Join me and one of my fellow nerds, as we talk Christine (both book and movie), as well as some of the other happenings in the world of The Master!
Join me and one of my fellow nerds, as we talk Christine (both book and movie), as well as some of the other happenings in the world of The Master!
Lately, the world has been a bit topsy-turvy.
Maybe I am looking at it through a looking glass…
Maybe I traveled into an alternate reality, where Superman is the adopted son of undocumented migrant workers, and has a really, really close relationship with Zod, and Batman is literally backwards, and kind of sucks…
Well, actually no.
Not that I am knocking on any of the above, and wouldn’t be open to a little possible experimentation…
Although I could argue that Barry Allen and his ill-advised time travel has had some kind of effect on my reality…
After all, the Cubs are World Series champions!
Now, if only it had won me the lottery…
Or at least given me cool super powers!
Okay, back on topic…
I have actually traveled to alternate reality, even though that trip to Earth 2 is still on my bucket list.
In other words, I have read a book written by that Bachman fella…
Well, I am really not sure if those guys are one in the same, even if that whole story about death from cancer of the pseudonym is slightly suspicious…
Hey, you never know. If young boys and and middle-aged priests can “die” in one world, and be re-born into another (cooler) world, maybe writers can be stricken with cancer of the pseudonym, and end up being re-born on the Sons of Anarchy level of the Tower, where the writer in question takes a grisly sort of janitorial type of job, collecting macabre souvenirs as a form of payment…
Okay, again back on topic.
So, I read a Stephen King book.
Yeah, water is wet, the sun rises in the east, and Cheetos make terrible leaders of the free world…
So what else is new?
Well, this book is actually new, at least somewhat.
As most of us probably know, early in his career, The King of Horror decided that he would like to write non-horror stories, every now and again.
While King has actually written some fantastic books that can be classified as not horror (The Talisman, 11/22/63, Different Seasons and The Eyes of the Dragon all readily come to mind), early on his career, he was bound by some silly rules about how many books he could publish in a year.
Somebody thought that there was such a thing as too many Stephen King books! And they thought I was the crazy one!
So King did what any sensible King of Horror would do. He created a pseudonym.
As far as I know, this pseudonym did not come to life and murder people, forcing a flock of birds to be called, so they could carry him off, kicking and screaming.
(However, if he is employed by the friendly folks known as SAMCRO, all bets are off, as you gotta do what you gotta do to survive over there in the charming town of Charming, California.)
King named this pseudonym Richard Bachman. And for a while, that Bachman fella did pretty well for himself.
He wasn’t a horror writer, per se. No, Bachman explored the darkness of human nature. Man’s inhumanity to man, in other words.
And Bachman also wrote of our obsession with television, and our need to be constantly entertained, even at the expense of the feelings (and maybe even lives) of our fellow man.
In other words, I am currently reading The Running Man.
Dicky Bachman has come out to play.
So let’s indulge him, as we read and dissect The Running Man.
And, as always:
When one thinks of horror, often one thinks of horror movies.
These movies are fantastical in some ways. We all know that someone cannot possibly be shot 23,889,209 times and still get up to chase sexually precocious teenagers and kill them in inventive ways (although that is a good way to burn that free 100 or so minutes you may have that day. More if you watch the cut scenes on the “extras” menu.)
But often, real life can contain plenty of horror…
But seriously, just turn on the news any given night, and tell me that man’s inhumanity to man is not the most horrific thing out there?
And there is one guy who understands this very well, and who has written some compelling literature on the subject, as a matter of fact…
You guessed it, we are talking about Stephen King!
*insert shocked look right about here*
King has been called The Master of Modern Horror (but you can call him The Master for short), and for good reason.
A rabid St. Bernard that makes you want to avoid car trouble at all costs?
Check and mate!
While most of the above horrors are not actually “real horrors,” one of King’s greatest strengths as a writer is his ability to include elements of realism in his writing.
So we associate The Shining the famous phrase “Redrum” (spell it backwards, for the uninitiated), along with a haunted hotel and a scary lady who is a permanent residence of a room with a famous number
There is also the matter of the guy in the dog costume…
Well, back to my point.
Which is that King can insert reality into his works. The Shining is a great example of this, because it deals with alcoholism, unemployment, child abuse and the list goes on.
In other words, we can relate the above list, since we have all experienced at least one of those things in our lifetime.
And that is what makes the story so terrifying: since we can relate to those topics, it is not that far out of left field that there may be a haunted hotel somewhere out there, where we avoid room 217 (or 237), along with the hedge animals and fire extinguishers, because if it can happen to the seemingly normal Torrance family, it sure can happen to us.
King writes about people. These people may be placed into extraordinary situations, but they are still people, who could, at least theoretically, be any one of us.
And these people do not always fight supernatural monsters, Often, humans are the monsters, and what a human can do to a fellow human is far worse than what a haunted hotel or even a rabid St. Bernard can do to us.
One of King’s books that deals with man’s inhumanity to man (or, more appropriately, woman) is Gerald’s Game.
Gerald’s Game contains hardly any elements of the supernatural, but it is still a frightening read. The monsters in this book are human, so the scenario is one that is plausible for anyone.
So strap in (but don’t handcuff yourself), and get ready for the ride that is Gerald’s Game.
If you wish to hear your favorite nerd live and in the flesh, breaking down the novel Insomnia (written by The Master, natch) and geeking out over more than a few things, click the link below, as she was a guest on The Dark Tower Radio Podcast, and got to participate in a great meeting of the minds! Long days and pleasant nights, and enjoy!
Many people remember their teen years with some sort of fondness.
And that is understandable, to a point.
After all, many milestones are reached during adolescence…
First vehicles that you fall in love with, and said vehicle demands exclusivity almost immediately, and luuvvvs you soooo much that she (since cars always a she, after all) will not allow you to date anyone else, see your friends or hang out with your family…
Well, adolescence in the Stephen King universe is not normal adolescence, after all.
Last month, it was the prom that we reminisced about so fondly.
And this month, we are going to talk about the first love, along with the first vehicle.
In other words, we will be reading and dissecting King’s novel, Christine.
(Yeah, this is the part where I should tell you we are talking about a Stephen King book. Quit acting surprised, you knew it was coming!)
As always, King is one of the few writers who can capture childhood, along with adolescence.
And Christine is a book that has a lot to say on this subject.
So fasten your seat belts, and let’s hop into a certain bright red homicidal 1958 Plymouth Fury…you know you will be in one Hell (literally) of a ride!
And, as always:
The book begins by introducing us to a young man named Dennis Guilder. Dennis has just turned 17 and will be starting his senior year in high school. Dennis’ best friend is another young man named Arnold “Arnie” Cunningham, who has also just turned 17 and attends the same high school as Dennis.
Dennis is athletic and popular, and well liked by his peers. Arnie, however, is a loner and is constantly bullied. Despite the fact that they are polar opposites in so many ways, Dennis and Arnie remain best friends, even throughout junior high and high school.
One day, as Arnie and Dennis are returning home from their summer job, Arnie notices an old car for sale. The car is a 1958 Plymouth Fury and does appear to be in good condition.
Arnie speaks to the owner of the car, an old man named Roland LeBay. Almost immediately, Dennis dislikes the old man. Arnie, however, is determined to purchase the vehicle, and bargains with LeBay. Since it is not pay day, Arnie puts down $25 on the car, which LeBay sells to him for $250, with the expectation that Arnie will purchase the vehicle the next day. Dennis is upset and tries to talk Arnie out of the deal, but Arnie will not budge, and appears to be besotted with the vehicle, which LeBay refers to as “Christine.”
When Arnie returns home that night, he informs his strict parents that he purchased a car. They are upset, especially his mother, Regina, but Arnie still refuses to back down.
The next day, Arnie purchases Christine, and attempts to drive her home. Initially, Christine will not start, but Arnie somehow coaxes the vehicle into starting. Dennis sits in the car for a moment, and gets a very bad feeling about it. On the way home, the car gets a flat tire, and Arnie is forced to change the tire on a resident’s lawn, which very nearly results in a fight between Arnie and the resident.
Arnie makes the decision to temporarily house Christine at Darnell’s Garage. Darnell’s Garage is owned by Will Darnell, a common crook rumored to have dealings with organized crime, but really Arnie’s only choice if he wants to keep Christine. Arnie believes that he can fix up Christine and turn her into something special, although Dennis is skeptical, and even begins to have nightmares about Arnie’s vehicle.
Arnie begins to spend more and more time making repairs to Christine, and less time with Dennis and the rest of his family.
One night, Dennis and Arnie stop for pizza on the way home from work. Arnie has a black eye, and Dennis asks about it. Arnie tells Dennis that he got into a fight with Buddy Reperton, a local thug, at Darnell’s Garage. Reperton smashed a headlight on Christine, and this made Arnie furious. Arnie was also able to injure Reperton before Darnell stepped in. Dennis becomes worried, and does not want Arnie to continue to use Darnell’s Garage as a home for Christine.
One evening, Dennis gets the idea that Arnie can park Christine at LeBay’s house, possible in exchange for some minor chores and a little money. However, Dennis discovers that LeBay has died, so this may not be an option for Arnie.
Arnie is in shock over the death of LeBay, and insists on attending his funeral. Dennis accompanies Arnie, and meets George, LeBay’s brother. Dennis tries to talk George into letting Arnie park Christine at his deceased brother’s house, but George refuses, telling Dennis that Arnie should get rid of the car, as it is bad news. Dennis is curious, and agrees to meet with George later that evening so that he can obtain some more information on Christine’s history.
Later that evening, Dennis meets with George. George gives Dennis a background on Roland and his vehicle. Roland was always angry and bitter, even as a child. Roland joined the army as a young man and became a mechanic, and a brilliant one at that. However, Roland could not let go of his anger, as evidenced by the letters he sent to his family.
Eventually, Roland got married and became a father. He also finally purchased a vehicle of his own, a 1958 Plymouth Fury who named Christine. Roland became obsessed with the vehicle, devoting much of his time and money to it.
One day, Roland’s young daughter choked on a piece of hamburger while riding with her parents in the vehicle. Roland and his wife are unable to save their daughter, and she dies. Roland’s family begs him to give up the vehicle, but he refuses.
The vehicle also claimed another victim: Roland’s wife, who committed suicide in the vehicle, via the fumes from the exhaust hose. Roland still refuses to give up the vehicle, and spends the rest of days alone, only selling the vehicle to Arnie when it becomes evident that he will die soon.
The story makes Dennis uneasy, even when he returns home. Dennis also has an unsettling conversation with his father in regards to Will Darnell and his dealings, which confirms some of Dennis’ suspicions that Darnell may be more than a small time crook.
School begins, and Dennis becomes busy with the start of his senior year. Arnie is also busy, attempting to restore Christine to her former glory. Dennis notices that Arnie’s complexion begins to improve (he had previously had a terrible case of acne) and that Arnie also becomes more confident in himself.
One day, as Dennis and Arnie are eating lunch, they are confronted by Buddy Reperton and his band of friends. A fight breaks out, and a teacher is called in to stop the fight. The fight results in Buddy Reperton’s expulsion from the school, and the suspension of some of his friends. Dennis is shaken, but is again surprised to see Arnie fight back against the bully.
Arnie’s confidence continues to grow. He asks Leigh Cabot, a beautiful transfer student, out on a date, and she agrees to go out with him. Arnie and Leigh attend a football game together, and Leigh meets Dennis. Dennis is a little jealous of Arnie, as he also has a crush on Leigh, but is happy for his friend.
That afternoon, Dennis plays football, like normal. However, he is injured in the game. The injuries are severe, and Dennis spends several weeks in the hospital recovering. Thoughts of Arnie and Christine, along with Leigh, are never far from his mind.
The book then changes to the perspective of Arnie, Leigh and the other characters. Nearly everyone is concerned for Arnie, and they sense that his obsession with the car may be unhealthy. The relationship with Arnie and his mother becomes strained, and they fight constantly over the vehicle. Leigh also dislikes Arnie’s car intensely, and feels uncomfortable when she rides in it.
One night, Arnie’s father, Michael, takes a ride with Arnie in Christine, and has a serious conversation with his son. He suggests that Arnie park his vehicle at the airport, as opposed to Darnell’s Garage. At first, Arnie is not happy with this suggestion, but agrees to it, as sort of a truce between himself and his family.
In the meantime, Buddy Reperton and his friends seek revenge on Arnie, as they blame Arnie for Buddy’s expulsion from school. So one night, Buddy and his friends are able to sneak into the airport garage. Once in the garage, they find Christine and vandalize the vehicle.
One day after school, Arnie heads to the airport garage with Leigh, to show off his progress with his work on Christine. Arnie then discovers the vandalism to Christine, and becomes very upset.
Arnie argues with his parents over Christine and the vandalism. He is reluctant to report the incident, but his father insists on doing so. Arnie’s parents offer to replace Christine with a newer vehicle, but Arnie refuses, and states that he will restore Christine himself.
Christine seeks revenge on those who vandalized her. She begins with with Moochie Welch, who was involved in the prank. Christine chases down Moochie one night, running him over multiple times.
