Monthly Archives: August 2010

The Shining: A Love Story

On August 23, 1990, I was flipping through the channels when I came across this:

The strange thing about finding this on that night, some twenty years ago, was that the next day was my 13th birthday and my father was going to bring me to our local mall for me to spend my cash gift. I had already planned on going to Waldenbooks because I’d seen an omnibus of the Star Wars Trilogy novelizations.

See, I wasn’t much of a reader but I was curious and thought that I would whet my appetite with something I was quite familiar with. But after I watched the PrimeTime Live segment on Stephen King, I thought that maybe I’d attempt one of his books.

So we went to the mall and I stood in the horror section looking at all the different books. By this time, I was already a fan of horror movies, which is how I knew King’s name, and had seen pieces of The Shining on Cinemax during one of my many bouts with insomnia back then. I had even attempted to borrow a copy of Pet Sematary from the library a few months prior but the old lady librarian had stopped me.

Because of the movie, and because I thought it might be cool, I bought The Shining.

Twenty years ago today, I got home, opened my paperback copy of The Shining, and began reading. I was with Jack Torrence in the basement of the Overlook Hotel as he was being shown around by the summer caretaker, and I had a sort of out-of-body experience. Here I was, newly 13, reading a book that had so far a lot of talking about a goddamn hotel and I was riveted. The me standing there watching thought: I want to be a writer so some 13-year-old kid who doesn’t read will want to read more.

I credit several things for thinking I could even try. You see, filmmaking seemed so far off for someone like me then. Digital filmmaking, if it existed, was so young that it wasn’t talked about often. Living in the armpit of Massachusetts, the idea of doing that seemed ridiculous. But writing…well…

1) The PrimeTime Live video shows King at a typewriter, typing away. Now I can see clearly that it was a shot meant for affect, but the shot burned itself in my brain. Here was a guy sitting a typewriter, working. I dug that.

2) Both the segment and the brief author bio at the back of the book said King lived in Maine. Maine, I knew, was north of Massachusetts and even worse in terms of opportunities in entertainment. At least Massachusetts had Boston!

3) King wrote in a way I understood. He used words I used (and when I didn’t know a word, I could usually figure it out). I dug his story but I also dug the way his characters spoke and the way he spoke in the telling of his story.

I don’t know that it was that day, but soon I had set up two or three milk crates, put a Royal Quiet de Luxe on them, and began writing. I was 13 years old.

I reread The Shining ten years ago. I was still recovering from emergency surgery. This time, I was a father of a two-year-old and newly married.

So now, ten years after my second reading, twenty years after the day my life took a new turn, I begin, again, The Shining by Stephen King.

***

Weird Facts:

  • The Shining was published in 1977, the year I was born. One web resource said the book was published in January, I was born in August.
  • 13 years later, in 1990, I read the book for the first time.
  • 13 years after I first read The Shining and began writing, my story “The Growth of Alan Ashley” was published alongside King’s novella “Stationary Bike” in the award-winning anthology Borderlands 5.
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