King, Stephen: The Dark Half
(researched by Bryan Killian)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
1. Stephen King. The Dark Half. New York: Viking Penguin, 1989.
(40 West 23rd Street, New York, NY. 10010, U.S.A.)

Copyright statements
Copyright Stephen King, 1989 All Rights Reserved.
Illustrations copyright Viking Penguin, 1989.

Parallel First Editions
British - Hodder & Staughton, 1989.

2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
The first American edition is published in cloth binding with a dust jacket.
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
224 leaves numbered: [12] [1-3] 4-11 [12-15] 16-30 [31] 32-37 [38] 39-47 [48] 49-58 [59] 60-64 [65] 66-73 [74] 75-88 [89] 90-103 [104] 105-115 [116] 117-124 [125] 126-128 [129] 130-137 [138] 139-161 [162] 163-176 [177-179] 180-194 [195] 196-228 [229] 230-236 [237] 238-257 [258] 259-269 [270] 271-302 [303] 304-324 [325-327] 328-341 [342] 343-366 [367] 368-388 [389] 390-407 [408] 409-424 [425-427] 428-431 [5]
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
The book is not edited or introduced.
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
There are black and white illustrations on pp. iii, v, vi, 1, 177, 325 by Lars Hokanson.
7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available
8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)
Page size: 9.25" by 6.25"
Margins: Top = 1" Bottom = 7/8" Outside = æ" Inside = Ω"
Font size: 95R
Typography: Garamond #3 and Caslon Antique
Subjective criticism: The text font is quite easy on the eyes and reads well in a dim light. The font for the chapter titles, subsection numbers, and the page headers has a handwritten feel to it and seems not to match the textual font. While the discord may be intended by the book designer - Amy Hill - to reflect the binary opposite theme of the novel, it does not bode well for first glances.
9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available
10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)
The paper is acid-free with wire marks visible when a page is held up to the light, though most of the wire marks are clouded by pulp. The edges on the copy (11 years old as of 2000) are slightly yellowed. 224 leaves measures 1 1/8" tall, so simple division tells us the page thickness - 0.127 millimeters.
11 Description of binding(s)
Dustjacket: (see picture for view of front) The front of the dust jacket is dominated by the author's name; then beneath it (in smaller size) is the book's title. The background picture is difficult to determine from up close, but the small copy of it on the jacket's spine reveals that it is a colorized x-ray of a skull (taken by Geoffrey Gove). Along with this small picture, the spine again has the author's name and the book's title, in conjunction with the Viking logo. The back cover is a photo of Stephen King, taken by his wife Tabitha, and the books' UPC. The inside leaves of the jacket have a teaser for the story, a simple author's biography, and the Viking logo with business address. The jacket was designed by Neil Stuart.

Binding: The binding is primarily cloth - medium black, with what appears to be an embossed linen grain. The cloth is visible on the spine and on approximately one inch of each cover. The remaining 4 7/8" of the covers are covered with a light black paper. There is stamping on this paper and on the spine. The stamping is light yellowish orange (what may be commonly called "gold"). Transcriptions of the stamping are as follows:
Front cover = [horizontal line] | SK | [horizontal line]
Spine = Stephen | King | [horizontal line] | The | Dark | Half | [horizontal line] | [horizontal line] |VIKING | [horizontal line]
There are also dark purple endpapers.

12 Transcription of title page
Front Title Page : The | Dark | Half

Back of Title Page : VIKING | Published by the Penguin Group | Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Books USA Inc., | 40 West 23rd Street, New York, New York 10010, U.S.A. | Penguin Books Ltd, 27 Wrights Lane, London W8 5TZ, England | Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Ringwood, Victoria, Australia | Penguin Books Canada Ltd, 2801 John Street, Markham, Ontario, Canada, L3R 1B4 | Penguin Books (N.Z.) Ltd, 182-190 Wairau Road, Auckland 10, New Zealand | Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England | First published in 1989 by Viking Penguin, | a division of Penguin Books USA Inc. | 1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2 | Copyright © Stephen King, 1989 | All right reserved | Illustration © Viking Penguin, a division of | Penguin Books USA Inc., 1989 | Grateful acknowledgment is made for permission to reprint | an excerpt from "John Wesley Hardin," by Bob Dylan. | Copyright 1968 by Dwarf Music. All rights reserved. | International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. | LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING IN PUBLICATION DATA | King, Stephen. | The dark half/Stephen King. | p. cm. | ISBN 0-670-82982-X | I. Title | PS3561.I483D37 1989 | 813'.54-dc20 88-40628 | Printed in the United States of America | Composition by NK Graphics, Keene, New Hampshire | Set in Garamond number 3 and Caslon Antique | Designed by Amy Hill | Illustrations by Lars Hokanson | Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved | above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, | stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or | transmitted, in an form or by any means, (electronic, | mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), | without the prior written permission of | both the copyright owner and the above | publisher of this book.

13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
Stephen King gifted his manuscripts to the University of Maine, Special Collections, Folger Library. There they have "drafts and galleys of published works and typescripts of unpublished works."
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
- This book has an extensive "Also by Stephen King" page in the front.

- There are 2 title pages; one is very plain and the other is a facing page with the publication information on the reverse of the second page.

- There is a dedication: This book is for Shirley Sonderegger, | who helps me mind my business | and for her husband, Peter.

- There is also an author's note: AUTHOR'S NOTE | I'm indebted to the late Richard Bachman for his help and inspiration. | This novel could not have been written without him. | S.K.

- In an Afterward, King thanks Shane Stevens for the name and idea for a fictional character within the novel.

- Copy History: This book was purchased by one Gene Goss, presumably in 1989. There is a telltale pricing sticker on the front inside jacket flap from Caldors, but the price was removed. Mr. Goss is a large Stephen King fan and owns first editions of almost all King's books. In January 2000, I visited Mr. Goss at his home one evening and watched the movie Candyman. After the film, he said that if I liked that movie, I'd really like this book. So he lent me his first edition to read at school. Surprisingly, it was a perfect match for the Bestellers class.

Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History
1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A
1. The first edition of the book was published by Viking in 1989. Viking is a division of Penguin. Other divisions of Penguin released the following books. They are not technically published by the same publisher, but they were produced by an affiliated house.
Signet; 1989; 486 pages; paperback
Signet; 1990; 486 pages; paperback
Penguin; 1990; 484 pages; "A Signet Book"; Braille
Penguin; 1992; ? pages; "A Signet Book" with an excerpt from Gerald's Game, by Stephen King; paperback
2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available
3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available
4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?
The first printing - October 1989 - was approximately 1.5 million copies in hardcover. This was done by Viking. At the time of its publication, it was the largest first printing for hardcover fiction (NY Times, 23 Oct. 1989). According to Amazon.com, they are still available today.
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
The following editions were published in English by other publishing houses.
Hodder & Stoughton; 1989; 256 pages
G K Hall; 1989, 1991; 608 pages; large print
New English Library; 1990; 480 pages
Windsor Selection; 1991; 592 pages
6 Last date in print?
The hardcover from 1989 is in print as of 1997, as are a 1994 version of the paperback and a 1993 audio recording. The aforementioned books are available for purchase as of February 2000.
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
The Bowker Annual, 1990-91, was the only source for total copies sold, though it is limited information. The book was published in October 1989, and by the Annual's publication in 1990, we find that the hardcover version had sold 1.56 million copies.

While the following information may only be listed here dubiously, in lieu of total copies sold I have found Bestseller List Reception for The Dark Half. Viking hardcover: Entered the NYT fiction list on 11/5/89 at #1 and stayed there for 6 weeks. The book was listed here for a total of 19 weeks. The book entered the PW hardcover fiction list on 11/10/89 at #4, moved to #1 a week later, staying there for 5 weeks. Its total here was 15 weeks. Signet paperback: Entered the NYT paperback fiction list 9/30/90 at #1 for 4 weeks. Its run here was for 14 weeks. The book was listed on the PW mass market paperback list starting 10/5/90. It entered at #2, moved to #1 for 3 weeks starting 10/12/90, and stayed on the list for a total of 12 weeks. In summation of the two lists, The Dark Half spent 60 weeks on the bestsellers lists.

8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
1989-90: 1.56 million hardcover copies (Bowker Annual 1990-91)
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
The Dark Half is mentioned only in title and ISBN in an ad placed by Viking Press in the August 11, 1989 issue of Publisher's Weekly, page 309.
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
11 Other promotion
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
1989; 3 audio cassettes
Romero, George A; 1990; 126 leaves; 2nd draft of a screenplay
Orion Pictures Corp; 1993; 122 min; movie
Intracorp; 1992; 3 5.25" disks; computer game
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
Temnaia Polovina; KEDMEN; 1993; 429 p; Russian
Temnaia Polovina; Mir: Knizhnaia Iavka; 1994; 504 p; Russian
Temnaia Polovina; AST: Mir; 1997; 557 p; Russian
Daku Hafu; Bungeishunju; 1992; 433 p; Japanese
Tak'u Hap'u; Kyowon Mungo; 1993; 2 volumes; Korean
La Mitad Oscura; Exito Internacional; 1989; 491 p; Spain
La Mitad Oscura; Ediciones B; 1992, 1994; 605 p; Spain
La Mitad Siniestra; Editorial Grijalbo; 1990; 475 p; Mexico
Stark, the Dark Half: Roman; Hoffmann und Campe; 1989; 475 p; German
La Part des Tenebres; Albin Michel; 1990; 461 p; French
La Part des Tenebres; Albin Michel; 1990, 1993; 541 p; French
Mroczna Polowa; Mizar: Amber; 1993; 403 p; Polish
Halalos Arnyek; Europa; 1993; 534 p; Hungarian
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
The books was not serialized.
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
The Dark Half is the first in a loose trilogy of King's which focuses on the town Castle Rock. As the Star Wars series has C3PO and R2D2 as recurring characters, the Castle Rock trilogy features Sheriff Alan Pangborn. The other books in the trilogy are a short novel - The Sun Dog - and the full-length Needful Things.
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)

This biography of Stephen King relates the incidents in his life that form the premise for his novel, The Dark Half. For general biographical information, check another entry on King.

Readers know Stephen King for his horror novels perched atop the nation's best-seller lists. Until 1985, only his close confidants knew King published books under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. This story ? of Bachman's invention and destruction ? ultimately formed the basis for King's own The Dark Half.

After King's success with Carrie, he felt the public would enjoy his earlier work if disassociated from the Stephen King frenzy (King 1). He concocted "Richard Bachman" and this odd biography.

Born in New York, Richard Bachman's early years are a mystery. As a young man, Bachman served a four-year stint in the Coast Guard, which he then followed with 10 years in the merchant marine. Bachman finally settled down in rural central New Hampshire, where he ran a medium-sized dairy farm. He did his writing at night (he suffered from chronic insomnia) after the cows came home. Bachman and his wife, Claudia Inez Bachman, had one child, a boy, who died in an unfortunate, Stephen King-ish type accident at the age of 6. He apparently fell through a well and drowned. In 1982, a brain tumor was discovered near the base of Bachman's brain; tricky surgery removed it. Bachman however, didn't live long after that, dying suddenly in late 1985 of cancer of the pseudonym, a rare form of schizonomia [sic]. (http://www.romwell.com/books/best/Bachman.htm)

Tony Magistrale, in Stephen King, The Second Decade, calls Bachman "a laboratory for the young King. Bachman permitted King to indulge his darkest fantasies and speculations" (Magistrale 63). As King was to Bachman, Thad Beaumont was to George Stark in The Dark Half; both were names used to experiment with edgier content. The first book under the Bachman byline was Rage (1977), a novel King began while in high school (Collings 2). In 1979, Bachman published The Long Walk, a metaphor of human life. In 1981 he wrote Roadwork; his The Running Man (1982) became a movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Magistrale notes that the Bachman books, unlike the King books, are primarily plot driven with little character development and were not going to make King a millionaire (Magistrale 48). In The Dark Half, however, Beaumont's novels do not make him money but his pseudonym's are windfalls. Beaumont wrote critically acclaimed novels which were financially unsuccessful; Stark, on the other hand, wrote grotesque murder-fiction which the public loved.

