Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Shining - Notes from the Overlook Hotel

Homer: “All work and no beer make Homer …. something-something.”
Marge: “Go crazy?”

Homer: “Don’t mind if I do!” 

References to The Shining, the classic horror movie from Stanley Kubrick based on the classic horror novel by Stephen King, keep coming up lately.

OK, they keep coming up because I keep bringing them up.

Perhaps it's because it's getting cold and dark outside. Perhaps it's because I'm a writer trying to finish a memoir in a fixed amount of time. Perhaps it's because I work at home and I don't feel the need to shower as often so my hair gets greasy and I look like Shelley Duvall. Perhaps it's because my son keeps using his finger as a puppet and saying "Redrum." (This isn't actually happening.)

The Shining, the book not the movie, is truly excellent. I'm a huge fan of Stephen King (aka "Uncle Stevie"). In seventh grade, I read the ending of "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption," one of the novellas in Different Seasons, at least six or seven times because I loved it so much. I read several of his books during a brief time period in the early '90s. I had a lot of weird dreams that summer. There are images from his novels, from Carrie and The Dead Zone and Cujo, that have stayed with me for 20 years.  It takes an amazing writer to create scenes and characters with such staying power.

I like The Shining, the novel, better than the movie. Mainly because (SPOILER ALERT) Dick Hollarann, the character played by the awesome Scatman Crothers in the film, does not die in the book. His death in the movie is ridiculous and unnecessary. Screw you, Stanley Kubrick. Yeah, I said it. Why'd you have to kill the black man? In the book, Dick comes back to the Overlook Hotel and helps Wendy and Danny Torrance escape from Jack.

Which brings us back to the reason I keep bringing up The Shining of late.

Jack is a writer. Jack is going nuts. Jack is sick to death of Shelley Duvall's greasy hair and whiny attitude.

Stephen King is so amazing because he can take something typical and normal such as a writer struggling with writer's block (who is also an alcoholic dealing with his desire to drink) and he can turn it into an epic tale of fear and addiction. Uncle Stevie knows of what he speaks. He is a writer and a recovering alcoholic.

And, sure, he's telling you a story that, on the surface, sounds like a ghost story about a haunted hotel, but it's really about people and how people are haunted. The monster you're afraid of is within.

Eek. Deep stuff. Calm down, I'm not going to take an axe to the bathroom door. (Though I may take some WD-40 to the bedroom doors. They all squeak. A person can't go from the bedroom to the bathroom without alerting the entire household.)

Mostly, I'm just going to continue writing. I'm going to keep pecking away until I get this story (my personal haunting) out onto paper. I'm going to consider how addiction is a monster that lives within a person and that sometimes the monster wins. I'm going to think about how to tell a story with the message that the monster sometimes wins the battle. He does not win the war.

I'm also going to wash my hair so I don't look so much like Shelley Duvall.

"I find I am excited, so excited I can hardly hold the pencil in my trembling hand. I think it is the excitement that only a free man can feel, a free man starting a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain.

I hope Andy is down there.

I hope I can make it across the border.

I hope to see my friend and shake his hand.

I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams.

I hope. "

The last lines of "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" from Different Seasons


  1. This is probably one of my most favorite quotes from a movie....well written, well played.


    And I hope Bora Bora is as blue as it is in our dreams.

  2. OK, Two things. One, me and Lisa (yes, that Lisa) actually had an argument about the end of Kate Chopin's book. I said, she killed herself because she couldn't be herself in that world she was in. L disagreed. Although L also thinks that if we try hard enough, there won't be poverty and illertaccy in the world (misspelled on purpose). Second thing, I had to kill my cat today. At the vet's, on purpose. So I'm not myself, but ... eh, if anybody can understand, it's you. Because you understand everything (no pressure) So, what are the stages of grief if your cat dies?

    1. When our cat Jewel died (the morning after I had put Charles on a Greyhound to Shreveport - sometimes I think rock bottom involves a Greyhound bus and a divorce), I cried for two days. Then Jacob said, "Mom, when you get over this, we can get a kitten."
      Ah, the voice of reason.
      But, dammit, sometimes I still miss that cat. He was wonderful. He would walk Jacob to the bus stop and then come back home and stretch out on the bed.
      Afterwards, I kept having this thought, "But he was just here!" like I couldn't wrap my head around the idea of something so beloved just being gone in a flash. (Thank God I couldn't see the future.)
      That's interesting about The Awakening. She wanted to be independent of all those conventions of the day (hell, sometimes it feels like those are the conventions of TODAY). I read this thing once about how death is like taking off a shoe that doesn't fit. I've had this thought since Charles died that some people spend their lives trying to escape this thing that doesn't seem to fit, they bang against the walls of this physical prison constantly looking for ways to escape it (drugs, alcohol, sex, whatever). Or they're banging themselves up against the walls of society's ideas about things.
      Life is hard and it's a little less hard with a soft, purring bundle curled next to you on the sofa.
      So I say the stages of grief are: cry as much as you want, be pissed a little that life has to be so full of crap, breathe in and out, one day come across some new adorable, furry bundle of comfort and start all over again.
      Love you!


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