Friday, May 20, 2016

All work and no play make Ly a violent jerkface

Why does the digital version cost
more than the paperback? It's digital!
I added a picture of today's title, in case it wasn't obvious what I'm about to review. You guys... I have had an extreme mental block regarding this book. I wasn't even writing a story; I just couldn't make up my mind what to tell you about it! The Shining is a classic horror story. If you haven't read the book, you've certainly seen the movie. If you've done neither, you have seen it referenced. If that hasn't happened, I don't know how you're reading this because I must assume you're some kind of hermit slug living underneath a rock in a cave too deep to get Wifi.

If you've got nothing to say, why are you writing the review?
It isn't that there's nothing to say. There's actually too much, but none of it is necessarily new. But I like sharing what I've been reading and this is it. Actually, I've been listening to this on audiobook on my commute to and from work. Funny story, there: my drive to work is a little over an hour long each way, and when I get home from work I'm too tired to do anything. I haven't even had the energy to plug my phone into my computer to update the content on there. Consequently, The Shining is the only audiobook I've been listening to. I'm on my fifth time listening to it. In a row. So you see, that is why I'm writing the review. After five — and counting— listens, I'd better damn well write something about this book.

And that something is...?
I understand why Stephen King didn't like the movie based on his book (or at least I think I get it), madness could be contagious, and this story doesn't actually scare me — it makes me sad.

Those are some diverse angles for this book, lady.
Well, when you listen to a thing five times in a ROW, you start to notice all kinds of things. Jack Torrance is a normal guy with several big problems: he's a recovering alcoholic with a short fuse, and his life is going to shit. He loves his family, and is doing his best to be a good husband and father. Unfortunately, as we are all aware, you're best isn't always good enough. Torrance is a writer experiencing a prolonged writer's block, was recently fired from his position as a creative writing teacher in an elite prep school, and is pretty close to being penniless.

Sounds like a really shitty day.
Life's a bitch and then you die, as my mom likes to say. Which is exactly what happens! When a friend gets him the job as winter caretaker of the Overlook hotel, Jack recognizes it as a perfect (and potentially his last) opportunity to get his shit together. This is the time to finish the play he's been working on, reconnect with his family, and generally stay out of trouble while keeping his family fed and sheltered through the harsh Colorado winter. Unfortunately, the spooks in the hotel have other ideas...

Come play with us Danny...
Okay, so we all know this kid is psychic, right? I hope I'm not spoiling it for you; this book has only been around since the seventies. Dick Hallorann— our friendly, magical, black character in the story— refers to Danny's knack as "shining." I like to refer to it as "brain allergies." You see, even the book refers to the "shining" as something people might have in degrees. Some people don't shine at all, some shine only a little. Others, like Danny, shine hot. Again, think allergies. If a person is not sensitive at all, the hotel doesn't bother them. Others may feel a slight unease, but generally be okay. Still others, like Danny, not only see the horrors that happened, but apparently also activate a cognizant malevolence lurking within the hotel.

For someone else's in-depth look at the book vs. the movie,
check out "King, Kubrick, and The Shining" on
Now, if you've only seen the movie, you might start seeing why King is not a fan of Kubrick's work. I'm not saying Stanley Kubrick didn't make a kick-ass movie, but it's certainly not Stephen King's The Shining. That is going to sound awfully strange, given what I'm about to say next...
The movie touches on all the major plot-points in the book—

But you JUST SAID—!
I know what I said! The gist is essentially the same in both: a man goes crazy and tries to kill his family. Kubrick's "Shining" differs in that his Jack Torrance (Nicholson) is an asshole throughout the film. He's an emotionally abusive man who goes ape-shit very quickly. He dies, his family escapes, and I think, "Good riddance," then move on with my day. In the movie, his wife and son may as well be objects to be acted upon. I couldn't relate to any of them. But I relate with King's Jack Torrance.

I relate to the man who's struggling to keep his shit together and provide for his family, all while fighting his addiction and his violent inner demons. I understand how difficult it can be to not be an asshole to your friends and family when you're miserable. I'm sure a large portion of the U.S. population can empathize with a character who stays in a life position that's obviously bad for him because he has no alternative.
I can also relate to Wendy and Danny Torrance. They find themselves unable to do much more than hope for the best in an impossibly difficult situation. Maybe because of the shine —and maybe not— Danny understands a lot of what's happening to his family. Not all of it, obviously, because he's only five. But still, he gets that his daddy used to get drunk all the time, that he got fired, that he needs this job or they'll have nowhere to go. Danny understands, and that is why —despite his growing fear of the Overlook and its monsters— he doesn't tell his parents sooner that maybe they shouldn't go; maybe they should stay as far the hell away from that area as they possibly can.
One of the most iconic scenes in the movie, spoofed to death,
isn't even in the book. I love it.

Why so serious?
It makes me sad! When you listen to a book five times in a row and the first half of it is establishing how much this family loves each other... I got attached to them, okay? I want to have walked away from that many listens with a sense of, "If only they'd done this differently, maybe they would've been okay." But what could they have done differently? The true horror in this book is knowing that no matter what they did or tried, this family was doomed. They were isolated, not only while at the hotel, but in terms of their support network. What friends or family could've helped them while they got back on their feet? None, it seems. Love within their family wasn't enough, and it bums me out.

Now that I've maybe bummed you out too, let's talk about the ridiculousness that is repeatedly listening to a book about isolation while being isolated for hours at a time in a car during commute. I'm not about to say that listening to The Shining made me angrier than I already was about being stuck in traffic, but I'm not sure that it actually helped my situation. I spent a good deal of that time wishing I had Magneto-like powers to fling aside or crush all the cars ahead of me. So at the very least, I wouldn't recommend listening to this repeatedly during your daily commute to work. I do recommend that you read or listen to it, if you haven't already. Just be sure to take frequent breaks for hugs, though, okay? It's for your own good.

Hey guys, I'm sorry it took so long to get another review out (again). I've been bashing my head against this one for the last couple of weeks. However, I'm trying to get back on a weekly (Thursdays) schedule, so please stay tuned!
Next time, on Tea-time Reviews!

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