Stephen King. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. New York: Scribner, 2000.
Walter Giersbach ‘61
Manchester, NJ 08759
The prolific Mr. King approached the subject of writing, and his autobiography, reluctantly. In fact, more than a third of On Writing is devoted to his curriculum vitae before he opines on “what writing is” and the tools required to be successful. He calls the book, a best seller almost a decade ago, “my attempt to show how one writer was formed. Not how one writer was made.” A reader, critic or student has to pay a certain amount of attention to someone like King who has published more than 30 novels, sold more than 350 million copies, and given us films Doris Claiborne, The Shining, and The Green Mile. (King suggests very evenly why John Grisham and James Patterson are so successful at what they do.) “A good deal of literary criticism,” he says, “serves only to reinforce a caste system as old as the intellectual snobbery which nurtured it.” He comments that Raymond Chandler is one of the greats who are often “seated at the end of the table” because he came out of the pulp tradition. On the subject of grammar as required tools of a successful writer, he suggests the parts of speech are like accessories to go with your high school prom dress, and those weren’t too hard to understand. It’s a truism that a writer never stops learning the craft, and I’ve been writing professionally for four decades. Yet at this advanced date, King’s book had me underlining passages, dog-earing pages and scrutinizing my own writing to see where the misstatements and lazy verbiage occurred. When I finished reading On Writing, I took it to the writing group that I lead and told them, “Buy or borrow this book if you’re serious about communicating in print.”
Burling Library, 3rd Floor PS3561.I483 Z475 2000