If you could take the collected works of only three authors with you to a proverbial desert island, which authors would you choose? Publishers Weekly, a news magazine about the international book publishing business, asked this question of its audience.
It turns out people wouldn’t mind delving into worlds more horrible than an isolated island.
All the books of Stephen King joined the collected works of William Shakespeare and the complete novels of Jane Austen as the top three vote getters in the non-official poll.
“King’s works will by far take up the most shelf space, so make sure you fashion your hut of strong bamboo, add a couple of built in bookshelves, and don’t store your bananas anywhere near the books or you’ll find your copy of Cujo up a tree somewhere, the thieving island monkeys scared out of their wits,” wrote Publishers Weekly.
Runners up included the Bible, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens and Joyce Carol Oates.
Oates herself recognized King’s global success in a graduation speech this spring at Niagara County Community College in New York, using his story to encourage the graduating students to persevere. We’ll end with her inspirational words:
Is much of success simply luck? Granted some talent, some motivation, and a willingness to keep trying beyond the point where others give up.
Stephen King, our American prodigy, whom you have all read, is now one of the great bestsellers in history, perhaps in the history of the Universe. You might be surprised to know that in his early twenties Stephen King was a struggling high school teacher in Maine who was humiliated because he didn’t make enough money to support his family and had to supplement his income by working at menial, disagreeable jobs—a slaughterhouse, for instance—(luckily, being Stephen King, the young writer found such occupations fruitful as material). He had written more than sixty stories which made the rounds of magazines and were rejected. He’d written four novels, all of which were rejected. The fourth, Carrie, he tossed out in the trash in a fit of despair but—(here is the fairy tale reversal)—his wife Tabitha King, who, when the two were undergraduates at the University of Maine and were taking writing workshops together, was considered THE writer of the two—retrieved the manuscript from the trash, and sent it out herself to another publisher; this time, it was accepted, and published rather inauspiciously; but made its way at once with the reading public, and became a surprise bestseller; eventually, a very successful movie. What if, like a reasonable person, Stephen King had given up writing after the rejection of sixty stories and four novels?