February 5, 2009

Those be fightin' words, Mr. King

In a recent interview with USA Weekend, best-selling author Stephen King laid the smackdown on some of his writing colleagues.
King on Dean Koontz? "Koontz can write like hell. And then sometimes he's just awful."

King on James Patterson? "Patterson is a terrible writer but he's very, very successful."

But King really brought out his claws when he compared J.K. Rowling to Stephenie Meyer: "The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can't write worth a darn. She's not very good."

Ouch! Those be fightin' words, Mr. King. You might want to watch your back the next time you go to grocery store because a crowd of fourteen-year-old girls may try to stab you. Repeatedly. And then burn your entrails. While you're still alive.

Fighting words aside, King's assertion brings up the million dollar question of the day---why on Earth are Stephenie Meyer's books so popular if the writing isn't very spectacular?


The answer is pretty simple.

Imagine you are an ordinary girl attending an ordinary high school. You have mousy hair and a lanky body and none of the boys notice you at school. And yet, your heart still pounds for the quarterback of the football team who has the most beautiful emerald eyes and a dazzling white smile. Every night you dream about your secret crush, pretending he harbors the same feelings for you and professes his undying love for you the next day at school.

Swoon central, right?

Exactly. The reason Twilight is so popular is because it taps into the psyche of the teenage girl: self-conscious, awkward, and utterly in love with the notion of love. So let's face it---the key to Meyer's success is that she's written a romance novel for kids. Damsel in distress? Check. Dashingly handsome man? Check. Forbidden love? Check on that too.

Perhaps you are scratching your head at this idea though. Romance novel? For kids? Aren't romances full of heaving bosoms and throbbing members? Aren't romances about rustic cowboys and dainty English ladies?

Sure, but that's only one segment of the romance genre. Just take a trip to your local bookstore and you'll find a wide selection of romance novels---you're going to be quite surprised. Romantic suspense. Paranormal romance. Historical romance. Contemporary romance. African-American romance. Erotic romance. Even romance written by Mormons! (No penises in these books, thank you very much. These bosoms are modestly covered.)

Meyer just happened to write a no-sex-before-marriage-paranormal-romance-for-young-adults sort of series. And apparently, this was a very untapped market before she came along. Meyer may not be the most gifted of writers, but she does have a knack for storytelling, which explains her dominance of the New York Times' bestsellers list for over a year now.

Thus, I must give kudos to Stephenie Meyer for getting teenagers across the country to pick up a book and read. But I also have to tip my hat to Stephen King for recognizing that there's a lot stuff out there better than Twilight. Many editors and literary agents believe that children's literature has undergone a major renaissance in recent years. (Thanks in large part to J.K. Rowling.) It would be a horrible shame if Twilight becomes representative of the young adult genre in today's market. Frankly, there are much better books out there that are more deserving of a young reader's attention.

My apologies to all of you Meyer's fans out there... You may now throw your tomatoes at me.

4 comments:

  1. haha, that's an awesome post. i haven't read those books and doubt i ever will...

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  2. yes, they aren't very well written...

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  3. Stephanie Meyer knows that she's not a very good writer. She's admitted it in interviews. She calls herself a "storyteller," which is very appropriate.

    Have you read any of them yet, C-Line?

    By the way, my word verification is "vagial," which is gross-sounding.

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  4. Lex,

    I read Twilight but none of the other books in the series. Maybe one day.

    I did read The Host, which I had high hopes for since I love sci-fi. I enjoyed the first few chapters of the novel, but then the story unraveled into a messy love triangle. I wanted more sci-fi, less romance. C'est la vie, I guess.

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