This was my first time reading this book as the movie scared the living daylights out of me when I was in high school. I have no idea if the movie is actually as scary as I recall, because I don't actually remember much beyond "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," Jack Nicholson doing the homicidal maniac thing, and some incredibly creepy ghosts. So I also can't compare the movie to the book that much, other than that "All work and no play" isn't in the book and Jack being a writer isn't as important as I recall it being in the movie. My recollection is that the movie was essentially about a haunted hotel. The book is essentially about a family.

I mostly read the book because I wanted to read the sequel, Doctor Sleep, which several people recced. I had thought the book was pure horror, which is not really my thing, so I didn't expect to like it that much. I liked it a lot. It is horror, but it's got great characterization and is mostly the slow build, psychological type of horror rather than a cascade of jump-scares and gross-outs. Though it does have some very scary bits.

It takes a classic horror theme, a person with a flaw or weakness amplified by an evil or just powerful place until they crack, which is generally (in this case too) ambiguous about how much supernatural forces had to do with it and how much was the person making a choice to let their worst side run amuck. The Shining is weighted toward the side of choice, and is largely about choice and temptation.

Moderate spoilers.

Jack Torrance is an alcoholic who sobered up after a string of increasingly bad incidents culminating in him breaking his toddler son's arm; he takes the job as manager of a snowed-in hotel after beating a teenager... while he was still sober. The temptation the ghosts offer is analogous to the temptation to drink. But it's also literally a temptation to drink. The ghosts don't offer Jack anything good, they just offer him the chance to stop the constant struggle to do right, stay sober, be a good father and husband, and keep a leash on his misogyny and rage. It's a really believable portrayal of addiction, which is something King knows from experience. If I recall correctly, he wrote the book while he was an alcoholic but before it had completely taken over his life. It feels very real. Jack is a much more interesting character than I expected. He's done awful things that are not excused in the slightest, but he's not a 2-D villain. He could have turned his life around. But he didn't.

Wendy, his wife, and Danny, his son, are also really interesting characters. Danny has "the shining" (psychic abilities) and is extremely precocious to boot. I'm not sure I'm totally convinced by him as a five-year-old, but I was convinced as a character and as a young kid. He has the disjunct of being bright beyond his years, but also not understanding a whole lot of things that would be obvious to an adult, just because he's never encountered them before or missed the context. Wendy has reasons for staying with Jack, which might not be the best reasons but are convincing and plausible. She's much more heroic than I expected. The entire final sequence, with Halloran (the psychic hotel cook) desperately trying to get to the snowed-in Overlook while Wendy and Danny try to evade the now-homicidal Jack is an amazing piece of suspense, benefiting from me having no idea if Wendy and Halloran were going to survive.

The book was really engrossing, with a very classic Gothic/ghost story feel to it. It's long but doesn't feel bloated; everything is there to build character, theme, and atmosphere. I also found the ending very satisfying, which is not always the case with King.
the_rck: (Default)

From: [personal profile] the_rck


I think the movie actually was that scary. My step-father went to see it alone when he was around 30. He came back to a dark house and had to check on everyone and then sit with the light on for most of the night.
alchemise: Stargate: season 1 Daniel (Default)

From: [personal profile] alchemise


I reread this (or rather, listened to the audiobook) on a cross-country road trip a couple years ago. It was a reminder of just how well-crafted it is, especially for being such an early work of his. It was kind of a perfect story to listen to while riding in a car.
selenak: (Default)

From: [personal profile] selenak


I think the characterisations of Jack and Wendy are where the movie and book are furthest apart. I first read the book and then saw the movie, many years ago, and wasn't surprised King has such issues with it, critical praise for the movie not withstanding.. Movie Wendy is simply a doormat, and movie Jack could never have turned his life around, he's too rotten from the start. (He also doesn't get that one moment of grace/redemptin with Danny the book gives Jack before the end.)

Re: The Shining in terms of King's own struggle with addiction, this analyis of the book is fascinating in that context.

