"But Amy was right: nobody ever asks about the language. They ask the DeLillos and the Updikes and the Styrons, but they don't ask popular novelists."1.
The above quote aptly illustrates the incredible bias that exists in academia today regarding popular literature. Many English departments are victims of a literary pretentiousness, whereby anything that the great unwashed masses read and enjoy must inherently have no scholarly value. Indeed, when I informed people that I was writing a critical essay on Stephen King the most common response was laughter. I found this to be a rather curious response. Surely the world's bestselling living author deserves some critical attention, if only to see what it is that makes him so popular. This is what I have decided to investigate in this essay.
Firstly, the horror genre is King's main (but not exclusive) area of writing, and it is one which people absolutely adore. Everybody goes to horror films and on rollercoasters at theme parks, part of the human condition is a desire to be terrified, as if we are trying to preview the end. King's novels expertly tap into the human collective conscious regarding this morbid fascination. His writing is subtle enough to make one believe in things that other horror writers of lesser powers simply cannot. An example of this is to be found at the end of "The Tommyknockers", where the protagonist, Gard , is onboard an alien craft which has been buried in the ground for millennia. This would have been unbelievable, risible even, at the start of the book, but the reader has become so engrossed in the story, so completely immersed by King's telling of it that even if we were to find it doubtful we would not admit it to ourselves. This effect is in part due to the way in which King treats his readers almost as a character themselves. For example, "Needful Things" starts and ends by us, the readers being addressed by an elderly man, "You've been her before.