On the King / Bachman relationship within him, King writes that Bachman "became more real with each book published;" he also notes that while "Bachman is really King, . . . King was also really Bachman, at least some of the time" (King 1). He clarifies this cryptic statement: "The importance of being Bachman was always the importance of finding a good voice and a valid point of view that were different from" his own (King 1). Since King's primary novels were successes, Bachman was an outlet for him to address content that normal King-fans would not associate with their beloved author. This is a key difference in King's real life and the faux one he concocts for Beaumont. Beaumont's heartfelt works were failures while those that made him money were not personal to him; in a way, the public rejected him and accepted the perverse fiction he invented. This establishes a conflict within Beaumont that he addresses in the first chapter ? rationalizing the destruction of his alias. The novel deals with this on a personal level and on a plot level. Personally, abandoning Stark is like giving up an addiction to a narcotic for Thad; his wife intervenes and shows him how the nom de plume is destroying him. Plot-wise, this conflict is addressed in Stark's eventual manifestation, one which Beaumont must physically destroy. This episode does not find a parallel in King's own life. He had no trouble announcing the truth; Linda Badley writes also that "as evidence of a dark alter ego, Bachman didn't do King any harm" (Bloom 172).

Until 1984, few people suspected a connection between King and Bachman. In fact, King stated "I'm not Richard Bachman, but I know who he is, and I can't tell. Professional ethics, and all that!" (Collings 1). The Bachman mystery cleared when Bachman published Thinner (1984). Many King aficionados noticed uncanny style similarities. The suspicions culminated when Steve Brown researched the copyrights for Bachman's books in the Library of Congress. In his article "Bachman Exposed," Brown writes: "[The clerk] came back and handed [the copyright for Rage] to me. There it was: Stephen King, Bangor, Maine." Brown adds that he never intended to "hurt" King, who thereafter interviewed with Brown for the Washington Post (Brown 1). King writes he "felt some relief" that the "cover was blown" (King 1). This tale is woven into The Dark Half; Brown is transformed into Clawson, a man who maliciously destroys Beaumont's secret.

Since 1985, other rumors have surfaced about possible King aliases, none with facts to support them. A novel, Exorcism, was written in 1972 under the name Eth Natas, an anagram for The Satan. Others attribute the novel Invasion, by Aaron Wolfe, to King as well. King has denied any connection to these books and authors. Yet this has only fueled speculation, since he made similar denials during the Bachman controversy (Collings 138-153).

Works Consulted

About Richard Bachman. http://www.romwell.com/books/best/Bachman.htm.

Bloom, Harold. Stephen King. Chelsea House Publishers. Philadelphia, 1998.

Brown, Steve. "Bachman Exposed." http://www.sids.com/king/bachman.htm.

Collings, Michael. Stephen King as Richard Bachman. The Borgo Press. San Bernadino, Ca, 1985.

King, Stephen. "The Importance of Being Bachman." http://www.sids.com/king/bachman.htm.

Magistrale, Tony. Stephen King, The Second Decade. Twayne Publishers. New York, 1992.

Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
The framework of the many reviews of Stephen King's The Dark Half was expectations. In 1987, King produced 4 novels - Eyes of the Dragon, Misery, The Dark Tower, and The Tommyknockers (www.stephenking.com). Critics praised Misery for its portrayal of the author / audience relationship. However, The Tommyknockers left them desperately wanting. With no novels in 1988, 1989's The Dark Half was the novel they were hungry for. The announcement of the book's first printing again fueled critical anticipation. At 1.5 million copies, it would be the largest printing for a fictional hardcover. Would this epic book be as bad as his last or a return to classic King? As expected, the range of reviews ran the gamut. Some critics - particularly Lehmann-Haupt and Stade of the New York Times and Liberatore of the San Francisco Chronicle - were enamoured with the book. There were neutral opinions from critics who liked King but felt there was something lacking in the text; examples of these are reviews by Winter, Murphy, and Allen. Lastly, there were two negative reviews focusing on the book's atypical grossness - an editorial by Washington Post columnist George F. Will and a review by John Skow. The positive and neutral critics agreed that The Dark Half was an turnaround; it was a "considerable comeback from the mechanical silliness of [King's] previous one, The Tommyknockers" (Lehmann-Haupt). In the Washington Times, Winter wrote that "[the novel's] elements are classic King." Liberatore conceded that "King has written better" but this novel succeeded because he "fictionalizes [his] own life." Lehmann-Haupt, Stade, and Murphy both compared The Dark Half with King's earlier successful works. They recognized its kinship with Misery; The Dark Half explored another of the writer's relationships, now the one to his work. Lehmann-Haupt even saw traces of Pet Sematary in the novel's resurrection motif and almost labeled it "grotesquely contrived." The two criticisms in the New York Times were the two most positive reviews of the novel. Lehmann-Haupt blamed the "hard work of explaining the plot's logic" for why the novel was "unusually talky and cerebral." Yet despite the unusual style, King was "surprisingly eloquent on the psychological hazards of being a writer" (Lehmann-Haupt). Stade nearly agreed; he felt, however, that King did not develop the themes deeply enough:
On the whole, Mr. King is tactful in teasing out the implications of his parable. . . No character in the novel comes right out and says, for example, that writers exist (at least to readers) only in their writing, that each person (at least to himself) is his own fiction, that the writer's imagination can feel alien to him, a possessing and possessive demon, a Dracula arisen to prey on the whole man and his family. Nor does anyone in the novel say outright that reality inevitably leaks fiction, which then floods reality, that reality and fiction feed on and feed each other, that they are at war yet they are twins - so identical that attempts to say which is which only lead to more fictions. Such things are better left unsaid, anyhow. Stephen King is not a post-modernist. (Stade)
Yet Stade realized that a standard King novel is light on literary merit; "few writers are better than Stephen King at giving readers what they want" (Stade). Making The Dark Half thematically serious was not necessary for success. Both critics concluded, nevertheless, that the novel's best feature was storytelling. Readers are "swept along by the sheer vitality of the narrative voice" (Lehmann-Haupt). Despite his "sophomoric humor," King "is, however, a very good story teller" (Stade). While other critics found the ending too predictable, the Times writers did not. Lehmann-Haupt argued it was one of the most powerful conclusions King has written. Stade wrote, "[the] decent family man wins out, but at a cost - how it should be." The neutral criticisms contained less praise; they were marked by the critics' satisfaction with the novel while pointing out flaws. In the Washington Times, Winter sympathized with the New York Times writers on the prose yet claimed that the "page-a-minute joy ride turns into a demolition derby for the mind." The novel should have been categorized as "pursuit fiction" rather than "horror," since it has "edge-of-the-seat tension and imagery of ferocious violence that sometimes transmutes deftly into the lyrical" (Winter). While Stade excused the novel for not cementing its themes, Winter wrote that "at its best moments, the novel walks this tense - and often thin - line between creator and creation." In the Boston Globe, Murphy - another neutral critic - felt that King succeeded "for the most part" at being believable "to a point." In other words, some leaps of faith were too big. Winter hinted at this as well, claiming the book's loopholes were too wide. Yet where all the previous critics were willing to overlook the plot difficulties, Murphy stated that awaiting their resolution was what made him finish the novel. In USA Today - a typically saccharine newspaper - Allen wrote a pseudo-neutral review; on the surface, it appeared neutral, but Allen never forgave the book its problems. When asked if the book was "any good" he replied "yes and no." King's casual swearing was "indiscriminate." He found the finale to be predictably "apocalyptic" and that it left too many loose ends. As a whole, Allen felt the novel was "contriving cheap visual effects for the forthcoming movie." Two final critics wrote scathing reviews of The Dark Half. John Skow, in Time, found none of the good the other critics did. "Prose is fast, simply and sloppy." He compared King's writing of violence with pornography in their gratuitous detail. To add insult to injury, Skow wrote that the characters were all flat and boring except for the eight-month old twins. While book reviews are generally editorial in nature, rarely do they actually grace the pages of an Editorial section. However, George F. Will wrote an intriguing column for the Washington Post about The Dark Half and its insinuations about its audience. To him, the novel was plain sick, to be read "if you relish having your blood curdled." The "plot skids," and "suspension of belief is required." In one insightful paragraph, he wrote:
Savagery erupts with metronomic regularity. Why do millions read it? Well, why do drivers slow down to gaze at highway carnage? There is a pornography of violence, and especially of sadism. Something in us is drawn toward what we are ashamed of being drawn toward. Call that something our darker half. (Will)
Will even went so far as to find a sociologic explanation for the "desensitization of the mass audience," although he didn't sympathize with it:
The King phenomenon has loosed a torrent of sociology, including one fellow's notion that King is the sort of catharsis required by capitalism: ''We are meant to feel always aroused, always unsatisfied. But even in the most advanced states of capitalism, no consumer is so heady with acquisitive power as to avoid the need to seek respite and expiation from living vicariously.'' (Will)
While the extremeness of Will's opinion was not matched by other critics, I feel his comments were popular enough to merit publication on the Editorial page. He felt the excuses for King's work were ridiculous; people were simply turning to more disgusting forms of entertainment. He was a man of the establishment appalled at the change he foresaw. In summary, then, the critics generally agreed the book was light on literary merit and heavy on storytelling. But whether it was a negative, positive or neutral review, the framework of them all was expectation and anticipation. What was the public to expect from the largest first-edition printing of its kind, from an author whose most recent work was considered his worst ever? Each critic's expectations were met; The Dark Half was a change - a change from King's norm and a sign of the public's changing tastes. Sources Allen, Bruce. "King's schizophrenic 'Dark Half'." USA Today. Page 6D, November 2, 1989. Lehmann-Haupt, Christopher. "Books of The Times; From Stephen King, A Writer's Demon." New York Times. Page C20, October 23, 1989. Liberatore, Karen. "The 'Endsville' in the Horror Writer's Mind." San Francisco Chronicle. Sunday Review page 1, October 29, 1989. Murphy, Ray. "King treads on dark, familiar ground." Boston Globe. Living page 32, October 31, 1989. Skow, John. "The Dark Half." Time v. 134. Page 105, November 20, 1989. Stade, George. "His Alter Ego Is a Killer." New York Times. Section 7, page 12, October 29, 1989. Will, George F. "The Lure of the Lurid." The Washington Post. Page C7, December 10, 1989. Winter, Douglas E. "Venturing a bit into the magical." The Washington Times. Page E2, November 29, 1989.
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
