Revisiting The Shining by Richard Chizmar
THAT WAS THEN…
THE SHINING was the second Stephen King novel I ever read, and when I look back at that experience there is one crystal clear memory that surfaces above all the others: this book is almost too scary.
Let me explain. I was sixteen at the time. The son of a strict, but loving father and a doting mother. Baby brother to four older siblings. A mostly normal teenager who just happened to see and hear and feel things a little deeper (okay, a lot deeper) than most of my friends. I already knew I wanted to be a writer one day, and somewhere deep in my subconscious, I think I also knew that writing would one day be my salvation. The same way that books were my escape from the real world, I somehow knew that writing would be my way to understand and cope with that real world.
I had read a handful of King’s short stories by this time and one novel, ‘SALEM’S LOT. I was enchanted by King’s tale of vampires invading a small New England town, and surprisingly it was the townspeople, even more than the vampires, that cast the strongest spell over me as a reader. Like so many others, I found ‘SALEM’S LOT to be a powerful and frightening reading experience, and it remains today one of my Top Ten favorite Stephen King novels.
But there were no vampires in THE SHINING. Just a loving mom and a struggling dad and a very special little boy — and one very big and very bad hotel tucked away in the mountains.
I do remember thinking that the Overlook Hotel would’ve been a helluva place for vampires to take over — especially during the busy summer season when the place was rocking with hundreds of out-of-town guests — but, as I mentioned above, thanks to THE SHINING’s promotional copy I knew from the start that there would be no vampires this time around.
Ironically, barely halfway into the novel, I found myself wishing there were vampires prowling the empty hallways of the Overlook; in fact, they would have been a welcome relief in my eyes. Because, even as a teenager, I very quickly realized that the human monster the Overlook (and King) had created was much more terrifying than any fanged creature of the night.
And, perhaps worst of all, this monster was a husband and a father and a man I had very much liked at the beginning of the story.
I remember feeling almost paralyzed by some of the darker moments. Those damn hedge animals first creeping up on Jack, and then later in the story, Danny. The elevator running by itself late at night, and the confetti and party mask left behind inside it. The slithering fire hose. Room 217. It’s a long list of horrors, and once he starts, King never lets up.
‘SALEM’S LOT had frightened me, but this was different. This was more than just scary — it was pure terror. I remember it feeling like all the air was being sucked out of the room and I was almost suffocating as I turned the pages. I remember thinking: I can’t let anyone in school see me like this!
So, I read THE SHINING at home over the course of one long week. By myself. In my bedroom. Under the covers. With all the lights on. And my bedroom door wide open.
I may have been sixteen, but I wasn’t dumb.
THIS IS NOW…
That’s the word that comes to mind after taking the past couple weeks to reread THE SHINING for the first time in many years. Relentless and scary as hell. Okay, five words.
Simply put, THE SHINING is a big fat nasty snowball of a nightmare that takes its time to draw you in, and then once it has its sharp little claws in you…it squeezes and squeezes…and you are done. There is no escape.
As a reader, there is very little humor or beauty here to alleviate the tension and the gradual understanding of what is coming. We all know that horrible dream sensation of falling, right? That’s what rereading THE SHINING felt like to me. Falling…deeper and deeper into King’s familiar nightmare. (Yes, I had an actual nightmare the night I finished my reread; and yes, I emailed Steve and complained about said nightmare; and no, I’m not telling you what I dreamed about; I don’t even want to think about it).
As a writer, I look at THE SHINING and see a marvel of structure and characterization and narrative drive. The story is complex and propulsive.
Complex: who else looks at Jack and feels a serious dose of sympathy along with their fear and repulsion? I know I do. I always have. I say it very succinctly later on in this essay: Jack never had a chance. Why do you think the Overlook picked him?
Complex: just take a look at the back story of the Overlook Hotel. My God, the history of the place! Presidents and mobsters. Prostitutes and politicians. Murder. Suicide. Scandal. I believe King could have written a second book focusing on the Overlook’s past and it would have been every bit as haunting and fascinating as THE SHINING.
