01 September 2012

Books: The Shining by Stephen King (1977)

In the summer of 1980, when I was 17 and finished my junior year of high school, I stumbled upon Stephen King. I was not sure then or even now, if I was aware of him. Much of the early parts of the 1970s remain stored away in my brain. It’s funny, in some ways, how much I don’t remember my childhood, versus King, who is obsessed with his time as child, growing up in post-World War II 1950s where everything seemed full of possibilities. 
Of course King’s life was never easy, being brought up by single mother after his father abandon the family. Still, it seems, those halcyon days spark a lot of his fiction.

Anyways, I picked up a paperback copy of The Stand (that was, at the right, the original mass market version) at the Eagle Grocery Store my mom shopped at. After the break-up of her second marriage, money was tight and mom –always a frugal shopper learned during the time after the death of my father in 1968- needed to shop economically, as three of her four children were still living at home. Sure, Jewel and Dominick’s were well shopped, but Eagle (and Butera) offered food cheaper.  

Since I earned an allowance, I decided to buy the King book (it was probable all of 3.95 or 4.95 back then, but I also think Eagle discounted the books maybe 10%). As I’ve mentioned before, the mass market version of The Stand was something like 817 pages (why this memory stays planted in my head, while others don’t, is odd, don’t you think?), which would be the longest book I had ever read since I graduated to novels in middle 1970’s – I do remember reading Jaws and some of the Bantam Star Trek novels that came out then –mostly because I wanted to emulate my older brother. So that would have been around 1975 and making me about 12 then; not sure I understood some the whole meanings of those books.  

I remember loving that book, and have since then read it a few more times and at least twice when King released the expanded version in 1990. But after I read The Stand, I went back and got ‘Salem’s Lot, which I read next and then The Shining –which I wanted to finish before the movie version came out at Christmas 1980 (which was and still is a huge disappointment for me. Still, just recently, I was reading an article on Kubrick's film version and got a better understanding of why he did what he did by deviating from the novel so much). Funny part, it was well a year or two later before I got around to King’s first book, Carrie

So why did I pick-up The Shining thirty-two years later and re-read it again? I’ll admit part of the reason is that King will be releasing a sequel this January. I wanted to re-familiarize myself with the Torrnace family, even though I still remember the basic structure of the book.  And part of me is curious if the forth coming Doctor Sleep will revisit some of the hopes and dreams his mother Wendy had for Danny 35 years ago when The Shining hit the bookstores. 

I mean, when King and Peter Straub released Black House in 2001, which was the sequel to their 1984 novel The Talisman, it was designed to be very stand-alone-ish. The readers of Black House did not have to read the first book to understand the sequel –even though, in many ways, Black House seemed more of a continuation of his King's own Dark Tower series (events in that book effected the later series).

I still think The Shining represented some the clearest understand of psychology of terror that King became enamored with during that period – much like ‘Salem’s Lot and The Stand, were as well. It’s some of his best writing he did before the 1980’s where alcoholism and drugs tempered his abilities. Yes, he’s a pop-fiction writer, but he knows pacing, has a way with words and languages and understands the human condition better than most writers of the last 40 years. 

Long before I finished this book, I began to wonder who King would bring back for Doctor Sleep. The novel is set 35 years later, meaning Danny is 41. His mom Wendy could be, theoretically, still alive. Dick Hallorann could be too. He’s 61 in The Shining, so he would be 96 in this sequel. I wonder, like Paul Edgecombe in King’s The Green Mile (who got something from John Coffee), can people with this shining live longer? But it’s possible that Dick is long dead, and so, maybe his mother.

The plot, however, may seem to indicate that Dan is all alone:

The sequel has Dan Torrance as a middle-aged man who drifted for decades in an attempt to escape his father's legacy, and who has eventually settled in a New Hampshire town, working in a nursing home, where his remnant mental abilities provide comfort to the dying. With the aid of a cat that can foresee the future, Dan becomes "Doctor Sleep." But he encountered Abra Stone, who has the shining even more powerful than Dan’s, he must protect her from the vampire-like people known as The True Knot.


SEAN said...

I'm reread one of my favorites - The Talisman. I remember reading it on a skiing trip and while I was on the slopes, I would wonder where Jack was. Now that I'm reading it again, much to my surprise, I remember almost none of it. It still strikes me a one of his better books and I'm loving it all over again. What I don't understand is how this book was never made into a film or mini series. Prospero of Caliban's Revenge sent me a few brilliant fan made trailers from YouTube but still. Especially after the success of the Potter and Narnia films (one Narnia anyway).

David said...

The Talisman got stuck in 'developmental hell.' For the longest time, Steven Spielberg held the rights to the novel, but I think part of the problem laid in the fact that when the book was released in '84, the technology did not exist to produce it.

Then they could not decide how to produce it -movie or miniseries.

There have been attempts well into the 21st Century to get the book made as a miniseries, but I'm unsure if Spielberg still has the rights to the novel.