Arnie learns about Moochie’s death, and appears to be shocked. He denies any involvement to local police, and his parents also confirm his alibi. Arnie is also questioned by a state police officer. The officer does not believe Arnie’s story, but cannot take any action, as he has no concrete evidence that Arnie was involved in Moochie’s death. The officer also notices that Christine is nearly restored back to her prior condition, despite the fact that prior reports stated that she was damaged beyond repair.
One evening, Buddy and his friends are driving around town. Buddy is still angry over being expelled from school, and has no remorse over vandalizing Christine. Buddy and his friends then notice another vehicle which appears to following them. It does not take long for Buddy to realize that the vehicle is Christine, and she appears to be driving herself.
Chrstine chases Buddy down, and runs him over, killing him. Before he dies, Buddy sees the ghost of an old man, which can only be Roland LeBay.
Arnie feels badly that he has been neglecting Leigh, and he takes her shopping and out for dinner one weekend. On the way home, Arnie and Leigh pick up a hitchhiker and drive him into town on their way home.
On the drive home, Leigh is eating a hamburger. She then begins to choke on the hamburger, but she is saved by the hitchhiker, who uses the Heimlich maneuver on her, over Arnie’s protests. Leigh is badly shaken by the incident, and realizes that she would have died if it had not been for the hitchhiker. When she is choking, Leigh believes that Christine’s dashboard lights turn into eyes, and that the car tried to kill her.
When Arnie drops Leigh off at home, Leigh demands that Arnie get rid of Christine, as she believes that the vehicle is evil. Arnie refuses, and the two argue. Arnie then storms off, leaving Leigh in tears.
Arnie is again questioned by Junkins, the state cop who questioned him in regards to Moochie’s death. Arnie provides an alibi for the night of Buddy Reperton’s death, and tells the state cop that there is no evidence that he was involved in Buddy’s death. Junkins does not believe Arnie, and vows that Arnie will one day face justice.
Arnie’s personality begins to change, and everyone notices, including Arnie. Arnie’s speech and mannerisms become similar to those of Roland LeBay, and Arnie even believes that he sees LeBay sitting in his vehicle.
One day, Arnie runs another errand for Will Darnell, his boss. The state cops, however, have closed in on Darnell, who is arrested. Arnie is also arrested, as the vehicle he was driving contains untaxed cigarettes. Arnie’s parents are shocked by the arrest, but Arnie is eventually released from jail, and will likely not have a mark on his permanent record, due to his age.
Christine then seeks revenge on Darnell when Arnie is out of town for the Christmas holidays. She traps Darnell inside of his house, and runs him over. Darnell’s death is news, due to his pending criminal charges, and most people assume that his death was related to his criminal dealings.
Leigh, however, makes the connection between Darnell’s death and a few others. She believes that Christine is the cause of those deaths, as does Dennis. Dennis and Leigh team together, and research Christine’s history. Dennis then begins to develop feelings for Leigh, but is hesitant, due to his friendship with Arnie.
Dennis spends New Year’s Eve with Arnie. He is struck by the changes in Arnie’s personality, which he realizes is actually LeBay’s personality. Dennis is unsettled, and becomes even more frightened for Arnie.
On the way home that night, Dennis witnesses Arnie transform into Roland LeBay. When he glances through Christine’s mirror, he also sees the ghosts of Christine’s victims. His town is also transformed into what it looked like in the 1950’s, when LeBay was still alive.
Christine then claims another victim: Junkins, the state cop who investigated Darnell, and who also set his sights on Arnie, hoping to charge him with the murders of Buddy Reperton and Christine’s other victims. Dennis and Leigh realize that they must destroy Christine.
Dennis speaks to LeBay’s brother, George. George reveals more of LeBay’s early life, and the picture painted is disturbing, as people who harmed LeBay were likely to become injured or even dead. George also states that the deaths of LeBay’s wife and child may not have been accidental. Dennis then informs LeBay that he intends to destroy Christine. After his conversation with LeBay, Dennis begins to make some phone calls.
One day, Dennis and Leigh are talking in Dennis’ car in the parking lot of a local restaurant. Arnie appears, and realizes that Dennis is in love with Leigh. This infuriates Arnie, who has fixated on Leigh, determined to make her love him again. Dennis is frightened for Leigh, as he realizes that it is actually the ghost of LeBay who has fixated on Leigh, and that LeBay will stop at nothing to get what he wants.
Dennis confronts Arnie one morning in the school parking lot. He tells Arnie that LeBay has possessed, but that he can fight him. Arnie tries to fight, but LeBay is stronger. Arnie and Dennis then get into a physical fight. Dennis challenges LeBay, telling him to meet him that night at Darnell’s garage, and to bring Christine.
Leigh and Dennis wait for Christine at Darnell’s garage. Christine soon appears, along with the body of Michael Cunningham, Arnie’s father. Dennis and Leigh battle Christine with a wrecking truck that Dennis had obtained earlier that day. They are able to destroy the car, but are injured in the process.
Dennis awakens in the hospital the next day and inquires about Arnie. A FBI agent named Mercer tells him that Arnie and his mother were killed in a car accident on the highway right after Christine was destroyed. Witnesses saw a third person in the vehicle, which could only be the ghost of Roland LeBay, who attempted to possess Arnie after Christine was destroyed. Dennis tells his story to the FBI agent, and Leigh corroborates it.
Dennis and Leigh graduate from high school and date for about two years. Eventually, they drift apart and Leigh moves to New Mexico. She marries and becomes the mother of twin girls.
Dennis becomes a junior high school history teacher. He recovers from his injuries, even though his leg still pains him at times. He sometimes experiences nightmares in regards to Christine, but they become less frequent.
One day, Dennis receives the news that a young man named Sandy was killed after being hit by a vehicle. Dennis begins to wonder if Christine has somehow regenerated, and if she will find him and seek revenge.
Well, that was quite a ride…
Okay, okay…I will brake from the bad car jokes…
But seriously, wow, this book was really quite the ride.
Now, Stephen King writes scary stuff. Duh, he is the King of Horror, and we all know this. And Christine has plenty of scary moments (more on that later.)
But really, King’s major strength as a writer is his ability to write about reality, as strange as that may seem to some.
In other words, King does not just write about monsters, like possessed cars, haunted hotels and evil clowns.
He writes about people.
And that’s why we love him. Once again, he is our literary Everyman.
And there are plenty of Everyman moments in Christine. When Christine is mentioned, most people think “Car bad. Very very bad. Arnie go crazy. I hate rock and roll.”
(Well, something like that. And yes, it may owe a little bit to the movie of the same name, thanks to John Carpenter, God love him.)
One of my favorite parts in this book was the description of the friendship between Arnie and Dennis.
There are some people, in the Hell otherwise known as high school, who are actually popular because they are…wait for it…genuinely nice people…gasp…
Dennis Guilder is proof of the above. His friendship with Arnie is an exception rather than a rule in the Hell known as high school (yes, I keep using that word. Hell. And yes, I do know what it means, aka the DMV and high school. Hell has less screaming, though, than either of those.)
But it is proof that there are some out there with actual character, who can see beyond the surface, and who is willing to dig for gold.
I loved the fact that Dennis and Arnie built ant farms as children. There is just something endearing in that. Maybe it’s because that is a project that requires investment and patience, much like being Arnie’s friend.
But, as I stated before, Christine is scary. And actually, it is a lot scarier than what I had previously given it credit for.
First of all, we have Christine herself. Notice how I say “herself,” and not “itself.”
In other words, Christine may technically be an “object”, but she (again, with the pronouns) is definitely a character in her own right.
And that is the genius of King: he writes wonderful characters who are people (and even animals.) However, he can turn anything into a character. In fact, I am sure a novel will be out one day that features a plastic Wal-Mart bag who we either end up rooting for, in its quest to not be replaced by paper bags, or perhaps we learn to fear Wal-Mart plastic bags because this one tries to take over a store in its anger over being replaced by the paper bags and ends up killing the customers in a totally gruesome manner…
(And yes, that book will be a “take my money now situation,” natch.)
Well, humor aside, Christine may be a vehicle, but she is a character in her own right. And a villain, to boot (King has written more than a few of those, both human and inhuman.)
And one scary character as well.
The scenes when Christine in on the rampage are some of the most frightening scenes that I have ever read in any book, let alone a King book.
In particular, the scene when Christine hunts down Buddy Reperton particularly stands out in my mind. Now, Buddy really did have that coming to him. He was an asshole, there is no other way around it. But still, being hunted by Christine and being toyed with in much the same manner as a cat toys with a mouse that it is about to kill…yikes is all I can say!
And the little touch at the end, when Buddy sees the ghost of Roland LeBay is just what the doctor (or is it writer?) ordered to scare us Constant Constant Readers into a change of pants!
Speaking of which, Roland LeBay…
Let’s talk about him for a bit.
Somehow, I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
Or, as a certain well-known and beloved character in the Dark Tower series may have stated: Coincidence has been cancelled!
The two share a name, but they could not be more different, right?
Well, they are pretty different. But there does seem to be an underlying theme.
And that theme would be obsession.
Think about that for a moment.
Roland Deschain is obsessed with his Tower.
In fact, he is so obsessed that he is willing to sacrifice his spiritual son so that he can progress in his quest.
Roland LeBay is obsessed with his vehicle.
In fact, he is so obsessed that he is willing to let his daughter choke to death, and refuses to get rid of the vehicle even after her death.
So yeah, sounds pretty familiar, huh?
However, I think #teamLeBay wins the obsession contest over #teamDeschain.
#teamDeschain is at least capable of showing some humanity at certain points, and does try to redeem himself. So he loses this contest, although this is contest one probably does not want to win.
In fact, #teamLeBay is so obsessed with this vehicle, that it carries over to his death. The ghost of Roland LeBay is the other major player in this story, even though it gets overshadowed by the crazy vehicle.
But I need to give the ghost of LeBay its due.
After all, it is seen several times in the story.
The scene where Arnie is eating pizza in Christine, and sees LeBay sitting next to him, is tres creepy. I didn’t know whether to laugh at the piece of pizza that went MIA, or shudder even more.
What was even scarier was the fact that Arnie also saw himself in LeBay’s ghost (more on that later, though.)
I think the scariest scene in the book is the scene when Arnie drives Dennis home via Christine on New Year’s Eve.
Dennis sees the ghost of LeBay in the rear view mirror. Somehow, that’s gruesome right there. Just looking in the rear view mirror…
What do you see?
Oh, nothing, ghosts of dead, decaying, rotting bodies of evil guys and stuff…
And the fact that Christine was able to momentarily travel back in time, taking Arnie and Dennis back to the 1950’s…wow!
Suddenly the streets are not familiar, and Dennis can’t find his house, because it hasn’t been built yet.
Wow, wow and wow again.
There was a wonderful, dreamlike surreal quality to that scene that I just loved. You are pretty sure that Dennis is not hallucinating any of it, but you aren’t 100% sure. And that makes it even more frightening.
Another thing to love about this novel is the fact that it addresses a taboo topic: bullying.
Now, Christine is a scary book. It has ghosts and a possessed car. And those also make for a great story.
But at its heart, Christine is a novel about bullying, and how it affects people.
Too often, people tend to dismiss bullying. They will say it’s kid stuff. They will tell the victim to ignore it, and it will go away.
In other words, kids have no rights. I was bullied constantly as a child. But I was a child, and I had no rights. If I was an adult, I could file a police report for either harassment or assault, and start a paper trail.
But children don’t have that option. Children are forced to see the bullying as some twisted “rite of passage.”
And people wonder how we get a Carrie White, or Arnie Cunningham.
Again, it goes back to Laverne Cox: Hurt people hurt people.
And like Carrie White, Arnie was a hurt human being.
In the book, various characters, such as Dennis, talk about how Arnie has “changed.”
My question is: did Arnie really change?
My answer: no, he didn’t.
Sure, he may have hid his pain for a long time, and managed to convince everyone (his parents, Dennis, etc) that he was okay.
However, Arnie was actually pretty similar to the deceased Roland LeBay in a lot of ways.
LeBay was obviously an angry person throughout his life. He was a man who never really loved anyone or anything, other than Christine, his vehicle. They were a match made in hell.
Arnie Cunningham was also angry man. He may not have shown his anger in the way that LeBay did, but it was obvious that he was angry.
An ex of mine once told me that “depression is anger turned inwards.” I think this is actually a good description of Arnie Cunningham.
Arnie spent his life being marginalized.
He was bullied at school. Most of the other kids would not accept him. In the world of high school, Dennis Guilder is an exception, not a rule.
Even at home, he was marginalized by his parents. Arnie had talent as a mechanic, but his parents would not accept that, and put pressure on him to attend college, rather than pursuing his talent for working with cars.
So, is it any wonder that Christine and the ghost of Roland LeBay were able to exert their influence on Arnie? After all, kindred spirits.
The fact that when Arnie saw the ghost of LeBay in Christine, and then saw an older version of himself is telling. After all, the two really are cut from the same cloth: angry, never experienced any type of true love.
And that is the only antidote for an Arnie Cunningham or Carrie White: we must have a world where everyone, even the “ugly pizza faces,” can find love or acceptance.
