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Ruminations on the Works of Stephen King
#36
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Originally Posted by jay f
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King has never been able to finish a story well in my opinion.

The Shawshank Redemption disagrees with you.
I might have been born yesterday sir, but I stayed up all night!
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#37
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Originally Posted by JPL
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I'm not that familiar with Jackson's work...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Haunting_of_Hill_House
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#38
I went through a big King phase in college and there's a stack of his books I'm still trying to get through now, trying to fit them round reading movie books and re-reading WATCHMEN.

Is the DARK TOWER finale disappointment to do with the entirety of the last book, the final act or what was actually behind the door? On reflection, I came to terms with the very end. Nothing would have satisfied me totally.

As for the big mothers, I adore THE STAND and IT. BAG OF BONES is a personal fave.

That stack of ones I'm waiting to read:

- DIFFERENT SEASONS
- CUJO
- SKELETON CREW
- THE DARK HALF

Any standouts there anyone can recommend? I started SKELETON CREW just to read THE MIST but didn't get any further.
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#39
I think his short story collections play best to his strengths. So yeah, read the rest of Skeleton Crew and then get with Different Seasons. They may not be terrible, but you aren't missing too much if you never read either of the other two.
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#40
Sorry Iggy, but King is the very definition of pulp horror. Pushing nary a boundary, he's vastly accessible to the mainstream and therefore rather limited in appeal to the truly dark and twisted amongst us. As I hold the position that horror prose works best in the short format regardless, I will credit that some of his earlier anthology compilations ("Night Shift" por ejemplo) contained some rather creepily imaginative works. There's a caveat to even that though since I revisited an ages old horror compilation, "Alfred Hitchcock's Stories for late at Night", that I dug up from my misspent youth. One could make a case after reading several of the tales therein that King must have read them as well, as there's some distinct similarities to many of King's own works that border on idea plagiarism ("Compare King's "The Ledge" to Henry Slesar's "A Cry From the Penthouse" and you'll get what I mean). His later works are plagued with bloat and redundancy in his vast over utilization of the "Writer returning to his small town home" motif that detracts from anything new he might bring to the genre.


What can't be denied is King's positive effect on the horror industry as a whole, and that a few true classics of horror (and mainstream) cinema are based on his works ("The Shining" though in spite of King himself). Unfortunately, "Maximum Overdrive", "Silver Bullet" and "Sleepwalkers" are on his resume as well.
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#41
Quote:

Originally Posted by Russell Faraday
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- DIFFERENT SEASONS
- CUJO
- SKELETON CREW
- THE DARK HALF

Any standouts there anyone can recommend? I started SKELETON CREW just to read THE MIST but didn't get any further.

Different seasons has The Breathing Method (IIRC), Apt Pupil and Stand By Me, all of which are really good. Skeleton Crew has some great stuff, and it'll be easy to fit in your schedule. Love The Dark Half. In fact, the only one listed I'm lukewarm on is Cujo, and that's still pretty decent.
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#42
Here's the thing I find about King: When he's on fire, he's fantastic. I remember that one chapter in Needful Things, where everything was paying off a bit (the town drunk going after the bartender, the jealous gym coach going after that one policeman, the city councilman going after the deputy) and it was just such a great page turner.

And that "Showdown and Shootout" chapter in Drawing of the Three? I have yet to read a more thrilling gunfight put down on paper (and it's HARD to write an interesting gunfight). It is a bit sad that all major gunfights in that series basically boiled down to "Bad guy went for gun. Roland shot him. Roland shot everyone. End of gunfight." (Though I do give him points for having a flaming monkey on roller blades...)

He puts so much into his characters, things that may feel like bloat yet help you understand these characters. I always did like Harold Lauder and felt sad for him when he had that moment of realization that things could've been different for him.

I have been rather let down by more than a few of his endings, whenever a mystical ball of energy destroys the bad guy or some such thing. He can do better than that.
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#43
All four of them are good. Cujo is probably the weakest, but still worth a read. It was the 1s king book I read, and it was good enough that I immediately wanted to read teh rest. I guess Different Seasons is the strongest of the bunch, w/ Skeleton Crew following a close second.
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#44
For me, the short story collections were always hit & miss.

