The author is on record as being a dog lover and perhaps for some readers the real horror is the unthinkable: man's "best friend" turning to bite the hand that feeds. For those of the cat persuasion there's a different payoff - schadenfreude.
This book has been banned from a number of school libraries across the U.S. apparently due to profanity and strong sexual content although I suspect the pro-dog lobby may have had a hand in it too:
'In April 1998, Stephen King's novel Cujo was thrown in the trash can by the principal of Crook County High School in Prineville, Oregon, after a parent requested that the book be removed. Principal Chris Yeager said, "It's not what most parents would want their child to read." In a written complaint to the school district, Sue Baca cited profanity, violence, and sexual content in Cujo as justification for its removal. She also asked that all of King's books, as well as any other horror novels, be removed from the county's middle and high schools. "I object to any book by Stephen King as he writes horror fiction, which has no value," said Baca.' - Banned in the USA: A Reference Guide to Book Censorship in Schools and Libraries, Herbert N. Foerstal.
It's easy to criticise Baca's attitude but does horror fiction have value? Some ideas:
- Firstly, entertainment and escapist value is perfectly legitimate. I am not alone in getting a great deal of enjoyment from Stephen King's novels.
- Secondly, think about artistic value which I often think of in terms of emotional response. Well written horror does exactly that - in addition, horror that originates in the everyday has the power to stop you taking the world around you for granted and instead see it from a different angle.
- Thirdly, consider artisan value. Stephen King is sometimes portrayed as a writer of trashy fiction - usually by those who haven't taken the time to do any more than skim-read his novels. Being generous I think the confusion stems from his highly accessible writing style - short paragraphs, straight-into-the-action. However this "hides" a skillful writer who controls the reader's emotions as both composer and conductor of a symphony. The writing is also full of literary and cultural allusion and there is often a philosophical undertone: writing as Richard Bachman King went futher and wrote The Long Walk and several other novels with strong allegorical themes.
- Fourthly, the way to fight real fears and phobias is confrontation. Books that help us learn to face fears and master them contribute to personal development. This sense of mastery might be the reason why children grow up loving fairy stories, which until recent decades were traditionally the most horrific of all fiction.
- Finally, let's consider economic value. King sells! So by definition his work is valued by some - this also means he is contributing to the income not only of himself, but of printers, cover artists, bookshop assistants, and so on - plus Cujo was made into a film too.