Posts Tagged ‘The Shining’

The Haunting of Hill House

I finished The Haunting of Hill House today! Woot!

I read it because I was playing chess with my friend. He knew from our last chess-and-apple-cider/pumpkin-spice-chai meeting that I’d read The Shining. Apparently it’s one of his favorite books, so we got to discussing it. (God I love that book. So. Good. )

We got to talking about Shirley Jackson (yes, the woman who wrote The Lottery) and how does horror so well. My friend told me that she was a huge influence on Stephen King and that he has even said that Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House is THE perfect horror story.*

I promised to read The Haunting of Hill House so we could discuss it. And I’m true to my word. Sometimes. In this case it’s mostly because I like horror stories.

I didn’t like The Haunting of Hill House as well as I liked The Shining. They are certainly similar, to be sure. Both involve a “haunted” building that eats at the consciousness of the people who stay there. Both have a certain aspect of insanity or internal instability (read: psychological thriller). Both include wonderful use of a PLACE as a character in a book.

I was going to continue to compare and contrast The Shining and The Haunting of Hill House, but I would wind up talking too much about The Shining, so I’m not going to do that.

The Haunting of Hill House is certainly frightening. Jackson’s writing is brilliant and she tackles her narrator’s consciousness so thoroughly that you can follow the descent into madness. As events start to unfold and mysterious things start to happen, the psychological unease grows.

Hill House itself serves as a character. It groans and breathes and sucks the inhabitants in. But perhaps the story’s true brilliance is its ambiguity. Jackson never says outright what is happening. Things get weirder and weirder and as a reader you become less sure of which events are really happening. A (semi) unreliable narrator contributes to this as well.

Overall, sanity has no place here. Neither in Hill House nor in the book. Like the house itself, which is uneven and disorienting, The Haunting of Hill House places readers in a strange place with little solid, expected ground. In this case, that is a good thing.

So, while I found The Shining more frightening (I just think that King is better at creating tension through pacing), readers who love horror should not pass up The Haunting of Hill House.

*After a cursory google search, I haven’t actually found any quotes of Stephen King saying this, but I do know that he cited Shirley Jackson as an inspiration and that some editions of The Shining, he quotes The Haunting of Hill House in the epigraph.

Rating: ****

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SO Freaking Scary

I have some friendly advice for you. You should really listen to me.

DO NOT READ THE LAST 70 PAGES OF THE SHINING RIGHT BEFORE BED.

Trust me. You’ll be scared to sleep and you’ll figure that maybe you should just write your blog post about the book while you’re terrified because that could be fun, but you’ll be too freaked out to get up to get your computer. Every sound is your house coming to life and possessing everybody. Your house is out to get you.

That book is THE scariest thing. I even had an idea of what was coming because I’ve seen both the Kubrick AND the really long made-for-TV movies. They didn’t scare me that much. My uncle told me that for the last half hour of the Kubrick version he was crapping his pants. I wasn’t. I just enjoyed the tension.

But the book version of that. MY. GOSH. My heart was racing and I was terrified. I actually wanted to scream when a guy in a dog suit appeared in the hall. It was a What. The. Fuck. moment. And…just ALL of it.

I guess here’s a spoiler warning just in case. They really aren’t that bad, though.

River Song, Doctor Who, "Spoilers"

Throughout the whole book you really see all members of the Torrance family slide toward madness. The hotel starts to break into their consciousness through italicized, parenthetical statements until it’s flipped and you aren’t sure what’s up, what’s down, and who is who. You watch things go steadily downhill and there’s nothing you can do about it.

I think that insanity is what makes The Shining so scary. Nothing really makes sense and the Torrances have such little control over their lives or even their thoughts anymore. There is truly nothing they can really do about it once the Overlook starts to take control. GAAH I can’t even write about it, it’s so disturbing. The scariest part is the constant Poe references. The Red Death held sway over all.

MAN it was creepy. I LOVED The Shining. It was scary and disturbing and insane and it rocked.

Rating: *****
Up Next: White Teeth

 

Book 13: The Shining

Next I get to read The Shining by Stephen King. Ooooooh boy. Stephen King's The Shining book cover

This will be my first Stephen King book. I’ve always had this sort of fascination with Stephen King, but somehow my mind made him almost taboo. He seemed like an adult version of the “Goosebumps” series from my childhood. Those books were scary and a bit twisted and kind of intense. ALL the kids in my grade school read them, but my mom wouldn’t let me. She said they were too scary and thought they would scar me for life. Naturally, I found one in my fourth grade classroom, snuck it home, and read it under the covers.

It didn’t scar me for life, but it scared me a bit. I think this is mostly because I wasn’t supposed to read it but I did anyway.

Anyway, at some point during my middle school and high school years, I somehow decided that Stephen King was the grown-up version of “Goosebumps.” Then I assumed that it was an unspoken “rule” that I shouldn’t read Stephen King because it would ruin my psyche or terrify me into insanity or something. I think I was in college before I realized that my parents probably wouldn’t care if I read Stephen King and, further, it probably wasn’t going to give me psychological problems.

I’ve seen the Jack Nicholson adaptation of The Shining. I liked it. There’s something so creepy about “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Also, my brother and I like to pretend to be Tony and talk through our fingers sometimes. So, I know the story. I actually really like horror movies, so I probably like horror novels. I’m looking forward to The Shining. 

If I don’t have any freaky dreams from reading this book, I’m going to be a little upset.

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