This morning I stayed in bed a little later than usual and listened to a pounding rain hit our roof. Fall is here for sure and winter is close. I was totally happy cuddling with Cody and just listening to the sounds of the woods. Of course, after a few minutes, reality set in and I got up, made coffee and started thinking about all of the painting I had planned to do today. So…I turned on the TV and there was a beautiful picture of Mt. Hood, bright in the crisp fall sun. There was no sound. Only silence. I settled back with my coffee thinking about how much time in my life was spent on that mountain, all good times, skiing at White River Canyon and camping at Tilly Jane and Cooper Spur. Then across the screen letters materialized like magic. I had turned on the TV right at the exact opening moment of Stanley Kubrick’s disturbing 1980’s movie “The Shining”. This movie has always scared me. Stephen King’s book terrified me. Together, I think these two geniuses managed to make a masterpiece.
Many people don’t give King much credit as a writer but in “The Shining” he gets things right…at least for me. King is a master of taking familiar objects, events, places and time periods and looking at them through a child’s innocent eyes. Remember when the closet door was a hiding place for your worst fears, when lights from a passing car on the wall of your bedroom meant danger and you couldn’t sleep without just one tiny light on. The Shining is about spirits, ghosts and reality. It’s about a little boy, innocent and abused, who becomes the central character in what is any child’s nightmare. Danny has what’s called “the shining”, an ability to detect spirits past and present and communicate with other people who are blessed or cursed with the same gift. Danny is the child of an abusive alcoholic father whose drinking bouts Danny refers to as “The Bad Thing”. But at the first of the story the family is off for a new adventure, a new start. As readers or watchers we know that their move was directly related to a past burst of anger from Danny’s father, Jack, who broke Danny’s arm while drunk and out of control. King makes us afraid of the real. An angry drunken parent, a mother who wants to keep everything “normal” and tries her hardest to not see what is happening until it is almost too late. He uses elevators (a common fear) and fills them with blood from past horrifying and unnamed atrocities that Danny sees as he races by on his big wheel. He pulls at our fear of being alone by setting the entire story in an old hotel, in the mountains, in a snowstorm, with telephone lines down and a useless radio. We, as readers or viewers, feel as helpless as Danny. The cold creeps into us along with the secrets of Danny’s childhood… The hotel’s kitchen seems to hold special icy metal fear. The freezer and cooking areas are big, and higher than Danny’s head. Danny’s gift is described as an ability to be aware of spirits that linger like the smell after toast has been burnt and can only be detected by someone who “shines”.
The hotel is huge and Danny can see small glimpses of what has happened since the hotel had been opened years before. Timberline Lodge wasn’t used by Kubrick for the inside shots of the Overlook hotel. But the outside shots are as familiar to a north westerner as salmon in a river. Timberline Lodge from the front and the back. The inside shots are taken at the Stanley Hotel in Colorado. In the King novel, room 217 has a special meaning. The officials at Timberline Lodge had a room numbered 217 and asked Kubrick if in the movie he could change the number. They didn’t want tourists to not want to stay in 217. Kubrick did what they wanted and from then on many of us get goose bumps at the mention of room 237 (Kubrick’s choice of rooms). The title of The Shining was taken from a John Lennon song “Instant Karma”. I believe the lyrics included the phrase “we all shine on…” I think I am especially fond of King’s work because he was born exactly the same year as I was. He relates to the world and remembers some of the events and fears that are so familiar to me.
And remember the heart stopping twins? I can barely watch the scenes that they are in. Danny encounters them both dead and alive in the empty hallways of the Overlook. I checked it out. The Shining twins were played by Lisa and Louise Burns. As effective as they were in the movie they didn’t turn out to be actors. Lisa earned a degree in literature and Louise (and Danny Lloyd who played Danny in the movie) both turned out to be microbiologists.
So my hat goes off to Shelly Duvall and Jack Nicholson for scaring me silly each year when I get pulled into the maze of memories and terrors that come directly out of Stephen King’s complicated mind and Stanley Kubrick’s terrifying vision. Remember:
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
Live by these famous words typed over and over by Danny’s terrifying father.
“Get busy living or get busy dying.” –Stephen King
Also thanks to all of you who have stretched out my birthday for so long. I received lots of great presents, cards, wishes and just pure love for the past week and I continue to prosper this week.
Don’t forget to sign up for the Christmas Card Class at The Dalles Art Center in November. Last date to sign up is November 9th. The class will be held Saturday and Sunday November fourteenth and fifteenth.
To my Mexico students: I will be getting out a reading list before the end of November. It’s going to be excellent! Adios and Happy Halloween!