The world that created Stephen King

Stephen King was in eighth grade when he wrote his first publishing success: it was called The pit and the pendulum and it was a transcript of a gothic horror film he had seen in the cinema. He printed forty copies and managed to sell most of them to his schoolmates before being summoned by the principal, who scolded him for writing “such crap.” In the book On Writingwhere he retraces a piece of his story, King says he spent years, after that episode, being ashamed of his job and thinking about the principal who asked him why he wanted to waste his talent writing “stuff like that.”

It’s been a long time since then, King turns 75 today and in his career he has published more than 70 books which have made him the most famous and prolific horror and thriller writer in the United States and around the world. While not always critically acclaimed, his novels have sold millions of copies: some have become cult films such as Shining by Stanley Kubrick (of which King was very critical), The wings of Freedom And Stand By Me. More generally, his work in its entirety has helped to create an imaginary made up of kids on bicycles, monstrous clowns, school buses and crazed writers, which continues to inspire and excite readers and spectators of all ages. In Italy, her latest book, fairy talewhich came out on September 6, is first in the standings.

Stephen King was born in Portland, Maine and grew up with his mother and brother. He began writing very early: his first original story was titled Greymore Hotel and when he made his mother read it she told him it was good enough to be published in a real book. “Since then,” writes King, “no other sentence has ever made me so happy.” The truth, however, was that getting a story published was not easy and that before becoming a professional writer King received several rejection letters. He kept them all in his room hanging from a nail, which at fourteen he had to replace with a stronger one because the weight had become unbearable.

However, some letters contained encouraging comments, such as that of the magazine’s editorial director Fantasy & Science Fiction, who replied that the story she had sent him was not bad: “You have a certain talent. Send us other proposals ». King worked as a sports reporter for the school newspaper, despite not knowing much about sports and considering newspapers his “nemesis”, and then, between the end of school and the university years, even in a textile factory, in the library college and in a laundry.

At the age of 24 he married Tabitha Spruce (now known as King), who became a writer herself, and with whom within six years she had three children, Naomi, Joe and Owen: the latter two have also become writers. Tabitha King, who currently runs the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation with her husband, played a central role in her career from the start. As she explains her in On Writing: «Writing is a solitary profession. Having someone close to you who believes in you makes a huge difference. “

The King’s house (after getting rich) in Bangor, Maine (Robert F. Bukaty, File)

In the early seventies the King family was not doing well economically at all, and Stephen supplemented the laundry salary by selling short stories to what his grandfather dubbed “boob-in magazines,” because they were the ones who paid the best for short fiction. Those tales were later published in the collection Sometimes they come back.

After getting a teaching job and minimal financial security, the idea came for him Carrie: it was not the first novel he wrote, but it was the first to be published. King tells the story of Carrie it was born like many of his ideas, putting together two random elements that had stuck with him and that suddenly found a connection: in that case, one was a job in a high school years ago, during which he had found himself scraping the rust from the bathroom of the girls, and the other was an article on telekinesis and adolescence he had read in the magazine LIFE.

Thus was born the story of a high school girl bullied by her classmates, who with the first menstruation develops a terrible supernatural power and uses it to vent her anger. Carrie, a character King wrote that he never managed to sympathize with, earned him his first book contract with Doubleday publishing house. The advance of $ 2,500 (writers are often paid by publishers before a book comes out with an estimated amount from how many copies they hope to sell) was small by standards at the time, but King didn’t know it and was however, much more than he thought he could scrape together with a story of his own. At least until he learned that another publishing house, Signet, had bought the rights to the paperback edition of Carrie for 400 thousand dollars. A year later, a million copies were sold, and two years later, in 1976, it was made into a film directed by Brian De Palma, which grossed $ 33 million.

After Carrie I arrive The nights of Salem, which is also the most recommended novel for those who want to approach the writer. Here, in fact, some of the elements that will return in subsequent novels appear for the first time and that will contribute to delineating the scary world of Stephen King: a small town in the province of Maine, a protagonist writer, a school bus and of course monsters, in this case vampires.

