Skip to main content

The Shining by Stephen King

Image of The Shining

In a movie theater, I'm That Girl - the one who puts her head under her coat at the slightest sound of scary music, the one who shrieks when a character is killed off and/or the one who winces at the sight of a gun. I kept my head buried under the covers for sections of Date Night where there were scary guys. You know, Date Night with Tina Fey and Steve Carell? Fair to say they were going to make it to the end alive.

In short, I'm a big sissy. It's a fair assessment to say that I'm not a huge fan of horror. But I do have a huge appreciation for Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick, so I've actually now read and seen The Shining .

For those of you who have missed it over the past 30 years, The Shining follows the Torrance family as father Jack moves his wife and son to a remote Colorado hotel to spend the winter indoors and writing. The hotel is haunted, Jack's an alcoholic, son Danny is psychic, and it all goes downhill from there.

Like any movie, if you've seen it first it's hard not to see the characters in your head, so for about 600 pages Jack Nicholson was dancing around my brain becoming increasingly more frightening (which may be redundant). The Shining has its issues: there's a certain crudeness to the language; the book takes a long time to get going; and there are definitely dated elements - you never quite forget that it was written in the 1970s, whether it's the gender roles, the explanation from the psychologist about Danny's psychic visions, or the fact that no one seems concerned that Danny's going to miss a year of school.

But once the book gains steam, there are well-written horror scenes that are frightening without being graphic. The magic of The Shining is that King takes the ordinary elements of life that are scary - being stranded in snow, a mad drinking father, letting the boiler overheat, a kitchen knife - and combines them with the magical or supernatural. Deep down, there's a whole lot of basic themes around being a writer, being a parent, and being crazy. If you can relate to one out of the three, the book is worth reading.

Trackback URL for this post: