Thousands of Indians oppose Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP). Here dozens of women lie on the railroad tracks to oppose movement of any materials in and out of the dangerous plant.
I told Emily I would make her a list of “Stephen King’s weird feminist novel phase in the early nineties,” but I decided to make a more complete one.
Here’s a short bibliography of Stephen King’s writings of particular feminist interest. Feel free to add more.
- Carrie, 1974
- The Shining, 1975, included for its depiction of abuse. It’s also one of the earliest instances of King writing male writer subjects, a pattern which has created a wide variety of comments on the relationship between authorship and masculinity, the relationship between men and their wives. Plus, it’s an interesting comparison to Kubrick’s film adaptation.
- Firestarter, 1980
- The Running Man, 1982, (as Richard Bachman) is a book from the pre-reality tv era about a man who participates in a game show (not unlike The Hunger Games.)
- Misery, 1987
- Needful Things, 1991, is about a demonic antique shop and features quite a few women characters and deals with abuse, sexuality, consumption, etc.
- Bag of Bones, 1998, is kind of about a male writer’s relationship with a lot of different women, including a few dead ones.
- The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, 1999, follows a nine year old girl who gets lost in the woods.
- Hearts in Atlantis, 1999, is my favorite Stephen King work. It’s got about five novellas and short stories which exist roughly in the same universe. It includes heavy Lord of the Flies themes, crazy-mean mothers who are abused and assaulted, pre-teen girl and boy subjects, stories about war, allegories about consumption and the Reagan era, and a college woman who is a violent protester.
- Lisey’s Story, 2006, might be the first of King’s books that features the wife of a writer as a protagonist and the main voice. In this book, she reflects on his death, in contrast to the countless King stories which are about men talking about women who have died.
- Duma Key, 2007. I haven’t actually read this, but I know that it’s another of King’s pieces about a male auteur—this time, a painter. In it, of course, there is a paranormal aspect to the subject’s art, and it seems like this book deals a lot with a male author’s manipulation of female objects.
The Weird Early 1990s Period When He Was Trying to Write About Feminism
- Gerald’s Game, 1992, is about a woman whose husband handcuffs her to the bed during sex (even though she’s not into it), and subsequently dies. Leaving her handcuffed to the bed. For the whole novel.
- Dolores Claiborne, 1992, is the confession of a woman who killed her abusive husband.
- Rose Madder, 1995, is about a woman who escapes her abusive husband and tries to be empowered in a new life while still running from him.
- “Strawberry Spring,” in Night Shift, 1978, a story about memories of a serial killer (of women, natch) on a college campus.
- “I Know What You Need,” in Night Shift, 1978, has a female protagonist and is about a manipulative relationship (kind of).
- “Children of the Corn,” in Night Shift, 1978. I included this for many reasons, not the least of which being that The Lord of the Flies’ (as well as Children of the Damned’s) influence on King shows up in his work in interesting and gendered ways, especially in regards to concepts of childhood.
- “The Last Rung on the Ladder,” in Night Shift, 1978, wherein a man reflects on memories of his sister after she commits suicide.
- “The Man Who Loved Flowers,” in Night Shift, 1978, which is also about men talking about a serial killer of women.
- “The Woman in the Room,” in Night Shift, 1978, is about a man and his terminally ill mother.
- “The Wedding Gig,” in Skeleton Crew, 1985, which is about a woman (and some men) in a mob family.
- “Word Processor of the Gods,” in Skeleton Crew, 1985 is more or less about a dude who has a insufferable wife.
- “Nona,” in Skeleton Crew, 1985, which is kind of about a succubus, or something.
- “Gramma,” in Skeleton Crew, 1985, is about a witchy gramma (told, as is standard in these earlier works, from the perspective of a man).
- “The Reach,” in Skeleton Crew, 1985, is also about an elderly woman, this time one coming to grips with death.
- “Dedication,” in Nightmares and Dreamscapes, 1993, is about a hotel maid who has to work for a misogynistic, racist, alcoholic writer who is staying there. (This story makes me think of Cixous’s voler, for sure.)
- “Home Delivery,” in Nightmares and Dreamscapes, 1993, is about a pregnant woman during a zombie apocalypse.
- “My Pretty Pony,” in Nightmares and Dreamscapes, 1993, is more or less a story about a grandfather telling his grandson about how time works; it has also been adapted and illustrated by Barbara Kruger.
- “The Death of Jack Hamilton,” in Everything is Eventual, 2001, includes a lot of interesting gendered scenarios and a few compelling women, but it’s mostly a reflection on masculinities. It’s a fictionalized account of members of John Dillinger’s gang. It’s probably my favorite of King’s short stories.
- “The Little Sisters of Eluria,” in Everything is Eventual, 2001, I’m including even though it’s part of the Gunslinger (Dark Tower) universe, and I’m not including anything else from those pieces (except for Hearts in Atlantis, kind of). I’m adding this story because of vampire nuns. That’s pretty much it. Vampire nuns.
- “L.T.’s Theory of Pets,” in Everything is Eventual, 2001, is another story in which a man talks about women who aren’t there. Specifically, this man tells about his tenuous relationship with his ex-wife, especially through their pets.
- “Lunch at Gotham Cafe,” in Everything is Eventual, 2001, is another entry in King’s Crazy Marriages canon. It’s a story about a lunch date with a newly-ex-wife who is crazy. It’s about how women are crazy. I can’t imagine how it could possibly be about anything else.
- “That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is In French,” in Everything is Eventual, 2001, is kind of a bookend to “Lunch at the Gotham Cafe.” It’s sort of like Groundhog Day—a woman experiences the same things over and over again but while she does, she thinks about her marriage.
- “Luckey Quarter,” in Everything is Eventual, 2001, is about a hotel maid who gets tipped a quarter. By the 90s, King was writing more and more stories with single women as protagonists, and a lot of them really dealt with labor and ideas about what constitutes “domesticity.”
- “The Gingerbread Girl,” in Just After Sunset, 2007. The main character in this story is a woman who is recovering from the death of a child and takes up running as a way to cope. (Then there are things which she has to outrun.)
- “Rest Stop,” in in Just After Sunset, 2007, is about a man who intervenes in an incident of domestic abuse.
- Danse Macabre, 1981, which is King’s book about the craft of horror and also contains some reflections on women in his books.
I haven’t read Different Seasons (which includes “The Body” and “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption”), The Stand or any of the Dark Tower series, which I know are glaring omissions here. Unfortunately I can’t speak to their gendered aspects.
There are lots of other notable moments that I’ve left off—I think, specifically, of the couple that married right out of high school in ‘Salem’s Lot—but I didn’t think they all warranted their own mention. I’ve also not included every example of a male-writer-subject-with-woman-who-bothers-him-or-inspires-him-and-probably-dies, although there are many. I also didn’t add every example of horrible marriages as depicted by King, although there are many. A lot of books I omitted not because they aren’t gendered, but because they feature almost no women. A lot of his earlier works especially feature a lot of missing women, voiceless women, and fridged women.
This is the kind of focused work we should all be supporting.
Leaving Tomorrow Behind, photo by Frank Habicht, London, 1967.
I’m on my way to finally see the American Woman exhibit at the Met. So excited.