Thursday, October 07, 2004

An Evening With Stephen King

A couple weeks ago, I attended a Q&A with one of the most visible Red Sox fans around, Stephen King, at the 92nd St. Y here in New York. King, who really does come across as an aw-shucks everyman, took questions from Charlie Rose for about 45 minutes or so and then fielded questions from the audience.

Naturally, most of the dialogue focused on himself and his books, particularly his final installment of the Dark Tower series (that I just finished and it was spectacular). However, throughout the interview, baseball constantly kept creeping into the conversation.

First off, the interview was conducted on Sunday, September 19th, and King himself had just come from Yankee stadium after watching the Sox get pasted, 11-1. Not surprisingly, he wasn't thrilled after watching his team lose not only the game but the series as well, with any hopes of the Sox taking the division flushed down the toilet. Despite this, when the majority of the (Yankee loving) audience applauded upon finding out where he had just come from, he shrugged it off with a good-natured wave and a smile, the kind you often see from someone who doesn't want to enter an argument he can't win.

The interview was pretty superficial -- talking about his books in general: "I still have more stories to tell"; the car accident he was in a couple years ago that nearly cost him his life: "Every day is just another day that I'm happy to be alive"; his battles with alcohol and drugs: "If my family and friends hadn't intervened, I wouldn't be sitting here right now"; and his politics: "I think you could call me fairly left-of-center." He also mentioned that he's actually writing a book on the current Red Sox season. As the playoffs are still unfolding, it's up in the air as to whether it will be a horror novel or a fairy tale.

This segment did produce a few King gems. In talking about his various addictions, he said that generally "anything you regret you tend to suppress" and this "contributes to the bump under the blanket theory: every time you push it down, it pops up somewhere else." The single book question Rose asked was "where he got his idea for Misery?" King responded that his original idea was to ask the question "What if there was a woman who kept [an author] until he died and bound his last book in his flesh?" The audience got a good chuckle out of that one. (In some ways, I suppose this is probably more information than we needed to know but it's very cool nonetheless)

While the Rose portion was largely personal, the Q&A tended to focus more on King the author, not King the man, especially considering most of the audience was composed of Dark Tower fanatics (like myself). One person simply stood up and thanked him for writing, a sentiment which generated thunderous applause and seemed to catch King slightly taken aback as well.

This portion produced some of the funniest responses as well. One person asked him if "there were any stories he never published because they were simply too shocking," following it up with "and where are they now?" This produced a hearty round of laughter. King responded by describing one story where someone chopped off a person's thumb then put it on his birthday cake as a candle. "It was a nice touch," King said with a large evil grin.

Another person asked him about how a young author can constantly deal with getting his work rejected and have the fortitude to keep on submitting it. King admitted that it can be pretty tough but recounted how one day, as a young man, he noticed how the majority of author photos inside the back flaps of books were significantly older than he was. Said King, "They're old and I'm young. They'll die."

The best moment of the evening, however, came when a snotty young woman in a Yankees cap stood up and asked him about The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. Basically she went on about how great Tom Gordon was for the Yankees this year, asking how he felt that Flash was pitching for the Yankees, and how he felt after watching the Sox lose to the Yankees again. King admitted that, yeah, the Red Sox did suck this weekend and that, yes, Red Sox fans were pretty down about it. Then he looked straight at her and said with more than a touch of vitrol:

"Yet, without us, what the FUCK would you be?"

The audience exploded with laughter. The girl was several rows in front of me so I didn't get to see her face but I can imagine it was a shade of crimson never before seen. It was glorious.

The evening ended with a standing ovation for King, to which it seemed he really didn't know how to respond. It was kind of like giving your morning coffee vendor a random ovation for simply shilling out his caffeine day after day. I'm sure, being one of the addicted myself, one and all were grateful for their frequent fix and were delighted to have some insight into the mind of their prolific Red Sox-loving barista.


At 6:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Darn im jealus...I would of given anything to be there. Great review by the way! Very insightfull.-

At 8:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great review. Now, having read the Dark Tower and having seen the outcome of the World Series, do you think King went home and wrote the ending of his Red Sox book that night?


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