Mark Morris, in his article, ‘How Important is Characterisation in Horror Fiction’ (which I’d really recommend anyone interested in horror to read), suggested several character-driven novels. Among them, The Shining, I somehow managed to avoid reading (or seeing the film) until today, so I immediately rectified this by purchasing it at my local bookstore, along with two other horror novels in the list that I haven’t read until now, but want to: American Psycho, by Brett Easton Ellis, and The Ritual, by Adam Nevill (and I’m already a big fan of Mr Nevill’s work, having read his two short story collections ‘Hasty for the Dark’ and ‘Some Will Not Sleep’).
So, this week I read ‘The Shining’. I would not want to spoil it for someone else, but I believe any claim that it is a classic of modern supernatural horror literature is justified. The writing style and paragraphing at times is quite unconventional, so it may occasionally require some work to work out which character’s thoughts are being presented (it did for me, anyway) – though this is also a positive aspect of the novel, as it relates to the story itself too. There was a lot of excellent foreshadowing, and the language was both poetic and direct, with very ‘punchy’ use of verbs. The central characters and their backstories are also described with detail (particularly the father). I was also struck by the excellent pacing, which made me, particularly in the last third of the novel, particularly concerned with what would happen on turning over the page. I’m not so sure exactly why, maybe I’m getting more emotional in my refining years, but I felt a bit teary when I got to the end of the novel. Maybe this had to do with the well-developed characters, the pace of the last quarter of the book, and the shocking climax.
I would have read more last week, but I had to do a lot of marking, even take some home with me. Still, that’s all done now. More reading this coming week, eh?
Ah, but thinking back, I did do some more reading. I read another page of ‘the lobsters run free’, several times over. It was an excellent piece of flash by Catherine Edmunds, ‘The Hierarchy of Substances’. Such wonderful poetry to it. When you get to the end, it turns back on itself and brings you back to the beginning. And then you read it again. A jewel of a piece. It’s like the TARDIS, it has so much in it in such a small thing. Maybe I’ll read it every day this week. I replayed the whole of Herman Hesse’s ‘Siddhartha’ once, visually, after reading it constantly for months on end when I was at university. I’m sure I can learn a lot about flash fiction from rereading ‘The Hierarchy of Substances’ alone, as it speaks to me now and in the present moment.
I did some writing too. I also submitted two pieces of flash fiction online. I’m working on a few more, experimenting to see where the words fall and what they can do, and there’s a horror story that’s hiding there at the back of my scalp. It wants to show itself as soon as possible. I’ll tell you how these all go next time. I’ll probably have finished reading ‘The Ritual’ by Adam Nevill then too.
Well, that’s it for now. See you next week, unless you want to chat before then.