Saturday, February 21, 2009

King vs. Meyer

A few weeks ago, Stephen King publicly stated that he thought Stephanie Meyer wasn't a good writer. The fallout from that was a zillion people discussing whether his comments were appropriate, or just plain too harsh. Personally, I'm on the fence, but that's not why I brought this up. :)

What do you think about book reviews, specifically ones from a writer's perspective that pick the book apart and lay out all the shortcomings? Is this similar to what King did?

Each week, I discuss a book from a writer's perspective, and some discussions have been a bit negative. Does that make me the same as King? Or is it different somehow? (aside from the obvious - I'm not famous and he is) :)

Just curious... :)


beth said...

There's a difference between being critical (you) and being insulting (King). Do I happen to agree with King? Yup. But I'd never use my own fame to bring someone else down. Life's too short to be so mean.

PJ Hoover said...

What Beth said. It also comes down to what you feel comfortable doing. I've tried to do public critiques, but can't get myself to do it. I guess to me the writing world feels a bit I could meet someone next week who I'd just commented on the previous week.

All that said, if I was so popular that Stephen King bothered to comment on my writing, I don't think I'd complain.
"You know you've made it when Stephen King publicly declares your writing sucks."

Kelly said...

I agree with Beth. An honest critique is much different than saying the writer sucks!
King could have shown more diplomacy in his remarks.
I think this controversy has probably helped sell even more King and Meyer books if anything (like they need any help!).

Michele Thornton said...

King gives Meyer credit for what she's done well--tapping into emerging sexual feelings of young women without being threatening. In my opinion, he's justified in criticizing the quality of her writing. In any case, it won't hurt Meyer's ability to sell books, nor Kings. He's being honest.

Jill Wheeler said...

I think he has the right to state his opinion.

C.R. Evers said...

I haven't heard or read what King said. I've only heard small bits. And, from experience, I've learned that things can be taken out of context. I know that I read his book on writing and he talked about how people criticized him. Maybe taking criticism is just part of being in the big time. Maybe he's used to and comfortable with talking about writings in that way.

I don't know, since I only know of this dispute through small bits and pieces.

Personally, I try to stick with positives when I review a book. I don't feel that I know enough to say something negative in a written forum about the way something is written.

Mary Witzl said...

I agree with King too, and I believe in honest critiques, but I still feel a little ambivalent about this. I think little people -- like me - can criticize famous, well-established writers quite freely, but when someone like King does it, it diminishes him a bit.

But I certainly agree with what PJ Hoover says: Meyer can sit back and smile now that King has had an opinion on her writing. Wish I could get him to read something I've written...

Anonymous said...

I don't really review books myself: I make book recommendations when I see something I like, and I discuss certain aspects of books I've read that taught me something about writing. This year I'm also doing launch announcements for debut books.

I think reviewers have a right to their own opinion, and an obligation to their readers to be honest and call it like they see it. I can think of two things that I consider hitting below the belt in reviewers: mean-spiritedness (gratuitous insults, personal remarks about the writer, etc.) and inaccuracy (not minor, inadvertent errors, but gross, obvious mistakes).
I also get a little squeamish when a reviewer downgrades a book for not being what the reviewer wanted it to be. But I can kind of understand that, since readers often bring their own expectations to books.

Merc said...

Mr. King is as entitled to his opinion as anyone, sure. (I have Issues about the guy and his work for other reasons I'm not getting into here. Personally I don't care less if he read my stuff or not.) ;)

But yes, I do think there is a difference between critically reviewing a BOOK and saying an author sucks. Basically. I don't recall exactly what he said, maybe it was something else, but that was the impression I got.

Yes, it's necessary to have a tough skin when you're in this business, etc etc. I still see nothing wrong with being polite when discussing fellow writers. No matter how famous you are. *shrugs*

Tabitha, I think you post wonderfully rounded and polite reviews, even of books you don't like (which is great). ;)


Kerryn Angell said...

I think I'm probably a bit harsh with my reviews but I hope it comes across that this was just how the book was for me. That's not to say the books isn't good or that what I couldn't overlook others couldn't.

Tabitha said...

Great discussion!

So, I have another question. If King had been a bit more polite, or made it clear that this was *his* opinion (i.e. he said "I don't think she can write" as opposed to "she can't write"), would that have made his comments more acceptable?

My gut reaction is no, but I'm curious what the rest of you think. :)

Merc said...

Don't know.

I'm probably biased anyway for views on King in general ;) but I think if the comments had been focused more on the books vs. Myers herself (the Twilight books are written badly vs. Myers can't write) it would have sounded more like a critical review of the books instead of her. *shrugs*

Again, it could be how much I read into his comments :P but I have far less problem with people giving harsh reviews (publicly) if it's focused on the BOOK, not the author.

Do I think some people can't write? Sure. We all do. It's just how people work--we see other people and compare, evaluate and judge, even if we never say anything. *shrugs* And I don't really care if people discuss between themselves what they think. Something about taking it to an openly public forum like this or a national review or the like just kinda irritates me. Again, it could very well be just me because of what I think of King. :P

I don't think wandering around publicly putting other authors down (especially when your fame can give you such a huge platform) and attacking them does you any favors (this pretty much is my sentiment for every writer/author who also reviews).

King doesn't need favors, I'm sure, but the whole 'I'm better than you and you suck' attitude declared like that rubs me the wrong way regardless of how "valid" one might think it is, or who's doing it.

Be as harsh as you like in a review you're making public, but keep it on the actual work you're reviewing. 'S all I'm sayin'. ;)


Merc said...

I didn't mean to say "again" so much... eh, I'm not awake and in a Mood, so feel free to ignore me. :P

Mary Witzl said...

I agree that it would have been better for King to say that Meyer's books weren't particularly well written in his opinion. That would make his criticism sound less 'great author slams newbie hotshot' and more 'Stephen King has very high standards'. But then I tend to use a lot of mealy-mouthed hedges...

Anne Spollen said...

She may not be the world's most lyrical wordsmith, but she sure has something no one would turn down: gazillions in publishing contracts, fame, and admiration.

BTW, I happen to think the exact same thing about Stephen King that he said about Meyer. Great writers neither of them are, but they both touched a nerve that the public responded to big time.

Marcia said...

SK saying this about SM is a little like the pot calling the kettle black. They've both got huge stories that have hit a nerve with millions of people. Great wordsmiths they are not. But on the other hand, you could argue that they're the type of wordsmith they need to be for the type of story they are writing.

One difference is whether or not you're being mean-spirited. When we review books, we know whether that's the case for us or not. Another difference is talking about the writer vs. the book. "So-and-so can't write" is a sweeping statement I wouldn't make in a review, but pointing out what you see as the shortcomings, if any, in a book is the responsibility of the reviewer.