Stephen King on being prolific

Stephen King has always struck me as being a humane and generous writer.  In today’s New York Times he has a piece entitled “Can a Novelist Be Too Productive?”  He points out:

No one in his or her right mind would argue that quantity guarantees quality, but to suggest that quantity never produces quality strikes me as snobbish, inane and demonstrably untrue.

And he points out that some writers (himself included) are just meant to be prolific–they can’t help themselves:

As a young man, my head was like a crowded movie theater where someone has just yelled “Fire!” and everyone scrambles for the exits at once. I had a thousand ideas but only 10 fingers and one typewriter. There were days — I’m not kidding about this, or exaggerating — when I thought all the clamoring voices in my mind would drive me insane. Back then, in my 20s and early 30s, I thought often of the John Keats poem that begins, “When I have fears that I may cease to be / Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain …”

But he never quite answers the question in his title (the title, of course, may not be his).  This comes to mind as I read Elin Hilderbrand’s novel The Rumor.  She is no dummy:  She went to Johns Hopkins and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.  She has created her own wildly popular genre–the Nantucket beach novel.  But clearly her publisher wants her to write a book, maybe two books, a year.  Could her novels be better if she took more time writing them, if she aimed higher? Is she being too productive?  Beats me, but I think maybe so.  The Rumor seems OK, but it is very slight.

On a related topic, I have so little time to read that I tend to avoid prolific novelists, because I fear that they are sacrificing quality for quantity.  But, of course, I could be wrong.  Here is Shakespeare’s output for 1599, as chronicled in the wonderful book A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599:: Henry V, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and Hamlet.  I don’t think any of us would  have wanted Shakespeare to slow down in 1599.

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My Elin Hilderbrand app

My lovely wife is a big Elin Hilderbrand fan.  She writers novels of life and love on Nantucket — lately two a year, a summer one with a beach cover and a Christmas one with a homey cover of a Nantucket house with Crhstmas decorations.  My wife talked me into reading Hilderbrand’s latest, The Rumor.  The cover is typical:

And here’s a typical paragraph.  The action takes place just after 40-something Grace has started her affair with the hunky landscape architect:

Grace served a cold roast chicken, a fresh head of butter lettuce, a crock of herbed farmer’s cheese, and fat, rosy radishes pulled from the garden.  She cut thick slices of bread from a seeded multigrain loaf with a nice chewy crust, then she went back into the fridge and pulled out sweet butter, a jar of baby gherkins, a stick of summer sausage, and some whole-grain mustard.

This is not a paragraph a man wants to read, although the hunky landscape architect finds the meal absolutely delightful.

Anyway, the novel is perfectly okay-if-you-like-that-sort-of-thing, and Hilderbrand seems to be a perfectly extraordinary human being, who writes two novels a year while raising three kids and battling breast cancer.

Plus, she has an app.  I didn’t know that was a thing, but her publisher, Hachette, seems to think this is a good idea.  It doesn’t seem to be updated a lot — it doesn’t list The Rumor among her novels, for example, and the Recipes section is pretty thin for someone who writes paragraphs like the one I quoted (and she doesn’t seem to know how to spell the word kernel).  But, you know, it’s an app.

I want one.