Propulsive: It starts slow. Almost like we are strapped into a roller coaster with the promise of first-rate entertainment up ahead. We’re smiling — maybe a little nervously, but still we’re smiling and our hands are reaching high in the air with brave anticipation. This is fun, right? Heck, we even paid to do this, right? It’s only when we reach the top and realize what is waiting for us below that we start screaming for King to get us the hell off this ride!
At least, that’s what it’s like for me, this masterpiece we call THE SHINING.
We start slowly. Getting to know Jack and Wendy and Danny. Their own backstories and struggles, and it’s enough to immediately make us like them and root for them. We want good things to happen to this family. Mission accomplished, Steve.
Then we arrive at the Overlook and get to know Dick Hallorann and the nasty Stuart Ullman a little better, and finally the hotel itself. It’s big and empty and a little creepy, but hey it seems like just the place to spend a snowy winter playing games with the family and writing a play. Forget about the whispers of its dark past; forget about what happened to the previous caretaker and his family. Everything will turn out okay for the Torrance family; they’re a lovable bunch and we’re rooting for them, remember?
So, now the ride picks up a little momentum — and so does our sense of unease. We have the creepy hedge animals; did they really just move or was that our imagination? And that damn hornets nest; but it was supposed to be empty! And that creepy Room 217; what was it Hallorann said about that place? And those spooky fire hoses hanging on the wall; of course, they look like evil snakes to little Danny; he’s just a kid, after all. And then Jack stumbles upon the scrapbook in the basement while he is checking the boiler, and oh boy, we’re steaming now; it seems the Overlook Hotel is a whole lot more colorful than even Ullman originally let on.
And then here we go, we’re really gaining speed now, almost to the top of the ride, as Danny has his own run-in with the hedge animals, and soon after he pays a visit to Room 217, and almost doesn’t survive it. And that REDRUM nightmare of his is really starting to crank. And what about the elevator that runs by itself and Jack’s old habit of rubbing his chin and lips and that increasingly nasty temper of his…
…and then we suddenly find ourselves at the peak — the point of no return — of this midnight roller coaster, as we reach Chapter 33, simply titled THE SNOWMOBILE. It’s a quiet scene. One character. Minimal dialogue. Jack stands alone inside the Overlook’s shed, staring at his family’s only possible mode of escape. And we can feel the war raging inside him as he runs through his muddied thoughts. He searches for spark plugs and a battery for the snowmobile, and we feel and hear the rage and confusion boiling inside him. We feel him fighting the Overlook for his soul. Good versus evil, sure; but it’s bigger than that. Jack Torrance, the husband, the father, the man…the guy we are rooting for…he’s all there on the page, the best of him and the worst of him.
And then with these words…
“I can’t win,” he said, very softly. That was it. It was like trying to play solitaire with one of the aces missing from the deck.
…we witness his surrender.
King’s words here are deceptively simple, and they break my heart. Then and now. Any chance of a happy ending for this man and his family are gone. We just watched the Overlook Hotel win, and now the roller coaster is plummeting into darkness and taking us with it.
A few chapters later — when Danny tells his mom, “It’s Daddy. And it’s you. It wants all of us. It’s tricking Daddy, it’s fooling him, trying to make him think it wants him the most. It wants me the most, but it will take all of us.” — we realize there is no escape. For any of us.
The woman in the tub had been dead for a long time. She was bloated and purple, her gas-filled belly rising out of the cold, ice-rimmed water like some fleshy island. Her eyes were fixed on Danny’s, glassy and huge, like marbles. She was grinning, her purple lips pulled back in a grimace. Her breasts lolled. Her pubic hair floated. Her hands were frozen on the knurled porcelain sides of the tub like crab claws.
Danny shrieked. But the sound never escaped his lips; turning inward and inward, it fell down in his darkness like a stone in a well. He took a single blundering step backward, hearing his heels clack on the white hexagonal tiles, and at the same moment his urine broke, spilling effortlessly out of him.
The woman was sitting up.
Enough said, right? Room 217. Sheer terror.
