HEEEEEEERE’S…my latest blog post on my latest read by Stephen King, The Shining (I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist at least one little film reference). Speaking of the film, it has been ages since I last watched it through my fingers but that was lucky as I didn’t want it to distort my reading experience of the book and it turned out I didn’t have to worry at all about that because the book and film are extremely different takes on the general plot and location. There are no rivers of blood gushing through a hotel. No evil girl twins. No axe. No maze. No token black character that is the first to die. I could go on but you get the gist.
What I can actually remember about the film is really just the overdone meme parts (damn you, social media, damn you to hell). Now that I have seen both the film and the read the book, I’m just going to cease with the comparisons and just say what I thought about the book. At this point, surely I must be getting a little sick of King and, sure enough, the closely plotted structure of the book is starting to get a familiar tone and feel (good magic located in the enduring innocence of a child, check, bad magic in a place/demon/monster, check, good magic defeats bad magic, check), however, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good read or discounts the rising, eerie tension in any way. I’d say this is the closest a Stephen King has really come to scaring me. I certainly can never look at hedge animals the same way again.
I won’t summarize the plot because even by doing so in my own words, I’m pretty certain I’d be plagiarizing someone somewhere because everyone knows the plot of The Shining. Everyone. Other than the feeling of a tedious plot that I think is slowly dawning on with King-fatigue, I don’t have any complaints. I really enjoyed this book, obvious plot and all. The Overlook really needs to take a bow as a stand-out character that has risen up the list of things that scare me: it stalks the characters with creeping horror shows: masked party-goers, a lively, creaking elevator, a swollen body in a bath in room 217, a bursting boiler, carefully placed roque mallets, deadly hedge animals, and so on…a haunted place that seems to snatch at, ensnare and envelop the Torrance family, successfully taking over the weakest link: Jack Torrance.
Jack’s turn for the worse from the protagonist of the novel into the antagonist is the highlight of the novel taking place in the womb of the devilish hotel. As all my knowledge came from the film, it was a pleasant surprise how much I sympathized with Jack and his inevitable plight. And of course, that is deliberate on King’s part. Jack is a failed writer and struggling alcoholic with a hot temper who consistently makes damaging, destructive mistakes, from accidentally breaking his son’s arm to losing his job after punching out a student who slashed his tires. It is his love for his family, efforts to stay on the wagon, and hope to continue to do better that makes him an endearing figure. His character checks in (pun intended) to symbolize addiction, cycle of abuse and the fear of the past returning. So, we the reader just can’t help but want him to do better. His love for his family, especially his son, is the heart of the book and its his internalized fear of being the one to harm his own family that is the realized terror that haunts The Shining: the novel would have had a lesser impact without Jack written as a flawed, but sympathetic, character.
Wendy was a great change in comparison to the film as well. Not just a screaming, subservient wreck, she stands on her own as more than a suffering wife who actively chooses to keep her family together and, when crisis hits, does all she can to keep her son safe. Speaking of her son, Danny Torrance and his ‘shining’ ability, it seemed, much like the film, an afterthought, just a little magical mumbo-jumbo something-something there to defeat the hotel with along with Dick Halloran, otherwise known as the novel’s deux ex machina, otherwise known as a character from IT (ooh, cross-over, King-universe reference, how I love those!). But I don’t mind that. To me, the success of the book rests on the malevolence of the Overlook, its powerful, living presence that looms over and above Jack’s personal, hellish, and internal struggle, one that he ultimately is too weak to win.
Final thoughts on The Shining: it looks like I really couldn’t cease the comparisons at all! I am really glad I have read the book and am probably swaying more to preferring the book over the film for mainly the reasons of Jack and Wendy being so much more compelling and flawed characters but that doesn’t take away from how brilliant the film is as a visual medium.
Right, what to read next? I’m torn between Carrie or Salem’s Lot, probably going to be a toss-up between the two!