There may not be possessed vehicles in our world which are capable of exacting revenge on bullies, but there are worse things, such as bombs and guns. Until we realize this, our Arnie Cunningham’s will remind us that bullying has unpleasant consequences.
Come and check out your favorite nerd, live on the podcast known as Dark Tower Radio, where I palaver with a fellow nerd on King, horror, book, Dark Tower and all kinds of good stuff!
And yeah, I may sound even more nerdy live than on here…who knew???
There is just something about a new year.
I know that the calendar is simply a human construct, and really pretty meaningless, maybe even random, if you really think about it.
But I still love the concept of a new year.
It reminds me of when I buy new art supplies, for example. I know that I have bought most of this stuff before, and I am just recharging my already ample supply (luckily, my husband is understanding, although he would not agree that it’s not hoarding if it’s art supplies.)
But still, every time I
hoard buy new art supplies, I get that feeling of new possibilities. No limits. And I can start anew.
And that is how I feel about 2017.
Especially after the horror movie otherwise known as 2016, that will probably be struck from the history books.
Seriously, those school kids in the future will likely have some gap in their books (or whatever will pass for books in 2297) that covers 2015, 2017, 2018 and so forth.
But yet there will be a gap, in that 2016 will be skipped over. And I am sure that the parents (or robot nannies) of the future will have fun trying to explain that one.
In other words, 2016 was pretty scary. I mean, who wrote 2016…Stephen King or somebody?
Oh, speaking of which…
In case you forgot which blog you were reading…
Yes, we are starting out 2017 with a review of a Stephen King book…who knew?!
And for this month’s review, we are going back in time…
All the way back to the beginning, in fact.
Now, I know that King started off his writing career at a fairly young age, and spent years trying to get his work published.
In other words, I am sure there are lots of early works by The Master somewhere out there, for our reading pleasure.
But, for the purposes of this humble lil ole blog, we are going to focus on The Master’s first published book (and also the first of his books to be turned into a movie, which is still a classic.)
So, we are going to be reading and dissecting the novel Carrie.
The book with the infamous shower scene.
The book that makes you want to get a T-shirt that says “I survived my high school prom and all I got was this bloody T-shirt!”
(See what I did there?)
Carrie was the first published book by Stephen King.
It set the precedent for horror and also for book-to-screen adaptations.
Even non-King fans (gasp) can probably recite lines from the movie, and probably even know that is based on a Stephen King book.
Carrie is a huge part of popular culture. And there is a reason for that: it discusses themes that everyone can relate to, including puberty, bullying, parental abuse and a few others.
So, strap in, Constant Constant Reader, and get ready for the wild ride otherwise known as Carrie!
And, as always:
The book begins with an account of stones mysteriously falling from the sky, in the proximity of a house that a woman named Margaret White lives in, along with her toddler daughter Carrietta White. No one is ever able to explain why the stones fell from the sky, although people do not seem to be surprised that such an odd phenomena would occur in the vicinity of that particular house.
The story then jumps forward several years. Carrie White is now a teenager attending Ewen High School in Chamberlain, Maine. Carrie does not fit in at her high school and is bullied mercilessly by her peers.
The bullying reaches a peak one morning, when Carrie begins her first menstrual period at the age of nearly 17. Carrie does not understand what is happening to her and thinks that she is bleeding to death in the showers of the gym at her school.
Almost at once, the other girls begin to torment Carrie, throwing tampons and menstrual pads at her, demanding that she “plug it up.” Susan Snell, who generally does not bully other students, participates in tormenting Carrie, although Sue realizes that Carrie may not actually understand what is happening to her and that Carrie may also be genuinely terrified.
We then learn the story of Carrie’s birth. Her mother, Margaret White, was in denial that she was pregnant, as her religion proclaims that any sexual intercourse is a sin. Margaret gives birth to Carrie at home, with no medical assistance. Margaret was alone, because Carrie’s father had passed away several months earlier.
Ms. Dejardin, Carrie’s physical education teacher, puts a stop to the attack. She does not punish Sue and the other girls right away, but dismisses them so that she can help Carrie.
Ms. Desjardin then escorts Carrie to the principal’s office. She tries to explain menstruation to Carrie, but Carrie is too upset to listen. The principal, Mr. Morton, then dismisses Carrie for the day, after Ms. Desjardin gives him an explanation of what happened. Ms. Desjardin also states that she will punish those responsible for the incident, and Mr. Morton allows the punishment to be her own.
Carrie walks home from school, upset about the treatment she has endured from her classmates over the years. Carrie is also aware that she is different because she has the ability to move objects with her mind. This was demonstrated earlier when she forced a light bulb to explode and an ash tray to fall off Mr. Morton’s desk. Carrie is able to knock a child off his bicycle when he torments her as she as walking home, and realizes that she may be able to control this gift, with practice.
We then read the account of the incident from Carrie’s childhood when the stones fell from the sky. The incident is told from the perspective of Carrie’s former neighbor, who is being interviewed for a publication.
Carrie arrives home that morning, and finds the sanitary napkins her mother has hidden in the house. She is no longer frightened, as she realized that menstruation is a normal part of growing up, although she is embarrassed, as she previously thought that sanitary napkins were used to remove lipstick. Carrie also desires to break free of her mother’s constricting religious beliefs, and to fit in with her peers.
However, Carrie is also angry, and breaks a mirror in an expression of her anger.
The story then switches to the perspective of Sue Snell. Sue is dating a boy named Tommy Ross, who is the most popular boy in school. The two have recently become lovers, and Sue begins to contemplate a future with Tommy and realizes that she has fallen in love with him. That night, when the two are on a date, Sue confesses what happened that morning in the shower to Tommy, as she is upset with herself. Tommy listens to Sue and suggests that Sue apologize to Carrie for her part in the incident. However, Sue is unable to come up with a solution to her problem, and still feels badly for what happened.
That evening, Carrie faces the wrath of her mother, Margaret. Margaret believes that her daughter has sinned because she is now menstruating, and forces Carrie into a small closet to pray for forgiveness. Margaret also strikes her daughter. However, Carrie pushes back, threatening to make the stones come again if Margaret does not stop the abuse.
The next week, Ms. Desjardin confronts the students responsible for the attack on Carrie. Sue Snell is among these students, and accepts responsibility for her part in the incident. However, Chris Hargensen, one of the other responsible students and a school bully, refuses to accept the punishment, and tries to convince Sue and the others to walk out in protest of Ms. Desjardin and her punishment. Sue refuses, and Chris’ refusal results in a suspension and refusal of her prom tickets.
Chris’ father also refuses to accept his daughter’s punishment and attempts to bully the school administrators into reversing the punishment so that Chris can attend prom. The administration, however, stands up to him, and he backs down after he learns what his daughter did to Carrie.
Sue is also forced into a confrontation with Chris, as Chris is angry that Sue did not stand with her in protest of Ms. Desjardin’s punishment. However, Sue tells Chris that she accepts responsibility for her actions. Chris counters, telling Sue that she is a hypocrite and only accepting the punishment so that her prom ticket will not be refused. Sue realizes her hypocrisy, and wonders how to counter it.
Sue continues to feel remorse for her responsibility on the attack on Carrie, and finally has an idea of how to atone. Sue convinces Tommy Ross, her boyfriend, to ask Carrie to the prom. Sue is convinced that if Carrie attends prom, she may finally be able to fit in with her peers. Tommy is reluctant, but finally agrees to Sue’s request. After he agrees, he tells Sue that he loves her.
Tommy approaches Carrie one day between classes, and invites her to the prom. Carrie is skeptical, but is finally convinced and agrees to attend the prom with Tommy. After speaking with Carrie, Tommy realizes that she is far from repulsive.
Carrie decides to use her talent for sewing to make her own prom dress. Carrie also develops her other talent, known as telekinesis, and is able to move larger objects using her mind. She informs Margaret that Tommy has invited her to prom and that she has accepted the invitation. Margaret is furious and attempts to forbid Carrie from attending. Carrie fights back, using her newfound powers, and wins the battle. Carrie emphasizes her desire to fit in with her peers, much to the shock of Margaret.
Word spreads that Sue will not be attending prom and that Tommy will instead be taking Carrie to the prom. It also becomes evident that Chris Hargensen is planning something, although no one is sure what she is planning.
Billy Nolan, Chris’ boyfriend, breaks into a farm one night. Billy and his friends kill a couple of pigs, and drain the bodies of blood, taking buckets of blood with him when he leaves the farm.
Carrie sews her dress and begins to get ready to attend her senior prom. Margaret again fights with her, attempting to persuade Carrie not to attend, but once again, Carrie uses her powers to stand up to her mother. Carrie also tells her mother that she loves her after the confrontation.
Tommy arrives to pick up Carrie, who is extremely nervous, and has even considered not attending the prom. However, Carrie is pleasantly surprised even from the beginning of the evening, as her classmates and her date treat her with respect. The girls are impressed with her dress, and surprised by her talent for sewing. Carrie is further surprised to learn that she and Tommy have been nominated for Prom King and Queen.
While Carrie is attending the prom, her mother Margaret comes to the decision to kill her daughter when she comes home later that night. Margaret has noticed Carrie’s talent for moving objects with her mind from the time when Carrie was baby, and believes that Carrie’s gift is a sin. Margaret contemplated sacrificing her daughter many years ago, but did not. This time, however, she is determined to carry out her plan.
Chris and Billy also carry out their plans to play a prank on Carrie that evening. They sneak into the high school, where Billy has hidden buckets of the pig’s blood in the rafter. They plan to dump the blood on Carrie if she is crowned Prom Queen.
Carrie and Tommy are then nominated as Prom Queen and King. They are crowned onstage. However, when Carrie and Tommy enter the stage to accept their nominations, Chris pulls the strings, and Tommy and Carrie are doused with the pig’s blood. One of the buckets hits Tommy on the head, and he is rendered unconscious. The impact is so severe that Tommy dies in less than an hour.
The audience is first shocked, and then begins to laugh at Carrie, who is also in shock. Carrie escapes from the gymnasium, but uses her powers to unleash the sprinkler system. This causes an electrical fire, and students and teachers frantically attempt to escape from the school, which is now engulfed in flames.
Carrie wanders the town, in a state of madness. She begins to cause more destruction, using her powers to wreak havoc in the town of Chamberlain, Maine.
Eventually, while the town of Chamberlain burns to the ground, Carrie returns to her home. She is met by her mother, Margaret, who is armed with a butcher knife. Margaret then stabs Carrie, believing that she is committing an act mercy in ending her daughter’s life.
However, Carrie is not killed by her mother, as she envisions her mother’s heart coming to a stop. Margaret then dies after her heart comes to a complete stop.
Word of what has happened in Chamberlain reaches Billy and Chris, and they head back into town. However, they also run into Carrie, who takes revenge on them by using her powers to overturn their vehicle. Carrie is hit by the vehicle, and Billy and Chris are killed almost instantly.
Sue Snell is wandering the streets of Chamberlain. She appears to have some sort of telepathic connection with Carrie and knows that Carrie has killed her mother. She also realizes that Tommy and most of her friends have been killed.
Finally, Sue finds Carrie and realizes that Carrie dying. She still shares a telepathic bond with Carrie, although the bond is weakening because Carrie is dying. Carrie is convinced that Sue tricked her and is responsible for the events that occurred that night. However, Carrie probes Sue’s mind, and realizes that Sue bore no ill will towards her and only wanted to help her.
Carrie traps Sue in her mind as she is dying, so Sue also experiences Carrie’s death. Finally, Sue escapes Carrie’s clutches, and realizes that she has gotten her menstrual period, which had been a week late.
At least 409 people have died due to the destruction of the high school and the surrounding town. An autopsy of Carrie White has revealed unusual formations in her brain, and the governor appoints a committee to study the tragedy.
Sue Snell survives the devastation and writes a book about the events.
The town of Chamberlain effectively becomes a ghost town, as people begin to leave. More bodies are discovered, and the funeral business becomes the most active business in Chamberlain.
Some years into the future, a woman writes a letter to her sister. The letter describes an incident with the woman’s infant daughter, who apparently has the ability to move objects with her mind. However, the woman does not fear her daughter, but reveres her instead, believing that the little girl will accomplish great things in the future.
Well, you know what they say…
Big things come in small packages.
Yes, this cliche may be overused, but I cannot think of a better description of the book Carrie.
It may not be a big book, but it packs a big wallop.
Carrie is King’s first published work. King has compared it to a cookie baked by a 6 year old: you can tell it’s a cookie, and it has some nice flavorings, but that cookie is misshapen, burnt on the bottom, etc.
Well, that cookie is some mighty fine eating, and an appetizer for great things to come!
There are so many great things about this little book that it is hard to know where to start our discussion.
First of all, all Carrie has some great villains. And no, the title character is not one of them, although we will discuss her in a bit as well.
No, the villains in this story are Carrie’s mother and her classmates, which mainly include Chris Hargensen.
As I have stated before, one of King’s major strengths as a writer is his ability to write about “real life.”
Making the statement that King writes horror is a severe underestimation of King’s work, almost like making the statement that Aaron Rodgers plays football.
In other words, there is so much more to King (as there is to Aaron Rodgers, as the Dallas Cowboys found out this weekend.)
