‘The Bazaar of Bad Dreams’ preface to ‘Premium Harmony’

From the scribnermagazine.com website:

Stephen King muses on Raymond Carver and literary influences in this preface to “Premium Harmony”:

My mother had a saying for every occasion. (“And Steve remembers them all,” I can hear my wife, Tabitha, say, with an accompanying roll of her eyes.)

One of her favorites was “Milk always takes the flavor of what it sits next to in the icebox.” I don’t know if that’s true about milk, but it’s certainly true when it comes to the stylistic development of young writers. When I was a young man, I wrote like H. P. Lovecraft when I was reading Lovecraft, and like Ross Macdonald when I was reading the adventures of PI Lew Archer.

Stylistic copying eventually wanes. Little by little, writers develop their own styles, each as unique as a €ngerprint. Traces of the writers one reads in one’s formative years remain, but the rhythm of each writer’s thoughts—an expression of his or her very brainwaves, I think—eventually becomes dominant. In the end, no one sounds like Elmore Leonard but Leonard, and no one sounds like Mark Twain but Twain. Yet every now and then stylistic copying recurs, always when the writer encounters some new and wonderful mode of expression that shows him a new way of seeing and saying. ‘Salem’s Lot was written under the influence of James Dickey’s poetry, and if Rose Madder sounds in places as if it were written by Cormac McCarthy, it’s because while I was writing that book, I was reading everything by McCarthy I could get my hands on.

In 2009, an editor at The New York Times Book Review asked if I would do a double review of Raymond Carver: A Writer’s Life, by Carol Sklenicka, and Carver’s own collected stories, as published by Library of America. I agreed, mostly so I could explore some new territory.

– See more at: http://www.scribnermagazine.com

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