Stephen King: 2016 National Book Festival

>>From the Library of
Congress in Washington, D.C.>>Ladies and gentlemen, please
welcome the 14th Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden. [ Applause ]>>Carla Hayden: Thank you. [ Applause ] Thank you. [ Applause ] And welcome all of you to
the 16th Annual Library of Congress National Book Festival. It is truly a thrill to be
here and open the Festival on the very first main
stage of the Festival. For all of the many years that the
Library has brought this magnificent celebration of books and reading, it’s the first time the Library’s
been able to offer such a large hall and the ability to accommodate all
of you to hear the exciting writers who will present their books on
the stage throughout the day. And today, through the
power of technology that I am hearing coming
right with me, we are able to livestream this event
to the Library’s Facebook page. [ Applause ] I am also Tweeting
throughout the day. [ Laughter ] And adding to my — the
Library’s Facebook page. So we are really going on. And to the millions of fans
who follow the author we’re about to hear from today,
so welcome to all of you. The theme of the Festival this
year is Books as Journeys. And I promise you, you’re on a
journey at the Book Festival today. Now this morning it is my distinct
pleasure to confer a Literary and Literacy Champion Citation
to a very special individual who embodies the work we —
and it’s wonderful to say we — the Library at Congress do every
day to promote reading, education, scholarship, creativity, and the
importance of books to our culture. This year I am proud
to confer a Library of Congress Literacy Champion
Citation to Mr. Stephen King. [ Applause ] Author of more than 50 books, all
of them international bestsellers as well as hundreds
of short stories. And you all know Stephen
King’s work. Throughout his career from Carrie
to Salem’s Lot to The Shining to Shimshack Redemption, and now
to his latest Edge — End of Watch. He has continually brought
us spellbinding fiction that makes us read,
keeps us reading, and fixes us to the
edges of our seats. I’m sure you all know about
the many motion pictures that have been made from his books. And just last year, the movie
Shawshank Redemption was named to the Library of Congress’
National Film Registry and will be preserved there because
of its great cultural importance. [ Applause ] Mr. King has certainly made his
mark on our culture in so many ways. What you might not know is how
devoted he has been through all of these years to promoting
the indispensable tools of reading and literacy. Here’s a writer who cares
about libraries, universities, and education at large,
a prolific storyteller who has worked tirelessly
to ensure that the children of his state have what
it takes to read, learn, and become vital participants
of our American culture. We are proud to single him
out now for that effort, an individual who not only
gives back to his readers, but ensures that the
number of readers grows. So please join me in
celebrating this singularly caring and engaged American writer, our Library of Congress Literacy
Champion, Mr. Stephen King. [ Applause ] [ Inaudible ]>>Stephen King: Thank you so much. [ Applause ] Thank you. Thank you. Ah. Woo. There’s a lot
of you people out there. [ Laughter ] And I was thinking about,
I was actually talking about the first time that
I ever did a book signing. I published my first novel, Carrie. And a bookstore chain
in Maine asked me if I would come sign books,
so I said yes, I would. And they had a little
table at the front of the room with some copies on it. And five people showed up. Three of them were college friends
of mine who had clubbed together to buy one copy of the book. And the other one was
a, a fat little child who wanted the kung fu books. So I helped him find those books, and I guess he became
a satisfied customer. But it’s strange to
see so many people. Writers are supposed
to be secret agents. We’re supposed to observe you. You’re not supposed to observe us. It’s very strange to
have that happen. Man, I was in — I had published
a book — you know, it’s funny. I foresaw Donald Trump. I wrote a book called The Dead Zone. [ Laughter ] Is this thing on? Can you hear me? I, I guess you can. So I wrote this book called The
Dead Zone, and the publisher sent me out on tour, and I was in New York. And I had a free day, and so
I went into Nathan’s Hot Dogs. I heard about them my whole life. So I went into Nathan’s, and I
ordered a couple of hot dogs. You know, I go everywhere
with a book. So I was reading a book, and
I was sitting at the counter and munching my hot dogs. This was 1979, 1980. My hair was still black. I had this big writerly beard,
you know, and horn-rimmed glasses. I thought I looked really serious. The sad thing is I
thought I looked cool. So I’m sitting there in Nathan’s
reading my book, and I look up, and there’s a pass through between
the kitchen and serving area. And the short order
cook is looking at me. And as soon as he sees me
looking at him, he’s back. He’s cooking, he’s cooking. So then I read my book
a little bit more, and I look up and he’s
looking at me. And I think to myself,
“I have been recognized. I am on my way to becoming
