Sunday, November 23, 2008

Just to clarify

From Charles Taylor, in this week's NYTBR:

Part of what I respect about Stephen King — and I suspect it’s part of what drives some of his fellow writers and some critics crazy — is the honesty of that [sic] admission, in this book’s introduction, that he churned out stories for money.

Horseshit. He might have asked an actual writer or two. I have never met a single one who thinks that it is in any way wrong to accept money for writing, or even to write specifically for that purpose.

The thing that actually drives me crazy about Stephen King, as I've written here many times before, is that he's smarter than most of his books--that, if he wrote half as many, they would all be twice as good. And I should know--I've read 'em all. But only a fool would begrudge a popular writer the money that he has earned.

As for Taylor, he'd obviously rather declare writers elitists and snobs, based on an opinion he just made up for them on the spot, than actually find out what they think, and risk disproving a cherished stereotype. Unexamined fantasy nonsense.


Andrew said...

I'm not disagreeing with you, exactly--as a writer myself, I like to get paid--but Charles Taylor is a writer himself, no? So perhaps this is how he feels, or how part of him feels?

I guess what I'm saying is that it's not so simple as Taylor not asking "an actual writer or two"; he's probably talking with other writers all the time. Rather, perhaps Taylor is dividing writers into two camps--those like him and the other type. And I'd guess that Taylor has actually met some of the other type, somewhere or another.

Matt said...

Funny, when I read "Charles Taylor", I thought it was the award-winning Canadian philosopher and thus - until I realised it was another "Charles Taylor" - my loyalties to both him and King were mortally divided.

Otherwise, agreed with your point about King (ie writing less/writing better). I don't think it will ever happen though. We can dream...

Anonymous said...

When I think "Charles Taylor" I think of the deposed Liberian president.

Andrew, sure, I am overstating my case here. I guess what burns me is the implicit assumption is that the literary world is largely populated by snooty posers who consider money to be poison, and that is not remotely my experience.

Furthermore, King is probably not telling the full truth. He didn't write those stories for money. He has more money than any other writer on earth. He has no need to do things just for money--presumably he isn't going to do it for free, but he wrote them because he wanted to write them.

The funny thing about King is that he's OBSESSED with art for its own sake. But his public face is one of pseudo-working-class pride and bluster. This of course bugs me about him, though I think I understand where he's coming from. I just wish he didn't feel the need to slap this insecure joe-sixpack schtick all over his stuff. His introductions, explanations, and author's notes make me wince (though they were, back when I was 13, a huge influence on my desire to be a writer).

But this isn't a King post, not really. I haven't read the new book yet.

rmellis said...

Is it the same Charles Taylor, though? The byline on the review says he's a columnist for a NJ paper, and says nothing about his novels.

There's nothing wrong with writing for money; it's just impractical. If you want to make money, there are simpler, more guaranteed ways to do it.

If you have an unquenchable desire to write AND a need to make a living, "writing for money" is a way to be reasonably happy while pulling in a little income.

J WOOD said...

Stephen King is a hack. His writing is tediously casual, smug, and not half as good as the writers he admires (check out his list of favorite writers at the end of his On Writing. Also, his basic advice for young writers: never use paper clips and become addicted to cocaine). There are many reasons not to like King's writing.