Shine On

March 29, 2009 at 7:39 pm 4 comments

Here's Johnny!

‘Did you hear those people he was talking to this morning?’

‘Yes…the hotel people…’

‘I heard them too. And that means the hotel is getting stronger. It wants to hurt all of us…Are you understanding me, Danny? It’s desperately important that you understand…’

I have never been a horror fan. As a kid, my imagination was such that I would have nightmares from even looking at the covers of certain books (most famously, My Teacher Fried My Brains and the rest of that series), and naturally my mother banned me from the Goosebumps, Fear Street and other cheesy chapter books the 9-12 set was reading back in those days. While most kids were watching Are You Afraid of the Dark, I was watching Wishbone; when everyone else broke out the R. L. Stine books for independent reading, I pulled out Ann M. Martin or Laura Ingalls Wilder.

So you can imagine my trepidation when I learned we were going to be covering Stephen King in class this term. I had previously signed up for the Tolkien elective in a desperate attempt to avoid both the British and American horror modules, and the realization that I had not avoided horror entirely filled me with…well, you know. And also a deep-seated frustration, stemming from the fact that I still had to read The Lord of the Rings.

Not ALL the blood was her fault.

I finally sat down with Carrie, Stephen King’s first novel, the night before we were supposed to discuss it. Before I knew it, I was completely engrossed in the story of this poor, unpopular girl with the gifts of telepathy and telekenesis, who just wanted to go to the dance with a popular boy and ended up drenched in pig’s blood and wreaking unwitting revenge on the entire town before dying a terrible death herself.

Carrie wasn’t just a gross-out tale, and it certainly was nothing like the alien teacher-type stories that had turned me off the genre for so long. This was a good story, incorporating high school politics, the darker side of small-town life, and religious fundamentalism. Anyone who has gone to high school will recognize aspects of their experience here, I’m sure.

Masks make everything creepier -- even blow jobs.

Masks make everything creepier -- even blow jobs.

The next week, one of my friends from the American Horror option had to view The Shining for class. Sure, I had conquered my fear enough to read horror — but I wasn’t sure I was ready to see it. The only thing that convinced me was The Shining’s iconic status, and I had to go see it if only for all the pop culture references that would make sense after a viewing. But after viewing, I just wanted more. More of the people in the masks, more about this little child who seems to be able to know everything, more about this hotel that seemed almost sentient. Just more of the story — but less, much less of Shelley Duvall. A week after that, I found myself in my favorite bookstore, carefully choosing the copy of The Shining with the best cover.

My cover -- isnt it so much better than the wasp one?

My cover -- isn't it so much better than the wasp one?

This book is a masterpiece. It scared the crap out of me, but in the best way possible. It has the gross-out factor so many people love, with the woman in the bathtub. It has the psychological creepiness one might expect when dealing with a small child with ‘the shining’ and a hotel that seems to be inhabited by the ghosts of masquerades past. It makes masks and clocks creepy, and I will hesitate before staying in a room numbered 217.

There’s not much I can say to endorse it without spoiling anything. I can say that the movie seems to be ruined by Kubrick’s wild eccentricity, and though it’s okay, Stephen King was not too keen on it and Kubrick wildly misinterpreted some of the characters, changed and added and subtracted events, even killed off characters who don’t really die. But I suppose when one hires a director who refuses to leave London and calls writers up at three in the morning to ask them if they believe in God, one has to expect a certain amount of craziness.

That being said, though, King has turned me on to the horror genre. Maybe not even the horror genre; maybe just his own work. I am enamoured with the combination of physical and psychological horror, as well as just the sheer high quality of the prose. The parentheses for what I think is telepathy is, well, a little cheesy…but how else are you supposed to show that sort of thing? And anyone who can turn a set of topiaries into one of the most genuinely terrifying scenes I have ever read deserves to be cut some slack.

In short, this book gets highest praise — not only a Book Worth Buying, but a Book Worth Buying and Shipping Back to the States When I Move. Doesn’t get much better than that!

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Entry filed under: Horror. Tags: , , .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mom  |  March 29, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    Wow who would have thought ~ you would turn into a horror junkie. Read any stories about rocking horses? :p

    Reply
  • 2. Corey  |  March 30, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    Indeed! I got creeped out by a Nancy Drew once, so I’ve almost religiously avoided all books/movies/et cetera even possibly horror-related. I don’t know if I’m up for any King, but you are making me seriously consider it! Brava, amica!

    (Or perhaps in the hypothetical future when we’re roommates, I can just borrow your beautiful copy of “The Shining” or “Carrie” and read it then. *grin*)

    Reply
  • 3. KT  |  March 30, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    Ha ha, I am loving this hypothetical future! We will live in a Utopian apartment, where love, peace, and book-sharing abound :D

    And since I wouldn’t recommend reading The Shining the way I did (mostly over a weekend, at night, when all my roommates were away), maybe it would be best to wait…

    Reply
  • 4. Corey  |  March 30, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    Indeed, it will be quite the Utopia of book-sharing! I can barely imagine the excellent members of the English canon you possess that I’ve never read! :D

    Yeah, I’ll hold off on “The Shining” until it’s daylight and someone else is in the apartment doing something innocuous like bustling around in the kitchen.

    Reply

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