Saturday, 21 September 2013

An interview with Stephen King, and some thoughts on The Shining

I"m in the middle of reading The Shining today.  It was a lovely dark and rainy day, perfect to catch-up on one of my favourite horror novels.  For some reason I forget how well-written King's novels are - he does description mixed with unsettling overtones very well.  In one of my few times away from the book today, I found this interview with King today over at the Guardian Online.  There are a few plot points given away, but if you are skilled at skimming as I think many of us are (so we don't get to spoil books we haven't read) then the interview is very good. 

Doctor Sleep in 3 days!!!!!  I've already ordered my copy from Amazon, though I did what is a silly thing - Amazon have changed their policy and if you select 'super saver no shipping costs', everything gets sent in one box.  And one of the things I ordered takes a month to come in.  So my plan to read it next weekend might not work out.......I used to be able to select that, and Amazon would send things separately anyway, which I keep hoping will happen.  

 The Shining is as good as ever.  And frightening.  Danny Torrance is one of the best 5 year old heroes in literature, and what he has to endure is horror.   Some of what makes The Shining so frightening for me is that Danny has to endure it alone, and that scares me to think about.  This is what makes the movie The Sixth Sense so scary for me too.  Psychic children who have to deal with terror on their own.  They are figures representing the terrors encountered in childhood, and how to find their way through it, except that The Shining is written for adults.  We are both Danny Torrance, encountering the unknown, and his parents, simultaneously, adults who also encounter the unknown.  And the horror in The Outlook affects adults and children.  So no one is safe.  Doesn't that creep you out just a bit?  That's fear and horror that we all feel in our deep instinctual natures, far away from logic.  The deep part of ourselves that knows that ghosts exist, remenants of the past, and badness and evil.  This has been a very bad week in so many ways, in the world, and that fear of the evil people can do to one another that as a world we are witnessing - the mass shootings in the US on Monday, and in Kenya today - is the same kind of evil that lurks in minds everywhere.  Most people are able to turn away from it, and choose love and kindness and compassion.  But something in Jack Torrance - his willingness to blame his problems on anything but himself, really - his unacknowledged desire to strike out at everyone around him - the darkness that lies where people hurt one another - that is what is at the heart of The Shining. The isolation of The Overlook Hotel exaggerates  whatever people bring with them to the hotel.  It works on their innate sense of themselves.  And then there is the Overlook Hotel itself, with the evil at the heart of it.  Places do affect people. I firmly believe that buildings, places in natures, contain memories of what happens, impressions, sort of.  But all this is to try to explain how The Overlook Hotel could be real, which is another way of saying, a haunted hotel can exist.  And that is the question that horror novels try to answer: what happens if ghosts and haunted places are real?

I do know that if I had Danny Torrance's gift, or Dick Hallorann's, I wouldn't be able to stay at the Overlook Hotel.  I know it's not a real place.  I'm thankful!!  But.....the book.  The book scares me that much, that I can't read it when I'm alone.  Delicious, creepy, haunting (certain scenes have haunted me for most of my life), frightening, as I watch the slow unravelling of Jack Torrance, his wife's inability to protect herself or see the truth until it is almost too late - though I don't blame her, she is a perfect characterization of what happens in a marriage - and Danny himself, small Danny, horror lurking in every passage and corner and wall for him. 

I so hope Doctor Sleep is as good.  It will be different, of course. Danny is grown up, and an alcoholic, reliving his father's pattern (as families do), without the anger. A small child, a little girl this time, is part of the book, again, which can only be good.  And it's all about the Shining and how it is used. I want to be scared, the way The Shining scares me, every time I read it.

Back to reading The Shining.  I'm just at the part where Jack has threatened to write the history of the Overlook Hotel and been told in no uncertain terms by his ex-alcoholic friend who sits on the board, that he will be fired if he does.  Things are about to get much, much worse for the Torrances.




13 comments:

Cath said...

BBC News did an interview with Stephen King, last week... sitting in a garden reading from his book. He said he hadn't really cared for the movie version of The Shining, found it rather cold, emotionless. He said he hoped the book had more emotion in it, particularly as regards the mother. Must be hard to write something and then not really like the filmed result.

Molly said...

I am ashamed to admit this in public (or private for that matter)... but the only Stephen King book I have read is On Writing *sigh...

I own The Shining though and every year at this time I tell myself I am going to read it. You have inspired me to make that same promise again... I hope I follow through

Susan said...

Cath: Was he reading from Doctor Sleep? That would be lovely to hear an excerpt from it. The movie The Shining has scarred me,and I often get what happens in both mixed up. Although I enjoy both, and both are frightening, I like the book best. I know the characters so much better, and I like the ending much more.

Molly: A lot of people have never read Stephen King! So many people don't read horror. I have read On Writing, as you know, and its' one of my favourite writing books.

I hope you do get to The Shining some day. It is worth reading, and a true horror story that holds back on the gore effects that crop up more in the later books. He creates such a good sense of unease, and tension, that it's worth reading just to study how he does it, never mind enjoying the story!

Cath said...

Yes, it was only a short extract and I don't remember much about it now. I was just pleased to see something like that on our BBC News24 channel and on the actual news section. Though, credit where it's due, they do have a regular 'Meet the Author' feature every week as part of their extra to the news scheduling. A five minute stint interviewing the authors of new books. That said, I really don't think the BBC does enough to encourage reading in the UK.

Susan said...

Oh yes, I am happy our CBC does the same thing, promotes reading through a Canada Reads program, and having a book club....that said, they often choose Canadian literature instead of the fun mysteries and fantasy. So I'm delighted Stephen King was on BBC over there! "Meet the Author" sounds interesting, though 5 minutes isn't much at all, is it?

Cath said...

No 5 minutes is not much. For a couple of years Anne Robinson hosted a ten part series over two weeks called My Life in Books, with two celebrities each episode talking about the books that had influenced their lives. It hasn't appeared this year so I suppose that's that. Tragic.

Yes it's the same here, Meet the Author tends to concentrate on 'worthy' authors for want of a better word. Rarely does the host, Nick Higham, do genre authors.

*But* I suppose the beeb is quite good with dramatising classic books... Dickens and Austen in particular. But really? *Heaps* more could be done.

Susan said...

Cath: The Anne Robinson series sounds interesting, Cath. Did you catch much of it?

I think genre authors need a big shout-out from the media, especially from the meet the author kind of settings.

I think they dramatize those two because they are the most popular authors and people will watch them. You are so right though, more books and authors could be done. I guess we should be glad they are still supporting books and reading and the Arts.

Cath said...

Oh yes... LOL... I've seen every episode of the two (maybe three...) series. I'm sure they're on YouTube somewhere.

I find it a little sad that the books people actually read do not get the publicity they deserve.

Yes, and I *always* watch them of course but it would be nice if they branched out a bit and gave us some other classic authors to sample.

Susan said...

I'll check YOu tube, then, thanks! I always forget it's there for these kinds of things.

I think genre fiction has always struggled to be taken seriously by 'writers' and 'critic's who deal with 'serious subjects'. As if imagining the future isn't a perfect way to comment on society's ills and how to imagine a better way to do it. I think it has to do with thinking depth of character and truths can't or won't be realized in genre - and in many cases, it's not. But it's not in most fiction either. A good story should be appreciated no matter what field it is in! lol but that's why we have these blogs, I think, so we can talk about what we love and not wait for someone to tell us we should love it.

So what classic author would you love to see filmed? I'll try to think on this too. Maybe we could do a post - books we'd like to see made over and over to get different elements of it visually :-)

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