I'd say read the early novels from CARRIE to IT in order. That's where he made his mark.

Flow pretty well, and are pretty quick (until TALISMAN & IT)

MISERY is, in my humble, his last classic.
 


"But when you talk about destruction

Don't you know that you can count me out (in)"




"Bitchin'! Is this in 3-D?"

"No, but your face is."



"Drunk as hell, but no throwin' up

Half way home and my pager still blowin' up"


"I'm tired of living all alone
yeah, nobody ever calls me on the phone
But when things start getting bad
I just play my music louder"





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#45
Quote:

Originally Posted by Syd
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He puts so much into his characters, things that may feel like bloat yet help you understand these characters. I always did like Harold Lauder and felt sad for him when he had that moment of realization that things could've been different for him.

I have been rather let down by more than a few of his endings, whenever a mystical ball of energy destroys the bad guy or some such thing. He can do better than that.

I always thought the character development, much of which is done thru the inner monologue, is a lot of what makes a King story great, and what makes them so damned hard to adapt to film.

As for the lame-o endings he's famous for, The Stand was always the worst offender for me. But I have to admit, as much as I hate & loathe the TV abortion of a miniseries adaptation, seeing the ending on film as opposed to picturing it myself reading it, I cut it a little more slack. I now think it's not as bad as I've always thought.
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#46
Quote:

Originally Posted by Death Surge
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Sorry Iggy, but King is the very definition of pulp horror. Pushing nary a boundary, he's vastly accessible to the mainstream and therefore rather limited in appeal to the truly dark and twisted amongst us. As I hold the position that horror prose works best in the short format regardless, I will credit that some of his earlier anthology compilations ("Night Shift" por ejemplo) contained some rather creepily imaginative works. There's a caveat to even that though since I revisited an ages old horror compilation, "Alfred Hitchcock's Stories for late at Night", that I dug up from my misspent youth. One could make a case after reading several of the tales therein that King must have read them as well, as there's some distinct similarities to many of King's own works that border on idea plagiarism ("Compare King's "The Ledge" to Henry Slesar's "A Cry From the Penthouse" and you'll get what I mean). His later works are plagued with bloat and redundancy in his vast over utilization of the "Writer returning to his small town home" motif that detracts from anything new he might bring to the genre.

.

Surprised he hasn't gotten more flack for that. Sure wasn't shy about lifting outright from other genre works.

(And those Hitchcock Stories were great!)
 


"But when you talk about destruction

Don't you know that you can count me out (in)"




"Bitchin'! Is this in 3-D?"

"No, but your face is."



"Drunk as hell, but no throwin' up

Half way home and my pager still blowin' up"


"I'm tired of living all alone
yeah, nobody ever calls me on the phone
But when things start getting bad
I just play my music louder"





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#47
Quote:

Originally Posted by Death Surge
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Sorry Iggy, but King is the very definition of pulp horror.

Never said he wsn't. He himself might agree w/ you. And the main point behind this thread, despite my obvious gushing admiration, was, after all, to attempt to analyze why he IS so readable & accesible. Not to debate what contributions he's made to the genre.
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#48
Quote:

Originally Posted by DARKMITE8
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I've listened to the 1st 6 DARK TOWER books (holding off on the last, for fear of the disappointment I've heard is inevitable),

It's easily better than 5 and 6. It's just the last fifty or so pages don't have quite the oomph you want them to. There's a sense of wrapping things up, and a couple major character's fates are kind of blah. The final battle is also kind of lame. But the last fifteen pages or so are a pretty hardcore fuck you to everyone, which is kind of interesting.

As to the King "uncool" thing, I think it's partially related to him writing columns about how much he likes Junior Mints or what his oscar picks would be in EW. But yeah, beyond that, I don't get it. Why can't people read Infinate Jest one month (or year) and Gerald's Game the next? Variety is the spice of life, as they say.

Bag of Bones is one of my favorites. I've read it three times. Hearing Duma Key resembles it is exciting. I'll probably have to hit that this month.
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#49
I'm trying to think--has he done anything worthwhile since the accident?
 


