I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
First, let it be said, that I am a big CHICKEN. I don’t know why I thought I could read this book comfortably (after all, I just recently read Andrew Pyper’s The Damned and spent several days hiding in bed with the covers over my head). But so many people loooooove Mr. King’s work, and I had been lured into a false sense of security because I had no problems with another of his novels, The Stand. And the Guardian put it on their list of books that everyone should read…..and well, I should have known better. I should probably also be clear that I have NEVER seen the movie. I don’t do scary movies any more than I do scary books. Because I am a CHICKEN.
So, this was another one of those books that I could read only during bright daylight. Once the shadows started to lengthen, it was on to other novels for me. But, the days are getting longer right now, so I’ve been able to finish up quicker than I anticipated.
Now, let me say that I can fully see why people rave over Stephen King’s writing. I thought that Jack Torrance was a particularly well realized character. Gee, a struggling writer with an alcohol problem—where do you think King got inspiration for that? The rage and terror both that Jack struggles through (as a result of his own childhood experiences of domestic violence) were so believable—chillingly believable! As was the worry and terror of Danny, who never asked for this talent, this shining, and is too young to understand what to do with it. Wendy is not as well developed--the story obviously revolves around the father-son relationship, probably an issue for Mr. King, as he was 2 when his father abandoned his family. I think the most terrifying part of the book is the ability of Jack to rationalize what he is doing, to take a seemingly sensible decision and to twist it to fit his own damaged morality. It would be sensible to leave the hotel—but Jack will never get another job. It would be sensible to get Wendy and Danny out on the snowmobile—but they have no family support system to rely on. They are adults who know that ghosts aren’t real—until the ghosts are entirely too real and are running the show. And Jack, the little boy who wanted his abusive father’s approval, now wants the abusive phantoms’ approval just as badly. [Much superior to the cardboard cut-out people, very good or very bad, that populate The Stand.]
Just for the record, I love Dick Halloran. Talk about a knight- in-”shining”-armour, he is that rare and wonderful thing, a decent man. Even the less-than-likeable people are believable—I’ve met examples of some of them. King is masterly at creating people you can envision meeting.
I’ve been giving some thought to why this bump-in-the-dark stuff gives me such heebie-jeebies, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I am deeply conflicted. My rational self would like to think that “of course I don’t believe in the supernatural,” but my emotional self is a fence-sitter on this one. Not willing to rule out ghosts, not entirely willing to rule them in, either. (Do ghosts seen in dreams count? I’ve met several of those. But they’ve all been comforting.)
I’m looking forward to blunting the adrenalin a little bit, now that the book is behind me. To settle back into regular life and quit jumping at every little sound.