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Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Altered histories and the novella's comeback

Years ago – around the time of Tommyknockers  (1987) I stopped reading Stephen King – prior to that point I’d been a voracious fan of King’s work but Tommyknockers bored me. I did flirt with some of his later books but it wasn’t until Cell that I got back into King. I also thought last year’s collection, Full Dark, No Stars was excellent – that collection was made up of four novellas, though back in the day these stories would have qualified as novels and so I was eager for King’s new book but also a bit weary because I’d heard it was another thousand pager.

The thing is that sometime around the late 1980′s publishers seemed to drop short novels from their lists as if the number of pages equated with value for money. Of course this was stupid  – a story has a natural length whether it is fifty pages of five hundred pages but the high and mighty publishing industry didn’t see it that way and the result was  that many books were padded out in order to extend a story, best told in 200 pages, into 500+ pages. And King has often been as guilty of padding out his books as anyone else, but it mustn’t be forgotten that King has written some excellent longer works – It, The Stand,  Salem’s Lot to name but a few of a long list.

“King’s next book, due out in November, will be titled 11/22/63 – the date Kennedy was shot dead while travelling in an open-topped presidential limousine in Dallas, Texas – and will feature a time-travelling Maine schoolteacher, Jake Epping, who tries to prevent the killing.” From The Guardian Newspaper.

UK version goes for photographic cover

Today I bought King’s new book 11/22/63 – priced up at £19.99 I got in in W H Smith’s for £9.99 -  part of a special offer. The books comes in at 700 plus pages and also features a tantalizingly snippet of news regarding a new Dark Tower book to be published next spring, and it’s a safe bet that readers will get a hernia lugging it around. The current wisdom is that the novella is making a comeback, but Stephen King is in a position where he doesn’t need to follow the leader and can be true to himself as an artist, can craft a story without considering market trends.

And so as I sit down to read King’s new mammoth tome, let’s hope the story warrants the length.


Randy Johnson said...

I just picked up King's new novella, UR, available only for ereaders or audiobooks. It's a cautionary tale for buyers of the Kindle.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

UR - gonna get that