The Shining (Part II)

Cover Image: The ShiningI’m halfway through the book now, and this is the point where I’ve started fantasizing about the light, funny book that I’ll read next, with characters I actually like and am interested in. I’m even starting to wish I’d chosen a different Stephen King book, though still not The Stand. Here’s my the blow-by-blow account of the second quarter of the book, with spoilers:

Chapter 8: They have finally actually arrived at the hotel. The chapters aren’t very long, but it seemed like it took an excessive amount of time for King to fill us in on all the characters’ back-stories. The same friend who told me about On Writing told me that in it, King says he considers his works more character studies than plot-driven, and I have to say that I agree, given how long it has taken the plot to kick in. That said, this is when I’ve really started getting engaged in the story. (This will not be long-lasting.)

Chapter 14: Here’s the thing about reading a book about a man’s slow descent into madness until he tries to kill his wife and his young son—it’s kind of a bummer. It doesn’t help that there are currently only very minimal supernatural elements, so the story so far has been about a short-tempered man with a history of violence who takes almost no responsibility for his own actions and treats his family with complete disdain. Honestly, at this point, I’m hoping for a few ghosts to add some levity to this book.

Chapter 17: A doctor is explaining the young boy Danny’s trances and foreknowledge, “You know, schizoid behavior is a pretty common thing in children. It’s accepted, because all we adults have this unspoken agreement that children are lunatics.” He goes on to say that Danny will no doubt grow out of it, and it reminded me of hearing that in the 70s and early 80s psychiatrists and psychologists didn’t believe that mental illnesses existed pre-puberty, which is such a crazy thought in today’s world.

Ha! And then, Wendy worries that Danny might become autistic—what a different world it was! I don’t know why this book’s time period is so odd to me; maybe King puts in more contemporary details than other authors? Maybe because it is relatively recent (within my lifetime counts as recent) but seems so very, very different?

Chapter 20: Jack thinks to himself, “at times she could be the stupidest bitch” about Wendy when she has the wrong kind of painkillers to offer him for his headache. And, there goes my last tiny shred of any sort of empathy for Jack. He can’t die soon enough in my view, but I still have over 200 more pages.

The thing is, I think we are supposed to be seeing the effect the hotel is starting to have on Jack, but the problem is that even with all the time King spent on his past, we haven’t seen an earlier version of Jack that is in any way redeemable. I can’t even comprehend why Wendy was attracted to him enough to associate with him at all, let alone marry him. We are starting to get into Thinner territory here, where how can I feel any suspense when I am actively hoping for the death of the main character?

Chapter 21: Jack is absolutely shocked (shocked, I tell you!) to find that the owner of the hotel wants to prevent him from writing a tell-all book about the hotel, comparing himself to a dog on a leash (as opposed to the much more reasonable and expected ‘employee with a confidentiality agreement’).

The funny thing is that while I think Jack’s indignity is absurd and completely misplaced, I also think the hotel owner was short-sighted. Does he really think a successful book relating all the scandals of an upscale hotel would dissuade people from visiting? Business would be booming! I mean, just look at The Stanley Hotel milking its connection to The Shining for all its worth. (The bar serves Red Rum Punch, which is hilarious to me for some reason. It also includes 3 different kinds of rum and makes you feel like you could breathe fire.)

Chapter 27: I just realized one of the biggest problems I’m having with this book. Jack is always hovering on the edge of a massive temper tantrum and Wendy is constantly on the brink of hysteria, it seems. They are children! Five-year-old Danny is the most mature and adult character in the book. In retrospect, this makes sense that the one scene where I had a spark of respect for Wendy was when it finally occurred to her to just talk to Danny and ask him about his feelings toward the hotel and whether they should stay or not.

Chapter 32: As we the readers delve deeper into Jack’s fragmenting psyche, we discover that the play he has been working on about a struggling teacher in a battle of wills with a privileged student has somehow twisted in his mind to reflect his own past experience as a struggling teacher in a battle of wills with a privileged student. I’m not entirely sure in what possible way the play could have twisted from its original intent since that was already exactly parallel his own history. Which is fine, write what you know and all that, but it is bizarre to the point of unbelievable that Jack didn’t realize he was writing his own past. His previous ignorance of his own writing’s inspiration says a lot more about his state of mind at that time than his realization does now. (And I think it says that his state of mind was ‘dumb’.)

Anyway, all of this has brought me to a bigger generalization about Stephen King novels. I think if I had read them as a teenage and they were my first introduction to the entire genre of psychological suspense, perhaps that initial mind-blowing would create a nostalgic appreciation for all future Stephen King novels I then read. (It would also help if I had been a teenage boy with a very faulty understanding of women.) By reading King well into my adulthood, I think I’ve missed my window of opportunity with him.

And, now, I’m going to try my hardest to finish this book as soon as possible because I just picked up from the library a book for which I’ve been on the waiting list for several months, and I can’t tell you how much I just want to put down The Shining and dive into my new, potentially interesting book. But I will persevere!

2 comments on “The Shining (Part II)

  1. Rebecca says:

    What is it that makes it so much fun to read critiques? Because this book does sound pretty awful and I am thoroughly convinced that I don’t want to ever read it, however I am enjoying your commentary immensely. Good luck slogging through the rest of the book. I look forward to seeing your take on the climax and conclusion.

    • Anna says:

      Well, I have to admit that if I wasn’t blogging about it, I probably would have given up on The Shining by now, so I’m glad it is providing amusement to someone, at least.

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