Episode 36B - Politics and Stephen King with Michael J. Blouin
Hey There Brooke Club listeners. This is Stephen Indra Sonoko our doing something a little bit different this week for those of you. Who Don't follow us on social media I had a pretty nasty little accident in injured. My back So we were not able to record insomnia part one just yet. Luckily we have this calls from beyond that we were going to this place in the middle one have be are off week. So we're just GONNA go ahead and reverse the order on those seal. Be hearing the B-SIDE I this week around. And then next week you'll get insomnia part one and the week after that you'll get insomnia part two so it should be a packed schedule moving ahead. Thank you so much for your patience and enjoy. You're playing young. Hello Steven King Buca listeners. We are here today with Michael. Blue and say hi Michael. Hi everybody. Talking to Michael Blue in is an associate professor of English and humanities at Milligan College. Is that in Tennessee. I remember correctly it is. It's an eastern Tennessee. Very close to the border with North Carolina. Wonderful Dr Michael Bloomberg. Utm Just like myself He went a couple years before me and studied Presumably with my friend and yours Tony Magistrelli Tell us about how you I like. Met Tony and got into this. Well Tony and I have kind of a storied history I actually funny enough. I played basketball against his son in high school and And kind of got to know Tony as a very Vocal Fan of his sons team. And actually my aunt Also took classes with Toni when she was in English. Major back when Tony just started at the University of the month I was sitting earlier with the twenty one. I arrived at UVM. I was really excited to get to know him. He seemed like a really knowledgeable. But relatable professor and you know in one of those happy moments he was everything that was advertised as a professor as a mentor. Or your I immediately just fell in love with subject matter mostly because of Tony and his passion for You know you made it so interesting. And relatable and compelling I signed up for every Tony Magistrelli Class Class. That was offered really. That's was my window in before. I'm Tony Classes I. I didn't know what I wanted to do with English. Wanted to be rhetoric. But I didn't know what exact area I was going to go into. And being an attorney class really cemented for me what I was going to do with the rest of my career. I love when that happens. When professor is so into their thing that becomes your thing through Osmosis. Yeah and I think you know that really speaks volumes to tonees skills as professor. I think the students are. Uvm are extraordinarily fortunate to have some of my Tony around He's just so accessible. You know I came up. Tvm this past fall To give a talk and to be a part of one of these classes and I was just really reminded of how fortunate students are to work with Tony any. His door's always open in each. Just you know he just has. All this encyclopedic knowledge about the Gothic about Stephen King in particular the it was kind of a really nostalgic trip for me remembering when I was a young Undergrad. Who didn't really know anything? And kind of finding my way nervously Tony's office and then just in nearly feeling at and respected and you know just really brought into the fold so to speak and so I I credit Tony with with a lot for what I've been doing since I left him. It's interesting that you mentioned that trip up here. In the fall I was sitting in the back left. Quarter of that room. Which is how I even knew to look up your name in the first place. Oh Yeah I It was I was amazed at the size of class Working at a Liberal Arts College. My classes are typically smaller than easy on class but Tony really filled the seats for the Stephen King Class. I was super impressed in the level of engagement of the people in the room to You know I was just kind of astonished at how many people really really cared about Stephen King film But I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I mean Tony just makes it so interesting that people. I think flux his classes absolutely and you are either currently or have just completed writing a book with Tony Yes. I actually just completed and weirdly enough. I didn't plan it this way. I weirdly finished two bucks on Stephen King at approximately the same time and that was trusts due to you know the steed which different publishing houses work through things. But I was reading my own book on Stephen King and kind of reached out to Tony with a couple of questions as I often do. You know looking for his advice his expertise and in that process he actually suggested like. Oh man might be cool to work on something together. Don't you think and I obviously jumped at the opportunity to work with him and to you know see we could do collaboratively and we landed on this current book project that we are just finishing a going into production as we speak on on. Stephen King and what is scope of that? But the one that you're doing Tony Tony Ni- you know we kind of bouncing ideas off of each other trying to figure out what we wanted to say. What was the angle we wanted to take on Stephen King Review? We wanted to be both about his fiction. But also about adaptations Because we have a lot of interest in film adaptations of Stephen King. So you know through a lot of conversation and bouncing things back and forth. We landed on this idea of even saying in American history. And that's the title of the Bucks and through that we kind of wanted to explore how Stephen King has understood American history and presented us Kind of detract in American history. Where everything where we're going have each even just the idea of history as a discipline Seems to be something that both of us kind of have been interested in just haven't fully articulated until we got together and said okay. This seems like a topic that needs to be explored. It has lots of opportunities to branch out followed detours where they take us branch off and see. See where we were going? But