Doctor Sleep also is very much about addiction, though a very different type of book. I liked it, but am aware some others didn't.
selenak: (Default)

From: [personal profile] selenak


I wonder whether anyone has written their thesis about how King does meta on writing via his writer characters. Because someone should. They all tackle different aspects. Without looking it up, in addition to Jack Torrance, we have Thad Beaumont from "The Dark Half", Paul Sheldon from "Misery" and the dead writer from "Lisey's Story" whose name escapes me right now, and of course Gordie LaChance from "The Body" (aka Stand By Me as a movie). I think the only other one guilty of lack of empathy for his characters is Paul, but this changes during the course of the novel. One of the reasons why I find the movie so frustrating is that it misses what is to me the point the novel (i.e. "Misery") makes about writing, and that's nowhere clearer embodied than in the fact that in the movie version, Paul at the end publishes the rewritten "literary" novel he had finished at the start and which Annie had made him destroy to great acclaim, whereas in the novel he publishes the "Misery" novel he wrote during his imprisonment by Annie, because writing that novel didn't just keep him alive and sane for the obvious reason (Annie, his "No.1 fan" making that a condition for his survival), but because he "was Sheherazade for yourself as well", he rediscovered himself as a writer, he came to love writing Gothic again.

(Annie, while insane, also wasn't a bad beta reader, and a truly thorough fan. She didn't let him get away with writerly cheating. I loved that when he first writes a beginning of new Misery novel that declares the ending of the previous one, where he killed off his bodice ripper heroine, a bad dream, Annie declares this to be wrong, and he has to come up with a way to resurrect Misery that keeps to the earlier established continuity. Clearly Stephen King knows how fans are, crazy or not.*g*)
gehayi: (storyteller (yuki_onna))

From: [personal profile] gehayi


There's also John Edward Marinville, who shows up in Desperation as a man who wrote one good (if shocking) book and who is now an addicted has-been, and who appears in The Regulators as a writer of children's books about a detective kitty-cat. In both incarnations, he struggles through to heroism, but only in The Regulators does he survive.

Mike Noonan is the writer suffering from writer's block in Bag of Bones.

Morton Rainey is the plagiarist writer in the novella Secret Window, Secret Garden. John Shooter is the writer that he plagiarizes from (and who haunts him).

Mike Enslin is the unfortunate writer in the haunted room of 1408.

Richard Kinnell is the horror writer who picks up an evil picture at a garage sale in the short story "The Road Virus Heads North."

One of the main protagonists of 'Salem's Lot is writer Ben Mears, who was affected as a child by a haunting in the Marston House.

King does love his heroic writers, doesn't he?

kore: (Default)

From: [personal profile] kore


There's the writer John Rothstein in Finders Keepers, too, and the English teacher who uses his student's essay as a time travel test case in 11/22/63. -- He likes his heroic teachers, too, who usually teach entrance-level English courses, like Johnny in Dead Zone.
kore: (Default)

From: [personal profile] kore


I hope it doesn't disappoint! It's a pretty different book. It also has King's ONE (1) bisexual character IIRC, and she's a stunner.
selenak: (Default)

From: [personal profile] selenak


So did I. Err, still do, as it occurs to me the past tense could be taken wrongly!
Edited Date: 2016-10-17 11:13 am (UTC)
kore: (Default)

From: [personal profile] kore


Oh, that's a great review. I like to say the Shining is about addiction -- written right from the heart of it -- and Doctor Sleep is about recovery, even though, for all the AA themes, it's not a straight-up recovery story. And Shining really is a tragedy, even though Danny lives and Jack is redeemed, but DS is so much more hopeful, despite having (I think) far worse villains.

(One of the most distressing moments in the whole book: THOME 25. D: It's one of those absolutely typical mundane child-centered King moments that just guts you.)
selenak: (Default)

From: [personal profile] selenak


That's true. And it keeps *spoilery event* real, something that happened to a person, instead of just something that illustrates how bad the villains are (though it does that, too).

The True Knot vesus the Overlook: I think what makes the True Knot more disquieting is that they're individuals, they're people, without any twitch of conscience whatsoever re: what they're doing to "steamheads", and well, there are plenty of non supernatural examples. Malevolent entities without any individuality are easier to take, in a way.
kore: (Default)

From: [personal profile] kore


It was such a gut-punch. I think King is at his best when writing about families -- parents and kids, really -- and it's interesting how much The Shining is about Jack and Danny both being sons with abusive fathers, and then Dan in DS is grown up and there's that....other spoilery scene, agh. I really like Abra's family too (I have to wonder if her name isn't a homage to Abra in East of Eden, who is also a kickass).

