This is a hard post for me to write. Which is why I am writing it…to stir up conversation and all that.
It’s no big secret that Stephen King has played a huge influence in my writing and my drive to try to “make it” as a writer. Admittedly, like many fans I have spoken to, some of his later books have left me scratching my head. 2012 was a particularly frustrating year in the Land of King. The release of Mile 81 infuriated me to no end; the first 80% of the book is amazing and vintage King yet the ending was likely the lamest thing I have read in a while. Coupled with the fact that about a quarter of the book was an excerpt/ad for 11/22/63, I was not at all impressed and wondered if King had finally just given up and was catering to his corporate masters.
Then I read The Wind Through the Keyhole and was reminded just how masterful he is. In my opinion, it’s easily one of the best 3 of the Dark Tower series and perhaps in my Top 5 King stories overall.
All of that to get to this…
When I heard about the release of his Guns essay as a Kindle Single, I was excited and proud that my favorite author had so boldly taken on such a momentous topic. After reading it, I felt the same. While I am not vehemently against guns, I do think the NRA and their nutwing fanatic supporters are nothing more than angry kids in a sandbox making rat-a-tat-tat noises with their plastic guns (that is, at its heart, their major complaint: “please don’t take my toys, because it’s the only way I know how to feel like a man.”) I also personally think that to ignore any debates and conversations about gun regulations after the amount of gun violence in the US in the past few years just out of political stubbornness is beyond ignorant.
My favorite bit he states regarding this charming group of gun nuts was:
One only wishes Wayne LaPierre and his NRA board of directors could be drafted to some of these scenes, where they would be required to put on booties and rubber gloves and help clean up the blood, the brains, and the chunks of intestine still containing the poor wads of half-digested food that were some innocent bystander’s last meal.
So I agree with nearly every single word uttered in his essay and thought he had done a stellar job. And good for him for being so visible and vocal about it.
One post that gave the book a one star review (a review that could have been summed up as “You aint never gonna take m’gun you sumbitch!”) accused King of speaking on a floor he had no business standing on.
I’ll admit…I sort of agree with that stance, although maybe not as strongly. I equate this to a band going political and basically making it the basis of their existence. U2. Pearl Jam. Hell, even NOFX has started to drop the immature comical content and scopes their stuff around politics (although still comical). The one exception to this is Rage Against the Machine. With a name like that, you know what you’re getting and they came out of the gates stating that this was who they were.
With music, my stance has always been Just Let Me Listen To Your Music and Leave Your Politics Out of It Please. I don’t care if it’s something as common as gay rights or even just the artist’s political preference…I don’t need it skewering the music.
I feel the same about King and Guns. Was it a message that needed to be heard? Sure. Did a public figure need to step out and say something about it? Absolutely. Did Stephen King need to do it? Not so much.
Other than pulling his own novel Rage, how is he relevant to the topic? He claimed that he wanted to get the essay out into the public arena as fast as possible so he decided on the Kindle Single route. Yes, it was fast; reports indicate that it went live about a week after he submitted it (and that week was absolutely not spent on cover art).
But if he wanted it out fast, why not shoot it to an online publication? The Huffington Post would have slapped it up within an hour.
Sure, he has made it so that everything Guns earns goes directly to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and that validates his choice of going the Kindle Single route. My main gripe is that on taking such a stance, he has now cemented himself in place as a public figure that feels strongly about a certain political leaning. And while I agree with his essay, I don’t want him to go the way of Pearl Jam….the music before the politics was great and nearly monumental, but it is now a dried up husk with a political agenda wrapped inside.
King will always be great, I think. I will likely be one of the first to gobble up the forthcoming Doctor Sleep. But I read King for the great writing, the scares and characterization. I could care less about how he feels about guns. I’d likely read him even if he were a proud NRA member. I simply hope his bold and very visible stance doesn’t alter his future and mar his legacy.
That’s all I’m saying.
I’ll close with what I thought was one of the strongest points from the essay:
“How many guns does it take to make you feel safe? And how do you simultaneously keep them loaded and close at hand, but still out of reach of your inquisitive children or grandchildren?”