THE SHINING was Stephen King's third novel (CARRIE was the first, in case you were wondering, followed by 'SALEM'S LOT), and it was published in 1977, eight whole years before I'd even taken my first breath (or my first poop).
I'd argue that it's one of his most well-known and iconic novels, mostly because so many people hear the name and instantly think of the Stanley Kubrick film adaptation, which is a great movie for sure, but one that King, and many of his readers, say doesn't do well to capture the true tone of the book. Aside from the movie, the novel was written by a young and full-of-energy King who was just beginning to show the world how fucking scary he could be. Carrie was just the appetizer ... 'Salem's Lot, the soup ... And The Shining was the main course that would cause many a bedroom to have a light or two still burning as folks tried to force back images of dead twin girls and rotting bathtub-dwelling women, and try to get some sleep.
Don't get me wrong, 'Salem's Lot is plenty scary--I didn't look outside my bedroom window at night for a solid month after watching the movie as a kid, and if you don't know why, I'm not telling--but a vampire seems pretty tame compared to all the evils that lurk within the Overlook Hotel.
The Shining was the second Stephen King novel I read, coming on the heels of DESPERATION, which was my first. I was 13--maybe 12. All I remember for sure was I was in the 7th grade--and I still remember that feeling of complete fascination and absolute thrill of being thrust into the worlds King created. Coming from mostly YA thrillers and mysteries at the time, for me, reading King was sort of my literary equivalent to seeing a naked woman for the first time. And boy did I like it.
The problem with starting to read King at such an early age, is that I honestly don't remember much of the novel version of The Shining. I've seen the movie several times, but the novel is fuzzy. On top of that, there's no way that 13 (12?) year-old me could have truly appreciated the novel from a pure writing sense. Having completed a few novels myself now, I'm anxious to go back and see King in some of his earliest form, in one of his most successful books. One that's now stood the test of nearly forty years.
Which brings me to the point of all this. I'm going to re-read The Shining for the first time in roughly seventeen years. Mostly for fun, but because I think it will help me to digest the novel and more closely examine it, I'm going to be blogging about each chapter. Now, obviously there won't be extensive write-ups about each chapter, but I will give some brief thought(s) on each, and share anything that stood out to me or that I thought was interesting or well-done (okay let's face it, we already know the entire novel is well-done, but you know what I mean).
So if that sounds like something you'd like to follow, by all means check back here occasionally for the updates. And if you wanted to make things really fun, you could read along in your own copy of The Shining and we can be scared together.
Let's get started!
You can find Part 2 HERE.
THE SHINING - BY STEPHEN KING
Michael says: This is the same title he gave the opening section of Doctor Sleep, which I thought was a cool way to basically say "Prologue" when I read that book, and now that I know he used it first in this book almost 40 years ago, I think it's even cooler.
Michael says: Here we meet Jack Torrance as he interviews for the caretaker position at The Overlook Hotel. He's trying to hold his tongue as the hotel's manager, Stuart Ullman is condescending and unlikeable. What strikes me here is already how different Jack Torrance in the book is compared to Jack Torrance in Kubrick's film. In the book, he's clearly sane and just a man down on his luck, trying to put his demons (drinking) in the past, and do what it take to provide for his family. In the film, Jack Nicholson's character just seems weird and off-his-rocker from the first time you see him. I don't know if that's Kubrick's fault, or Nicholson's, but the difference is huge in my opinion.
This chapter also does well to set the size and scope of The Overlook, as well as give off the first ominous warnings as Ullman tells Jack about the previous caretaker murdering his entire family.
Favorite passage: When Ullman drops his note into the empty IN/OUT tray on his desk and "It sat there looking lonesome. The pad disappeared back into Ullman's jacket pocket like the conclusion of a magician's trick."
Here we meet Wendy (who'd I'd completely forgotten had the full name of Winnifred) and Danny. Just a glimpse into the Torrence's domestic troubles from their point of view-- including Jack's drunken rage injury of Danny. They too, especially Wendy, appear to be looking forward and hoping the future is brighter.
(Danny with his arm in a cast)
--he does things he's sorry for later.
