The Shining is one of those pieces of pop culture most anyone knows. Except it’s Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation they generally think of; not the 1977 novel by Stephen King. Perhaps that’s because of Jack Nicholson, whose brilliant acting and adlibs bring untold levels of sophistication to the main character, but I think it’s due more likely to the direction Kubrick and co-writer Diane Johnson chose to take the story—instead of focusing on the evils of alcohol addiction for half the outing as the book does (and simultaneously boring the pants off the audience), the film focuses instead on the dangers of physical and mental isolation, its impact on the family dynamic… and, if you dig into the narrative, the potential existential horrors of reincarnation.
The nuanced story, combined with Kubrick’s groundbreaking visuals—including some of the earliest steady-cam work and an abundance of unreferenced set pieces—and superb sound mixing, allowed the film adaptation to push the horror genre into new realms—and pop culture has justly rewarded it for doing so. The book, on the other hand? It was only King’s third published novel, and while it becomes an enjoyable read in the latter half, it suffers greatly from overstuffed confession-like diatribes seemingly more suited to a private journal than for entertainment purposes and hardly holds a candle to some of King’s other novels.
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Contributors: Warren Pawlowski from Drunk on Writing