Academia vs. Imagination: The Problem of Intellectualism in the Works of Stephen King

Stephen King is known for consistent themes throughout his work. The biggest would be his vilifying of religious fundamentalism, from Carrie White's mother in his first published novel to Mrs. Carmody in The Mist to Reverend Coggins in Under the Dome. Then there are the vindictive bullies, sadistic in their hounding of the protagonists, from Ace in The Body to Henry Bowers in It. There is, of course, his fascination with writer characters, a way perhaps to transplant himself into his work, done literally when he appears in his The Dark Tower series. But while these are all well-documented, less discussed is a throughline of anti-intellectualism across much of King's work.

As stated in an impressive Rolling Stone article from last year, King has "never had much patience for academic bullshit." This is in response to a question about the 2012 documentary Room 237 that provided a forum for different theories and interpretations of Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of King's novel The Shining. King's well-known antipathy toward the movie's fidelity could be one explanation for the negativity, but the truth is this attitude permeates much of his oeuvre, personified by Brent Norton in The Mist (1980), Calvin Tower in The Dark Tower series (those entries released from 1991-2004) and Thurston Marshall in Under the Dome (2009). What King does value, however, is imagination and utilitarian application of knowledge.

Ideas without applicability are just masturbation, and knowledge without imagination can never be wisdom.

In The Mist, Brent Norton is a big city lawyer that had previously filed a lawsuit against neighbor and audience surrogate David Drayton. After a freak storm the night before, Brent and David temporarily call a truce and go to the supermarket for supplies. When a strange cloud descends upon the town they are trapped in the supermarket, and not long after David witnesses something monstrous pull a bagboy out into the desolation. When David attempts to show Brent, the latter man believes he is the object of a prank in retaliation for the lawsuit and refuses. Almost immediately cracks show, with one of the locals calling Brent a "cheap New York shyster," emphasizing the class rift. Not long after he leads a party outside, in denial that there is anything supernatural taking place. He and his followers are never seen again, their downfall correlating with a reliance on rationality without the benefit of imagination.

Calvin Tower, by contrast, is the lease holder of The Manhattan Restaurant of the Mind bookstore, first appearing in The Waste Lands (1991). He also owns the lot containing the Rose, the avatar of the Dark Tower. Over several books Calvin, who is first identified as "a fat guy in an open-throated white shirt", encounters both Jake Chambers and Eddie Dean, gunslingers and members of Roland Deschain's Ka-Tet. They are both disdainful of the man who Eddie believes, in Wolves of the Calla (2003), has "a kind of willful stupidity about him…self-created and maybe propped up by his analyst." His extreme reluctance, selfishness and obsessive addiction to collecting rare books makes him both an asset and a hindrance. Of course the first thing Eddie does to convince Calvin he is in danger is tell him gangsters will mutilate his testicles, "the old sperm-firm" as Eddie eloquently puts it, implying the importance of masculinity, or Calvin's lack thereof. Calvin does eventually sell the lot and becomes a member of the Tet Corporation's board, but mostly due to the influence of his one friend, Aaron Deepneau. This character embodies a reliance on material possessions and abstract associations made with them.

Finally Thurston Marshall in Under the Dome, a recent character that is played more humorously and achieves a bit of redemption. A "full professor of English (and guest editor for the current issue of Ploughshares)," something he loves to inform people of, he is first introduced as a "Masshole" tourist who has rented a cabin in the small town of Chester's Mill for a weekend of wanton sex with one of his graduate assistants. Sporting a ponytail and a rotund gut, when the dome drops he finds himself trapped and subsequently abused by resentful townie police. Obstinate and outraged, he is at first a figure of impotent, pacifist ideals. Eventually, however, he reveals positive qualities when he takes in his charge two stranded children and later volunteers at the hospital, having learned medical skills while working as an orderly at a veterans' hospital during the Vietnam War. Consequently, he gets the most sympathy from King when stacked up against main character Dale Barbara, a former Army lieutenant that is reluctantly promoted to colonel during the crisis in Chester's Mill. This brings full circle King's philosophy of action trumping ideas.

Contrast Brent against David, the son of a famous artist and an artist himself. Itself cerebral, painting doesn't jive well with King's usual blue collar fetishism, but it lends David the imagination to accept the outlandish when the creatures arrive. Brent is a rational, well-spoken man that bases his life on facts, but they're facts within the known world. David, consequently, dubs Brent and his followers "flat-earthers", exemplifying how they view themselves as superior due to their intellect, but are limited by the realm of available information. Even when he accepts that David actually intends to show him a physical object he dismisses it, claiming it would only be a prank. For all his education and logical assertion of control over the world, he walks freely to his death due to his inability to think outside the box.

Against the gunslingers, Calvin Tower's fragile civilized world collapses. Books are a source of comfort for him, and show his cathexis with the past that extends to his unprofitable book shop and the lot the Rose resides in. These possessions have no pragmatic function and hold him back from real living, such as a social life or some works that give back to society. Gunslingers rely on things as well, such as their ancient pistols and certainly the Tower, but their ideals and objects are put to good use as lawmen and the Tower is the last vestige of hope for saving the multiverse. Lofty philosophy and veneration of objects are only acceptable if they can be put into action for the benefit of others. They are a means to an end, not the end itself.

Thurston is similarly insufferable and possibly morally questionable at first, due to his fling with the much younger Carolyn Sturges, but by two-thirds of the way through Under the Dome has been changed by his experiences. This could very well be as a result of the author's accident in 1999 altering his world view. Taking old knowledge and applying it to helping people at the hospital proves to be so emotionally fulfilling as to make Thurston "happier than he had been in years," with others commenting, "The guy's wasted in some college English department – he should be doing this." This continues King's view of the satisfaction and obligation of those that can give back using their skills to do so. Dale Barbara, Barbie to his friends, by comparison starts the novel as one of King's working class heroes and never succumbs to manufactured ideas of ego, like military rank or savoir vivre. Instead he uses his in-born skill of understanding human nature, something that benefited him while deployed in the Middle East, in service of the town such as when he helps quell a supermarket riot.

So where does this mindset come from? After all King has lived a stereotypical life of an intelligentsia. Before the publication of Carrie he was a high school English teacher, and even after cementing himself as a professional novelist he taught a college class on horror that resulted in the non-fiction Danse Macabre. His age, however, and oft-cited oppression as a long-haired youngster in the 1960s do point in the direction of a problem with authority and any power base. Considering his time in that world it makes sense that he would have butted heads with the gatekeepers of academia, and has continued to do so. For instance, in 2003 King won the National Book Foundation's annual award for "distinguished contribution", something Harold Bloom, the acclaimed American literary critic, described in an op-ed for The Boston Globe as, "another low in the shocking process of dumbing down our cultural life."

So if King prides himself on populist writing that appreciates the small town everyman, it makes sense that even his writer characters are as devoid of pretension as he claims to be. Many of them, from Gordon Lachance in The Body to Bill Denbrough in It, write the same kind of horror and pulp fiction that is King's wheelhouse. One that stands out as drunk on his own grandiosity includes Jack Torrance in The Shining, who struggles with a play after a once-promising career has fizzled, and in the end pays for his arrogance with his life. In this case, his imagination leaves him open to the Overlook Hotel's manipulations, but it's his pride and entitlement that brings about his destruction. A man must be humble, says King, and put others before himself. If all of these writers are variations on the same type, then King must be their template. He justifies their possibly pretentious livelihoods the same way he would his own, portraying them as folksy storytellers in touch with the common man. Even so, King is self-depreciating of himself and his profession, and this is never more evident than in the latter two Dark Tower books.

He first shows up in the sixth book, Song of Susannah (2004), although he is hinted at earlier on with Eddie Dean remembering the movie The Shining as early as The Drawing of the Three, as a successful author in 1977. "[P]udgy in the middle" and "rather stooped", he has been putting off continuing The Gunslinger out of a fear he doesn't understand. Eddie Dean and Roland are nonplussed by him, although Eddie worries after seeing a fridge full of beer that, "Writers liked to drink." Under hypnosis King admits he is no writer but a channel for Gan, the creator of the universe and spirit of the Dark Tower, or maybe even is Gan. The younger man states, "I know that there are writers who do write, but I'm not one of them." Roland tells King to listen for the song of the Turtle, one of the guardians of the beams that hold up the Dark Tower, as King can only write when he is inspired.

By the final book, The Dark Tower (2004), however, the older King has changed his opinion on himself and writers in general. Once again Roland encounters King, this time on June 19, 1999, saving King on the day he was, in reality, struck by a van, nearly fatally. The "lazy, fearful man" with a "coward's eye" admits that it was only pride that made him believe he was Gan. In fact, he continues, "No writer is Gan – no painter, no sculptor, no maker of music," but that all artists are kas-ka Gan, the prophets or singers of Gan. Thus he is bestowed with a higher purpose, separating his ilk from any accusations of bourgeoisie navel-gazing.

So in the end, King has a very clear ideology about the power of knowledge and its uses. Ideas without applicability are just masturbation, and knowledge without imagination can never be wisdom. What's learned must be used to help others and better the whole, even if it results in the sacrifice of the one. From Brent Norton to Calvin Tower to Thurston Marshall to himself, there's a throughline of redemption, possibly spurred by his near-death experience, showing that although King has no time for academics, he believes they can be of use if they get their hands dirty.

Bart Bishop

Column by Bart Bishop

A professor once told Bart Bishop that all literature is about "sex, death and religion," tainting his mind forever. A Master's in English later, he teaches college writing and tells his students the same thing, constantly, much to their chagrin. He’s also edited two published novels and loves overthinking movies, books, the theater and fiction in all forms at such varied spots as CHUD, Bleeding Cool, CityBeat and Cincinnati Magazine. He lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with his wife and daughter.

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jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like July 17, 2015 - 3:23pm

What a notion: Ideas are masturbation unless applied — in which case they're, what, actual intercourse? As though any intercourse under any conditions would be better for humanity? What, applying an idea is always better than not applying it? I should doubt it.

It's a pretty common case of overreach for someone to dismiss an idea as impractical when only they don't know or can't think of an application. Of course, it might be others have knowledge they lack regarding an idea's applicability.

Perhaps critics have been too hard on King in his career, or perhaps he mouthed off about how he could sell more books than all the academic jerkoffs put together. I don't know how it started. In any case, wouldn't anti-intellectualism itself be impractical & pointless unless you can show what harm intellectuals are causing, or you have something better to suggest, or something other than a picky bone? Or is it just wanton, indiscriminate intercourse, undertaken solely to be better than a jerkoff?

cshultz81's picture
cshultz81 from Oklahoma is reading Best Horror of the Year Volume 8 July 17, 2015 - 5:30pm

King certainly eschews the "bullshit" when it comes to analysis and interpretation, a viewpoint he makes clear in Danse Macabre and On Writing. But I feel it's less an aversion toward academia in general as it is toward snobbery, which Harold Bloom and other critics are wont to display. 

Tom1960's picture
Tom1960 from Athens, Georgia is reading Blindness by Jose Saramago July 20, 2015 - 7:51am

One of the beautiful things about  King's work is that he doesn't present it as something it's not. His stories are just that, stories. Very good stories.

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like July 20, 2015 - 12:10pm

@Tom1960 --- What writers present their work as something it isn't?

And don't staunch "storytelling" advocates (perhaps/perhaps not King in particular) often trump up the value of the "story" as being one the very foundations of human thought & experience, as though bits of entertaining narrative commercial fiction are of the same ilk as foundational myths & scientific summary?

redbeardedogre's picture
redbeardedogre July 20, 2015 - 9:32pm

I just wanted to point out academia and intellectualism are not mutually exclusive terms, or maybe I'm an ignorant hick. It seems a lot of writers defame the white tower perspective of the U.S. educational system whether primary, high school or graduate school. 

Mike Adam's picture
Mike Adam from Toronto, Canada is reading Wytches Vol. 1 July 21, 2015 - 5:56am

@jyh--- I think the very point that Tom was trying to make was that King doesn't present his stories as being "a foundation of human thought and experience". He presents them as scary stories to entertain. You seem a little standoff-ish about the subject for no real good reason? There are plenty of writers and artists in any medium who are constantly looking to imbue some kind of special significance and meaning to their work beyond it's literal value as a story or a piece of music or a painting etc., and I think that it can be refreshing to see a writer who doesn't trouble themselves with that.