This one, for me, is easy. When Dick Hallorann takes Danny and his parents on a tour of the Overlook’s kitchen and pantry, and we get to watch as Danny and Hallorann make their special connection, it’s a scene of such joy and wonderment…and innocence. You can feel the surprise, and then the relief, as Danny discovers that he is not alone with his gift — his “shining.”
Once Danny and Hallorann continue alone outside and Danny helps load the cook’s suitcases into the car, the scene takes a foreboding turn, but it’s still a pleasure to watch and listen to these two interact.
These scenes take place fairly early in the novel — Chapters 10 and 11 — but they are the last moments of genuine happiness I experienced while reading this dark story. The rest is like walking into a long, dark tunnel — without end.
And he was just beginning to relax, just beginning to realize that the door must be unlocked and he could go, when the years-damp, bloated, fish-smelling hands closed softly around his throat and he was turned implacably around to stare into that dead and purple face.
SCENE THAT STILL MAKES ME CRINGE…
I hated the hornets scene back when I first read THE SHINING, and I hate it even more now. Yes, it’s just a handful of mostly harmless hornet stings — 11 to be exact — from a nest that was supposed to be dead and empty, but it’s more than that: it’s the first time the Overlook’s dark magic drives a wedge in between Jack and Wendy, and once this occurs, the evil never loosens its grip around Jack’s throat. I wanted to yell at the book, “It’s not Jack’s fault! He followed the instructions on the bug bomb! He did everything right! Stop blaming him, Wendy!”
Bearing witness to this injustice is such a helpless feeling, and for us readers, it’s only the beginning. Later, you look back at this scene, and it becomes clear: Jack never had a chance.
CHARACTER I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO…
Danny Torrance, of course! So, a big thanks to Steve for DOCTOR SLEEP! I’d also love to find out what happened to Stuart Ullman now that his precious Overlook Hotel is gone…but that’s just me; I realize the guy is an officious little prick.
START DATE – November 16, 2014
FINISH DATE – December 2, 2014
* * *
One final note: I was recently invited to be a Guest of Honor at the 2015 Stanley Hotel Writers Retreat. This is a yearly author and artist conference held each October at The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. The Stanley was Stephen King’s original inspiration for the Overlook Hotel and THE SHINING, and is widely reported to be haunted.
Because I am unwise and unwell, I am seriously considering their kind offer to join them next October. Stay tuned for further details…
Next you can read about the history of The Shining. The complete list of the books we’ll be reading can be found on the Stephen King Books In Chronological Order For Stephen King Revisited Reading Lists page. To be notified of new posts and updates via email, please sign-up using the box on the right side or the bottom of this site.
If you do decide to go to the Stanley, let me know!
The Shining was the first Stephen King book I read. I was eleven at the time. I was a precocious eleven, and already reading at high-school level, but holy hell did this book do a number on me. Even now, after probably a couple dozen re-readings, if I’m home alone at night, and I read the part where the croquet mallet is going CRACK against the plaster, I get the falling-butterflies feeling. I’ve read, I think, every one of Stephen King’s novels, most of them several times, and I still think that this is the best-written. His other books can entertain, enrapture, and even scare me, but none of them have evoked such strong feelings of dread and claustrophobia. I don’t know if he’s ever done atmosphere better than in the Overlook. Love this series, it’s bringing back such great memories!
I grew up in a house with at least one ghost. A relatively benign ghost, but a ghost nonetheless. I’m pretty sure something has followed me with every move. Weird stuff happens around here with regularity. I’m by nature a skeptic and I was the last in my family to believe the house I grew up in was haunted. The Shining scares the willies out of me.
This was my first Stephen King book also. It took me three days to get to page 100. The fourth day, I could not put it down. I finished it at 4 AM and then I couldn’t get to sleep. It was a perfect novel. I had never read anything so riveting and terrifying.