a famous writer. I’ve been recognized.” So after a while, I’m getting ready
to get done, and the cook comes around to the front,
and he approaches me, and he says, “Are you somebody?” [ Laughter ] And I said, “Well,
everybody’s somebody.” He said, “Yeah, but are
you somebody famous?” And I went kind of like,
“Well, you know, sort of.” He said, “Are you Francis
Ford Coppola?” [ Laughter ] And I said, “Yes, I am!” Because you know, writers
are freaking liars. That’s what we do. I signed a menu for that guy
and the whole thing, you know? Walked out of there a happy man. That Nathan’s story always makes me
think of a conversation that I had with my friend John Grisham
who’s a great storyteller and all-around cool guy. And he and I did a joint appearance
at the Bradenham Public Library, and as I was driving him back to the
airport, he said, “You know what? We’re famous writers in a
country that doesn’t read much.” And that was a bit
of an overstatement, but it was truth to its core. That day at Nathan’s was the
only day that I was ever mistaken for Francis Ford Coppola, but I can’t tell you how many
times people have walked up to me and said, “Aren’t you
Steven Spielberg?” [ Laughter ] They get this guy crossed circuit in
their mind or something like that. And so my response is
“You’ve got your wires crossed because he scared people
with a shark, and I scared people with a clown.” And there are a lot of folks
that come up to me and say, “I haven’t read any of your books,
but I’ve seen all of your movies.” And if they say they’ve
seen all of my movies, I think, “Oh, you poor sap. You actually saw The Mangler?” [ Laughter ] “You saw all those Children
of the Corn sequels?” I mean, those are the
most embarrassing things in the whole world. There are, like, seven
Children of the Corn movies. And the one that I really always
wanted to see was the Children of the Corn Meet Leprechaun,
you know? That would have been a, that would
have been a good crossover thing. I was in a supermarket. This was in Florida. My wife and I have
a place in Florida. We didn’t really want to go, but
we turned 65, and it’s the law. Kind of have to go
down there to Florida. And my wife does the regular
shopping, but in the middle of the week, if there’s stuff
we need, she will send me because she feels like I
can’t [bleep] it up too bad. And so I was in there one day,
and I was in the housewares aisle. And this woman came
around the corner. She was in one of the,
you know, the things, you know they have these
electric carts for people that don’t have really
good mobility? I’m always afraid one’s
going to stroke out, and the thing’s going go all maximum
overdrive, crash into everything. But she was a, you know,
almost a Florida stereotype. She had the golf tan, you know. She’s about 140 years old. The golf shirt. And she looked at me,
and then she looked away. And then she looked back and
she said, “I know who you are. You’re Stephen King. You make all those scary movies. Well some people like those, but
I don’t care for movies like that. I like uplifting things like
that Shawshank Redemption.” [ Laughter ] And I was flabbergasted, man! And I said, “I wrote that!” And she said, “No, you didn’t!” So anyway. All of which shouldn’t bring me to
the subject of literacy, but does. And I don’t ordinarily
speak from a prepared script which I have here on my trusty iPad. I prefer to wander around and sort
of free associate, but on a subject like this, I thought
a few more foolish, smart remarks might be in order. And a chance to prove that
even at my advanced age — I turned 69 two days ago. [ Applause ] You’re applauding because
I’m still alive, probably. [ Laughter ] You know, the one thing that I don’t
want is — and this will happen. It won’t happen this year,
but once you turn 70, you’re an authentic geezer. And then you know somebody’s
going to say, “Stephen King today
turned 70 years young.” [ Laughter ] I’m not going to turn years young. It’s still years old. Anyway, okay. I’m sorry about that I
got a little carried away. Anyway, literacy. I taught English for two year
before becoming a full-time writer. And half-way through the second
year, I told my wife I was going to go back to school
and get enough credits to teach at the elementary level. It took me just three semesters’
worth of experience at high school to realize I had very
little purpose there. My students fell into two groups: one was self-propelled
when it came to reading. You know, that’s you guys. I’m with my peeps today. They were inner-directed,
the sociologist say, and eager to discuss
what they had read. The other group consisted of
kids who were never going to read for pleasure and who regarded each
assignment, whether it James Thurber or James Dickey as
a valueless trudge. These were the kids who were
going to grow up watching TV and who would write
as seldom as possible. Their adventures in writing,
once they became adults in this computer age would
mostly consist of text messages, emails assisted by Spellcheck. And updating their
Facebook pages in which, in many cases would
consist mostly of photos. Don’t get me wrong. A lot of them were damn good kids. Fine sons, willing workers,
wonderful daughters, exceptional school citizens,
