Stephen King receives honorary National Book Award

Monday, September 15th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Stephen King, brand-name writer, master of the horror story and e-book pioneer, has received an unexpected literary honor: a National Book Award for lifetime achievement.

The prize, worth $10,000, was announced Monday by the National Book Foundation, a nonprofit organization that sponsors the awards.

"This is probably the most exciting thing to happen to me in my career as a writer since the sale of my first book in 1973," King said in a statement issued Monday by the foundation.

"I'll return the cash award to the National Book Foundation for the support of their many educational and literary outreach programs for children and youth across the country; the Medal I will keep and treasure for the rest of my life."

King, who turns 56 next Sunday, will receive the award at the annual National Book Awards ceremony, on Nov. 19.

Established in 1988, the medal is presented to "an American author who has enriched the literary landscape through a lifetime of service or body of work." While the award has been given to such literary figures as Philip Roth, Arthur Miller and Eudora Welty, recent honorees also have included a "genre" writer (science fiction great Ray Bradbury) and talk-show host Oprah Winfrey.

"We just have to broaden our ideas about what literature is," book foundation president Neil Baldwin told The Associated Press. "Let's try to be capacious, Whitmanesque and open-armed about it, instead of thinking about what does or doesn't fit."

King's many best sellers include "Carrie," "The Shining" and "Misery." He was an early advocate of e-books, and caused a sensation in 2000 when his 66-page e-story, "Riding the Bullet," received more than 400,000 orders in the first 24 hours after it was made available online.

He also shares one quality with many literary writers: a dislike of corporate-controlled publishing. In the current issue of Entertainment Weekly, for which he is a featured columnist, King celebrates a novel available only in audio form, Ron McLarty's "The Memory of Running," and attacks publishers for not signing it up.

"Publishing houses, once proudly independent, are today little more than corporate wampum heads, their cultural clout all but gone," writes King, who is published by Simon & Schuster, a division of Viacom Inc.

McLarty has since received several offers and should have an agreement soon, said his agent, Jeff Kleinman.