Letís get the biggie out of the way up front Ė with the exception of one piece, STEPHEN KING: THE NON-FICTION does not contain the full-text versions of any of Stephen Kingís work. I think many readers were initially excited and then ultimately left a little disappointed once the format of the book became clear, but that doesnít mean people wonít be entertained by what they find within.
SK:TNF has been compiled by Rocky Wood and Justin Brooks, two noted researchers of Kingís work. Together they have tracked down every piece of non-fiction King has written, covering articles he wrote as a child all the way to his current role as a columnist for Entertainment Weekly. It boggles the mind to think of how much work has gone into this book Ė from tracking down all of the articles (500+), to reading each piece and offering up a brief commentary. It truly is a major accomplishment.
In my opinion, the material that proved to be the most interesting was Kingís early work. Very few people have had a chance to read the columns and opinions King wrote during his time in high school and college. Itís fascinating to track Kingís thoughts from before he became a best-selling author (many of the pieces were written prior to his sale of Carrie). King has always been forthcoming with his opinions on a wide variety of topics, and we see that as a young man he was no different, writing pointed articles about topics ranging from school issues to the Vietnam War.
The book spends a fair amount of time going over Kingís major non-fiction releases Ė Danse Macabre, On Writing, and Faithful. This is where the book bogs down a little. Many King fans have read these books, and if they havenít, they are readily availableÖ..so a detailed recounting of them isnít as enjoyable as the other sections.
The remainder of the book covers a variety of categories -- from book reviews to introductions of other authorsí work; political opinions to letters to the editor; lists of Kingís favorite books, music, and TV shows Ė and everything is covered in great detail. Many of these are fun to read (if you like Kingís recommendations, you may glean some new books or songs to try), but as SK:TNF continues and the same lists repeat themselves, the articles become less and less enjoyable.
Wood and Brooks do a good job of capturing the essence of each piece. While we donít get to read Kingís text in full, the pieces are heavily quoted, giving readers a fairly good representation of what King was trying to convey. Wood and Brooks also offer their own commentary, which helps tie everything together and provides more insight along the way.
The book closes with a massive bibliography, something that may prove useful to other researchers, but isnít something most readers are going to spend any time with.
I have no qualms about recommending SK:TNF to the die-hard King fans out there. Assuming youíre one of them, Iíd give the book a rating of 7 out of 10 (losing points for bogging down with repetitive sections at times). However, Iíd have a really tough time telling an average fan (let alone the non-fan) to spend $75 on it. While thereís plenty of interesting tidbits, it is a commentary as opposed to a collection of the original material, and as such itís not going to be for everyone.
The slipcased limited edition is still available at Cemetery Dance.
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