The True Knot vesus the Overlook: I think what makes the True Knot more disquieting is that they're individuals, they're people, without any twitch of conscience whatsoever re: what they're doing to "steamheads", and well, there are plenty of non supernatural examples. Malevolent entities without any individuality are easier to take, in a way.

That's so true, yeah. The Overlook is sort of more like Hill House, where it's hard to tell if there's a malevolent influence that's warping the people, or if the evil in the people is being drawn out by the house somehow. Altho the movie pretty much tanked that. The Knot are also hilarious as satire. (I just do love R---, though. I can't help it. She's just so vibrant.)
selenak: (Default)

From: [personal profile] selenak


Re: Abra, as Abra from East of Eden is even name-checked (when the True Knot tries to narrow down which of the girls is the right one, and they read the names of the three girls living in the right area who have the right age), I think that choice of name is deliberate. So I'd say definitely on a Doylist level (i.e. King's choice), and maybe also on a Watsonian one, since Abra's mother was raised by her poet grandmother!

Re: parents and kids, and Jack and Danny both as the sons of abusive fathers - I also thought it was great, complicated and realistic how adult Dan feels about Jack. Danny the child could love him unreservedly, not least because being a chld, he didn't blame him for Jack's (pre-Overlook) bad choices; Dan the adult does have anger about his father (not least because of their similarities, but also because of the change of perspective and the awareness of Jack's share of blame), but at the same time, he still loves him with a great intensity, and I thought that bit near the end is doing right what the second movie does mawkishly wrong. Also I loved the conversation he has with Abra about Jack (and Jack's father). Well, I loved the Abra-Dan relationship in general.

Incidentally: with this novel - and explicitly in "Revival", where the narator mentions it textually - you can tell one particular change on the social climate and how King manages to get around it, to wit, an adult forming a relationship with a child. Dick Hallorann could talk to little Danny without Wendy getting worried. Dan, decades later, hesitates to contact Abra in rl because he's very aware of how an adult man approaching a child (especially a girl) looks like to any responsible parent today, and . In 11/23/63, the narrator can befriend teenage Beverly and Richie because he's time travelled back in the 60s. In "Revival", it's also only possible because the relationship starts decades from the present.

Now there is of course a good reason for that change (or rather a depressing one), but you can tell King likes writing these mentor-young protegé relationships, so he finds a way to do so anyway.

R - absolutely. No wonder she's the boss.
kore: (Default)

From: [personal profile] kore


....also wow, that site desperately needs a proofreader. it’s a heady mix, one fear feeding on the other.??
kore: (Default)

From: [personal profile] kore


The end of The Shining is one of the best things about the book (Poppy Z Brite wrote a great blog post about it, now lost to the ages) and BOTH adaptations really blew it.
kore: (Default)

From: [personal profile] kore


OH, MAN.

It's incredibly soppy, OOC and amazingly awful. Jack does blow himself up in the boiler room (Stephen Weber somehow overacting and not acting at all), then, cut to ten years later, Danny graduating from high school. He is Tony (Tony is Danny's older self). Wendy and Halloran are in the audience, and Danny sees the ghost of his father, and Jack says this ridiculous "kissing kissing I've been missing" thing they do throughout the movie (it's not in the book) and blows a kiss and Danny catches it. Or maybe it's the other way around, I only saw it once. Cut to: the Overlook being rebuilt. //rolls eyes
thawrecka: (Default)

From: [personal profile] thawrecka


I remember reading this book while staying on the 13th floor of a hotel and it scared the pants off me. So tense and intense and definitely one of the best of King's works that I read in high school.

From: [identity profile] sovay.livejournal.com


I also found the ending very satisfying, which is not always the case with King.

Do you find his endings unsatisfying in a consistent way?

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


Anti-climactic, generally - a great build and then either a fizle-out rather than a grand climax, or else there is a grand climax but the story continues to a final climax that's distinctly less grand.

