Stephen King — A Modern Charles Dickens

Stephen King — A Modern Charles Dickens

Taken from http://talkstephenking.blogspot.com/2009/10/stephen-king-modern-charles-dickens.html

Great stuff again!

Dan Simmons recently published a fantastic book called Drood. In the novel, Mr. Charles Dickens is haunted by ghostly figure named Drood. Dickens is sure he saw Drood eating people after a serious train accident. Yes, you read that right: Cannibalism. It’s a wonderful, dark, humerous novel.

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King said this about Drood on ew.com: “Simmons is always good, but Drood is a masterwork of narrative suspense. It’s a story of Egyptian cults, brain-burrowing beetles, life-sucking vampires, and an underground city beneath London…or is it? Maybe it’s all in the drug-addled mind of Dickens contemporary Wilkie Collins (The Moonstone), whose poison jealousy of the Inimitable becomes more apparent as the story nibbles its way into the reader’s head.” http://www.ew.com/ew/gallery/0,,20278661_5,00.html

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I think that Mr. King is very much a modern Charles Dickens.

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Setting

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For one thing, Charles Dickens was largely a writer of his own times. A few exceptions come to mind, namely A Tale of Two Cities. (By far, not Dickens strongest work. It is too bad that is forced on school children.) But for the most part, Dickens wrote about his own time period. Like him, Stephen King is very much a writer of his times. Sure, there are a few books that go back maybe to the 50’s, but for the most part books take place in the “prime reality” — right now.

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Audience

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Second, both King and Dickens have/had the ability to enthrall the lower and middle class. Why is King so popular in schools? For the same reason people lined up on docks to cry: “Will little dorrit live?”

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Andrew O’Hehir of salon.com wrote, “King’s real literary grandfather is not Henry James but Charles Dickens, another shameless yarn spinner who captured the middlebrow popular imagination, who shares King’s sentimentality, didacticism and love of the grotesque, and against whom all the criticisms of the previous paragraph (save perhaps the scatology) could be leveled.”

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O’Hehir continues, “It’s impossible to know whether King’s work will ever acquire the aura of respectability that Dickens’ has. While Dickens was probably just as big a celebrity, in 19th century terms, as King is today, he was never stigmatized as a back-of-the-store genre novelist in quite the same way (nor was the disjunction between popular and elite taste quite so exaggerated).” http://www.salon.com/books/feature/1998/09/cov_24featureb.html

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Serealization

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Third, King has at times openly tried to emulate Mr. Dickens. For instance, the Green Mile was published in installments much the way Dickens novels were released.
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Christina McCarroll and Ron Charles of The Christian Science Monitor note that “Like Charles Dickens, King’s published his work in serial form to great commercial success.” http://www.tonyruggiero.com/images/King_Article.pdf

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Children

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Fourth, both writers have a deep understanding of children. In fact, most of Dickens works connect in some way to children. Most popular are David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, Pip and, of course, Tiny Tim.

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Both writers are willing to take children seriously as characters. They aren’t added in to toss out a few cute lines, they are understood at an unnerving level.

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Holidays

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If Dickens is known for having popularized Christmas — what Holiday might we attribute Mr. King? Yes, I’m afraid you’re right: Halloween.

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Social Injustice

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Sixth, both writers fought against social injustice. Dickens with the debtors prisons and picture of dier poverty in England. King speaks clearly on social issues as he sees them today — his sympathy always falling to the side he sees as the oppressed.

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About Mr. Dickens book Little Dorrit, King writes that Dicken’s “most sentimental, absorbing, delightful novel…and yes, you will like it. Dorrit is as easy to read as any current best-seller, and more rewarding than most. Also, it explains the whole Bernard Madoff mess. If I’m lyin’, I’m dyin’.”

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Prolific

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Seventh, it is worth noting that both writers are extremely prolific. Of course, Dickens had to write by hand, which certainly would cramp his output. And, at least according to Simmons’ view of Mr. Dickens, the old man took long breaks from writing. I’ve heard that King writes every day exept the fourth of july and his birthday. (But I can’t confirm that)

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Biographical:

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Eigth, Dickens left the Mystery of Edwin Drood unfinished. That was almost the fate of the Dark Tower! Thankfully, Mr. King lived on and became a part of his own story. (I don’t think Dickens ever wrote himself into a novel).

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Neither King nor Dickens wrote their ownbiography in so many words. King came pretty close, though, in On Writing. However, both writers used their own lives in their fictional work. King in the Dark Tower, Dickens in David Copperfield.

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Reading

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Both writers have been known to give live readings of their work. It’s not just that both did it, but tht both saw it as an important aspect to the craft itself. King explains the value at the beginning of the Dark Tower, the Gunslinger, audio edition why it is good to hear the writer himself read the book. Imagine hearing Dickens read his own work!
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Subject Matter
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I thought this one might be the place where I would find a major difference, until I began to think over Great Expectations. Dickens wrote his fair share of spook stories. Come on, the old woman who lives in her wedding dress is pretty spooky. And she is burned alive in it! Just because they put pretty pictures ont he cover of Great Expectations, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its fair share of scary stuff. And in shorter fiction, Dickens often restorted to Ghosts.

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Dickens — The Inspiration For Misery?!

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Stephen King explained: “The inspiration for Misery was a short story by Evelyn Waugh called The Man Who Loved Dickens. It came to me as I dozed off while on a New York-to-London Concorde flight. Waugh’s short story was about a man in South America held prisoner by a chief who falls in love with the stories of Charles Dickens and makes the man read them to him. I wondered what it would be like if Dickens himself was held captive.” https://www.stephenking.com/library/novel/misery_inspiration.html

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This is a draft, so I’ll keep updating it as ideas come. Feel free to share ways that King and Dickens resemble one another. And read Drood! It spooked me out.

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Now the real question: Was Charles Dickens ever popular enough to release hisbook covers in four installments?

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See also:

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http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2003/03/16/PK80066.DTL&type=movies

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