Tuesday, August 06, 2013

How to raise (mostly) novelists . . .

The King Clan
Photo by Bärbel Schmidt
The New York Times

In the photo above, moving clockwise from left to right, we find Joe Hill (i.e., Joe King), Tabitha King, Kelly Braffet, Owen King, Stephen King, Naomi King and Joe's dog, McMurtry. Naomi and McMurtry are the only non-novelists. Braffet is the sole literary outsider, having joined the clan by marrying Owen. Focusing on the offspring, we see that two of the three King children grew into writers. How did this come about? When they were growing up, the kids entertained their parents by reading to them, as we're told by Susan Dominus in "Stephen King's Family Business" (New York Times, July 31, 2013):
Entertaining their parents, for the King children, was part job, part enrichment. At bedtime, they were the ones expected to tell their parents stories, instead of the other way around. Whatever their methods or intentions, Stephen and Tabitha's shared vocation, and their approach to child rearing, has yielded a significant number of successful fiction writers in their household. Tabitha is an accomplished writer with eight novels to her credit, and two of their three children, Joe and Owen, are novelists. (Naomi is a Unitarian Universalist minister.) Joe's "NOS4A2," a sprawling mix of horror and fantasy that is his third critically praised best seller, was published last April; Owen's second work of fiction, a well-received comedic novel titled "Double Feature," was published in March. Owen, perhaps inevitably, married a writer, Kelly Braffet, whose third novel, a literary thriller called "Save Yourself," is out this month. And Stephen's much-anticipated sequel to the "The Shining," titled "Doctor Sleep," comes out this fall.
This method produced, perhaps inadvertently, two novelists out of three children. Why not Naomi? Why doesn't she tell stories? Well, she does:
"I have different stories, and those are the ones I tell. It's just a different genre." There are the stories she communicates to readers through her online ministry. There are also the stories she creates through sock monkeys costumed as adventuring pirates, whose exploits she creates and then documents on her Flickr account. "It's about play, and it's totally congruent with who I am as a religious leader," she said, "but that isn't what people have been taught to think." Like every other member of her family, she has stories in her life, and they sustain her.
This may sound weird, but telling stories is part of every ministry. I've never heard a good preacher who wasn't a good storyteller. An active imagination is apparently useful in religion, even (especially?) in prayer, as T. M. Luhrmann implies in "Addicted to Prayer" (New York Times, August 3, 2013):
Take Sigfried Gold, the subject of a recent article in The Washington Post. He's a thoughtful, articulate man who lives in Takoma Park, Md., and turned 50 yesterday. He is passionate about philosophy and long ago decided that there was no stuff in the universe that was not physical -- no supernatural, no divine . . . . [However,] he also smoked too much, and more than anything else he ate too much. He was worried that his weight -- a good 100 pounds of excess fat -- would kill him. So he joined a 12-step program to control his food addiction. One of the steps is to turn your problem over to a higher power. So Mr. Gold created a god he doesn't believe exists: a large African-American lesbian with an Afro that reached the edges of the universe . . . . Every day Mr. Gold dropped to his knees to pray, and every day he spent 30 minutes in meditative quiet time. These days Mr. Gold, who calls himself a "born-again atheist," doesn't smoke. He doesn't drink. And, at 5 feet 7 inches, he weighs 150 pounds.
Did he recount stories to himself? The "large African-American lesbian with an Afro . . . [reaching] the edges of the universe" sounds like part of a story to me. Of course, this goddess is merely Mr. Gold's anthropomorphization of the universe, but if he develops a personal relationship with this imaginary deity, a story would have to develop to frame that ongoing relationship and make sense of it.

Be that as it may, I now see that rather than reading to my children, which I did, and telling them stories, I ought to have had them reading to me!

They might then prefer books to smartphones . . .

Labels: , , , ,


At 5:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My favorite part of the picture is McMurtry the Corgi. He looks a bit like our own Winston. Also just finished Steven's 1,000+ page Under the Dome book and one of the survivors was a Corgi...coincidence??


At 7:44 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Obviously a sign that you should write a story about a Corgi . . .

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 12:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I caught that article about the Kings, too, and liked it a lot. I recently heard a great interview of King on NPR that further cemented my ever-rising estimation of the guy. As the interview played out and he and Terri Gross talked about a very wide array of topics, I was really taken aback by how, "man, this guy and I are REALLY on the same page!" I've read a couple of his later novels, the (excellent, clever as all get-out) time travel bit about the Kennedy assassination, and an earlier "ok, now I'm getting serious" one called Lisle's Story, as I recall. King has gone very far overall, I'd say. And jeez, even at the very beginning the guy came up with totally iconic tales like "Carrie"; whether they were "masterpieces" or not, they've stuck with us. All said, I do believe I'm a fan! CPH

At 5:30 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I had initially underestimated the man as a writer of potboilers, but I loved the movie "Stand By Me" and discovered with a shock that it was based on a Stephen King story, and my perception began to change.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *


Post a Comment

<< Home