Several years ago, my excellent story-teller uncle gave me a vivid play-by-play of the movie based on Stephen King’s thriller novel, The Shining. A few weeks ago, he lent the book to me. Despite my initial trepidation—I remember how frightened a mere description of the film made me—I thought, why not? I’m always up for an exciting story. So began a journey from which I never expected to return. How is it possible to want to close a book just as urgently as you want to peek around to the next page?
Well, at the risk of accidentally exposing spoilers for those of you who may ever read the novel, suffice it to say King is a brilliant author because he ushers readers into the psychologically unstable world of his characters’ minds and blizzard-ridden mountains of an isolated hotel as if they’re a ghost-fly on the wall. From the helpless but fiercely protective mother, Wendy to the boy, Danny, who discovers his gift of the “shine,” telepathically perceiving other people’s precise thoughts and feelings, to the maniacal Jack whose mental demise is freakishly gradual, to the incredible Dick Hallorann whose courage saves lives, King’s uncanny ability to craft and develop memorable (albeit crazy) characters was his ticket into seizing my heart with fear at every turn.
But rather than critiquing its literary merit or spiritual implications, I’ll humbly offer some tidbits of wisdom this novel taught me. First of all, seclusion in an isolated hotel for several months in perpetual snowstorms will not bring peace to your troubled life. It will foster insanity. Take the job offer at a tropical resort where there is civilization instead. You won’t be sorry. Secondly, a doctor is probably a quack if he watches your son enter a catatonic state, hears his accurate predictions about the future, and says he’s merely a good-guesser. Um, no Mr. Doctor. It’s called the shine. Don’t send off a five year-old child with uncommon mental and psychological acuity with a clean bill of health. That’s just dangerous and poor form. Third, croquet mallets are a veritable weapon, not just an innocuous garden party game piece. Collect and hide all of them under the bed as back-ups. The kitchen cleaver should not be your only option. Plus, it could save you potential back surgery or a severe concussion in the future. Finally, if your telepathically gifted son sees a dead woman in a bathtub, do not reenter the room. You may think it’s your responsibility to do so or want to prove your manliness, but you will regret it.
I realize that without these obvious pitfalls in common sense, there would be no story. But if you take the book too seriously, I can guarantee you will develop an I-can’t-go-into-a-room-alone, what-was-that-noise-oh-just-the-refrigerator-motor sense of fear that could lead you to insanity not too unlike that of Jack Torrence. So go ahead and read The Shining if you dare. Use your imagination, and get a thrill. But please, don’t ever find yourself checking into a hotel named “The Overlook.” Not that I’m superstitious or anything …