Father’s Day: The Shining Edition

We had our Father’s Day dinner on Saturday, which let my eldest daughter join us at a local German restaurant as she’s working all day today. So today’s been more about getting stuff done around the house rather than relaxation, since we marked the day yesterday.

The little bit of mental unwinding that I’ve done has involved working my way through a re-read of Stephen King’s The Shining. I’m generally a bit behind with my leisure reading (I’m always reading, but it’s not always current), and I wanted to revisit The Shining before tackling Doctor Sleep.

The key phrase here is “working,” as this is probably my third or fourth time reading this early King novel, and I’m a different person today than I was back in 1978 when I picked up the mass market paperback issue with the shiny silver cover that showed only an outline of Danny Torrance’s head. King’s work was a revelation to teenager Steve, as it offered a different way of looking at the world, and reinforced the burgeoning idea that there was more to the world than I saw stepping outside the front door of my home in northeast Ohio. In fact, I started to understand there were “worlds,” and something as simple as words on a page opened the doors between realities. So, back then King was fresh and bright, while today just lets me see how he was still a new writer, still finding his way.

Don’t get me wrong, I find it hard to put down the book, as much as I want to do that, and tear into Doctor Sleep. (And then Joyland and Mr. Mercedes, as King’s had quite a run this past few months.) But the way King drops into his character’s viewpoints, interrupting the narrative flow doesn’t wow me as it did back in the late 1970s. He still uses that nowadays; I consider that technique one of his signatures. Now I feel like it’s overused. And then there’s his tendency to hit you with an idea/scene at the beginning of a chapter before dropping back into a flashback. It all just seems awkward to me.

Of course, I’d gladly switch places with him. :-)

Some scenes still entrance me as much as they did back in 1978. I’m just reaching the point where Jack is trimming the topiary animals. A couple of days back I read the scene where Danny deals with the fire hose/snake after he visits Room 217 with the passkey for the first time. And I’ll get to the chapter where Danny actually goes inside Room 217 tonight before I go to bed. I don’t think I’ll need to worry about bad dreams (I’m not as impressionable as I was way back when), but they may influence my thoughts to some extent; good writing always leaves an impression.

The latter is one of the reasons I cited The Shining as one of King’s best. I think I still feel that way, even though the book has lost some of its “shine” with this latest reading. The horror faced by the Torrance family remains one rooted in the dysfunction of addiction rather than otherworldly ghosts. I can’t help feeling a growing sense of desperation as the storm clouds loom against the horizon, because once the snow strands them at the Overlook they really can’t escape their fate. And I do want them to have a happy ending. I want to go back to the time when I don’t know what REDRUM actually means, because you can’t recapture that innocence once it’s lost. Knowing seems to make the story that much more tragic.

Now if it was only an easy read.

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About stephenwnagy

writer, father, husband. not necessarily in that order.
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