The framework of the many reviews of Stephen King's The Dark Half was expectations. In 1987, King produced 4 novels - Eyes of the Dragon, Misery, The Dark Tower, and The Tommyknockers (www.stephenking.com). Critics praised Misery for its portrayal of the author / audience relationship. However, The Tommyknockers left them desperately wanting. With no novels in 1988, 1989's The Dark Half was the novel they were hungry for. The announcement of the book's first printing again fueled critical anticipation. At 1.5 million copies, it would be the largest printing for a fictional hardcover. Would this epic book be as bad as his last or a return to classic King? As expected, the range of reviews ran the gamut. Some critics - particularly Lehmann-Haupt and Stade of the New York Times and Liberatore of the San Francisco Chronicle - were enamoured with the book. There were neutral opinions from critics who liked King but felt there was something lacking in the text; examples of these are reviews by Winter, Murphy, and Allen. Lastly, there were two negative reviews focusing on the book's atypical grossness - an editorial by Washington Post columnist George F. Will and a review by John Skow. The positive and neutral critics agreed that The Dark Half was an turnaround; it was a "considerable comeback from the mechanical silliness of [King's] previous one, The Tommyknockers" (Lehmann-Haupt). In the Washington Times, Winter wrote that "[the novel's] elements are classic King." Liberatore conceded that "King has written better" but this novel succeeded because he "fictionalizes [his] own life." Lehmann-Haupt, Stade, and Murphy both compared The Dark Half with King's earlier successful works. They recognized its kinship with Misery; The Dark Half explored another of the writer's relationships, now the one to his work. Lehmann-Haupt even saw traces of Pet Sematary in the novel's resurrection motif and almost labeled it "grotesquely contrived." The two criticisms in the New York Times were the two most positive reviews of the novel. Lehmann-Haupt blamed the "hard work of explaining the plot's logic" for why the novel was "unusually talky and cerebral." Yet despite the unusual style, King was "surprisingly eloquent on the psychological hazards of being a writer" (Lehmann-Haupt). Stade nearly agreed; he felt, however, that King did not develop the themes deeply enough:
On the whole, Mr. King is tactful in teasing out the implications of his parable. . . No character in the novel comes right out and says, for example, that writers exist (at least to readers) only in their writing, that each person (at least to himself) is his own fiction, that the writer's imagination can feel alien to him, a possessing and possessive demon, a Dracula arisen to prey on the whole man and his family. Nor does anyone in the novel say outright that reality inevitably leaks fiction, which then floods reality, that reality and fiction feed on and feed each other, that they are at war yet they are twins - so identical that attempts to say which is which only lead to more fictions. Such things are better left unsaid, anyhow. Stephen King is not a post-modernist. (Stade)
Yet Stade realized that a standard King novel is light on literary merit; "few writers are better than Stephen King at giving readers what they want" (Stade). Making The Dark Half thematically serious was not necessary for success. Both critics concluded, nevertheless, that the novel's best feature was storytelling. Readers are "swept along by the sheer vitality of the narrative voice" (Lehmann-Haupt). Despite his "sophomoric humor," King "is, however, a very good story teller" (Stade). While other critics found the ending too predictable, the Times writers did not. Lehmann-Haupt argued it was one of the most powerful conclusions King has written. Stade wrote, "[the] decent family man wins out, but at a cost - how it should be." The neutral criticisms contained less praise; they were marked by the critics' satisfaction with the novel while pointing out flaws. In the Washington Times, Winter sympathized with the New York Times writers on the prose yet claimed that the "page-a-minute joy ride turns into a demolition derby for the mind." The novel should have been categorized as "pursuit fiction" rather than "horror," since it has "edge-of-the-seat tension and imagery of ferocious violence that sometimes transmutes deftly into the lyrical" (Winter). While Stade excused the novel for not cementing its themes, Winter wrote that "at its best moments, the novel walks this tense - and often thin - line between creator and creation." In the Boston Globe, Murphy - another neutral critic - felt that King succeeded "for the most part" at being believable "to a point." In other words, some leaps of faith were too big. Winter hinted at this as well, claiming the book's loopholes were too wide. Yet where all the previous critics were willing to overlook the plot difficulties, Murphy stated that awaiting their resolution was what made him finish the novel. In USA Today - a typically saccharine newspaper - Allen wrote a pseudo-neutral review; on the surface, it appeared neutral, but Allen never forgave the book its problems. When asked if the book was "any good" he replied "yes and no." King's casual swearing was "indiscriminate." He found the finale to be predictably "apocalyptic" and that it left too many loose ends. As a whole, Allen felt the novel was "contriving cheap visual effects for the forthcoming movie." Two final critics wrote scathing reviews of The Dark Half. John Skow, in Time, found none of the good the other critics did. "Prose is fast, simply and sloppy." He compared King's writing of violence with pornography in their gratuitous detail. To add insult to injury, Skow wrote that the characters were all flat and boring except for the eight-month old twins. While book reviews are generally editorial in nature, rarely do they actually grace the pages of an Editorial section. However, George F. Will wrote an intriguing column for the Washington Post about The Dark Half and its insinuations about its audience. To him, the novel was plain sick, to be read "if you relish having your blood curdled." The "plot skids," and "suspension of belief is required." In one insightful paragraph, he wrote:
Savagery erupts with metronomic regularity. Why do millions read it? Well, why do drivers slow down to gaze at highway carnage? There is a pornography of violence, and especially of sadism. Something in us is drawn toward what we are ashamed of being drawn toward. Call that something our darker half. (Will)
Will even went so far as to find a sociologic explanation for the "desensitization of the mass audience," although he didn't sympathize with it:
The King phenomenon has loosed a torrent of sociology, including one fellow's notion that King is the sort of catharsis required by capitalism: ''We are meant to feel always aroused, always unsatisfied. But even in the most advanced states of capitalism, no consumer is so heady with acquisitive power as to avoid the need to seek respite and expiation from living vicariously.'' (Will)
While the extremeness of Will's opinion was not matched by other critics, I feel his comments were popular enough to merit publication on the Editorial page. He felt the excuses for King's work were ridiculous; people were simply turning to more disgusting forms of entertainment. He was a man of the establishment appalled at the change he foresaw. In summary, then, the critics generally agreed the book was light on literary merit and heavy on storytelling. But whether it was a negative, positive or neutral review, the framework of them all was expectation and anticipation. What was the public to expect from the largest first-edition printing of its kind, from an author whose most recent work was considered his worst ever? Each critic's expectations were met; The Dark Half was a change - a change from King's norm and a sign of the public's changing tastes. Sources Allen, Bruce. "King's schizophrenic 'Dark Half'." USA Today. Page 6D, November 2, 1989. Lehmann-Haupt, Christopher. "Books of The Times; From Stephen King, A Writer's Demon." New York Times. Page C20, October 23, 1989. Liberatore, Karen. "The 'Endsville' in the Horror Writer's Mind." San Francisco Chronicle. Sunday Review page 1, October 29, 1989. Murphy, Ray. "King treads on dark, familiar ground." Boston Globe. Living page 32, October 31, 1989. Skow, John. "The Dark Half." Time v. 134. Page 105, November 20, 1989. Stade, George. "His Alter Ego Is a Killer." New York Times. Section 7, page 12, October 29, 1989. Will, George F. "The Lure of the Lurid." The Washington Post. Page C7, December 10, 1989. Winter, Douglas E. "Venturing a bit into the magical." The Washington Times. Page E2, November 29, 1989.
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)

