Friday, September 20, 2013

Book Club Friday: Horror of Horrors

My book club might not be the best at reading a book per month and meeting exactly when we say we will, but I'm still proud of us.

I helped start my book club when I lived in New York. We met for the first time just a few weeks before I moved to Toronto, and we discussed the book I had chosen, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

From there, it took us an entire year to get our act together and meet regularly again. Earlier this year, we read The Tiger's Wife, Zeitoun, and The Remains of the Day.

Most recently we read The Shining by Stephen King.

Never let anyone say our book selection isn't diverse, at the very least.

In short?

I insisted our next two books absolutely cannot be from the horror genre. While I work two jobs, most of my reading time is before bed. Let's just say I had a few nightmares this past month while reading our latest book selection.

The impressive writing: Stephen King can paint a scene with words so explicit and terrifying that no picture or movie will ever be able to compare with the horror his words and my imagination create together. He is the master of the horror genre for a reason.

The POV changes throughout the book. I appreciated the way Stephen King differentiated between intentional thoughts and thoughts that came unbidden to the narrator via the use of parentheses and italics. This was a very effective writing device that enabled the reader to know exactly what the narrator wanted to think and what the narrator couldn't help but think. Essentially, Stephen King expertly employs the old "show, don't tell" in regards to the mental and emotional state of his characters.

The lazy writing: In The Shining, Stephen King just drops plot lines left and right. Why is this one dude always involved in the ownership of the hotel? Who is Tony--a symptom of multiple personalities? Why were those parents divorced? What exactly did he do to that student? What's the whole story behind the hotel? These questions aren't answered, and not even in an intentional way to intrigue the reader.

So much of the tension is built on boring, predictable, sexist tropes. Oh, the wife nags too much. The wife is jealous of her husband's relationship with their son. Their son desperately doesn't want his parents to get a divorce, never mind all the perfectly legitimate reasons his mother wants to leave. The husband, oh, the poor husband! He's just predisposed to alcoholism, to a horrific temper. It's not his fault! Oh, heaven forbid he take any responsibility! Let's paint him as sympathetic and lovable, so the ending is all the more horrible...

Except I thought he was a monster from the very beginning.

Conclusion: If you enjoy horror, and you can ignore lazy writing for the sake of a good scare, then pick up The Shining. If you're so over assholes being written in a sympathetic light, if you like plot lines being neatly concluded, then The Shining is not for you.

As usual, I'm linking up for Book Club Friday! It's been awhile, but with all the books I've read recently, the next few Fridays should be filled with reviews.


  1. I felt very similarly about the Shining. But then I couldn't see the end as "horrible" because I literally didn't care at all what happened to him because I found him so disagreeable. And King wrote the wife without a single redeeming feature really. Ugh. xx

    1. I do think the wife has one strong redeemable feature. She loves her son more than anything, and all her choices are based on what she thinks is best for her son. Otherwise, yeah, ugh is right.

  2. Sometimes a really good book can feature an alcoholic asshole in a sympathetic light (see my fictional boyfriend Robert E. Lee Prewitt in 'From Here to Eternity' as example). Sometimes not. I've never read an entire Stephen King book - only a short story from the 'Salem's Lot' universe - and I've never really felt compelled to. I think I can safely skip this one.

    1. I agree, troublesome characters can be written in a sympathetic light, but this was definitely not it. You're not missing anything, I promise.


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