You know how they say, “write what you know.” The Shining is one of those stories that makes you think of the writer differently because you can tell that King knows what he’s writing about and you can’t help but wonder how much?
The Shining has the same pace feel of Carrie and ‘Salem’s Lot but the big stand out here is the deeper fear he’s writing about. It isn’t a spooky noise upstairs or the teenage feeling of wanting to break away and the fear of what might happen when you finally do. These fears are deeper and I can’t help but think it took guts to write about them. I had read somewhere that King had a drinking problem at one point. That he used to spend most nights sitting at the kitchen table, drinking beers and writing. Eventually it got away from him. The Shining is a story about an alcoholic writer who’s super stressed and eventually he lashes out and takes it out on his family. Ok… so he tries to kill them but we know King isn’t writing about that. He’s writing about the fear of it. About those quick flashes when we are at our worst and think we might lose all control. We might get physical. Whether it’s directed at your boss, or husband, or wife. Or what seems like worst of all, your kids. It’s not the moments when we lose all control its the moments when we feel like we might. The fear is that if we give them a little thought or attention we might actually slip all the way into it and not be able to stop ourselves. Ever.
That’s the classic draw of horror right? Having a book or movie to let us connect over a subject without having to get too personal. We can all hide our eyes together without having to say exactly what specific moment in our life we are really afraid of.
Because here’s the thing. In all those years I spent watching The Shining - dropping everything tho cringe and shudder just because it was on. All the time we discussed the minuscule differences lost between the book and the movie and how we loved them both anyway, there was something I never knew. My mom grew up in an abusive household. She had an alcoholic father who tried to drink his stress away but instead erupted into the house and onto his family. I don’t know the exact details but its safe to say it was child abuse. She and her sister and their mother (my grandmother) got hit. Somehow something about The Shining didn’t bring up those bad memories though. Something about it was cathartic. We made jokes about it all the time, quoted lines and replayed scenes. It left us laughing and buzzing that we had experienced and survived the intense ordeal of watching it together. For her it somehow replaced the bad memories with good ones. I’m not sure what happened in Kings life to compel him to write about this subject but for the enjoyment it brought my family I’m glad he had the guts to do it.