No single book is emblematic of the entire class of bestsellers. By definition, the only necessary quality for entry into the rank is exceptional sales; a bestseller is a unique recipe of ingredients that markets successfully. While the mixture may be singular, the components of one novel are prevalent in other bestsellers. The primary components of Stephen King's The Dark Half, all of which are found in other bestsellers, are its easy structure, its detailed portrayal of New England, and that it is a psycho-horror novel. These classifications ? repeated time and again under the famed King moniker ? equate to a formula book. Further inspection, however, shows that The Dark Half is peculiar; it slightly warps the King archetype. Since The Dark Half does not abide by the King formula, it must not have succeeded because of it. Instead, The Dark Half belongs to a subset of popular culture whose members ? because they deviate from a received norm ? flourish primarily through a creator's branding and producer's marketing.

The first aspect of a formulaic King book is that it does not tax the reader's mind with an elaborate structure or an avant-garde technique. King writes reliably with a simple vocabulary and without awkward construction. Although they spotlight extraordinary situations, his plots are straightforward and fast-paced.

The Dark Half follows the aforementioned style. The vocabulary is uncomplicated; when a simple lexicon was unavailable, King concocted his own words and phrases. When attempting to capture the pith of a foul odor, King wrote, "It was . . . just the smell of bad" (TDH 64). King's knowledge of his lexical spontaneity is evidenced by the characters in the book; Thad, the protagonist, comments on hearing the word "creepazoid" ? "I think that's the first time I ever heard that particular term" (TDH 29). The storytelling is not complex either; in one chapter King retold scenes from the antagonist's point of view (TDH 303-24). Otherwise, the story is strictly chronological. King's "characterization is perfunctory," another technique to make the book simpler (Skow). The result of this methodology is a "page-a-minute joy ride" (Winter). As King's other books are plot driven, so is The Dark Half, "swept along by the sheer vitality of the narrative voice" (Lehmann-Haupt).

Minimalism such as this is not limited to works by King. Simplified format is executed by many bestsellers because it broadens the appeal of a work. An intricate and academic book interests only scholars, not the entertainment-starved masses. Since sales correlate positively to popularity, authors and publishers labor to provide enticing books for the largest audiences. The timeline of bestsellers reveals simplification is not just a modern phenomenon. Pollyanna is an early twentieth century bestseller with grammatical simplicity, more basic than The Dark Half. Recent examples of plain, plot-driven narratives show that King is not alone in the latter decades of the twentieth century. Some are the legal thrillers by John Grisham ? e.g. The Pelican Brief ? and the myriad romance novels by Danielle Steel.

The second aspect of the King formula is his attention to New England color. The Dark Half is set in Maine, state of choice for King novels ? "classic King," as Winter wrote in his review. Characters are "deep in New England grain" (Murphy) and speak with a "down East vernacular" (Lehmann-Haupt). The New England essence permeates the novel's smallest details; for example, Thad was an Appalachian Trail Guide in his youth ? a distinctly northern first-job (TDH 17). King constructed an elaborate small town, Castle Rock, as the backdrop for the grandiose finale. The qualities of Castle Rock are those that "thousands of small New England towns hold in common" (TDH 38). Its residents speak and, in this example from the text, think in the stereotypical northeastern parlance: "Man's takin his own photographs . . . probably better than hers, and apt to last a lot longer, to boot. He's storin her up to put in a book someday and she don't even know it" (TDH 43). The novel's regional realism was so precise that on November 24, 1989, The Wall Street Journal reported the Orono State Police Barracks in Maine was being barraged with calls after its telephone number appeared in the publication. That King thought to check the telephone listings and included the selfsame number alerts readers to his attention to detail.

It is not only the depiction of New England, however, that makes The Dark Half a regional novel; it is the contrast of rural life with metropolitan life. A photographer from New York City brings an elaborate papier-mâché tombstone to Maine for a shoot. Concerning the lady and the unnecessary minutiae of her prop, Thad and his wife look at each other "with a mixture of amazement and bemused wonder" (TDH 19). Local residents of Castle Rock think of the photographer as "High Class . . . only a New York woman would show up in high heels at the end of slop season and then goose-step around a cemetery in them, taking pictures" (TDH 43). King's purpose is not simply to characterize Maine, but to use the common sense lifestyle of its inhabitants to shed light on the impracticality of the cosmopolitan world. That King regularly stresses this in his books demonstrates its appeal to audiences.

In this, The Dark Half represents the subclass of bestsellers which painstakingly depict a geographic region. Peyton Place also caricaturized its eponymous New England town. The book revealed the frigid nature of New Englanders and did not praise their lifestyle like King. Nonetheless, Peyton Place was a bestseller because it exposed a hidden underbelly of the Puritan New Englander. What King does for Maine, Grisham does for the South. The average reader enjoys reading books dyed with local color by authors who are authorities on the details ? e.g. Show Boat, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Ferber spent four days on a show boat in order to immerse herself in the river lifestyle (Database Entry); Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is based on childhood in New York City.

