Tuesday, July 13, 2004

No Secret

I started reading Stephen King's book Secret Windows: Essays and Fiction on the Craft of Writing about a year or so ago. Things were going well until I got to an essay called "Horror Fiction." This essay was originally published in King's book Danse Macabre. The essay is so long I got bogged down because I couldn't stand it anymore. I forgot what point King was trying to make and hadn't read any of the books he was talking about. So I put the book down. I finally picked it up again last week. I decided to just skip the rest of the "Horror Fiction" essay and moved on from there. It was a good decision because I zipped through the rest of the book. My Bookman tells me that Secret Window was published by the Quality Paperback Book Club as a sort of companion volume to King's On Writing. While On Writing was a fabulous book even for non-writers, Secret Windows is not as compelling. I think part of the problem is that everything was previously published in one form or another--short story, introduction, speech--and as a result doesn't flow well. There is also repetition of anecdotes and jokes so often that I began to feel like I was reading the same thing over and over again just rewritten for a different audience. But I suppose that if you are a writer with the celebrity status King has, you do repeat things over and over. It might be sickeningly the same for you but refreshingly new for your current audience. How maddening it must be for King or any writer. I wonder if it makes King want to start making stuff up just for kicks? Why all of these items were published as one book, I am not certain. In spite of the repetitiveness, the book wasn't all bad. The short story "The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet" first published in Fantasy & Science Fiction in 1984, is a great read. Since hardly anyone uses a typewriter any more it made me wonder if the Fornits (little creatures that live in writers' typewriters and help the writer find words) have been able to adapt and move to computers. If they have, I'd like to know where I can get one. A Fornit that is. If you haven't read Secret Window yet but are considering it, go ahead. I recommend reading only one of two essays at a time once or twice a week. That might help keep it from getting boring from the frequent sameness. Unless you're into that kind of thing.