Sunday, June 29, 2014
Book Review: The Shining by Stephen King
Author: Stephen King
Enjoyment Rating: *** or ****
Content Alert: Violence, language
Jack Torrance, an alcoholic, a failed writer and a recently fired teacher finds himself with so few career options that he moves his wife and five-year-old son, Danny, to the mountains of Colorado, where the family will live all by themselves at the Overlook Hotel, a sort of Biltmore in the mountains, twenty miles by snowmobile from the nearest town. Of course the place is haunted, and Danny, who has "the shining" can see all of the ghosts that inhabit the place, who want to take Jack over and claim the family as permanent guests of the hotel.
If I had to associate a single work of fiction with Stephen King, it would probably be The Shining (or maybe Carrie, or The Shawshank Redemption). And after reading and loving Doctor Sleep, I knew I had to read the prequel. I just finished writing my review for Night Music by Jojo Moyes, which was published yesterday, and as I was reading that novel the thing that struck me the most was how she has grown and developed as a writer since her early days. I was introduced to some of her later work first, and in comparison, her early work seems weak (although I probably wouldn't have seen it that way if I had read Night Music first). Now Stephen King is arguably the greatest living American author, and The Shining is one of his best-loved novels, but since I was introduced to King through his more mature work (11-22-63 and Doctor Sleep), it's evident how much his writing has improved in the nearly 40 years since The Shining was published. There were sentences that were overwritten, and places where the action went on so long that I found myself skimming. I'm still glad I read the book, but I find it heartening to see great progress in even our greatest writers. It seems to demonstrate what I vaguely remember King saying (and am too lazy to go look up) in his book on writing, that it's writing every day and working hard that makes a writer, not genius.