King writes horror stories, but when you strip away the horror, his stories are about people.
And one of the things that people do is not be nice to each other.
You know, like sheltering your kid her whole life, locking her up in a prayer closet when she does normal kid things and oh, not telling her about the “birds and the bees?”
Margaret White is one of King’s best human villains.
When one says the name Stephen King to most people, they may think of Pennywise the Clown, a girl who can start fires or maybe of the title character of the book we are discussing, who “lost” it and destroyed her high school.
Most people are not going to think of religious fanaticism and how dangerous that fanaticism can be be to an impressionable teenager who only wants what most teenager want, i.e. to fit in with her peers somehow, and to not be the butt of EVER SINGLE horrible practical joke every bully somewhere has dreamed up.
What is great (or is it horrible?) about the character of Margaret White is that she is so plausible.
Margaret White exists in this world today.
Any time I read an article about some kid dying because the parents refused medical treatment for religious reasons, or some adult that escaped a household run by religious fanatics who insisted on homeschooling their children and not allowing their children to date before marriage, I think of Margaret White.
Granted, the outcome in Carrie may be a bit extreme, as most kids don’t kill their abusive parents and many are able to flee those conditions and eventually make better lives for themselves.
But Margaret White still exists. And she is dangerous, as most people do not recognize the actions of the Margaret Whites in our world for what they are: child abuse.
Child abuse does not always mean that a parent hits his/her and leaves bruises (although Margaret was guilty of this, and this is still tragically all too common.)
Instead, child abuse can be more insidious, as when the parent controls all actions of the child, and does not allow opposing viewpoints in the child’s life.
Child abuse can also consist of a parent forcing their viewpoints on their child, and punishing the child for daring to have an opposing viewpoint (the prayer closet in action.)
The book Carrie also has another villain, besides Margaret White.
Or should I say, a set of villains?
In case I am not being clear, I am referring to Chris Hargensen, along with the other sickening half of the dynamic duo…
Yes, Chris is some sort of demented Batman, and that would make Billy some kind of creepy, greasy Robin, I suppose.
When I read about the bullying experienced by Carrie, and the actions (and lack of actions) by her classmates, I was reminded of one of my favorite books as a child.
Judy Blume is similar to King, in that she writes “real life.”
Along with educating me about my anatomy, Ms. Blume also discussed bullying at length in almost all of her books.
However, Blubber was a book devoted to the subject of bullying.
In this book, children gang up on a particular classmate, bullying her ostensibly due to her weight (the title is the cruel nickname they have come up with for this child, in fact), although the real reasons may be a little deeper.
However, Blubber is not told from the perspective of the bully. Nor is it told from the perspective of the victim.
Rather, it is told from the perspective of a bystander, Jill. Throughout the book, we watch Jill evolve, from a fellow bully to a victim to finally someone who becomes enlightened and a more compassionate person.
When I was reading Carrie, I was struck by the similarity between Chris Hargensen and the bullies in the book Blubber, along with the similarity between Sue Snell and the Jill character in Blubber.
Like the bully in Blubber, Chris is charismatic. At the beginning, Chris able to get others to do her bidding.
This includes her not very bright, but very cruel boyfriend, Billy Nolan.
In fact, unlike Chris, Billy does not care very much about Carrie White. He just wants to dump a bucket of pig’s blood on someone, for the thrill of it. Interestingly, Billy also seems to be the only one who understands that criminal charges would be brought against him and Chris if they were caught.
However, throughout the novel, Chris’ “friends” begin to turn away from her.
One of these friends is Sue. Much like the Jill character in Blubber, Sue goes along with the crowd at first.
She wants to be accepted and does not want to “rock the boat.”
However, much like Jill in the book Blubber, Sue begins to evolve.
She does not want to miss her prom, but realizes the effect that the bullying has had on Carrie White.
As the events of the story unfold, Sue begins to evolve.
She realizes that there is more to life than high school, her friends and even Tommy, her boyfriend.
Sue is able to put herself into the shoes of Carrie, and realizes what a horrible time that Carrie has had throughout her life.
This prompts her to “loan” Tommy to Carrie for an evening, so that Carrie may have a few hours of happiness.
And when things go horribly wrong, Sue begins to feel a sense of responsibility.
Sue also reminds us that Carrie was a person, with real thoughts and feelings.
Carrie also seeks out Sue, as her life is ending, and realizes that Sue is not to blame for what happened.
In fact, it seems if Sue is able to offer Carrie one of the few bits of compassion that Carrie has ever received in her life, which eases Carrie’s suffering just a little as she dies.
And last but not least, let’s talk about the title character herself, Carrie.
Now, I know that Carrie is not a terribly long book, and there is not a lot of room to get to know characters on an in-depth basis.
However, King does a good job with the character development in this book. In fact, he does more than good, considering the length of the book.
In the past, people have indicated a dislike for Carrie as a person. Or they simply pity her. Even King has indicated that Carrie is not really a likable character.
However, I respectfully disagree with The Master on that (gasp.)
Maybe it’s because I was bullied as a child. Or maybe it’s because I survived an abusive marriage.
But I find the character of Carrie White to be fascinating, and to me, she is one of King’s more interesting characters.
Throughout much of the book, we see Carrie through the eyes of Carrie herself. And the picture is not flattering, as it would appear that she is overweight and suffering from acne.
However, I was struck when I read the part where Tommy asks her to the prom, and notices that she was “far from repulsive” but this was “the first time he had really looked.”
So was Carrie just invisible when she was not being bullied? I tend to believe this, because I spent most of my childhood being bullied and trying to remain invisible so I would not be bullied. In fact, when my ex boyfriend told me that the guys at our college thought that I had the best legs on campus, I was struck speechless. Really, I don’t think that I even knew that I had legs, much less legs that others may consider to be attractive.
But that’s how it is when you try to remain invisible: you lose sight of yourself, and become invisible to even your own eyes, so you don’t see what others may marvel over.
Throughout the book, Carrie does begin to emerge from her shell. And I began to like that girl on her own merits, much like Tommy Ross.
For starters, I thought Carrie to be a strong woman.
She survived bullying and abuse (from both her peers and her mother) for years, and basically did not flinch. In fact, she tried to take some of the bullying with good humor, even though she (understandably) lost her sense of humor pretty quickly.
To top it off, Carrie did not have a support system at home. Most of us who are bullied have family and friends outside of school, so that we have something worth living for. Carrie did not, although she had a mother who considered anything that may bring her daughter happiness to be a sin.
So anyone who can survive as long as Carrie did under those circumstances is somebody to be admired, not pitied. And I like strong people, as well as admire them. I like people who somehow find a way to push through it, even when the circumstances are not good.
“Hurt people hurt people.”
This is a quote from Laverne Cox, in regards to bullying and harassment. And it applies so well to this book.
Carrie was definitely one of the hurt people.
Her bullies could not even allow her a few moments of happiness, when she was invited to prom by the most popular boy in school and then crowned Prom Queen. At that point, even some of her classmates, like Tommy, had begun to like Carrie on her own merits.
But then a horrible prank was played on her, and as they say, the rest was history.
And my question is: why wouldn’t Carrie “snap” after enduring that kind of prank?
In fact, why wouldn’t anyone “snap” after enduring that kind of prank?
Throughout the book, the scientific articles are focused on the telekinesis aspect. Should something be done to prevent children from being born with this ability? Can we isolate this gene that is responsible for “Typhoid Mary’s?” Should we test children for “TK ability,” as we test them for tuberculosis? And so forth.
But never once is the most important question asked: What causes people to lash out, as Carrie did?
Personally, I was amazed that Carrie did not lash out sooner, due to the abuse that she endured.
Throughout the book, Carrie is not portrayed as someone prone to violence.
She may have fantasies in regards to revenge on her tormentors, but that would be perfectly normal, in my book.
But constant bullying changes people. I am living proof of that. My childhood ought to be behind me, but it isn’t.
I spent my life being told I was not good enough. So I married an abusive man, because I didn’t think I deserved any better. In other words, I internalized that message.
I still have difficulty making friends. Bullying causes major trust issues, so it is hard to open to people so that they can really get to know you.
So it is no wonder that Carrie used her powers to destroy her school and her town, along with killing her mother.
She had nothing left to live for, as Tommy was killed by the falling buckets. And no friends, as everyone laughed at her when she was hurt. And her mother was the cause of this humiliation, as she failed to educate her daughter in regards to her own body.
So it seems to me that telekinesis is not the problem.
Rather, the problem is man’s inhumanity to man.
The telekinesis is a distraction.
We don’t need to worry about testing kids for TK or isolating any type of gene.
Rather, we need to test kids for bullying tendencies, along with testing parents for abuse tendencies.
Until we recognize bullying and abuse for what they are, hurt people will just continue to hurt people.
And the legacy of the Carrie Whites of the world will continue to live on, with horrific consequences.
Well, that’s it for that tiny package known as Carrie…what a start to the new year!
Join me next month for the read and review of the greatest love story of all time between a boy and his car, aka the novel Christine!
Tune in next month…
Same bat time, same bat channel!
Even though Carrie is the first published Stephen King novel, it connects to his other works, just like nearly every other King novel. Here are some of the connections I found:
-The events in Carrie are referenced by a character in the novel The Dead Zone, and mention is made of a movie based on those events.
-Carrie’s telekinetic abilities are similar to abilities possessed by several other King characters, including Ted Brautigan in Low Men in Yellow Coats (part of the collection Hearts in Atlantis), Kira DeVore (Bag of Bones), Jake Chambers (The Dark Tower series), Danny Torrance (Doctor Sleep and The Shining), Abra Stone (Doctor Sleep), Tyler Marshall (Black House) and several others.
-In the King universe, Breakers are people who possess psychic abilities and are recruited by the Crimson King and his Low Men (Hearts in Atlantis, Black House and The Dark Tower series) to destroy The Dark Tower, the nexus of all existence. If Carrie had lived, it seems she most certainly would have caught the eye of The Crimson King and his Low Men.
-Religious mania is a running theme in King’s work. Margaret White is similar to several other religious maniacs, including Sylvia Pittson (The Gunslinger, Wizard and Glass) and Mrs. Carmody (The Mist, part of the collection Skeleton Crew.)
-Margaret White is employed by Blue Ribbon Laundry. This establishment is featured in the short story The Mangler (part of the collection Night Shift) and in the novel Roadwork, which was originally published as a Richard Bachman novel.
Written last year, but re-blogging because I can!
Oh, and happy holidays, everyone!
Dear Constant Reader family,
I hope that you are doing well, and that your year has been happy and productive. I know mine certainly has!
And Molly is quite well, too. Although the evil grows stronger, day by day…
But enough about my blood family members. I love them to death (ha!) but let’s talk about my “other” family…
Yes, my “other” family…
I consider my characters to be my babies, so that makes them family, right?
And if killing off your main characters is a sign of love, well then, I love them to death as well!
So, where to start? Since so much is happening with these guys, it’s a little hard to keep track, but here goes nothing…
Let’s talk about my childe, Roland. With Roland, it begins and ends with him chasing an unknown male in dark clothing across an arid region. Gotta love Roland, although he can be a bit repetitive at times…
And then there are Roland’s friends…
In fact, I have trouble keeping track of them, it seems like he has a different group of friends each time…
Speaking of friends, those kids who live in Derry!
Poor Pennywise, always getting tripped up by those meddling kids!
But when I get tired of Derry, I take vacations to other scenic towns…
But I don’t get out nearly as often as I would like…I seem to be prone to car trouble!
Jack gets around, or so I hear. I don’t envy him though, especially when it comes to the houses he has to visit!
Although he does encounter some interesting folks along the way, I suppose.
Sometimes my children take it one step further and do some really crazy things…
Like traveling back in time, for instance. I hear November in 1963 is really nice, for instance, especially in the Dallas, TX area.
Every now and then I need to take a break. So I just stay in a remote hotel, because sometimes I need to get away from it all. Although I would advise against drinking anything suggested by the management at the hotel (and if Lloyd or Delbert offers to help you, my suggestion would be to run). I hear the red rum is a house specialty, though, so try it if you dare.
All in all, most of the family is doing quite well, health-wise at least. Well, except for Brady…I can never wake him up!
And then there is the matter of Annie…
She is a bit spoiled, always thinking she comes first. I don’t want to hobble her growth in any way, but I did have to take away the sharp objects from her, especially the axes. Cockadoodie children, I tell ya…what can you do but love them, right, Mr. Man?
I take care of my health too, so I can be in good shape to watch out for my family. I see my doctor on a regular basis (he is a little bald doctor, actually). I watch out for speeding vans now, when I am out walking. I avoid eating too much pie, especially if it’s a strawberry pie given to me by the white man from town. Most importantly, I get my flu shot every year! M- O- O- N, that spells good health, I’m told.
So, Constant Reader, I enjoyed this recap of my year, and I hope that yours has been a bloody good one as well. It is time for me to make my final Christmas preparations, I hear the bazaar will be closing soon, so I hope I don’t miss any good sales! I wish you a Happy Holidays, and may you get a bunch of
my books good books under the Christmas tree!
