There are certain books that you should know, when you lend them out, you’re not getting back, and Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ is one of those. Which is okay, I accept that, and if I have a book I can’t bear to part with, I won’t lend it. Another one is ‘This is Water,’ by David Foster Wallace, I have probably bought that one about six times. So what happened was that someone actually returned my previous copy of “On Writing,’ so now I have two of them, and I started re-reading it. You can say what you want about King, I myself am not a fan of occultist mumbo-jumbo and a lot of his more popular work leaves me cold. There are plenty of real life things to scare the shit out of me, I don’t really need any new ones. I did very much like ‘The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon,’ because he kept the weirdness to a minimum and just told his story. Anyhow, King’s considerable and undeniable skill and power (never mind what you thought about ‘Carrie’) are on display in ‘On Writing,’ although the parts of the book that deal with actual writing are the least interesting. King, a former teacher, takes pains to define the difference between a gerund (a european marmot) and a participle (oh, who gives a shit), and his thoughts on process are, like mine, specific to him and you may or may not find them useful.
The real meat of the book is the first section, where he shares his history with you. Are writers made or born? How do you learn? Do workshops help? Where can you find the best teachers? And, supposing you have a manuscript you think is publishable, how do you go about finding an agent or a publisher? Those questions, plus the stories of his childhood growing up in Maine, were the best parts of the book. Oh, yeah, then there’s the part wherein some schmuck driving a van came within a whisker of killing him, after which he struggled to come back to life, and then back to writing.
What can I tell you, I love this book, and if you’re a writer, you need to read it. And since now I find myself in possession of two copies, I’ll be happy to send one of them to the first person who wants it, just leave your address in the comments section.