that was our framework was was Stephen King and the idea of American history. That is so much fun. I can't wait to read it. I did get to read. Tony sent me. The copy of the Vietnam is ation essay. Yes yes when that was going to be presented or parts of it are being presented to Our listeners via patriotic people listening to this have perhaps have a a introduction to the book through that particular essay which I thought was very interesting. Yeah that was really one of the chapters that we knew when we were writing it really. We had stumbled on something that was really important We knew no one had really delve deeply into king's relationship to the war both personal relationship to the war. Having you know almost ended up serving in the war And his then he continued fascinated with me throughout his body of work really into never really slowed down. It seems like e kind of comes back to Vietnam. And the the thing that haunts in most maybe and so when we stumbled on History Min Nam and we just had so much to say the chapter just kind of in Israel. I think we knew that went old With that idea and that became I think a nucleus of of the rest of the book. And what is What is your book about the book? You're working on when this all came up very related topic and so that was another reason. I felt like I could Join with Tony and I still have a lot to say. There's a lot left on the cutting room floor that I had to work with My Book is called Stephen King in American politics. And so this book Explores Stephen. King's relationship to American politics from you know ranging sixty two most recent books which are dealing with what to do with Donald Trump and you know the kind of populist frenzy that's surrounding the trump presidency You know into books while it's kind of gestures Stephen King's own personal politics. Clearly he gets involved in these conversations and sometimes pretty heated ways. Really tries to stay focused on Stephen King's novels And tries to see where the complexities of American politics Unfold for us and you know Vietnam of course is a part of that conversation. That's really intersection of his treatment of history and politics together this that central importance of Vietnam in the American consciousness. Whenever I think of politics and Stephen King the first novel that comes up in my mind is the dead zone because one of the earliest one we ever did. Yes yeah I think that is part of my introduction to Stephen King in American politics book is the Dead Zone. I haven't extended discussion of. What kind of unique political statement is being made in the dead zone? What do we do with you know? The would be assassin This treatment of American politics is this really innately. Corrupt saying I it seems in Stephen King like starting with the dead zone. Politicians are always pretty unpleasant characters and you know next English professors. I think politicians are these the most dislike and Stephen King were and I was really intrigued by I what that says about us. You know our own relationship to our politicians our own relationship to the Cross to democracy so the job done is that kind of starting point. Because it's a book that really considers you know. We are acting politically. What are the ramifications of that are choosing to enter the political fray And then if if we don't what is that alternative look like for political animals? What are we and I think Stephen King's works? He's a really interesting place to explore who we are as creatures So you've got that's kind of obviously the dead zone is at the epicenter of all of them from there just branch out into a lot of other texts that pick up on similar. What's remarkable to me is really kind of consistency of kings political set of values From the seventies until today There have been some changes and I do talk about those really. I think he has a pretty established way of thinking about American politics. That we've kind of trace all the way the bodies were one of my favorite disgusting behavior had about Stephen King and politics was Regarding his essay on guns. Did you ever get into that? I did get into that and you know I it this way. In it's one of those kind of non-fiction entrance into the discussion. But you can't avoid it because it was such a lightning Rod I think And one of the lines from the book that interested me was you know he described how he has one foot in Red America and one foot in Blue America anytime then extend sister session of what when quote Unquote commonsensical solution to the concrete thing. And I think that's a really Stephen King's thing to say I mean Stephen King tries to play both sides. Stephen King tries to be like a moderate voice because he's sticking to this pretty broad audience. Obviously from a practical standpoint People read Stephen King who are all across the political spectrum. And so there's a certain like Wade. Stephen King tries to find a third way tries to find some way to speak for both current. And obviously what ends up happening with something like guns? Both parents get really mad and nobody was really happy with Stephen. King's guns book mostly from the Left Corner right because he just tried to present sides and find a very pragmatic middle of the road solution. I and I think in to everybody hates them. Semi Yeah in today's political climate. A centrist like Stephen ten to sometimes ostracized or sometimes you know. There's the ones lose for Stephen King If you speak into fly over states so to speak speaking on a middle He is trying to Kinda sent a plague on sides against one another and then finding some kind of consensus and I think that's not nearing that's not just now. I think if you look at Stephen King's work from the president You see over and over again. Stephen King trying to find that sweet spot trying to speak to you know. Republicans and Democrats equal measure. And I think some people are gonNA find that to the like relief that. There's something really nice about Stephen King's pros that does that but others are gonNA find it to the little