each with his or her own talent. Whether it was hitting a baseball
or sewing costumes for a class play. It was just that when some of these
kids, many even, came into my Living with English class, the
light went out of their eyes. And no matter what I did,
that light did not come back on until the bell rang. These are the ones I began to
understand who lived in homes where there were few books
and who would have few in their own homes
when they grew up. And while some might occasionally
bring home a supermarket paper like the National Enquirer,
few or none of them were going to be subscribers to The
Atlantic or The New Yorker. Their knowledge of world events
would come from the Today Show, Fox News, or possibly Rush Limbaugh. The poetry they read would
come mostly on greeting cards. This was the world of
non-readers I saw when I was 23. Many of the kids in my classrooms
back then had considered reading, tried it, found it
wholly dispensable, hard work with no reward. I wanted to get them when
they were six or seven. And new to the whole deal, you
know, the old “tabula rasa” thing? My wife was in favor. She was raised Catholic and quoted
a line that she said was part of the dogma, “Give them to
me,” meaning Mother Church, “when they are young, and
they’re mine forever.” I wanted to get them when I still
had a chance to convince them that reading is more than a
door opener to a better job. It’s cool, it’s a kick, it’s a buzz. Plain old fun. Non-readers lived just
one single life. It may be a good one. It may be a great one. But a reader can live thousands. I wanted kids that were
still open to that idea. Sometimes when the right book
falls into the right pair of hands, it lights a fire and
leads to others. I’m always thrilled when someone
tells me in person or a letter that something that I wrote pleased
them and led them onward from there. And in some cases upward. God knows I never made
the mistake of thinking that I was Herman Melville. I chickened out today. I was going to wear a t-shirt. I’ve got it in my suitcase. And finally I decided not to. And I wore this red one again. Red is supposed to be a power color. My shirt is the color
of Donald Trump’s tie. [ Laughter ] Yes, ladies and gentlemen. Anyway, I’ve got a shirt
that says, “Real men read,” and I wear it every
chance that I get because I remember being
sneered at as a kid sometimes. “There’s Stevie,” a farmer
up the road sometimes said. “He’s always got his
nose in a book.” I have days when I’d like to go back
in time, collar that tractor jockey in his John Deere cap and
say, “That’s right, Al. Always with my nose in a book. And this day, these days
with my ass in a Mercedes.” [ Laughter ] So suck on that! [ Applause ] It’s an old fantasy, I admit, but I never pretended
to be Mahatma Gandhi. [Laughter] When I’m
asked, as I sometimes am, how you inculcate a love of reading
in a child, I think first of Tabby, the mother of my three children. Like me, she always
had her nose in a book. I met her when we were students
at the University of Maine. We were both working
at the Fogler Library. But I fell in love with her
at a poetry seminar we shared. Her poems were lyrical,
elusive, mysterious, and she wore silk stockings. One of our rites of courtship
was reading to each other from Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice. While lying on the college lawn
down by the Civil War cannons. She had memories of the
Old Town Public Library. I having grown up in a much
smaller berg had my own of the big green bookmobile
that lumbered down our dirt road once a week in
the summertime and parked in front of the one-room school where Miss
[inaudible] taught all eight grades. I was in the fifth grade class when
the bookmobile started its visits. And was the best student
in my class. There were three of us. [ Laughter ] Tabby and I both had library cards
at the Bangor Public Library. When we said our I
do’s, and because one of our vows was what’s mine is
yours and what’s yours is mine, we merged those cards in what
we called a joint book account. We had a baby girl
when we were married. Had another on the way. Call us crazy if you
want, but we did. And at first the only job I could
get was washing motel sheets and restaurant tablecloths
in an industrial laundry. Tab worked part-time
at Dunkin’ Donuts. She had the cutest pink uniform
you ever saw in your life. I hardly need to say we
didn’t have much money. Our car was an old Buick
constantly in danger of vomiting up its transmission. Our TV was a black and white
portable that only got one station, and for a while we had no phone. Credit cards? Forget about it. But all through that period,
we held onto our memberships in the Book-of-the-Month Club and
the Literary Guild for dear life. And I can still remember
sitting on the rickety porch of the tenement apartment building
in Bangor, our little girl playing in the dirt below us, Tabby reading
some arduous American history tome, and me reading Larry
McMutry’s Moving On. That month’s Literary
Guild selection. I hold no nostalgic affection for
the apartment which was a pit, but great affection for the books. And I want to point
out that years later, our eldest son named
his dog McMurtry. Most of our pets have
names from writers, and the exception is