UPDATE - 12/30/15 @ 3:17PM EST
Watson, the Overlook's maintenance man, for lack of a better term, takes Jack on a grand tour of the hotel's underbelly, giving him an extremely descriptive explanation of the furnace, boiler, and plumbing. They linger on the furnace and boiler, Watson careful to explain the device's shortcomings and potential for disaster. I think we all know why... My memory of this novel is fuzzy, but I'm pretty sure I remember the ending. Knowing the ending (or at least thinking I know the ending), this chapter should be labeled "FORESHADOWING", and I can't help but wonder if it was originally written at the the beginning as it is, or if King went back and revised this to further along the aforementioned foreshadowing.
King also used this chapter to have Jack's mind wonder and show us exactly how the whole "arm breaking" incident with Danny went down, and let us know his battle with alcohol is much bigger than he might have let on in chapter 1. It's well done, and for something that could potentially be jarring to the rest of the chapter, it's not. King's visual shaping of the layout of text, used to intersperse this section as a clear view into Jack's thoughts as his mind goes off in a different direction is cleverly done, and a style I've seen King use often in his books.
Also, Watson's dialogue is particularly amusing, both in content and style. The way King phonetically spells out the man's mispronunciations and slang terms is extremely entertaining, and impressive. I've tried writing dialogue like this and often find it hard work which I usually give up on.
Favorite Passage: He pulled a red and blue bandanna from his back pocket, blew his nose with a decisive honk, and thrust it back out of sight after a short peek into it to see if he had gotten anything interesting.
UPDATE - 12/31/15 @ 2:37PM EST
So now we get some one-on-one time with Danny, and again, I'm already a little shocked at the difference between Book Danny and Kubrick Danny. The Danny in Kubrik's film seemed... Well, he seemed a little slow, to be honest. Book Danny is pretty bright, and in this chapter we get a nice look at his insight into his parents' relationship, which is our first glimpse into his ability to "shine" -- which is the term given to Danny's psychic abilities and his way of getting into peoples' heads.
And also we meet Tony. Danny's parents call Tony his imaginary friend, and I guess that's somewhat true because only Danny CAN see him. Tony shows Danny things in his mind, an escort through his subconscious doings.
Which leads us to the first real scary bits of the novel --- a lengthy scene in which Tony takes Danny into what we know is The Overlook and things are are a fucking mess. Rooms are in disarray, a giant skull and crossbones appears over the front of the building, a bloody hand hanging over the edge of a bathtub, and there's a crazed mallet-wielding shape chasing Danny and shouting at him to take his medicine. For those who haven't read the book yet, or haven't seen the movie, I wonder how obvious it is that this shape is Jack?
Favorite Passage: His heart crawled up into the middle of this throat and froze solid. Beside his daddy, in the other front seat, was a short-handled mallet, its head clotted with blood and hair.
Then it was just a bag of groceries.
UPDATE - 1/1/16 @ 8:55AM EST
Fairly long chapter here, but it's pretty straightforward. It's basically a flashback furthering along the demons of Jack's past and his "series of unfortunate events" caused by his alcoholism. We are again made aware of just how hard Jack is struggling to stay on the the wagon, and learn just how bad-off the Torrance family is because of his actions.
Favorite Passage: When he blinked his eyes shut, he saw that single crushed wheel with its broken spokes pointing at the sky.
UPDATE - 1/1/16 @ 9:54AM EST
A parallel chapter to 5, here we get a more introspective view of Wendy's ordeal throughout all of Jack's downfall and drinking. Things were bad in the Torrance household indeed, and Wendy's had to fight her own demons it seems, though maybe none as tough of Jack's. She also seems to be acutely aware that Danny is not entirely normal, his "second sight" -- which she claims to not believe in -- glimpses itself to her occasionally, and she's not so ignorant to dismiss these glimpses as coincidence.
King's detailed explanation of the Torrance's marriage is incredibly real here. The fact that he was in his late-twenties when he wrote this book blows me away. Talent is the only word for it.
Favorite Passage: Soft and sweet and mellow, the song came back and lingered, following her down to a deeper sleep where thought ceased and faces that came in dreams went unremembered.
UPDATE - 1/1/16 @ 12:41PM EST
In Another Bedroom
Danny's perspective, and what appears to be one last final warning from Tony that the Torrance family should stay far away from the Overlook. We all know they don't listen.
Favorite Passage: REDRUM
THIS IS THE END OF "PART 1 - PREFATORY MATTERS" AND I'LL BE STARTING A NEW POST FOR "PART 2 - CLOSING DAY."