bit less compelling or maybe a marketing ploy rather than any sort of political convictions And I wanted to kind of explore that to tease out. What that means for us. What are we doing this tennis? Centrist icons Stephen King and never related political turmoil. That seems to swirl all around him Oh yeah in some exploration of the abortion. Debate is so expertly crafted. You never know what the end Stephen King thinks you know. Yeah and that's that's that's why such a good example for me. What I was talking about you went between the abortion debate in insomnia and the The nuclear today in Tommy knockers. You have these two interesting discussions of political activism And what Stephen King thinks about activists and people really passionate about politics so I I really. I jumped off those texts a lot especially in the introduction to your to the politics but I mean heavily on them because I think I'm pretty pretty indicative of a larger steen larger political scene for him. I was wondering when I first read that essay. Why it might be that I personally just as a political being Identified so heavily with it because most people are so Unhappy with the essay and I realized it might be because he and I are from the same pinpoint on the map. I wonder if there's a very specifically main thing to ride this line between like new age modernism and old school values. I guess you living in eastern Tennessee. You probably know as much about that as we do in Maine well and I think Vermont where I grew up in Vermont was not Burlington from growing really in more rural for Mont Central Vermont. And so you know I I knew people across the point across from and this is something I think to that kind of New England. Pragmatism that Stephen King reflective very regional thing. You know where I'm at is is more Staunchly Republican. I don't think there's as much time to find the middle in in in this part of the country. I think there's more of that era inland. There's this kind of pragmatism that saturates a lot of camping out in the miss. There's this kind of vocation of enrollment in there which they get together and it's described as New England's Tau needing and I'm really some kind of town meetings which are Stephen teams work in which it's kind of like people have a lot of diverse opinions. Get together any quote unquote New England style town then. Kinda having great essay that somewhere. Yeah I think that is the premise behind the book. So what are we supposed to do with Stephen? King's New England town meetings in the low much kind of blown up You know federal debates on the kind of central level as opposed to on these vocal Raffles Stephen King gravitates towards these small on clay absence of people like in the miss. Who are you know actually at this? You know the federal market and they are having their own little rockets. Come to some consensus about what to do. And even tokens and you have your cynics and you have zealots and you have all of these. Different people are trying to raise a hand and Stephen King is trying to present to us. What were they good political process? Look like and you know whether or not we he comes to that conclusion. I think it's an open ended question. That's an ongoing question in the book. Could I wrote Because he kind of a satisfying answer to that question or even confused the rest of us. Well I can't wait to read that book because they have a title yet. It is Stephen King and American Politics Stephen King in American politics by Dr Michael Blue. And I'll definitely be looking for that on the shelf. I WANNA steer the conversation briefly to your early relationship with Stephen King. When did you read your first kings stuff you know? I was probably too young. Yeah I think everybody's a little T I you know I remember the most from I look at his head and I'm sure it wasn't actually I look but it's the first one I remember and it's actually the first one. It's the product continues to resonate with commercial wrangles from probably going to disagree about this but my favorite novel remains get and I remember reading it when I was young and just being totally engrossed in that awful. I mean the way I could get soon nine hundred pages in Texas and I was just so taken by the story and the maid is the second. This story ethics story can hold my interest of the young person you know I. I thought I could read all way through knocking born and they're not really interesting. I never read books of nine hundred pages in length that I felt you know engrossed cry until I came to something like that and interest remains in my own. Mind some place in my heart because it introduced me. So many of those quintessential Stephen King things the things. He does so well the things that make him. I think interesting. It's amazing to me. Now you know twenty five years later I am able to revisit it and still find it such a joining us to read. And such compelling and Interesting Section of American Society I totally identify with that I remember meeting in for the first time also being too young and also having that same thought of wow like their lung books that are good and then of course. I was just the right age for rate after that Harry Potter took off. Yeah and then that have introduced everyone to reading eight hundred pages at a time you know yeah and I was a little a little bit on the other side of that age wise a little bit like Terry Potter. My brothers my brothers Right Harry Potter I can rock because I was Kinda got too cool for school age. Like even tell you wrong moment for me which like that and you know. Obviously that ended up being silly. In retrospect but I was a teenager. I mean but it was you know and instill I reread it very recently for for the book and I was Kinda calling through it and I was just thinking when he well constructed novel and I know there's a lot of criticism about sex and I know you know especially the end on. Their pet has all kinds of Hostility towards it from from ten leaders but we had to do a whole segment. I created a whole episode. That yeah I