My life for you,
Little disclaimer: This letter was not actually written by The Master. It just comes from the imagination of one crazy nerd with too much time on her hands. But you knew that!
both all of my readers. Thanks for stopping by, and you guys are awesome, every single one of you. Peace out, and I hope your year has been a bloody good one!
Sometimes, you just need a break from the horror of it all…
Yes, it’s that season again…
No, not Halloween. Something far more frightening…
In other words, the 2016 Presidential Election is upon us.
You know, that time of year when admitting you are from ‘Murica is…well…probably something you want to gloss over, and talk about something a little less awkward, such as…well, anything really.
Like books that are horror stories.
Like books that are horror stories written by…
I’ll take Stephen King for $19, Alex!
Yep, you guessed it. And if you didn’t, well remember which blog this is next time, maybe you will have better luck!
So, I needed an escape. Something to help me cope with the daily horror that manifests itself as a talking Cheeto.
And what better way to do that than to read a Stephen King book?
That will calm me right down, I think.
After all, reading about people with PSI abilities and weird cults that kidnap kids with PSI abilities is good for the nerves, right?
In other words, I chose the book Doctor Sleep for this month’s read and review.
Hmmm, I wonder if I can write in Rose the Hat to make America…ummm…steamy again?
But Doctor Sleep is one of my favorite King books. It is a follow up book to The Shining, which I consider to be the gold standard for King (hey, even The Master needs goals to live up to, right?)
Like most of King’s work, Doctor Sleep is much more than “just” (haha, right) a follow to an iconic horror story which turned the horror genre and even popular culture on its head (redrum, anyone?)
It is a book that has a lot to say about addiction, overcoming childhood trauma and how family can be a huge downfall, or our greatest hope.
And it also doesn’t hurt that the book has a pretty kick ass female character, if I do say so myself (no bias here at all, really.)
So, with all that being said, here is my recap and review of Doctor Sleep.
And, as always:
Doctor Sleep begins where the novel The Shining ended. Danny Torrance has survived the horrific events that occurred at The Overlook Hotel, and has moved to the southern United States with his mother, Wendy.
However, Danny is still troubled by the spirits that haunted him during his stay at The Overlook Hotel. One night, when he awakens to use the bathroom, he encounters the ghost of Mrs. Massey, the woman who died in room 217 of The Overlook Hotel.
After Danny encounters the spirit of Mrs. Massey, he regresses and refuses to get out of bed or eat. His mother even sees evidence of the spirit in the bathroom, and becomes worried and frightened for Danny.
Wendy is unable to comfort Danny, so she contacts Dick Hallorann, the only other person who survived the events that occurred at The Overlook Hotel. Dick agrees to talk to Danny, to see if he can help Danny.
Dick arrives at the Torrance home, and speaks to Danny. He tells Danny the story of his sexually abusive grandfather. After Dick’s grandfather passed away, Dick was still haunted by the old man’s ghost. Dick’s grandmother, who also possessed the same PSI abilities that Dick possessed, taught him to keep the spirit of the old man at bay, so that he was no longer haunted by the ghost.
Dick then tells Danny that his memories of the hotel are actually causing the spirits to manifest themselves. He gives Danny a keepsake box, and tells Danny to make a keepsake box in his mind, to trap the ghosts so they do not continue to bother him. Danny follows Dick’s instructions, and finds that they are effective.
They story then switches to the perspective of a woman named Andi. Andi was molested by her father as a little girl, until she attacked and killed him in self defense. Andi convinces men to take her to the movies. The men try to have sex with Andi, but Andi has the ability to hypnotize people and send them into a deep sleep. Andy hypnotizes the men, and then robs them of their cash and any valuables.
One day, Andi catches the eye of a group of people who also possess unusual abilities. This group of people seems almost immortal, even though they appear to be normal on the outside. They are led by a woman named Rose, who is also known as Rose the Hat, due to her tendency to wear a top hat.
Rose the Hat and her friends confront, and coerce her into joining them, telling Andi that once she survives what they call “the turning,” that she may also become immortal, and join them in their travels across the country.
Andi reluctantly agrees to attempt the ritual. Somehow, she survives, and becomes a part of the group. The group calls itself The True Knot.
The book then introduces the reader again to Danny, now an adult in his early twenties. Danny has become an alcoholic who also experiments with drugs. Danny has a tendency to also get into fights while he is drinking, as he is unable to control his temper.
One morning, Danny finds himself in the apartment of a strange woman. He slowly pieces together the events of the night before, and realizes that his drinking has possibly gotten him into trouble, once again.
Danny realizes that the woman has a child by the name of Tommy. Tommy is about 18 months old and has been left in the apartment while the woman went out drinking with Danny. The woman, whose name is Deenie, is also addicted to cocaine, and convinced Danny to buy some for her. The little boy tries to grab the cocaine, calling it candy, but Danny puts him in bed with his mother, and leaves the apartment.
Danny leaves town, and heads for the northeastern United States. He continues to drink, and periodically thinks of Tommy, feeling some guilt for leaving him in those surroundings.
Over the years, Danny drifts across the country. He continues to drink, and works in nursing homes when he can find work. However, due to his alcoholism, he does not stay in any one place for very long.
One day, Danny arrives in a town called Frazier, in New Hampshire. For some reason the town catches his eyes. Danny also sees his childhood friend Tony for the first time in many years, and Tony also compels him to stay in Frazier.
Danny meets a man name Billy Freeman, and the two hit it off immediately. Danny is then able to secure short-term employment as a sort of maintenance man, and contemplates applying for work at the local hospice.
One night, Danny dreams of Deenie, the woman he met a years ago at a bar. Deenie appears to be dead, and warns him to stay away from the woman in the hat. When he awakens, Danny finds her son Tommy in his bed, dead but asking for candy. When he awakens again, Danny realizes that Tommy has died, most likely due to abuse and possibly neglect.
The next morning, Danny craves a drink, but does not give in to the craving. Danny goes about his day, forgetting the dreams that he had the night before. However, Danny again experiences troubling dreams later that night. Danny again struggles with the urge to drink, but Billy Freeman finds him, and tells him that he has other options.
Danny begins to attend Alcoholics Anonymous and finds a sponsor. Danny quits drinking and finds steady employment, making a life for himself.
In the meantime, a child named Abra Stone is born to a couple by the name of David and Lucy Stone. Almost right away, Abra’s parents and great-grandmother (Conchetta) notice that Abra is unusual. For example, Abra’s parents, when Abra is still an infant, have a dream of Abra covered in blood and holding a sign with numbers in the dream. The next morning, Abra is taken to the hospital because she will not stop crying. There is no medical reason found for Abra’s behavior. However, this incident takes place on the morning of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. The numbers seen by Abra’s parents in their dreams were the flight numbers of the planes that were attacked.
One day, Danny speaks to one of the members of his Alcoholics Anonymous group. The man is John Dalton, who is also a pediatrician. John has lost a watch that was gift from his wife and is upset. Danny is able to use his “shining” ability to tell John that he left the watch in restroom at work. John is able to find the watch the next day, and is grateful for Danny’s help.
John Dalton also happens to be Abra Stone’s pediatrician. At the request of Abra’s parents, John attends Abra’s third birthday party, so that he can observe her in her home for any unusual occurrences.
Shortly before Abra’s third birthday party, Danny receives a message written on the blackboard of the room he rents. The message simply says “Hello.” Danny has been receiving some telepathic communications, and conjectures that the message is from Abra.
At the birthday party, John Dalton gets his wish: he observes some unusual occurrences that can only be attributed to Abra. Abra’s doctor, parents and great grandmother find various utensils hanging from the ceiling by their own accord. When this is pointed out to Abra, the utensils drop to the ground, seemingly proving that she is responsible for the occurrence.
The Stone family speaks to Dr. Dalton, who tells them that Abra is likely blessed (or maybe cursed) with PSI abilities, but that they need to love her and continue to raise her as a normal child.
The years pass, and one night Danny receives at phone call. He is informed that one of patients in the hospice that he works at is getting ready to pass away. The woman making the phone call knows that the patient is getting ready to die because the cat that was adopted by the hospice, Azriel (or Azzie) has made an appearance in his room. Azzie is able to detect when death is near, and therefore alerts the staff and Danny. Danny is called in because he is able to use his abilities to make the transition from life to death a little less frightening for the patients.
After Danny helps the latest patient pass peacefully over to the other side, he senses a presence in the room that he believes to be Abra. In her bed at her home, Abra also senses Danny’s presence.
In the meantime, The True Knot runs into trouble, as they are running low on the essence of psychic children, which is what keeps them immortal. They find a young boy in a small town, and partake of his essence, which helps them, at least temporarily.
Abra, who is now 10 years old, dreams of The True Knot kidnapping and torturing the young boy. She describes the dream to her mother, who is disturbed. Abra also talks about her friend “Tony,” along with Tony’s dad (aka Danny), telling her mother that Danny works in a hospice and is assisted by cat named Azzie.
The True Knot then realize that Abra can sense them, and that Abra is a powerful psychic. They realize that Abra will provide them with plenty of essence, which will keep them alive for years to come, but that they must wait for her abilities to mature in order to get the full benefit.
Again, Danny senses Abra’s presence in his apartment. This time, he sends her a message. Abra receives this and tells her mother that Tony’s dad spoke to her. Lucy is a little troubled, but decides to let it go, as Abra seems happy.
Shortly after sending the message to Abra, Danny sees his friend Billy Freeman. Immediately, Danny senses that something is horribly wrong with Billy and convinces him to see a doctor. Danny’s intuitions were correct, as Billy is suffering from an aneurysm that would have killed him, if left untreated. Billy is grateful from Danny’s help, but Danny reminds Billy that it was he who helped him many years ago, when he arrived in Frazier.
Later that evening, Danny is overcome by the urge to drink. He calls his friend John Dalton, and the urge passes. When Danny arrives at his home, he finds a message on his chalkboard from Abra, but does not hear from Abra for another two years.
Two years later, Abra’s great grandmother, Conchetta, suffers a broken hip. Conchetta is also diagnosed with cancer, and is given only months to live. This causes Abra and her family to shuffle back and forth between their residence in Frazier, and the hospital in Boston, where Conchetta is staying.
One day, Abra comes home and picks up the mail. She finds a circular with pictures of missing children, and realizes that one of the pictures is of the boy she dreamed about two years earlier. This frightens Abra, and she struggles on whether or not to take any action.
Abra’s abilities then allow her to project herself into the mind of Rose the Hat. However, this connection is brief, as Rose resists her presence, forcing Abra back to her surroundings.
Rose discusses Abra with the fellow members of The True Knot, and tells them that they must capture Abra, as she could provide them with eternal life. Rose schemes on how to capture Abra, and plans to use drugs to subdue her. Rose also makes an appearance at Abra’s window, frightening Abra, and causing her to call out to Tony for help.
Danny receives Abra’s psychic beacon, and the signal is so powerful that it renders him momentarily unconscious. When Danny arrives at his home, he finds Abra’s email address written on his chalkboard. Danny sends Abra an email, and makes arrangements to meet with her, so that he can find out what is wrong.
Abra and Danny finally meet outside the town library, and Abra tells Danny what has been happening with Rose the Hat, and what The True Knot did to the young boy. Danny tells Abra to be careful, as Rose the Hat will be looking for her, and that he will be back in touch.
That night, a patient at the hospice where Danny is employed passes away. Before she dies, the woman tells him to wait, and Danny obliges her.
After a few minutes, the dead woman begins to talk. Danny realizes that he is actually speaking to his childhood friend Dick Hallorann, who has been dead for several years. Hallorann gives Danny information in regards to The True Knot, but it is cryptic. Hallorann tells Danny to refer to his childhood, and that the members of The True Knot will need to eat their own poison. The ghost also tells Danny to talk his friends who understand what he really is. After dispersing the information, the ghost leaves the body of the old woman, and Danny must figure out how to keep Abra safe.
Danny speaks to his friends Billy and John, and tells them what is happening to Abra. John agrees to travel with Danny to Iowa, so that they can find the baseball mitt of the missing boy and confirm Abra’s story.
Things go from bad to worse with The True Knot, as it is discovered that one of their members, known as Grampa Flick, appears to be dying. Rose does not understand how this is happening, and demands that the group’s “physician,” attempt to examine him.
Rose also tries to enter the mind of Abra. However, Abra is prepared, and is able to resist Rose, even causing her physical pain. This angers Rose, who realizes that Abra will be difficult to subdue, and will need to be drugged.
Danny travels to Iowa with John. During the trip, Danny also tells John of the winter he spent at the Overlook Hotel and the traumatic experiences he endured. John is skeptical, but becomes less so when he and Danny are able to locate the body of this missing boy and his baseball glove, per Abra’s instructions. They return to New Hampshire with the baseball glove, in the hopes that Abra will be able to use the baseball glove to obtain more information in regards to The True Knot.
The True is able to narrow down Abra’s identity, and begins to close in on her. Grampa Flick has died, and the cause of his death is discovered: he has somehow contracted measles. This is likely due to ingesting the essence of the young boy, who may have contracted the disease before his death. Several other members of the group also become ill with measles. This raises the stakes for the group, as they believe that ingesting Abra’s essence may provide some sort of immunity against the disease.
