The Shining by Stephen King

Stephen King - The Shining 01 - The Shining


4.18  ·  Rating details ·  840,916 Ratings  ·  15,341 Reviews
Jack Torrance's new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he'll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote...and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.
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The Shining by Stephen King

“Sometimes human places, create inhuman monsters.”

“Wendy? Darling? Light, of my life. I'm not gonna hurt ya. I'm just going to bash your brains in.”

“This inhuman place makes human monsters.”

“The world's a hard place, Danny. It don't care. It don't hate you and me, but it don't love us, either. Terrible things happen in the world, and they're things no one can explain. Good people die in bad, painful ways and leave the folks that love them all alone. Sometimes it seems like it's only the bad people who stay healthy and prosper. The world don't love you, but your momma does and so do I.”

“Monsters are real. Ghosts are too. They live inside of us, and sometimes, they win.”


“The tears that heal are also the tears that scald and scourge.”

“But see that you get on. That's your job in this hard world, to keep your love alive and see that you get on, no matter what. Pull your act together and just go on.”






Reviews


This scene from Friends pretty much sums up my feelings about this book:


"Rachel: Hmm. (she opens the freezer) Umm, why do you have a copy of The Shining in your freezer?

Joey: Oh, I was reading it last night, and I got scared, so.

Rachel: But ah, you’re safe from it if it’s in the freezer?

Joey: Well, safer. Y'know, I mean I never start reading The Shining, without making sure we’ve got plenty of room in the freezer, y'know.

Rachel: How often do you read it?

Joey: Haven’t you ever read the same book over and over again?

Rachel: Well, umm, I guess I read Little Women more than once. But I mean that’s a classic, what’s so great about The Shining?

Joey: The question should be Rach, what is not so great about The Shining. Okay? And the answer would be: nothing. All right? This is like the scariest book ever. I bet it’s way better than that classic of yours."
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If you have not read The Shining already do not overlook the opportunity presented by the publication of Doctor Sleep, the sequel, to revisit one of the best ghost stories of our time. The appearance of the follow up offers a perfect justification for stepping through those bat-wing doors for the first time. 
It has been a lifetime since I read The Shining for the first time, over thirty years ago. I enjoyed it then for its effectiveness in telling a scary, no, a very scary story. Reading it now is colored, as is all of life, by our accumulation (or lack of accumulation) of experience. We see, or appreciate colors, textures, shapes, structures, and feelings with more experienced, educated eyes. We have seen, or are at least aware of real world things that are scarier than any fictional spectres. So, what does it look like through old, cloudy lenses?

It remains a very scary story. The things that stand out for me now are not so much the deader rising up out of a bathtub to pursue a curious child, although that is still pretty creepy, or the mobile topiary, which still works pretty well at making the hair on one’s neck and arms stand at attention. But King was using the haunted house trope to look at more personal demons. And those shine through more clearly now.
He had some drinking issues at the time he wrote the book, when he was 30, and concern about that is major here. Jack Torrance is an alcoholic, no question. He also has issues with anger management, not that the little shit he clocks while teaching at a New England prep school didn’t have it coming. He did. But one cannot do that to a student, however deserving, and expect to remain employed for long. His little boy, however, most certainly did not deserve a broken arm. Jack is very remorseful, and wants to make things right. He manages to get a gig taking care of the Overlook Hotel in Colorado over the winter. It will offer him a chance to get something right after a string of getting things wrong, offer a chance to save his marriage, and offer an opportunity to work on his unfinished play. Risky? Sure. But a gamble worth taking. And his wife, Wendy, agrees, despite having serious misgivings. There are no attractive alternatives.

Of course, we all know that the Overlook is not your typical residence. Odd things happen, sounds are heard, thoughts from somewhere outside find their way into your mind. Jack is targeted, and boy is he vulnerable.

But five-year-old Danny is the real key here. He is the proud possessor of an unusual talent, the shining of the book’s title. Danny can not only do a bit of mind-reading, he can also see things that other people cannot. And for a little guy he has a huge talent. He also has an invisible friend named Tony with whom only he can communicate.