mean and Clarisse. It's common enough to you know Denigrate the conclusion of the two to film adaptation had to kind of having little cameo inside joke about how Stephen King and I really think it was probably the stock. And that partisans now people just fall back. You didn't know how to handle. I guess he can't re entering But I just feel like it actually wasn't anything to actually get into. I was just a really thoughtful. But it is very well constructed Wayne with you weaves back and forth and nothing ever feels stale and it never I mean. Let's be honest. Some of his other longer works. I think has talked about this quite a bit nine longer. Works don't really win to quit. And you feel in reader like oh my goodness just a little bit clouded like maybe if this is a little bit shorter of war emotionally effective. I never felt that way about though I think it was just the right length and really held me. I'm from beginning to end the whole trip to about human king. Not Knowing how to end the book I think comes from a lack of thorough exploration of his work. You know I've been eating Stephen King's work in order. Like kinda logically. I mean. There's a couple of them. Were our like man okay. That was long but most of the time everything's wrapped up with a nice little Bozic modern reader would want. There's something you said. Something is done I think it's sort of unfair appraisal but of course the big massive books. We're going to get the attention that it and The stands have probably the stand things like actually they wanted or she put out in the in the nineties living longer. That's another thing here. I think the stand is another book. Really masterfully navigates length. Like there's nothing in the standing there very few things in the standard. I would recommend editing out and so much these crucial and again this is Kim does so well. And he leaves this tapestry of American society that vast right in office can really deftly handle fastness of American society and he weaves together these diverse characters and you'd be histories freeze and they kind of run together and create the tapestry of different size. And I think one of the reasons that we identify Stephen King under Clinton essentially American I see catchers the pot. Al-hindi US so well like cut and the stand for the reasons that stand is actually meet my favorite book and it and it really is It's because of that dense. Americana that the whole thing feels like a very well-made extra-long Johnny cash album right hits all the major points. All the Persian does of where the normal crashes are American history and culture and A celebration where the triumph star in American history and culture. I think that really perfectly and I'm sure that comes up all of what we've been. Yeah I mean that. Actually the conclusion of my book on Politics and Actually comes up quite a bit and are Proton History and Stephen King. I mean both both of those books and working living unexpecting ways come back to the stand. Just stand has so much to tell us about a myths of America American history of miss the also route American political partisan bickering ellison kind of formation of these different groups. That seem at odds with each other. You know testing the antagonistic forever There's something both hopeful in that work but also something. Family kind of Western Balkan inside of Stephen King's riding style of something about American being doomed to repeat its mistakes around Franck in and seeing readings unable to get out of. Its own way that I find really captivating because I can't think of a lot of the writers to manage to walk that tight rope between optimism and just the darkest pessimism Tau America can do in the stands. Does that I want to ask you as I ask everyone else the interview. What else are you working on? What Non Stephen King? What's your other gigs right now. Oh right now I've been really inundated with Stephen King And I'm only now kind of coming up out of the patient and seeing the sun first time starting to think about kind of non Stephen King projects and there are a couple of things that I'm currently twain around with one of them is A chapter on mass market fiction For a forthcoming archer volume You Book on Right. I did run a mass market fiction and American liberalism. 'cause I'm really interested in. The parallel development is these kind of mass market paperbacks and that whole kind of sub genre than than emerged around books. That are leaving is to be on the shelves in Grocery Stores and And parallel with contemporary moment in American history. Which I feel like are a lot of interesting overlaps between the way. American society is developing for the last fifty years and the rise of the paperbacks kind of try to tease out what it is. How these things each other. And I've and I've been doing that. I learned a lot about. I had a lot more to say about mass murder conviction as an idea. So it'd be Kinda worse around that and you know how American society deals can win the paperbacks and what what that says about us I completely. I'm not completely unrelated but in an unrelated way also been working on this project. A Campaign Biographies Watch Explores came in biographies. That especially her went. And by meter literary figures like Nathaniel Hawthorne and William Dean Howell and artificial like this who are hired to write these very strange campaign biographies Teaching American literature often brought them up and students have been really interested in. Wow how did miss annual Hoff? I'm getting involved in a political campaign like how does that happen? And when it wants to book like you know those kinds of questions and honestly. I couldn't answer them all that well because it just hasn't been a lot out there on the subject so those are two things that are kind of the not totally unrelated to Kim projects But they're a little bit different terms as well. Well I WANNA say thank you so much for coming on our show and giving us all that awesome information. You're a wonderful guest. All right thanks so much.