Stephen King: ‘I have outlived most of my critics. It gives me great pleasure’

Stephen King: ‘I have outlived most of my critics. It gives me great pleasure’

Born in Maine in 1947, Stephen King wrote his first published novel, Carrie , in 1974 and has spent the subsequent half-century documenting the monsters and heroes of small-town America. His rogues’ gallery of characters runs the gamut from killer clowns and demonic cars to psychotic fans and unhinged populist politicians. His best-loved books include The Stand , It , The Dead Zone and Pet Sematary . King’s latest novel, The Institute , revolves around a totalitarian boot camp for telekinetic children. The kids check in – but don’t check out. Carrie was published against the backdrop of Watergate, Vietnam and the Patty Hearst kidnapping. Is America a more or less scary place to write about now? The world is a scary place, not just America. We’re in the spooky house – on the ghost train, if you prefer – for life. The scares come and go, but everyone likes make-believe monsters to stand in for the real ones. The Institute is about a concentration camp for children, staffed by implacable factotums. To what extent did Trump’s immigration policies affect the book? Trump’s immigration policies didn’t impact the book, because it was written before that incompetent dumbbell became president. Children are imprisoned and enslaved all over the world. Hopefully, people who read The Institute will find a resonant chord with this administration’s cruel and racial policies. You were raised in a working-class Republican household. What would your mother make of today’s GOP? My mother bolted the GOP the last time she voted and cast a ballot for George McGovern. She hated the Vietnam war. I was sworn to secrecy, but feel the statute of limitations on that has run out. In Maine, lots of Republicans are more purple than red. It’s how Senator Susan Collins keeps sliding by. For all the terrors in your work, there’s an underlying faith in basic human decency. This suggests you think most people are basically good. Yes, most people are good. More people are anxious to stop a terrorist attack than to start one. They just don’t make the news. You started out being dismissed by the literary establishment as a lowly peddler of cheap horror. You’re now a lauded national treasure. How does it feel to be respectable? It feels good to be at least semi-respectable. I have outlived most of my most virulent critics. It gives me great pleasure to say that. Does that make me a bad person? Isn’t it also partly because the boundary between literary fiction and genre fiction has become more porous? The old high/low distinction doesn’t exist in the same way . Well, there’s still a strange – to me, anyway – and totally subjective line between high culture and low. An aria from Rigoletto, La donna è mobile, for instance – is high culture. Sympathy for the Devil by the Stones is low. They’re both cool, so go figure. I’ve heard that you like to write to loud music. Isn’t that really distracting? I’m listening […]

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