« Ford loses by winning | Main | Blogging about patients »

Stephen King's Lord of the Rings

GunslingerA few months ago when I was still in law school (how long ago that seems already!) I started in on Stephen King's version of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Ok, so I'm stretching things a bit -- the Dark Tower isn't anything like LoTR. It's certainly not one of those faux-Tolkien fantasy trilogies that we usually get when an author cites LoTR as an inspiration for their own work, as King has here. King says in his preface that he knew he had to write his own story, not Tolkien's, and after twenty three years or so from beginning to end, he's given us the Dark Tower.

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

It's a strange and trippy story that's turned me into a Stephen King fan. The reviews I've seen are decidedly mixed, primarily because readers don't agree about the quality of the ending or about the wisdom of including Stephen King as one of the characters in the story. On both questions, I'm one of those readers who think King got it right. The ending is subtle, dismaying, hopeful, and aggravating all at once. I don't think it's something that could have been written by a young author -- it's just too trippy. Contemplative, even. After reading this ending, I know that I'll have to reread all these books again, sometime. Maybe something will be different the next time through. . . .

As for King-the-character, it won't give anything away to say that Stephen King the author uses this opportunity to talk about the creative process. I suppose if you have no interest whatsoever in how a writer dreams up the funky shit in his books, you might be put off by the appearance of the King character here. Especially because he's not a particularly noble or even likeable guy. But I think that's to Stephen King's credit -- he resists the temptation to make himself the hero of his own book. Perhaps he overstates the importance of the author to a story, but there's room for a juicy argument here, and it's why you should read the series. If Stephen had died when that minivan ran him over in Maine, Roland and Eddy and Susannah and Oy would have died too. If Tolkien had died early, Aragorn would never have returned as the King. No David Lynch, no people like Frank in this world.

In matters of creativity, the artist matters. Which is why I'm glad Phillip Pullman's still alive.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)