our current corgi, Molly, who is a thing of evil. The less said about her, the better. [ Laughter ] Anyway, the kids, the kids. We never kept them away
from the television. We never did. We used it unashamedly as
a babysitter between four in the afternoon and six in the
evening which was the time of day that Tabby’s mother,
who raised eight kids, used to call “the hours God
never should have made.” We never told them they must read, but they saw that the shelves
were filled with books. And Mom and Dad never
went any place without one in hand or tucked under an arm. We read to them every day of course,
but not to improve their minds, but to amuse them, to stop
the constant squabbling, and to keep them from ripping the
[bleep] house apart on rainy days. I became a connoisseur of kiddy lit. Enjoyed Dr. Seuss. Loved Maurice Sendak. Got a kick out of Curious George
who was always up to crazy [bleep]. I could take the Berenstain
Bears or leave them. The absolute bane of my
existence was Richard Scarry. [ Laughter ] With these crowded and somehow
unsettling pages of turtles, dogs, trucks, cats driving
red racing cars. Bulldozers, serial killers, monsters
from beyond the rim of time. I have PTSD flashbacks
to those days. Two kids sitting on my lap, one with
a leaky diaper, both of them wanting to know where’s the
rabbit in THIS one, Daddy? Sometimes — [ Laughter ] Sometimes, sometimes I felt
like saying, “Let me take a nap. I’ll think about it.” One rainy day, desperate to
entertain them before they drove us out of their minds, I
bought two Marvel comics at the local drugstore, not
knowing if the kids would like them. They seemed very wordy and
more than a little violent for children of four and two. [ Laughter ] But my daughter enjoyed them, and my son went absolutely
bug-[bleep] for them. After that, thank god,
Richard Scarry was gone. It was all Spiderman
and The Avengers, the X-Men, The Fantastic Four. I hardly need to tell you,
although I will with some pride that our son Joe, under
the name of Joe Hill, has gone on to write three
bestselling novels and 37 issues of his own comic book
series, Lock & Key. [ Applause ] Yeah, he broke into the comic
biz writing a Spiderman story for Marvel Comic Books. And he’s very proud of that, but I
consider it one of his lesser works. Comics, man! I must have read about a thousand
of those suckers before Naomi and Joe started to
read on their own! By then Owen had come
along, and he wanted G.I. Joe, day in and day out. Owen has gone on to write an
acclaimed collection of stories, We’re All in This Together,
and a wonderful and very funny novel
called Double Feature. And I just finished
collaborating with him on a very long novel
called Sleeping Beauties. Yeah. [ Applause ] It’s going to be published
next year. He came to me with
this dynamite idea, and there was no way I could say no. He’s, I think, 37 now, and has
a beautiful little daughter, wonderful family, and I’m still
finding his [bleep]ing G.I. Joes in the sandbox
down below the house. Every now and then I find
one of those suckers. Our daughter, a Wonder Woman fan, became a Unitarian minister who’s
written many engaging sermons. She’s interested in
multicultural issues, racial relations, and
transgender issues. But she still enjoys a good
rip-roaring fantasy novel. And now I am a grandfather
of four, and they also read. Not because anyone
told them they must, but because they grew up with books. And when you do that, reading
them is the most natural thing in the world. I’m bragging on my kids, yes. But I’m also trying to make a point. You know what I like? I like when I go into
somebody’s house, and I ask to use the
bathroom, and I see a bunch of books beside the commode. When I see that, I know I’m with
my peeps, you know what I’m saying? And that’s the truth
at all my kids’ house. People who read on the toilet, as
far as I’m concerned, good people. Good people. If kids see you enjoying books, the
chances are they will enjoy books. As they do, they will begin
to develop a critical sense, as I did at ten or so, when I
had an a-ha moment and realized that the Hardy Boys and Nancy
Drew were full of [bleep]. The change, changeover happened when I began borrowing Ed McBain
novels from the bookmobile. Ed McBain wrote about some
detectives at the 87th precinct. And one of those books they were
chasing a bad guy, and they broke into an apartment and
there’s a lady sitting there in a slip, smoking a cigarette. And she grabs one of her breasts
and squeezes and goes, “Pow, cops! In your eye!” I thought to myself,
“Nancy Drew never did that.” Know what I’m saying? It was an a-ha moment. I said, “This might
actually be the real world.” This takes me back to what
John Grisham said on that drive to the airport about
how we’re famous writers in a country that doesn’t read much. That haunts me. Like me, John had no
interest in being famous. What he wanted and what I
wanted was only to be able to support my family, what we
wanted to do, what we love, which was writing stories. Basically John and I are
a couple of country boys who walked out, you know. Comes down to about that. We’re lucky enough to know it. The peculiar sort of
thing that came along with our success was a
troublesome side effect. And one most writers
