Saturday, June 09, 2007

Stephen King Visits Toronto from the 11th Province of Maine

Tonight I got to see Stephen King, David Cronenberg, Clive Barker, Margaret Atwood, and others as Stephen received his lifetime achievement award at the Luminato festival in Toronto. George Strombolopolous hosted.

I have read Stephen King books since I was 9 years old, my first one being Skeleton Crew. I can still picture in my head the story of the raft, and the oil slick that pulled people to their deaths - it still gives me the shudders. I dropped out of Grade 13 English the first day because the teacher said that Stephen King would not be considered a "real writer" in her class. I ended up taking Grade 12 College English and getting a scholarship.

This was the first time a non-Canadian has won the Canadian Booksellers Lifetime Achievement Award, and the first time Stephen King has visited Toronto. King cracked that he thought that Maine should be considered the 11th province of Canada anyway. They could take advantage of all the Canadian tourists who wanted to hit the "southern province" and they wouldn't get people from Ohio or Michigan who complain about the cold water. (Well, the dollar is almost at par and passport rules have been relaxed a bit...)

Margaret Atwood made the first "toast". Clive Barker came on wearing some designer jeans, and in a hoarse, nervous voice pronounced his entire life's successes to be due to some words Stephen spoke to him after his first book was published. Then King took the stage with Chuck Klosterman, in an interview setting.

King spoke about some of his favourite bands (AC/DC, Metallica, Neil Young, Bob Dylan) and some of his favourite books (too many to remember, though Life of Pi and Lovecraft stuck out, his site has some recommendations). Klosterman asked if King's style of writing was similar to an AC/DC song. King responded that he tried to write his books like those songs that are so in-your-face that they erase all of your thoughts and tell you to "shut the hell up and listen!". He would do his 'day-writing' on his current book, and then use the night for rewriting and other "clean-up" projects. It is during these rewrites that he removes pieces of the story that may cause the reader to "take a break."

He talked about how he is slowing down in his "old age" and blamed it on his computer. (He probably has internet access, the ultimate time-killer). He said his most productive days were on the IBM Selectric that his publisher gave him. His stream-of-conciousness writing style fitted the word processor nicely. I can see how squiggly-red lines and a blinking cursor can screw up a writer's creative juices; that's what editors are supposed to be for.

His favourite children (books)? Lisey's Story. The Cell. Rose Madder. Oddly enough, those were three of only a few books I have not read by him.

King was in an accident in 1999 that left him in serious condition. He talked about his accident in vivid, graphic detail, saying "I remember certain aspects of the accident. The red blood pooling in my lap. The twinkles of light on the broken glass. My leg bent at odd angles with a round knob sticking out, which turned out to be a bone. I was just glad I didn't rip my jeans."

King also talked about what fame was like, and the only time he earned an honest buck. The King family were travelling through Miami when he noticed a car broken down by the side of the road. He pulled over to see if they needed some help. The man, a white-haired, "Bob Barker-type" gentleman wearing a suit and tie, walked up to him and said "Son, do you want to make a quick $10?" King ended up changing the flat tire, with the man's wife still in the car, her in a fur coat with the air conditioning on. "It's Miami, what do you expect?"

The most eventful part of the night happened when my brother and I were leaving. As we walked past a set of elevators, a security guard got on her walkie-talkie, and it looked like something was up. The elevator doors opened and out walked David Cronenberg, Tabitha King, Clive Barker, Margaret Atwood, and others, but no Stephen King!

Then I realized that the twenty-something kid I saw with the goofy grin was actually Stephen. I think I need to borrow your glasses, Son.

Thanks to Torontoist for giving me the info!

Hold on to your horrors, scary story-lovers: Stephen King is scheduled to make his first official Canadian appearance to receive a life-time achievement award from the Canadian Booksellers Association.

Source: Torontoist: King Booked!

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