Danny and John return from Iowa. Danny informs Abra that her parents need to be informed about what has been going on. Danny and John arrive at Abra’s house and are greeted by her father, Dave. Dave is not happy, but hears the story out. Danny and John then give Abra the baseball glove, to find out if she can obtain any information from it.
After Abra touches the baseball glove, she obtains some information in regards to The True Knot. The most important piece of information is the location of their base of operations. Not surprisingly, The True Knot’s base of operations is located in Sidewinder, Colorado, on the grounds that once housed The Overlook Hotel. Danny, John and Abra then come up with a plan to try to stop The True Knot before they are able to kidnap Abra.
The next day, Danny, John and Dave picnic at one of the town’s tourist attractions. Abra astral projects herself info Danny, so that The True Knot will believe she is on a picnic with her father, instead of at school or at a friend’s house. Abra’s father tells some family stories during this outing. One of these stories is in regards to Lucy’s mother, or Abra’s grandmother. Lucy was conceived out of wedlock, and her father’s identity was unknown. Lucy’s mother died when Lucy was an infant, and Lucy was raised by her grandmother, Conchetta.
Later that evening, Abra stays at a friend’s house. However, she decides that she is safe from The True Knot, as she believes they have fallen into the trap that Danny set for them. Abra then decides to head home.
Several members of The True Knot arrive at the picnic grounds. Danny, John and Dave are prepared, and shoot them. However, one member, known as Crow Daddy, manages to escape the gunfight, and heads straight for Abra.
Crow Daddy finds Billy Freeman and overpowers Billy. Crow Daddy then kidnaps Abra, using powerful drugs to sedate her. When Abra awakens, Crow Daddy threatens Billy’s life, telling Abra that he will be killed unless she obeys him.
Danny, John and Dave quickly realize that Abra has been kidnapped, after Danny loses his telepathic connection to her. However, Danny has a revelation, when he understands more of what the ghost of Dick Hallorann was trying to tell him.
Danny then astral projects himself into Abra’s body. By doing this, he is able to fight Crow Daddy, and Crow Daddy is killed. Danny then has Billy drive to a nearby hotel, so that he and Abra can get some rest before returning Abra to her parents.
The group then heads to the hospital, where Conchetta is living out her last days. They tell Lucy what happened, and Lucy panics. However, Dave is able to calm her down, reminding her that Danny is there to help.
Danny visits with Conchetta, who is dying. He offers some words of comfort, and the two also exchange something else that is not specified.
After the visit with Conchetta, Danny speaks to Lucy and Dave. He tells them that he has realized that he is actually Lucy’s half-brother and Abra’s uncle, due to an affair his father Jack had with one of his students. After getting a good look at Danny, Lucy understands that he is telling the truth, even though she is still very worried about her daughter.
In the meantime, Rose the Hat and the rest of The True Knot make plans to locate Abra and kidnap her again. The situation becomes more urgent, as more of the members either begin to sicken or die, or leave the group.
At the request of Danny, Abra places a call to Rose the Hat and taunts her. Abra also requests to meet Rose in person, at her home base in Sidewinder, CO. This riles up Rose even more, and she agrees to meet with Abra, telling her that she will seek revenge for the death of her friends.
The next day, Abra is reunited with her parents. Abra and her family return to New Hampshire, while Danny heads to Colorado with Billy to confront Rose the Hat and the rest of The True Knot. Danny feels ill during the trip, but he is determined to stop The True Knot.
Once again, Abra phones Rose the Hat, taunting her, and setting up a meeting time at the home base in Sidewinder. She is able to astral project himself into Danny’s mind, tricking Rose into thinking that she is in Colorado, instead of in her home in New Hampshire.
Billy and Danny arrive at the site of where The Overlook Hotel used to stand. The site is now a campground. Abra is also with them, but in spirit, as she has used her talent for astral projection to trick The True Knot.
Danny is confronted by Rose the Hat and the remaining members of The True Knot almost immediately. However, Danny is prepared and attacks them. For the past few days, Danny has been carrying the essence of Abra’s great-grandmother. He unleashes this essence upon The True Knot. Since the old woman had been dying of cancer, the members of The True Knot are sickened almost immediately when they inhale her essence.
Rose then tricks Danny into thinking that Abra is Rose, and Danny begins to choke Abra. He realizes his mistake, and vows not to repeat the mistakes of his father. He and Abra then return to the corporeal world, promising to win the fight against Rose.
Ghosts are literally unleashed from Danny’s mind, as he unlocks his memories of his stay at The Overlook Hotel. The remaining members of The True Knot are also attacked, leaving Danny the resources to focus on Rose the Hat.
Rose the Hat is then pushed from the balcony, and killed. Danny sets fire to Rose’s top hat, destroying it. As Danny and Billy leave the campground, Danny catches a glimpse of the ghost of his father, Jack. Danny leaves the campground, bidding his father goodbye.
Two years later, Danny attends an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, and celebrates the fact that he is 15 years sober. Danny also confesses what happened at Deenie’s apartment all those years ago, and what happened with her son, Tommy. His fellow addicts are not surprised, and are almost indifferent to his story. However, Danny feels redeemed, and knows he is on the true path to recovery.
A few days later, Danny attends a birthday party for Abra. At the request of Abra’s parents, Danny speaks to Abra alone. It turns out that Abra has attended a party and had her first sip of alcohol. Later, she got into an argument with her mother and broke several plates in a fit of rage.
Danny tells Abra of his own grandfather and father, and how alcohol ruined their lives. Danny also talks of his own struggles with his alcohol and his temper. Danny reminds Abra that she must control her own temper, so that she can stay out of trouble and not go down the path that he walked. Danny then receives a phone call from his employer in regards to a dying patient, and cuts the evening short.
The dying patient is a man named Fred Carling. Fred had previously been employed by the hospice where Danny is currently employed. Fred was also a bully and disliked by many of the other employees, including Danny. That night, Fred was the victim of a terrible car accident, and it has become clear that he will not live.
However, Danny puts his feelings aside, and visits Fred. Danny realizes that life is truly a wheel, and brings the man comfort as he dies and passes to the other side.
Doctor Sleep. The book with so much beauty.
And I am not just saying that because Danny apparently resembles my man Jax Teller, either!
(Although, really, that doesn’t hurt. Doesn’t hurt in the slightest.)
Doctor Sleep is billed as a sequel to The Shining. And in a way, it is (more on that later.)
But to think of it Doctor Sleep as only as a sequel to The Shining (which is one of my favorite King books ever and likely my favorite ghost story ever) is limiting.
For one, I don’t think of this book as a direct sequel to The Shining. I find it better to think of it as a follow up.
Sure, we have some of the same themes, which include addiction, life after death and people who don’t quite fit the fold.
However, I find Doctor Sleep to actually be pretty different from The Shining. And this is a good thing, as anyone who has ever heard my rant about sequels will tell you.
Yeah, that’s what I thought.
And now we have Doctor Sleep. It also builds on the original story of Danny Torrance, and is a stand alone book. This is a good thing, as we are staying out of the ridiculous sequel territory, which seems to plague the horror genre in particular.
However, I can’t help comparing and contrasting both books. So, let’s get it out of our system…
The Shining is one of the most frightening books ever written. The ghost of Mrs. Massey. The clocks with blood in them (still thinking about that weeks after the fact, thanks Stephen King! And let me thank Obama for good measure!)
Now, Doctor Sleep does have its scary moments. Dick Hallorann’s story about his grandfather and the old pedophile’s ghost (yeah, there I said it) is great nightmare material. And of course, the resurgence of Mrs. Massey (and her “leavings”. If that didn’t make you want to throw up in your mouth, then you are not human) and Horace Dewent added some creepiness as well.
(Oh, and that top hat. Is there anything creepier than a top hat drifting in the wind? I mean besides a red baseball cap worn by a loudmouth, racist Cheeto?)
But, due to the tone and the messages, I consider Doctor Sleep to be more dark fantasy than horror. In fact, with the children in danger and the seemingly oblivious adults, Doctor Sleep is closer to The Talisman, or even The Eyes of the Dragon, than anything else.
Even the “villains” in Doctor Sleep (Rose the Hat, Barry the Chink, Diesel Doug, etc) remind me more of villains in a children’s fantasy novel than anything. Not that there is anything wrong with this. In fact, given what King was trying to accomplish (again, more on that later), I actually think that this works very well.
Abra is what I wished I was when I was her age: courageous, confident, smart and just kicks ass overall. In fact, she may be a little overconfident (and loves Game of Thrones, woot), but I don’t care. I loved how she was willing to take on Rose the Hat, taking pleasure in the fact that she hurt Rose. Talk about taking names and kicking ass!
However, this is a King book. So there is much more to Abra than meets the eye. The scene at the end, when Danny tells the stories of his father and grandfather, and Abra’s reaction, is proof of that. Like Danny, Abra is flawed. And will probably struggle with alcoholism. But like Danny, she has hope. And she will (hopefully) rise above her struggles and do good in the world. And that is just one thing that makes her one of King’s best female characters to date. Maybe, if we are lucky, we will one day get a story on grown-up Abra too.
Okay, time to talk about the elephant in the room…
Well, actually not really. Or at least a very cute elephant?
That’s right, I am talking about Danny Torrance, all growed up!
In case you can’t tell, Danny is one of my book boos. I may be happily married, but I think there is a clause in my wedding vows that allows for book and TV boos. So, relax, I am legal, folks!
Like King, I would wonder about Danny off and on. How did he fare after escaping The Overlook? What kind of man did he grow up to be? Did he have kids? God forbid, did he follow in his father’s footsteps?
Not well, awesome, no, and yes and no would be the answers to the above.
And, in all seriousness, what did we expect?
Cynical, I know. I was actually reminded of the essay Lime Twigs and Treachery, written by Henry Miller. I read this waaayyyy back in high school (over 20 years for you nosy folks) and it has always stuck with me.
I had actually forgotten about that essay. Then I read Doctor Sleep. And remembered it again.
The basic gist of that essay was that the sins of the father get passed down to the children. And that we will never be able to escape those sins, which may include abuse. And alcoholism. And addiction.
And that is exactly what happened to Danny: the sins of the father were passed down right to him. On a silver platter, in fact.
And what did we expect to happen?
Danny lived through the experience at The Overlook, yes. But he lost his father, who he loved very much, despite of (or maybe because of) his faults.
He was forced to grow up, and quickly. He learned some lessons that many people I know in their 30’s still have not learned.
His family unit dissolved. His mother never fully recovered, either physically or emotionally, as she never remarried.
So is it any surprise that Danny started drinking in high school?
Is it any surprise that he continued to drink, even when it was obvious that it was destroying his life?
Even as he clearly alienated people? I don’t think Danny was single because he was ugly. Rather, he was single because of his demanding mistress: the booze.
I think that my favorite part of Doctor Sleep is not the part about the monsters, and revisiting Sidewinder (although those parts were certainly no slouch.)
My favorite part of Doctor Sleep was Danny’s journey.
I loved the fact that the story picked up right after The Shining, showing us that things were not all right with Danny.
I loved the fact that Dick Hallorann was a constant presence in the story, even after he died.
But most of all, I loved the story of Danny’s struggles and his recovery.
One think that King is good at (and believe me, that is a long list) is writing real characters and real situations. He is able to juxtapose the horror/fantasy element with the reality element (which has included job loss, addiction, bullying, hate crimes and many other familiar situations) and make his story that much more plausible.
He did that in The Shining, and that is perhaps his most memorable moment. Who can’t relate to Jack Torrance his struggles to provide for his family and achieve some sort of success somewhere, whether it be with writing, teaching or being the caretaker at a remote hotel?
And King also did it with Danny. Addiction is a real issue. Many people struggle with that. So is childhood trauma and abuse. Many have also struggled with that.
King created another “Everyman” in Danny Torrance as well, in detailing his struggles with addiction, and his gradual recovery. And that is just one of the reasons why calling Sai King “The Master” is not hyperbole.
The answer to the last question, if Danny grew up to be like his father, is yes and no.
Danny did grow up to become an alcoholic.
Danny also became someone with anger issues.
So that’s the yes part.
However, we cannot ignore the no part. The no part is what makes Doctor Sleep so beautiful.
I love The Shining, but I consider it to be one of the bleakest books I have ever read. Danny does escape the hotel, but at a huge cost, as his family unit is forever shattered. Indeed, The Shining is a tragedy, along with a horror story.
Doctor Sleep is the opposite of The Shining. It offers hope. And I don’t know about you, but I think we could all use some hope right about now.
When I read Doctor Sleep, I look at it as a kind of redemption. A cycle is broken.
It is true that Danny followed in his father’s footsteps (see above.)
However, Danny succeeds where his father had failed.
For one thing, he does not succumb to his alcoholism. He recognizes the problem and seeks treatment for it. This allows him to be able to hold down a job and maintain a stable home for himself, which is another thing that his father could not do.
Like his father, Danny had his demons. He literally has his demons, as they escape from The Overlook and follow him into his new life. Danny is also able to overcome those, unlike his father.
And because Danny is able to conquer his alcoholism and his demons, he is able to step up for Abra and be the man that his father could not be.
