Author Topic: "Great" v commercial  (Read 19192 times)

istara

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"Great" v commercial
« on: May 07, 2006, 06:17:33 AM »
Confirms what I have always suspected - that Joyce is very overrated.  King writes far better prose.


This post is about the Artist or hack? quiz --admin

Sinical

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Agree
« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2006, 10:10:05 PM »
I must wonder whether the compiler of the test is really in a position to call King a hack.
He wrote/writes(?) for his audience and has made a killing from doing so, sounds alright to me

Mikhail Simkin

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Re: Agree
« Reply #2 on: May 15, 2006, 12:27:45 AM »
Quote from: "Sinical"
I must wonder whether the compiler of the test is really in a position to call King a hack.

It is the consensus opinion of literary critics.

mtgradwell

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Re: "Great" v commercial
« Reply #3 on: May 16, 2010, 11:06:53 AM »
I may be looking in the wrong places, but I don't recall ever seeing an instance of a serious mainstream reviewer calling Stephen King a hack. Perhaps you should provide links? His Amazon home page biography states that he is "the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters". He has also written "on writing: a memoir", half of which I gather is advice for aspiring writers (the other half being autobiographical). I understand that this has been critically acclaimed, which would hardly be the case if he was considered a hack.

Googling for references to Stephen King and hack, there are instances of him being called one, but they seem to be mostly ironic, made with tongue firmly in cheek, or they are in anonymous or pseudonymous replies to blog posts. There are also many references to him calling Stephanie Meyer a hack. I only looked at the first three pages of Google's output, though. Maybe the serious accusations of hackery start on the fourth page.

If you really want examples of authors who have sold many books but are widely seen as hacks by those who consider themselves to have some literary taste, you could take your cue from Stephen King and go for Stephanie Meyer; or Dan Brown would be another excellent choice.

Mikhail Simkin

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Re: "Great" v commercial
« Reply #4 on: May 16, 2010, 02:35:49 PM »
I  He has also written "on writing: a memoir", half of which I gather is advice for aspiring writers (the other half being autobiographical). I understand that this has been critically acclaimed, which would hardly be the case if he was considered a hack.
Actually, I took the word "hack" from that book. Here is how he described in it his critics "He's a hack! they cry indignantly. A hack with pretensions! The worst kind! The kind who thinks he can pass for one of us!"

mtgradwell

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Re: "Great" v commercial
« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2010, 04:07:35 PM »
I don't have Stephen King's book on criticism; what I wrote was based on what I have read about it on the internet; but I have just now found a website which quotes from it extensively ( http://excellent-words.livejournal.com/tag/book%20rec ), and if the extract there is accurate then it would seem that you have misread King. When he says

"He's a hack! they cry indignantly. A hack with pretensions! The worst kind! The kind who thinks he can pass for one of us!"

he *isn't* referring to what critics say about himself. Rather, he is talking about the critical reception of writers who improve (from being "merely competent" to being "good") in general, and about *Raymond Chandler* in particular.

Here's a partial context:

Raymond Chandler may be recognized now as an important figure in twentieth-century American literature, an early voice describing the anomie of urban life in the years after World War II, but there are plenty of critics who will reject such a judgment out of hand. He's a hack! they cry indignantly. A hack with pretensions! The worst kind! The kind who thinks he can pass for one of us!

Critics who try to rise above this intellectual hardening of the arteries usually meet with limited success. Their colleagues may accept Chandler into the company of the great, but are apt to seat him at the foot of the table. And there are always those whispers: Came out of the pulp tradition, you know ..


For a fuller context, readers can refer to the link above, or to King's book if they have it.

mtgradwell

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Re: "Great" v commercial
« Reply #6 on: May 16, 2010, 04:56:08 PM »
Oh dear. I feel bad now. I'm kind-of hoping that the page I gave a link to, that quotes King, actually misquotes him. Or at least that enough instances can be found of critics calling King a hack to rescue the situation. Here I am, undermining the basic premise of one of your best quizzes, and in another thread I'm saying that you're unfunny, and in yet another I'm attacking the citations section of your "Opium for Scholars" page (albeit with tongue in cheek; I don't really believe that your citations are random). I didn't mean to be so destructively critical. It just came out that way. It seems I have a tendency to say what I think, without considering the consequences.

