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Doctor Sleep

Finished Stephen King’s new novel, Doctor Sleep (the sequel to The Shining) about a week ago.  Really excellent, genuinely scary.  As he often does, to great horror effect, King puts a kid in danger — and this time, it’s up to Dan Torrance to rescue her.  The scary people, those who are after little kids, especially little kids who have the shining, are villainous indeed — a marauding and quite large band of something-like-vampires-but-not-exactly.  They conceal themselves behind the guise of ordinary folks driving from spot to spot in motor homes, and they’re powerfully deadly.

I’m not a giant King fan, but I came to him after the movie version of The Shining was released in the 90’s.  I was fascinated by the movie (it’s a Stanley Kubrick movie, as you well know), fascinated by the ideas, the subject.  I wanted to write about it, and indeed I did.  (And btw, I became a King fan — don’t camp out to be the first to get his latest, but I’ve read widely in his books, taught the occasional story of his that shows up in the lit anthologies, etc., but most of all, eagerly sought out his latest.)

Danny at the Overlook Hotel

Danny at the Overlook Hotel

As I wrote 3 weeks ago on Doctor Sleep, King is an old pro who knows exactly what he’s doing, re-introducing us to a slightly-older Dan Torrance (11 when the book begins but mainly an adult throughout it), his mother Wendy, also slightly older and considerably more experienced.  And especially to Dick Halloran, one of the most-vivid characters in the first book and movie, still fully alive and fascinating.   And the technical way that King handles the both voiced and also “shined” conversations between Dick and Dan is most clever.  King knows very well how to do dialogue, develop characters, and move the plot along.  It’s a page-turner that got better and better as I got closer to the end.

First, let’s review some of the fascinating points in Kubrick’s movie.

Delbert Grady's Daughters

Delbert Grady’s Daughters

The Overlook Hotel, where Jack, Wendy, and Danny Torrance will be spending the winter all alone (Jack is the winter caretaker) is haunted.  It’s haunted by all the guests who’ve died in the usual course of business, and those who’ve died in strange ways, or in horrid ways — Delbert Grady’s daughters, above.  Grady, we learn, was once the winter caretaker, and he went insane, like Jack.  Cabin fever?  No, the Overlook is a malevolent force, driving the winter caretakers, along with many of the summer guests (apparently) insane.

King objected to the way (in his view) Kubrick downplayed how Jack’s alcoholism was the malevolent force behind his descent into madness and violence; I don’t agree.  Kubrick imagined the director of a movie, in fact the camera itself, as a trapping, malevolent force that snatched young Danny’s freedom.  It’s the force of over-intellectualism, of over-control.  Mix these forces with alcohol and you have a volatile cocktail: Delbert Grady chopped his daughters top pieces with an ax because “they tried to burn the hotel down.  I had to correct them, I had to correct them most severely.”  So what was most likely a couple of 8-year-olds playing with matches led to a horrific murder.

So it is with Jack.  Under the evil eyes of over-control, over-intellectualism, alcohol, and the Overlook Hotel, he tries to murder his 6-year-old son and his wife.  Fortunately, Danny and Wendy have some real resources of their own (including Dick Halloran), make their escape (after leading Jack into the Overlook Maze that is probably his own controlling brain), and live to be in Doctor Sleep.

The Overlook Hotel, and its evil, reappear in Doctor Sleep.  And once again, Dan Torrance must not only overcome his heritage of alcoholism but also fight against another kind of evil.  (BTW, Dan is called “Dr. Sleep” at the hospice where he works because of his unique talent, a part of his shining, to help patients transition to death.  Makes for a couple of fascinating scenes.)


My Amazing Day

I started off today like most Wednesdays — get up, walk the dog, drink coffee while reading newspaper, go out for a run.  Unfortunately, I hadn’t set my alarm for 10 minutes earlier because it was Wednesday and I wanted to meet Joe, David, Doc, and Sam at Bagel Bakery for food and coffee by 8:15 — so cut the run a bit short, only 2 miles.

I’d planned to cycle downtown after bagels\coffee, as I had a 10:00 appointment, and I did (the first of 5 cycling trips today).  Met my appointment, ran an errand, then headed back across town a bit, stopping at a Starbuck’s to kill some time.  When I got my coffee and crumb cake, there was a message on my phone from Doug, a very good friend whom I haven’t seen in months.  Called him back, arranged to have lunch at 2:00, and while I was on the phone saw a guy in the coffee line I thought I recognized– sure enough, it’s Rich, my pastor.

So I invited him to sit with me and chat, which we did for half an hour or so.  He’s a great guy, lucky to have him as pastor and friend.

Then a 12:15 AA meeting, which went awfully well — 15 people shared, some of them new, sort a a record for this long-winded lot.  I gave out the chips, had fun doing it, lingered and talked to several friends.

Then off to lunch with Doug, great fun as usual.  He’s retiring soon, and I’m urging him to write about what he knows perhaps better than anyone, the Decline of the Academic Textbook Publishing Business.  (Maybe I’ll write about that topic tomorrow, the little I know about it, that is — being a career teacher, I’ve been sort of on the sidelines while the big changes happened.)

Bye now.


Dallas Buyers Club

Run, don’t walk, out to see Dallas Buyers Club, the new Matthew McConaughey movie in which he plays an AIDS sufferer who establishes a way (Buyers Club) to get the life-saving drugs he needs.

McConaughey has been on the Penitential Tour for a few years now, implicitly apologizing for wasting his talent in a bunch of shirts-off, lightweight movies.  The big part of his apology is that he’s doing serious roles in serious movies, including some that have little box-office potential and that possibly didn’t make him any real big bucks to do them.  (I like this kind of penance!)

McConaughey, Jared Leto playing his transvestite friend

McConaughey, Jared Leto playing his transvestite friend

To be specific, y’all seen The Lincoln Lawyer?  Y’all seen Killer Joe?  (So gritty and distasteful that my wife pronounced that I owed her 10 chickflicks after dragging her to it.)  Or last year’s Mud?  It never was obvious to me during the lightweight phase of his career, but the kid can bring it, and it’s never been more obvious than in Dallas Buyers Club, for which young Matt lost 30 pounds — he’s kinda slim to begin with, so it looks like he’s lost 100 pounds.

in movie history, there’s never been such a turnaround: a lightweight, handsome jerk transforms his career into solid Oscar-worthy performances in interesting, estimable movies.  Sure, there’s been lotsa stars who cruised on their looks for years and then “aged out” and showed that they’d learned how to act in movies.   Robert Mitchum.   Bette Davis.  Paul Newman (ok, ok, he started strong and then just got better).  Or recently, Robert Redford.