I too read this book when I was about 17. I tucked myself away onto the sofa in the living room every night, alone, away from everyone else in the big house we lived in. I wanted to be alone. I wanted to feel the terror of this book alone. I’m not sure why. It was also the 2nd book by King I read after savouring The Stand for almost a year. But back to The Shining… At one point in The Shining, while Jack is in the boiler room or another part of the house, Wendy puts her ear against the old radiator in the room she is in to try and hear the echo of where Jack is in the house. As I am reading this the old radiator in my living room let out a loud burst (air in the system) and I jumped out of my skin, threw the book across the room and ran into the kitchen. My mom was there and older brother and they both looked at my pale-white face and mom asked, “You okay? You look like you’ve seen a ghost!” And they both started to laugh. I didn’t read the book anymore that night. In fact, I think it took me a couple of days to gather up enough courage to finish it. The Shining, to me, is the scariest fucking book I have ever read. Thanks for the nightmares, Stephen!
Yeah – definitely go to the Stanley. It’s pretty amazing. Especially as a fan of the book.
When I read this the first time – it was the supernatural elements of the story that grabbed me. The second time I read, it was the breakdown of the family unit that fascinated me. True sign of aging and a testament to King’s ability to weave a multi-layered tale.
Definitely let me know if you head to the Stanley! Would love to meet you and it’s not such a far drive as I live in Colorado Springs. Would be an honor!
My second King book, too – after Carrie – and the one that hooked me for life. The scene with the firehouse is an absolute masterpiece.
Sadly I was late to the game reading this book. Read it earlier this year in fact! I had seen the movie countless times, and of course, you don’t get the detail, backstory, etc. that is presented to the reader in the book.
I read this first as a teen & didn’t do well. My step-father was (is) an alcoholic who once pulled a loaded gun on me, so when Jack started his “dark thoughts” courtesy of the hotel, I thought they were normal for alcoholics. As an adult & a mom, the threat to Danny is the hardest to deal with. I’ve read all (that I know of) of King’s books, most of them more than once. He still fascinates & scares & enthralls & everything else.
My wife and I had the chance to spend a few nights at the hotel Stanley a couple of years ago. The first impression of the Stanley is so different than the movie, it’s almost a disappointment when you arrive. That changes when you get inside, check in and walk to your room. Are you settle in, the hotel settles around you. As you walk the halls, it gets creepier and creepier. We saw nothing during our stay, but will always remember our visit. Be sure to get to the Stanley, it’s so worth it.
You have to go! It will be a great subject for a follow-up article.
I have to admit, “The Shining” kinda freaked me out a little. Especially about Overlook hotel in the dead of Winter, and a person chasing another person with a ball bat. His own family. That could really happen. Great essay! But SK always comes up with wonderful work when it comes to novels.That’s why he’s the best at what he does.
Love all these comments! Keep em coming and please help spread the word!
RAGE is up next!
Definitely go to the Stanley Hotel in October. But, see if Steve will secretly go, too, as well as Mick Garris. Wouldn’t that be a blast!
I love this book; it was my second King read (after Carrie – sometime in the 70’s) and remains my all-time favorite in terms of scarepower. Like you I’ve found my adult reading(s) of the book yield a different analysis but it’s even more scary than it was back then. The boogeyman is the vehicle through which humans’ weaknesses and evil can travel, and I think King illustrates this better than most contemporary writers.
I found it really creepy and revolting, when Jack spent so much time rummaging through the old moldy newspapers in the basement, that Wendy could smell the moldy decay on his breath in bed. Only King can make you read-think his work; with a personable voice,which imparts a kind of repellant empathy for his darkest characters.
Went to the Stanley Hotel because of Stephen King & I fell in love not only with this majestic hotel but with Estes Park. Absolutely beautiful & unspoiled – 1 grocery store & no chain anything! I did get a pic of the room # Stephen King stayed in.
Did you get a pic of room 217??!!
Not the inside, but did get the room #.
It was always the helplessness of the family and the claustrophobic surroundings that got me in this book, as well as the family dynamic and how heartbreaking it is to lose the father/husband to his own madness. The ghosts didn’t scare me-ghosts never scared me-but the isolation and helplessness was relentless to the point of nearly breaking my emotional mind. To me, the ghosts were always secondary. I enjoy a good ghost story, hard as they are to create, but they never did much for me, and the hedge animals never bothered me either; however, the fire hoses and the woman in 217, for whatever reason, are still images that are hard to shake.
