Stephen King is the author of over thirty novels, many short stories, several screenplays and other literature, and has remained on, or at least been a staple on the best seller list. Over his career of writing his literature has gained criticism and praise, depending on who you are asking. Whether or not the novel Thinner is best seller material again would depend on who you inquire with. I will not attempt to say whether or not this novel belonged on the best seller list at the time, but rather just to investigate into what was written and said about it and the author Stephen King.
Stephen King Author of Thinner Stephen King, author of the novel Thinner, among so many others had been known as bestselling author and also as merely an author of Gothic horror fiction; he has run the gamut of opinions about his work. According to Greg Smith, King “is the bestselling novelist of all time” (2002, p. 332). This is a huge claim to make but is backed up in part by Forbes magazine. According to The Power List in their magazine, Stephen King is number 13 on their all time list, which consists of money, internet hits, press clippings, magazine cover stories and other factors (The Power List, 2001).
He is only surpassed at that time by the likes of Tom Cruise, Tiger Woods, The Beatles, Michael Jordan and Oprah Winfrey; at the time of that writing J. K. Rowling, of Harry Potter fame was number 20. To further back up King’s popularity in Sharon Delmendo’s Consuming Horror: Richard Bachman’s Thinner, Stephen King’s Dark Half, or, Just Desserts, she noted that he had published over thirty novels and many short stories, had written five screenplays and was “a habitual squatter on the New York Times Book Review best sellers list-in short, became a one-man “brand-name” industry” (1996, p. 160).
In short she was saying that Stephen King his work, or possibly his name was so recognizable and therefore very profitable. Greg Smith continues in his piece “of all the themes which run throughout his (King’s) work, the most pervasive, and likely the most attractive for readers, is one that moralists and academics might both concede the value of, this theme is that of the flawed individual who experiences a number of hardships, and who as a result develops into a more informed, enlightened, and ethically responsible person” (2002, p. 341). Unfortunately this theme is not really true in the novel Thinner.
Literary theme in Thinner In this story King uses the literary theme of consumptions, in is the novels’ “central motif, and the novel revolves around metaphors of eating and being eaten” (DelMendo, 1996, p. 162). King tells the story of Billy and Heidi, Billy was the very overweight man, a business man that loved to eat and thought nothing about it. He seemed to really have things figured out and going well for him, until one terrible night when his wife was arousing him, he was distracted, he accidently ran over an old gypsy women and killed her; a curse was put on him, thinner.
Thus this central theme of consumption begins. King writes throughout the story, often in the italicized words the inner thoughts of Billy. Even when his weight loss begins, he thinks maybe cancer, then other disease, but really his is being consumed from the inside, while he use to consume all the time. It goes through the whole story and it ends with consumption, but not by him but by his wife and daughter, consumption of the gypsy pie; his only way to survive someone else’s consumption, yet he ends up dying at his own hand with the consumption of the pie.
Thinner as a bestseller There is much to be written telling of Stephen King’s ability at writing not just novels, but short stories and screenplays as well. Some want to say that Stephen King is a modern master, but there are so many who question why he is. “I think this notion (modern master) is nonsense. After reading over a dozen books in which King seldom sidesteps cliches, I think perhaps it is more likely that he just had very little original to say” (Bloom, 2007, p. 25). There are many who are of this opinion.
Sharon DelMendo seemingly agrees with this school of thought, as she writes that she thinks King’s popularity can even take the liberty of republishing novels and adding “Complete and Uncut”, putting some pages in that may have been cut from the first printing of the book, and then still makes the best seller list (DelMendo, 1996). Bloom goes on to say in his work that King has probably read and borrowed or as he says “hackneyed” almost all of his story ideas, as with the gypsy curse in Thinner (2007, p. 6).
And again Bloom and DelMendo are not alone in their thoughts on King. Greg Smith, in Midwest Quarterly, says because King’s output of work is so large, “the quality of his work overall tends to be uneven, exhibiting in its worst manifestations the two-dimensional stock characters, superfluous narrative descriptions, and gratuitous scenes of violence typical junk horror fiction (2002, p. 12). The question then arises as too why Stephen King’s work rises to the best seller list time and time again.
He does not seem to get any real respect from any of his peers, or at least from the academic community, his writing is torn apart and picked through piece by piece, dissected and then ultimately destroyed by the learned. The only real answer is that people like to be thrilled, chilled, scared and bewildered. In the lecture notes from Dr. Greg Beatty’s class at Upper Iowa University for his Bestsellers class he writes that and explains that people like it when “for one moment things are happening, and you can’t tell what. That happens, and for a moment anything is possible.
This is often terrifying on a very high level, precisely because the human mind wants to categorize things…We don’t know and it unbalances us” (Beatty, 2011) Conclusion Although it was difficult to find any articles that positively or persuasively said that Stephen King’s novel Thinner belonged on the best seller list from the New York Times Book Review, all agreed that Stephen King could basically write or publish (or even republish) anything and it would sell. Harold Bloom goes as far as to say, “Hundreds of thousands of America schoolchildren, who will read nothing else that isn’t assigned, devour King regularly.
They turn to King as their parents resort to Danielle Steel and Tom Clancy. I see not point in deploring this, and yet we ought not to deceive ourselves: the triumph of the genial King is a large emblem of the failures of American education” (2007, p. 2). While this is definitely not a glowing critique of Stephen King’s work, it does help to collaborate the epidemic that is Stephen King. So, as far as for the novel Thinner, it then only makes sense that it too would hit the best seller list via the Stephen King bandwagon.
Courtney from Study Moose