November 18, 2008 | Comments ()

By Dustin Rowles | Books | November 18, 2008 |


I’m liking the lesson idea I brought up in the Blonde entry, so let me present two crucial lessons I learned from Blaze by Stephen King, which I only read because it’s the “last” of the Bachman books.

1) I learned what stropping was, both in the context of sharpening a knife and beating an orphan/foster child. Neat.

2) I learned that writers should never place disclaimers before their work, even if they are intentionally self-effacing. I know for a fact that I have a soft spot in my heart for the tear-jerker, overly emotional style of the Victorian Era, where everything goes wrong. In fact, The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens is one of my favorite novels; the same cannot be said for King’s take on it (as represented by references to Oscar Wilde’s take on it).

To wrap this thought up: Stephen King says Blaze is a trunk novel he never wanted to see the light of day. He only published it to donate all proceeds to charity. He also claims it’s overly sentimental drivel that originally went so over the top you couldn’t help but laugh at it (like he claims people do over The Old Curiosity Shop). Therefore, even after saying he removed the overwrought emotions (if that was removing them, he must have a very different definition of remove than provided in every dictionary known to the English language), it felt so manipulative, overworked, and downright absurd that I, too, was crying “Bring on the cancer! Bring on the blindness! We haven’t had those yet!”(see 1, 2).

So remember, kiddies: don’t use disclaimers. That leads to the reader only seeing that fault in your work. The more you know.

Blaze by Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman) is the most Stephen King of all the Bachman novels. If that makes sense to you, please enjoy these complimentary cookies. They might be a bit stale, as they were baked at the same time as the foundation of this novel.

Blaze could not exist with Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. For example, it’s about a big retard (pardon the inappropriate terminology, but once again King has so little concern for fundamental character development that the character Blaze could have anything from Asperger’s to Achy-Breaky-Pelvis based on the non-committal attitude towards his mental problem; the kid got banged hard in the head by being thrown down the stairs twice; the only descriptions are “slow,” “dumb,” “dented forehead,” and “retarded,” the last one used to score his IQ test; ugh!!!). He’s mostly a gentle creature, a gigantic man-child, incapable of taking care of himself. Unfortunately, he does not get to pet a hooker till she dies.

His best friend is George, an admitted tribute to Of Mice and Men. George controls Blaze’s life, keeping him out of (more) trouble, though George is the man that leads to Blaze committing more and more serious crimes. Sadly, those few details are where the merit of this story ends.

Frankly, and I’m not trying to be mean, I feel King should have scrapped everything but Chapter 18 and published Blaze as the feature in his next short story collection. That chapter is his most moving work since All That You Love Will Be Carried Away printed in 2002’s Everything’s Eventual. It has the deepest character descriptions and most engaging plot of the entire novel. Too bad it’s an isolated flashback of Blaze spending one summer working at a blueberry farm. I would go so far as to say you should read Blaze just to get to Chapter 18 and bawl your eyes out. Perhaps this is the sentimental claptrap he was trying to avoid; perhaps he should have stifled his inner Oscar Wilde and offered more moving glimpses into the life of Blaze.

Blaze by Stephen King could have been a truly great novel. I believe that in trying to fit it to the noir mold, something is lost. It didn’t need to be a hard-boiled crime caper. The saddest thing about the book is that we will never see what the novel originally was.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. Details are here and the growing number of participants and their blogs are here. And check here for more of Robert’s reviews.

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100 Books in One Year: Blaze by Stephen King

Cannonball Read / Robert

Books | November 18, 2008 | Comments ()



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