"But when you talk about destruction

Don't you know that you can count me out (in)"




"Bitchin'! Is this in 3-D?"

"No, but your face is."



"Drunk as hell, but no throwin' up

Half way home and my pager still blowin' up"


"I'm tired of living all alone
yeah, nobody ever calls me on the phone
But when things start getting bad
I just play my music louder"





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#50
Quote:

Originally Posted by Fat Elvis
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I'm trying to think--has he done anything worthwhile since the accident?

Solid, yes. Truly great? Not really.
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#51
King's resume is so huge that it's no surprise that it is very hit-and-miss. But I will defend him from the "never wrote a good ending" charge. It's not his strength, but a lot of his shorter works had perfectly good endings. It's his big, rambling epics that let down. Some where he doesn't drop the ball :

Firestarter
The Dead Zone
The Long Walk
The Running Man
The Body
Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption
The Wastelands
Wizard and Glass*
Salem's Lot
Cujo

I haven't actually read The Mist or Pet Sematary, but going from plot summaries and the film versions, the endings seem appropriate

*I'm talking about the main flashback storyline, not the whole Wizard of Oz deal at the very end.

**echo the love for "Showdown and Shootout". Fucking awesome.
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#52
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Originally Posted by Schwartz
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Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption

I'd go to bat for THE GREEN MILE as well.
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#53
Speaking of PET SEMETARY, I didn't see the movie until after I'd read the book and holy shit what a letdown. I loved the book and the movie works sort of okay as a middling TV movie but as an adaptation it's abysmal.

Less said about the sequel the better.
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#54
It's probably been close to two decades since I read it, but I remember Carrie having a pretty solid ending, too.
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#55
Quote:

Originally Posted by Russell Faraday
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Speaking of PET SEMETARY, I didn't see the movie until after I'd read the book and holy shit what a letdown. I loved the book and the movie works sort of okay as a middling TV movie but as an adaptation it's abysmal.

Less said about the sequel the better.

I haven't seen or read PS, just been told about it in some detail. And I've only been similarly told about the non-movie Mist ending. But from what I've heard they seemed like perfectly appropriate endings that did not have any extra-dimensional demons banished by balls of mystical energy.

Quote:

Originally Posted by DaveB
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It's probably been close to two decades since I read it, but I remember Carrie having a pretty solid ending, too.

Same deal. Never read/seen it, but am aware of the storyline through other means. Also fits with the shorter-the-book, better-the-ending pattern.

Another thing I always found interesting was how prophetic some of his endings were. It's strange to read the ending to The Running Man, Carrie, or even more so Rage and Apt Pupil and think that they were written in the 70s/early 80s.
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#56
Loved the ending of FIRESTARTER.

Rolling Stone used to stand for something, kids.
 


"But when you talk about destruction

Don't you know that you can count me out (in)"




"Bitchin'! Is this in 3-D?"

"No, but your face is."



"Drunk as hell, but no throwin' up

Half way home and my pager still blowin' up"


"I'm tired of living all alone
yeah, nobody ever calls me on the phone
But when things start getting bad
I just play my music louder"





Reply
#57
The Dead Zone's ending is damn near perfect.

Has anyone read his Red Sox book yet? I have zero interest in baseball, but I'm still curious.
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#58
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ratty
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The Dead Zone's ending is damn near perfect.

Does it differ from the flick? I didn't get a chance to watch the movie (which feels like 3 episodes of any standard paranormal mystery tv show strung together) until adulthood. Fortunately, Walken's performance was able to inject Cronenberg's "atypical for Cronenberg" movie with a sardonic weariness that made it stand out. I haven't seen the AMH series. Never read the book.
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#59
[QUOTE=Ratty;2315735Has anyone read his Red Sox book yet? I have zero interest in baseball, but I'm still curious.[/QUOTE]

I've read it. It's interesting, and it's cool that they wrote it the year the curse was broken, but if you're not a fan of baseball, it's utterly skippable. Also, the bulk of the book is definately written by the other guy (Stewart O'Nan). He seemed to stay a little more into it than King over the course of a long season.

