Best-selling horror author, Stephen King spoke in an interview about how he identified with the principal character from his novel, The Shining’s Jack Torrance. The ‘brash,’ yet troubled working-class young man in his book, held a certain amount of resentment toward what he considered to be a more advantaged and privileged Ivy League crowd, who would use their contacts to make their way in the world while he had no one.
In a similar way, King recollected a time back in the early 1970s when he had just completed his debut horror novel Carrie, a story about an outcast teenager with terrifying powers, when made angry. At around the same time, another horror writer, Peter Benchley, had just released his debut novel, Jaws, about a great white shark that terrorized a popular beach resort.
Although both books were released for marketing at around the same time and from the same publisher, King said that it was Benchley’s book that received a mass-marketing blitz, because Benchley, who was Harvard-educated, had spent more time hanging out at the same upscale locations as what King referred to as ‘the bow-tied, hoity-toity posh publishing set.’
Nevertheless, both books went on to become bestsellers, as well as doing well at the box office with their film adaptations, although Jaws the book remained on the bestseller list for 44 weeks, while also becoming a global box office smash.
Where King was able to identify with in his fictional character Jack Torrance in his book, The Shining, he found that he had lost his essence in the film. In fact, he said that he did not even like Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of The Shining, starring Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall, who were cast as Jack and Wendy Torrance respectively. Where it had nothing to do with Nicholson and Duvall’s acting, it appears that it had more to do with the fact that King had incorporated a sense of warmth into his characters, which was completely taken away through the mechanics of Kubrick’s translation from one medium to another of the same genre, which is how and why film adaptations usually tend to disappoint.
King had also recalled how malicious the book critics had been towards him as he tried to break through as a novelist. He said that when he first began, The Village Voice had cruelly published a caricature of himself, seated at a typewriter, while hungrily consuming copious dollar bills that were discharging themselves from his word processor. They scoffed at his horror novels. They said that he was only interested in making money. It did hurt him a lot at the time, he said, but what he said you must do in times like these is to “never let them hear you yell.”
Perhaps this advice could also be taken by authors of Twilight, The Hunger Games and Fifty Shades of Grey, all of which King said had left him underwhelmed and that as he read them, he simply felt no urge to go on. He added that those books were not really about vampires and werewolves, nor should E.L. James’ novel be categorized as mommy porn, but rather what he called “tweenager porn,” all about a regular girl who is able to turn a hunky bad boy good; an American dream.
However, as time has passed, King, who has now sold literally hundreds of thousands of books, now owns several large properties in the area of Maine (in the name of conservation) and Florida, yet strangely enough, the anger he once felt toward the ‘hoity-toity set’ in his younger days has now dissolved.
What is more, the critics who once looked down on King with such scorn and derision are now for the most part, long gone. It is the newer critics that have revered King and hailed him as the patriarch of horror. Probably, thinks King, because these are the very same people who he once scared the hell out of as 12-14 year-old boys, while reading his novels by torchlight, beneath their sheets… in the dark.
Now, some 36 years after the release of his first book, prolific best-selling novelist, Stephen King is bringing about the return of The Shining, in a sequel, entitled Doctor Sleep. The story commences one year after the shocking events surrounding the The Shining, now following Jack and Wendy’s son, Danny Torrance into adulthood. At this point, Danny is now an alcoholic, something that King can also identify with, having been in the same boat for many years before as a writer, but finally becoming sober toward the end of the 1980s.
King may still hate Kubrick’s film adaptation of his debut novel, but what a long departure from the now multi-selling book author, who once upon a time, identified himself with a young ‘brash’ and crazed Jack Torrance from The Shining.
Written by: Brucella Newman