Monday, January 6, 2014

Protecting the hotel was his job. He was the caretaker.

While I was reading* Pride and Prejudice I decided I needed something to break up all of the balls and formal language and all of that fun stuff. So I decided to go with The Shining because apparently I want to make sure if I'm reading two things at once, they need to be at opposite ends of the spectrum. Also I would like to read Doctor Sleep at some point and I'm pretty sure The Shining was on sale.

Last time I read this book I was around 14. I lent my book to someone else who never returned it, and I haven't re-read it since. Also if you're wondering why I'm all nervous lending books out, this. This is why.

I remembered the basic story, I remembered it was different than the movie, and I remembered that Joey from Friends would put the book in the freezer when he wasn't reading it.

For those of you that perhaps don't know the story, Jack Torrence has recently accepted a position as caretaker at the Overlook Hotel for the winter. The hotel is only open in the spring and summer because the winter weather makes the mountain passes...well, unpassable. And the phone lines go out as well. Someone needs to hang out at the TOTALLY ISOLATED hotel and make sure things are still in good condition come next spring, and in this case that someone is Jack, his wife Wendy and young son Danny.

Jack's had trouble with alcohol and his temper in the past, so this is a last chance to start his life fresh. He'll take the time to work on his play, his friend will see if he can smooth things over at the school he used to work at, and really, the family needs the money. But there's something not right about the hotel. Halloran, the hotel cook, recognizes Danny's ability to "shine," to read minds a bit and to be able to see events, sometimes in the future, sometimes in the past. He warns Danny that the hotel may show him things that are scary but they're just pictures. But what if they're something more?

The atmosphere at the Overlook is what's so great. It's so scary and tense, but it builds slowly. The family gets up to the hotel and things start to go wrong, but it's not enough to scare them away. Which is a thing I forgot about and makes everything so much worse. I forgot how much of the book takes place when the family could have left the hotel. They go up to the Overlook early in the book, but it's not like they immediately get snowed in. They regularly go into town and go to the library and the little shop. They had a chance to get away, all three of them, before the hotel takes control. And of course they don't. I hope that isn't a spoiler for you, but really, if they did get away before things got really bad then clearly there wouldn't be a story.

This is a seriously scary book. The tension slowly mounts until you (and the Torrence's) are about to snap. And then they do.

The book is so much more than just a haunted hotel story. The main story, the main conflict, is Jack against himself. The hotel may have its demons, but the ones within Jack are just as scary and just as much of a threat to the family. That's the part the movie missed. I still like the Kubrick movie, but the book is so much scarier. Which is too bad cos you'd think Kubrick would have made use of all of the really creepy things going on instead of just deciding Nicholson is crazy, that'll do. And while I heart his performance, it's not Jack Torrence. The whole thing with Jack is the change he goes through to become the monster he is by the end, the monster he'd been trying to keep under control. Nicholson's Jack was crazy from the beginning, and you never got the feeling that he was anything other than this murderous psychopath. He was jut playacting that he was something different. Really during that first interview they should have known how having him as caretaker was going to play out.

Even if you're not a King fan, you should read this book. If you're not a horror fan, you should probably stay away because Joey hiding the book in the freezer isn't a bad idea.

*My reviews are really far behind. I didn't realize just how backlogged I am until I started to write this one and realized I read this over Thanksgiving. So yeah. There you go. 

Title quote from page 332, location 5825

King, Stephen. The Shining. Originally published Doubleday, 1977. Kindle edition published Random House, 2008.