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like July 21, 2015 - 7:59am

@Mike Adam --- Do I seem "standoffish"? I'm replying to an absurd position, that "Academia" is somehow in opposition to "Imagination". You're welcome to feel however you feel, but your belief that "plenty" of other writers are going around making a big deal of themselves has nothing to do with me. And did you not notice when I specifically said "perhaps/perhaps not King in particular"? I was talking generally, just like you are when you talk about "plenty" of other artists who are "constantly looking to imbue some kind of special significance and meaning to their work..."

Just for fun, here's some stuff King said. (via Goodreads)

Stephen King: Writing is seduction.

Stephen King: Books are a uniquely portable magic.

Stephen King: There are book full of great writing that don't have very good stories. Read sometimes for the story... don't be like the book-snobs who won't do that. Read sometimes for the words--the language. Don't be like the play-it-safers who won't do that. But when you find a book that has both a good story and good words, treasure that book.

Bart Bishop's picture
Bart Bishop from Cincinnati, OH July 21, 2015 - 8:46am

Admittedly I conflated "academic" and "intellectualism" because of the King quote from Rolling Stone. I'm a college instructor so I'm definitely not anti-academia, I was just seeing ties between King's views on academia and, as someone said above, snobbishness, which usually manifests in the form of Big City elitism.

Sorry if my ideas got a bit jumbled!

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like July 21, 2015 - 9:51am

@Bart Bishop --- Good of you to chime in. (Often article-writers simply won't.) I wasn't clear whether you were conflating the two, or King was (or had), or both. If someone really has no interest in something, I think it can become more likely they'll misrepresent it.

I read through the RS interview, and it seems clear King is not an idiot; he may be right to have (or have had) at least a small chip on shoulder; and he sticks up for his fans, which isn't necessarily motivated by self-interest alone. 

In general, I believe there is a strain of anti-intellectualism & reactionism in some of the "poptimist" attitudes. Is it worse than the snobbery of the mid-to-late 20th century? I can't say for sure.

Can the pendulum ever come to rest?

Bart Bishop's picture
Bart Bishop from Cincinnati, OH July 21, 2015 - 11:12am

No problem. I wanted to let it sit for a few days to see how people react, but I should also clarify my intentions with the article.

With a 2,000 word limit I probably got a bit too ambitious and ended up stifling a few of my ideas. Basically the gist is King has a type of character, the intellectual snob. The snob usually lives in the city, is well-off and has a lot of high-minded ideas that amount to little in the face of adversity.

Sometimes this character is in academia (such as Thurston Marshall), but there are academic characters, such as English teacher Jake Epping in 11/22/63, that are portrated positively. Even in his case, however, he's burned out on teaching writing and only feels reinvigorated when he directs a student play.

Other times the character is not in academia, such as Brent Norton and Calvin Tower, but they share characteristics with King's academic characters: physically unfit, stubbornly obstinate, and reliant on concrete facts rather than faith or intuition. King usually shows religion as a negative, but his characters often prosper when trusting their gut (characters with the "touch" such as Jake Chambers, Danny and his "shining").

The catalyst for this was the Blaine the Monorail sequence in The Waste Lands and Wizard and Glass, which I didn't even include in the article! Basically Roland is full of memorized riddles, even riddles from Jake's book, but can't best Blaine. Only Eddie, who goes abstract with low-brow jokes, is able to fry the machine's circuits. This becomes a recurring memory for both Roland and Eddie, how Roland's lack of imagination almost got them killed and Eddie's ability to improvise saved the day.

Since the commentators on Room 237 aren't academics, some are just vocal eccentrics, but King lumped them all together as "academic bullshit", I decided to use his term to encompass snobs, big city elites and artists. It's maybe a bit much, but they definitely all fall into a type for King.

Lloyd Woodall's picture
Lloyd Woodall July 21, 2015 - 12:43pm

Spoiler alert - Jack Torrance finds redemption to his acts in to "The Shining" at the end of the sequel, "Doctor Sleep." I highly recommend it.  

Allie Angelo's picture
Allie Angelo July 21, 2015 - 1:56pm

I think that, as was said in these comments before, it’s silly to separate “academia” and “imagination” that way. Also, as someone who has read most of all Stephen King’s works, I feel that the author of this article saw the quote he mentioned in the beginning of the article and decided to run with that rather than deciding to write an article based on information and actual impressions of King’s work. He took that quote and then went searching for examples to fit the theory he had arrived at based solely on one quote. I also say this because his descriptions of the characters, their motives, etc. he included in this are, in many cases, pretty far from who those characters are as a whole. He’s also seemingly intentionally only pointing out certain themes found in Stephen King novels; the ones that help to support the ideas presented in the article. I think this article either wasn’t researched very well or the author simply doesn’t actually care about the topic.

