Coming off the high of reading ‘Salem’s Lot, I was very excited to read The Shining. Being one of King’s most talked-about and notable works, I expected to love it just as much as his previous book. Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case. I honestly don’t understand why so many people love this novel and think it’s so great, but I guess that’s why literature is subjective.
I suppose I’ll begin with my biggest complaint about The Shining: it’s boring. Unbearably boring. I am totally fine with King’s prose and his way of describing things in intricate, and sometimes excruciating, detail. That really wasn’t my issue here. It takes so long for anything remotely interesting to occur, and when it does it’s such a fleeting experience that it’s barely memorable. For instance, Danny spends such a long time agonizing over whether or not to enter Room 217 and, when he finally does, the apparition therein gets about three short paragraphs. Don’t get me wrong, there are some very good moments, but they’re buried so deep in the monotony that it almost isn’t worth digging them out.
I also didn’t find The Shining to be scary or disturbing at all. Fire extinguishers? Animal topiaries? I really don’t know what King was thinking here. The passage where Danny is terrified of walking past the fire extinguisher was so unimaginably dumb. Compare that to the moments of abject terror in ‘Salem’s Lot where kids are literally rising from the grave and trying to transform their friends into vampires. I suppose Jack’s descent into madness and his brutal assault on his family is disturbing, but by that point in the story I was so completely bored that it hardly affected me.
I also didn’t quite understand Danny’s character. The kid is supposed to be five years old, yet he thinks like an adult. But, at the same time, he doesn’t grasp the meaning of basic words or phrases. Yet, apparently, he knows about sex and how babies are made. The character is just all over the place and it was entirely off-putting. I found Jack to be fairly interesting, and the war against alcoholism and the dark side of himself was intriguing. King made it easy to see how the malevolent spirit of the Overlook could easily possess someone like Jack, and the devastation it could cause by doing so. Wendy was kind of just there.
I am used to King having some… well, strange ways of thinking that come out in his writing. Sometimes it’s less extreme than others, but there’s one moment that sticks out in my mind in regards to The Shining. Wendy thinks back to when she was giving birth to Danny, and she remembers telling the nurse that she felt like “an advertisement for gang rape”. What?! I can’t imagine any woman ever feeling that way while giving birth to their child. Where does that thought even come from?
Overall, I found The Shining to be a disappointing and, dare I say, overrated novel. The unnecessary length and unapologetic dullness greatly overpower the sparse amount of decent moments that occur. Here’s to hoping I enjoy King’s other books more than this one.