Thank you for a beautifully written essay. I feel as if I was right there with you. Those damn hedge animals still haunt me to this day!
I finished the horror classic, The Shining. Wow, do I love this book! I first read this book in 2008. I’m actually ashamed at how late I came to this book. I had been reading King for about 10 years up to this point, and had kept putting it off. I don’t really know why. But when I finally came to reading this book, man did I ever regret not reading it sooner. It’s every bit as good as everybody says it is and MORE. When you talk about The Shining, I think you also have to talk about the 1980 Stanley Kubrick film. I had also put off watching this movie because, as with all of the movies based off of King’s work, I wanted to read the book first. I love the book, but I also love the movie even though it strays pretty far from the character of Jack Torrance as a father and Wendy Torrance as a mother. I know from hearing King mention many times that he hated the film verison because the father appeared to be cold and evil from the very first scene in the film and in the book, it’s more of a transistion of him turning evil. The character in the book is flawed because of his temper and his alcoholism, but underneath all of that, he truly loves his son. And the haunted hotel eventually takes over Jack Torrance and uses him to kill his family. In the film, it looks as though Jack Torrance (who is played by the cunning Jack Nicholson) has been taken over by the Overlook Hotel from the get go. Nicholson plays a fantastic crazy villain like he has done many times, but the movie really does lose a lot with this dynamic because The Shining as a book is more of a tragedy. The film potrays Jack Torrance as more of a villain that you would see in a slasher flick. You never really see the warmth of the character’s heart in the movie. With all of that being said, I still love the movie…but as a separate entity. It is a great scary movie, and like the book, it still has the power to scare the crap out of me to this day. Now back to the book. One of my favorite things about this book is the setting that King has created. You really can see the inside of the Overlook Hotel so vividly in your mind when reading this book. Without even reading the book, I can tour the place in my mind and say you turn here to go into the kitchen, or turn here to go into the caretaker’s apartment, or turn here to go into the ballroom, and so on. By FAR, the scariest scene in this book is Danny’s visit to room 217 where he encounters the naked dead woman sitting in the bathtub who is staring and grinning at Danny as he walks in. Not a lot of scenes in ANY King book will scare you more than this one. I get chills just thinking about it as I type this. If you have a vivid imagination like I do, I would recommend reading the Inside Room 217 chapter with lots of light inside the house and outside of the house and not reading in the dark with no lights on to read by except for the lights of the Christmas tree like I did. This whole project I’m doing with re-reading King’s books in chronological order has made me realize just how great early King novels were. If you’ve never read a King novel before, this is a good place to start. It’s definitely in my top ten of his best books, and will most likely be one of the books he is best remembered for. One very small weakness of the book is that it takes a while to get into it, but after it finally sinks it’s teeth into you, it never lets go and by the last 100 pages or so to the thrilling climax, you’ll be screaming to find out what happens next. It really is a powerful novel.
I started reading this book one hot summer afternoon in California… Had just finished Carrie and went out to see what I could find on Stephen King at the used book store in the town 11 miles away… Found Shinning for 35cents.. Took it home and wow… I read until I had the entire book finished… Next morning… Took a nap and wanted more… Don’t quote me but, I believe that is the book that Stephen King wrote about his waiting to get Cemetery Dance magazine every month… I wrote the magazine and explained how I had been a cancer survivor and spent a lot of time reading, etc….. We have been great friends every since…Thanks Richard…
RAGE is up next!
Oh, when Danny sees the splattered brain remains on the curtains in the presidential suite. Very memorable ,detailed and horrifying. It is as if the claustrophobic effect is accompanied by a kind of disease infection ,driving the shining ability in their genetics, up in all of them and taking over Jack like a rampant fungal demonic possession. The pinnacle of power shown by the spirits; is that Grady was PHYSICALLY able to let Jack out of the locker;at that point all bets are off ,as to what harm the metaphysical entities can do to the family.