The last and perhaps most unique aspect of the formula is his subject matter; King's works, especially his earlier ones, are suspenseful psycho-horror novels. In an interview with Magistrale, King called his stories "nothing more than fairy tales for grown-ups" which are based on the "occasional rare incident" (Magistrale 3-4). He described this concept and how it could form the basis for a story:

I took a trip to the shopping mall. I watched one of those machines that you plug a quarter into and this thing goes around and around. It's a flying-saucer ride made for kids. And I thought, Suppose the kid disappeared. Just disappeared in front of his mother and the people walking around . . . Now, that interested me very much. (Magistrale 3)

This genre ? believably suspenseful horror ? is not parallel to the horror movie genre. Productions like Scream and the Nightmare on Elm Street series were popular for their violent exhibitions; people watched them to be scared. Conversely, readers finish a King novel for the suspenseful mysteries he develops: to see why the child at the mall vanished, or, in The Dark Half, to learn the truth about Thad's relationship with the murderous stranger. While explicit enough to ignite George Will in the Washington Post, carnage is not the main attraction but a device used to thicken the plot. King asks readers to suspend belief for a short while ? not for an entire work ? while he describes normal people dealing with horrific incidents.

The Dark Half is a psycho-horror novel that grips readers by way of precocious storytelling. As Stade wrote, King is "a very good storyteller," and The Dark Half is both a "parable and chiller" (Stade). The plot opens gently; Thad, a writer, has just abandoned writing under a famous pseudonym, George Stark. While Thad wrote critically acclaimed and, ergo, unsuccessful novels, Stark wrote gross horror that reaped him a fortune. (This is a fitting critique about best-selling authors and the starkness of their works). Thad is soon confronted by police who have enough physical evidence to convict him of murders from Maine to Washington. Thad's airtight alibi saves him from prison, but he learns that Stark ? the "dead" nom de plume ? has somehow come to life, exacting revenge on every person who contributed to his demise. Readers know the truth from the start, but the novel horrifies them and keeps their attention as Thad wrestles with his culpability and as Police Chief Pangborn confronts Stark's existence. The Dark Half concludes with a dramatic, supernatural confrontation between the two halves of Thad's consciousness.

Yet this finale is predictable from early on in reading, as are many of the other scenes. Plot twists and surprise endings ? not predictability ? are the attributes of popular fiction; The Sixth Sense, one of the most successful movies of 1999, triumphed at the box office because of its unforeseeable conclusion. Predictable stories need another quality to account for their accomplishments; in The Dark Half, it is suspenseful writing. In particular, King halted scenes at climaxes, tantalizing readers by delaying the resolutions. When the police first knock on Thad's door, he has no idea why they have come to him. Once Pangborn tells Thad they have enough evidence to arrest him for murder, the section ends (TDH 80). Almost like a commercial break on television, we are required to imagine Thad's response and must wait for King to reveal the truth.

This combination of suspense and predictability has been utilized by other best-selling authors in the typically-predictable horror genre. The Exorcist deals with a young girl's possession by a demon. From the preface, readers know she is not suffering from a mental or emotional disorder, yet the doctors and priests must convince themselves of the truth. For readers, suspense is in the characters' realizations and in how they will act thereafter. Like The Dark Half, The Exorcist is grotesque fiction, yet in both cases the crux of the novel is not sacrilege. Bestsellers in other genres are also successful because of suspense. Ian Fleming's James Bond is largely predictable, yet succeeded because readers enjoyed the ride, not just the conclusion. Agatha Christie's murder mysteries ? most whodunits, in general ? are comparable because the reader can fathom alternative conclusions, of which only one will be correct. Suspense in any genre is patently favored by the public and is, therefore, a widely used component in bestsellers.

Simple structure, a Maine setting, and a suspenseful psycho-horror subject create the core of the familiar Stephen King book. That these are popular qualities in narratives is evidenced in Stade's opinion that "few writers are better than King at giving readers what they want." The Dark Half appears, at first, to fit King's formula well. Many critics detected elements of his earlier successful novel in its style and themes. Winter compared it to Cujo and Pet Sematary; Lehmann-Haupt called it a "cross between Pet Sematary and Misery" (Lehmann-Haupt). These bonds to previous works solidify the notion that The Dark Half is one in a line of formulaic bestsellers by King.

Archetypes create authors who decorate the annual bestseller lists. Some novelists in league with King are John Grisham, Sue Grafton, Michael Crichton, Tom Clancy, and Danielle Steel. They were formerly nonentities who conceived a recipe which reading audiences loved. Rather than abandon the formula and develop other methods, each has produced the same type of book with phenomenal success. Grisham writes Southern lawyer novels; Grafton writes murder mysteries where each book begins with a successive letter of the alphabet; Crichton writes science fiction; Clancy writes about covert government operations; and Steel writes romance. As for King, he "has horror-fiction down to a fine and frightening psychological science. That's why his stories are so good, that's why he can produce so many" (Liberatore). Each author has his or her own niche for executing their formulas. Over time, these methods have become exclusively associated with their respective authors; readers expect their new books to be confined to their regular topics.

Such was largely the case with the release of The Dark Half. However, upon further analysis, the novel appears to violate the standard King formula. For one, despite its simply constructed nature, it was more cerebral than his other works. Thad is a very smart man ? a critically rewarded author and a college professor; insight and intellect create an above-average King character. While underdeveloped, one of the novel's most intriguing themes ? the relationship of an author to himself and to his work ? offers more than the ghostly isolation study of The Shining or the dead animals in Pet Sematary.

This departure, however, can be overlooked by devoted King followers, explained as King's maturation. Yet there is another, more drastic departure from the formula; in The Dark Half, readers must suspend their belief ? not at one particular moment in time ? but throughout the book. Consider four of his other works: Misery, The Shining, It, and The Stand. Of these, only The Stand was published after The Dark Half. They each ignore likely reality and venture down an unlikely path only for a short time. In Misery, a successful author is tortured by an adoring fan ? not improbable in an era of rampant stalking. The Shining offered both a rational and supernatural explanation for its main character's insanity. In It, a motley group of children discover an evil being that kills other kids; readers can accept their lives at all moments except when they confront the murderous clown. The Stand proposed a reality where a catastrophic disease levels the population, and those immune struggle to rebuild society. Epidemics are close to the popular consciousness; films like 12 Monkeys, Armageddon, and a novel by Crichton, Outbreak, individually explore the concept.

