I Have the Heart of a Small Boy

Stephen King? Robert Bloch? Bennett Cerf? Gahan Wilson?

Dear Quote Investigator: A famous horror writer employed a comically gruesome paraprosdokian when discussing temperament. There are many phrasings for this quip. Here is one:

I have the heart of a child. I keep it in a jar on my desk.

This joke has been attributed to horror luminaries Stephen King and Robert Bloch. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Stephen King has employed this line on multiple occasions. However, when he delivered it during a speech at a library in 1983 he credited Robert Bloch.

The earliest match known to QI appeared in “Weird Tales” magazine in 1942. Bloch sent a letter stating that he was crafting new stories that included more humor to accompany the macabre. He illustrated this new direction by providing an amusing self-description. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

As a matter of fact, I am really a very loveable person, as my friends tell me—or they would, if I had any friends. Deep down underneath it all I have the heart of a small boy. I keep it in a jar, on my desk.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Have the Heart of a Small Boy

Notes:

  1. 1942 November, Weird Tales, Volume 36, Number 8, Section: The Eyrie and Weird Tales Club, (Letter from Robert Bloch), Quote Page 120, Column 2, Weird Tales, New York. (Verified with scans)

Talent Is a Dreadfully Cheap Commodity, Cheaper Than Table Salt

Stephen King? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Years ago the famous horror writer Stephen King was discussing how to become a successful artist, and he employed vivid figurative language that I can still recall. He indicated that talent was as common and cheap as table salt. His bracing insight was that success required great effort combined with talent. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1981 Stephen King published his analysis of the horror genre emphasizing the years from 1950 to 1980 in the book “Stephen King’s Danse Macabre”. Within the chapter “An Annoying Autobiographical Pause” he discussed the inability of talent by itself to guarantee triumph. Boldface added to excepts by QI: 1

I think that writers are made, not born or created out of dreams or childhood trauma—that becoming a writer (or a painter, actor, director, dancer, and so on) is a direct result of conscious will. Of course there has to be some talent involved, but talent is a dreadfully cheap commodity, cheaper than table salt.

King underscored the need for sustained thought and effort:

What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work and study; a constant process of honing. Talent is a dull knife . . .

Discipline and constant work are the whetstones upon which the dull knife of talent is honed until it becomes sharp enough, hopefully, to cut through even the toughest meat and gristle.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Talent Is a Dreadfully Cheap Commodity, Cheaper Than Table Salt

Notes:

  1. 1981, Stephen King’s Danse Macabre by Stephen King, Chapter 4: An Annoying Autobiographical Pause, Quote Page 92, Everest House, New York. (Verified with scans)