Stephen King turns a page

In the publishing world, few tales are more common than the literary novelist who lusts after blockbuster sales even as the blockbuster novelist longs for literary credentials. Which brings us to Stephen King, the horror master who once proclaimed himself the "literary equivalent of a Big Mac and fries." Not anymore. After a brush with death in 1999 and a controversial 2003 National Book Foundation lifetime achievement award, he now finds the dual-track life of routine critical trashings and mammoth sales dispiriting. "Lisey's Story" is billed as a different kind of King novel and, in some ways, it is. Lisey Landon is the widow of a famed Maine writer (nudge-nudge) who, unlike his creator, owns a Pulitzer as well as bestseller royalties. Lisey brims with Mr. King's everyman (everywoman?) musings, not to mention a language pool filled with enough colloquialisms to choke a whale. The novel soars in its depiction of the marital landscape: the day-to-day rhythms, the slights, the unspoken joys and, most of all, the elusive glue binding ever-erratic human hearts. King being King, though, he hasn't gone all Dr. Phil on us. Rest assured, "Lisey's Story" is a macabre valentine. Yes, King long ago became more than a literary happy meal, but sharing a publishing house with Hemingway doesn't mean it's time to break out the "Cujo" CliffsNotes just yet. Grade: B+

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