It is difficult to think about the book without finding our mental screens flickering with the images of Jack Nicholson in full cartoonish psycho rage, the very effective sound of a Big Wheel followed by a steadicam coursing through the long halls of the hotel, and the best casting decision ever in choosing Scatman Crothers to play Dick Halloran. By the way, the hotel is based on a real-world place, the Stanley Hotel, in Estes Park, Colorado. And the Overlook’s spooky room 217 was inspired by the supposedly haunted room 217 at the Stanley.
The room number was changed in the film to 237, at the request of the Timberline hotel, which was used for exterior shots. There is so much that differentiates Kubrick’s film from the book that they are almost entirely different entities. The differences do require a bit of attention here. First, and foremost, the book of The Shining is about the disintegration of a family due to alcoholism and anger issues. How a child survives in a troubled family is key. The film is pretty much pure spook house, well-done spook house, but solely spook house, nonetheless, IMHO. There is considerable back-story to Jack and Wendy that gets no screen time. You have to read the book to get that. Jack is a victim, as much as Wendy and Danny. You would never get that from the slobbering Jack of the film. The maze in the book was pretty cool, right? I liked it too, but it does not exist in the book. I believe it was put in to replace the talented topiary, which is the definition of a bad trade. There is significant violence in the book that never made its way into Kubrick’s film, but which very much raises a specter of domestic violence that is terrorizing real people living in real horror stories. There are a few lesser elements. Jack wielded a roque mallet, not an axe. Danny is not interrupted in his travels through the corridors by Arbus-like twin sisters. And the sisters in question are not even twins. Thereare plenty more, but you get the idea. An interesting film, for sure, but not really the most faithful interpretation of the book. King saw that a film that more closely reflected what he had written reached TV screens in 1997, with a six-hour mini-series version.
Irrelevancies of a personal nature
The opening shot was filmed on the Going–to-the-Sun Road in Montana’s Glacier National Park in Montana. I have had the pleasure (7 times in one visit) and recommend the drive wholeheartedly. It is a pretty narrow road though, so you will have to drive carefully. Bring along the appropriate musical media for the best effect, Wendy Carlos’s Rocky Mountain, and dress warmly. It was below freezing when I reached the top of the road, in August. Some exteriors for Kubrick’s film were shot at the Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood in Oregon. I visited but did not stay there back in 2008. Sadly I do not have any decent personal photos from the place. I can report, though, on a bitof kitsch. There is a place in the hotel where an ax is lodged in a block of wood, with HEEEEERE’s JOHNNY on the ax, a tourist photo-op. And yes, I did. Sadly, or luckily, the shot did not come out well, so you will be spared.

Back to the book, Danny’s talent is a two-edged sword. He is afflicted with seeing more than anyone his age should have to see, but on the other hand, he has a tool he can use to try to save them all. Whether he can or not is a core tension element here.

King is fond of placing his stories in literary context. He peppers the text with references to various relevant books and authors. I expect these are meant to let us know his influences. Horace Walpole, author of The Castle of Otranto, a Gothic classic, is mentioned, as is Shirley Jackson, of Hill House fame. King had used a quote from this book in Salem’s Lot. A family saga rich with death and destruction, Cashelmara is mentioned as are some more contemporary items, like The Walton Family, the idealized antithesis to the Torrance Family, Where the Wild Things Are and novelist Frank Norris. The primary literary reference here is Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death, which is cited many times. There had been a costume ball back in hotel’s history and it is the impending climax of that party, the unmasking, that looms here. And toss in nods to Treasure Island and Bluebeard for good measure.
King often includes writers in his work, avatars for himself.

    I write about writers because I know the territory. Also, you know it's a great job for a protagonist in a book. Without having to hold down a steady job, writers can have all sorts of adventures. Also, if they disappear, it's a long time before they are missed. Heh-heh-heh. – from an AOL interview 
Jack Torrance is a writer as well as a teacher. The play that Jack is writing undergoes a transformation that mirrors Jack’s own. In fact, there is a fair bit or mirroring going on here. Jack’s affection for his father as a kid was as strong as Danny's is for him. His father was an abusive alcoholic. While Jack is not (yet) the monster his father was, he is also an alcoholic with abusive tendencies.
I never had a father in the house. My mother raised my brother and I alone. I wasn’t using my own history, but I did tap into some of the anger you sometimes feel to the kids, where you say to yourself: I have really got to hold on to this because I’m the big person here, I’m the adult. One reason I wanted to use booze in the book is that booze has a tendency to fray that leash you have on your temper…For a lot of kids, Dad is the scary guy. It’s that whole thing where your mother says, ‘You just wait until your father comes home!” In The Shining, these people were snowbound in a hotel and Dad is always home! And Dad is fighting this thing with the bottle and he’s got a short temper anyway. I was kind of feeling my own way in that because I was a father of small children. And one of the things that shocked me about fatherhood was it was possible to get angry at your kids. (from the EW interview cited in Extra Stuff)
He’s right. I have had the pleasure and I know. Wendy gets some attention as well, as we learn a bit about her mother, and see Wendy’s fear that she has inherited elements of her mother’s awfulness.

Not everything shines here. There are times when five-year-old Danny seems much older than his tender years, even given his extraordinary circumstances. It struck me as surprising that there is no mention of anyone suggesting that maybe Jack might attend an AA meeting. But these are like single dead pixels on a large screen.

If you want to read horror tales that are straight up scare’ems, there are plenty in the world. But if you appreciate horror that offers underlying emotional content, and I know you do, my special gift tells me that The Shining is a brilliant example of how a master illuminates the darkness.
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Quite simply put, The Shining is the best horror story I have ever read. It scared the hell out of me.