Pingback: 5 Must Read Horror Articles 8 December 2014 » This Is Horror
I read the Shining again just before Doctor Sleep was released so I’m letting that be my re-read!. My first read was in the early ’80’s. Once again Richard, you nailed it! The Shining is an incredibly scary read…I remember being very captivated by it when I read it originally but having seen the movie a few times since that read, the re-read awakened me to what a fantastic novel this was/is. I find it interesting that SK’s 3rd published book was somewhat similar to his 2nd in that a building is a major “character” (to be repeated later). While the Overlook is a much larger and more evil character than the Marsten House, it’s still similar. The genius is in the way these two buildings are completely different characters…just blows me away! I, too, felt happy for a short time but the last 80% of the book was a depressing, terror ridden “treat” (tells you something about me that I use that word!). I really loved the connection Danny had with Dick. When he was sitting in the car and nearly made Dick’s head explode with his powerful Shine, I think I laughed. Most of the scary scenes have been mentioned already and I agree that room 217 tops all but Danny getting stuck inside something outside under the snow (sorry, I don’t have the book with me) was pretty damned scary and I also thought the moving topiary animal scenes were full of imagination from SK and scary. Not really as scary as it was thrilling was Dick Halloran’s race to get to Danny from Florida. I thought that was extremely well written and definitely quickened my pulse. I won’t go on as I have with the previous 2 books but damn, this is fun!
Thanks to all (especially Richard) for sharing your thoughts and personal stories. This could be a book someday!!!
Did you know you can buy socks with the same pattern as the Overlook Hotel carpet from the Kubrick film? You probably DID know that.
Have you read the original prologue, which was cut from the book? I recall it appearing in TV Guide of all places, when the SHINING miniseries appeared on TV, and I haven’t seen it since… It detailed a couple of past residents, if I recall correctly.
That was only part of the prolog. The whole thing was published in Whispers magazine in 1982 (in an issue that contained an ad announcing The Gunslinger from Donald M. Grant!)
Pingback: SK Revisited: THE SHINING by Stephen King - NOT the Movie by Stanley Kubrick - Kari J. Wolfe
TURBULENCE: MY SHINING EXPERIENCE
*** indicates excerpts from “The Shining” by Stephen King
My flight to Indiana had been somewhat traumatic and overly dramatized by the unexpected occurrence of a (these days) rare panic attack just before take off. I still don’t know what set me off. I had been happy just moments before. I hadn’t had any caffeine. Everything was peaches-and-cream-fine-dandy until the plane began it’s slow crawl down the tarmac, and I started to feel like I couldn’t breathe.
It seemed clear to me that the oxygen was being vacuumed out of the plane, and yet I was the only one experiencing anything. My throat closed all the more at the thought that this was perhaps one of the most inopportune moments in life to have a panic attack, or any attack for that matter. My mind became like a machine, racing faster, picking up speed in time with the plane itself, sizzling with questions like: What happens when someone has a heart attack or seizure in the middle of a flight? Do they land the plane? Is there a doctor on board? Why is it not mandatory to have a trained medical specialist on every aircraft?
I drank. Lots of cold water first (which always helps, reminds you if you can swallow then you can breathe) and then I progressed to wine, managing a steady buzz to keep myself under control. It wasn’t until halfway through the flight when we dropped straight down for over two minutes that I began audibly screaming — and I wasn’t the only one. I’d experienced drops before, but nothing like this, the kind of drop that pushes your stomach up into your esophagus. Certainly never while already amidst a panic attack.
The two minutes felt like two hours, and when it was over the captain apologized, claiming we had hit a very unexpected wind tunnel. (More like a worm hole.) He further apologized for the fact that we would need to brace ourselves as we had dropped so far, we were among the mountains of Colorado, and needed to angle the plane practically like a rocket in order to go straight up FAST, or we would run the risk of hitting one head on.
That had all been 10 days ago.
”Maybe my panic attacks aren’t so random,” I thought, now flying through friendlier skies on my way back to Los Angeles. After all, by the end of that flight there had been plenty of reason to panic. Perhaps these attacks were more premonitory in nature.
Needless to say, I had not been looking forward to this plane ride home. One of the worst things about panic attacks is that when you start to think about them, you start to have them. The more you think about them, the worse it gets. Trying NOT to think about them is next to impossible right after you’ve had one. It’s a never-ending cycle.