don’t have to deal with. In many countries in
Europe and Latin America, writers are ionized, even idolized. It’s not the case here. The majority of Americans don’t know who Richard Yates is
or Margaret Atwood. Canadian, but still cool. Cindy [Inaudible], Michael Chabon. Nor do they care. Somebody recognized
Jonathan Franzen. He was on Oprah, after all. Or maybe John Irving, but most
writers slip by unnoticed. And maybe that’s good. Maybe that’s good. As I said before when I started, writers are supposed
to be secret agents. I do remember, you
know, my book Carrie, I might have only gotten five
people at that first signing. It turned out to be a pretty
good seller in paperback. And I remember heading up to New
York and getting on a Delta flight. And for the first time — this
is a magical moment for a writer. There are writers out
there in the audience who know what I’m talking about. I saw a woman that I
didn’t know reading my book. She was reading Carrie. She was reading a paperback! Copy of Carrie! [Bleep]! So I said to myself,
“Self, you’re going to walk up to this lady, and say,
‘How do you like that book?'” And when she says, “I love it!” I’m going to say, “I wrote
it, and I’ll sign it for you.” Going to make her day. Should never do that. [ Laughter ] You should never do that! So I walked up to the lady, and I
said, “How do you like that book?” And she said, “I think
it’s [bleep].” [ Laughter ] And I said, “Okay. Thank you very much
for your opinion.” I said, “I won’t be buying that
one,” which was true because I had, like, 50 copies sitting at home. This is not by and large a country
where finding, seeing writers on the street and running after
them, paparazzi, it doesn’t — it’s not really a problem. Americans don’t argue about books. We argue about TV shows,
football scores and whether or not Tom Brady should have
been suspended for four games. The answer is no! [ Laughter ] There are, there are few
book shows left on TV. We have Entertainment Tonight,
and Inside Edition instead. Americans are so familiar
with Miley Cyrus, Tom Cruise, and Kim Kardashian, — dashian. I don’t know. The tabloids don’t even need
to use their last names! See, that’s it! They’re just Miley, Tom, and Kim! They’re like neighbors
from down the street from whom we could borrow a
cup of sugar just any old time. I don’t believe in the so-called
dumbing down of America, but as everyday reading
declines, and it has, analytical thought also declines. Reading is for fun. For me that’s a big deal. But it also sharpens the nose for
the unmistakable odor of [bleep]. My wife and I do what we can to
support reading on our little patch by trying to support
literacy on a local level. I’m conflicted about discussing
that stuff in front of an audience Because on one hand, I grew up
believing that giving was supposed to be a private thing and not a
matter for self-aggrandizement. Or saying, “Look at what a
great and generous guy I am.” Which would be ridiculous anyway because I’ve been given a great
deal, and I can afford to give back. And really, what’s the downside? I’m not going to take it with me. There are no pockets in a shroud. On the other hand, it’s a way
of setting an example of saying, “Go and do thou likewise.” For my wife and me, libraries
were a lifeline at a time when we could rarely afford books
or even quarterback paperbacks. And the same is true
for others today. We live in a rural state
where many, most even, small town libraries are flat broke. It’s because the small towns
can’t afford to support them, and the reason they can’t is because
the people in those towns vote for the dough to go to other places. Libraries are not seen as a priority
when there are potholes in the road. Sure, cash is tight,
but it always is. The other part of the
problem is this. We live in a society where
many believe that libraries and other cultural endeavors,
everything from Shakespeare in the Park to poetry slams and free
concerts are of minor importance. As if learning to think is a thing that just happens naturally,
like learning to walk. Believe me, it’s not. Learning to think is the result
of hard work and steady effort. The result of this disregard is too
much illiteracy or semi-illiteracy in a national population where large
numbers of people are lazy thinkers without any of that
nose for [bleep]. Politicians are allowed to slide by with generalities
rather than specific. Note the way Donald Trump
falls back on saying this and such is going to be HUGE! Or this and such is BEAUTIFUL. You know, any writer or reader worth
his salt can only roll his eyes and say, “Those words by
themselves mean absolutely nothing.” Trump makes me wince not
as a Democrat, which I am, but as a writer and reader. Listening to his speeches — [ Applause ] Listening to his speeches
is like listening to a piano fall downstairs. It’s all dissonance and no music. God, I’m going to miss Obama. I mean, the man could talk. Say whatever you want to. [ Applause ] The guy knew how to talk. It was poetry. There’s always been music
in the stuff that he says. We’re not dealing in generalities
elected officials who are supposed to be the best, the smartest, often
resort to outright misinformation as when the governor of my own
