Scholar Michael Collings writes that King’s poems “concentrate on the small, the minute. They are not themselves trivial, but they carry an implicit sense of triviality when considered next to the bulk of The Stand or IT … or even the lesser weight of Carrie, Salem’s Lot, and the other novels.” Given such criticism, why read King’s poetry at all?
Poetry was a formative influence on King. He studied and wrote it extensively in college, which helped him develop the keen ear that still confounds some critics. As part of a generation of writers weaned on TV and Hollywood films, King also describes himself as “an imagist” who uses vivid language in his prose the same way poets convey ideas visually or metaphorically. Just as some of his early short stories tinker with concepts he explores at greater length in the novels, some of King’s early poems introduce ideas and images that reemerge in later works.
In 2004, when several of King’s college poems were reprinted in The Devil’s Wine, an anthology of horror writers’ poetry, Publishers Weekly declared them “good enough to make readers hope the Master Spellbinder revisits his muse more frequently.” Ardent King fans are particularly interested in his poetry because much of it is hard to find and yet well worth seeking out. These early works have enough raw energy and memorable lines to be compelling literature in their own right. Besides, as King writes in Danse Macabre, his 1981 nonfiction study of the horror genre, poetry doesn’t require justification: “to simply delight the reader is enough, isn’t it?”
The year I got my first job in publishing, 2008, was one of the industry’s gloomiest. Major bookstore chains were going under: Borders was doomed and the Kindle had launched a year earlier. It was already obvious that the deepening financial crisis would gut the big publishers and cast out many of the small ones. But my fellow editorial assistants avoided these elephants in the room, and instead spent their days exchanging stories about their bosses: about how they used to frequent dinner parties with Susan Sontag or do coke with Bret Easton Ellis. These conversations depressed me. Why were we talking about the good old days of people older and more powerful than us? That the charmed lives of management often entailed bad behavior we now justly condemn only made the obsession that much more unseemly.
Four years later, I was implicated in boss stories when I went to work for Peter Mayer, one of the stars of book publishing. If anyone in the industry had the right to diffuse their nostalgia, it was Peter, who died at 82 last Friday. The publisher of Rushdie’s Satanic Verses and thus the costar of l’affaire Rushdie, Peter wasn’t otherwise famous for his writers and acquisitions. He was known for his charm, his temper, his savvy, his smoking, and for the relentless dynamism he brought to an industry that often preferred to react or sit still. I never got to see him in action at the Frankfurt Book Fair, but I imagine him spending entire days in conversation with many decades’ worth of friends and colleagues.
The terminal has its share of surprises. And now, passengers arriving or departing there are greeted with one more: a piece of live, performance art.
In a space outside security that used to be a Hudson News kiosk, the writers and close friends Gideon Jacobs and Lexie Smith, who both live in Ridgewood, Queens, have set up a writing nook with stacks of books, wooden furniture, rugs and a vintage typewriter. There they are, writing unique, fictional stories for fliers.
NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan believes we’ll find “definitive evidence” of alien life by 2050. Probably microbes in a chemical soup somewhere, similar to how life began on Earth, but who knows? Maybe we’ll encounter intelligent aliens who bestow their wisdom unto us, like the paternalistic aliens of science fiction. In Arthur Clarke’s Childhood’s End, aliens free Earth from crime, war, and disease (the story’s ending is a bit more complicated). In Carl Sagan’s Contact, aliens provide humanity a paradigm-shifting understanding of the universe; in Arrival, the aliens’ gift is a new understanding of time. In these stories, humans develop meaningful relationships with aliens based on common goals, fairness, and decency.
However, Liu Cixin’s award-winning Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy raises the question of whether NASA transmitting the Beatles’ song “Across the Universe” toward Polaris or sending the Golden Record beyond the solar system was such a wise idea.