Some may argue that King ordinarily incorporates unbelievable occurrences in his works, occurrences that are not even remotely possible in real life; thus, The Dark Half is not a violation of the form. To a degree, however, demons and vampires are as acceptable as anthrax poisoning because they exist in the constant thoughts and fears of society. The Exorcist is just as believable; demonic possession, like King's occasional vampire or ghost, may have been invalidated by science and rational thought but is real in urban mythology and religious dogma. The standard King formula is as he described it in his interview with Magistrale: a regular world like Maine or New England where an unexplainable, but not unbelievable, event occurs.

The Dark Half, however, leaves readers with too many unexplainable events; so many that it falls short of King's own definition of his typical works. From the start readers are confronted with a baffling situation. Young Thad's headaches, supposedly caused by a benign brain tumor, are in fact "an eye . . . part of a nostril, three fingernails, and two teeth. One of the teeth had a small cavity in it" (TDH 9). If this was the one strange happenstance King framed his story around, The Dark Half would not violate the formula. Yet there are more. For one, Stark emerges from the soil in Castle Rock in the middle of the night soon after Thad abandons the pseudonym. Spontaneous incarnation is a dubious act, even to those who can accept ghosts and aliens. Whenever Thad lapses into a mental conversation with Stark, countless sparrows blanket the landscape, from his first operation as a child (TDH 347) until he finally extinguishes Stark in the finale (TDH 389). Furthermore, readers must also accept that Stark is the only person incapable of seeing these sparrows. Lastly, the novel ends with the sparrows carrying Stark through a hole "torn in the fabric of reality" (TDH 423). In the standard King novel, we could accept any one of these, the exact fingerprints between two people, or even the mental connection between two strangers. For readers to accept all of these within one story is too much and is, therefore, a violation of the King formula.

Two incidents give credit to the notion that The Dark Half violated King's archetype. The film based on the book, released in 1993, was a failure. Readers might have bought the book because it appeared to abide by the standard and spurned the movie because the book was not what they expected. Another indication that the book breached the classic formula and disappointed readers is the sales of King's next book, 1990's The Stand. It was a second edition with 400 additional pages of previously excised material; readers knew most of the book from its first publication. Despite the evidence that King was returning to his timeworn formula, the book only sold just over 600,000 copies ? hardly a King record. Readers, perhaps, were still disenchanted from being fooled by The Dark Half.

While it was a successful novel, The Dark Half is not a successful attempt at Stephen King's regular formula; it was a free-rider on his renowned name. When a reader randomly purchases a book, he cannot tell what it will contain. The simplest way to satisfy the reading urge, then, is to identify an author's name with consistency and search for books by him or her. Thus, Stephen King's moniker emblazons more than half the cover of this book. His name signifies his reliable formula; this is branding. While The Dark Half breaks the King formula, his name alerted readers to the opposite; they believed that the book did indeed fit the mold. This is part of the reason the novel sold so well.

A second, non-content related factor for The Dark Half's success is its marketing. By 1989, the average Stephen King novel was a bestseller before it was printed. In 1987, he published four books, his last being The Tommyknockers ? critically, his worst effort. King went from releasing multiple books in 1987 to none in 1988 and most of 1989; he had announced a temporary retirement. Then, in October 1989, Viking published The Dark Half. King was asked to appear on a morning talk show on Halloween; he replied, "?I will do it [publicize the book on television], but I won't do it on Halloween.' If they can't have Freddy Krueger, they want Stephen King" (Magistrale 2). Nevertheless, Viking turned the release into an event; this was King's first book after a hiatus, released to coincide with the holiday for horror fans. Evidence for their knowledge is the print run. In 1989, The Dark Half's first printing of 1.5 million hardcover copies was the largest ever, surpassing the 1 million copy record set by Jean Auel's The Mammoth Hunters in 1985. Most of the copies sold, making The Dark Half Publisher's Weekly's second best-selling hardcover fiction for the year.

While The Dark Half seems to fit categorically with many bestsellers because of its content and style, it in fact belongs to an elite category of popular fiction which succeeds because of branding and marketing. It is like Star Wars: Episode 1 in this. The Star Wars series was innovative and highly successful in the early 1980s. However, the prequel was panned for its lack of plot and excessive special effects. This film, like The Dark Half, succeeded because of the name attached to the product, a name which fans linked with past quality. Because of its opportune market timing, The Dark Half is again similar to the film industry; just as Christmas movies play in December, The Dark Half coincided with Halloween. Lastly, films released in the summer are leased to a large number of theaters and are shown on more screens than movies released any other time of year. This is because there is a higher demand for movies in the summer months and the distributors can capture more market share by making films more ubiquitous. Viking acted analogously by pre-printing 1.5 million copies; The Dark Half was available to anyone who wanted to read it. The Dark Half superficially compares to novels and is actually more similar to films; this demonstrates how the popular reading audience is merging with the popular movie-going audience, how the line between book and film marketing is blurring.

The Dark Half teaches us, then, that a book can be a bestseller as long as it appears to imitate a popular formula. Deviations from the norm succeed via this camouflage and through opportune marketing. A book's actual content may have little bearing on its success.

Works Consulted

King, Stephen. The Dark Half. Viking. New York, 1989.

Lehmann-Haupt, Christopher. "Books of The Times; From Stephen King, A Writer's Demon." New York Times. Page C20, October 23, 1989.

Liberatore, Karen. "The 'Endsville' in the Horror Writer's Mind." San Francisco Chronicle. Sunday Review page 1, October 29, 1989.

Magistrale, Tony. Stephen King, The Second Decade. Twayne Publishers. New York, 1992.

Murphy, Ray. "King treads on dark, familiar ground." Boston Globe. Living page 32, October 31, 1989.

Skow, John. "The Dark Half." Time v. 134. Page 105, November 20, 1989.

Stade, George. "His Alter Ego Is a Killer." New York Times. Section 7, page 12, October 29, 1989.

Will, George F. "The Lure of the Lurid." The Washington Post. Page C7, December 10, 1989.

Winter, Douglas E. "Venturing a bit into the magical." The Washington Times. Page E2, November 29, 1989.

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