Landscape of Fear: Stephen King's American Gothic

Landscape of Fear: Stephen King's American Gothic

Landscape of Fear: Stephen King's American Gothic

Landscape of Fear: Stephen King's American Gothic

Synopsis

nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;One of the very first books to take Stephen King seriously, Landscape of Fear (originally published in 1988) reveals the source of King's horror in the sociopolitical anxieties of the post-Vietnam, post-Watergate era. In this groundbreaking study, Tony Magistrale shows how King's fiction transcends the escapism typical of its genre to tap into our deepest cultural fears: "that the government we have installed through the democratic process is not only corrupt but actively pursuing our destruction, that our technologies have progressed to the point at which the individual has now become expendable, and that our fundamental social institutions-school, marriage, workplace, and the church-have, beneath their veneers of respectability, evolved into perverse manifestations of narcissism, greed, and violence." nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;Tracing King's moralist vision to the likes of Twain, Hawthorne, and Melville, Landscape of Fear establishes the place of this popular writer within the grand tradition of American literature. Like his literary forbears, King gives us characters that have the capacity to make ethical choices in an imperfect, often evil world. Yet he inscribes that conflict within unmistakably modern settings. From the industrial nightmare of "Graveyard Shift" to the breakdown of the domestic sphere in The Shining, from the techno-horrors of The Stand to the religious fanaticism and adolescent cruelty depicted in Carrie, Magistrale charts the contours of King's fictional landscape in its first decade.

Excerpt

As I write these words, Stephen King's latest novel, It, has sold over 1.5 million hardcover editions at $22.95 per copy. The novel has maintained its position at the top of The New York Times best seller list since its release ten weeks ago. For those readers who already savor the quality of King's fiction, the achievement of It comes as no real surprise; the author has earned both his reputation and money. But there are others who remain highly skeptical of King's enormous success. This latter group is confident that he will never be more than a hack writer preying upon the tasteless sensibilities of a popular audience that equates a meal at McDonald's with dining at a gourmet restaurant.

I wrote Landscape of Fear: Stephen King's American Gothic for each of the groups I have described above. For those millions of readers who are drawn to King because his tales are engaging or terrifying or both, I offer this book as a vehicle for understanding and appreciating his fiction even more. If I have been successful in this effort, perhaps a new aspect of King's creative imagination will be illuminated, or maybe my readers will view King's work in a different context after discovering what I have to say about him. At any rate, this analysis was never meant as a "reader's guide" to Stephen King; I believe Douglas Winter's fine book Stephen King: The Art of Darkness handles that task better than I could ever hope. If there is a core liability to Winter's approach, however, it is that he must .often sacrifice analyses of unity and depth in favor of tracing the broad sweep of King's prolific canon. On at least one level of being, then, my book seeks to fill this gap by deliberately restricting its scope to the major themes and recurring patterns found in King's fiction.

Since my first exposure to King's work in the paperback edition of Carrie, which I read when it was first published, I have maintained that what is most horrifying in his tales has . . .

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