Fortunately, I’d only an hour of sleep the night before, so I was exhausted enough that my anxiety was minimal. Just enough in fact to keep me awake so that I could read more of Stephen King’s “The Shining.” A natural choice of prose for someone experiencing panic attacks while riding on an airplane, yes? “I must be a genius,” I said aloud, facetiously. Still, I read on…:
*** A lot of folks, they got a little bit of shine to them. They don’t even know it. But they always seem to show up with flowers when their wives are feelin blue with the monthlies. They do good on school tests they don’t even study for. They got a good idea how people are feelin as soon as they walk in the room. I come across fifty or sixty like that. But maybe only a dozen, countin my gram, that knew they were shinin. ***
I saw a bit of myself in the remarks Halloran was making to 5-year Danny Torrance who was just discovering his strong psychic instincts. I suppose I am one of those people who knows when to bring the coffee at the exact moment it’s needed, when it’s okay to confront someone and when it is most definitely not, how someone is feeling on the inside no matter how well they may mask it on the outside — and maybe, just maybe, I also had been given a way of knowing when something was not quite right with the world. The oxygen that goes short in the room, my throat that closes up and my inability to swallow… red flags of danger up ahead. The universe’s way perhaps of saying, “The sh** is about to hit the fan. Brace yourself.”
*** But the thing you got to remember, my boy, is this: Those things don’t always come true. ***
That’s true. Old man Halloran was right. Most of the things I dread don’t come true. The oxygen didn’t go out of the room really. I didn’t faint. The plane didn’t crash. … Not to mention, the other things I am so certain of that don’t come true: That I will experience chaos if I don’t say my prayers, that I WON’T experience chaos if I do. That I cannot overcome the challenge of the day. That I will never fall in love again.
All disproved. Maybe I don’t know it all. Maybe there’s a greater plan. Maybe I’m not in charge.
*** People who shine can sometimes see things that are gonna happen, and I think sometimes they can see things that did happen. But they’re just like pictures in a book. Did you ever see a picture in a book that scared you, Danny? You were scared, but you knew it couldn’t hurt you, didn’t you? Well, that’s how it is sometimes. If you see something bad… sometimes you just need to look the other way, and when you look back, it’ll be gone. Are you digging me? ***
“I’m digging it,” I thought to myself.
And then we hit the turbulence. Hard. The first of my homecoming flight. My heart dropped into my stomach. (Better than the stomach to the esophagus.) “Just keep reading,” I thought. I looked down to the next sentence.
*** The plane ain’t gonna crash, doc. ***
And there it was. Plainer than if God himself had come down with fanfare and sang it to me with a choir of angels. I read it again, not believing the choice of metaphor.
*** The plane ain’t gonna crash, doc. ***
And I knew then that it wasn’t. From that point forward, any turbulence was like a roller coaster ride. We could have had another two minute drop, and I’d have known beyond any shadow of a doubt… the plane ain’t gonna crash.
More than that, I knew it was not in my hands.
The Shining was the fist Stephen King book I read, bought for me by my mom. It was so terrifying that I literally could not put it down, and took it to work where I sat and read at my desk. I think it’s probably the scariest book I will ever read.
This too was my second King book, after Carrie and one of my top two King reads. I remember how scared and yet enthralled I was. I was totally blown away. I loved it and was terrorized by it. I am currently rereading Night Shift (almost done) inspired by your journey and am now inspired to go back and revisit my old friend/nightmare. Wish me luck…hopefully it will be just as thrilling as it was in 1978???
The Shining is a masterpiece: it succeeds in slowly but steadily increasing the tension (like the boiler slowly creeping to the point of no return). My favorite part was chapter 9 “Checking it out” when they arrive at the hotel and at that moment they still have high hopes of everything being all right again.
Scariest parts: too hard to pick just one there’s so many: Danny meeting the dead woman in the bathroom and Danny’s visit to the playground and the hedge animals, Danny seeing the blood in the presidential sweet, …..
Pingback: After the Shining #StephenKingRevisited | Jay Wilburn