The Shining

Stephen King’s The Shining

A few weeks ago, I went to see Norm MacDonald perform stand-up.  He did a bit where he talked about how people often let their friends off the hook when they’re guilty of being a bit of an asshole.  They say that old often used expression, “Oh, well that’s just <insert friend’s name> being <friend’s name>.”  Like Norm, I find that’s a terrible excuse.  If that’s just your friend being himself, well.. your friend is a bit of a shithead.

Jack Torrence often loses his temper and while no one says, “Well, that’s just Jack being Jack” you can tell that people have probably made this excuse for him his whole life.  This is how these people can get away with this ridiculous behavior.  The big problem with Jack’s asshole tendencies is that it’s mixed with being a recovering alcoholic.  As a person who abstains from drinking, I have my personal views on consuming adult beverages.  While most people can use it successfully as a social lubricant and a means to relax, I’ve seen my fair share of it’s ugly side.  Jack, whether intentional or not, embraces that ugly side of it.

While Jack often means well, King often points to the fact that Jack experienced a harsh upbringing.  When you combine his drunken abusive father, his mentally checked-out mother and his introverted siblings, Jack didn’t exactly float through childhood.  Situations like this often support a saying that I’ve heard more than a few times, something along the lines of, “We are the sum total of all of our experiences” and no one really embodies that more than ol’ Jackie boy.

So, taking into consideration Jack’s history combined with his current predicament, it makes his slow decent into madness pretty believable.  It’s not like King is going out on a limb here in hoping that the reader will just accept Jack’s mental state.  When you realize what a fantastic job he did combining Danny’s <i>shining</i> with Jack’s continued self-assurance that “everything is OK”, you’re much more willing to accept that this man has just entered “bat-shit crazy” territory.  As the Joker had pointed out so eloquently in <i>The Dark Knight</i>:

I’m not afraid to say that I was genuinely frightened at times while reading.  Even through I’ve read my fair share of King stories over the past few years, I haven’t read anything of his that I would really call, “horror”.  I’m not pleading ignorance here, I am fully aware of his status as a horror writer.  So while he’s written some legendarily <i>scary</i> stuff, I’ve been mostly interested in tales like “Under the Dome” and “The Stand”, which are more along the lines of social commentaries or his Dark Tower series, which lives within the fantasy genre.

Going into this book, I was only equipped with what I’ve seen through random clips of the movie adaptation and this one episode of The Simpsons so when certain things didn’t occur, I was a little confused.  After doing some reading up, I discovered that the movie takes a lot of liberties with the core story.  Given that Kubrick’s vision is so widely beloved (well, aside from Uncle Stevie himself), I’m looking forward to sitting down and giving it a viewing.

I don’t know if this is my favorite King book I’ve read but it’s certainly up there.  As of this point in time, it’s certainly the scariest book I’ve read.  I did want to get this in before the sequel, Doctor Sleep, hit shelves next year.  From what I’ve read of the synopsis, I’m not sure I understand why it’s being made but I trust King completely and am hopeful he crafts a worthy follow-up.

One thought on “The Shining

  1. Pingback: Billy Summers | Every Read Thing

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