It is true that Abra is kidnapped, but Danny and the other adults do most of the dirty work to defeat The True Knot. This allows Abra to maintain a little more of her innocence, as she can trust that the adults in her life will do the right thing.
I also loved how Danny was able to use the ghosts of his past to defeat The True Knot. Finally, the demons are unleashed. The suffering is not in vain.
In fact, there is something empowering about being able to take something has caused you so much pain, and using it to do good.
We all have our demons. Sometimes, we suppress them. But the most courageous of us face those demons, rising above them, finally breaking the cycle.
Well, that’s it for Doctor Sleep! Join me next month as we take a look at the state of current affairs in these parts, as we read and dissect Needful Things!
Tune in next month…same bat time, same bat channel!
Doctor Sleep is another King book set squarely in the King universe. Here are some of the connections to other King books that I found:
-The most obvious connection is to The Shining. The Shining details the time that Danny and his family spent at the haunted Overlook Hotel, and of Danny’s experiences at the hotel.
-Abra is one of a long line of King characters blessed (or perhaps cursed) with psionic abilities. These characters include Carrie White, Jake Chambers, Ted Brautigan, Kira DeVore, Tyler Marshall, the Breakers (featured in The Dark Tower series) and several others.
-The number 19 is mentioned. This number is of particular importance in the last three books of The Dark Tower series.
Have you ever…
Lived with a person who the human version of a volcano, and you didn’t know if this person was the dormant kind of volcano, or the other kind?
Loved this person beyond all reason, but spent much of your time in fear of them, eventually fearing for your life?
Been isolated, through no fault of your own, with nowhere to turn?
Felt conflicted, not knowing whether to protect yourself, or devote yet more energy and resources to protect your loved one, from his or herself, in the hopes that this person would not self destruct, so that you guys could attempt to build a life together?
Spent untold hours blaming yourself for the awful situation, even though you were actually the reason for anything good in that situation, although you could not see it, because you were too mired in guilt, defending yourself from the attacks that you were sure that you caused?
Still felt sad, and even guilty, even after you escaped your situation? Not knowing how you would go on without this person who you loved so much, but somehow finding a way?
So, why are we talking about a domestic abuse situation?
After all, that’s what I just described right?
Someone who was in an abusive relationship, but somehow managed to escape, but still have survivor’s guilt?
Well, you would be correct. But as always, there is more to meet the eye…
And it is one of his most famous, maybe even his most famous, with a movie that is perhaps even more notorious?
Yes, in case you haven’t guessed, I am referring to The Shining.
And let’s take a moment to acknowledge the red-headed stepchild of the family, otherwise known as The Shinning. As we all know, all work and no play makes Homer something, something…
But yes, that The Shining. The same one that is such a huge part of our culture now.
The same one that is the subject of some pretty entertaining memes.
Admit, you have muttered “redrum” in *that voice.*
Or been petrified by blood coming out of the walls.
Or freaked out by people in animal costumes.
I could go on and on. The Shining is a frightening book and movie.
But The Shining is so much more than just being scary.
The Shining is about family, and just what we will do to protect the ones we love the most.
The Shining is also about addiction and abuse, and how those can destroy a family from the inside out, even without the help of a haunted hotel.
In other words, for most of us, family is central. And losing family is devastating, no matter the circumstances. Over and over, King drives this theme home in The Shining.
So, welcome to this month’s read and review, and as always:
The book begins with an introduction to the Torrance family, which consists of Jack, his wife Wendy and their five year old son Danny. It is revealed that Jack has recently become unemployed from his job as a schoolteacher, and is interviewing for a position as the caretaker at a hotel called The Overlook Hotel, in Sidewinder, Colorado.
It turns out that the interview is just a formality, and Jack is hired for the position, although the hotel’s manager, Stuart Ullman, is reluctant to hire Jack, as Jack has had past problems with alcoholism and controlling his temper. Jack assures Ullman that the alcoholism is no longer an issues, and that he and his family can handle the isolation that will come with the job, which will require Jack and his family to live at the hotel during the winter and be cut off from all civilization.
During a tour of the hotel, the maintenance man, Watson, shows Jack how to adjust the pressure of the boiler so that the hotel does not catch fire. Jack also learns that the previous caretaker, Delbert Grady, murdered his family during his stint as a caretaker. Watson also tells Jack that the hotel has had a few deaths, and one of those occurred during the previous summer. An older woman, Mrs. Massey, stayed at the hotel with her much younger suitor. When her suitor abandoned her, Mrs. Massey committed suicide in room 217, in the bathtub.
In the meantime, Danny and Wendy await Jack’s return. The Torrance family has relocated from Vermont to Colorado, due to Jack’s job loss, and Wendy has some concern that the move has not been easy for Danny. We also learn that Danny has been a victim of Jack’s temper, as Jack accidentally broke Danny’s arm a few years prior, due to Danny spilling beer on his school papers.
We also learn that Danny is gifted with some unusual abilities: he sometimes has knowledge of future events, or events in the present that he would otherwise have no knowledge. Danny sees these visions through his friend Tony, another boy only visible to Danny, and referred to as his “imaginary friend” by Jack and Wendy. We learn through Danny that Jack and Wendy’s marriage has been troubled, due to Jack’s alcoholism, and that Danny has feared that his parents will divorce.
Danny has another frightening vision brought to him by Tony as he is outside waiting for his father to get home: he sees himself in an unfamiliar place being chased by someone, and also sees the phrase “REDRUM.” Danny becomes frightened and has no idea what this vision could mean.
Finally, Jack arrives home. Danny is overjoyed to see his father and glad that his father got the job at The Overlook Hotel. However, Danny thinks that he sees a bloody mallet in the front seat of his father’s car. When he looks at the front seat again, Danny realizes that is just a bag of groceries.
Jack makes a trip with Danny to a pay phone, so that he call his friend Al Shockley, who helped him get the job at the Overlook Hotel. Jack recalls how, during one drunken night, Al hit a bicycle that was left in the middle of the road while driving himself and Jack home. It is this incident that prompted Wendy to ask for a divorce, but Jack is able to stop drinking, and Wendy decides to stay, as she loves her husband and son.
That night, Danny has yet another, and Tony warns him not to go to the Overlook for the winter. Danny is frightened, but does not say anything to his parents, as he knows how important this opportunity is for his family.
The Torrance family then arrives at The Overlook Hotel. Danny is still feeling uneasy, but does not tell his parents, as he is still aware how important this opportunity is for his family.
After his family arrives at The Overlook, Danny is introduced to the hotel’s chef, Dick Halloran. Danny and Halloran take a liking to each other immediately.
Halloran is able to ascertain that Danny possesses psychic abilities, to which he refers to as “the shining.” Halloran tells Danny that he is not alone in possessing this gift, as Halloran also possesses it, although his ability is not as strong as Danny’s. Before Halloran bids Danny goodbye for the winter, he warns Danny that he may see things in the hotel, as the Overlook is an old hotel and several unpleasant events have occurred there. Halloran tells Danny that what he sees are akin to pictures in a book, and that nothing should be able to harm him. Halloran warns Danny to stay out of room 217, as he may experience something unpleasant in that room.
Ullman gives the Torrance family a tour of the hotel shortly after Halloran and the other employees leave for the winter. True to Halloran’s statement, Danny sees what appears to be blood and brains on a wall. However, Danny looks away, and the vision soon vanishes.
Several weeks pass uneventfully for the Torrance family. Jack is finally able to work on his writing, and thinks that he may be able to finish the play he is working on. Jack and Wendy notice that Danny is a little withdrawn, but think nothing of it. Danny continues to push himself to learn how to read, so that he may be able to communicate with his friend Tony, who has shown him signs with written words in the past.
One day, Jack finds a wasp nest on the roof of the hotel. He kills the wasps with a bug bomb, and gives the nest to Danny as sort of a souvenir. Danny is thrilled with the nest, and puts it in his bedroom.
That night, Danny is getting ready for bed in the bathroom. When he does not come out of the bathroom, Jack and Wendy become anxious, and Jack breaks down the door. They find Danny in a trance, but are able to rouse him. Danny does not remember what happened, so Jack and Wendy put him to bed.
Later on, in the middle of the night, Jack and Wendy are awakened by Danny. Danny is being attacked by the wasps from the nest given to him by Jack earlier. Jack is able to kill the wasps, but cannot understand why the poison he used earlier did not work.
The next day, Wendy and Jack take Danny to see a doctor in town. The doctor examines Danny and is able to find nothing physically wrong with Danny.
The doctor asks Danny to try and summon Tony. Danny falls into a trance again, but is unable remember anything when he comes to. However, Danny tells the doctor that his mother had a sister who passed away as a child, which is information he did not previously have. Danny also tells the doctor that his parents had previously contemplated a divorce, but have since changed their minds. The doctor refuses to believe that there is anything unusual about Danny. and reassures Jack and Wendy that Danny is simply an imaginative child, and that he will eventually grow out of his unusual behavior.
While he is setting rat traps in the basement, Jack finds a scrapbook of sorts. When he opens up the scrapbook, Jack finds much information in regards to the history of the Overlook. It turns out that the Overlook has seen many changes in ownership and has also been the scene of some violent crimes. Jack becomes absorbed in this history, and also begins to exhibit behaviors that he exhibited when he was drinking, such as wiping his lips and dry swallowing Excedrin.
Danny also begins exploring the hotel, without the knowledge of his parents. He is again tempted by Room 217, despite Halloran’s warnings. Danny is able to resist the temptation, but thinks that he sees a fire extinguisher come to life, turning into a snake. However, once again, he does not tell his parents about this incident, as he understands how important the job at the hotel is for his family.
Jack makes a trip to the library to do more research on The Overlook Hotel. He places a phone call to Stuart Ullman, goading Ullman in regards to the history of the hotel, stating that he will one day write a book about the hotel. This angers Ullman, and Jack regrets his actions as well.
After speaking with Ullman, Jack receives a call from his friend Al Shockley. It turns out that Al owns part of the hotel, and is angry at Jack for making that phone call. Al forces Jack to promise not to call Ullman again, and to not write any books about the hotel. Jack is angered, but agrees, in order to keep his job.
Both Wendy and Danny become worried about Jack. They sense that Jack is having trouble coping with his alcoholism, but are unsure of how to help him. Wendy asks Danny if he would like to leave The Overlook, and Danny agrees that he would. However, Danny is not happy with the alternative option: staying with Wendy’s mother, as Wendy and her mother do not get along. Wendy agrees to stay at the hotel with Jack for the winter, and hopes that things will get better.
One day, as Jack is trimming the hedge animals in front of the hotel, he is badly frightened. He thinks that the hedge animals have moved. He tells himself that this is impossible, and likely a hallucination caused by his struggles to remain sober.
The weather worsens in Sidewinder, and the Torrance family begins to feel the hotel closing in on them. The only means of communication is a CB radio. They are otherwise cut off from the world, unable to leave the hotel.
One day, Danny finally gives in to temptation and visits room 217. When he opens the bathroom door, he encounters the ghost of Mrs. Massey. The ghost then attempts to strangle Danny.
While Danny is being attacked in Room 217, Jack and Wendy have dozed off in their quarters. However, Jack awakens to the voice of his dead father on the CB radio, warning him that Danny has broken the rules and visited room 217.
Once Wendy and Jack come to their senses, Danny appears at the top of the stairs. Danny is bruised and bleeding from his encounter with the ghost in room 217.
Almost immediately, Wendy blames Jack for Danny’s injuries, convinced that Jack tried to hurt Danny in his sleep. She chases Jack off and locks herself and Danny in the bedroom.
Jack is angered by Wendy’s treatment of him, and retreats to the empty bar at the hotel. Jack then begins to fantasize about drinking again.
The fantasies about drinking seem to become real as Jack strikes up a conversation with the bartender he believes would have been serving the hotel back in its prime. Jack refers to this man as Lloyd, and requests that Lloyd serve him 20 martinis. Lloyd also appears to commiserate with Jack over his troubles.
Finally, Jack realizes what he is doing and snaps out of his trance. Wendy appears with Danny at the bar, and Danny begins to have convulsions. Jack is able to bring Danny out of his catatonic state, and tries to find out what happened to Danny.
Danny tells his parents about what happened in room 2017, along with the other incidents that he has experienced during the family’s stay at the hotel. Wendy also tells Jack how worried she and Danny have been about him, as he appears to be struggling with his alcoholism. Jack heads to Room 217, to see if he can find anyone or anything there.
When Jack arrives at Room 217, he investigates it and does not find anything. However, when he leaves the room, he notices that someone or something is watching him. However, he tells his family that he did not find anything in the room.
Later that night, Jack and Wendy begin to argue over their situation. Jack reminds Wendy that they are snowed in, and that an escape attempt may kill them. However, Wendy remembers that the hotel has snow mobiles, and Jack reluctantly promises to test them out the next day, so that they may possibly escape the hotel.
That night, Jack struggles with his anger at his family, as he feels that he will have no other options if they leave the hotel. He dreams that he sees a ghost of one his students in Room 217, and that he attacks that ghost. However, the ghost then turns into his son. Jack awakens to find himself standing over Danny’s bed, and shocked by his behavior.
