The dither continues over comments Stephen King made late last week regarding the writing skills of several other writers, including Erle Stanley Gardner, Dean Koontz, and James Patterson. But it was his comments on Twilight author and phenom Stephenie Meyer that created the greatest uproar. Here’s King on Meyer:
“…when [Richard] Matheson started to write about ordinary people and stuff, that was something that I wanted to do. I said, ‘This is the way to do it. He’s showing the way.’ I think that I serve that purpose for some writers, and that’s a good thing. Both [Harry Potter author J.K.] Rowling and [Stephenie] Meyer, they’re speaking directly to young people. … The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good.”
I read those comments to my daughter Madi — whose 12-year-old wheelhouse is the target at which Meyer is aiming — and she politely harummphed in disagreement. And knowing I’m a devoted Stephen King fan, she encouraged me to read the Twilight series and decide for myself, rather than taking Stephen King’s word for it. “I know you like him,” she told me rather flatly, “but I don’t want you thinking Stephenie Meyer is a bad writer just because he says so.”
The irony in Stephen King’s remarks, of course, is that many people have said the same of him — that he’s a great storyteller but a terrible writer. Me, I love Stephen King. Ever since a ninth grade English teacher of mine babbled effusively on about The Shining and encouraged me to read it — which I did, in the form of a dog-eared paperback I checked out of the library — I’ve been a fan. But really, I don’t care if he’s considered a good writer or a bad writer. He entertains me enormously and, at times, touches me. I consider that enough.
And that’s why I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with his opinion of Stephenie Meyer — who I’ve never read and, despite Madi’s suggestion, don’t know that I will. But Madi reads her faithfully — and once she finished the Twilight series, she moved on to Meyer’s more adult novel, The Host, which she’s been devouring for the past week.
On Saturday night, as we were driving back from a volleyball tournment in one of the more rural parts of Maryland (Madi’s team placed third, thank you very much), Madi was sitting quietly in the back seat, reading The Host with the help of her booklight. Thirty minutes into the drive, over the sounds of the radio, I heard her softly sniffling.
“Did your book just get sad?” I asked her.
Chin quivering, she informed me [***SPOILER ALERT**] that a character she really liked had just died, then put her head down and kept reading. Moments later, she began choking back sobs and smearing away tears with her palms.
She took the tissue Barb offered her and dabbed at her eyes, explaining what had happened and still crying, but also laughing at her own deep emotion. It was, I think, one of the sweetest things I’ve ever seen.
And that’s why I can’t come down on Stephen King’s side on this one. Say what you will about Stephenie Meyer, but she entertained my Madi. She genuinely touched her and moved her to tears. And regardless of whether I ever read Meyer or not, that moment was enough to make me a fan.