to consider formulaic and written by numbers. Have no idea who the other writer is. Many thanks for such an informative and interesting post.

    Greetings from London.

  3. Hi, PJ. I suppose you're right about books selling for a variety of reasons. If it were one thing, everyone would be mimicking such success. I'll have to see if Meyer's work improves as I sift through the different books.

  4. Hello to London! It's great to hear from you. You'll have to read Meyer's books to see what you think. They are all the rage over here (mainly with young girls). My wife has nearly finished the last of the books. She loves them and has persuaded me to give them a try so she can discuss them with me.

  5. I'm a huge video game nerd, and I have to kindly disagree on your point regarding playability/design with Nintendo/Sega games. Nintendo obviously made some intensely playable games, especially early on, but so did Sega! I'd even argue that many of Sega's games matched if not surpassed Nintendo's games in terms of pure playability. But I guess that's all objective, isn't it? You've kindled my video game nerd fire!


    I do like the points you're making here. Good writing is a lot of things, but to sell well to the masses, it's got to be entertaining - pure and simple. And King's one to talk (granted, I haven't even heard of his rant until your posting). I'm a huge fan, but this is a man who wrote a story about trucks that kill people. Need I say more?

  6. I just read his rant, and even though it's never good form to attack another artist, I'm sure he has a point. I haven't read any of the Twilight books, but I'd imagine that they're not the "deepest" pieces of writing. But either are a lot of King's stories. He is an excellent writer though, so I'll give him that.

    I don't know. I'm on the fence with the whole thing. I will say, however, that I don't like people who judge other people based on what they enjoy. Just because you read Twilight doesn't mean you're not ready for "real, adult love stories". Just means you like them and they bring you pleasure.

  7. Mitch, you totally made me laugh out loud. Okay, I admit it. I used to be hugely biased against Sega. My best friend had a Sega and always insisted we play its games. As you can guess, I preferred the Nintendo's games at my house. Oh well. Yup. I truly deserve criticism on that point. I just knew there would be a Sega fan out there that would get me. :-) Let's hope my words don't turn into a Steven King size mistake!

  8. All I know is that Meyer has totally captivated me with her rich characters. When I'm reading her work, I feel like I am living their experiences. If that's not a mark of a "good writer", I don't know what is.

  9. Leigh, I recall Meyer saying that she talks with her characters all the time in her head and that they're very real to her. I think she definitely lives their experiences and that this helps her convey them.