state, Paul LePage, I love this. I love this. He told a town hall audience that asylum seekers were
bringing the Zeke fly to Maine. The statement is mindboggling
in its own right. That Governor Le Page might
have believed it is more so. That many accept it as a fact is
the most mind-boggling thing of all. It’s like watching a grownup
nod and say, “Yes, Santa, small sleigh, that
makes sense, yeah.” The ability to think
clearly and logically leads to good decision making,
and I believe the ability to think clearly goes along
with the ability to read. [ Applause ] The question, the question becomes
how to grow literacy in America. Supporting those small town
libraries is the way my wife and I chose to do it. Tip O’Neil once said,
“All politics is local.” And while he may have
chosen the wrong verb, it’s still an acute,
an acute observation. Literacy is local, too. It’s why I tell people to
support their local library, not just by going there, but
kicking into the general fund when the place needs a new
roof, new bathroom plumbing, or computers in the children’s room. Don’t expect local
governments to do it, because in most cases
they can’t or they won’t. The local thing is well, I patronize
independent bookstores in my part of the world and urge
others to do the same. It’s why I visit schools. I tell them to turn off their
[bleep] TV and put Facebook on hold two or three evenings
a week and rediscover the joys of Treasure Island or Lord
of the Flies or an article about the presidential campaign. And of course, the most
local literary endeavors of all involve reading
to your own family. As I said, kids who see family
members reading books are more apt to read books themselves. I wanted to — I don’t
want to keep you too long. Fanny fatigue and all that. You know, I was talking about being
a secret agent and all that stuff. And how writers kind of
slide by in this society and sometimes that’s
really a pretty great thing. My wife and I were down in Florida. This was before the law insisted
that we had to move there. You know. We were down there
for a vacation, and it was — I think, I think it was in
the ’80s because I think by that time I had
switched publishers to Scribners, Simon & Schuster. But my wife and I were going
to a movie, and you know, we were just headed there, walking
down the street hand in hand. And there was this Lincoln
Continental on the curb that was sitting on a flat tire. And this guy who was in a
dinner jacket, you know, he was obviously going to a do. You know, he had a dinner jacket on. He looked really nice
and everything. I’m walking along, my wife’s
in her jeans, I’m in my jeans. I’m wearing a t-shirt with some
Red Sox guy on it or something. And this guy looks at me,
and he says, “Hey, bud! You want to make ten dollars?” [ Laughter ] And I said, “What?” And he said, “You change my
tire, I’ll give you ten dollars.” Said, “If you change it
in 15 minutes, my wife and I have got to go to this things. I can’t get my dinner jacket dirty. If you can do it in 15
minutes, I’ll give you 20.” And I mean, the guy’s got,
like, the Rolex watch. He’s got the, you know,
the thing around his neck, the gold chain and everything. And the hair’s all combed up. And so I said, “Okay, I’ll
do that, I’ll do that.” Fifteen minutes, eh? And I say, “You got a jack
and a spare and everything? “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he says. “I got all that stuff.” So he opens the trunk. The car is running. His wife is sitting inside
in the passenger seat. It’s Naples, Florida. It’s like 90 degrees. She’s wearing a fur coat. That’s why she’s sitting in the
car, the air conditioning is going. I said, “Well look, the
flat’s on this side. Maybe your wife would
like to get out. It might be better
while I jack it up.” Looks in and speaks to her. She’s going, “Umm-Umm. No way.” So I jacked up the
car, and I got the tire off. My wife’s rolling her
eyes like [inaudible]. And this guy is like tapping me on
the shoulder and going like this with his watch, you know? “Hurry it up, son.” So I get the spare on, and
I tighten the lug nuts, and put on the hub cap. And my wife asks me, and
says, “You’re not really going to take that money, are you?” And I said, “You’re
[bleep]ing right I am.” [ Laughter ] I said, “This is the first honest
work I’ve done in 20 years!” [ Laughter ] So that’s one side of it. Now, I rattled on longer
than I meant. But I do, I’ve got to tell
you this one more story. See, once I get started,
I can’t stop. But — [ Cheers ] This is the other side
of that coin, okay? I wrote a book called
Christine, back in the day. And — [ Applause ] It’s like being in a
Lynyrd Skynyrd movie. Playing Freebird. In a way. In a small way. So anyway, I wrote this
book called Christine, had all these song lyrics
at the beginning of it. And I knew this guy
named Dave Marsh, and I wanted to use some
lyrics from a songwriter and singer named Bruce Springsteen. And so I got in touch with Dave. And you know, a lot of the people,
song privileges, when you use them, the permissions that they want,
they ask you for a lot of money. But Bruce and Bob Dylan have
always been good about that. They ask for, like, fifty dollars because they control
all their rights. And so I got the rights to
the song, and Dave Marsh said, “The next time you’re in New York, Bruce would like to
