Review by Choice Review
Describing a media phenomenon like Stephen King is far easier than accounting for his continued popularity with his diverse audience, the perceptive reader as much as the uncritical one. Reino describes the work without completely explaining its appeal. Perhaps it cannot be done in so few pages, even when the focus is limited to the major works (nine novels, two collections of short fiction, and a survey of horror films) published between 1973 and 1983. The reader must draw his or her own conclusions based on the thematic analysis and biographical evidence presented here. King has been influenced by motifs found in fairy tales, Dracula, and the Oz books. His results are not achieved by chance, but by careful design, from his choice of names for his characters, their relationships to each other, to the place within a story (even to the most appropriate page) where a significant event occurs. There is more to King than the casual reader imagines. At his best, he is a subtle stylist who unveils his horrors with skill; at his worst, the master of the gross shock. Although not apt to replace Douglas E. Winter's Stephen King: The Art of Darkness (1984) for basic information, Reino is still worth reading for his scholarly insights. Selective primary and secondary bibliographies are accompanied by perceptive, but not intrusive, notes and a useful index. Levels: graduate and upper-division undergraduate. -J. R. Cox, St. Olaf College
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review
The Stephen King critical machine continues apace, first with an overview of the movies based on the horror-novelist's books and next with a straightforward explication of his first 10 years' work. Conner's guide to the movies based on King's writings should please the author's many fans. It combines plot summaries of the films, reproduced stills in color and black and white, King's own comments on the 13 feature films, and intriguing insider's notes on the various productions. (Among the latter, we learn that Sissy Spacek originally was set to play Carrie's friend, and Carrie Fisher was in line for the title role.) Kingophiles will particularly enjoy Conner's whimsical captions for the stills, which reflect the irreverent sense of humor that is central to King's appeal. While Conner's book takes an unabashed ``fanzine'' approach, Joseph Reino's study, which analyzes King's major published work between 1973 and 1983, adopts a much more high-minded stance. The results are decidedly mixed. While Reino does a capable job of defending King as a more subtle writer than his mass appeal would indicate, and while he makes a good case for 'Salem's Lot as King's masterpiece, he also falls victim to the laughably pretentious tone and style that often result when an academic goes slumming in the world of pop lit. We are told, for example, that ``King's popular Carrie . . . differs markedly from Joyce's intellectual Ulysses.'' Thanks for clearing that up for us, Professor Reino; now if Jacques Derrida would just have a go at deconstructing Cujo. Reino's book comes equipped with notes, chronology, bibliography, and an index; Conner makes due with none of the above. Despite these books' obvious differences, King fans will ask for both of them. True love is like that. BO.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.