God and monsters

The unbearable brightness of Stephen King

In a 2012 essay for the los Angeles Review of Books entitled “My Stephen King Problem: A Snob’s Notes,” Dwight Allen makes all the usual accusations against the top-selling American fiction writer of his era: that King’s plots are hackneyed; that his characters are thin; that his palette runs to junk food flavourings. (“I am the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and fries,” King once joked with a self-deprecating humour that loses a bit of its humility when you realize that McDonalds’ motto “billions and billions served” actually applies in his case, and that novels cost a lot more than burgers.)

Jeremiads against popular phenomena tend to oscillate between self-conscious provocation and simple dismissal, and Allen’s is no exception. After explaining the hows and whys of his lifelong avoidance of King’s work—he implies that he had his arm twisted into reading Christine by a friend (who must...