The Shining

The Shining
by Stephen King
Signet Book, New York
ISBN 0 451 16091 6
447 pages

Like King himself said in one of his literally (not like some “short” stories he wrote, such as his “short” story collection Four Past Midnight) short story collection Everything’s Eventual, a horror writer had to write at least one ghostly-room-in-the-inn story. Well, he succeeded doing that by writing 1408, it made me rather dizzy with its description. Now, The Shining is one book about a whole hotel going psycho.

Jack Torrance was an ex-alcohol addict who tried hard to make a living for his family, a wife Wendy, and a son he loved so much, Danny “Doc” Torrance. After unlucky experience with his previous job as a teacher on literature in some preparatory college (beat a kid almost to bloody death), and with his son (broke Danny’s arm), and after a no-casualties accident (but an overturned bike, in the middle of the night) he had with his car, due to his drunk habit and his inability to control his emotion when he was under alcohol spell, he accepted a job as caretaker for Overlook Hotel for the whole winter when the hotel was closed temporarily.

Overlook Hotel was an old, elegant 4-stories hotel in a beautiful location in Colorado, right in the middle of a very big valley, with a background of tall mountains and pine forest. Lots of celebrities had stayed there, the Presidents Wilson, Harding, Roosevelt, Nixon; the Vanderbilts, the Rockefellers, Marilyn Monroe, Truman Capote, etc. From late October to April, the hotel was closed, since the winter were very cruel and the nearest town was 40 miles away, leaving the hotel isolated on its own when the snow started falling down. Jack and his family moved to the hotel and occupied a room in second floor. For Jack, this is like a holiday, since he was also a writer and had published several short stories, so the tranquility of the hotel could be a good environment for his writing.

The Overlook had some history of itself since it was built in 1907. It was sold several times and maintained by various persons. A lot had happened there, from great parties to bloody murder. Most of the bad things happened never reached the newspaper. A caretaker named Grady have killed his own family in the middle of the winter. A woman was dead in the bathtub. A mafia was shot in his suite. But, aside of Grady story, the Torrance family didn’t know the darker part of the history. Except the 5-year old Danny.

Their parents had seen something different in Danny since he was small. He was very intelligent, and he seemed understand what they were thinking even when they didn’t verbalize the words. Danny had an imaginary friend, Tony, which their parents thought was OK, because Danny had no friend his age. What the parents didn’t know was that Tony sometimes showed things, mostly things in the future. Danny saw what Tony showed to him through unconsciousness, and sometimes when Tony showed not-so-nice-things, Danny even had convulsion, something really worried his parent. These not-so-nice-things started to come more often nearer their move to Overlook. And almost every night when they stayed in Overlook. Things Tony showed sometimes in the form of board with something written on it, which really exasperated Danny since he could not read yet. In his first weeks in Overlook, his parents was astonished to see him try very hard to learn to read. Danny also could speak in telepathy to people who had the same capability, read people’s minds, “the shining”, that’s what Dick Hallorann, the cook, said.

Day by day, it seemed OK to live in Overlook. They had many things to entertain themselves: radio, kid playground, writing for Jack, cooking and knitting for Wendy, and sometimes go to Sidewinder, the nearest town. But when snow finally isolated them from the outside world, something changed: Jack. The hotel changed. It seemed that the hotel was alive and had a will of itself.

Jack, burdened with his longing of making his family happy, and haunted by his not-so-clean past, was the one who was easily affected by the old hotel. He was fascinated by it, and finally thought he wanted to stay there, forever. Whatever it takes. Even if he had to kill his beloved son.

This book is a real page-turner. You could not help falling in love with Danny, who desperately wanted his parents to be happy, especially his dad. He grew up early, had to deal with adult problems inside their parents’ heads. The change in Jack was incredible, from a man who repent from his bad past, to someone unrecognizable, turned into the evil that maybe had been inside him from the beginning. You would also like the character of over-sixty-years-old Dick Hallorann, himself also “shining”, the wise and the only clear-headed among them.

This book was made into movie in 1980 by Kubrick (8,4 from 10 by IMDB rating). Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance, well, kinda predictable, don’t you think? He has that crazy insanity about him. The movie did not really faithful to the book. The animal hedge was substituted with maze. Being Kubrick’s movie, this movie must be very good. I have to find it and watch.

A must-have for King fans.


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