have dinner with you. Would you like to have dinner
with Bruce Springsteen?” I’m like, “Well, let me think
about that a little bit. Gee, I don’t know.” This was around the time of
the Nebraska album, so he had, you know, come on the scene. I loved his work, man. I don’t know how you can grow up in a working class
community and not like Bruce. Anyway, so that happened, actually. So Dave gets in touch with
me, and he says, “Well, it’s this little supper place. It’s like an Irish steam table
kind of place on the Eastside.” So I went down there,
and Bruce was sitting at the bar and having a white wine. And we went and sat in the
back, and we ordered our food. And we’re talking about books and
music and movies and all this stuff. We’re having a great time. And these three people came in, and you knew there was a story
right there because it was a man and a woman, and they’re
middle-aged. And it was a girl of about 16
who was dressed to the nines in a nice dress with an empire waist and the hair was done,
and she looked so happy. Her parents were happy, too. And they sat down somewhere
and ordered, and there was a birthday cake. It was her birthday. She was like 16 or 17 years old. And you know how they
do in a restaurant. There’s the cake, there’s
the candles, and two or three of the wait staff sing Happy
Birthday, and you know, people clap, and Bruce and I and
Dave Marsh clapped. And they had their cake. So she happened to
look over our way. And her eyes just widened, and she
got up, and I’ll never forget it because it was like she was
in this dream, you know. And she just walked toward us. It was like she was walking on air. And Bruce was wearing
a denim jacket, and he reached inside
to get his pen. She never [bleep]ing looked at him. [ Laughter ] Okay? She never did! [ Applause ] She said, she said,
“Are you Stephen King?” I said, “Why, yeah.” She said, “Did you write The Stand?” And Bruce Springsteen is just
killing himself laughing. She said, “Can I have
your autograph?” Best autograph that I ever gave. [ Laughter ] And you’re the best
audience that I’ve ever had. This is great. [ Applause ] I got this wonderful
medal, and I get to be here. And boy, I’ll tell you what. I’m a cheap date, and
this is really nice. We’re going to be done. We’ve got about ten minutes. Do you have a question or two? Something you want to ask me? [ Laughter ] Nobody? Hello? Uh, hello? Hi! Hey!>>Geez, that’s loud! Crazy! Anyway, I was just
wondering if you have any plans to, or can tell us a progress report on the third Jack Sawyer
novel with Peter Straub?>>Stephen King: Yeah, Peter and I
wrote a book called The Talisman. Then we wrote another one called
Black House, and with any luck, we will start the third
one in February next year. [ Applause ] We know just what it’s
supposed to be, so. Anything else?>>Being from New Jersey, and
you’re a huge Bruce Springsteen fan, what’s your favorite
Bruce Springsteen song?>>Stephen King: That’s crazy,
that’s like asking you know, what’s the best movie
that you ever saw? There are so many Bruce Springsteen
songs that I like, that I love. I guess maybe Rosalita,
Come Out Tonight.>>Thank you.>>We were going down to
Florida with my teenage son. And of course, didn’t have
devices then and so on. And he said, “Well,
how about a book? I’ve got some Stephen King books?” And he said, “No, I don’t
think I want to read that.”>>Stephen King: Yeah, you
don’t want to read that.>>So what I gave him, I
gave him the Bachman Books, and it was like a gateway
drug to your books. [ Laughter ]>>Stephen King: That’s the first
time anybody ever called me a gateway drug!>>So I just wanted to ask the
background, why you used that –>>Stephen King: He started
out on Bachman and then he was on heroin of Stephen King. [ Applause ]>>No, I just wondered if you
could give me a little background on why you decided to
do the Bachman Books.>>Stephen King: Well, the
thing was there was a time when publishers thought that if you
published more than one book a year or possibly every 18 months,
you were overpublishing. And I had this period that I went through that was extremely
productive, and this stuff just
poured out of me. The new stuff that was being
published year by year, Carrie, Salem’s Lot, The Shining, The
Stand, Nightshift, and all that. But I had these other books, some of which had been
written on my teenage years. They all weren’t good. And some never should see the
light of day and never will. But there were a couple
like Long Walk and — [ Applause ] Road Work that I thought
were pretty good. So they got, they were
published as paperback originals. And the original name that I
decided to publish those books under was my grandfather’s
name, Guy Pillsbury. And I got a panic call
from the editor two or three days before the books
went to press and said, “Oh, the copyright got out,
and it’s under your name. And people will find out this
is — that Guy Pillsbury is you. So you need another name,
and you need it right away.” And I was reading a paperback
novel by Richard Stark, and Bachman Turner
Overdrive was on the stereo. So I said, “Call me Richard
Bachman,” and that’s what happened. [ Applause ]>>Do you read books
once or over and over?>>Stephen King: I read