I hope you will see that in this particular thread I'm only the messenger; it isn't my fault that King isn't widely considered to be a hack, if that is indeed the case. Anyway, I apologise for being such a nuisance. That isn't what I intended.

Mikhail Simkin

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Re: "Great" v commercial
« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2010, 04:56:45 PM »
And if you read the book you will understand that "writers who improve (from being "merely competent" to being "good") in general" is indeed himself.

mtgradwell

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Re: "Great" v commercial
« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2010, 05:25:35 PM »
Okay. Perhaps I shouldn't say any more, having just apologised for saying too much. I won't say any more after this post, not for a while anyway, but I'll look back in a couple of days when I've had time to think about what I'm doing here. In the meantime, do you have any links to mainstream critics calling Stephen King a Hack? I'd just like to understand why King would make that reference to himself, if that's what it was.

Mikhail Simkin

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Re: "Great" v commercial
« Reply #9 on: May 18, 2010, 03:10:58 PM »
In the meantime, do you have any links to mainstream critics calling Stephen King a Hack?
Yes, there are  cases when he was called so even exactly

Rex Pickett: "Stephen King is a hack, a good hack, but a hack." http://www.screenplayers.net/rexpickett.html

Far more cases when the exact word "hack" was not used, but the meaning is similar

Harold Bloom: "an immensely inadequate writer on a sentence-by-sentence, paragraph-by-paragraph, book-by-book basis."

Richard Snyder: "He sells a lot of books. But is it literature? No."

ST Joshi's article is titled "The King's new clothes"

I'd just like to understand why King would make that reference to himself, if that's what it was.
He said the same thing explicitly about himself in the introduction  to Nightmares & Dreamscapes

"After twenty years of writing popular fiction and being dismissed by the more intellectual critics as a hack (the intellectual's definition of a hack seems to be “an artist whose work is appreciated by too many people”), I will gladly testify that craft is terribly important..."

mtgradwell

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Re: "Great" v commercial
« Reply #10 on: May 18, 2010, 06:15:00 PM »
Okay, those are good examples; good enough for us to say that the situation has been rescued. The "artist or hack" quiz really is about someone who is considered to be a great writer, versus one who is, at least sometimes, considered to be a hack. Furthermore I now have the full text of King's "On Writing", and there are plenty of places in it where he writes self-deprecatingly, e..g about "us proles", and makes oblique references to his "own less-than-spotless reputation", which hint at previous savagings by the critics.

However, given the sheer number of awards that King has won, it can be argued that Pickett, Bloom, Snyder and Joshi should be regarded as outliers. Furthermore, Pickett seems to be under the impression that King writes in order to make money, hence his dismissal, whereas I think there is plenty of evidence in "On Writing" that King cares passionately about his craft, and would strive to write even if it didn't bring him any financial reward (disclaimer: I haven't read it all yet).

So, your premise stands, maybe, but it's a close-run thing. A far more valid comparison would be between Joyce and somebody who is commercially popular but who is very widely considered to be a hack; Such as L. Ron Hubbard, say, or the previously mentioned Stephanie Meyer or Dan Brown; but I doubt that you'll dig up anything from those writers which could be mistaken for Joyce.

Mikhail Simkin

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Re: "Great" v commercial
« Reply #11 on: May 18, 2010, 07:40:08 PM »
So, your premise stands, maybe, but it's a close-run thing.
No. It stands firm. Here is the Random House  list of 100 best novels.

http://www.randomhouse.com/modernlibrary/100bestnovels.html

Joyce got 1st and 3rd places. Stephen King does not appear on the Board's list at all. This suggests a huge difference in status.