And sigh again.
I wasn't going to talk about this, I really wasn't. Because I don't want to piss off or upset people. I certainly don't want to make readers, the lovely people who spend money on books, angry with me.
But I just...It's like the opinion is a pot of coffee, percolating in my chest, and it's going to explode. (Incidentally, I feel kind of weird thinking that nobody uses percolators anymore. My parents were never coffee drinkers, but my Grandpa was. And when he would come visit the smell of coffee and especially the sound of the percolator, that particular burble-sploosh noise, would wake me up in the mornings. I used to really like it; I was fascinated by the percolator and could never figure out quite how it worked, you know? All those childhood machines that seemed like magic to me, and none of them are in use anymore. The percolator, the 8-track tape, the flashlight that ran because of how fast you squeezed the trigger thingie...anyway. No time for this; this is going to be a little long anyway.)
So everybody knows about this Stephen King/Stephenie Meyer thing. Basically, Mr. King said in an interview that Ms. Meyer "can't write worth a darn."
And for reasons I cannot fathom, it's being treated like he said Hitler was a really good guy or something, or that in his spare time he enjoys molesting children.
Leaving aside the truth or lack thereof of his statement itself, and leaving aside the fact that although he claimed Meyer can't write worth a darn he did say he understood the appeal of the books...
There seem to be two schools of thought among the "Fry him! FRY HIM!" crowd. The first is that he's jealous of Meyer's success, which is, IMO, patently ridiculous. Stephen King is arguably the most successful writer the world has ever seen (and no, you cannot bring up the people who wrote the Bible or the Talmud of the Koran or whatever). No, I'm serious. Think about it for a minute. How long has the man been writing bestsellers? How many of his books or stories have been made into major films? Adapted for television? Turned into series? How many of those film adaptations have garnered Oscar nominations in any category?
Now think of one other author, living or dead, which that kind of success. ONGOING success. I suppose it's possible to argue that JK Rowling hits it, but King's written something like thirty books. JKR has not. Tolkein had massive, unprecedented success, but again, not as many books.
So the idea that Stephen King is jealous of Stephenie Meyer is silliness. I'm sorry but it is, and there's another reason why it is, and it ties into my whole feeling about this so I'll get to it in a minute.
First I want to address the other silliness surrounding this, which is the idea that writers shouldn't criticize other writers. Which is bullshit.
I'm not even going to discuss the fact that without writers criticizing other writers we would't have Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses. We wouldn't have Virginia Woolf's comment about Ulysses: "The work of a greasy undergraduate scratching his pimples." We wouldn't have ANY of Dorothy Parker's fantastic reviews; we wouldn't have any of Florence King's; we wouldn't have a huge, varied, and wonderful library of critique and wit and style. Since fucking when is it not okay for writers to comment on and criticize the work of other writers? In what world has that *ever* been the case?
I would say that it stopped being okay when women got in on it, since it seems to largely be women playing the "Stephen King's just plain mean!" card, but that isn't right at all. Especially not after I just quoted or mentioned three women in the last paragraph, not one of whom behaved as though a critique of her work was tantamount to touching little kids in their Swimsuit Areas.
But I suspect womanhood has something to do with it, yes I do. And that something is, everyone playing the "professional courtesy" card (professional courtesy, what a bunch of crap. We're writers, not fucking insurance salesmen) seems to be female, and more importantly, seems to be upset not that one writer is commenting on another writer's work, but that the commenting writer has a protruding pee-pee and the one being commented on does not.
But seriously. King said some not-very-nice things about a few male writers in that article too, but nobody seems to be jumping up and down all over the internets to say how Mr. King is just jealous of Mr. Patterson. In fact, no one seems at all bothered by the fact that not only did King call Petterson "a terrible writer," he didn't even qualify that statement anywhere by saying he sees the appeal of Patterson's work, or that Patterson has very cleverly tapped into something in his audience's collective subconscious.
So...why? Why does it seem okay for King to criticize Patterson, but not Meyer? Why isn't anyone throwing "jealous" around? Why isn't anyone acting as though writers are supposed to keep their mouths shut when we see each other butchering the language, as though we're all the very best of good, clean pals and every Saturday night we sing Kumbaya in the park and roast hot dogs?
Yeah. I think a big part of it is that Meyer is a woman. And I think there is a very ugly assumption beneath this, which is that a woman cannot take criticism. And sadly, I think there is a segment of the female writing "society," for lack of a better term, which truly cannot take criticism, who flounce around saying things like "If you've never written a book you can't criticize" or "It's hard work to write a book and the author deserves something for that and it's mean to say her book isn't very good" or whatever other whiny little excuses these namby-pambies toss around to justify their own total and complete lack of professionalism.
We've seen these people online. We see them all the freaking time, in fact. They're the ones who stalk Amazon reviewers or decide to name transexual AIDS-riddled prostitutes after people who give them mediocre reviews (and let's keep in mind, btw, what sort of person thinks "transexual" is a worthy insult) or send nasty emails to reviewers or start blogs where they put up nasty cartoons or send hate mail or have hissy fits in comments or whatever the fuck it is, and thus make all female writers look as though we too have never progressed beyond the 9th grade.
This attitude seriously makes me ill. You know what, gang? I seriously doubt Stephenie Meyer gives a fuck what Stephen King says. And good, because she shouldn't. I love Stephen King. I think he's fantastic. And I would love to think he'd read my work and enjoyed it; that would be a huge thrill. But you know what? if he loved it, that's just one man's opinion. And if he hated it? That's still just one man's opinion.
And jealous? Why is this argument so rarely brought up when two men are involved? Why do we hardly ever see someone claiming, for example, that Steve Jobs is just jealous of Bill Gates? or that, I don't know, Javier Bardem is just jealous of Benicio del Toro? Not that I'm aware of these men making comments about each other, but really, can you imagine it? So why then, does this crap come up when women are involved? Stephen King is a grown man, people, and I don't know about you but I've never seen anything before that would lead me to believe he's the kind of man for whom jealousy of other writers is a problem. Have you?
Stephenie Meyer is a published author; she's written four enormous bestsellers. Let's give her a little credit, shall we? Let's assume she's mature enough to shrug this off and go on writing, and not behave as though she's crying in the bathrooms by the gym and she won't come out until Stephen writes her a note that says he's sorry and gee, golly, the dance is tonight and she was our ride and we're gonna get Stephen and pants him in the cafeteria?
We're all entitled to our opinions. (In fact, one could argue that Meyer is one of the few people Stephen King can actually criticize *without* looking like a bully; who else is big enough?) And in the grand scheme of things, this is such a non-issue it's not even funny.
I was going to tell you about a book I bought the other day, which I haven't finished, but which is so well-written my jaw keeps literally dropping open--but that will have to wait until next Monday, because this is so long already. Sigh.
Monday, February 09, 2009
And sigh again.
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