Bart Bishop's picture
Bart Bishop from Cincinnati, OH July 22, 2015 - 6:46am

I'll admit my thoughts may have gotten jumbled a bit, so I tried to clarify in a post above. I'm an academic (hence me writing 2,000 words on Stephen King), so I don't have any problem with academia. I used the word as a catch-all because King seemed to use it in the Rolling Stone article to encompass any sort of (in his opinion) critical analysis.

The title is maybe a bit click-bait-y, but my ultimate thesis is that King doesn't argue against knowledge or education, because his characters are often very knowledgable (see Roland's vast knowledge of riddles), but knowledge is of no use to his characters in the abstract. He seems to be very pragmatic, so knowledge has to be combined with imagination and applied in real life.

Knowledge without application is, according to King (not necessarily me!) useless. The same applies to imagination, as Jack Torrance's imagination opens him up to ghosts and ultimately brings about his doom because of his navel-gazing. Combine the two and use them for good, and you get King's philosophy.

Keep them separate and you get either King's intellectuals sitting around discussing their deep thoughts, what Father Callahan muses about in Wolves of the Calla as "cultural ennui", without actually improving the world, or you get imagination run wild and pointed inward. They're not necessarily separate.

As for research, well I did quote five novels, one interview and one op-ed...

Rick Middleton's picture
Rick Middleton July 29, 2015 - 6:41am

King is capable of some superb storytelling, but at the same time he lapses into the kind of stock character pigeonholing that you might see in a Lifetime movie. Southern small-town sheriff has a good chance of being a corrupt racist, the preacher is probably a scummy hypocrite, and we can bank on it that the black people either have magical powers or the purest hearts this side of Ghandi. The antagonists have few redeeming qualities and the protagonists have few character flaws.

For King, the supporting characters who are academics give him a rare opportunity to throw a wrinkle into the mix; while you would expect the liberal-minded King to present academics in a positive light, he can play with your expectations and sometimes make the scholar cowardly or conniving or craven. It's a way for him to say, "see, I'm not totally predictable in my characterization." And I do think it speaks to his ambivalence about the academy, which he sees both as a bastion of civilized knowledge but also as a hideout for pointy-heads to take potshots at his books.

Tiffany Johnson's picture
Tiffany Johnson July 29, 2015 - 8:18am

@Bart Bishop

It's pretty common knowledge that King grew up in a poverty-stricken, working class household. According to On Writing, his family lived with relatives are points in their life as well, so I don't know if calling King a typical intelligentsia is correct. He's basically a poor kid who made it to college. As a working class kid who is a 1st gen college grad, this attitude that views academics negatively is actually really, really common among my family and friends. It's the whole 'dirty hands, clean heart' attitude. But it's not just working class people. I know plenty of my fellow grad students that get view professors very negatively-- particularly ones that have taught for 30 years and haven't actually worked in the field. Often (thought not all the time), they can't give us even basic information about how the classroom work applies to our careers and industries.

A fair portion of working class folks believe that working with your hands is somehow more honest than office work - an attitude that I don't agree with, but it's something that prevalent in the working class, low-income town I grew up in.

However, I am disagreeing with your basic premise.

In the Dark Tower series, King portrays the tutor Vanny very, very postively and generally makes a big deal about those who can 'think around corners' as he terms it. His character Roland shows a lot of admiration for those intellectual characters and even Cort is portrayed as both a typical masculine character, who is also intelligent. You cherry-picked one character from the book that isn't actually an academic. The character Jake is aid to "have the touch" and his intelligence is very much admired by Roland and the other characters.

I think that King's characters are less an issue with academics and intelligence and more a issue with snobbery and classism. King, himself, has dealt with it plenty. Critics have continually dismissed his books as popular and unworthy of critical attention. Sure, some of his books are more entertainment than anything, but he has written so many books that I think are worthy of critical attention and focus. The Dark Tower Series is actually a perfect example, in my opinion.