In the morning, Jack takes a look at the snow mobile and finds it in working order. However, he is unable to bear the idea of leaving the hotel for a fate unknown, and deliberately sabotages the snow mobile, so that his family will remain stranded at The Overlook.
The weeks pass without incident. Danny tells his mother that he still afraid of the hotel, but that he understands that his family has no other options.
One day, Danny is outside playing on the hotel’s playground. He is playing in the miniature version of the hotel when he begins to feel trapped inside, and very frightened. Danny makes his way out of the playhouse, and heads back to the hotel.
Danny also has a bad scare when he heads back to the hotel: he sees the hedge animals move, and they begin to chase him. However, Danny is able to make it back to the hotel, where he collapses on the porch from fright and exhaustion.
Danny tells his parents what happened. However, Jack does not believe him and tries to convince his son that the movement of the hedge animals was a figment of his imagination. Danny realizes that Jack is lying and that Jack has also seen the animals move. When he tries to tell his father this, Jack slaps him across the face, angering Wendy.
Jack and his family are awakened later that night by the sound of the elevator running. The elevator had not previously been in use. Jack gets up to investigate the noise, with Wendy and Danny in tow.
When he investigates the elevator, Jack does not find anyone or anything there. However, the Torrance family finds evidence of a party, which includes streamers and balloons. Wendy and Danny also hear noises associated with a party, such as people talking and music. Jack denies that anything unusual is happening, and chalks up the issues with the elevator to a short circuit.
A few days later, Danny comes across an old clock that no longer appears to be working. However, the clock comes to life, and the figures in it commit lewd acts. The clock then stops, and Danny has another vision. He sees the word REDRUM again, and realizes that it is murder spelled backwards. Danny is terrified, and sends a telepathic plea to Dick Halloran for help.
Hallorann is in Florida, working at his winter job. He receives Danny’s message, and realizes that the situation at The Overlook Hotel is serious, and that he must return to Colorado as soon as he can.
As Hallorann is looking for a flight to take him to Colorado, Wendy and Danny sense that the hotel is closing in on them.. The hotel is working through Jack, in order to get to Danny. When Danny tries to leave his quarters, he is accosted by a man in a dog costume, who tries to attack him. Danny continues to call to Hallorann for help, but the hotel senses what Danny is doing and puts a stop to it.
Finally, Hallorann is able to find a flight to Colorado, and heads to the hotel, hoping that he will not be too late.
Jack becomes convinced that the hotel wants him, and not Wendy or Danny. Jack encounters the ghosts of the hotel’s previous employees and guests, and is able to get drunk. One of the ghosts, the ghost of Delbert Grady (the previous caretaker of the hotel), alerts Jack to the fact that Danny is trying to escape from The Overlook, and tells Jack that he must do whatever he needs to do to correct Danny. Jack is also shown a vision in the clock: a man beating a little boy with a roque mallet. The clock then fills with blood, much to Jack’s disbelief.
Finally, Hallorann is able to find a flight to Colorado, and begins the trek to Sidewinder.
Wendy and Danny stay sequestered in their quarters, and are able to hear Jack in his drunken rage. Wendy ventures out of their quarters to find food for her and Danny, and finds Jack passed out at the bar. She realizes that Jack is somehow drunk, even though there is no alcohol anywhere in the hotel.
Jack regains consciousness, and begins to attack Wendy. Wendy realizes that he intends to kill her and Danny. Danny comes to the defense of his mother, and Jack also attacks Danny. Wendy is able to finally subdue Jack by hitting him on the head with a glass.
Wendy and Danny drag Jack to the pantry, intending to lock him in there, for his safety and theirs. Jack regains consciousness and fights them, but they are able to shut the door on him in the nick of time.
Even though they retreat to the their quarters, Wendy and Danny are still able to hear Jack’s protests, along with the elevator and other sounds that indicate that the hotel is coming to life.
The ghost of Delbert Grady finds Jack in the pantry. Jack promises to kill Wendy and Danny, in exchange for his freedom. The door is somehow unlocked, and Jack picks up a roque mallet, and looks to find his wife and son.
In the meantime, Hallorann continues to make his trek to The Overlook. The hotel realizes what he is doing, and sends him a message, in an attempt to scare him off. Hallorann fights it, and is determined to make his way to The Overlook.
Wendy begins to suspect that Jack has somehow escaped the pantry. She heads downstairs, but this proves to be a mistake, as Jack is waiting for her. Jack attacks her with the mallet, but Wendy defends herself with a knife. She heads back upstairs, but an angry, inhuman Jack follows her, determined to kill her.
Finally, Hallorann arrives at the hotel, but is attacked by one of the hedge animals.
Wendy is able to flee from Jack, and hides in the bathroom. She defends herself with a razor blade she finds in the medicine cabinet, all the while wondering where Danny is hiding, as she has been unable to find him. She also realizes that the hotel has completely possessed her husband, and that Jack is no longer in control of himself.
Hallorann is able to fend off the hedge animal by lighting it on fire and makes his way into the hotel. However, he is then attacked by Jack and loses consciousness.
Danny is in some kind of catatonic state. He is visited by Tony, and realizes that Tony is a future version of himself, Daniel Anthony Torrance. Tony tells Danny that his mother and Hallorann may be killed by Jack, unless Danny does something about it. Tony then reminds Danny that he will remember what his father forgot, and vanishes. Danny then returns to consciousness.
Finding himself in the attic on the third floor, Danny hears his father calling for him. Resisting the urge to obey his father, Danny attempts to hide from Jack.
Wendy regains consciousness, and finds Hallorann. She rouses him, and both hear the sounds of Jack on the prowl for his son.
Danny confronts the creature that had once been his father. He tells his father that the hotel is using him, and will discard him once he has served its purpose. Jack briefly makes an appearance, and tells Danny to run.
Danny then realizes that his father has not maintained the boiler, and that the hotel will go up in flames. He runs, searching for his mother and Hallorann, so that they may escape before it is too late.
Wendy, Hallorann and Danny are reunited. Halloran senses the urgency, and the three make their escape. The hotel catches on fire shortly aftewards and is completely destroyed.
Even after they escape, the hotel tries to urge Hallorann to hurt Danny. Hallorann fights the urge, and escapes with Wendy and Danny by using the snow mobile. Soon, they reach civilization, away from the hotel and the haunted grounds.
Several months later, Hallorann has found work at lodge in Maine. Danny and Wendy also stay at the lodge for the summer, but Wendy plans on relocating to Maryland, in favor of a new job and fresh start. Danny is still saddened over the death of his father, but Hallorann reassures him that he will always be there for him, and that Danny will eventually recover from his ordeal.
I have said it once, and I will say it again: I appear to be incapable of reading anything that does not make me its emotional bitch in the end.
And The Shining is no different.
Well, now I can add The Shining to that list.
And I would not be alone in that sentiment. Out of all of King’s work, it seems like The Shining is the one that has had the biggest grip on popular culture.
Even non horror and non King fans get what “redrum” means.
Jack Torrance, you have failed your hotel!
(OK, that one was admittedly bad. Maybe Jack should have tried harder to save his
city hotel. OK, I will stop now before someone sends the ghosts of the Overlook or perhaps Damien Darhk after me for making these bad jokes!)
And there is a good reason why The Shining (both the book and movie) has the grip that it has on popular culture. Actually, there are a few good reasons.
The Shining is scary. Really scary. Really fucking scary. Fucking scary as hell, as a matter of fact.
OK, Captain Obvious is on board…
Stephen King wrote The Shining. He is the King of scary. So of course his books are scary, right?
Well, many times, King’s books are scary. King does a lot of things besides scary (which he also does in The Shining, and which we will talk about later), but if you mention his name, the first word that comes up is scary. That is what he is primarily known for: writing books that will scare his Constant Constant Readers into a change of pants.
(Or is that just me? OK, just checking, no judgement, right?)
Well, add The Shining to that list. And believe me, it has earned that spot on the list.
First of all, there is the setting. We have an isolated, abandoned hotel in the dead of winter. Forget about the ghosts for a minute, and think about that instead. Being trapped in the middle of nowhere is a real fear. And The Shining plays upon that fear almost right from the opening pages, before we even have the pleasure of making the acquaintance of those lovely, hospitable creatures that call The Overlook Hotel home.
In fact, I could even rightfully argue that the hotel is a character, in and of itself, in much the same way that Danny, Wendy, Jack and Dick Hallorann are characters.
I find this utterly fascinating: only King has the ability to turn an inanimate object, like an isolated hotel, into a compelling, fleshed out character. Much love for The Master!
But, I don’t want to forget about the ghosts. No, let’s not do that!
Now, the build up to the ghosts is a nice, slow burn. There are a couple of flashes here and there, like the blood and brains Danny sees in the one room on his first tour, along with the incident with the wasps. But King spends the first half of the book getting us invested in Danny and his parents, and even the hotel. So the ghosts take a back burner, at least at first.
But then King unleashes them. And good things (or is it really scary things?) come to those who wait. And the payoff is grand.
It had been many years since I read this book. And a few details may have escaped me. But lucky me, they came back to me on my re-read.
There is the ghost of Mrs. Massey. Now, thanks to Kubrik and his movie, I have never really forgotten about her. But she deserves mention here. I may make jokes and kid around with all The Shining references, but here is my confession: I do that to hide the fact that she still scares me into a change of pants, even to this day.
(Again, we cool and no judgement, right? Whew!)
Although Mrs. Massey scared me, and the guy in the dog costume scared me (who does that? Who wears a dog costume and makes the rounds at a party, greeting people by barking? Ew much?), along with the ghosts of Grady and Lloyd, I think the honor goes to…
You got it, the clock!
I know that a wind up clock is not what most people associate with this “redrum” of a book. However, that is one seriously scary scene. And it would actually be two scenes, as Danny sees the figures in the clock do some unspeakable things to each other after it comes to life, and then Jack also sees the same clock come to life, showing him a guy murder a kid with a roque mallet. And then the clock fills with blood. Nice touch, Sai King!
Okay, we have paid the ghosts their due.
So let’s take away the ghosts now. Let’s take away the spooky hotel. Let’s take away a little boy’s mysterious, PSI powers.
We are doing away with anything and everything supernatural.
With most horror stories, if you took away all the supernatural elements, you would not have a story. You would have the equivalent of a car with no engines, no tires, probably even no stereo to listen to the music on.
But this is where King separates himself from the pack, and shows us why he has earned the moniker “The Master.”
You can take away anything and everything supernatural in The Shining.
And you are not left with an empty vehicle that won’t go anywhere or play any music.
Rather, you have a vehicle that is functional. It may have no “extras”, like the fancy tires and state of the art stereo system.
But this vehicle will run. We can drive it, and it can still take us places and can be counted on for a journey.
In other words, The Shining is not just about ghosts.
The ghosts make the story fun, and provide some great scares (again, Mrs. Massey). But they are not what makes this story so memorable and so effective on so many levels.
At its core, The Shining explores familiar territory. Or familiar to anyone who has had to “adult” for more than thirty seconds of his/her life.
The Shining is about family.
The Shining is about addiction and the devastating effects it has on the addict and the addict’s loved ones.
The Shining is about unemployment, and how devastating it can be to lose one’s job and place in the world.
In fact, the Torrance family’s stay at The Overlook Hotel could be seen as metaphor for being trapped in an abusive relationship.
In an abusive relationship, the abuser will use isolation as a tactic. This is what my ex did to me: he cut me off from everyone and everything that I loved. And then the monsters were unleashed.
Like Danny, I lived in fear. I also constantly questioned myself and blamed myself, as Danny did, when his father and the hotel would do terrible things. I believed, like Danny, that I had caused those things.
Like Danny, I believed that there was something I could do to keep the monsters at bay, and prevent the terrible things from happening. I shouldered much responsibility for what happened, and looked for ways to prevent (like Danny avoiding certain parts of the hotel.)
But, like Danny, it became too much, and escape became necessary to save my life. Danny agonized over the escape, and so did I. Escaping from an abuser is never easy, as you are running from someone you love, sometimes a person you love beyond all reason.
And the recovery is not easy, as evidenced by the end of the book. Like Danny, I spent much time crying.
But, again, like Danny, I found the light. Light is never so beautiful as when you escape that darkness.
Well, that’s it for the roller coaster otherwise known as The Shining. Join me next month for a reunion of sorts, when we review and dissect the follow up to The Shining, aka Doctor Sleep!
Tune in next month…same bat time, same bat channel!
Even though The Shining is an early King work, it is still set squarely in the King universe, and shares some notable connections with other King books. Here are the connections I found:
-The most obvious connection to another book is to Doctor Sleep, which follows the adventures of Danny Torrance in adulthood.
-The town of Sidewinder is mentioned in the novel The Talisman.
-In the book The Drawing of the Three, Eddie recalls a movie that he has seen, titled The Shining. Even if Stephen King does not exist in every reality (or even most of them), apparently some version of The Shining does exist on more than one level of The Tower, and may even exist on all levels of The Tower.
-In the novel It, Dick Halloran makes a brief appearance in a story in a flashback regards to Derry’s history. Hallorann saves the life of Wil Hanlon, who would later go on to father Mike Hanlon, one of the members of the Losers Club.