We made it to Wednesday, Constant Reader! Huzzah! Today is my eight hour day (after two twelves) and the rest of the week is half-days. I am always so grateful when Wednesday morning rolls around, because I survived the two long days at the beginning of the week yet again. Both nights–Sunday and Monday–were bad sleep nights; that awful half-sleep where the entire time you know if you open your eyes you’ll be awake–but last night’s sleep was absolutely lovely. I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning, but alas, there is no rest for the wicked.
I didn’t get as much done on the book yesterday as I would have liked; I was, as I said, very tired by the time I got home from work and as such, was too tired to critically read my own work (trust me, there are days when I’d rather drink bleach than read something I’ve written). So, instead we watched an episode of Homecoming, around which I scrolled through social media, waiting for bedtime. (I did go to bed early, too.)
So, The Shining.
I liked it, as I said the other day, a great deal more than I did the first time I read it; I’m not sure if I’ve read it more than once in the past as my memory is shot, but I don’t think I did read it more than once, unlike other Kings of the era (other than Pet Sematary). While I was rereading it, I was also recognizing and ticking off the boxes of why it bothered me on the first read–child in danger? Check. Abusive marriage/parenting? Check. Alcoholic? Check. Snow and cold? Check. There’s also a very strong sense at the end of the book, once they’ve escaped and are in warm climates and trying to recover from what happened there, to them and to Jack, that the hotel was to blame for everything; that also bothered me on the first read. But on second read, with more perspective on life and characters and how people cope, I realize that this coping mechanism is essential for Wendy and Danny’s recovery from their experiences at the Overlook; putting the blame for the disintegration of Jack into madness and murder on the hotel was an essential coping mechanism for them both, to try to recover from the horrible trauma of husband/father they loved trying to brutally kill them while in the grips of utter madness. But having been through my own traumas over the course of my own fifty-seven years, I can now recognize and understand the necessity for coping mechanisms. The sad truth that neither of them can face is the hotel simply ferreted out what was already inside of Jack, and brought it out; it was always there, and Jack was forever resisting it. Had they not gone to the hotel, he would have undoubtedly hurt one or both of them again, and their story would have eventually ended in tragedy, one way or another; the Overlook simply sped up the process.
As I said the other day, The Shining also is an extraordinary work in that it’s a highly claustrophobic novel, despite the fact that the hotel itself, along with its grounds, are actually quite large spaces. But the tight point of views on the three main characters, and being able to show everything that’s going on from everyone’s point of view, is an incredibly smart choice; the book wouldn’t have worked without this shifting point of view and perspective, and each of the three characters are so superbly delineated by King that the authorial voice changes enough to make each point of view clear and distinct. The character of Jack was fascinating for me to read, to watch his slow disintegration into madness and the rise of his baser self–a self King was very careful and deliberate to show was always there, but kept down by force of will and societal mores learned over time. King dives so deep into Jack and who he is–this is also a trademark of King’s characters, across all his work–that his loathing and anger and contempt and provocations to violence are understandable even as they are horrific; Jack isn’t, of course, the villain of his own story. But there’s another layer to him that knows better, makes him question himself…and King even gives him a moment of redemption in the finale that makes it seem as though he is entirely, against his will, a tool the hotel is using to kill them all.
The finale is also a magnificent example of building suspense. It is impossible to put the book down as you zip through those last hundred pages.
As a writer myself, it’s hard not to sympathize with a wannabe writer who’s failing to live up to the early promise of a publication in Esquire magazine; of not being able to write, who experiences the self-doubt and self-questioning that I am always struggling with myself. Ben Mears in ‘salem’s Lot is also a novelist, with a little more success to his credit than Jack, but Ben’s self-confidence and lack of concern about the lack of success makes him a vastly different–and not as relatable to another writer–character.
An interesting essay, or piece of literary criticism that someone should write, would be about King’s depictions of writers in his work–there are a lot of them. Just off the top of my head, there are writers in It, ‘salem’s Lot, The Shining, Insomnia, Misery, and The Dark Half; I am sure there are even more–I think Lisey’s Story also?
And now back to the spice mines.