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Klavan On The Culture

For Stephen King on God, Read “Desperation”

June 3rd, 2013 - 11:36 am

Stephen King is the Stephen King of horror writers. When he’s on his game, he really is so good at what he does there’s no one to compare him to but himself! Recently, what Christopher Hitchens used to disdainfully call “God-botherers” (ie. believers like myself), were interested to hear King give an interview to NPR in which he said he leaned toward faith in the creator, though he vacillated and was inconsistent.

“I choose to believe it. … I mean, there’s no downside to that. If you say, ‘Well, OK, I don’t believe in God. There’s no evidence of God,’ then you’re missing the stars in the sky and you’re missing the sunrises and sunsets and you’re missing the fact that bees pollinate all these crops and keep us alive and the way that everything seems to work together. Everything is sort of built in a way that to me suggests intelligent design. But, at the same time, there’s a lot of things in life where you say to yourself, ‘Well, if this is God’s plan, it’s very peculiar,’ and you have to wonder about that guy’s personality — the big guy’s personality. And the thing is — I may have told you last time that I believe in God — what I’m saying now is I choose to believe in God, but I have serious doubts and I refuse to be pinned down to something that I said 10 or 12 years ago. I’m totally inconsistent.”

But if you really want to see King exploring the idea of faith and the nature of God, the novel to read is Desperationmaybe because it was written in the mid 1990s during one of King’s periods of deeper faith. Anyway, if you’re a horror fan at all, it’s an insanely gripping read. The first 300 pages or so are almost unbelievably compelling. Then the narrative drive lags a bit, but mostly because King starts to use his story to explore God’s presence in the midst of horrifying events and to talk about what it might mean. It never gets boring and there’s one five or ten page chapter in the book’s second half that’s as scary as anything King — or anyone — has ever written. (It’s about a woman locked in a pitch black room. Terse, controlled, brilliant horror. The man is truly a master of the art.)

By the end, you really do get a sort of theology, which is delivered in a way that’s both humble and touching. I understand there’s a companion novel as well — The Regulators — by King’s alter ego, Richard Bachman. I haven’t read that one, but this one is dynamite. And don’t settle for the movie — it’s only so-so.

And yes, yes, I know King’s a liberal and against the second amendment. He’s still a great horror writer. What can I tell you? Talent is blind!

*****

Cross-posted at PJ Lifestyle

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All Comments   (2)
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Yeah. An absolute genius. His language is a little unnecessarily rough in a number of his books, but he's had an effect on popular culture like Charles Dickens had on his. I suspect he's a lot more religious than he lets on because of the way he was brought up, and because (as he says in the NPR interview) of the pleasure he gets from big tent, Charismatic-style televangelistic services. I suspect that he just can't let on what he really feels about God because so much of his readership share his political views and the last thing he wants to happen to him is be pegged as one of those Neaderthal Christers. King is Scotch-Irish, and these are the people you see cramming mega churches south of the Mason Dixon line. It's in his blood. He claims elsewhere to read the Bible. So good on him. I've read almost everything he's written, and I've liked it all.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
"He’s still a great horror writer".

Was a great horror writer. Haven't liked anything he wrote since before Misery. The Shining was excellent. But to me he's just a propagandist now. Always banging away at the same false notes. Life's (and money's) too short to waste on people who don't like me. I'd rather invest in someone whose art appeals to me.

Regards,
John
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
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