If you’ve hung around this blog for the past two years, you know how deeply I regret not letting myself be scared and falling into the work of Stephen King years ago. But as I read The Shining last weekend,and stunned a beach house full of graduated Georgia Tech Sorority girls by explaining I’d never read it before. (Well, the ones that had known me for years were stunned. The ones I’d never met before barely cared, which is fair.) I realized even with my pediatrician mandated, mother sleep needing rules against horror in my adolescence, I probably wouldn’t have been reading King anyway.
If there was one thing in the world that I craved as a teenager it was acceptance. I’ve often described myself as feeling like a guest star with my various groups of friends. (This caused one therapist, one of my favorites, who I had to part ways with because of changing insurance, to remind me that “life is not narrative.” Mr. King would probably disagree, Ma’am!) I hid my nerdy obsessions from my friends, where they didn’t fit. With my theater friends, I was all about Sondheim and Schwartz, with my hometown friends I loved indie rock and sitcoms and old movies, with my school friends (who had some theatrical crossover) it was punk rock and YA novels and blockbuster movies. (This allowed the X-Men and Batman to creep in occasionally.)
If I’d gotten into Stephen King then, and started talking about Danny Torrance’s Shine in relation to Jake Chamber’s Touch I don’t know that I could have survived the baffled looks.
This preamble is all to say that talking about The Shining, Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant but very different from this book much to the chagrin of it’s author, film would have been acceptable conversation among all my friends, the book was anathema to them.
Anyway, The Shining, which rules. Just definitively, it’s amazing, and I’m glad I didn’t read it while I was still high on the tower but saved it for when I knew I was going to need a kick start back into his style, with several big deal adaptions on their way.
The book itself is a masterful haunted house story, with The Overlook Hotel taking on a monstrous personality, and it’s mysterious “manager.” (I believe I said outloud as Grady, the long dead caretaker discussed management with Jack Torrance, “The Crimson King?”) Because I began my constant reading journey with The Dark Tower I know I am doomed to feel the pull of the beam whenever I pick up a King book, ya dig? But I was eventually able to see past my own tower induced blinders to the horror and scares at The Shining’s heart, the horrors of addiction and rage and toxic masculinity. The things that consume Jack Torrance as his wife Wendy tries to shelter Danny from them.
And let’s talk about Wendy, shall we? Man, if I’d read this book when it came out and then watched that movie I’d have been PISSED AS HELL about Wendy, who is nothing but a tower of strength and patience balancing on a frayed nerve from her first moments. Granted, King has a tendency to do this with his women, he writes soft hearted survivor ladies, who come out of the crucible of male cruelty saintly and strong. It’s a problem on it’s own but it’s a hell of a sight better than the screaming, whining, snivelling performance given by Shelly Duvall in the movie.
Danny Torrance is a great character, maybe a little young for his role, King hadn’t yet hit his sweet spot of tween hero boys yet, so five year old Danny feels over precocious. (If Danny were 10 he’d be perfect. Then again, if Danny were 10 he’d be Jake Chambers…so there’s that.) (Look, we all know this is ending with me reading The Dark Tower again, I mean, not yet, but it’s going to happen.)
Anyway, I really enjoyed this book. Up next is With The Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo. Let’s get our YA on y’all!