...thinkin you were the only one?"
~Hallorann (The Shining)/ 1977/ by Stephen King
I recently read the story "The Shining" by Stephen King. A 505 page novel (the page count was daunting) that gripped me and kept me reading long past midnight. Again, as with most of these novels, I'd not seen the film so I had no preconceptions of what was supposed to happen. I'd seen snippets of the movie with Jack Nicholson, but had never viewed the whole thing.
As I finished the book, I reflected on what kept me reading. The story was gripping. I think tales that include a 'childhood innocence', threatened by the reality of abuse, are compelling for many adult readers. Many of us, particularly at the time this novel was written, were subjected to corporal punishment that border-lined, if not included, abuse in the family. Alcohol, divorce, troubles with maintaining a job, overcoming anger issues...these were (and still are) real and visceral topics that Stephen King brings to play in the pages of his novel. These are things that many adults, and children of my era, can relate to because we've experienced them in one form or another. As I read, I not only sympathized with the young protagonist, Danny, a boy 5 years old, but I empathized with him as I remembered my own childhood. The family conflicts, undergoing parental divorce and the abuses that were not quite so physical as Danny's but (in my mind) were just as profound.
Couple Danny's experiences with that of being a parent (in this case a mother) and my desire to protect the child, and to care for him emerged and I not only felt for the boy, but I felt for the mother who wanted only the best things in life for her son. While Jack, the father, was less of a figure I could relate to, still his addiction to alcohol, and his uncontrollable temper, were things I'd seen, things I understood, from my own young life.
It was Stephen Kings web of reality and the supernatural that gripped me in this novel, and kept me reading. Because I could relate to his characters, because they were so real to me, I felt involved in their adventure. But it was not just the relational aspects that kept me turning pages. It was, of course, the conflicts each character experienced on their stressful journey. I enjoyed the multiple POV's, being able to see inside Danny's head, Wendy's head, and into Jack's tumultuous brain. I enjoyed hearing Hallorann's thoughts in certain parts of the story, and found myself hoping he would come to the rescue.
Take those very real things, and combine them with the underlying threat of evil that abides in a hotel, an evil that I believe exists in dark places of the world, and the story becomes one that caught me in a proverbial bear trap. IT wouldn't let me go. It was an enjoyable, terrifying and introspective read I would recommend to anyone who loves a good tale.
On the critical side, there were some annoying passages I found at the beginning of the novel that diminished its appeal. Rudimentary things that we, as budding novelists, are taught not to do. The first few chapters contained a slew of adverbs, the dreaded 'ly' words, that detract from the descriptions and make the prose almost unprofessional. But, oddly, as the story progressed, the verbiage improved, or if there were just as many 'ly' words... I didn't notice them.
(I may come back to this blog post and include more thoughts in the future, but these are my immediate muses having just finished the book.)
I feel I am far behind in understanding the Horror genre that I've chosen to study, let alone taking the plunge into writing. Yet, as I read the pages of "The Shining" I understood that my late childhood nights absorbing the complete works of Poe (usually under my covers, a flashlight in hand, well past my bedtime), and dwelling on all things paranormal and scary, have primed me for just such a venture. I've taken alternate routes in my previous education, all of which have led me, inexorably, HERE. This place, this moment, the path that I've chosen. And in the back of my mind, though I might curse it, or possibly regret it, I've always known it would happen. A 'shine' of sorts. Except that I can't see how it all ends. And maybe it doesn't matter. What matters is that its finally begun.