Stephen King Lists His Own Best and Worst Books; Let's Agree to Disagree
In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, prolific author and cameo-lover, Stephen King (67) talked about how life’s been treating him since that van nearly slammed the life out of him back in 1999. If ever he thought of slowing down (right after the accident he contemplated retiring), you’d never know. Since 2001, he’s put out nineteen more novels, adding onto the previous thirty-five, and we’re not even talking short stories, collections, non-fiction, and other media. Among the revelations: King likes tea and pizza with anchovies, thinks Hemingway “sucks,” and “organized religion is a dangerous tool.” The author also believes he elevated (earned more respect for) the horror genre; I’ll leave that for you to discuss. Myself, I’m a great fan of King’s early works, Carrie, Salem’s Lot, The Stand — loved Christine, Pet Sematary and The Talisman, *adored* Misery, and even Needful Things was okay by me. As the years rolled by, I became less enamored — found King’s endings tended to go off the rails. But, I still admire his mind and his tenacity; King could easily have rested on his laurels after that horrific accident. Instead he popped himself right back on the bestseller list, like it wasn’t a thing. After all these years, King is still afraid of failure and it might sound weird, but that makes me like him even more.
Anyhoo, during the course of conversation, RS asked about King’s addictions, and how they affected his writing. He spoke frankly about which books were affected by his drinking and drug use — they’re the novels King considers his worst:
“The Tommyknockers is an awful book. That was the last one I wrote before I cleaned up my act. And I’ve thought about it a lot lately and said to myself, “There’s really a good book in here, underneath all the sort of spurious energy that cocaine provides, and I ought to go back.” The book is about 700 pages long, and I’m thinking, ‘There’s probably a good 350-page novel in there.’
I don’t like Dreamcatcher very much. Dreamcatcher was written after the accident. I was using a lot of Oxycontin for pain. And I couldn’t work on a computer back then because it hurt too much to sit in that position. So I wrote the whole thing longhand. And I was pretty stoned when I wrote it, because of the Oxy, and that’s another book that shows the drugs at work.”
Which book does King think is his best?
“Lisey’s Story. That one felt like an important book to me because it was about marriage, and I’d never written about that. I wanted to talk about two things: One is the secret world that people build inside a marriage, and the other was that even in that intimate world, there’s still things that we don’t know about each other.”
WRONG! Everyone knows your best book is The Stand…or maybe The Talisman; with runners-up, The Dark Tower series.
As for his worst, for me it’s a tie between Under the Dome and Lisey’s Story (though UtD made me so mad I threw it in an airport trash bin).
Speaking of The Dark Tower, King asserted that he’s “…never done with The Dark Tower.”
“This is really all one novel.” It drives me crazy. The thing is to try to find the time to rewrite them. There’s a missing element - a big battle at a place called Jericho Hill. And that whole thing should be written, and I’ve thought about it several times, and I don’t know how to get into it.”
The full interview is an engaging read. King discusses disagreeing with Kubrick’s Shining vision, which movies he thinks are the best adaptations of his books, and everyone from Obama to J.K. Rowling to Bruce Springsteen. So check it out — but, not until after you pile on with your disagreement as to the author’s best and worst books.