By: Stephen King
Jack Torrance is a recovering alcoholic with one final chance to give his family a normal life. He has a loving wife, Wendy, and a gifted 5-year-old son, Danny, who seems to understand more than any child his age should. After losing his job as an English teacher, Jack signs on as a groundskeeper at the Overlook Hotel. Determined to spend the winter bonding with his family and finishing his play, Jack doesn’t take much notice to the warning signs that something sinister lies in wait at the hotel. The most notable warning to surface being that the last groundskeeper murdered his wife and two daughters before killing himself in a fit of cabin fever induced hysteria.
Jack believes the hotel will give his family a fresh start, but Danny seems to know better long before they ever arrive. His “imaginary” friend Tony gives him premonitions of the future, and these visions imply the family will never leave the Overlook alive.
I never really noticed before just how many classic movies I HAVEN’T seen until I started reading this book. Maybe that’s better for me because that means the books that became movies are still surprising and new. No, I haven’t seen The Shining as a cinematic production, but from what I can tell, the movie got quite a lot wrong. Regardless of the fact I’ve never seen the movie, some iconic moments we just pick-up from pop-culture references subtly ingrained in our brains like white ink tattoos. You don’t realize how much you know until you start actively recalling all the images that flash through your brain when you think about The Shining. For example, I know The Shining is the origin of the creepy twin girls standing menacingly in a hallway, the famous typewriter line of “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” and, of course, the axe that chops gaping holes out of a door so Jack Torrance can say “Here’s Johnny.” Sorry to tell you if you have ever seen the movie that none of those things are true. They didn’t happen in the book. Boo.
Stephen King openly admits he didn’t like the movie adaptation directed by Stanley Kubrick. They had “creative differences,” but that didn’t prevent the movie from becoming a cult classic. King noted that he thought Kubrick didn’t do enough justice in presenting Jack Torrance as a sympathetic fallen hero. Jack Nicolson was too crazy from the start according to the author. On that note, dear reader, this is where the true book review begins.
I didn’t like Jack Torrance’s character. Maybe my dislike was caused by my knowledge of what he would eventually become, a violent lunatic. Maybe it was because I tend to think people don’t change, so an angry drunk, even a reforming one, is likely going to f*** up again and relapse eventually. Wendy is also a garbage character until the end. She’s a woman with a pension for staying with a man who doesn’t deserve her undying and obedient affection. They had a textbook abusive relationship, but Jack was supposed to be sympathetic. No, that doesn’t work for me.
I believe a lot of the sympathetic framing of Jack stems from Stephen King’s own battle with alcoholism in his early career as an author. He saw part of himself in Jack. Maybe not the violent murderer part (unless you count what he does to people in his books…he is at the very least macabre) but a part none the less. King tried to give Jack a small redemption as well…a faux redemption in my insignificant opinion. Jack was a villain or maybe his addiction was. Either way, the addiction was a part of him and it was used against him for a demonic purpose.
Danny’s perspective was my favorite of the book because he’s a young, intelligent child that sees and hears all the paranormal goings-on. He’s seemingly the smartest one in the whole book. Love that kid and Dick Hallorann. Love that man too.
I think the strangest thing to me while reading this book is that I didn’t have a whole lot to say about it even when I was 250 pages into it. The writing didn’t incite a lot of feelings in me other than the resentment for Jack’s abusive nature and Wendy’s passive attitude. The ending was the best part as that had the most drama and sense of urgency. The beginning of the book, while it builds the characters’ personalities amazingly well, seemed a tad slow. I honestly don’t know how to describe it. It wasn’t boring just different and made me mildly indifferent at least in the start.
The aspect that bothered me the most was the disgusting repetition of n***** that cropped up frequently as the book drew to a close. I’m sure King used that word because it was meant to feel: abrasive, savage, and outright heinous. He succeeded if that was the purpose. My soul hurt reading it over and over. I’m known for cursing regularly among my friends and family, shit, I curse here! But that…that was too much for me. It was outright offensive.
Overall rating: 3.5