by King, Stephen
Ghostly bursts of plaster dust. A low, rhythmic sound in the background: Red rum-RED RUM-red rum-RED RUM. A sense of something evil swirling inward on itself, like a whirlpool of black ectoplasmic energy. The experience of being inside the actual consciousness ("come out and take your medicine!") of a frightened little boy. Echoes of Shirley Jackson ("whatever walked there, walked alone"), of Poe's Masque of the Red Death and of creepy folk tales (Hansel and Gretel).
How do we love The Shining? Let us count the ways. In 1977, The Shining was the first widely read novel to confront alcoholism and child abuse in baby-boomer families--especially the way alcoholism, a will toward failure in one's work, and abusing one's kids are passed down from generation to generation. The heart of the book is not an evil hotel but a pair of father-son relationships: Jack and his father, Jack and his son. This was both daring and insightful for its time, long before "dysfunctional family" was a cliché.
The Shining was written in a frenzy. Stephen King imagined the whole novel in his head while sitting up all night in the dark, in the very Colorado hotel where the story takes place. He then transcribed it (that's how he puts it) in a burst of sustained energy. He could pull that off because, even at that early point in his career, King had figured out a successful way of structuring a popular novel. The speed of its composition gives the writing a powerful flow that sweeps you along past the awkward wording.
The Shining is one of those rare novels that can burn its images--such as Room 217--into your brain. Time alone will tell, but The Shining may well turn out to be one of the best horror novels ever written. By the way, you know that film starring Jack Nicholson? Stephen King says, "I have my days when I think I gave Kubrick a live grenade on which he heroically threw his body." --Fiona Webster
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