Head Down, in Nightmares and Dreamscapes, on the other hand, is excellent. It's a long essay he wrote about his son's Little League team, and it's probably the best thing in that book.
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#60
Nobody since Poe has written as many good short stories as King, and in fifty years his short stories will be taught alongside Poe or Saki in colleges and high schools. There's a real amazing shagginess to his writing, especially his early stuff. You can tell this is being written by a phenomenal talent barely paying the rent, who just can't get the words out of his head fast enough. Someone compared him to Carpenter, and that's good, but he'll always be the literary equiv of Paul Westerberg to me, capable of amazing sloppy natural highs.

Somebody last page mentioned his taste in music, and while I'm not familiar with it in too much detail, any man who likes Slobberbone can't have that bad of taste.
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#61
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Originally Posted by Louris
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Somebody last page mentioned his taste in music, and while I'm not familiar with it in too much detail, any man who likes Slobberbone can't have that bad of taste.

I don't think Dave was being critical of King's taste of music, rather King's writings/reviews on music. Dave, as usual, was spot on with his statement.
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#62
Quote:

Originally Posted by Louris
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Nobody since Poe has written as many good short stories as King, and in fifty years his short stories will be taught alongside Poe or Saki in colleges and high schools. There's a real amazing shagginess to his writing, especially his early stuff. You can tell this is being written by a phenomenal talent barely paying the rent, who just can't get the words out of his head fast enough.

Whoa, slow down. Are you talking horror or literature in general?

No questioning his musical taste. Man scored his film to AC/DC.
 


"But when you talk about destruction

Don't you know that you can count me out (in)"




"Bitchin'! Is this in 3-D?"

"No, but your face is."



"Drunk as hell, but no throwin' up

Half way home and my pager still blowin' up"


"I'm tired of living all alone
yeah, nobody ever calls me on the phone
But when things start getting bad
I just play my music louder"





Reply
#63
Not being a King fan myself, it seems that the safest bet is to go with his short stories. Would you agree? I picked up The Gunslinger at a used bookstore a couple years ago since I had head so much about the Dark Tower, and was incredibly let down. I'm in the strange position of being very interested in his work, but a little wary of getting stuck into something if it follows in the same style as that book. Since you lot seem to be well read on his books, what would you suggest to get a good feel for his contributions?
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#64
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Originally Posted by HBarr
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I don't think Dave was being critical of King's taste of music, rather King's writings/reviews on music. Dave, as usual, was spot on with his statement.

His taste kind of sucks, too. Not because all of the music he likes is terrible (yeah, he likes Slobberbone, he likes Drive-By Truckers, he likes Steve Earle, etc.), but because the reasoning he gives behind what he likes is kind of stupid and often leads to him hyping the great, the mediocre, and the downright awful in relatively equal amounts.

It's like a movie critic claiming that his top five movies are Lawrence of Arabia, Twins, Blue Velvet, Wild Hogs, and Driving Miss Daisy, then trying to convince you by force of conviction that they're all really, really good rather than by explaining why. That's fine for a bullshit session with your friends. We should hold professional, published writers to higher standards.
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#65
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Originally Posted by DaveB
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... That's fine for a bullshit session with your friends. We should hold professional, published writers to higher standards.

I disagree. It's not like Christopher Hitchens is reviewing music. Part of King's charm as a writer is his style, which, as you described, is like a bullshit session with your friends. And yes, he's a professional writer. But he's not a music writer. He's a fan. He's writing about what he likes. Not all fans can articulate why they like something and why it's objectively good, particularly in an area where they have no expertise beyond being a fan.
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#66
Quote:

Originally Posted by DaveB
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His taste kind of sucks, too. Not because all of the music he likes is terrible (yeah, he likes Slobberbone, he likes Drive-By Truckers, he likes Steve Earle, etc.), but because the reasoning he gives behind what he likes is kind of stupid and often leads to him hyping the great, the mediocre, and the downright awful in relatively equal amounts.