Over a period of time, I have noticed certain standard "motifs" in horror stories. One of these I call "The Lost Child". Such stories will typically involve a child, who can see what the silly grownups cannot see (or, even if they do see, don't acknowledge because it goes against reason and logic): and who fights, however high the odds stacked against him/ her are. Danny Torrance is such a boy.

Danny can read minds. He can see the frightening thoughts inside his Dad's and Mom's heads ("DIVORCE", "SUICIDE") but is powerless to do anything about it. Danny does not know that he has a gift; he takes it as a matter of course, until Dick Halloran of the Overlook Hotel tells him that he "shines on".

Jack Torrance, Danny's Dad, reformed alcoholic and struggling writer, is trying to put his life back together after a tragedy. He gets what he sees as the ideal chance when he lands the job of caretaker of the Overlook Hotel for the winter. In the snowed-in hotel with only his son and wife Wendy, Jack assumes that he will get enough quality time to be with his family, patch up old quarrels, and write that breakout novel.

But the Overlook has other plans. The hotel, which feeds on and grows in strength from the evils committed on its premises, wants Danny-permanently-to join its crew of ghostly inhabitants. And to do that, it needs to get to Jack...

The novel slowly grows in horror, starting with mild unease, moving up through sweaty palms and dry mouth, to pure, gut-wrenching terror. Jack's slow slide into madness is paralleled by the growth in power of the hotel's dark miasma, and Danny's extraordinary capabilities. We are on a roller-coaster ride into darkness.

The world of grownups is often frighteningly incomprehensible to young children: these fears seldom die as we grow up, but remain dormant in our psyche. There are very few of us who does not have a ghost in our childhood somewhere. It is when the writer invokes this ghost that story gets to us. King does a masterly job of awakening that child, and putting him/ her in the midst of childhood terrors through the alter ego of Danny Torrance, lost in the cavernous corridors of the Overlook.

There are a lot of passages which literally creeped me out in this novel (the topiary animals, the fire hose in the corridor, the woman in the bathroom to name a few). As King has said elsewhere, the monster behind the door is more frightening than the monster slavering at you: this book is full of such monsters. More importantly, you will keep on remembering your own boogeymen while you are reading; and long after you finish, you will feel the urge to look behind you.

Horror stories are a form of catharsis. As King says, the writer takes you to the body covered under the sheet: you feel it, and are frightened. At the same time, you are relieved that the body is not you.
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About as perfect a haunted house story as can be, King was at his best here.

It's as though he built a haunted house and then filled every nook and cranny with detail. King is also at his best in regard to characterization, all well rounded and complete, we know family relationships, group dynamics, all the old hidden buried fears.

King touches base with psychological elements, theological, metaphysical, spiritual, and cryptic aspects of a ghost story to wrap the reader in a blanket of horror.

** I watched the 1980 Stanley Kubrik film recently and this made me want to reread the book (which I need to anyway). Kubrik's film grasps the psychological elements of the book and delivers an extra large thin crust The Works pizza of haunted house horror. Jack Nicholson's portrayal of Jack Torrance is still the defining image of this tortured man. While some critics have derided the slow pace of the film (atypical for jump-out-and-yell-BOO! horror fliks of the time) I felt that Kubrik was building the tone and mood of the story to the grisly final moments. King himself has attributed mixed emotions to the film as an adaptation, but has consistently agreed that the imagery of an internal struggle with the dark side of Jack's psyche is a contribution to the horror film genre. King also disagreed with the casting of Nicholson who too closely identified with insanity (due largely to his exceptional work in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest). Interestingly, King himself was battling alcoholism while writing the classic and viewing his work and Kubrik's vision from this perspective adds greater depth to an understanding and appreciation of both.
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His best book is 'The Green Mile,' but since it doesn't quite fall under the Horror category, it is either 'Shining' or 'Carrie' which take top prize.

There is not one single detriment to this well-known tale of the disintegration of the American family within the realm of the un-dead. King here is as he has never been since: metaphoric and concise. He usually adds fact upon useless fact that converts a 400 page work into something more gargantuan, &, therefore, less enthralling.

King is not a fan of the Kubrick film, and it is easy to see why. His story is about the build up of tension, the "shining' a catalyst that promotes a bridge between the haunts & the humans. The boiler burns, blows everything up just as Jack Torrence forgets his humanity and becomes an ego/id complex. His selfishness & his alcoholism (a hereditary illness... another theme about family "curses," and weak threads) leads to savagery. The ghosts are the manifestations of a child's bruised home-life and the suffocation and claustrophobia have more to do with that tragic past than the hotel's eerie interior.

I place this masterpiece next to 'The Exorcist', a tale that is more than just a simple tale of demonic possession. To say the 'The Shining' is just a ghost story is something Kubrick ran with... completely ignoring the pathos of a family eating away at itself. The Torrences suffer because they had been broken prior to the stay at the Overlook... it seems that for this one all the stars aligned and all the ingredients for one of the most amazing horror stories of all time mixed exquisitely. This one was the one that made King king.
Source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11588.The_Shining?from_search=true

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