Tuesday, June 21, 2011


By Stephen King (aka Richard Bachman)

After a critical reading of Thinner, the last book ever written by Richard Bachman (Stephen King) I only have two questions:

1. Why does a thirty-something year-old man who is a partner at his law firm, has a wife and daughter and is a pillar of the community, allow people in his town to continue to refer to him as "Billy?"

The only adult males who are allowed to get away with the name "Billy" play professional sports.


2. What is it with Stephen King and hand jobs?

Seriously. The hand job doled out by Heidi, the wife of Billy Halek plays a more central part in this Kafka-esque metamorphosis tale than most of the other human characters. King, erm... Bachman, spends more time examining, dissecting and re-evaluating said hand job than he does developing characters such as Taduz Lemke, the mysterious Gypsy who curses Halek after Halek hits and kills his daughter in an automobile accident while the aforementioned hand job was taking place.

Got that? Good.

We learn that this was the first time Halek had ever received a hand job from his wife while operating a motor vehicle ("Why, Heidi? why did you pick that day to give me my first hand job!" whined Billy). We learn that when his car grill made impact with Taduz Lemke's daughter he climaxed, but his wife's kung fu grip retained his ejaculation, thereby causing Billy a moment of both extreme pleasure and extreme pain (this is actually mentioned twice in the novel!). We learn that Billy Halek is capable of harboring a hell of a lot of hate based on a single act of manual stimulation but we never learn a damned thing about who Taduz Lemke is or what he's been up to the past 105 of his 106 years on this planet. Priorities, Mr. King. We have a story to tell and there's a hell of a lot more going on than simply a hand job.

If this were the first instance of Stephen King glorifying the pitiful sex lives of Vanilla America I would excuse it, but King has made a career out of writing badly about sex. Gratuitous breaking-and-entering-turned-masturbation sessions in Cujo, group orgies in It and don't even get me started with Gerald's Game. I know that sex and violence are two of the pillars of the horror genre but I find that sex fits into a Stephen King story the way a Slayer song fits into a romantic mixed tape.

Billy Halek could have been doing literally anything else when he hit that woman. Anything would have made more sense. He could have been eating a Super-Sized McDonald's Valu-Pack or a bucket of KFC chicken when he hit her. Certainly that would have fit the narrative a little more. After all, The old Gypsy curse causes him to get thinner, not receive continuous hand jobs until his penis falls off, which would have made a lot more sense considering Taduz Lemke knew exactly what Billy's wife was doing at the time the car struck his daughter.

Too ironic, you say? OK. He could have been arguing with his wife about their daughter or discussing shady business with Richard Ginelli or pretending he was in the lead at the Indianapolis 500 like I do. Hell, he could have been checking out Taduz Lemke's great-granddaughter's ass in a pair of Jordache Jeans for all the sense the hand job made.

I like Stephen King, but it's high time someone called him out on this. For all his wonderfully freaky storylines he concocts he throws in uncomfortable fornication in virtually everything he writes. He must think that everyone in White Middle America is a potential sexual deviant. It's possible he does this as a way to upset his readers further, but I don't think King's readers go back to the fount again and again thinking: "Geez... he had a bunch of 12 year-olds gang rape their best friend at the end of his last book, let's see what kind of kink he's thrown into Tommyknockers." It's the very definition of the word gratuitous.

Wait a minute.

I'm no right-wing Christian prude nor am I a left-wing cop for political correctness. I'm not implying that these scenes shock me or bother me or, god forbid, offend me. They don't. I've read far raunchier material from better (and worse) writers and enjoyed the hell out of it for what it was worth. Most probably because the debauched acts in those stories furthered the storyline rather than sat alongside it like a red-headed step-child. As a reader I question their existence in the story because I like my stories to be closed circuits where everything happens for a reason and furthers the storyline created. If there's no need for a hand job, why include it? If the narrative begs for a hand job, well sir, write it in, proudly.

Perhaps Stephen King should stick to writing horror and leave the sex in abler hands. I know he has mentioned in interviews that he has trouble writing about sex, which begs the question: Why bother? King is good at so much else, why continue to beat the proverbial dead horse? Perhaps Stephen King is a masochist.

Of course, you didn't need to read this blog to know that.


Chiba Chiba Y'all said...

couldn't agree more. the hand job is his car chase, the molestation is his boy loses girl. the sex scenes never seem to advance the story meaningfully, or be a logical extension or necessary plot device or character development. they just seem like late night jerking fodder for the authour.

Ryan said...

I wonder whether this is why I seem to remember liking Stephen King a lot more when I was fourteen.

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