On April 4 Stephen King—-along with his wife, Tabitha, and his son Owen—-came to D.C. for a pair of PEN/Faulkner functions. The big-deal public event was an evening reading at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation; the non-public event happened earlier that day, at a reading with students from Cardozo High School, IDEA Public Charter School, and McKinley Technology High School. According to a WUSA-TV story (via About Contemporary Literature) King told the students this:

“If you can read you can walk into a job later on. If you don’t, then you’ve got the Army, Iraq—-I don’t know.”

The U.S. Army has decided that this statement breaks down to, “The Army is full of illiterates,” which isn’t what he said. I’ve figured that King has been off his game ever since he wrote that crap-ass book where wormy space monsters come up through a toilet to kill a dude sitting on it, but this is pretty much about as un-controversial as statements get.

Update: Just noticed that King has a response to all this on his Web site. Noel Sheppard got a-hollerin’ about King’s comments earlier this week at NewsBusters.

That a right-wing-blog would impugn my patriotism because I said children should learn to read, and could get better jobs by doing so, is beneath contempt. Noel Sheppard says, “Nice sentiment when the nation is at war, Stephen.” I guess he feels ignorance and illiteracy are OK when the country needs cannon-fodder. I guess he also feels that the war in Iraq has nationwide approval. Well, it doesn’t have mine. It is a waste of national resources. . . and that includes the youth and blood of the 4,000 American troops who have lost their lives there and for the tens of thousands who have been wounded. I live in a national guard town, and I support our troops, but I don’t support either the war or educational policies that limit the options of young men and women to any one career—military or otherwise. If you agree, find Sheppard on the internet, and send him an email:

“Hi, Noel—Stephen King says to shut up and I agree.”

Steve