I saw the first review of Mr. Mercedes today -- and it made my heart sag a little. Chuck Bowen of Slant magazine, posted his thoughts today. Bowen previously wrote an interesting article titled, Five Tips on How to Make a Good Stephen King Movie Adaptation. It was an interesting article, but since I don't plan on making a Stephen King movie adaptation, and I do plan to read Mr. Mercedes, I dived into the review.
Bowen's review isn't very pretty. Bowen is just flat out cruel; accusing King of not taking the craft itself seriously. At the heart of the review if the idea that the novel is undeveloped, underwritten and reads like a screen play. He praises King for working "outside the horror genre." But his praise is short lived and he quickly moves to throwing eggs at Mr. King. In fact, he not only gets his digs in at the book he is reviewing, but takes a few cheap shots at Doctor Sleep while he's at it. Here's the bullet points:
- Bowen whines that King is publishing too quickly and not rewriting his work enough.
- The book, Bowen reports, moves too quickly. It is too action packed. "The pace is numbing, relentless." (yeah, that's the kind of book I like Chucky!)
- He doesn't like King's use of emphasizing things in the text by bolding, capitalizing and italicizing.
- Bowen accuses King over using clichés and "absurd, unsatisfying plotting."
- Sound tough? He's not done! "The dialogue is appallingly tone deaf," Bowen accuses the author. He goes on to say King is dishing out "crass obviousness."
And he goes on and on.
I get the sense that Bowen is a bit stuffy in his approach to reading. Don't have fun with it. Don't say a building looks like a UFO; or make the dialogue fun. Bowen is the teacher at the front of the room demanding you use proper English and don't bold so much! He wants that paper nice and clean, no italicizing or capitalizing.
Bowen's greatest complaint seems to be that King drives the story hard, pushing it ever forward with energetic writing. We can't have that, ya know? No energetic writing! Writing should be slow, careful and keep the reader a little sleepy. Bowen would enjoy John Knolls A Seperate Peace or Olive Anne Burns' Cold Sassy Tree. I want to italicize those book titles, but I won't because I wouldn't want anyone to think I'm italicizing too much.
A clue that Bowen doesn't really know his Stephen King jumps out in his previous article about adapting a Stephen King novel for screen. He says that King should not be allowed to write the script for his movies, and then says that Pet Sematary is one of the "very worst adaptations of his work." PET SEMATARY? One of the worst? Maybe he didn't see Langoliers. On the Pet Sematary rant, Bowen calls the movie a "flat, impersonal spectacle."
But it's not just Pet Sematary he doesn't like. He's also not a fan of The Green Mile. Discussing the problem of bringing King's dialogue to screen, Bowen wrote, "But even at its best, King's dialogue is usually too stylized to be spoken out loud, and actors often sound silly in their attempts to imbue it with tossed-off spontaneity, a problem that sinks the already problematic The Green Mile." I did not realize the Green Mile sank or that it was "problematic."
Also note that Bowen does not like Frank Darabont's adaptations of Stephen King's work. So his credibility is about zilch at this point.