Published by Heinemann, Octopus on 1981 (orig. 1977)
Genres: Fiction, Horror
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This book…THIS BOOK…really did a number on me. Holy smokes.
In case you’re not familiar with the story:
Jack Torrance is an aspiring author and newly recovering alcoholic who has just lost his job as a teacher at a prep school. When the story starts, he is interviewing for a job as the winter caretaker for an isolated hotel in the Colorado Rockies called the Overlook. He gets the job, which means that he, Wendy (his wife), and Danny (his son) will have to spend the winter by themselves in the hotel. What Jack doesn’t know when he takes the job is that the Overlook has a lot of bad history and a lot of nasty ghosts. The Overlook has absorbed the evil of the bad deeds done there, and now it wants Danny…because Danny has very powerful second sight (“the shine”), and the hotel wants Danny’s psychic power. BAD THINGS HAPPEN.
The larger book is split up into five smaller “books” that break up the action, so I decided to read a “book” per day. BIG MISTAKE. I should have just dug in and read it over two or three days. Why? Because being anxiety-ridden for five days is NOT THE BUSINESS. Seriously. For five days my chest was tight, my throat hurt, I didn’t sleep well, and I was just generally on edge. The Shining affected me that much. I have NEVER been this freaked out by a book before–not even when I read some of King’s books as an early teen. I was freaked out from day one. No exaggeration. I even tried putting it in the freezer. I did not feel safer.
This did not make me feel safer. At all. All I could think about were the germs from the library book crawling all over the food.
Lots of things in The Shining scared the crap out of me, but specifically:
1. Danny’s nightmares/visions: I already have nasty nightmares all the time, and I don’t need a book to suggest that they might mean something, or that they might be things that could really happen, or that I might bring some nasty dream-monster back with me when I wake up (this last one doesn’t happen in the book, but that’s the way my thoughts progress). Yeah, yeah, I know–irrational thinking at its finest. But all rational thoughts disappear when I wake up in the middle of the night, in the dark, scared out of my wits, with my heart pounding and my chest heaving like I just ran a 400-yard dash.
2. I don’t know why, but this FREAKED ME OUT until I figured out what it meant (100 pages into the story because I’m slow):
3. Animal topiary, the playground, a combination of the two: I will never, ever, ever look at animal topiary the same way again. Not ever. Also, I have never been a fan of small spaces on playgrounds, even as a kid, and NOW I KNOW WHY. Ugh. If I ever come across a playground that has animal topiary in it or around it, I will immediately turn around and run away screaming. Or…I’ll run backwards really fast while keeping my eyes on the topiary AT ALL TIMES.
4. The alcoholism and domestic violence stuff just made me angry and depressed, and left me feeling generally icky. Enough said.
5. EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED IN THE LAST 100 PAGES…
But you know what? I really liked The Shining. The writing and the story were so good. I often read books that make me feel some kind of way, but rarely do I come across a book that makes me feel like this one did. I was really worked up for five days, and I told sj that I would need a couple of days to relax and breathe before we move on to Night Shift (that includes the story “Children of the Corn,” the movie adaptation of which really traumatized me). Aside from the horror of it all, there were a lot of thought-provoking ideas/theories in the book about nature vs. nurture and the things that get passed down within families from generation to generation. I don’t know that I’ll be rereading The Shining anytime soon (or ever again), but I’m glad that I finally read it…and I’m glad that it’s finally over.
**sj decided not to (re)read this one with me, for good reason. She very bravely writes about her reasons why, here.