Monday, April 2, 2012

ZAM Book Review: The Shining

Now in Day Glow: The Shining!!  Welcome to the Eighties!!!

I am really not going to talk about the movie.  You, know, the 1980 film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Jack Nicholson in one of his most iconic roles ever.  Nor am I going to talk about the 1997 mini-series (do they still do those?) directed by Mick Garris, written by King himself, and starring the guy from Wings in on of his most iconic roles ever.  Nor am I going to talk about this...

Nor this...

And finally, nor this..

OK, that last one was pretty bad, but who doesn't love the Three's Company song?  I love The Shining, both versions.  Of course, Wings guy is no Jack Nicholson, but he does a decent job.  I am ashamed, downright ashamed, that I have never read The Shining.  Published in 1977, The Shining was Stephen King's third published novel and first hardcover bestseller.  Inspired in part by Stephen and Tabitha King's stay at the Stanley Hotel, The Shining tells the story of the Torrance family, caretakers for the "Overlook" Hotel during the rough Colorado winter.  The Overlook, like all great hotels, has a bad case of the haunts.  This might not be a problem for most people, but for the Torrance family, it will prove fatal.  Jack Torrance (Dad) is a recovering alcoholic and a struggling writer.  Thank god he didn't try to give up cigarettes as well otherwise he would be a real asshole.  Wendy Torrance (Mom), seems alright, but she has trouble getting over a little incident a few years ago when Jack broke her child's arm.  Danny (Danny) is five and has "The Shining."  He can see things.  Things that have happened, and things people may do.  Danny's invisible friend, "Tony", is his guide, showing him the evil thoughts that sometimes lurk in Daddy's mind.  Also along for the fun is Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers, there is just no other way to picture him), the Overlook's cook and fellow "Shiner."  Hallorann knows that the Overlook may be dangerous for Danny and his family, but he has now idea how lost Jack Torrance will become. 

 My favorite Shining cover.  Jack looks like Charles Grodin, who actually could have played the hell out of the role.  Wendy looks like Donna Dixon.  Danny is all fucked up...

I don't want to talk about the differences between the novel and the film, but I am going to talk about the differences between the novel and the film.  Just a couple, I promise.  First, let's start with Wendy.  The novel's Wendy is no Shelley Duvall.  She is smart, strong, and she gets the ever loving shit beat of her near the end.  Jack, still a struggling writer, is easily seduced by the hotel.  He becomes obsessed with it's history, and convinced that it wants him for a senior management position (cookoo!)  He is also a serious alcoholic with the slightest of holds to the wagon.  He is racked with guilt over hurting Danny, fucking up his job, and nearly destroying his marriage.  Danny is pretty much the same except Tony doesn't live in his mouth.  Tony is a pretty scary dude that only reveals his true self at the end.   Finally, spoiler alert..............

Dick lives. 

Plus, there is some scary topiary (those who saw the 1997 version will be familiar). 
The spookiest Shining cover. 

I loved the novel.  It was still terrifying to me, familiar as I am with the story.  Where the novel beats both film versions (in my humble opinion) is the final confrontation between Wendy and Jack (much more violent in the novel), the relationship between Hallorann and Wendy and Danny Torrance, and the emphasis on Jack's alcoholism.  Reading the novel you realize how Jack became a prisoner of the hotel.  He was always a prisoner of some demon or another.

You are one crazy wicked bastard and I love you. 

Part of the reason I wanted to read The Shining now is the fact that King is working on a sequel.  Doctor Sleep will introduce us to the grown up Danny Torrance, and, apparently, some vampires.  King is crazy.  I am also a bit obsessed with Shining theory, and it relates to Kubrick's film.  I was almost late to work one day because I got caught up watching a documentary on how Kubrick's film is a call to return to the gold standard.  Really.  Look it up. 

IFC just purchased a documentary entitled Room 237, a film about the various theories involving The Shining.  Read about it here.

Believe it or not my next book is Psycho II by Robert Bloch.  So gory and horrible they decided NOT to base the film sequel on it.  I could be reading great works of literature, but instead I read Psycho II. 


Hoffy said...

Did I ever tell you I got to go see Stephen King's house in Maine? I wanted to knock but I just could not do it.

Jen said...

You never told me that! How awesome!