However, I am a little disappointed that you didn't even take the time to look into King's background before categorizing him as a typical intellectual. He didn't grow up with two college educated parents working in an office. He grew up in some serious poverty as a kid with a single mom, and was a 1st gen college student. And he worked plenty of working class jobs before he became a teacher, which he only did 1 year. He worked at an industrial laundry, at a factory. All things he talks about in On Writing.

Bart Bishop's picture
Bart Bishop from Cincinnati, OH July 29, 2015 - 10:30am

@Tiffany Johnson

I respect your position, but I have to disagree with your disagreement.

I think Cort and Vanny are perfect examples of King's knowledgable individuals that are wise because their teachings have practical application. Notice how Roland always flashes back to them when he needs them, like a tool.

I think the academics King has no time for, the ones I was discussing in my article, are summed up well by Ms. Avery, Jake's english teacher. When Jake submits his essay "My Understanding of the Truth" in The Wate Lands, it's the incoherent ramblings of a boy losing his mind, and yet Ms. Avery gives him an A+, commenting how it's an "outstanding job of merging stream-of-consciousness with symbolic language." Jake laughs hysterically at this, and I can't help but think that's King laughing.

I love Stephen King. I've read many of his books, and I'm familiar with his blue collar upbringing. That doesn't eclipse the fact that once he became a teacher and writer he entered into the intellectual world, more than 40 years ago. Those are the gatekeepers I talk about in the article. It's clear he didn't like what he saw, and made a choice to write to, and appeal to, a specific audience from that point on.

There's nothing wrong with that. In fact, click bait-y title aside, my article isn't criticizing King. It's just showing how a certain philosophy can be seen across his work, although it's evolved slightly.

Regardless of if there are positive academic figures at times in his works, I think the negative outweighs the positive when it comes to high-minded thinkers.

I'm reminded of Malcolm X's "Prison Studies" excerpt from his autobiography. Although he didn't have a traditional education past the eighth grade, he self-taught himself in prison from reading everything he could, even the dictionary from cover to cover. He discourages college vehemently but not pragmatic education. I think King would agree, maybe not about college but with the ideology.

Tiffany Johnson's picture
Tiffany Johnson July 30, 2015 - 5:29am

@Bart Bishop

Again, I don't see Jake's English Teacher has a stand-in for intellectuals or academics, but for intellectual snobbery.

Cort very much embodies the ideal of an individual your describe, but I don't think Vanny fits that example at all. Vanny very much was described as an intellectual tutor. If I recall correctly, I believe it was Jake in The Gunslinger who questioned the teaching of riddles as having no practical application, but Roland corrected him with the 'think around corners' comment. Riddles are every really shown to have much practical value (they don't even help Roland much in the battle with the train), but they are a constant theme throughout the series. Vanny also was described very much as a pacsficst and a personality in direct opposition to Cort's personality. Cort's teachings were very much practical while Vanny's were much more intellectual and abstract.

Again, you seem to conflating  the intellectual snobbery of some of these characters that King has portrayed negatively with intellectualism and academics in general -- I think King's writing is more nuanced than that. It's not that Jake's teacher is an intellectual -- it's that Jake's teacher (and entire school really) is such an intellectual snob that she chooses to see meaning in nonsense without really analyzing it.

And King may have entered the world of intellectualism, but as a 1st gen college grad living in a conservative/working class area, this isn't the ivory tower over here. It's a very different world to grow up in a blue collar family and make it ot a college then to grow up in a family that just assumes you're going to college because your parents did. King entered college, yes, but again only worked 1 year as a teacher (in a fairly low-income district, if I recall correctly) and most of his other jobs for blue collar jobs. I think it's disingenous to describe someone who grew up in povery and worked in blue collar jobs primarily until he became a famous writer as a pure intellectual. King isn't a Harold Bloom, who teachest at Yale and publishes books on literary critcism.

Bart Bishop's picture
Bart Bishop from Cincinnati, OH July 30, 2015 - 2:25pm

@ Tiffany Johnson

I respect your passion but I believe we've reached an impasse.

My choice to reduce a collection of King characters under the all-inclusive banner of academic was never meant to imply that real-life academics lack imagination. Even some King characters that are academics are positive examples of imagination! 

But I think it boils down to book smart vs. street smart, and King prizes the latter over the former. I think I've explained myself in the comments. I don't know what more I can say!

But thanks for giving me a run for my money.