I re-read Stephen King’s The Shining recently in preparation for the release of its sequel, Doctor Sleep. I’m glad I did.
The Shining is a beautifully written novel, simple, elegant, and powerful. There are only four main characters: Jack Torrance, his wife Wendy, his son Danny, and the Overlook Hotel itself.
At its core, The Shining is an update of the classic “trapped in a haunted house” tale. It’s also the story of a family coming apart at the seams, strained relationships blowing up like the ancient boiler in the basement of the Overlook.
Jack and Wendy are clearly drawn, easily identifiable, sympathetic characters. Danny, with his ability to shine, propels the story forward. His psychic abilities awaken the hotel’s wicked past, and the Overlook preys on the weakest link — recovering alcoholic Jack.
Stanley Kubrick turned The Shining into an iconic film (which King himself hated). While Kubrick’s film is a classic, don’t forget it was Big Daddy Steve who created this nightmare in the first place. King was the one who created such memorable lines as, “I’m going to bash your brains in, Wendy. I’m going to bash them right the fuck in,” and, “Your wife and son need correction, if I may be so bold, sir.” All this and Redrum, too. And don’t forget the wicked witch in Room 217.
I read The Shining for the first time in 1980 when I was 12 years old. This book has lost none of its impact over the past three decades. It’s still a magnificent artistic achievement.
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