The Shining by Stephen King

11588 The Shining

by Stephen King

I first read The Shining thirty years ago.  It was 1984, and I was 17.  It was the first Stephen King book I ever read, and so began a love affair with Stephen King that lasted about 15 years.  I really don’t remember a whole lot about The Shining from when I read it all those years ago; a few things stand out in my memory, but most of it is vague and hazy.  I just remember that I loved it, and was hooked on Stephen King after that.

I would venture a guess that the vast majority of people in America (and probably a lot of people elsewhere) who were pre-teens or older in the 1980s have at least some knowledge of what The Shining is about, either from the book or the now classic film version (which King apparently despised).  If by some chance you are not familiar with the story, it’s about a haunted hotel (and if you’ve only seen the movie, you should know that it does differ from the book in a lot of ways).

John Torrance (Jack to his friends), dry alcoholic (not recovering, as he’s not in any recovery program and is only hanging onto the proverbial wagon by his fingernails), unemployed thanks to losing his temper and nearly beating a student to death at the prep school at which he taught, his marriage perhaps on its last leg, accepts a job as winter caretaker at a mountain resort hotel in the Colorado mountains.  The hotel will be closed down for the winter, but needs looking after during those long, cold, snowed in months.  This might be Jack’s last chance to repair his marriage, his relationship with his five-year old son who has been on the receiving end of Jack’s temper, and to get his head together and finish the play he’s been working on.  His hope is that this time away with his small family will provide a second chance for him and for them.

But the hotel has other plans.  The hotel has a dark history, and the hotel has a mind of its own, and it’s populated by the ghosts of everyone who has ever stayed there, and especially those who have died there – and there have been plenty.

Danny, Jack’s five-year old son, has the gift (or curse, as the case may be) of second sight – or, “the shining.”  Danny has visions and premonitions, but he can’t always make sense of them.

I re-read the book all these years later because it’s the current selection of my book club, and I must say that I was disappointed the second time around.  Much of the suspense was gone, because I already knew what was going to happen.  There were parts that were creepy, but mostly it all felt very … campy? to me.  I didn’t emotionally connect to any of the characters; they mostly felt like one-dimensional caricatures.  I know I was supposed to feel sympathetic towards Jack, the poor tortured soul, but I couldn’t get past just seeing him as an asshole with a drinking problem and a temper who broke his kid’s arm.  (This is all blasphemous, isn’t it?)  I am sad to say that I was glad to finish it, mostly because the whole thing rather bored me.  Maybe it’s just outdated?  I’m not inspired to read the sequel, Dr. Sleep.

I don’t know … maybe it’s me.  Sorry, Mr. King.