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Tuesday, August 03, 2004

A Preface to an upcoming series of essays on the work of Stephen King

In the final telling, to say that Stephen King's Dark Tower cycle is or is not a great work of art is meaningless. Such lofty proclamations won't penetrate the mysterious lines of demarcation between various interpretive communities that weigh the word and their dedication to it differently. If many of Stephen King's non-Dark Tower books are steeped in the patterns of ancient mythologies and superstitions, King's apprehension of the "everyman" at the core of those tales must not be dismissed according to some arbitrary hierarchy of values awarded to books that flourish with fresh geographies, as opposed to those that probe common human experience in the now, and to which imagistic innovation -- present or not -- is beside the point. Consider King's often startlingly realistic portrayal of the everyman: the alcoholic undertaker, the unemployed carpenter, the small boy hectored by bullies (to paraphrase Walter Mosley's description of a few of King's characters at the 2003 National Book Awards). In the context of cultural apprehension, the Dark Tower series is a literate synthesis of King's accumulation of daily lives, hopes, and dreams, a great hulking tower of American ideas and idioms and motifs distilled into seven books which validate, at least for me, his importance as an American writer and storyteller.

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