Stephen King is a universe, and I don’t just mean that he contains multitudes or that his bibliography is really big. He is a universe in the sense that he operates under his own physical laws. Two of the underlying forces that underpin his existence are described in his introduction to Nightmares and Dreamscapes, his third collection of short stories.
One force is his desire to sprawl, his tendency towards what he calls generosity. “The leap of faith necessary to make the short stories happen,” he writes, “has gotten particularly tough in the last few years; these days it seems that everything wants to be a novel, and every novel wants to be approximately four thousand pages long.” The opposing force is his desire to please the reader by presenting only his best material when it would be so easy to coast or to repeat himself. “What I’ve tried hardest to do is to steer clear of the old chestnuts, the trunk stories, and the bottom-of-the-drawer stuff,” he writes two pages later. These two forces pull him in opposite directions, and the result is, as he describes it, “an uneven Aladdin’s cave of a book.” With the emphasis on “uneven.”
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