From: [identity profile] lorata.livejournal.com


YES AGREED, also because so many of them take a long trip off a short diving board into completely OTT crazy-town.

From: [identity profile] asakiyume.livejournal.com


I get the psychological-drama aspect, but it's the becoming dedicated to killing that's a headscratcher for me. Why that? I've only seen the movie, not read the book, and I don't remember how it was explained in the movie, but usually there's some prior murder, right? And it's like the spirit of that murder(er) gets into the person who's going to become all homocidal. Which, okay. But it seems to require such dedication. I mean, he just keeps trying. Why?That's a lot of work to go to--and lots of time spent being unsuccessful--for what ultimate goal? What is homocidal Jack hoping to gain? Or is that too transactional a question?


From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


I don't remember the movie well enough to comment on it. In the book he's not dedicated to killing in general. He tries to kill his wife and son specifically, in a way that makes sense in terms of the many, many men who murder their families - they're angry and misogynistic and dissatisfied with their lives and end up convincing themselves that it will somehow be best for everyone if they destroy their families. It's not for gain at all. It's not a rational motive but it's a common real-life motive.

From: [identity profile] asakiyume.livejournal.com


*nodding*

I guess the dispassionate robot/alien/whatever in me wonders why people in real life persist with trying to kill their family when it turns out to be hard to do. I do get that it's not a rational thing, but, speaking personally, when things are very difficult for me, it makes it hard for me to keep on trying them. But apparently that's not the same level of deterrent for people who've gotten it into their heads that they'd be better off without their family.

(... this is a pretty amoral line of discussion I'm advancing. I mean, obviously killing your family is bad, period, end of story. But putting that aside, if it's hard to kill them--they keep on escaping--then maybe there are easier ways to improve your life? )

From: [identity profile] asakiyume.livejournal.com


Right, but I think stalking is in part its own reward. But yeah... after this uncomfortable detour, I'm good to go with just "not rational." Some things just are what they are and can't be analyzed more, or not easily.

From: [identity profile] lorata.livejournal.com


I mean, it's pretty heavily implied in the film that while Jack's character is abusive and violent, he's not a killer, the Overlook makes him that way. The bartender murdered his wife and daughters for misbehaving, and he (it's not clear whether the Overlook is an extension of him or created him or.... what, exactly, woo for ambiguity) and/or the Overlook manipulate Jack into the murderous rage. It's not rational because the murder hotel spurs him into it.

Now, why the Overlook wants everyone murdered is anyone's guess.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


In the book the Overlook isn't quite that sentient - it had some bad things happen that snowballed into an accumulation of badness, which was then amplified by Danny's power and Jack's rage. Kind of the way alcohol can amplify a person's pre-existing worst characteristics, and give them some new ones while it's at it. The Overlook seemed more like a sort of murderous flash-flood than a single consciousness with planned intent.

From: [identity profile] lorata.livejournal.com


Ahh, gotcha! I read the book once back in 2008 during my semiannual bout of insomnia, which means that I remember a) being terrified and b) nothing else. XD

From: [identity profile] asakiyume.livejournal.com


I'll spew some horror-story psychobabble (actually, more like supernaturo-babble) and say, probably the hotel imprinted on the bartender's rageful behavior, and recognizing a similar spirit in Jack, decided, "Oh: I know how this is supposed to go. Here, have an axe."

From: [identity profile] desperance.livejournal.com


Yeah, I read it in a cottage in the middle of nowhere, on my own, by firelight and in the dark. I ... may have been a bit nervous, feeling my way upstairs to bed.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


Ahh! I tried to avoid reading at night but I couldn't stop. At least I didnt have to grope anywhere afterward.

From: [identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com


Have you heard about the documentary Room 237? It's about four conspiracy theories about the movie of The Shining (one of them, for example, is that Kubrick helped NASA fake the moon landing, then hid a message about it in The Shining). I don't actually agree with any of the theories, but it's a pretty fascinating watch, and a weird but cool accompaniment to The Shining.

From: [identity profile] lady-ganesh.livejournal.com


The best explanation/description I've heard of book vs. movie is that the book is about the fear of becoming a monster, and the movie is about living with someone who's slowly becoming a monster.
.

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