Re-reading Stephen King’s “The Shining”

I’ve been re-reading Stephen King.

One of King’s great strengths is writing sympathetic villains. Not villains you love to hate, but villains you genuinely love, who have potential to turn to good, and you’re saddened when they fully embrace evil.

Re-reading King, I irrationally hope things will turn out differently for these sympathetic villains, this time around. I’m currently about 90% through re-reading “The Shining,” and I keep hoping that this time Jack will pull it together and the family’s winter in the Overlook will go just according to plan, that he’ll stay sober, finish his play, and get closer to Wendy and Danny.

Spoiler alert: It has not gone according to plan.

Also: Re-reading “The Shining” as a middle-aged man in the post-Trump era, I’m struck by how much financial desperation is driving Jack. He previously had a promising career as a fiction writer and respected private school teacher. But he blew that up. Now, this job as caretaker at the Overlook is his last chance to pull things together — he can get all his professional success back, but if he screws this up, the next step is homelessness, for himself and his family.

That financial desperation is explicitly in the text, but I glossed over it when I first read the book, in my teens or 20s. Then, I was confident that as a scion of the upper middle class I was never going to face dire financial straits. I’m not so confident now. (Things are fine for us financially — we are actually doing very well — but now I’m aware how narrow and dangerous the road is for middle-class Americans … like the mountain road to the Overlook hotel during a blizzard.)

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