At that point Stephen King’s career took off, but despite this his life was not happy. In those early years as a writer, he reported suffering from alcoholism and drug addiction. In retrospect, he saw that both things emerged from his books about him: for example one of the main characters of Shining is a writer and former alcoholic teacher, while Misery tells the story of a psychopathic nurse who kidnaps a writer to make him write what she wants. The nurse was a metaphor for cocaine, she later revealed her. King wrote of those years that he was “dying before the eyes of my family” and that his wife gave him two options: go to a recovery center or pack. He chose the first.

Between the seventies and eighties, when his name was already very famous, he published some novels under the pseudonym Richard Bachman: partly because he wanted to see if they would have been successful anyway, partly because then the publishing houses did not publish more than one book. per year per author and he wrote more than that. Despite selling millions of copies, King took years to receive the first accolades from critics, mainly due to the stereotype that horror and thriller genres necessarily belonged to a “low” type of literature, which especially appeals to the less educated masses. . When he won the prestigious O. Henry Award for one of his stories released on New Yorker in 1994, the trade magazine Publishers Weekly he called it “one of the weakest stories of this year’s competition.”

Things changed a bit with the film The wings of Freedomtaken from King’s story which was originally titled Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption and that broke away from the horror genre: it tells the story of a man wrongfully imprisoned and his life together with the other inmates of the Shawshank prison. It was released in 1994 and received seven Oscar nominations: still today it is considered one of the most beautiful ever shot in the history of cinema.

After becoming famous, in addition to writing books, King did many other things: for example collaborating with Michael Jackson on the script of the 40-minute horror music video. Ghosts, write a novel with four hands, Sleeping Beautieswith his son Owen, and being blocked on Twitter by Donald Trump when he was still president of the United States.

Since the 1980s, King has spoken out on US politics on many occasions, supporting Democratic presidential candidates from time to time, from Gary Hart to Joe Biden, and the Maine politicians he liked. In 2014, Barack Obama awarded King the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor for artists in the United States.

(Alex Wong / Getty Images)

Stephen King’s Twitter account, which he often uses to express generally progressive views on current affairs (but also for less committed views and anecdotes about Molly dog also called “Thing of Evil”), is followed by 5.8 million people. In 2019, one of his tweets on the Portland Press Herald, a local newspaper that said it would delete the Maine book reviews column in its Sunday edition for budgetary reasons. Thanks to King, dozens of people subscribed to the newspaper, thus allowing them to avoid closing the column.

Most recently, in August, King spoke out publicly, and then as a witness to the Justice Department, during the trial against the takeover of the large publishing group Simon & Schuster (which has published many of its books) by the anchor. larger Penguin Random House. King said he believed greater consolidation of large publishing groups hurt other smaller publishers, and he was against it.

Stephen King became passionate about the horror genre also and above all thanks to films, and perhaps for this reason his writing lends itself very well to film adaptation.

The first film by ItStephen King’s long-running novel that tells the story of a group of kids (later adults) from a small town in Maine who find themselves having to fight against a terrible monster, was among the highest-grossing films of 2017. bad clown’s It it has become a symbol of terror even for those unfamiliar with history. In addition to the films, several series and miniseries taken from Stephen King’s books have been released: among the most recent there are Doctor Sleep (the continuation of Shining), Castle Rock and The Stand (taken from The shadow of the scorpion).


A scene from “It” (2017)

– Read also: What does Stephen King think of the series based on his books

In addition to having inspired many films and TV series, his novels have contributed to building a unique and coherent imaginary that since the 1980s has never ceased to be resumed, adapted and quoted on television and in cinema.

A recent example is Stranger Things, perhaps the most successful Netflix series. The authors, the Duffer brothers, said they were very influenced by Stephen King’s books in writing the series, and also in characterizing it from an aesthetic point of view, so they were inspired by the very recognizable covers of his books for the titles head and posters.

Among those who influenced them the most they cited It, and in fact the protagonists of the series are, as in the book, a group of not very popular kids who find themselves having to save the world from a terrible threat. Before King, the figure of the nerdy boy and far from the classic canons of masculinity was difficult to find in the literature of that genre, and also the fact that the “bad guy” was defeated by a group of friends (as happens both in It that in Stranger Things) rather than a lone hero, it was an innovation that had a lot of following.

But It it is not the only Stephen King book mentioned in Stranger Things: in one of the opening scenes of the last season, for example, the protagonist Eleven is very reminiscent of Carrie, with whom she shares the power of telekinesis. Which King immediately noticed.

The world that created Stephen King – The Post