It's like a movie critic claiming that his top five movies are Lawrence of Arabia, Twins, Blue Velvet, Wild Hogs, and Driving Miss Daisy, then trying to convince you by force of conviction that they're all really, really good rather than by explaining why. That's fine for a bullshit session with your friends. We should hold professional, published writers to higher standards.

Did you ever read Dance Macabre? Even in his field of expertise his taste & reasoning were a little suspect. As for music, his fondness for contemporary pop country is irritating (and sad).
 


"But when you talk about destruction

Don't you know that you can count me out (in)"




"Bitchin'! Is this in 3-D?"

"No, but your face is."



"Drunk as hell, but no throwin' up

Half way home and my pager still blowin' up"


"I'm tired of living all alone
yeah, nobody ever calls me on the phone
But when things start getting bad
I just play my music louder"





Reply
#67
Quote:

Originally Posted by Devildoubt
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I disagree. It's not like Christopher Hitchens is reviewing music. Part of King's charm as a writer is his style, which, as you described, is like a bullshit session with your friends. And yes, he's a professional writer. But he's not a music writer. He's a fan. He's writing about what he likes. Not all fans can articulate why they like something and why it's objectively good, particularly in an area where they have no expertise beyond being a fan.

Most music critics don't have musical expertise - they don't play instruments and haven't played in bands. What makes them good at their job is that they're writers. Other than that, they're listeners, as is King (ignoring the fact that he also plays music). Why should I be interested in reading what someone else likes if that person's reasoning isn't given or doesn't make sense?

EW thought it appropriate to give him a column to write on pop culture, and it turns out that he kind of sucks at it. A good number of the regulars on this board come up with more thoughtful, articulate musings on stuff that he wrote about, and they're not even paid to do it.
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#68
I'm pretty sure I didn't find the ending of Green Mile to be bad. It's been a while since I read it, possibly dragged on a bit - but certainly not bad.
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#69
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Originally Posted by DaveB
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Most music critics don't have musical expertise - they don't play instruments and haven't played in bands. What makes them good at their job is that they're writers. Other than that, they're listeners, as is King (ignoring the fact that he also plays music). Why should I be interested in reading what someone else likes if that person's reasoning isn't given or doesn't make sense?

They're writers and their field of expertise is music. You can be an expert in music without knowing how to play.

At the same time, you can play guitar and have no idea about music beyond what you like. See Vicious, Sid.

If you're not interested in what he has to say about music, then don't read it. It's a personal preference.

Quote:

Originally Posted by DaveB
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EW thought it appropriate to give him a column to write on pop culture, and it turns out that he kind of sucks at it. A good number of the regulars on this board come up with more thoughtful, articulate musings on stuff that he wrote about, and they're not even paid to do it.

I don't think he sucks at it. I enjoy reading his columns when I see them. But come on Dave, you know EW gave it to him because of his name and not necessarily his skill. He isn't paid to be insightful; he's paid for his name and for the fans that will buy EW to read his musings.

And when someone from Chud becomes a household name, I'm sure they'll be plenty of forums for them to muse as well.
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#70
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Originally Posted by Devildoubt
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They're writers and their field of expertise is music. You can be an expert in music without knowing how to play.

Naturally. But King wasn't expected to write about anything that he wasn't an expert on. He set his own rules, picked the topics he liked - he had full control of the situation, which is more than what many music (or movie) writers don't have. Expertise on the subject shouldn't have even entered into it. If you don't know about something, don't write about it, lest you look like an idiot. Or do some research.

Quote:

If you're not interested in what he has to say about music, then don't read it. It's a personal preference.

If you don't like reading that I think he sucks ass in that capacity, don't read my posts on the topic. It's a personal preference.

Quote:

I don't think he sucks at it. I enjoy reading his columns when I see them. But come on Dave, you know EW gave it to him because of his name and not necessarily his skill. He isn't paid to be insightful; he's paid for his name and for the fans that will buy EW to read his musings.

Of course, that's why they gave it to him. I'm also pretty sure that Don Johnson got a record contract in the 80s because of his name and not necessarily his skill. That doesn't make "Heartbeat" any better a song (although I bet King could mount a vehement defense of it on the basis of its super-awesome-ness).
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