This past Tuesday, Stephen King entertained a sold-out crowd of casual and hardcore fans at the grand, historic, and simply breath-taking Loew’s Jersey Theatre. The event marked the release of King’s latest novel End of Watch and the beginning of his summer book tour. Yes, Stephen King’s book tour began in Jersey City, New Jersey.
This was a real coup for the Loew’s and for Jersey City. Manhattan, the country’s media capital and the former home of generations of artists and writers, and Brooklyn, the current seat of the literati and the creative class, both sit across the Hudson River from Jersey City. Stephen King could have chosen a larger venue in either of those boroughs and he could have demanded a much higher fee. Instead, he choose Jersey City. Thirty-two dollars gained one a seat at the Loew’s and a copy of the book. Signed copies were randomly handed out to guests. My wife received one.
According to the itinerary on King’s website, this tour will avoid the more glamorous urban centers across the country. He appears to be visiting smaller venues and independent bookstores in somewhat off-the-beaten-path cities, bringing a priceless gift and an unforgettable experience to many readers likely often denied appearances by favorite authors and cultural figures.
For an hour or so, Mr. King, one the more popular and commercially successful contemporary American authors, delivered a humorous, casual lecture, jumping from topic to topic and from anecdote to anecdote, leaving the audience with the impression of sharing a conversation rather than listening to a prepared speech. King discussed the mystery–his chosen term, not mine–of the creative process and the artistic imagination. What inspires a painter, a musician, or a writer and drives them to create something novel and original? Why were they given such talents? Such questions can never be fully, even adequately answered. Thus, the mystery of art.
Stephen King figured prominently in my life as a reader and as a writer. When I was in sixth grade, I checked out a copy of The Cycle of Werewolf (illustrated by Bernie Wrightson, a comic-book artist best known for horror stories) from the public library. Although I was an avid reader since gaining the gift of literacy and a lover of ghost stories, monsters, and the macabre even before then, King introduced me to a new world of storytelling and the imagination. For the next several years, I read everything written by King. Then, I stopped. I have read only one novel, The Cell, by King during the past twenty years. After seeing King speak, I would like to return to several of those books. I wonder what I might find in them.
King also fielded previously submitted questions from the audience. The concluding questioner asked King if he worried over his legacy and his inclusion (or exclusion) from the American canon. King stated that such speculation was a fruitless exercise for an author. Writers fall in and out of favor and they are forgotten and later remembered. A writer should focus on his or her work at the moment. Everything else is meaningless.
This past Tuesday was a great night for book lovers, Stephen King fans, and Jersey City. Let’s hope that more authors follow Mr. King’s example and choose to sit on the stage of the Loew’s Jersey Theatre.