24 September 2002

I have not observed men’s honesty to 
increase with their riches.” — Thomas Jefferson  

I have just finished browsing through what is probably the most honest, although astonishing admission ever to reach me from a writer.

On the celebrity news site, "Page Six," a small item about author Stephen King's response to an interviewer asking him if he'd miss publishing. Here is the response he gave:

"STEPHEN King has no qualms about quitting the writing business. Asked if he would miss the rush of seeing a new novel come out, the horror-meister replied, "Absolutely not. Would I miss that?
What? I mean, I'm going to Detroit this time to sign books at a Wal-Mart. What a thrill! Are you kidding?" King, who recently announced that he won't release any new work after the final volume of his "Dark Tower" saga comes out in 2004, isn't worried about disappointed fans. "Hey, there are people in hell who want ice water, too."

He's willing to turn his back on fame, fortune, and men's eyes, apparently in one grandiose, fell swoop. Not that he needs those things -- he's got enough money to last through several lifetimes by now, and after so many publications, surely his hide is thick enough to withstand the brickbats of unappreciative critics and hecklers. As for fame, well, his reputation, whether he likes it much or not, is surely well-settled, and there's hardly a place on the planet he can travel where people don't recognize his name.

His comment about the people who want ice water rankles me. How dare he. A writer who has a convincing, deep command of the language, and these are the words he chose to justify himself to the world? Why couldn't he have said, "I'm tired of writing for others. It's time to simply write for myself," and left it at that?

Honest or not, his off-hand insult stings me, particularly since he has so much of what I want for myself -- readers, reputation, rewards.

My impulse, which I've thwarted, is to write him a note. "Dear Mr. King, I wish I could get a refund for every cent I spent on your words. I wish I could get back the minutes I spent reading those words. And most of all, I wish I had a bellows to fan the flames on the day you sit in Hell wishing you had a cold glass of ice water. Sincerely, R.B."

Not that it would matter -- he clearly doesn't intend to validate himself based on anything I think. But I'm telling you, nobody in Hell is going to want ice water on the day I invest another nanosecond in Mr. King, ex-writer and ingrate.

Excuse me. I'm feeling cold and thirsty. I think I'll go burn a few useless books and drink ice water as I do it.


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