very few over and over. There are books like
Lord of the Flies. There’s a wonderful novel by Thomas
Williams called Whipple’s Castle. The Hannibal Lecter
Trilogy by Thomas Harris. Those books I’ve read
over and over again. But there are so many books that
I have more of a tendency to — you know, like anybody else,
I have favorite writers that I like that I have a tendency
to go back to again and again. People like John Sanford. I never miss a John Sanford book. There’s a writer, Dutch writer named
Herman Koch that I really enjoy. Of course, like everybody
else in the world, I read those books
about Lisbeth Salander. I didn’t think the guy
was much of a writer, but geez, could he ever narrate! So I like those. So I have a tendency to move along
because you only get so many books. I’m haunted sometimes by the
thought of all the great books that I’ve missed somewhere
along the line. But it’s like having misplaced
socks, but only worse. Something else? I’m going as fast as I
can because they’re going to kick us all out of here.>>I didn’t have a single question. I just wanted you to stand still so
I could get an unfettered picture. [ Cheers ]>>Stephen King: Standing
still is foreign to my nature. And listen, you know, being up
here scares the [bleep] out of me! Okay? That’s a lot of lot of people. I’m a guy who does my best
work in a room all by myself. Of course I’m also a guy
who does his best work in a room with somebody else. But — ah. I’m just — all I’m doing is
stylin’ a little bit wit cha. That’s it. Let’s do, like two more quickies,
and then you can all go get lunch. We’ll break for lunch. Anything?>>Hi, Mr. King.>>Stephen King: Hi.>>I just want to say
first as a writer, you’ve been a great inspiration,
so thank you very much.>>Stephen King: You’re
welcome, thank you.>>I was just wondering,
what scares you? [ Laughter ]>>Stephen King: I’m looking at him. I mean. [ Laughter ] I mean, the little things
like, there are little things like you say, “Okay, I’m standing
in front of 1000, 2000 people. Did I zip my fly before
I came out here?” And you know, to be
absolutely dead serious, I’m scared to death of
Alzheimer’s Disease. Senility. I live by my wits, and
I’m afraid of my wits slipping away. Otherwise, I’m afraid of — geez,
I guess just about everything! Spiders are a great
big no-no with me. I hate the idea of
spiders, and of course a lot of this stuff was inculcated
in me at a very young age. My mother started us off on
Bambi, and then moved directly onto Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. And one of her favorite
stories was she talked about — she was one of, I think,
eight or nine kids. Grew up in Scarborough, Maine. This was around the
turn of the century. And once a week a guy came
along, and he would trade stuff. And he had gum for the kids. And you had to chew that
piece of gum all week. So my mother had this gum. You know, you chew it and put
it on the bedpost at night. And it would harden up, and the next
morning you’d have to pop it in, soften it up so it was
good to go for another day. And one night after my mother
put her gum on the bedpost, a moth came down and
lit on it and got stuck. And when she woke up the next
morning, she didn’t look. She just popped her
gum into her mouth. She said she bit it in half, and the two halves were
fluttering inside her mouth. And I thought to myself, “Mom, at
some point I’m going to use that.” [ Laughter ] And that’s just what I did. One more.>>Alright, thank you
very much real quick. Dark Tower is my favorite
book series of all time. [ Cheers ] So I’m curious, as an author
that’s had so many movies written from their books, how nervous or
worried do you get when someone like Roland, who you’ve
spent so much time with, is going to be put
up on the big screen?>>Stephen King: Well,
I’m more nervous about this than I am most of them. In most cases, my feeling is if
somebody buys a book to make a movie out of or a TV series, it’s like
sending a kid off to college, okay? You hope that they’re going to do a
good job, and that they’re not going to get into trouble, and
they’re not go to get expelled and they’re not going to be
arrested or anything like that. But every now and then,
that happens. You just hope for the best. And man, I’ve had terrific luck,
you know, between Shawshank, which I really did
write, by the way. And the Green Mile and
Misery and Stand by Me. There have been a bunch
of stuff — thank you. But remember, I didn’t
write those movies. I just wrote the source,
although I think a lot of times the movies are better. This is just my personal opinion. But when they stick
closer to the source, they tend to be a little better. But the fans of The Dark
Tower are so, so loyal, so — I started to say rabid, but
that was the wrong word. Made me think of Cujo. But they care about those books,
so I want the movies to be good. I’m a little bit nervous about it. But you know, it’s a thrill. It’s going to be a thrill. I’ve seen some of the
dailies and some of the rushes from the movie, and it looks right. So I’ve got my fingers crossed. Listen, you guys have
been great to me. Thank you so much! [ Applause ] Thank you.>>This has been a presentation
of the Library of Congress. Visit us at

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